Thursday, May 26, 2011

Simple Summers

This post is coming to you a little early because of the Memorial Day weekend. I won't be home on Monday until later and couldn't even imagine trying to write and post my blog via my Android phone. That phone and I are struggling. I'm getting used to it, but it sure is touchy. Let me apologize to anyone that I may have accidentally dialed over the past couple of weeks. So back to making summer what it is meant to be---SIMPLE. Even more importantly, stress free and fun.

Let's start with the sun. I love it and can't get enough of it. In the summer I start my day off with sunscreen instead of lotion and try to be diligent about reapplying several times a day. I'm not always perfect at this, but I do try. I have sunscreen in the car, the truck and my bag. Yes, in the summer I carry a bag. It's always good to be prepared. I have reading material, water, granola bars, band aids, money and sunscreen at all times. Oh, and a hat.

Fruits and vegetables are around my house all days of the year, but more in the summer. As for meals, the easier the better. I try hard to not turn the stove/oven on at all in the summer. Lazy? Maybe a little, but they are the lazy days of summer, right? I buy meats that can be grilled or cooked in the crock pot. To make life even simpler, I marinate meat as soon as I get home. Take it out of the refrigerator just before grilling, or put it in the crock pot before starting your day. Toss a salad, cut up a few more veggies and you are set for lunch and dinner. The same goes for fruit. It is always washed, cut up and ready to eat on the fly.

Besides keeping the oven off, I do a few more things to keep the house cool and comfortable. I pull the shades early in the day. I love fresh air and keep the windows open part way almost all of the time. We are fairly energy conscious at our house. There is less need for lights in the summer with all of the natural light. Then there are the days that are unbearable and you just have to be able to sleep. Yes, I turn on the air conditioning. I keep the temp at 75 or sometimes a bit higher. Dry air feels cooler, of course, but I don't like air conditioning to be so cold that you need to grab a sweater. Speaking of sweaters, our laundry is less in the summer. I used to hang most of my laundry out to dry in the spring/summer months. Since our move to Madison, we haven't configured a clothesline set up for outside. Our yard is the size of a postage stamp, so I'm still working on this.

Type in "free stuff to do" into your search engine. Amazing ideas and deals will pop up for you. I'm sure you already have knowledge of some of these activities, but there are always new and unique events happening that you may not have known about. And there's the library. Great for a rainy day or any day really. Books, magazines, movies and music is plentiful and free. Often there are crafts available for kids to participate in. Then there are picnics. One of my favorite things to do in the summer. Ok, until August when the bees ruin all my thoughts of outside dining. Because of the earlier mentioned easy meal prep, I can pack a picnic in five minutes or less. I always have a blanket in the truck to dine on. We have Concerts on the Square in Madison during the summer months. People are welcome to spread out their picnic blankets and dine on the Capitol grounds while enjoying wonderful concerts on Wednesday nights.

The official kick off to summer is upon us. Have a fun and safe Memorial Day!

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, May 23, 2011


I'm always one for a good deal. This weekend I was after one. Four of us got up way too early on Saturday to get the $1 flip flops at Old Navy. Of course the flip flops were what got us to the store, and yes, I did buy a few other things. Excellent marketing strategy. Advertise a "loss leader" and the customer will buy more at regular price. I know how this works. I'm smart. Most of the time. Except when it comes to coupons.

I was watching television this weekend. I needed to just decompress. Gracie had a friend over and they were watching a movie upstairs. Scott was up at our cottage. I had the remote all to myself. I turned on a program about people who use excessive amounts of coupons. Absolutely amazing. It's a full time job for them. Usually the need to save money comes from unfortunate circumstances. Not always, but many times. One woman had lost her job, another was a stay at home mom and her husband had suffered an illness that made it difficult for him to work. One of the obvious places to start was at the grocery store. They collected or bought many papers. These people printed coupons from their computers. They "stacked" coupons. This means that they would use more than one coupon for a single item. They researched the stores in their immediate area and memorized the coupon policies. They researched in store deals and had club cards for particular stores. One woman spends sixty hours a week collecting coupons, printing coupons, researching online and compiling a spreadsheet of all of her deals. She goes to the store with a budget. And of course a list. She knows what her general end price will be. Somehow though, it's always less than predicted. There is always an in store sale that seems to bring prices down lower.

I got to thinking. How would this work for me? Could I devote myself to collecting and clipping. Could I make a plan and execute it to the extremes that these folks did? Well, there is one simple answer for this. No. Are you kidding me? If I can leave the house and remember my purse and list I'm doing well. I occasionally will clip a coupon. I'm lucky if I remember to bring it with me. I really admire that these people featured can buy $1200 worth of groceries and only spend $50. For me, not so much. There are really two reasons for this beyond my forgetfulness. One, I couldn't imagine stockpiling all of the items that these people do. I know that they can live for months/years on what they have gathered. At my house this would go against my simplifying. I'm pretty sure I would break out in hives just imagining all of those items in my house. And there is no way I would ever put shelving up in my bedroom to store stuff! Totally not fitting into the feng shui plan at my house. The second reason this stockpiling wouldn't work for me is that I buy almost all fresh. There are very few if any cans or packages in my kitchen. Toiletries, yes these items reside at my house, but not in excess. The packaging that comes from these item is almost always recyclable.

I shut off the television after watching a marathon of these skilled shoppers. I was exhausted. Probably from waking up with the sun to get the flip flops. I think I was also tired from watching all of these shoppers. I'm glad for them and the success that they have. I'll stick with my "looking for a good deal" kind of shopping. I'm simply just not able to be that extreme.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Growing, Growing, Gone

My girl is eleven. Sometimes it seems like she's eighteen. I know that she thinks she is older than she is. At least some of the time. She's an only child. She has grown up around lots of adults. I've made sure that she has had lots of kid time, too. I never claim to be perfect. Actually, I am so far from it. But I feel like there has been a good balance in her life.

