31 March 2014

A discovery, an apology, and an offer [Fitness challenge]

Parent Hacks 8 Week Fitness Challenge

This is a hard post to write.

Eight weeks ago I invited you to join me for a fitness challenge. Despite my loving the workouts and the entire experience,  I didn't follow through as well as I had intended. I didn't do every workout, and I didn't write.

I bungled this in a big way.

This was the first time I'd ever hosted a public challenge of any kind. My intent was accountability and fun teamwork, but that's not what ended up happening (for me).

Turns out the threat of embarrassment that hangs over public accountability is NOT motivating to me. Instead, it makes me crumble and hide. I ignored my gut and followed conventional wisdom (the exact thing Christine and I advise against in Minimalist Parenting), and it shut me down.

It's not about perfectionism. I have no problem admitting mess ups or struggles. The private Facebook group set up just for class participants was perfect and I loved participating there. But it was private. By promising to write here every week I crossed a public/private line I didn't know existed for me until it was in my rear view mirror.

I'm sorry. To those of you who took the leap with me: I let you down, and I apologize.

I'm doing things differently this time.

I'm signed up for Alisa's Spring Get Strong Challenge. Her workouts are FANTASTIC and real, the support and flexible scheduling is amazing, and I want to do this again as Asha the person, not Asha of Parent Hacks or Minimalist Parenting. I'm not setting myself up with promises to report as I go. But I will be there. And I hope you will be, too.

If you'd like to join me, sign up here (registration closes Friday, April 4). The eight-week program costs $50, but Alisa is offering Parent Hacks and Minimalist Parenting readers $10 off. Enter SPRING at checkout to claim your $10 discount.

I learned a hard lesson this time. Thank you for bearing with me as I stumble along.

Disclosure: Alisa is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We don't have a professional setup going -- this is just me supporting her new business, and trying my best to establish an exercise habit.

28 March 2014

A new use for your pasta server: Easter egg dipper

Pasta server as Easter egg dipper

In reply to the whisk-as-egg-dipper hack, Parenthacker-extraordinaire Adrienne of Baby Toolkit and Great Big Table tweeted that she uses a pasta server to dip Easter eggs.

Thank you, Adrienne! You win the Smartest Easter Egg Maker award! This is even better than the whisk because you can gently roll the egg onto its stand to dry.

"What stand," you ask? Sarah suggests balancing the eggs sideways in an egg carton, but I also like the idea of sticking pins into a styrofoam board. This could be a great use for the insulation material packed into large electronics boxes.

Got an Easter hack? Submit it here.

27 March 2014

Dip Easter Eggs Into Dye Using a Whisk

Easter egg hack! Wedge blown eggs into a whisk for effortless dip-dyeing! *forehead smack of brilliance*

Use a wisk to hold the eggs while they're being colored this Easter (DumpADay)

(Found on DumpADay.com, pinned by Tia Anderson)

I originally posted this on my new Tumblr site, the Parent Hacks Lab, which is where I'm tossing quick links, ideas, and updates. A Tumblr reader, MissNannyShanny, wondered how to get the dyed egg out of the whisk. I’m thinking it’s easy enough to gently separate the whisk wires to release the egg.

Other Easter egg hacks include using a muffin tin to hold the dye, and drying the eggs sideways balanced on an egg carton. Or, you could just skip the messy dye and paint the eggs with washable watercolors.

Got a smart tip for simplifying or coolifying Easter? Step into the Lab and submit your hack! I’ll post a subjective selection of highlights. Text, photos, videos and links welcome (with attribution if you found the hack elsewhere).

26 March 2014

Best granola you will ever eat [Recipe]

In my ongoing quest to save money on breakfast cereal, I've been making granola.

Now, there are about ONE HUNDRED BILLION recipes for granola on the Internet.

But I've come up with what I think is the best recipe. At least it's the one my family, including my granola-hating husband, loves.

Not only is granola cheaper than conventional cereal, it's more nutritionally robust. The fiber, protein, and healthy fat in this granola are perfect for school mornings when time is short but the need for a substantial breakfast is high.

