Last weekend, our 7 year old wrapped up her final extra-curricular before summer break with a piano recital. This is her second year to play in the annual recital, and she is still the youngest of the performers. This year, she was the toast of the event. She begged for big curls (fifteen minutes before we needed to walk out the door), so I scrambled to do some last minute hair styling. They definitely added to the effect when it was her turn to play as she bounded up to the piano with her ruffly dress and those golden Shirley Temple curls bouncing below her shoulders. Suddenly the venue was awash with "awwww." I had to laugh, but that wasn't the best of it. She clambered up on the piano bench and played her little heart out on the baby grand. When she got to the repeat in her piece, she paused, looked out at the audience and flashed a huge smile which got everyone chuckling warmly, and then finished the song with flourish. Girl can work a room. Musician's daughter-- whattayado? It took us half an hour to get out the door at the end because all the parents were coming up to tell us how adorable she was and tell her what a good job she did. Instead of preening with pride, she took it all in stride and spent most of the time saying thank you and talking about how wonderfully she thought the older kids played and how much she hoped that she could do that some day. She makes my heart sing.
The weather was gorgeous all weekend and as the week had seen the wrap up of catechism classes and piano, all the extra sunshine just added to the feeling that summer is practically upon us, so I rallied the troops for a lot of outdoor fun. The fit fun started with a solo run for me. E stayed home with the girls, while I hit the pavement sans jogging stroller for the first time in many a moon. It was absolutely fantastic! I had forgotten how much you can lengthen your stride and improve pace when your arms are free for swinging! The rest of the days were full of family fitness. We dusted off the bikes (and the trailer) for the first time this year and headed off to a new park and trails. The trails were phenomenal! Everything was fantastically green and wound through gorgeous woodlands and over creeks and streams. We went out for about five miles and along the way found a fun little landmark!
Farther back among the trees, we noticed an old, elevated wooden rail track. That was interesting enough, and I held us up for a bit getting some great shots with my phone (I absolutely plan to head back that way with my Nikon!) After admiring the obviously old structure, we continued down the trail and just past the next curve where the trees opened up to reveal more of the site, and we found a landmark sign from the Texas Historical commission and some other postings that informed us that the little bridge was more than just pretty scenery.
It turns out that this particular rail track was used to transport large chunks of pink granite downtown to use in the construction of the Texas State Capitol! When an accident with the flat cars resulted in a dozen large pieces of granite falling to the land and creek bed below, they were simply left behind as the state received the granite free of charge and it would have been quite expensive to try and move it again. It was so fun to discover this little, hidden piece of Texas history. It has definitely inspired me to continue looking for new trails this summer in hopes that we can discover more little gems in our beautiful state!
After relaxing for a bit and enjoying a leisurely lunch outdoors, we decided to head to the recently opened pool for the first time this year. Bear was looking all kinds of cute in her new swim suit and bathing cap. The girl could've been a synchronized swimmer in a '40s flick. She was a little unsure about the still chilly water, but thankfully the sun was out and as soon as she relaxed into her little floater, she really enjoyed the experience. She spent a lot of the afternoon lounging and watching the kids play. The real surprise was Li'l E. Swim lessons have finally paid off for the girl who was once terrified of getting her face wet. She spent the entire visit not only swimming from one side to another, but constantly getting out to JUMP back in from the side. I can't begin to tell you how flabbergasted we were, though incredibly excited, because I think she'll have a much better summer at the lake this year, now that she's our fearless fish!
It was the best weekend that we have had in a while, and even though it was filled to brimming with activity, it felt so much more pleasant than usual because there was no time line, and it was just our family having fun. We've had such busy weekends going to other people's events the past few months, that I'd nearly forgotten Saturday and Sunday could still be relaxing! All our outdoors excitement definitely whetted my appetite for summer. I think I'm now more enthusiastically counting down the days of school than Li'l E! Who knows what adventures we'll find ourselves having this year!
Runtastic Push-ups Pro
I've already admitted my deep, abiding love for the Zombies, Run! app. When I get back from evading the zombie hordes, I often do a quick yoga routine just to stretch out my muscles. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed my handsome husband cranking through a whole mess of push-ups using the Runtastic Push-ups Pro app. I was appropriately impressed, a feeling which was immediately eclipsed by my competitive drive. I wanted to jump on the upper arm strength bandwagon, so I downloaded the app myself this week. There are three levels of workouts and each session adds a few more reps to help you build up to 100 push-ups. There are one minute breaks between about 6 sets so far, so it takes about 10-15 minutes to complete the workout during this initial week. To be honest, I was a little nervous at first, because the app tracks you each time you touch your nose to the phone screen during a push-up, and I am both a klutz and have experienced complete muscle exhaustion. My first thought when watching my husband was: I reeeeeeally hope I don't break my nose. Thankfully, I've been injury free so far! (knock on wood!)
