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How To Keep Kids Busy (Almost) All The Time. Aka: "Give Up Your Imagination & Fail"

Wow, how bout those crickets? I think this has been the longest blog break I've taken all year--- and I don't even think you could call it a break. I think I skipped all of two days? Maybe? It feels good, weird, unimportant, and important at the same time. This week (I'm on day 8 post oral surgery) has been hard, painful, groggy, awful, blah blah. The recovery and aftermath have taken much longer than I anticipated. I knew it would be a few days--- and I knew for certain it would be painful, but I always try to imagine myself stronger than I am (I think thats a positive, yes?) and I thought it would all be over by now.

I really should start off this post with a big "thank you, alex" cause seriously, that man has taken care of a lot this week. Runner up for *things that made this week easier* has been a good ole' working imagination and all things that aid imaginative play. I'll be honest (And I'm looking at you, grandparents) we've had the plastic toys coming into our house the past few months--- it's a challenge to try to stop it. I'm all for dolls and making sure Marlowe has things she loves in the house--- but some stuff just makes me shake my head--- and if I can limit those things as much as possible, then awesome. But the one thing I absolutely never, ever want to limit are her art and craft supplies--- in fact, I try to have an over abundance when possible. I wrote about it before, but the girl loves making things, it's awesome. So, while all kids may not be head over heels with making purses or sewing or specific forms of art--- all kids are very good at using their imagination. And I'm figuring out the best way to keep them busy with little to no work. And yes, I said 'them', because this has seemed to work with all the little kiddos in our life, not just specifically mine.

So basically--- a few craft supplies will work, but the biggest entertainer of smaller kiddos? Stickers. Hands down. 100% guaranteed. Like totally, for sure. Really, you can hand a kid a pack of stickers and they will be the most excited kid--- maybe EVER. If you really want to see their imagination flourish, hand them stickers and a few extra tools (a piece of paper, a handful or markers or crayons, and a few pieces of string) and come back later to see what they've created. I've never been anti stickers-- but I've never gone out of my way to buy them either. However, this past summer with the help of our few shorter vacations I learned: stickers are magic. On a plane. In a restaurant. In the car. With a goat on a boat-- whatever. Stickers work to entertain kids. They held us over for days of traveling and were amazing for bribery (I'm not completely against bribery) on so many outings and occasions.

But even when not on vacation-- and just simply at home, Marlowe has taught me a great lesson: don't underestimate the power of imagination. The girl has impressed me on multiple occasions with the things she has created with her regular go to art supplies and a few crazy sticker options. She used up her one roll of tape months ago and I walked to her "art studio" a few weeks ago to find a new collection of art work on the walls--- and how was the art work up there? Stickers. Brilliant! (We also had ONE incident with glue--- but I stopped that pretty quick). Need to hang a string of pom pons? Stickers, obviously. Need to fix a hole? Why not use a sticker. In my head, I handed her a pack of stickers-- for Marlowe, I handed her an endless world of creative possibilities.

Not long after our joint discovery of how awesome stickers could be, the sticker gods called down to us and introduced us to Pipsticks--- a monthly sticker subscription club. I think those monthly club things can be hit or miss---- I mean, sometimes, I don't just want a bunch of random samples in the mail--- you know? But pipsticks has been awesome. As Alex just said, "there are A LOT of stickers in there." It's true. 
I do make art store runs every once in a while depending on the projects we have going on here--- but stickers aren't something I think to stop and buy (unless we're about to travel)--- so pipsticks has been cool and the perfect easy solution--- because I don't really have to think about it--- you order, they come, and then your kid disappears into creative fun mode for a while--- sometimes a really long while. 
When I'm not having my teeth ripped out of my face, we've also been using stickers as a fun little learning tool. Again, the possibilities are endless. Between writing, reading, counting, and colors, there's no end to the things I can do or teach with my toddler, a huge variety pack of stickers, a piece of paper, and a marker. 

