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Wednesday
Nov232011

A Dinner in the Dark = A Lesson in Empathy

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The first holiday, in a string of many this winter season, that encourages us to slow down, reflect, and show gratitude. When it’s time to gather around the table and give thanks, we naturally share how blessed we are to have wonderful family and friends, a happy home, delicious food, prosperity, and so much more. And now that we have young children, we are also grateful for their sweet faces and eager eyes; their playful and adventurous spirit; their desire to always hug and kiss. All things we should never take for granted.



But when did you last think long and hard about being able to see, hear, navigate space, feed yourself with ease, or feel self-sufficient and independent? Of course, I think about and am thankful for my family's health in the most general sense. However, I honestly don't appreciate what I’ve otherwise thought of as basic abilities. That is, until this past weekend…

On Saturday night, I dined in the dark. And by dark, I mean pitch black. When I embarked on this unusual dining experience at Opaque—where diners are deliberately deprived of eyesight to heighten their taste and eating experience—I thought that the premise might be more of a gimmick than truly something that tested my limits. From the get go, however, moving, socializing, and eating without the visual cues I’m accustomed to proved to be different and, more than anything, over-stimulating.

After forming a human train, our group was led single file into a dark cavern where we were seated one-by-one at what we think was a long banquet table by our visually impaired server who was there to help us navigate through our three-course dinner.  While I never had trouble finding my food on my plate (randomly stabbing at it with my fork was a useful technique and more effective than a spoon), I was caught off guard by the disorienting noise. It was hard to place the direction the sound originated from. Even when chatting with people directly around me, voices would fade in and out or words would sound foreign. Sometimes I found myself talking to thin air. It definitely made me feel like I was alone on island. Other friends reported feeling claustrophobic or irritable after being confined in the dark for some time, wanting nothing more than to escape to the light. Some said they felt tired and closed their eyes. And a few felt like they really didn't eat a full meal because it was hard to successfully fill their fork with food.



All this is to say that not only did it give me an better appreciation for the challenges the visually impaired may face, but also that my dinner in the dark made me think of how a child, especially a toddler, might feel when trying to function and communicate in an adult world. Spoons miss their mouths. Our words and sounds are unfamiliar. They feel trapped because they are confined in high chairs, car seats, and other spaces. Frustration emerges after they try to successfully master a new skill but it doesn’t quite work out like they hoped. And they long for independence.

I am thankful that this dinner reminded me what a day in my son’s life might be like.

~ The Other Sarah

Tuesday
Nov222011

The Goods: Children's Toys from IKEA



Kids are expensive! Based on the Baby Cost Calculator from Baby Center, disposable diapers cost $72 a month, formula $105, solid food $57, clothing $59, medicine $23, and toys $35! In addition to all of these “First Year” monthly costs, you also need to make numerous one-time purchases—stroller(s), car seat, nursery furniture, the list goes on and on. Gasp, my personal calculation was over $12,000 for the first year alone!

With the spiraling costs of raising a child and the holidays fast approaching, I want to highlight some great toys that I have purchased on the cheap and are probably the most used and loved items by my son. Don’t be scared, but all of these items come from IKEA! I know, I know, I would rather go to any Black Friday Sale or Disneyland on a Holiday before stepping foot into an IKEA, but if you make a plan, stick to it, and avoid weekends (if possible) IKEA is doable.

IKEA’s toys are great. They are simple, fun, and, most importantly, very inexpensive. The best part about their toys is they encourage creative open play. So many store shelves are lined with brightly colored, flashing electronic toys that promise to teach your kids to be ready for the Ivy League by just popping in a few batteries. However, after watching my son play everyday, I feel that he learns best from simple toys where he can direct the play and use his imagination to play with them.



The number one item from IKEA that my son plays with in multiple ways are the Mula stack & nest cups for $2.99! Not only does he stack and nest them, but he loves talking into them to amplify his voice. They nest up tightly so they can fit in the diaper bag when traveling. They are also great for bath time. I would recommend buying three sets one for the playroom, bathroom, and diaper bag—amazingly, the cost will still be less then $10.



