Eating Down the Pantry



Want to know the real reason I never participate in those “Eating Down the Pantry” challenges?


Well, here. I’ll show you.


bare shelves


This is what my fridge, freezer, and pantry look like before I go shopping.


Every month.


I can honestly say that “food waste” is one thing with which I do not struggle one bit.


Now, if ever there’s a “Keep Your Floor Spotless Each Day” challenge, I should probably sign up…


ahem. ;)

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Books! Books! Books!



I’ve been working in the school library a lot lately. I’ve shelved books, entered new bar codes into the system, and read stories to classes. I’ve wandered and meandered and discovered so many new (to me) and delightful books and series.


Unlike my forays into the public library, here I am able to spend some time completely alone, free to explore. I’m also forced to look at titles I wouldn’t otherwise know about as I return them to their shelves or look them up for students.


I was trying desperately to make a mental note of some of the cool things I found.


But then… guess what I found out?


I can have my own school library card.


I can’t begin to convey my excitement about this. What an awesome discovery! What a new delight!




I know where I’ll be spending my break time at school now. :)

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Accessorizing the Capsule Wardrobe



I have an obscene amount of jewelry.


There– I said it.


Some women love shoes. Others love purses. Still more hoard makeup.


I? Love jewelry.


Because I’m a fan of the sparklers– and because my husband loves shopping for them– I have quite a collection of the real deal, compiled from our years of two incomes and no kids. Sapphires and rubies, diamonds and topaz, citrine, peridot, amethyst– you NAME it: I’ve probably got it.


I do rely on some of that to accessorize my capsule wardrobe, but I’ve also added a fair number of statement necklaces, fun earrings, scarves, etc. to my collection. These are easy and fast and change a look in an instant… and I don’t worry about them getting damaged while I work with little people all day long.




For shoes, I always used to be a flip-flops to boots and back again kind of girl. I had no need for any other footwear.


Teaching changed all that for me.


Now I find myself needing lots of support and comfort because I’m, quite literally, on my feet and zipping up and down hallways all the livelong day.


Since beginning this job, I’ve added several pairs of Aerosoles– from flats to boots to heeled sandals– to my collection and, believe me, they are serious workhorses. I love them!


I do not count my accessories in my capsule number. Honestly, I would cry if I had to limit my jewelry choices too severely. For some? That wouldn’t matter one bit. I know plenty of women who wear little to no jewelry at all. But they? Are not me. :)


My jewelry and scarves take up very little space, which is a perk, and I do not find it daunting to make choices about such things– I truly enjoy picking out my accessories for each day.


All this to say… like everything else I’ve said about a capsule wardrobe, I believe you need to make your own rules! Let’s face it– it’s not helpful if it makes you miserable.


So tell me this–


What’s your favorite way to accessorize? Do you enjoy it or find it tedious? I’d love to know your story!

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We met when we were just ten, the same age as that poofy-haired, closed-eye boy in the picture.




We became fast friends and friends we remained, becoming inseparable during our high school years.


We dreamed of husbands and babies and living right next door to one another.


Turns out, we live in neighboring states and not neighboring houses, but we did quite well on the rest. We married great guys who get along with each other– a treasure in and of itself!– and have six kids between us. Our twosome became ten and we love to gather together.


That friendship of ours… it had its share of bumps and bruises. The closeness was fiercely intense, making the distant periods all the more noticeable and painful. It took time for us to find a new groove and to preserve the friendship.


We learned that we had to nurture it.


And so it is with this space…


It’s the same old story– life is busy. Sometimes breathtakingly so. I don’t need to give you a rundown of my weekly schedule for you to understand how that is.


We have so very much going on and I’m truly very, very happy with my active kiddos and my own (crazy) schedule. It fills me with joy.


But I do miss writing. I miss this place.


And so, I will write. This October, though I’ve never been much of a “31 Days of Anything” kind of a girl, I will commit to WRITE. Maybe not a whole lot. Maybe nothing profound. Maybe I’ll miss a day (or two.)


But I will write.


I will nurture this space because it MATTERS.