Marlowe came in the other day when I was hardly mobile and miserable and asked, "but what can I do right now?" I told her "I don't know kiddo, you've got to use your imagination." Her (funny) response: "I don't want to use my imagination. I want to do something else."--- So I handed her a pack of stickers and she went off to her art table and created. We've had a few messes and a few "did you really cut that?" moments in the past, but overall, giving the kid a few art supplies and a pack of stickers has been the best way to not only keep her entertained, mostly by herself, but also keep her using that brain and creativity function to create--- even when she "doesn't want to use her imagination." For me, as someone who never really shuts off and wants to always find more to do, explore, and create, a monthly subscription pack for stickers well, it was the simple, silly but perfect answer for how to get my kid using her imagination a whole lot more. 

Interested in getting sticker fun each month in the mail for your little one? ohdeardrea readers get one free month off any 6 or 12 month club or family subscription when using the code DREA10 at checkout. Pick your pack options: HERE.

ps.  a sticker club makes a great gift idea for those not wanting to bring more unneeded toys in a home :) also, as a child of the 80's and 90's a sticker club seriously makes the perfect sense. Am I right? We'll be offering a free three month subscription over on Facebook :) 

Pictures Of Recently Enjoyed Things

first beach trip with the dog. we all had a great time. we all left hangry. 

first bike ride. she makes sure to tell everyone she chose "a neon green bike!" 

a much needed, much loved date night with alex. he deserves an award this week taking care of me, kiddo, and the still not potty trained pup. 

only safe place to hula hoop with a new puppy. 

here's something about me: i love organizing other peoples homes. I organized all my friends rooms as a child (mostly lisa's mess) and I'll still offer to do it now. Drea's organizing and design at your service. your welcome steph--- thanks for the pizza payment. 
(now if only i moved the towel out of the picture)

cuddle lovers.

cutie patooty. 
her clips are from here. romper here

french fry dates are very important in life. they were a tradition with my mom and now we have them a lot together--- and usually, but not always with laura. 

new stage lately: doesn't want daddy to leave. sorry kiddo.

lucky night. he was out early. she was up late. 

I'm (puppy) exhausted. she's super hip.

sleep in late forever. 

worth sharing twice.
ruff day. 

I found this post half completed from a few weeks to over a month ago--- but they were worth sharing <3

Four Months Until India!

So if you've been following along on instagram-- you know I've had a bit of a rough week. My teeth extractions--- as predicted was a bit of a nightmare. I'll spare you the details, but I feel like it might even be getting worse-- but fingers crossed it just appears that way. So, if you've been following along you also known the very last thing I said as I went under with the IV was, "I'm going on a trip. I don't care. I'm going alone. I'm going to Istanbul. I need a trip." I have no recollection of saying this. The good news is, I do know exactly what I was referencing--- and no, I wasn't confusing Istanbul with India--- I just have both places--- along with a list of maybe ten others--- over saturating my mind right now. Travel-lust for sure. I do hope to do Istanbul one day--- and a million other places, but for now, I'm so completely pleased with the dream that is this India trip coming up--- and maybe a few shorter, more local trips in-between to hold me over ;)

It's crazy to think that in just four months I'll be jumping on a plane across the world to India. It feels like I just started planning this trip a month ago, but the reality is, it's been almost 8 months ago that this India trip came to life. I'm not sure of all the numbers and back-end things, that's been lisa's job, but from what I know, we have a few possible spots left for any late people who might want to join. The photos included in this post are actually from Southern India and we'll be traveling exclusively to the north this time--- but they were so beautiful that I thought (new) they would be worth sharing. Don't you think? All these photos were taken by Elise Hanna you can check out even more photos on her gorgeous blog. I scrolled for hours--- and it got me even more excited for the trip. And if you missed it, Lisa &Rubina talked a bit about their thoughts on the trip a few months ago. But as for me? My excitement jumps from one idea to another depending on the week.

