Books Make A Difference

For a few years in my childhood my mother owned a boutique and right next to that boutique was a bookstore. My mom would pick us up from school and take us back to her store. I was so excited because instead of helping my mom or doing homework like I was supposed to, I would go to the bookstore, find a corner (with the permission of the shop owner, of course) and just escape into the amazing world of books. I read as many books as I could get my hands on, for hours on end until they had to ask me to leave because the store was closing.

Starting Young: Books Can Make a Difference - Island Girl on a Farm

 

It’s no secret amongst my friends and family members that I am a bookworm. I love to read and consider myself blessed to be living in an age where information is so readily available.I remembered as a child always having my head in a book, on long road trips and even at parties and family gatherings. English Literature and Creative Writing were two of my favorite classes in school.

That passion to read and learn continues today in my adult life. Books make a difference, as they have shaped who I am with respect to the various roles I play in my life – wife, blogger, business owner and most definitely mother.

I was fortunate enough to marry a man who loves to read as much as I do, even though our tastes in books are quite different.  When we became parents, we both agreed that reading to our children would become a part of our parenting routine. We were blessed to have a great head start on this by receiving many, many books from friends and family before and after the birth of our two sons.

 Books are a daily part of our lives and they have contributed to a wonderful and special relationship with our children. We started reading to our sons when they were about 7 or 8 months old, old enough to sit up. We read to them in the morning, in the afternoon before naptime, and at nighttime before they got to bed. It is a special bonding time that is peaceful, calm and uninterrupted with our children.

 They both love to read and it is wonderful to see how much they learn from reading. Our oldest can recite the words of an entire book – Little Blue Truck – from memory because of how many times we’ve read it to him. He’s learnt his ABCs, numbers, colors and shapes all from reading. One night when our youngest was 15 months old, I picked out a random book about numbers and counting. He absolutely loved it and would ask for it repeatedly at naptime and bedtime. Three months later on our family vacation in Florida, he surprised us all by counting to ten as he was walking down the stairs! I had no idea that he even count. He too knows his ABCs, can count up to 13 and is learning words, colors and shapes.

Island Girl on a Farm
My sons and I reading Finding Nemo before bedtime.

 

There is nothing that gives us greater joy that to snuggle with our kids at naptime and at night time and read their favorite books with them.  We can tell they love it too – if we ever tried to put them to bed without reading at least one book – oh my do they protest indeed! It does not go over well.

Specific books that have helped me as a Mom

 The No Cry Sleep SolutionWhen my oldest was born, I had no idea what I was doing and he wouldn’t sleep. He would only take 30-minute naps and would wake up every 2-3 hours at night. I was utterly exhausted and could barely function.

 Of course, being the bookworm that I am, I turned to books for help and came across this gem.  I learnt so much from this book about how babies sleep and the importance of establishing a nighttime routine. This book served as the catalyst for our daily naptime/nighttime readings. I am continually recommending this book to my friends who mention their kids aren’t sleeping well.

The Sleep Easy SolutionAnother great book that teaches parents about babies, nighttime routine and sleep.

Favorite Books from James and Dominic

How have books made a difference in your life in in your role as a parent? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below :).

Note: There are affiliate disclosures in this post. At no cost to you, I receive a small commission for any purchases you make from clicking on these links. Helps me to keep things running around here, and I only recommend products that I personally love and use.  Click here for my full disclosure policy.

 

 

 

The Best Ever Grain Free Crackers

I might have to start cheating on my Larabars with these crackers as my new go-to snacks – ok maybe not cheat but add them to my snack arsenal.

Once again, I have to give credit to my friend Vanessa for introducing these absolutely A-mazing delectables into my life. Is it possible that a gluten-free,grain-free,dairy-free and sugar-free snack can be so delicious AND healthy at the same time?

I tried 3 different variations of this recipe, and so I’m posting the one that, in my opinion, turned out and tasted the best. I’ll share the other two variations in the recipe notes so you can try it for yourself. 

But I digress….

Grain Free Crackers - Island Girl on A Farm. This is a fantastic clean eating snack that is dairy,grain,sugar and gluten free. The fresh rosemary adds a delightful and sensational tease on the taste buds. Great alternative to traditional crackers.

Quick Overview:

You’ll need: rosemary, almond flour, raw shelled sunflower seeds, dried unsweetened cranberries, olive oil, sea salt, chia seeds and hemp seeds

Combine all ingredients in your food processor or mixer until formed into a dough, then form dough into a ball.

