October 17, 2014


Tomorrow will be our sixth wedding anniversary, and Trevor is whisking me and the girls away to Connecticut for a weekend of leaves and pumpkins [and pumpkin-spiced things] and a cute little inn that I am deliriously excited about. And he knew I would be, which is why he picked it, because he was good at knowing those things even before we became an old married couple of six years.

This year is the year of iron. Our marriage is now the manifestation of Proverbs 21:17, I suppose. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."

The Proverb is completely accurate, and it is accurate for a lot of reasons. We have lived together, and we have become better for it. We have challenged each other, and we have become better for it. We have hurt or mourned together, and we have become better for it. We have learned together, and we are better. We have struggled together (thankfully more than we have struggled against), and we are far better for it. Most importantly, we have continued to love one another, and we are our best selves because of that. (And what's more, we still love even when we are not that.)

It goes without saying that iron is strong. It is the stuff of skyscrapers and mammoth bridges. Our modern life is dependent on its sturdiness and endurance. And not that marriage ever stops being work, but something about becoming iron speaks to powerful and reliable longevity. Here is something that will stand the test of time.

For all its uses and good qualities, the thing about iron is that it's a refined substance. It can be changed and molded and be strong. It can be mixed with other substances for a new and reinforced material. It offers up its best and still lends itself to other ways that it might be used or needed. And in six years, while I know that I can count on a bettering partner and a strong relationship, I am learning to notice how we change too. Six years is exciting! Because maybe we are on our way to being that "old married couple," but baby, how we've changed in six years. I've changed, he's changed, we've changed. "Us" is still made of that good strong stuff, but we have been willing and excited to grow and adventure and to become what we needed for each other and for this family.

So in some ways, six years is a our strong and sturdy anniversary, and it's our soft and tender one. Did you know that Hallmark says six years is also the candy anniversary? (Bless you, Hallmark!) The tough, powerful anniversary is counterbalanced by something sweet and simple and delicious. 

I think that sums it up, my love--where you are strong, I am soft; where I am tough, you are tender. Here we are tall and proud and sturdy, and in some of the sweetest moments we've had yet.

Happy six years to the most wonderful man in the world.

Anniversaries 2, 3, 4, 5, and the whole gosh darn love story!
See all of our wedding photos at Lauren Stocker Photography.

October 13, 2014

Natural: Honest

Since living in our little NYC apartment, with no backyard to speak of, and finding the bulk of my days dedicated to getting somewhere, some of my natural living practices have...adjusted. Running short on time, I haven't kept to making all of my cleaners and detergents. Running short on storage, it's become cumbersome to store open boxes of Borax and sodas.

Unwilling to give up safe and natural cleaning, I turned to The Honest Company. It can be pricey to order products in this way, but NYC living is about weighing a variety of costs; and for me, anything that saves me time and space is valuable. It's also convenient having items delivered rather than having to trek across Brooklyn with my cleaning cabinet stashed in the undercarriage of the stroller.

I've kept some of my old tricks of the trade, and for others, I have loved using Honest. Pictured above are a few of my favorite products. I love keeping things fresh-smelling, and have admittedly been a Febreeze addict even after I converted all else over to natural cleaners. Honest has a great solution, and it's completely pure and safe. The multi-surface cleaner is so fabulous, especially since I try to get all of my cleaning done in one day. It's great for kitchens, bathroom surfaces, and even floors. I love that I can buy small concentrated refills--really helps with my storage issue. And those little pods are oxy-boosts. They keep my whites white, and I have been amazed at their stain removing capabilities.

If you'd like to check out these and other Honest Company products, click here.

I post "Natural" stories from time-to-time as I try to find ways to engage in simpler living. I'm not an expert, just finding my way and happy to share what I learn.

October 7, 2014

Hurd Family Farm

We snaked through the Hudson Valley last weekend, over what I call hills, though they are more mountain than anything else I've seen out here. The land rolls up and down, unlike a horizon suddenly interrupted by a majestic rocky formation, and more like the unfurling of a patchwork quilt frozen before it's laid all the way flat. All of the deciduous trees are so old and established, from up above it looks as though they've grown together, and the only distinguishing factors are the changing colors of the leaves. Gold grows into orange which turns to the most fiery red I've ever seen on a tree. Of course, I knew red leaves existed. I was shocked to discover there are also purple and pink leaves? I saw a tree that was legitimately pink. It couldn't be called any other color. And dotted through these warm tones were the trees not yet willing to let go of summer, boasting greens from hunter to bright lime, like they supposed they alone could stand against time and nature.  