My hubs and I love a good board game and we started playing Carcassonne last Christmas. It's a great strategy game, and it can be played with a group or by just the two of us. It's fun to belly flop onto the carpet in the living room and play a couple of rounds. The game involves tiles with different landmarks printed on each. Some contain roads, some fields, some towns, and some abbeys. You take turns adding a tile to the map and have the option to add one of your player pieces (affectionately called "meeples") in order to stake out the landmark as your own (which will give potentially give you points if completed). Though it can be a little confusing at first, once you pick it up it feels very simple, however as in most strategy games there is endless room for complexity and improvement. We haven't tried it out with our seven year old yet, but I think that she is almost at a point where she could at least begin playing with us and start learning the strategy behind the plays. It's a total blast for older kids and adults, and we've played some exceptionally fun rounds with our extended families during holidays.
Paul McCartney's Promise to You Girl
We're going to see Sir Paul himself next week! It will be my first time at one of his concerts, and I'm so stinking excited. I've had his music on frequent rotation in preparation for our big outing, and I rediscovered a song that I have always loved by him: Promise to You Girl. It's got a great bookend effect with slow, pensive lines sandwiching a bouncy, sweet lyric-ed middle. It makes me want to dance with my handsome hubs! Here's hoping Sir Paul is kinda enough to play it for us, so we can make that happen!
Barnyard Dance for iPad
My girls and I are complete bibliophiles. Even 13 month old Li'l Bear, who can't actually read, spends a significant part of her day flipping through board books, making sounds, and pointing to words and pictures as if she's telling us all a nice story. The books by Sandra Boynton have always been a huge hit at our house. Among our favorites are Let's Dance Little Pookie, The Going to Bed Book, and Barnyard Dance. At Bear's first birthday party, a friend told me that Boynton had collaborated with some coding smarties to create interactive versions of her books for iPad. This week, I finally purchased Barnyard Dance for iPad, and it has been a HIT! Even Li'l E in all of her "too grown up for that" glory loves sitting with her sister and reading and playing through the this interactive book. We're all still enjoying it, and I definitely think that more of her books will be finding their way onto my iPad before the summer is through.
Hyperbole and a Half
Hyperbole and a Half was one of my go to blogs for a chuckle a few years ago. It is also the point of origination for arguably one of the most prolific memes on The Interwebz (see pic). The creative force behind this blog, Allie, is a hilarious story teller and ridiculous scribble artist, but one day she stopped posting. She suffers from severe and crippling depression. Reading about her struggles and her choice to step away from her blog resonated deeply with me. Last week, she posted again for the first time in a very long time. This isn't so much about a favorite blog or site or meme (and to be perfectly honest- this site might not be your thing), but it's about one of my favorite stories to hear. People in a very dark place, making the sometimes excruciating choice to hold on, to ask for help, and then clawing their way back. If they are able, after all of that, to use their gifts to tell their stories? I pretty much want to give them a medal and toss them in a convertible to wave in their own parade. I feel so incredibly strongly about overthrowing the stigma of depression and mental illness, and so my favorite news in the blogosphere this past week was that Allie found her corn.
Head on over to Hallie's for more Five Favorites!
Our children's view this weekend. Neglected, n'est-ce pas?
This past weekend, my amazing parents agreed to keep our girls while we headed to the hill country for a friend's wedding. Not only were we going as guests, but my musician and his mates were providing some of the evening's entertainment. After dropping off the princesses for their overnight adventure, we found ourselves alone in a vehicle (astoundingly free of car seats) and headed to pick up all the musical necessities for that night's show. We met up with one of our best friends (who would in mere hours be transforming into Mick Jagger) at the practice space, and then to pick up the rented PA equipment. There was a lot of packing and rearranging in the cars before we finally headed south out of town.
We had a great drive down in the sunshine: chatting, blasting great music with the roof open, and singing at the top of our lungs. Okay, I did most of the singing, but E was going to have all the musical fun that night, so I wanted to have my turn! Thankfully, he's always willing to humor me, though it's been a couple of years or so since the last time I've seen the inside of a studio. We arrived at the resort with plenty of time to spare, and shortly the rest of the band appeared for load in, then a couple of hours for setting up and sound check. What did I do while all of this was going on? What any good band wife would: I put in ear plugs and did an hour of yoga on the freshly laid dance floor to the muffled sounds of the world's greatest Rolling Stones cover band!