Grain Free Crackers from IslandGirlonAFarm.com. Dairy, sugar, grain and gluten free crackers. A delicious alternative to traditional crackers

Place dough between either two pieces of parchment paper or use a baking mat and parchment paper. I love and recommend the Silpat silicone baking mat. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness.

Grain Free Crackers - Island Girl on a Farm

Once dough is rolled out completely, use a pizza cutter to cut dough into rectangles, squares or any other shape your heart desires :). Transfer baking mat or parchment paper to a baking tray or cookie sheet and bake away for 15 minutes! Keeping scrolling to get the full recipe. Yummm…

Grain Free Crackers - Island Girl on A Farm

[yumprint-recipe id=’4′]

Extra Tips:

  • Almond flour  can be purchased at your local grocery store in the nutrition section, online or sometimes in the bulk food section
  • Same thing applies for coconut flour
  • If you are dying to make this recipe right away and don’t have fresh rosemary, you can always substitute for 1 tsp dried rosemary – but the fresh rosemary is what really gives these crackers their delightful taste.

Warning, these can be addictive( as I reach for my 5th cracker while enjoying a cup of green tea.) You may need to make a double(or triple) batch of these because sharing doesn’t come so easy…I warned you 🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and if you tried any of the variations I suggested.

Note: There are affiliate disclosures in this post. At no cost to you, I receive a small commission for any purchases you make from clicking on these links. Helps me to keep things running around here, and I only recommend products that I personally love and use.  Click here for my full disclosure policy.

It’s All About Perspective

A reflection from the night before….

As I am writing this, I am in bed – utterly exhausted. Today has definitely been one of those days where I’ve had to “suck it up” as a mom.

Somewhere somehow my oldest son James contracted some type of stomach bug( or maybe it’s the stomach flu) and threw up not once, but three times today. Not exactly what I was hoping for.

But then I stopped and thought about the circumstances surrounding all three incidents, and realized – it could have been worse.

1st Incident :

At home, it was a small amount and it was somewhat near the toilet. Can’t complain too much, he’s only 3 years old.

2nd Incident:

Driving on the way home, all over himself, the carseat and the car. We were still 20 minutes away from home when it happened.  Not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to venture out after the 1st incident – still scratching my head over that one.

However, I am grateful that I had wipes, a change of clothes and plastic bags to help clean everything up as best as I could. I’m also glad it was daylight and I was able to pull over safely to take care of everything. Changing a 3 year old in the dark on the freeway would not have gone over very well for either one of us.

I am grateful that both boys went down for their naps at the same time so I could clean the car and get everything that had gotten in the line of fire ( carseat and clothing)  in the laundry. A glass of wine would have also been a good idea.

3rd Incident:

At home again, this time at the dinner table. We did not make it to the bathroom.

I am grateful that our youngest son spent the night with Grandma & Grandpa

I am grateful that my husband decided to come home early from work that night ( he wasn’t feeling very well either.) He was able to help to clean up James so that I could clean… well, everything else. No need to go into details.

I am grateful that this was an atypical Wednesday evening – normally I am with both boys all day long until 8:30 at night. Not sure how well I would have handled the 3rd incident otherwise.

Not the most glamourous of days in the world of motherhood, but given everything that happened, the glass was definitely half-full for me today.

It’s all about perspective, right?

What do you think?

 

My Goals for 2014

At the end of 2012 when I sat down to plan out 2013, I had this epic, amazing plan that looked just plain fantastic on paper. I had all these elaborate goals, and I even had them categorized into personal, business and financial. I had 24 personal goals, 13 professional goals and 7 financial goals, for a whopping total of 44 goals that my over-achieving, type-A personality was hell-bent on accomplishing in 2013.

Did I have a great year? Absolutely. 2013 was Amazing. Fantastic. Awesome. Wonderful. Phenomenal – throw in any other synonym you can think of but you get the general idea. For me, being the Lonestar Island Girl in Oregon( minus my “baby” sister who is a graduating senior from college this year – aah!) the amount of family time I got this past year has put me on Cloud Nine.

Did I get to put a check mark next to all 44 goals ? Absolutely not. That right there was a Big.Fat.Epic Fail. It looked so beautiful on paper I almost framed it…

FAIL-1

Guess how many of the 44 goals I actually managed to accomplish in 2013? 10. Yep – 10 out of 44 equals 22.7%. Epic Fail.

