Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Weighted Blankets

I am a huge fan of weighted blankets. So much so, that the 15 lb. one I use comes with me on road trips so I don’t have to sleep without it. They are often noted as a tool to help people relieve their anxiety, which I could see being helpful. I didn’t purchase one specifically for that reason. I had just heard they are relaxing and wanted to see for myself.

Given my addiction to it now, I’d say it works as described! It’s not like you put it over you and immediately feel calm. It is more that it feels like a hug….or perhaps like the weighted cover that the dentist puts over you before an x-ray. The first time I used it, I declared it did nothing for me and then feel asleep on the couch 15 minutes later.

Now I have my own 15 lb. weighted blanket, and I purchased two other 5 lb. weighted blankets for the kids. It works really well for one of them, but less so for the other kiddo. However, if either one of them starts to stir a lot when they have snuck into bed with my husband and me, throwing a weighted blanket on them keeps them still. That alone makes it worth the purchase to me!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Comfy Outfits 24/7

I’m so behind on this “fashion trend” of wearing loungewear or athletic gear as the day’s outfit. Even though I’ve exclusively worked from home for years in my consultancy role, I’ve always taken the time to put on a decent outfit, perhaps a touch of makeup, and “put myself together” before logging into work for the day. It has helped me feel confident and ready to tackle my work tasks.

Once COVID hit our area in mid-March, I ditched all of that. I’m rolling out of bed at 5:55am to get a few hours of uninterrupted work time in or some exercise before the house begins to stir. I’m lucky if I’m out of my pajamas by 9am. I never wear makeup anymore.

When I get around to throwing on fresh clothes, it’s all leggings, sweats, t-shirts, and hoodies. I’ve purchased several of Costco’s 32 degrees clothes in the past few months, including the lightweight hoodies and ladies shorts. They are great for working out in or just wearing around the house. Who is going to see me anyway?!?

The 32 degree shirts work well for work video conferences. I can throw a nice blouse on overtop for client video conferences, and they work just fine alone for my video calls with colleagues who don’t care what I’m wearing as long as I’m dressed. (I totally have a nice shirt stashed in my office space that I can quickly thrown on if I need to unexpectedly join a video conference.)

I doubt I’ll keep this trend of wearing exclusively comfy clothes every day when some more formal sense of “normalcy” returns, but it works for today. Whatever gets us through each day is all that matters to me right now. I might as well be comfy while I transition from making erupting volcanos with the kids one minute and presenting a multi-faceted plan for teaching a three-day training exercise the next.

I’m so glad it’s Friday. I may need to celebrate the end of the work week with some dessert…. Yet another reason I love my comfy clothes. They stretch.

Photo by Mnz on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Banana Bread

It has become a running joke online that everyone is home during the pandemic learning how to bake banana bread. Well, I’ve been baking banana bread for years, but we have been making it significantly more frequently since COVID started. It is a family favorite, so I figured this Friday I would share our favorite recipes.

  1. Our most popular recipe of the moment is a chocolate banana bread. It claims to be “secretly heathy.” I mean….I wouldn’t go that far. It’s not as unhealthy for you as it could be. We’ve tried it a few different ways, substituting applesauce for fruit and veggie squeeze pouches stolen from the kids’ snack drawer and swapping out maple syrup for agave. All versions have been enjoyed by all.
  2. These maple sweetened banana muffins were also yummy, though next time I’ll use coconut oil instead of olive oil. The olive oil was just a touch too overbearing in the flavor.
  3. The banana nut crunch muffins are more traditional and were probably the first ones we tried making this Spring. I’m a sucker for any muffin with a topping.

Happy baking! Now I need to go walk for an hour to work off my most recent slice of banana bread.

Photo by Whitney Wright on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Painting

I am not the family artist. That title definitely goes to my little sister who has the real talent, but I do enjoy abstract painting on occasion. Well, really, I like having the finished product hung in our home so we display something more personal than a store-bought art piece.