I add dried fruit or sliced fresh bananas at serving time, but my kids prefer it without fruit. Also good as a topping for other cereal (my son's discovery) or baked apples (like a super-quick fruit crisp).

Asha's Best Granola

The reason there are billions of recipes is that granola is infinitely adaptable. You can adjust the amounts of or substitute different nuts, sweeteners, and oils (see my notes at the end of the recipe).

I hope you love this granola as much as we do. 

Asha's Best Granola

adapted from Alton Brown's Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. coconut oil, warmed until liquid
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
3/4 c. dried coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. (I often make granola right after I've baked something in the oven to take advantage of the reserved heat.)

Finely chop almonds and cashews. I use my mini-prep food processor, but you could also place the nuts in a Ziploc bag and crush them with a heavy spoon or mallet.

In a glass measuring cup, stir together coconut oil, corn syrup, salt and vanilla.

In a large baking dish or roasting pan, combine the oats, chopped nuts, and brown sugar. Pour the coconut oil mixture on top and toss until the oats are evenly coated.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes. The oats should turn golden brown without burning. Add dried coconut during the last 10-15 minutes of baking and watch it closely; it browns faster than the other ingredients.

Remove pan from the oven and cool mixture completely before storing. The granola will crisp as it cools.

I store my granola in a stainless steel container with a tablespoon measure as a reminder to keep the serving size smaller than boxed cereal. (Have you ever seen a 14 year-old boy plow through a box of cereal? It's insane.)

Notes: If you don't use coconut oil, any mild-flavored oil will do. As for the dried coconut, I've used both sweetened and unsweetened shreds with good results, but my absolute favorite were these coconut flakes I found on sale. You can substitute pure maple syrup for the corn syrup if you like. Honestly, I was just trying to use up a bottle of Karo I've had in my cabinet forever. Next time I intend to try brown rice syrup. I'm also going to swap out the brown sugar for coconut sugar. I'll let you know how it goes.

25 March 2014

Do you ever feel unsure as a parent?

Photo credit: Quotes Lover

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. -- Bertrand Russell

Keep that in mind the next time you feel unsure of your parenting choices.

We all feel unsure of ourselves as parents. The “answers” we seek when our kids confound us are more like signals — faint, camouflaged messages that slide into the range of our hearing over time.

The most important skill I’ve developed as a parent is the ability to listen. Not just with my ears, but with my gut and my heart.

Photo credit: Quotes Lover

12 March 2014

FREE EVENT: How to make room for fun

Minimalist Parenting coverThe subtitle of Minimalist Parenting is "enjoy modern family life more by doing less."

Most people focus on the "doing less" part (the what), but just as important -- more important, really -- is the "enjoy" part, the why.

Minimalist parenting -- simplifying your life in general -- isn't something to do because you should or because it's somehow morally superior. It's a way to make room in your life for more fun.

Fun! We need opportunities to let go of those bootstraps we're constantly pulling up. To remember that the whole point is to enjoy each other and the world we're exploring together.

Let's talk about it!

Join me on tomorrow's "Thursdays with ThirdPath" call (actually a webinar but it's meant to be an interactive conversation, not a lecture).

The topic is how to make room in your life for whatever you and your family enjoy...and why that matters so much.

I'll be joined by one of my favorite parenting writers, Jim Higley, author of Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew. Jim is a true pleasure to talk to, and this is your chance.

What: Thursdays with ThirdPath call
When: March 13, 12:30-1:30 ET (that's 9:30-10:30 PT)
Where: Free registration here
Why: Interactive conversation about life balance, decluttering our schedules, and the importance of fun
Who: Me, Jim Higley and Jessica DeGroot, Founder and President of ThirdPath Institute

Register now! I hope to see you tomorrow.

07 March 2014

When your kids go to school for the first time: how do you handle it?

For some kids (and parents), heading off to preschool or kindergarten is the next no-big-deal step in their growth. Kids trip-trop happily off school, their backpacks and lunch bags full of excitement.

But for others, it's a fraught, pushme-pullyou transition with tears, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Thing is, you can't always predict which experience you or your kid's gonna have. How do you encourage your kid's growing independence while also staying sensitive to his fears?

One Bad Mother podcast

I'm today's guest on the One Bad Mother podcast with Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn, both of whom are riding the New To School roller coaster.