And I’d love to have you along for the ride. :)


(p.s. Writing THAT much is kinda daunting. If you have any breaking questions or topics for me, feel free to let me know! I’m sure I’ll appreciate it greatly on the those writer’s block days! :) )

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Transparency and Encouragement– the Capsule Wardrobe Bottomline



I told you from the start– I broke a Capsule Wardrobe “Rule” right away when I decided to do two-month capsules instead of three. Why? Well, because that worked better. And there are no real rules, anyway!


Several of you appreciated how I adapted this idea to make it work for my climate and lifestyle.


A few of you lamented not having the cash to invest in quality pieces to go the distance, long considered a requirement for a good capsule wardrobe.


Many proponents of this type of wardrobe recommend investing in higher quality brands. I’ll read recommendations like, “I really love these tees from ____ for just $29– invest in a handful of colors! These basics will prove worth the money!”


Suggestions for tailoring are also common. “Don’t be afraid to spend a few dollars having pieces shortened or adjusted to fit you optimally. This can make a huge difference in how you feel about your garments!”


Many experts recommend using sites like Thred Up or Twice to seek out gently used premium brands for a fraction of the cost.


And here’s the thing:


Those suggestions? Perfectly fine. There’s not really anything wrong with that logic. There’s nothing wrong with letting Stitch Fix find your stuff for you, either.


There’s no one right way to do things.


And that’s why I want to tell you a few things:


  • I love my capsule wardrobe. These articles are comfortable, easy-care, and make me feel great.
  • I bought ONE new item for my capsule wardrobe. One. I spent about twenty bucks on a new pair of high-waisted jeans. (Worth it.)
  • Everything else– every single thing– was already owned.
  • There are a LOT of Walmart garments in there, people. A LOT. And you know what? They still look good on me.


Let me give you a little rundown here…



Early Fall Capsule Wardrobe



  1. black & teal chevron-printed sleeveless maxi dress– Walmart, Spring 2014 ($12)
  2. navy floral short-sleeved dress– Lands End (clearanced to $19)
  3. black t-shirt dress– Target, Christmas gift from three years ago
  4. navy convertible hi-lo skirt/sleeveless dress– birthday gift from my best friend from four years ago
  5. grey maxi skirt– Old Navy ($12, purchased off-season)
  6. black maxi skirt– Walmart, Spring 2014 (<$10)
  7. black midi skirt– Walmart, Spring 2015 ($8)
  8. navy and white striped midi skirt– Walmart, Spring 2015 ($8)
  9. black capris– Walmart, Spring 2014 ($9)
  10. black pants– NY & Co., 2004 <– not a typo– they’re really that old
  11. black leggings– Target, Christmas gift three years ago
  12. jeans– purchased for capsule, Old Navy
  13. grey long-sleeved knit top with beaded detail– Old Navy, 5 years ago
  14. pale pink lightweight sweater with lace detail– Walmart, Spring 2015 (clearanced for $2)
  15. purple dressy short-sleeved top– Kohl’s, birthday gift from six years ago
  16. black & white dressy short-sleeved top– TJMaxx, birthday gift from five years ago
  17. navy cap-sleeved blouse– Kohl’s, birthday gift from six years ago
  18. navy sequined tank– Victoria’s Secret, four years ago
  19. black lace-trimmed tank– Walmart (<$5)
  20. white lace-trimmed tank– Walmart (<$5)
  21. aqua tank– Walmart ($3)
  22. teal tank– Walmart ($3)
  23. teal & purple floral lightweight cardigan– Lands End, Christmas gift, 2014
  24. white jacket– LL Bean (hand-me-down)
  25. black dressy cardigan– Kohl’s, birthday gift, two years ago
  26. denim jacket– birthday gift, three years ago


Seriously. That’s where these things came from. There’s nothing remarkably “high end” on that list, though some of the brands are definitely higher quality than others. In the cases of the better brands, the items were on deep sales or discounts, so they still weren’t huge investment pieces.


To make a long story short– these are garments that I love and that fit me well. I feel good in them. I also won’t be devastated if one of them is damaged in the course of parenting or teaching little people. And that’s important, too.


I don’t mean to bore you with these details. It could be that you never cared about where my clothes came from or how much they cost…


But that’s kind of the point, right?      It doesn’t matter. 


If you happen to love a higher end brand and you want to take the time searching it out in a consignment store or second-hand site? More power to you.


If you love the thrill of thrifting or tag sale-ing? Go for it!


But please know that you can also absolutely be happy and feel good about yourself without spending a bundle on your clothes. Please know that you can probably cull out a fun little capsule wardrobe of your own without having to pick up a bunch of new pieces.


Mostly, remember that a capsule wardrobe is supposed to TAKE AWAY rather than ADD stress. :)



Sometime next week I plan to write about the shoes and accessories piece of this whole thing– it’s kind of an important factor, in my opinion! Go get ready for more honestly from JL. 

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Caramel Fudge Brownies



Caramel Fudge Brownie


Caramel Fudge Brownies
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
A rich, decadent brownie that elevates a boxed mix into something truly special. Super easy and super fast.
  • 1 brownie mix (to make a 9" x 13" pan) + ingredients necessary to make-- typically about ¼ cup water, ⅓ cup oil, and 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup caramel ice cream topping
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Coat 9" x 13" pan generously with non-stick spray.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Mix up brownie batter according to package directions and pour into prepared pan.
  4. Warm caramel sauce in a creamer or spouted measuring cup. Drizzle in a zig-zagging pattern over the top of the brownie batter. This is not fussy-- just try to get a fairly even cover.
  5. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the surface.
  6. Bake for 24 minutes.
  7. Remove and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before attempting to cut.


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Menu Plan: Quick, Easy, & Cheap



It’s Fall! Well, ALMOST Fall. :)





I imagine you all know by now that I am a total stickler for the REAL season start and end dates. I’ve never been one to rush the seasons and I maybe roll my eyes a bit when people pull out boots and start gushing  about pumpkin on September 1st.


But I have to say… the fresh cool breezes that have blown in my windows the past couple of mornings? Well, they carry a brisk scent of autumn on them and I’m not hating it!


We’re back into the swing of things and every single week brings with it added activities. This week, we’re up to: intermediate orchestra, karate x 2, gymnastics, horseback riding, conditioning, fourth grade chorus, morning intramurals, and fifth grade chorus. Next week, we’ll add church school x 3, cross country, cello lessons, string bass lessons, and advanced orchestra to that list.


It’s busy around here, folks.


This week’s menu plan is chock full of recipes that come together quickly, require very little effort, and are universally well-liked, thus ensuring they get eaten without complaint or dawdling. There are really no pricey ingredients involved in this and I did all the shopping for it at ALDI.


So, here’s what we’re eating this week…

you gotta eat




B–Cereal, Apples, Milk (before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Cheese Omelets, Clementines, a Glazed Chocolate Lime Coffee Cafe that I made up on the fly and that was DEVOURED by my family. I’ll try to recreate and post it some time. :)

Mid-afternoon Snack– Church Picnic! Goodness, there was a ton of food there. Yum.

pony ride

Pony rides at the church picnic. Our church grounds are beautiful.


D–Macaroni & Cheese w/ Broccoli (I let them eat in the living room so they could watch the Bengals game– A. was over-the-moon excited about that!)



B–Egg, Sausage, & Cheese English Muffin Sandwiches (hold the sausage for me!), Bananas

D–Roasted Cauliflower over Ginger Soy Brown Rice



B–Bagels w/ PB, Cantaloupe, Milk

D–Chicken Sausages on Buns, White Bean Salad




B–Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins, Apples, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice




B–Orange Ginger Granola w/ Raisins, Milk

D–Chicken, Broccoli, & Cheese WW Tortilla Wraps




B–Cereal, Greek Yogurt, Bananas

D–Pizza – Large Pepperoni & Olive, Medium Mushroom & Tomato




B–Cinnamon Almond Streusel Muffins, Cheese, Grapes

D–Hot & Sour Peanut Shells w/ Chicken and Carrots (I found this whole wheat mini shell pasta at ALDI and my kids LOVE it. I have one child with an aversion to “long noodles”– don’t ask– so these are perfect! They were also marked down to 59 cents a box, so that was cool. :) )




And that should do it!  





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Morning Margin



I happily taught my class of seventeen kindergarteners, relishing my time with them, despite the oppressively hot classroom.


I heard the main office secretary call me over my intercom and I picked up the phone. She wanted to know if I wanted to fill in for a tutor the next day. Feeling an unnecessary wave of guilt, I declined, saying, “I really want to be home tomorrow to get my house and self back together.”  She accepted that without question, but I still felt bad.


My guilt was eased when I talked to the sub who did accept the job at lunchtime.



I happily went through my evening routine and I heard my phone vibrate.


With some hesitation, I glanced at the screen:


Preferred Sub Request


My stomach dropped.


I have a love/hate relationship with preferred sub requests. On the one hand, it feeds my need to be liked and appreciated quite well.  I can’t deny that I feel a rush of pride every time I realize that a teacher actually WANTS me to come back and sub for them again. It makes me happy. It makes me feel like I’m doing a good job.


But the flip-side is that I feel a strong obligation to be there. I don’t want to disappoint. I never want to let anyone down. And, let’s be honest– I also don’t want to risk losing my “preferred” status.


Anyway, I saw the preferred sub request and I started fretting. Should I go in, even though I had vowed not to? I mean– I didn’t *really* have any critical appointments the next day…


I decided to stalk the job and make sure it got picked up once it was opened to the general sub pool– it did. I let out a sigh of relief.




I had told the office secretary that I needed to get stuff done around my own house– that wasn’t a lie.


But it was not, perhaps, the biggest reason of all that I had for not working outside the home today.


For the most part, I would say I am one of those people who is a better wife and mom when I get out and substitute teach. For me, all those interactions with people just fill me with joy and make me a happier, more fulfilled individual. I truly love the time I spend in the classroom and, frankly, in the break room.


I. Love. People.




You knew there was a but, right?


The pure and honest truth is that, sometimes, those mornings of getting myself and three little people all ready and out the door really wear on me. They’re a good bunch of kids, for the most part, but they’re not all early birds and I sometimes feel like it’s the biggest project of the day just to get EVERYONE dressed, fed, packed up, and out the door.


And I lose my temper.


I get frustrated.


I can’t see how this can be so difficult, no matter how well *I* plan things.


But, if I take away the piece of getting myself all ready to go, it eases the burden. I have some extra minutes. I can use those minutes to help the pokey one get stuff done or just to go to a quiet place and breathe through my agitation.


I have margin.


And so, though substitute teaching adds mostly joy and light and satisfaction to my days, every now and again, it’s good for me to just say, “No, thank you,” and focus on getting a better grip on a happier morning.


One with a little morning margin.


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Early Fall Capsule Wardrobe



Hey, hey! Long time, no write! Our new school year kicked off last week and, with it, my continued work as a substitute teacher. I LOVE working in the school, so it’s a good thing, but I’m sorry if I dropped off the earth a bit there!


Today, I wanted to share a bit about my very first capsule wardrobe with you all. 


I’ve tossed around the idea of a capsule wardrobe for some time now. What is it? Well, it’s basically a very pared down wardrobe with a limited number of articles used for a set time period, typically three months.


What held me back before? Well, honestly, the thought of choosing a range of clothes to cover a full three-month season kind of stressed me out. Connecticut is a state with dramatic changes in weather and, frankly, choosing garments to cover temps from mid-90s (like we had this week) to snow (which we will no doubt see some time in November) seemed somewhat absurd.


Then, I had an “ah-ha!” moment and realized that there’s no reason I had to choose 37 garments for a 3 month stretch. Instead? I chose about 26 articles (not counting shoes, accessories, sleepwear, or workout clothes) to get me through TWO months– September and October.


The plan is to craft a new “capsule” every two months, for the following seasons:


  • Early Fall (September and October)
  • Falling into Winter (November and December)
  • The Deep Freeze (January and February)
  • Sprinter (March and April)
  • True Spring (May and June)
  • Mild Summer (July and August)


Up first? Early Fall!


Here’s what it looks like:


Early Fall Capsule Wardrobe


And here’s what’s in it!


  1. black & teal chevron-printed sleeveless maxi dress
  2. navy floral short-sleeved dress
  3. black t-shirt dress
  4. navy convertible hi-lo skirt/sleeveless dress
  5. grey maxi skirt
  6. black maxi skirt
  7. black midi skirt
  8. navy and white striped midi skirt
  9. black capris
  10. black pants
  11. black leggings
  12. jeans
  13. grey long-sleeved knit top with beaded detail
  14. pale pink lightweight sweater with lace detail
  15. purple dressy short-sleeved top
  16. black & white dressy short-sleeved top
  17. navy cap-sleeved blouse
  18. navy sequined tank
  19. black lace-trimmed tank
  20. white lace-trimmed tank
  21. aqua tank
  22. teal tank
  23. teal & purple floral lightweight cardigan
  24. white jacket
  25. black dressy cardigan
  26. denim jacket


And that is it!


It’s too early in the game to tell you how well this is going to work overall, but I am really enjoying my wide-open, airy closet. It is so easy to see what I have and to make simple choices each morning.


Look for updates as we get further into this season! :)


Hit me up with any questions you might have…



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Ignorance is, indeed, bliss.



I did not substitute teach on the first day of school.


I was home for the day and able to get my kiddos both on and off of the bus, which is always a nice treat when they’re starting something new. I took the obligatory photos, welcomed back the drivers, and confirmed return times– all that usual stuff.




The first day, my youngest’s bus was due to arrive home at 3:31. Now, I knew it would be late, being the first day of school. I did NOT, however, expect it to be 4:15! Ah, well. So be it. By that time, I was already at the corner bus stop because my older two were expected home at 3:58. (Again, I knew they’d be late– I just didn’t know HOW late.) I welcomed them home at about 4:50.




The second day went more smoothly and, by the third, I was anticipating a rather well-oiled machine.


My youngest and I waited at the corner and watched the clock tick past 4:00. No biggie. Whatevs. We weren’t worried.


4:10 came and went.


Then 4:20.


Right around 4:30, the bus came around the corner (from the wrong direction, but who cared at this point) and dropped our kids off.


There were no other children on the bus.


A substitute driver leaned toward the door, “I missed your road,” she said apologetically. “I don’t know how, since yours is way easier to find than most on this route, but, by the time I noticed, I couldn’t turn around easily, so I had to come back at the end. I’m sorry.”


We parents nodded, smiled, assured her it was fine. Let’s face it– driving a bus isn’t easy, let alone being a substitute on an unfamiliar route!


And then I turned…


…and A. collapsed in my arms. He tipped his face up to mine (barely– that kid’s growing like a weed) and I took in his tear-stained face. He started to talk, but his voice just broke and fresh tears fell.


“Just go,” I told him. “Go on and run to the house. I’ll be there in just a sec’ and you can tell me everything.”


He nodded gratefully and took off like a shot.


Later, I spoke gentle words to him, saying, “Sweetheart– I’m sure it was upsetting when she missed the turn. I know you noticed right away and probably felt helpless. But I don’t understand why it was quite so upsetting for you. You had to know you’d get home eventually. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to have to sleep at the bus yard!” I smiled.


He looked at me with solemn blue eyes, “I just knew we would be so late. And we have karate tonight. And I was worried about getting my homework done and what if I had to stay up really late to do it and then I wasn’t well-rested for tomorrow?”


I put a hand on his shoulder and told him, “Buddy, you weren’t actually as late today as you were the first day of school, you know.”


Surprised, he asked, “Wait– how late were we today?”


“About a half hour,” I answered.


And, at that moment, C. looked up from her book on the couch…


“Wait– we were late?”


I burst out laughing. “Sweetheart, didn’t you notice she missed your road? Or that there was NO ONE ELSE on the bus?”


She shrugged, “The driver was there.” And went back to her book.


There are many times that C’s dreamy, distracted, and sometimes oblivious personality makes her life more challenging– getting ready, meeting deadlines, organizing plans– these things are hard for her.


But for that afternoon?


Ignorance was, indeed, bliss. :)

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