Why?

I have no one to blame but myself for setting unrealistic expectations and therefor setting myself up for failure. I read these awesome books and these great blog posts for goal setting and accomplishment ( think S.M.A.R.T. goals here) and what happens? My ever-active brain goes into overdrive and suddenly I think I’m SuperMom and of course I can overcommit and get this done!

In reality I am a WAHM and I have two very young, active little boys that keep me quite busy not to mention these things called laundry, friends, cooking, sleep, housework and bills that occasionally require my attention. Add the husband to that list too.

This year I am cranking it way down (like 100 notches) and keeping it simple and realistic. I have so much that I want to accomplish but I am finding more and more that if I just take things slow, and focus on one thing at a time ( with consistency and intentionality) then it will get done and get done well instead of half-butt well.

Instead of this massive brainstorming session where I locked myself in a room with two cups of coffee for two hours, I just asked myself two questions:

  •  “What do I really want to spend my time doing this year?”
  • “What are some things that I know I need to get done but having been putting off?” (Light bulb!)

And within 30 minutes I came up with my simplified 2014 Goals:

2014Goals

1. Declutter and simplify my life and our house – clothes,email, paperwork, toys, books and everything else.

2. Consistently do a monthly budget and consistently track our expenses.

3. Save towards buying a newer car by the end of the year.The Subaru isn’t doing so great these days.

4. Consistently do a weekly menu plan that supports our grocery budget and clean eating lifestyle.

5. To start my personal blog (this blog that you’re reading) and stick with blogging at least twice a month. I want to do more( like once per week) but I know that’s unrealistic right now.

6. Taking the time to learn and increase my web design skills so that I can grow my web design business.

7. Read 5 of the gazillion books in my Kindle account ( darn those free daily Kindle deals!) and take action from them by the end of the year.

8. Be more intentional about recording and displaying family photos and events. This year I am hell-bent on getting them off the phone, tablet and computer and into picture frames, calendars, photo albums or a home movie slideshow. Thank goodness iPhoto organizes pictures for me by month and date. Yes I am a Mac lover. I would be in big trouble otherwise.

9. Exercise consistently( 3-5 times) a week. Chalene Johnson is my new best friend.

10. Home Improvement : Finish our Master Bathroom! ( Considering that this was supposed to be finished before Dominic was born, and he is almost 19 months old we will see how this goes.)

And there you have it! It doesn’t look all that fancy, and there is so much more I want to add here but I do not want to set myself up for failure again. I don’t want to  look back a year from now and realize that I once again accomplished less than half of my goals. I want to have realistic accountability for myself. The power of focus is unmistakable.

I realize that some of these goals are broad and not too specific. That’s ok because this is just a starting point for me. I plan on taking it a step further and coming up with some action steps  for each individual goal ( sorry type A personality taking over a little here), which I’ll be sharing on the blog throughout the year.

To give you an example:

Goal: Save towards buying a newer car

Action Steps:

  • Figure out what kind of car we should get for our growing family ( brand, type, certified used, private sale etc.) – any suggestions are welcome!
  • Do some research online to find out prices ( craigslist, auto trader, etc.)
  • Create a separate savings account and start to set monthly savings towards purchase
  • Show up to dealership 6PM New Years eve and proceed to torture car salesman with ninja negotiation skills

You get the general idea :).

Hey thanks for reading!What are some of your goals for 2014 ?

 

My Top Nine Moments of 2013

If I could give 2013 a theme, it would be The Year of Family.

One of my personal goals that I wrote down at the beginning of  2013 was to try and visit with some of my relatives. I have quite an extensive family on both sides – literally all over the world – and many of them I had not seen for over a decade.  Probably the most difficult things about being a Jamaican and living in the Pacific Northwest is not being able to see my family on a regular basis, so I vowed to be more intentional about making the time to some extended family.

I can definitely say that 2013 exceeded any and all expectations I had for accomplishing this goal. I was so grateful that I had the time and the means to have travelled several times in 2013 to attend a graduation, a funeral, and a wedding to be reunited with many, many family members.  It was truly nourishing to my spirit and my soul .

Read along to see some of my other top Highlights for 2013, in addition to all the family reunions this past year :).