She is quite mature and very knowledgeable. This brings me to a story about her. It happened when she was five. And yes, I have her blessing to tell it. She came home from kindergarten one day with a very unusual question. I first need to tell you that Scott was out of town. For two weeks. We had some play time and a snack and then she popped the question. Daddy's carry the eggs, right mom? What kind of eggs, I asked? THE eggs mom. You know, the baby making eggs. I need to let you know that we have always been truthful with Gracie. We told her the appropriate names of body parts right from the get go. We wanted no confusion. Our parents were honest and educational with us and we wanted to pass the gift on. I then said, what made you ask this? Perhaps I should have inquired more. She said because I thought dads carried something else. I said yes, they carry the sperm. That's it, she said. I knew you had told me something different. Yes, I had mentioned eggs and sperm when she asked where babies came from. And yes, I reiterated the whole mechanics of how a baby was made, just to make sure she had truthful and accurate information.

Scott called later that night and I told him the story. He didn't even try to hide the fact that he was glad to not have been home for our conversation. Then a few days later Gracie came home from school with a challenge for me. She pulled an egg shaped piece of paper out of her little backpack. She set the timer on the microwave for three minutes and asked if I could hold this egg on the tops of my feet. This is what the daddy penguins do, but for longer amounts of time. So I played along all the while realizing that I had armed my baby with way too much information the other night. I got a little light headed. Oh no. What if she had gone to school and shared her knowledge with other kids on the playground? Crap. I needed to talk to her teacher.

I worked at the school and found the teacher before school the next day. I told her what had happened. She laughed so hard she was on the verge of tears. In all of her years of teaching kids about penguins this had never happened she said. I believe it, I said. I'm lucky that way. Life went on and we have had fun telling and retelling this story over the years. Now Gracie is taking Human Growth and Development in school. I feel confident that these lessons will reinforce what she has already been taught. It's a reminder that this growing up business happens way too fast. We should embrace it. Whether it is good times, uncomfortable times, honest times and even some bad and sad times. Before we know it our kids will be grown and gone. If we've done our job well, they will always know that they can come to us and talk about anything. Even penguins.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, May 9, 2011

Farmers' Market

I had heard all of the buzz about how fantastic the Dane County Farmers' Market was. I sort of took it all in stride though. Really? I've been to farmers markets before. What made this one so special? Then I went for my first time about a year ago. I get it. It's everything. The sights, the smells and even the sounds. It's almost sensory overload.

The first thing I noticed was the magnitude of the event. The entire Capitol Square, all four sides and even more, is full of vendors. There is so much to choose from. Truly it's almost overwhelming. These organic growers must have marketing and graphic design in their backgrounds, too. Each tented area is vibrant with the colors of produce. The signage is literally artwork. Of course there are samples that are sure to entice anyone. There are gorgeous flowers and plants. There is fresh baking bread that makes you feel comfy and hungry all in the same moment. Musicians are scattered about the square. I heard a piccolo, a guitar, a violin.

I've learned to pace myself. I now have a system. The crowds are not as plentiful early. So that's my favorite time to go. Even when there are crowds we all move in a polite and orderly fashion. And there's always lots of discussion with complete strangers. Where did you find that? Have you had it before? Always lively talk. Everyone is so friendly. I usually make a lap around to see all of the vendors. I do a little price shopping and comparison. My second time around is buy time. I often will find a little treat to have along the way and some coffee.

Saturday was a great day to be at the market. The tulips around the Capitol were starting to bloom. The air was fresh. The smells were abundant. I unfolded my shopping bag and got busy. It was a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. So, if I were to recommend this experience to anyone, I'm sure I would come off sounding a little too excited. Come and see. It really is an awakening of your senses. And it's good for you. How can you beat that! Looking forward to Saturday...

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, May 2, 2011

If The Bra Fits...

So this weekend I was in bed with the stomach flu. Feeling the worst I possibly ever have. I was having a pity party of sorts. No one else was was invited, just me. At a particularly low point I was considering what music I might want played at my funeral. Lots of songs ran through my head and then this one popped in. You've all heard it. It's, You Raise Me Up, by Josh Groban. And before you know it I was laughing. This song actually reminds me of something else that happened recently.

About a month ago I was shopping. From a list of course. I was reaching for something on a high shelf and I felt this undeniable snap and immediate pain. Before I go any further, I should warn you this post does have bra talk in it. No I wasn't injured. But my favorite bra was. The underwire had snapped. Man, this was the last of the four that I had bought a few years back. I loved this style of bra that much. Comfortable, no tightness, no falling straps. The perfect fit. I have a drawer full of misfits at home. Meaning misfitting bras, but I hate wearing them. So needless to say I have been in search of perfection. And a month ago after the snapping incident I found it. Again. And bought three.

I was so happy that I went to work and shared the news. Everyone must know. Everyone that is female anyway. I told my coworkers that I hardly even realized I had it on. I shared the brand and style. I really couldn't tell enough people. My life was feeling very complete. Then Gracie came home. With a friend. Gracie said, my, you look happy mom. Indeed I am, I said. It's the little things in life that can really make your day I told the girls. Like what, was their next question. Oh boy. So I explained the bra situation. Nice fit. Comfortable. And it raises me up. Then we talked a little about gravity. You know where I'm going with this. And the song popped into my head. So I sang a little to two very giggly girls. And it gets better. I can just about knock them flat with laughter anytime I see them if I simply hum a few bars of this song.

So to get back to my weekend. A funny memory made a miserable moment more bearable. I guess it is true that humor is good medicine.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux