An Uncomplicated Life Blog


Monday, January 27, 2020

Planting An Indoor Herb Garden

Enjoy fresh herbs year round with your own herb garden! Here's how to plant one that works for you

Even though I live where it's *mostly* warm year round, some herbs are more delicate than others and require indoor growth. I have rosemary and sage outside, and despite any level my neglect, they don't die - even when we have a week straight of 25 degree days here, they pull through! Basil, parsley and any other "leafy" herb, on the other hand, dies both when we get our first frost and when we have nonstop 100+ degree days in July and August. The good news is that you don't need to grow these plants outdoors to be able to enjoy them. They easily grow in small pots that you can keep in your kitchen. If you've got a windowsill with decent light, no matter your location, you can grow your own fresh herbs to enjoy during the winter months. Here's how to plant an indoor herb garden.

First, you'll want to take stock of what you use the most. What flavors do you normally cook? What dried herbs are your go to? Dried herbs work well in some dishes, but when you start cooking regularly with fresh, you never want to go back! If you're questioning what you should plant, look up your top 5 or 10 favorite recipes and what those call for. That's a great place to start. If you just randomly plant some herbs, odds are good you won't use them, you'll forget to water them or they'll just start to over-grow the containers and become a general mess. Plant the herbs you'll actually use!

For me, I regularly use fresh basil and parsley (the basil goes amazingly in this bolognese sauce recipe and the fresh parsley is key for the sauce of this Greek chicken burger recipe - both are favorites in my house!). I also realized that I was buying a lot of green onions/scallions from the store, so I wanted to get some of those. They're great for pasta salads, green salads, quinoa dishes or anything where a raw onion would be too strong but you want a hint of fresh onion flavor. I also got some thyme. Usually, this stays well in my herb garden outside, but for whatever reason its completely died in my outdoor herb garden, so I'm bringing it indoors to keep a closer eye on it. Fresh thyme is SO much better than dried and it's pretty easy to grow. Once you try it fresh, you won't want to even look at dried again.

After selecting your herbs, you've got to buy them. Most nurseries, whether they be chains or independently owned, sell herbs year round. We have a local nursery that I prefer to shop at and they were fully stocked with just about everything, already sprouted and ready to plant. (That'd be Calloway's Nursery, if you're in Dallas and are wondering.) You'll need some small pots to plant them in. There's two lines of thought for indoor plants: 1) you want the pot to have holes in the bottom to let out excess water. If you get this type, make sure there's a plate of some sort under it so that you don't water your counter, windowsill, etc! The other line of thought is to get a tall, more slender pot and to ration the watering with a spray bottle. This way the plant is kept hydrated in a pot that's designed to keep any excess water away from it's roots. You keep a spray bottle near it, and spray it every so often - either at prescribed times during the day or more random, like every time you walk by. The benefit to this method is that the humidity is more like what it'd be like if it were growing outdoors or in a greenhouse. Winter air is especially dry, even more so if you live in a climate that requires heat to be on regularly. If you live where it's really cold, I'd suggest doing this!

I chose that method because my kids can help me more easily with a spray bottle. Also, for where I'm storing the herbs, a plate underneath to catch runoff water wasn't feasible. I say do what works for you, your space, your lifestyle and your climate.

While you're at the nursery, pick up some soil. You won't use the whole bag, but that's ok - you can store it in your garage, basement, balcony or elsewhere until you're ready to do more spring/outdoor planting. I'm not a fan of chemical fertilizer, and I don't want the manure smell in my home so I skipped that. If you keep a compost you could bring some in to add it to your plants. If you're not opposed to chemical fertilizers, you could get some Miracle Grow. I knew these plants would be a 2-3 month investment, so a fertilizer wouldn't be necessary anyway. Right as the organic soil I planted them in needed a boost, we'd transition to all outdoor plants again. Pro tip: potting plants is messy, so if you live where it's too cold to do it outside, lay a tarp/newspapers/a piece of plastic down or you'll be grinding dirt into your floors!

After they're planted, they're pretty easy to maintain. Just water once a day, or spray with a spray bottle a few times a day. Keep them where you have great natural light. Most kitchens have a window above their sink. Sadly, my kitchen is not one of those! I have three floor to ceiling windows in my actual kitchen, which is lovely - but the fact that they go to about 6" above the floor means that my 15 mo old twins can access them. I also have plantation shutters on them, so that makes setting plants in the windowsills difficult.

What I decided to do was a tad high maintenance (but I love to cook, so I was cool with it) I move the plants in at night, and put them in the sunlight in our outdoor courtyard during the day. It's actually not much trouble - my kids are in and out all day, our days are nice and warm, and even if I almost forget at night, my dog has to go out before bed and I usually notice them. Even if I don't, it's a rare day that it gets to freezing here so if I totally space on it, it's not catastrophic. But I'm in the deep South. If you're mid South, you'll want to make sure you bring your plants in at night! Or, hopefully you have a kitchen with a windowsill that has light and can hold your plants.

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Planting and growing your own herb garden is not only easy, it's fun! If you enjoy cooking with fresh herbs year 'round, it's definitely a great way to have access to them. Have you ever bought fresh herbs at the grocery store? Not only are they expensive, they're always wilted! And many times, the store won't have exactly what I'm looking for. Skip the middle man grocery store and grow your own! Adding some greenery to your home in the dead of winter is a fun way to spruce it up, too. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Currently, January Edition

What's going down around here, currently

When it rains, it pours right?! Always. I have a bunch of cool posts that are 90% finished, but if you follow me on the 'Gram, you know that Teddy was in the hospital for a weird virus that caused him to be unable to breathe. Check out this post for the details if you missed it. Of course, that happened over MLK day, so all the kids were out of school, and hubby and I had to divide and conquer to get everyone taken care of. Does anyone else's school have TWO days off for MLK? Because we do. That was rough, on many levels! Anywhoo, I've had exactly zero minutes to finish those awesome posts, so here I am, scrambling on a Wednesday to get one out. I thought it'd be appropriate for just a good ol' fashioned life update! Here's what's going on, currently:

Teddy's health status:
He was in super rough shape for 24 hrs but turned a massive corner after a full day and night in the hospital, with the highest level oxygen they'd give an infant outside of the ICU and hourly to every-other-hour breathing treatments. He was negative for flu, negative for RSV, and the virus that caused this remains unidentified. After nearly three days in the hospital, he was able to come home to us! I was so thankful that my husband brought him into the ER when he did... I'm anti-ER trips. Since we have a nebulizer, my stance was to give him breathing treatments hourly until his pedi opened up (they open at 7am, so it would have been about a three hour wait) but he insisted that he should go in. I rolled my eyes and said, "go for it then" and stayed home with our other three kids. He showed improvement from our nebulizer and his lips or fingers weren't turning blue, so I didn't think it was a *true* emergency. Welp, I was wrong and he was right.

Look at that teething slobber! Also, the twins' eye color is insane - they change from green to grey to gold to blue daily

I can't help but think about what would have happened if I'd have been home alone with all four kids and this would have happened... Would I have called 911? Would I have woken up all the other kids, put them in the car and exposed them to all the germs at the ER? No, I wouldn't have. I'd have used our nebulizer and waited until morning. So while all of this was inconvenient timing, I'm SO SO SO thankful it happened during the first week that my husband was actually home in January! With four kids, you've got to divide and conquer to get everyone taken care of. If I was solo, I'm not quite sure how I'd have divided myself. It was a true blessing that this happened when both mommy and daddy were home and able to care for everyone!

A final note about Teddy's hospitalization: I was absolutely FLOORED at the generosity of my Dallas friends. Nearly immediately, I had friends coming over to help me with Henry and Otto, bringing me meals and calling/texting/messaging me if there was anything they could do. Here's something valuable I learned - if a good friend of yours gets into a stressful situation (kid in the hospital, sudden or random divorce/separation, deceased parent or some other tragic event), claim your space. The best things that happened were friends who were like, "I'm coming to take your other kids on a play date, be there in an hour!" or "I'm stopping by with supper for tonight! Any requests or food allergies?" When people asked if they could do anything, I wasn't sure what to say. But when people simply told me what they were doing, I was SO relieved - it was one less thing I had to do. Be that friend. Don't ask - just start doing. And to all the followers who reached out or commented on my post, with positive thoughts or prayers, THANK YOU. Teddy showed no improvement until all those started to pile in. I read every one of them, even if I didn't respond (still trying to catch up!) but felt so loved and supported and lifted up in prayer from y'all. You're truly the best people on the planet. Thanks for making a personality you know on the internet feel loved!

He was 7 or 8 months old here. What a little pumpkin!

Ok, on to lighter and brighter things that are going on this month!

My new skincare routine:
I'm not big on telling people to buy things - there's definitely enough materialism in the world. A few months ago, I crowd-sourced what skincare systems people loved. I got AMAZING responses, all of the brands mentioned were brands I'd be interested in. I went with K'pure Naturals because I loved that there were minimal ingredients, that I could actually pronounce and were all natural (think coconut oil, vitamin E, etc) and it was a four step system, so it included a face wash, toner, serum and moisturizer. It's also cusomizable, so whatever your skin needs are - acne, anti-aging, combo skin) you can change the products to reflect your needs. At checkout, I realized another bonus! It's a small company based in Vancouver, so the prices listed are in Canadian dollars! Currently, if you're in the US, that's a benefit to you. My total price with shipping was $102 for the four step program. But because of the exchange rate, it was only $83 US dollars! That was an unexpected *bonus* 25ish% off. If you're on the hunt for a natural skincare line that is natural, that uses glass over plastic, that you can pronounce everything in it - this is your brand! I cannot speak highly enough of it.

I highly recommend using their skincare line with this rose quartz roller too - it helps the toner and serum set in and feels GREAT, not to mention promotes circulation and the cool stone helps de-puff your face/minimize eye bags. It's on sale for $16 (HALF OFF) and there's an Amazon 5% off coupon to apply too! Yay sales. Def worth the money!

My thoughts on cleanses:
If you checked out this post, you'll know that I did my first juice cleanse ever. Well, not only that, but my first cleanse ever! I generally don't believe in diet gimmicks, and I definitely don't think it's a means for weight loss, but holy heck did I feel and sleep better when I did it and after! In fact, I plan on doing this cleanse every quarter. Next one will be after my trip to New Mexico to visit Jaelan from Making Mrs M at the end of March (I cannot WAIT to see you, my love!)

The BEST diapers we've found:
With Henry and Otto, we only had about 12 months of crossover of two being in diapers, and they weren't the same size at the same time, so both got organic cotton, fragrance free diapers (we used this brand with Henry and this brand with Otto). Having twins is diapers is another story! It's expensive. You burn through your whole stash quickly. I've found that the Kirkland diapers, which are chemical softener and fragrance free, are about the best diapers we've ever used. In fact, I wish I'd have discovered them for the older two, because we used to spend $240/mo on diapers and now, even with twins in diapers, we spend $35. A MONTH. Because you get 180 diapers (full disclosure, that lasts us about weeks so not quite a month) but the cost savings and the quality are so amazing, I just had to share! We've been wholesale club members at several places for years, but just really started using our Costco membership. If you have a large family and like organic products, I highly recommend them, both the diapers and everything else Costco offers. I'm sure soon I'll transition most of my weekly grocery shopping there - especially when the kids hit puberty and REALLY start eating (we already go through several loaves of bread, several gallons of milk and about 40 eggs A WEEK. Good grief, I can't imagine what life will be like when they're teens - and then they bring their friends over! Sweet goodness, we'll have to take out a second mortgage on our home just to feed them!)

Great reads:
I'm currently reading The German Girl, and don't love it. It's very repetitive and a rather distressing story, although I'm only 50 pages in. I'm hoping I get more into the story and it becomes less of a buzzkill. Two reads that I really enjoyed, though, were In A Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman In The Window. In fact, I finished The Woman in the Window in about 3 days, which when you don't have lots of spare or leisurely time (hello, four children) is fairly impressive! Both are thrillers and both are page turners for sure. If you're looking for more great titles, check out this post I wrote and stay tuned; I'm going to do a short list of my most current favorite reads soon! I shared how watching less TV and being on my phone less were goals of mine for better mental health in 2020, and so far I'm sticking to it! I only watch Hometown (I love them as a couple, don't you?) and Vanderpump Rules, because I just can't quit my trashy TV. I'm also in awe that most of the cast is my age or even older (Jax is the same age as my husband! I mean, how do you still act like that?!)