My Top Nine Moments of 2013

 

9. CJ & I Lost 30 Pounds

In September 2012, CJ and I decided to try clean eating. We both wanted to lose weight and make healthier choices about what were were eating. We have both always been very active people but once we saw how much weight we lost just be changing our eating habits, we were both permanently committed to a clean eating lifestyle. One of my goals for 2014 is to share that experience here on the blog along with some recipes ( there I said it so now I have to do it!)

beforeandaftercleaneating

8. I Officially Become a Stay At Home Mama

After James was born in September 2010 I took the rest of the year off to be at home with him. It broke my heart to leave him and go back to work in January 2011, and I was never quite the same career-focused woman that I used to be after having a baby. When we found out we were pregnant with Dominic in November 2011, CJ and I committed to making the necessary lifestyle adjustments so that I could be at home with both boys.

We did it! And the biggest reason I was able to leave a well-paid, corporate job to stay at home with the boys? We got rid of all our consumer debtthat made a huge difference  in allowing us to make a lot of lifestyle adjustments to live below our means.

I was able to take six months maternity leave after Dominic was born in June 2012, and I was beyond elated when I called my former employer in January to tell them I wasn’t going back to work after my maternity leave..

JamesandDomy1

The boys were pretty excited when they heard too!

7. I Started My Own Business and Become a Work At Home Mom

I have always felt the entrepreneurial buzz in my spirit. I’ve always wanted to be in business for myself but for the longest time I had no idea what to do or even how to go about doing it.

In addition to staying at home with the boys, part of the reason I took extra time off for my maternity leave was so that I could revitalize my soul, recharge my batteries and figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life.  I’ve read so many blogs and stories of successful work at home moms, and I knew I could do it too if I could could channel and focus my energy on something that I loved to do and could monetize in the marketplace.

There are two books that greatly helped me in my soul-searching and jounery of giving me the confidence to a) start my own business,  b) discovering my passion for web design and c) combining the two and putting it out there for the world to see:

After reading both these books and drawing from some of the principles,  Marquardt Creative Consulting was born in February and officially launched in May 2013 – Yaay!

Marquardtinc

6. Attending My Sister’s Graduation

My sister Gilly is a rockstar. I call her the Excel Nerd and Math Genius. If you applied for and got accepted as 1 of 10 Jamaicans( out of hundreds of applicants!) for a  Fulbright Scholarship, and graduated two years later with a Master’s Degree in Actuarial Science, I would call you the same thing too.

I’m bragging on my sis here but as you can tell I am an inspired and proud big sister 🙂

GillyGradCollage

Domy came along too for the trip to Nebraska and he did great for his first plane ride – no epic meltdowns on the plane is always a win!

After Gilly’s graduation, we drove 8 hours from Nebraska to Oklahoma to meet our cousin Michael ( Mom’s cousin) for the first time. We had such a great visit and this would turn out to be one of many family reunions this year for me!

Even on the way back when we had a 6-hour delay in the Colorado airport, Domy was quite agreeable – at the time he was only 10 months old so he couldn’t go to far 🙂

DomyCollage

5. Anniversaries & Birthdays

I know it may not seem like a big deal,  but after reading this story, I am truly grateful that my husband lived another year. I am grateful for each year of marriage that I celebrate with CJ. I am grateful that both James and Dominic are healthy, active boys and lived to celebrate their birthdays. I am grateful to celebrate another year of life because tomorrow is never promised.

  • I schemed with friends and family to throw CJ a surprise 32nd birthday in March – I had to blindfold him so he couldn’t figure out where we were going.)
  • The youngest Marquardt turned a year on June 23rd, and big brother James rang in his 3rd birthday on September 1st with a brand new Gator that he( and Dom) love to ride around the farm.
  • I rang in my 31st birthday with a quiet, relaxing day of pampering and dinner with two of my dear friends 🙂

PicBirthdayCollage

CJ and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary in May by staying at the Embassy Suites for the weekend( kid-free). He won this weekend getaway at a charity auction, which made it even better!

anniversarycollage

4. I Changed My Business Name

I actually almost quit my web design business. After pouring many hours and late nights into my website launch, officially getting my business started and telling the world about it – something didn’t quite feel right. The initial excitement died and I wasn’t as enthusiastic about it. I got distracted and starting to focus on other business ideas that seemed more appealing at the time.