I had such fun with Biz and Theresa! It's no surprise; look how they describe their podcast:

One Bad Mother is a comedy podcast about motherhood and how unnatural it sometimes is. We aren't all magical vessels!

Join us every week as we deal with the thrills and embarrassments of motherhood and strive for less judging and more laughing.

We talked, we laughed, we commiserated, and I offered what I hope is encouraging Minimalist Parenting-inspired advice.

Click through to listen.

Hard to believe it has been almost a YEAR since Minimalist Parenting hit the shelves. The response has been amazing, and our message about "enjoying more by doing less" is as relevant as ever. Especially meaningful as I navigate the teen years.

06 March 2014

Stuffed animal storage ideas? Talk amongst yourselves.

Stuffed animal storage: Boon Animal Bag

Nancy needs help handling the Stuffed Animal Invasion.

My kids are overrun with stuffed animals and they end up all over the floor. I need ways to keep them contained!

DON'T WE ALL? I mean, I can empathize.

There are plenty of creative stuffed animal storage ideas out there, but my absolute favorite is the Boon Animal Bag. This fuzzy bag (cuddly in its own right) rounds up the zoo and turns it into a comfy seat.

From the Boon website:

The first five stuffed animals are cute. But when 100 are scattered like furry road kill all over your house, it's time to do something like tossing them into an Animal Bag that doubles as a snuggly seat. 

Heh heh, furry road kill!

Other ideas:

  • Stuffed animal chain
  • Toy hammock: fun suspended over the bed.
  • Lightweight laundry hamper: I use this one from IKEA. It's portable, collapsible, breathable, cheap, and it zips closed.
  • Hanging shoe organizer: You know, the kind that goes over the door? (I'm a fan of shoe organizers all over the house.) Downside: tricky to get young kids to use these themselves as it's hard to reach the top pockets.

Parenthackers! What are your stuffed animal storage solutions? Leave a comment!

Nancy's question came in via my exciting new experiment, the Parent Hacks Lab! Think of it as the idea engine churning behind this site. The Lab also makes submitting your hacks and asking for advice so much easier AND it keeps you out of the Pit of Doom which is my email inbox. Check it out!

Photo credit: Boon

03 March 2014

40% off selected Mabel's Labels; sale ends 3/4/14

Mabel's Labels Spring Sale

I've discovered the joy and utility of labeling. I use my Dymo Letratag all over the house. But it's not the right solution for clothing labels. If your kids go to child care, sports practices, or camp (as mine are for the first time this summer), labeling their clothes and uniforms just makes sense.

Through 3/4/14, Mabel's Labels is taking 40% off the price of some of its most popular products, including clothing labels. Several Parenthackers have written to me singing the praises of Mabel's Labels...their durability, ease of use, and all-around awesomeness.

Seems to me that pre-printed labels are a time saver over laundry markers for a big volume of clothing. At this price, I think it's worth it.

Mabel's Labels users! Care to share your experience?

12 February 2014

Week 1: Building the Habit of Fitness [Fitness Challenge]

Fitness-week1-600px

I invited you to join me on an 8 week fitness challenge and you responded in droves.

Over 300 of you signed up to participate in the first-ever session of AspireFitnessNW's Home Sweat Home online "boot camp." Three hundred!

Clearly I'm not the only one who could use a little support in the self-care and fitness department.

Week 1 is over and I've completed my first three workouts. The workouts are great; challenging enough to get my heart going and my muscles burning, but not so killer that I'm immobile the next day.

The exercising hasn't been the biggest challenge for me...it's been the mental hurdle of actually getting started. After we received our first set of workouts, it took me a full two days of hemming and hawing to finally get myself to do one.

Changing habits is an odd thing; you know you want to do things differently and yet there's a huge pull to stay mired where you are.

In my case, it was a swirl of thoughts and feelings: nervousness about being publicly accountable, fear about committing myself to lasting change as opposed to just "trying this out," plain old "I don't wanna" rebellion.

