First, a very humbled thanks for reading my ramblings. I created this blog for my own enjoyment and it makes me very happy to think that someone else might get some enjoyment out of it, too. Read more about why I started the blog. 

Disclaimer or What this blog is NOT
I do not claim to be an expert in anything, except maybe in throwing living room dance parties for 3-year-olds. Although now that I think of it, my neighbor, Anna, has got me schooled in that. So never mind. I cannot tell you the best way to fix your electrical wiring, decorate your home or raise your kids. I try to gather the wisdom of experts and make it accessible. I am currently allowing limited ads on my site, but that does not mean I have personally tried the product. If, however, I share a product in my blog post, it is because I use and like it, not because I'm paid to do so (though if I suddenly wake up famous and that changes, I'll be sure to let you know). I am a public health professional, not a health professional (I had a lot less school and make much less money!). What I post are my experiences, my opinions, my flops and my finds. If you choose to try anything at home, use your judgment and understand that while it worked for me, that doesn't mean it will work for you. Just thought you'd like to know.

ABOUT PHOTOS: All photos are taken by and property of either my husband or me, unless otherwise credited. If you like the photos and would like to use them on your site, please credit me and link to my blog.

What's the deal with Amazon?
I want to stress that I started this blog because I love to write and be creative and write about being creative. Not to make money. Blogs these days are a dime a dozen, and I don't think I'm doing anything too revolutionary.  However, if I can make some change to help supplement our student salary, then I'm all for it. After Madeline's surgery, we had to keep her away from people for 6 weeks, so getting out to shop was really challenging. During those 6 weeks I grew to really like Amazon and I have chosen to allow an Amazon search bar on my site and I will occasionally link to Amazon products I like. If you also like Amazon, feel free to use the links or search bar on the site to make your purchases. I simply get a small percentage of anything you purchase on Amazon while searching from my site with no additional cost for you. (It's a cheap way for Amazon to advertise). Feel free to ignore that aspect of the blog. :) Whatever I earn here helps to support us in the present, prepare us for the future, and invest in the education of our family.

So, what IS this blog?
For as long as I can remember, my extremely introverted and viciously independent soul has yearned to survive on my own. Whether dreaming about living with the wolves up in the tundra (Julie of the Wolves, anyone?), in a hut in Africa or alone on the grassy plains, there has been something very romantic about relying on my skills for survival. My most recent dream is living tucked away in the highlands of Scotland or the rolling green hills of Ireland (in my dream world, these places are never gloomy, cloudy or cold). Nick and I would live on a small acreage in a cozy stone cottage that we had lovingly renovated ourselves. We would run a quaint B&B, where we would only get wonderfully kind, gracious and well-tipping guests. All the food would come from our farm, all the linens from my loom and all the power from the sun (see above re: perfect climate).

It is my ultimate dream of complete self-sufficiency. Fabulously unrealistic.

The problem is, I don’t really know how to do much. My husband is a fantastic cook, an expert gardener and handy enough to build retaining walls, raised gardens and plant stands. I can write a mean grant application. Yup.

I have since learned that I really liked the idea of becoming self-sufficient. I really wanted to be The Little Red Hen and eat my bread that I had baked from homegrown, self ground wheat. But actually learning how to do all that is...well, lots of work. It was a lot easier to veg out in front of the newest episode of Antiques Roadshow. I have decided that it is now time to stop being a poser. This blog is my journey to becoming a contributing member of my fantasy world and a more conscientious member of my family and of the world.

A Note About My Measurements
For each experiment, I want to record exactly what I did so I can recreate my successes and learn from my failures. In any given experiment entry, you will find some combination of the following highly useful and mildly entertaining information:

Time to Completion. I love you, Rachael Ray, but I am sorry dear. Your thirty-minute meals are never ever thirty minutes in my world. I was ecstatic when one time last fall, I knocked out a minestrone soup recipe in 45 minutes. But usually my time hovers around an hour. I realize that this is not your fault, Ms. Ray. It is because during my dinner prep, I will be inevitably called to wipe a poopy bum, dance around the living room to Ella Fitzgerald, or dump more finely chopped avocados onto the high chair tray. And if I chopped my veggies as fast and furiously as you, by now I would only be left with a couple fingers and a thumb. So I plan to give “real world” time: How long it actually takes to make a meal, complete a full workout or sew a dress for a highly distract-able mommy and her two enthusiastic kids. 

Multitask-ability. I have a problem. I feel that doing just one thing at a time is a waste. It’s sad and the research out there shows that multitasking actually decreases productivity, but I do it anyway. But I have learned the hard way that some things, like making candy and driving, do not allow for much flexibility in attention. Does the experiment allow for the all-important ability to multi-task? Can you safely and easily complete the task while talking on the phone, feeding the kids, paying the bills, playing the piano or pruning the hedges? Or is it better left for those lonely winter nights when the sun sets at 5:00pm and the wind chill is rocking at -40 degrees.

Kid-Compatible. Can the kiddos safely participate without compromising my sanity? How old should they be? What can they do?

Equipment Needed. I try to include everything that you need. Everything. Spoons, bowls, blenders, tape, thread, glue, toothpaste, a clock, the sun. I take nothing for granted because I have been without a functioning microwave, electric mixer, and bread pan and have had to improvise. Plus, it helps me judge how much set up and clean up time is involved by how much equipment I have to find, use, clean and put back.

Cost Comparison. I try to document all the costs (at least in my neck of the woods) to complete a project. I do not include the cost of what I would consider to be "freebies" (basic utensils, pens, paper, salt, pepper, water, electricity, bowls, etc.), unless it requires an exceptionally large amount of them. If there is some special equipment required (or something large that folks who have not done the wedding registry thing might not buy for themselves), I include that.

Background. Here is where I will make myself feel better about sending in that awesome student loan payment each month and attempt to utilize my public health masters degree and years of writing research papers to provide my readers with hardcore facts, sensational statistics and tantalizing tidbits.

Detailed Directions. Probably more detailed than anyone would ever want, but that's just how it will have to be.

Photos. I like to take pictures. So you have to look at them. So there.

References and Resources. There were three very important things I learned during my time at THE Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (as one awesome professor always referred to it): poop runs downhill, be wary of statistics because naughty statisticians can make them say whatever they want, and always cite your references. As a dutiful JHSPH alum, I will extensively and religiously cite my references and provide any additional links or resources I found helpful.