Originally I think I was excited by the *bigness* of the idea. The whole complete trip filled with so many activities, places to explore, people to meet, projects to learn about and create, and especially Holi. This week, I'm slowly falling in love with the quieter moments of the trip. While most of the trip will be surrounded by people, smells, and bustling life, I'm looking forward to my quiet moments within. I've done a lot of fun and big adventures in my life (and traveled a bit too), and I know very well that this trip will have a lot of those moments, but I'm looking forward to my own disconnect and self-exploration. Honestly, the daily yoga included on the itinerary was originally an add-on idea for me--- now I'm craving it. Its one of the things I'm actually most excited for. Like a new re-charge. It's true for all types of trips and travel, but travel changes you. Whether you're leaving for a weekend across the state of two weeks across the year, something will change you. I haven't done a big trip like this in a long time and I've certainly never traveled to India or anywhere in Asia--- but I'm excited knowing that this trip will not only be an amazing external experience, but also one that is good for my inner soul. Mushy maybe, but I know this trip/retreat/adventure/whatever you want to call it, will do something to my heart and my life.

It's been nice to part of this process--- to create and dream up each activity--- but it's also been so incredibly wonderful to find out the extra details that I haven't necessarily planned--- even as a somewhat control freak ;) I'm learning to live, trust and indulge in awaited adventures. From rooftop moonlight dinners to being introduced to the people who will be giving us cooking lessons--- and learning more about the spaces where this will happen. More and more I'm dreaming of the details--- I'm looking forward to the homes and restaurants we will visit and the spices we'll be using or the markets we'll be buying from. Because while I've been busy dreaming up the bigger picture and the big idea and envisioning what I would want to do and see--- the details, like who the people will be--- from the clay potters to the astrologist--- those things were decided by someone else. I'm excited to meet these people, learn from them, and happy to have them help me grow.

You know, to be honest, I'm not sure how the time leading up to the trip will go or how I will be to be away from my family so long. But I'm preparing. (I actually really love all the preparations entails before travel--- even packing. haha!) And I'm excited to make this part of my life. This time planning went fast and four months will come soon! In the grand scheme two weeks is not long, but I know it will alter me forever.

Also, I know those of you who requested an itinerary know this-- but we're actually visiting a school on one of the first days in india. We're hoping to bring fun (and some useful) gifts to some of the children and young school teachers as an exchange thank you for inviting us to their school! We're thinking anything from coloring books to shoes to whatever! Who doesn't love a gift from across the world? :)  I'm hoping to contact a few companies in the next couple months--- but if you or your company would like to donate anything, please do email me! ohdeardrea@gmail.com

Interested in joining me and filling up one or some of the last few remaining spots? Please request an itinerary HERE or email me directly where I will do my absolute best to answer your questions--- since my partner Lisa will be on trek in Nepal :) ohdeardrea@gmail.com

read more about the trip HERE

all these gorgeous photos were taken by: elise hanna

Simple Natural Living: Making Your Own Baby Food (Part 1)

When I first learned that I would be having a baby there were a lot of questions running through my mind. Okay, that's an understatement. I immediately began compiling lists of things to research, gather and prepare. That's me, Miss Over-Analyze Everything. It's an issue, I'm working on it (sooorta.) But, there was one thing that I didn't fret over, and not because it was unimportant, but because I made up my mind years ago. I already knew that I wanted to make my baby's food at home with my own two hands. 

My mother made my food, her mother made her food and my great grandmother made my grandmother's food. I couldn't possibly go the store bought route with those standards to live up to. But aside from wanting to make my predecessors proud, there were quite a few other reasons why making my own baby food just made sense.