You know what made the difference? You. A big part of Home Sweat Home is the support from Alisa and other participants in a members-only Facebook group. When I shared that I was feeling intimidated I got such a rush of encouragement from both friends who are doing this with me AND from people I've never met. Not only did I feel supported, there was no way I was going to let you guys down after that. It felt amazing.

The big lesson I learned in Week 1 boils down to this:

Successful habit change requires small steps, consistently taken.

When building a new habit, any progress toward that habit is forward momentum. My dear friend Judie told me that, in the beginning, even five minutes -- one minute -- spent exercising is success.

The most important thing is consistency. Remove every obstacle to acting on your new habit, and reward yourself every time you take a step in the right direction. This Fast Company interview with Tony Stubblebine, creator of Lift, really hit that point home.

Read Martha Beck's The Four-Day Win for more on setting yourself up for success when it comes to diet and exercise. I'm a big Martha Beck fan so read this a few years ago and am re-reading it now. It's powerful and applicable to any sort of habit change.

We're into Week 2 now and I'll let you know when (or if) it gets easier.

I'll update you on my progress each week during the Parent Hacks 8 Week Fitness Challenge. If you don't want to miss a post, sign up for email updates.

11 February 2014

And Now We Pause For Station Identification

I'm feeling particularly grateful for you today for no particular reason.

Sometimes I just have to shout that to the world. Your being here -- on the blog, via email, via Twitter or Facebook -- means so much to me.

Having this diffuse group of generous, intelligent, thoughtful people to share stuff with, to float ideas past, or who simply bear witness...well, it's incredible. The Internet is wild and vast, but it always feels warm and open here thanks to you.

I learn so much here even though my life is completely different as compared to when I started Parent Hacks nine years ago. Thank you for hangin' with me and for contributing so much to my life.

love, Asha

06 February 2014

In Praise of Store-Bought Valentines

"A box of store bought valentines is not a sign of slacking."

A friendly reminder for those of you who just don't feel like making Valentines this year but are feeling slightly guilty about it.

There are a million things we could do “better,” more thoroughly, or with more style. If we did it all, we'd go nuts.

As you go forth and spread the Valentine’s Day love, keep this sanity check in mind. If you and your kids take delight in making Valentines, have a ball! If you don’t…buy a box and don’t give it another moment’s thought.

Those circular symbols at the bottom of the graphic (created by my multi-talented coauthor Christine Koh) come from the cover of our book, Minimalist Parenting. The central theme of the book is doing less of the stuff that isn’t important to you so there’s more room for stuff that is.

05 February 2014

Make this classroom Valentine box! NOM NOM NOM

I'm reposting my favorite Valentine's Day hacks from past years. Got one of your own? Email me at [email protected] with the subject line VALENTINE 2014. I'll post the highlights! -- Asha

BWAH! This hilarious photo-enhanced shoebox makes classroom Valentines even more fun to collect! From Gina Rau of Feed Our Families:

I left my husband in charge of making our daughter's Valentine box for school...this is what he came up with! It was the hit of the class!

Place Valentines HERE! Valentine collection box and photo credit: Gina Rau

All you need is a blown-up photo, a shoe box, a glue stick, and some scissors. And a sense of humor.

Photo credit: Gina Rau

Gina added: "Don't judge me on this one." I JUDGE YOU AWESOME, GINA.

Who's got ideas for Valentine collection boxes? (I usually send my daughter to school with a used gift bag and call it done.)

Leave a comment with your tip and/or link!

Valentine sanity check: Clever homemade Valentines are wonderful...if you love doing this sort of thing. If you feel the stress or "pressure to perform" ratcheting up, remember that a box of store-bought Valentines (and a paper bag for collecting them) is not a sign of "slacking," it's a choice to focus on other things you care about more. -- Asha

Related: Optical illusion lollipop Valentine! Easy!

MoreValentine's Day posts at Parent Hacks

04 February 2014

Photo + glow stick = Star Wars Light Saber Valentine

Glow stick light saber Valentine. Photo credit: Holly of Stitch/Craft

I'm reposting my favorite Valentine's Day hacks from past years. Got one of your own? Email me at [email protected] with the subject line VALENTINE 2014. I'll post the highlights! -- Asha

A brilliant variation on the Lollipop Illusion Valentine! Rachel brought this to my attention:

We tried the giant lollipop trick last year but after we finished the pictures we received a reminder from school that candy can't be sent in. Adding stickers instead of lollipops was disappointing. This year my kids are going to be Jedi (thanks to Holly at Stitch/Craft)!