The car fell silent as the babes were rocked into early naps, and I sipped my cliche spiced latte that seemed an appropriate treat for the first fall outing. Honestly, it was the kind of day that very few of us love, the rain unending and the fog settling around peaks like crowns for those that reached the highest. It seemed the whole world was bathed in magical silvery light, adding to the surreal feeling of actually emerging from the city. Even though I've seen what America looks like far past New York, when you're here, it really can feel like the whole world. That was two hours behind us nearly, and we found nature's versions of avenues and skyscrapers, putting on their best to greet October just as the city is prime this time of year.

Our exit led us down small highways and then windy roads that are exactly what you picture when you think of an east coast back country drive in autumn. I couldn't believe that what I'd attributed only to my mind's eye or a movie scene did, in fact, exist in real life. After a time, the trees gave way, and we found ourselves at Hurd Family Farm, the rain still falling quite steadily though not deterring anyone from making a day of apple picking. It seems that New Yorkers are not only hardcore about their city living, rather apply their go-get-it nature in all ventures. 

We splashed through the muddy puddles, the girls fascinated by their new wellies and dry feet. We wound through rows of apple trees, laughing with friends about the absurdity of such an activity in the pouring down rain, but relishing it all the same. We drenched our arms reaching high into the branches for the best apples and filled our pecks to the brim. When the rains fell harder, we dashed up the path and into the sturdy red barn. There we could eat apple fritter donuts and warm our hands around cider, resting on hay bales as the kids rummaged through farm-themed toys. There was a ridiculous diner lunch before we head back for the city, back through the clouds and colorful canopies. While we crossed the George Washington bridge, I looked over my shoulder to see these incredible rocky cliffs, speckled with white houses and the same orange and red we'd just been driving underneath.

Then there she was: The city. Man's version of the sudden majestic rocky formation. I rode in the car, as quietly as possible (the drive back was much more lively than the restful trip up), and as we opened the sunroof to let in the light, I thought about how strange it was to love such two extremes so much. When we broke free from New York's concrete and into the wilderness, I felt a peacefulness come over me. But after a few hours, as we dove back in, it was like I came alive. Maybe a person needs both. Maybe I thought I was on a journey to find which one spoke to me more loudly, but really it's more about balancing the two--about feeding the soul in different ways. 

These are the kinds of things you can decide in autumn. In autumn, all parts of the world offer you her best in this still, outreaching way. It's a blip on the spectrum of a calendar year, just a few weeks really; and yet every year it is the period of epiphany for me. It's a few moments of crisp clarity. It's a chance to see the world in technicolor and realize how all forms of creation mirror each other--city and nature. And since we are creations and creators, to remember that that exists in us too.

October 3, 2014

Natural: Fingerpainting

Fingerpainting from Sarah Ann Noel on Vimeo.

The moms around these parts are preparing me for the severity of an NYC winter. It seems our weeks have been filled with invitations to play dates, the gardens, the zoo, and numerous park adventures, and at each activity we squeeze in there are murmurs of, "Got to enjoy it while we can." 

We are generally pretty busy, just all antsy in nature; but we also like a good homebody day--at least one a week, I think. Since returning from Oklahoma, we've all taken turns with a cough and the sniffles, and this week it got the better of both Iris and Edith, again. Graciously, sickness revisited us right at the return of gloomier, cooler weather, so I lit a spicy candle to keep our spirits high and we found ways to enjoy the cloudy skies from inside our apartment.

A discovery I've made since moving to New York: I am more desperate than ever to keep cupboards, drawers, and closets purged, storage space being quite limited and quickly lending itself to that cluttered feeling. As such, I've not kept much on-hand by way of crafts. So I took to the Pinterests, recalling that I'd seen a recipe for homemade finger paint. There are, in fact, a million, but I went with this one because most required cornstarch but I could replace that with flour in this recipe. 

What's great about a spur of the moment decision to whip up paint is, not only the space saving aspect but that the creation of the product actually becomes part of the fun. I was always fascinated when my mom made us play dough from scratch or stirred her own cheese sauce for a little macaroni on a cold day. I think this is an easy and important way to teach kids that their stuff has a place of origin, and that's something to be considered. 

Now, I can't vouch for the completely natural composition of these homemade paints because I did use food coloring. With two toddlers, you just can't always be a purist. Maybe one day we will recreate this activity and try our hands at using natural dying techniques too. For today, I accepted that the paint was at least taste-safe and based from natural ingredients. The recipe makes a good big batch of the stuff, and then we divided into bowls for different colors. (There was a good lesson about primary colors and color-mixing in there too!) Once it cools, the consistency is great, and I was really impressed with how well it worked as paint, but also how easy it was to clean up too. At any rate, a fun way to fill a quiet, rainy morning--and we tried to honor the onset of autumn a bit with our colorful trees.

I post "Natural" stories from time-to-time as I try to find ways to engage in simpler living. I'm not an expert, just finding my way and happy to share what I learn.