When babies start crawling the Busa Play tunnel, $14.99, is so much fun for them to crawl back and forth through and it collapses flat for storage, perfect if you have a small apartment. Then when they start to walk the Ekorre toddle wagon/walker, $19.99, is great to help assist them in this new adventure. My son also loves to fill the wagon up with his favorite toys to push around.



The Lillabo Play mat (more like a small rug), $12.99, has a race track and parking lot printed as the design and works great with the Lillabo Cars, $9.99. The cars come in a set of three and are interchangeable to create numerous, fun combinations of play.



IKEA also has a great selection of soft toys like the Torva Broccoli, $7.99, Carrot, $7.99, and Strawberry, $4.99. The best part is for every soft toy or kid’s meal bought from IKEA between November 1st - December 24th, 2011, the IKEA Foundation will donate approximately $1.30 USD to be split between UNICEF and Save the Children to support the education of the most disadvantaged children. Click the link to learn more about the Soft Toys for Education program. You can even support this cause without having to step foot into an IKEA—a few of the soft toys can be purchased in the IKEA online shop.

~ Kristin Strange

*Photos are my own or from the IKEA Web site.
Tuesday
Nov222011

The Scoop

These daily sample sale sites can be a mom's best friend but not if you never have time to look at them! Now, all you have to do is stop by Salt & Nectar for the scoop on the best of all the sales. We search the top sites and recommend our favorite product on sale that day.

 

Alexis's pick: Holiday Stripe coverall, $15, HauteLook. 




Image via HauteLook

HauteLook is where it's at today!  Although there were several great deals to choose from on the site--like the classic toys and holiday books featured--I had to go with the Angel Dear knitwear at 70% off.  My son wore the coverall featured today in his first picture with Santa.  It's so soft and cuddly, and it's gender-neutral, too--so I have visions of subsequent babies wearing the same outfit in future Christmas pictures!

 

P.S.  I'm also loving the Metro Shawl Collar sweater and pant set--if you have a little baby boy, it's a must!

 

Sale ends 11/24 at 10am pdt.

 

Check back for the scoop on tomorrow's sales!

Monday
Nov212011

Family Purpose Statement

First of all, this book is changing my life. One project at a time. You should go right now and download it.

Seriously, I'll wait.

Ok, I've already been working on a morning and evening routine, which I will post on at a later time, but the project I just completed and want to share is #6: Create a family purpose statement.



I know it sounds cheesy. I know it seems crazy to carve out TWO hours when you can barely find time to wash your hair but it is SO worth it. And really how can you ever carve out time for anything if you don't know what's worth your time. Sitting down with your partner and deciding what's important for your family and where you want to focus your time and energy (and money!) makes everything suddenly seem more sane, less crazy.

Or as Tsh (the brilliant mind behind 52 Bites and Simple Mom) puts it:

In the 21st century, many of us respond to the tyranny of the urgent. One of the characteristics of a responsible adult is to recognize the difference between the important and the urgent, and then refuse to be tyrannized by the urgent; refuse to manage by crisis.


I do not want to manage by crisis. I do not want my the precious years of my children's childhood to be a blur of one crazy day after the next. It's already going too fast and I want to savor it in a conscious, present way.

SO, a few weeks ago, Nicholas and I sat some time aside (a.k.a. the car ride to and from an out-of-town date) to discuss our family purpose statement. We talked about what we think is going right (family dinners) and what we could work on (tech time). We talked about what was important to us and things we want to prioritize. But it wasn't just the logistics of our daily lives, we talked about the big picture. We talked about what kind of adults we wanted to raise and what memories we want our children to carry with them throughout their lives.

Here's what we came up with:

Our family strives to live consciously. We will be attentive and present in our interactions with each other—always striving to exhibit compassion. We will live simply and within our means making space for peace, creativity, and everyday celebrations. We will add only those things that enhance—not distract from—our family life. We will seek new experiences and communion with nature. We will plan responsibly for the future but also cherish each other every day.

We have a more specific plan based on what we discussed—instituting a nightly walk, taking one night a week to step away from technology, a plan to get rid of our debt once and for all.

But these specifics could change, what's important is that we now have a guiding principle for our family that will not.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

Monday
Nov212011

Week in the Life: Saturday