Most baby food manufacturers use water and starch to add 'bulk' to their products. This starch is typically some sort of refined corn, wheat or rice. Refined more often than not means two things: preservatives and bleach. You see a photograph of carrots on the jar, but what you're really getting is carrots, lots of water and lots of filler. Now, there are organic options out there that avoid using fillers and preservatives and they can be found on just about any supermarket shelf these days. However, premade foods, organic or not, just don't have the same amount of nutrients as the homemade stuff. Organic store bought baby food is cooked at incredibly high temperatures in an attempt to kill off bacteria to extend it's shelf life. But, in doing so, a lot of the food's vitamins and nutrients are removed. 

When you buy something premade, you're paying for a lot more than just food. You're also paying for processing, packaging, transportation and advertising. And you better believe that the manufacturers are making a significant profit too. Making your own food is just so much more affordable. There's the initial investment of a food processor (I got mine for under $40) and some freezing trays, but the money you'll save avoiding those jars of food will quickly make up for it. I think I maybe spent $50 ($60 at most) a month feeding Lily up until she weaned at a year and a half. To see a great breakdown of the savings per ounce you can check out this chart from wholesomebabyfood. 

Buying store bought food restricts you to selecting from the ingredients that the manufacturers choose to use and how they choose to combine them. There are no such limitations when you're making the food at home. When you are the one controlling what and how your baby eats, it allows you to be more deeply involved in their nutritional needs and actually makes feeding more fun. And the best part is that you can feed your baby the same thing that everyone else in the family is eating, just in pureed form. I truly believe that doing this makes a huge difference during those picky-eater toddler years. 

Over the next few weeks I'll share a few really easy how-to-make-your-own-baby-food posts! If you have any specific questions you'd like answered, please feel free to leave them in a comment below. Making your own food may not be for everyone and I'm certainly not suggesting that you should never buy store bought. I definitely grabbed some organic 
pouches and snacks on the go on more than one occasion. But, I hope you'll give it a try! 

Author & Illustrations by Emily De Nicolais exclusively for ohdeardrea. To see more of Emily's work, click HERE
Visit Emily's shop HERE!

From drea:
I don't think I ever bought even a jar of babyfood--- like Em said, it's pretty easy to just take food you eat and modify it. I did however buy "squishy packs" from time to time as a special treat. I feel like this will come up later, but you can fill your own reusable squishy packs at home too. Oh! And making your own at home saves waste! Less packaging, less garbage, better for the earth! And as a total side note: speaking of baby food and feeding: THESE feeding tethers were AMAZING for us. PS. No, neither one of us is pregnant or having a baby ;) 

Brighten Up Your Life: Colorful Accessories to Make Life Fun!

I feel like I'm slowly starting to come into the tech world--- oh so very slowly. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've had a laptop and iPhone for years-- but I'm actually starting to become aware of phone updates, general tech updates, and (oh SO slowly) learning iCloud haha. Admittedly, I do use my computer a whole lot, but I'm not on my phone almost ever--- and I'm currently trying to figure out the purpose of an iPad for my life (besides for playing plant vs. zombies)--- but my favorite part of all of it? Organizing it all and spicing it up with COLOR (duh). Adding color and personalization to things adds a whole other level of fun to just about anything and if you don't wholeheartedly agree with that statement--- then I don't know man, I just don't know! I love it. 

So, while I'm figuring out iCloud and slowly, nervously preparing for my wisdom teeth extractions, I figured I could put together some colorful iPhone 6 cases for those of you who were adventurous to make the upgrade. And for those of you who are still in iPhone 4 or 5 land (hi, me!), don't worry, zazzle offers options for you too. And if they're thousands of colorful case options aren't enough, you can do what I do: spend hours procrastinating life and designing your own ;) hooray! 

sustainably harvested natural wood bumper cases:
one  //  two // three 

hard durable cases:
four // five

Oh and in case you guys wanted my dog on an iPhone case, you can buy that one HERE, haha. Or Marlowes fruit drawing or even my color wall. Hooray! &&check out all iPhone 6 cases HERE.  Shop and customize all of zazzle HERE :) Oh and how fun is this pop-up shop? THIS case is AMAZING.

ps. Thanks SO much for all the awesome mouth tips you guys emailed (or commented) my way.  I'm still nervous as can be-- I have major paranoia when it comes to all things dental--- but still, aftercare advice is VERY much appreciated!