Photo credit: Holly of Stitch/Craft

There are so many things to love about this clever homemade Valentine:

  • No candy
  • Glow-stick light saber
  • Cool optical illusion
  • Star Wars LEGO variation with a free printable template!

Holly used 8-inch mini glow sticks in this project -- the kind that come with little plastic connectors so you can turn them into bracelets.

Holly was originally inspired by Meg of Brassy Apple, who came up with her own Star Wars Light Saber Glow Stick Valentine! The beauty of the Internet...and the creative "circle of life." Thank you for the heads-up, Rachel!

For more detail + a link to Holly's printable Valentine template, read the original post at Stitch/Craft: Forceful Valentines.

Valentine sanity check: Clever homemade Valentines are wonderful...if you love doing this sort of thing. If you feel the stress or "pressure to perform" ratcheting up, remember that a box of store-bought Valentines is not a sign of "slacking," it's a choice to focus on other things you care about more.

More: Valentine's Day posts at Parent Hacks

Photo credit: Holly of Stitch/Craft

03 February 2014

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, father

Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Photo credit: Celebrity Baby Scoop

I can't stop thinking about Phillip Seymour Hoffman's sudden death.

I admired the man as an actor, but it's not like I'm his biggest fan. Until last night, I didn't know he was the father of three young children with his partner, Mimi O'Donnell. Or that he and his family were a regular fixture in their NYC neighborhood, walking to school, hanging out at the playground, going out for ice cream and all the other things families do.

It seems clear that he died of a drug overdose. The news reports contain details his kids will someday Google and read. To me, that may be the greatest tragedy.

Whatever Mr. Hoffman was struggling with (addiction likely not the only thing), from accounts I've read he was a loving and involved father. I imagine it would have broken his heart to know that his addiction would leave his family with this tragic legacy.

We all struggle with something -- hopefully not as destructive as addiction -- and we never want it to affect our children. But sometimes it does.

To Ms. O'Donnell and your children, Cooper, Willa and Tallulah, my greatest sympathies are with you. I wish you peace and healing, and many memories of happier, less complicated times.

Photo credit: Celebrity Baby Scoop

31 March 2014

A discovery, an apology, and an offer [Fitness challenge]

This is a hard post to write. Eight weeks ago I invited you to join me for a fitness challenge. Despite my loving the workouts and the entire experience, I didn't follow through as well as I had intended. I didn't do every workout, and I didn't write. I bungled...

Read more

28 March 2014

27 March 2014

Dip Easter Eggs Into Dye Using a Whisk

Wedge blown eggs into a wisk for effortless dip-dyeing! *forehead smack of brilliance*

Read more

26 March 2014

Best granola you will ever eat [Recipe]

I've come up with what I think is the best recipe for granola. At least it's the one my family, including my granola-hating husband, loves.

Read more

25 March 2014

Do you ever feel unsure as a parent?

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. -- Bertrand Russell

Read more

12 March 2014

FREE EVENT: How to make room for fun

Join me on tomorrow's "Thursdays with ThirdPath" call (actually a webinar but it's meant to be a conversation, not a lecture).

Read more

07 March 2014

When your kids go to school for the first time: how do you handle it?

I was a guest on the One Bad Mother podcast, on which I offered hosts Biz and Theresa what I hope is encouraging Minimalist Parenting-inspired advice about sending kids to school for the first time.

Read more

ALL hacks in April 2014 →

Email updates

  • Never miss a hack -- the next one might change your life.

Asha's Book

  • At Amazon: Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less

    Find out why doing less is the key to resourceful, thriving kids, and a calmer, happier YOU.

    Minimalist Parenting is an encouraging roadmap for decluttering your schedule, your home, and your vision for family life. Reviewers call it "a much welcome alternative to the usual parenting advice."

    Learn More at Amazon

    Also available at Barnes & Noble or your favorite local bookstore.

Favorite Posts

Start Amazon shopping here

Ads