Ages ago I bought a huge canvas at Michael’s to paint and hang in the hallway. I stumbled across it when clearing out the basement during one of our COVID home projects, and I figured if I can’t find time to paint when stuck at home for months, then I’m never going to do it. So, one weekend afternoon, I dragged the canvas and art supplies outside and got to work.

The finished product

I didn’t really have a plan on what I wanted besides the paint colors. We had leftover house paint from rooms we’ve redecorated and sample cans for rooms we plan to redo. So, after priming, I added the grays and greens. The splatters were integrated by flicking the paintbrush at the canvas. I started to see the image as different generations of our families, so I added the subtle A in silver around the middle for ancestors and the gold lines to separate the main colors. The five overlapping circles represent our family (including the pup!), which I made by dipping the top of a red solo cup in ivory paint used for our interior trim.

Mr. 7 year old pointed out that my initials in the corner look like SS but also S5, so I said the S5 is for our five family members. As Bob Ross would say, it was a “happy accident.”

Now the canvas is hanging in our hallway. It’s my Friday Fav today, but it makes me smile to see it there every day.

On full display

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Alexa

Several months ago, something my husband bought online came with a free Echo. That’s how Alexa was adopted into our family. Since her arrival, she has become a daily part of our lives.

I love her because she listens and does everything I ask her to do! Well, that and I love that I can be making a meal and realize we need to add something to the grocery list, and I don’t have to stop everything to manually add it to my Cozi grocery list or write it down. I just tell Alexa, and it’s magically added to my grocery list.

Here’s how we’ve integrated Alexa into our daily lives:

  • Play games like 20 Questions and Name that Tune
  • Spell words or pronounce words (She’s a great reading and writing assistant.)
  • Count down to Christmas (one of Mr. 4 year old’s favorite questions to ask her)
  • Listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and music (like Hamilton)
  • Set timers and alarms
  • Give regular reminders (like take your vitamins every morning)
  • Tell jokes
  • Set the house temperature
  • Turn on/off and/or dim automated lights around the house
  • Change the color of our deck lights
  • Lock and unlock doors
  • Open and close the garage door
  • Activate the robot vacuum and security system
  • Turn the TVs on or off
  • Add items to our lists
  • Determine debate winners (e.g., how many Pokemon are there?)
  • Read choose-your-own adventure stories (The kids found a Scooby Doo mystery that they enjoyed.)
  • Give weather reports

The kids like her so much that Mr. 4 year old often declares his love to her, to which she replies, “Thank you. I’m flattered.” Now if you want to have some more fun, ask Alexa who she loves.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Hamilton!

I fully admit I jumped on the Hamilton love train when the filmed version of the hit show dropped on Disney+ July 3. I was not familiar with the music before this month, but the more I listen to the show and read about its creation, the more I love it.

I’ve enjoyed many a musical in the past, so I’m not surprised I like Hamilton. I didn’t realize the entire show is sung, and I had a hard time catching the lyrics at first. Once I turned on the closed captioning, it was great!

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s telling of founding father Alexander Hamilton’s story is smart and well constructed and the music is catchy. I learned Mr. 7 year old knows many of the lyrics already thanks to friends at school, and I’ve caught my husband (who did NOT seek out Hamilton) humming some tunes he’s heard on Alexa dozens of times by now.

I’ve listened to the soundtrack on repeat since early July but only seen the movie twice. I laugh every time I hear King George sing, I tear up when I hear The Story of Tonight, and my heart breaks during Satisfied and It’s Quiet Uptown. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it.

Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Solo Kid Time

One thing I’ve missed from “The Good Times” before COVID was having a bit of time every week solo with the kids. Mr. 4 year old would start school before Mr. 7 year old, so I’d have about an hour with Mr. 7 year old in the AM and 30 minutes or so with Mr. 4 year old many days. It was a nice time to connect with them individually. Well, that time has now disappeared.

To compensate, I’ve been taking walks in the evenings with one of the kids. We determine which child joins me based on whether it’s an odd or even day.