Learning How To Sunday

Over a year ago, I shared our (lack of) family and weekend time struggles quite a bit on this space. Luckily, over the past year, we've been slowly gaining, for the first time ever, some proper family time together (you've probably noticed!). Unfortunately in the waves of our busy schedules, we sort of lost our ability to 'just chill' somewhere along the way. Luckily, I think we're finally getting that back. (One can dream!) I'm making a real effort to slow the F down--- and well, I think I'm doing pretty good, this month anyway ;)  But we'll see how the next few weeks go before I confirm or deny that I've been able to actually to keep up with a slower pace.

Long before Marlowe, when there was only Alex and I (and Jerry), our days between work (for me) and school (for Alex) consisted mostly of sleeping, eating, farms and markets. Almost like now I guess, but with a lot less sleeping and a lot more work ;) I walked to work, opened shop, closed it down, and returned back for lazy afternoons/evenings. And on the days of no work, I spent my mornings wondering what markets I should actually get up for. I know--- a truly awful and difficult life, right? ;)  Laying in bed for an extra few hours or even an extra few moments feels strange now and mostly impossible (especially now that we've thrown a puppy in the mix!). In general, we don't have sundays or any weekends together--- and this reality, well, it makes things a bit tricky. It makes the time Alex has off different from our friends or other families. And without friends to distract us during our time off we often end up just busting our butts around here for another day. On the rare occasion that Alex does have a weekend off, well we're learning how to chill out again. It'll be decades before we're back to possible endless hours of sleep or relaxation--- but even these few and far between slow days make me remember and look back on the quiet time we once had. I appreciated it, but didn't at the same time, if that makes any sense. Admittedly, we spent most of our time in bed and the rest of our life revolved around food in some way or another. I'd like to share photos at some point in time of our previous, early together lives--- we look *awesome* ha. But for now, you can imagine me with mostly the same clothes I'm in now--- and with a giant top knot on my head and giant rayban prescription lens on my face (bangs for part of it too!) with lots of fruit and vegetables in my hand---- and a dog in one arm. So basically, not much has changed, I just lost the glasses and gained an adorable, fruit hungry child. And Alex? Well, he had more of an afro ;) Flashback friday, anyone? Looks aside (actually looks too) I am so very happy to be where we are now, and while, I don't necessarily want to go back to those days, I do from time to time miss our easy, sleep filled miami life and hope to find more ways to incorporate that ease into our months and years.

We had a really incredible sunday last week---the first sunday we both had off together with absolutely no set plans and responsibilities in a long time. We headed down to Miami to visit our friends at Little River Cooperative (you can see *some of my favorite* farm photos HERE) and then headed to my friend Claudia's house--- where we day drank in the sun while the girls entertained themselves with tadpoles, art, and dress up. Later that evening we headed off to our friend Steph's for her daughters birthday party before all of us crashed hard at home. It was a perfectly-not-overwhelmingly packed with fun day. And while sundays together might be a norm for some people--- for us, well, were learning how to sunday once again. But if last sunday (and this one too) is any indication of how our future with Marlowe can be (less sleep and all) when we make more time to turn off our overwork mode, then I think we're going to be okay. I appreciated it before parenthood and I sure as hell appreciate it turning off now.

well worth posting: an alex selfie ;)

The week following that last sunday was perfect--- I exceeded my own expectations in keeping up with my "this will be my weekend week!"--- so forgive me for my jumbled thoughts and my sentences that make less sense than normal ;)  I'm extra foggy this evening--- and I'm happy to blame it on a very good, very slow paced, not over overworked week. 

Happy sunday evening and happy new week, friends. Hope it's a good one! 
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