By the time they'd finished, we had just enough time to head up to the room to change for the ceremony. To my credit, I only tried on two different dresses before I finished prettying up and we were back downstairs with enough time for a drink and some queso at the bar. Then we were whisked (puttered?) away on golf carts up into the rolling hills of the course, where the ceremony was set up on a veritable movie set of gorgeously green grass over looking the fairway.
The assembly was small and the service short and sweet. The sun was falling lower in the sky and the wind picked up just enough to keep the bride's long veil flowing out behind her during the vows. Truly picture perfect.Mr. and Mrs. Jameson
Next it was back to the resort for cocktails while the bridal party posed for pictures. E and I indulged in some his and hers Jameson (His neat; mine on the rocks, because "what am I? A farmer?"). As we mingled, I hit it off with the DJ's fiancee, who just happened to be a recent crime scene investigator who had just been promoted to the narcotics unit in New Jersey. Oh, the tales that were told! She was fantastic. Get that woman an agent! When the bride and groom arrived, everyone indulged in a perfectly scrumptious fajita dinner before the boys costumed-up and went on stage (sporting some impeccably applied eye liner, if I might add a truly odd, humble brag).Sticks n Stones' littlest fans
Initially, their biggest fans were the flock of flower girls (I've never seen so many flower girls in a wedding procession!) that immediately settled down in front of the stage to watch from the very first chords. Half of them clapped along and twirled in their billowy dresses, and the others sat or lay on the floor completely transfixed as if it was story time at the library. They were so stinkin' adorable, y'all! The band invited the bride and groom up to the front and gave them their first chance at marital team work. One was handed a cow bell and the other a drum stick, then they were given a beat and a mission! I'm happy to say that they worked together beautifully, and the second song had a fantastic newlywed accompaniment.You know it's a party when the glow sticks arrive
That cow bell worked its magic and soon drew every adult in the room onto the dance floor. Sunglasses and glow sticks were donned and every one danced and sang their way through the rest of the evening. It was so wonderful to share in our friends' joy and to know that my husband and the boys could add so much fun to the festivities. After a night of dancing, we all headed back up to the room where the groom had something special waiting for the band.
Yes, it was brown M&Ms and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Clearly, the groom had read the rider in their contract. Ha!
The next morning, we found the town's nexus for all ill-fated, over-caffeinated financial transactions. I'm not sure if it was a massive Starbucks with its own bank, or a tiny bank with a Starbucks. Either way: a little odd.
This was the scene for the first part of the winning "Mother's Day on the Road Triumvirate" that my musician had in store for me. I got my favorite iced "coffee" and then opened up a card to reveal tickets to see the most delicious eyelashes and bangs this side of the Atlantic, Zooey Deschanel, and that musical wizard, M. Ward, in their band, She & Him, playing at ACL Live. I haven't been to the new venue, so I'm ridiculously excited that my first experience will be for this show. Still glowing with giddiness, I helped the boys get the gear loaded up, and my handsome husband and I headed home.
On the way back to town, he added surprise number three by stopping at my absolute favorite TexMex breakfast hole-in-the-wall and picking up a delicious, foil-wrapped breakfast tacos that we took out to the park on Town Lake. We watched the doggers, runners, and water players enjoy the day while we devoured a heap of potato, egg, and cheese, smothered with the world's most phenomenal salsa.
Finally, we headed home, unloaded the gear, and met up with my huge family (reuniting with our sweet girls) to enjoy four generations of love during a Mother's Day lunch.
Oh, and did I mention that my 7 year old gave me an iPad for Mother's Day? She made it herself! It came with a personalized cover: "Mommy's iPad" And she loaded it with heaps of apps! She even organized them for me. All the pink icons are labeled "Mommy's Important Things" and the blue ones are labeled "Mommy's Games," because you know: all work and no play...
She also made me a beautiful card. Her brain moves so fast when she is writing stories that I forget how impressive her handwriting can be when she slows down and takes extra care with it! I can't stop reading it. If you aren't fluent in 7 year old cuneiform:
"Dear Mommy, Happy Mother's Day! I love you sooooooo much. You are the best mommy in the world all the way from God all the way to Earth. I love it when you eat, play, watch movies, snuggle, and do a lot of things with me. You are nice. Love, Ellie."
At the bottom she drew a horse ridden by me, her, and her daddy, and pulling a little carriage behind that held her baby sister inside. All of my favorite things! And definitely my favorite present of the day!
I am so thankful for time alone with my handsome husband, coming home to our beautiful girls, an afternoon with my crazy family, and a weekend full of fun and love!
Life is beautiful!
I can't believe I haven't posted since last week's Quick Takes, but thankfully it's not for lack of things to write about. It's because I've just been too busy having fun. Last weekend was our Big Girls' Trip to Kansas City to see my sister, Andie, and we had a blast!