It’s worked out really well so far. I’ve gotten to ask the kids questions and hear how they’re feeling. I ask them questions about being home so much and how they are feeling about their brother, and then I listen to a lot of information about video games. I’ve enjoyed this time together and am happy to learn that the children have adjusted so well to this new normal.

Bonus! My husband gets one-on-one time with the kid that is left at home. Mr. 4 year old helped his daddy organize the garage, which doesn’t sound like a blast, but categorizing objects and cleaning up is one of Mr. 4 year old’s favorite activities. May that forever be the case.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Sort Clothes by Outfit

Fridays are laundry days in the Spinapolice household. I always wash and change the sheets and towels and get at least wash the kid’s clothes. With the kids home with us 24/7 now, they get involved in helping strip the beds, move loads, fold, and put away clothes. It’s been great (even though they slow me down)! The return on my investment of time will pay off. (I’m hoping!)

My Friday fav this week is a laundry hack I’ve been doing for years. Instead of folding and sorting laundry by article of clothing (e.g., all of the pants together, shirts together, etc.), I roll outfits together as if I’m packing a suitcase. I put the shirt facedown, fold in the sleeves of the shirt, and then place vertically folded up pants on top before rolling them all together. This method leaves the front of the shirt visible for the kids to see and easily select an outfit.

I’ve been burned too many times over the years where my husband has dressed babies in….interesting…color combinations, so this was my solution. I haven’t seen a need to change it as the kids have gotten older.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Stringing My Kids Along

We have exhausted all options for exploring our neighborhood recently in an attempt to get outside and get some fresh air during our shelter-in-place order here. The plus side is that the kids have gotten a lot of time to ride bikes. Mr. 7 year old joined the ranks of children who learned to ride without training wheels. My social media feed has been exploding with kids with this new found confidence on two wheels — a benefit to this situation. I love seeing people share such good news!

Mr. 4 year old has been loving his trike because he can power slide. (That’s his dad coming through.) The downside is that hills are difficult, causing him to jump off and push. When I walk with the kids, I want to walk….not run…not stroll…walk. So, my solution was to get a long ribbon and tie it around the front of Mr. 4 year old’s trike when we go up hills or when he gets too tired. I still get to walk, Mr. 4 year old gets to ride, and we can keep up with Mr. 7 year old. Win, win, win!

Posted in Blog

Friday Favs: Netflix’s Middleditch and Schwartz

I haven’t been writing for the blog much lately with the pandemic’s shelter-in-place order in effect, mainly because it’s hard to find the time (or more so the energy) to write when I’m dual-hatting my career and homeschooling two little kids. I’m literally on the run from 6am when my alarm goes off so I can log into work before everyone else wakes up to 8pm when the kids are in bed. Then, I’m toast and out of power. Sometimes I muster up the energy for additional work after tucking the kids in, but it’s low-key items….trying to place online orders, catching up on the kids’ school emails (never ending!), getting organized for the next day, etc.

My husband understands our need to reset and unwind on the regular though, and he found this great Netflix special for us this week that I loved. I was in tears laughing through Middleditch and Schwartz, a Netflix comedy special featuring Thomas Middleditch (best known for his role in Silicon Valley) and Ben Schwartz (from Parks and Rec and the voice of Sonic).

It’s an improv special showing the pair onstage delivering their performance to a theatre full of people (soooo 2019). There is no script. Middleditch and Schwartz walk onstage, provide a quick intro, and then ask the audience for a prompt based on an event coming up. They pick a random person’s suggestion from the audience, have a few minute discussion with them about the scenario, and then start the skit.

Middleditch and Schwartz play everyone and switch roles regularly. It’s hilarious to see the diversity of the characters, the well-crafted jokes they build in real time, and the confusion that mounts as they add people to the scene. My only gripe is that only three episodes were released.

If you need a break from the 24/7 news cycle or just a good laugh, check it out and let me know what you think.

Photo by Claire P on Unsplash