There were many reasons why I lost the fire for MCC, but the main reason  was because the business I had created was very corporate, very professional – but it didn’t feel like… me. The website was great but it wasn’t attracting the type of clients that I wanted to work with – small business owners and non-profits.

I was stuck in this cycle of fear and indecision and was about to give up when I was presented with an opportunity to speak with a life coach ( Teresa Calpado – you should check her out she is amazing!) She gave me some much needed clarity and reminded me that:

  • I didn’t have to figure everything out today
  • That I just had to pick one idea and focus on that
  • I had to Let Go of the Fear and just Take Action.

A few days later, one of the ideas,  WebSpyred was bought to life. I am 1000 times more excited about WebSpyred than I was about Marquardt Creative Consulting. WebSpyred looks and feels like me( my personality) and I am so excited for what 2014 will bring for my business.

WebSpyred Media

3.Grandma’s Funeral – Jacksons Reunited

My dear sweet Grandma ( Dad’s mom) passed away on September 18th, 2013 and was buried on September 28th in Fayetteville, Georgia. She was 87 years and was a phenomenal matriarch for our family. I was so heartbroken when I found out and even writing this now I have tears in my eyes when I think about her.

So why am I including this as a highlight? Because I think this was Grandma’s and God’s way of bringing our family together. Even though the circumstances were sad and this was a time of grief, a lot of great things happened from this trip

  • I am so grateful that I had the time and the means to fly down to attend her funeral.
  • I am grateful that I got to spend time with my Dad whom I hadn’t seen for a year and a half, and he got to meet his grandson for the first time( Dominic  did quite a bit of travelling with me this year!)
  • I am grateful that I met a new cousin who welcomed me and my son into her home to stay so that I didn’t have the added expense of booking a hotel ( Denise & Allie you guys are awesome and I love you both)
  • I’m grateful that I got to spend time with my brother and sisters.
  • I’m grateful that I got to see and spend time with my aunts, uncles and cousins. Hug them, grieve with them. Catch up on each others lives.
  • I’m grateful for all the memories that I have of my grandmother throughout the years. Bless her for sending me cash and warm clothes in the mail when I was a freshman in college with nothing but island girl wear.

She was an amazing woman and I’m sure when I become a grandma myself( fingers crossed) I will still be talking about her to my children and grandchildren. Her funeral was an emotional day filled with tears, love and lots of laughter and the perfect way to say goodbye (for now) to our matriarch.

GrandmaTribute

Rest In Peace Edna J. We love you, miss you everyday and we know your legacy continues on in all of us.

2. My cousin’s wedding.

My cousin Kirk and I were pretty close when we grew up together in Jamaica. Time and circumstances took our lives in different directions as he moved away to Canada with a lot of other relatives in the late 90s, and I moved to Oregon in 2000 for college.

October of this year I was blessed beyond belief to travel to Jamaica to see my cousin Kirk, meet his(now) wife, and spend an epic weekend with many other cousins, aunts and uncles for the first time in 14 years. My heart was filled with so much joy to be around so much family, and it really took me out of the funk that I had been in since my grandma’s funeral and definitely helped to rejuvenate my spirits.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful – and of course being in my home country at an all-inclusive hotel and eating Jamaican food was just an added bonus.And, I ran into one of my old high school friends at the hotel the day after the wedding ( love you Tracy!).  Since it was a solo trip, the only thing that would have made it better was if CJ and the boys could have been there.

kirkweddingreunion.jpg

Can you tell I have a big family? And not everyone is here!

And the #1 highlight of my year….

1. Christmas in Florida!

We had a blast. We did all these great things while we were in Florida: went to Legoland, DisneyWorld, rented a lake house, went to the beach, and in general enjoyed the warmer weather. I even got to visit with more cousins while I was in Florida and see a childhood friend of mine from Jamaica.

But by far the most epic and cherished memories of my vacation in Florida was being with my brother and sisters for the first time ever on Christmas morning. This was also my first Christmas with my side of the family in eight years!  It truly doesn’t get any better than this.

Christmas2013collage.jpg

And there you have it! My Top Nine Highlights for 2013. A Phenomenal Year to say the least.

In addition to all my family reunions that happened this year, I am also happy and energized that I was able to start( and restart) my web design business. It’s going well so far. I don’t have all the answers figured out yet but the important thing is that the more I take action and put myself out there the more success I have.

Let’s see what 2014 has in store for me.

How about you? What were some of your highlights for 2013 ?