That's what's going down around here lately. I'm feeling good about sticking to my 2020 goals, but - it is still January. I'm looking forward to a healthier February. I hope. And I really, really just want spring to get here. After Christmas I'm like oooookkkkkk we can return to warm weather and long, bright days please! I know I'm not the only one. I'll check y'all next week with all that great content I have lined up, including how to have an indoor herb garden in the winter, a fitness update and some thoughts I have on "gender inclusive" parenting. It's gonna be good!

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Value Of Saying Thank You and I'm Sorry

It's common courtesy to say thank you, and we all know we should apologize when we're wrong - but are you using these two phrases enough?

I'm going to get real with y'all - this post isn't exactly a friendly PSA. This post comes from a place of frustration. I've recently been reminded just how important saying "thank you" is, and it also reminded me that coming out and saying "I'm sorry" is just as important. We all have people who do kind things for us, be it as small as holding a door open or as large as donating a large sum of money to a cause or donating a large chunk of time to help them with a cause that's near and dear to their heart. Saying sorry is equally as important; you've got to admit when you made a mistake and tell the people affected that you know you made that mistake and are sorry for it. But it seems like in today's day and age, people are really reluctant to say either of these things. In fact, I'm currently upset with someone because she has consistently NOT said either to me. I'm going to write about it in hopes that it encourages you to say one or both to whomever might need to hear it from you.

Keeping the details to a minimum to protect identity, let me share what's driving me so batty about this whole "thank you" business, or rather - the lack thereof. There's a person who is in the position to need not just a whole bunch of *my* stuff, but very specifically, stuff I already own and no longer have a use for. Not heavily used, worn or things in a crummy condition. Things that would still be insanely expensive to buy secondhand. Things that I owned and were in like-new condition. It wasn't just one thing or a one time donation to this person - it was a trickle of things over several months. Multiple installments of a wide variety of things. And not once did I ever get a thank you. Not. Once.

At first I didn't notice it. I think because part of me was just kind of relieved to get some of this stuff out of my home, and I was happy to help out. But then something weird happened; this person straight up demanded that I give her some things I was still using, because their situation was changing faster than anticipated. That's when I noticed the rudeness. The entitlement. And most importantly, the outright lack of a single thank you. We're talking THOUSANDS of dollars of stuff, all given for free. And not one damned thank you!

One day, a mutual friend sent me a text and asked me what was going on with the whole thing, and it was reassuring to know that it wasn't all in my head. The behavior of the one party was out of line and tacky, and other people were noticing as much as I was. That conversation got me thinking beyond the value of a thank you, and onto the larger scale of saying "I'm sorry" too. Both are equally important, and both things should be said every day. Yes, every single day.

That stupid book, "Girl, Stop Apologizing"? Sure, you don't need to apologize for yourself or the space you take up, but you absolutely should apologize for your behavior. When you do wrong, you say "I'm sorry" as you admit to your mistakes and the people you wronged.

My marriage isn't perfect, but one thing we both do really well is apologize to each other. It might be right away, it might be later that same day or even the next morning, but I'd say both my husband and myself are excellent apologizers. And a simple "I'm sorry" goes a long, long way - in a marriage, with a family member, in a friendship and perhaps most importantly of all, to your children.

I know I don't parent perfectly. Sometimes I yell way too loud or way too hard. Sometimes my punishments are too harsh. Sometimes I over-react. And in those moments, or shortly after them, I make sure to apologize to my kids. Whatever I'm doing I will stop, kneel down to my kids' level, look them in the eye and tell them I'm sorry for what I did, that I made a mistake and that I love them. I don't even ask for their forgiveness, but guess what? Me compassionately saying I'm sorry nearly always solicits a "That's ok mommy, I forgive you and I love you too!" back from them. And then we all move on and get back to playing.

You know what else? My kids also know how to say thank you. Server brings them a meal? I help them get their shoes on? They get a gift? Yup, from small to big things in life, my kids know the value of saying thank you. And they're learning the value of a sincere apology.

I'm not sure when, where or why it seems like the social grace of saying thank you and I'm sorry fell off the cliff. I don't understand why it's a hard thing to say. Not only does it humble you, but when you humble yourself first, it makes people like you more, want to help/give you more and think more highly of you. There's a tremendous value in saying thank you and I'm sorry. Make it a point to say both of these things everyday and watch your relationships vastly improve.