I brought my sweet 7 year old along for the fun. She hasn't been on a flight since we took her to California several years ago, but she rocked the trip like a pro. She slid into her seat, pulled out her Tolkien, and started reading. She was fantastic through the two legs of the flights there and back again. We had some fun conversations, and it was nice to be able to give her some undivided attention. Plus, she kept up during our mad dash through the airport at 6am to catch our flight home. I loved that she appreciated the adventure, but was so nonchalant and easy going about the experience as well. Seven gets my vote for a brilliant travel age.
My mom and my sister's best friend flew to KC with us as well. I was so happy that we were all able to be there for Andie's baby shower. Her friend, Carrie, did an absolutely amazing job with the jungle and sports theme. I'm not sure which were more fantastic: her adorable decorations or the delicious and decorative food. Either way, it was wonderful to meet some of my sis's friends and fellow doctors and celebrate the imminent arrival of my sure-to-be-perfect little nephew!
-3-Our Lady of Perpetual Help
While in KC, we attended Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I've been there each time that I have visited and always love this beautiful church. The priest here is a sweet guy that truly reminds me of of Friar Tuck (as played by a jolly little mole) in Disney's animated, animal version of Robin Hood. Though we were far from home and good TexMex on Cinco de Mayo, Li'l E and I at least found a lovely nook within the church that held a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We'll take it!
-4-Having a Li'l Sumpin at Blanc Burger
While in town, we had quite a bit of good food. Of course, we had to indulge in some delicious barbecue from Fiorella's Jack Stack. We also went back to a hip little place that I visited during my first trip to KC a couple of years ago, called Blanc Burger. It's pretty trendy and full of what I assume constitutes as the hipster set in the KC. The restaurant has delicious drinks and the most creative burgers you could imagine (crab and macaroni burger anyone?) Plus, truffle fries! That's right. French fries positively coated with truffle oil. Blanc makes their own delicious little dip as a complement, and the combination is pure magic! A weekend of pure deliciousness and complete absence of running means that I'm hitting the pavement twice as often now that we're back home. So worth it!
Though I would have preferred to bring my sister home with us, she did send me back to the ATX with a little something to remember her by: a completely unhealthy addiction to Candy Crush! Have you played this game? Don't. Run far away from the app store. I've simply been avoiding it because it looked the same as Bejeweled but with less graphics appeal. It turns out that the similarities only last through the first dozen levels, then things get CAH-RAZY. I can't stop playing it. I'm thankful that your "lives" only re-up every thirty minutes, otherwise I might forgo meals, showers, and grocery shopping in my quest to dominate this ridiculous game. I can stop playing anytime I want... right after I beat the game.
-6-Coming Home to the ATX
It was really fantastic to finally get home. Not the least because it was in the 40s and raining for our entire visit and we got back just in time to soak up sunshine and 70s in the ATX before the thunderstorms hit later in the week. I was also THRILLED to get back to my beautiful baby. It is the first time I've ever been away from her for more than a few hours, and this was THREE DAYS! I'm shuddering all over again just thinking about it. I nearly lost my marbles without her. I had fun, I loved seeing my sis, I'm glad I toughed it out, but I'm elated to have my chubby-cheeked cherub back in my arms! After months of feeling a bit jealous of several world-traveling friends, my over-all appraisal of our adventure: Travel was a heck of a lot more exciting in theory... BEFORE I had to leave my baby for 72 hours. It was a good perspective and priority check for me. Final analysis: happiest at home!
-7-All Plugged In
After our return, I certainly didn't get much time to decompress before we had more excitement here. Poor Li'l E had to go in for her dental work. Four baby teeth removed to make room in her crazily crowded mouth for the permanent teeth that we hope will now finally come in and a frenulectomy to help her lower front gum line which was being pulled into near non-existence. She had a bit of a rough time, and was an absolute mess coming out of the anesthesia, but she is back to her cheerful little self now. It probably doesn't hurt that the doc insisted on a few days of soft, cold food, and she's taking advantage of being allowed nightly bowls of ice cream!
So, that's just a fraction of what we've been doing around these parts that has kept me away from the computer. This weekend, it's off to a lovely resort in the Hill Country for a friend's wedding. Less writing, but more loving life with the fam. Fair trade!
Head on over to Jen's for more Quick Takes; then head out and enjoy your adventure!
My latest follower
I would be remiss if I didn't begin by sharing that Thomas Aquinas now follows me on Twitter. Clearly I have finally made it in the Catholic social media-sphere and can now rest on my laurels. If you'd like to follow me, too. C'mon over!
The rumors are true. By some (yet to be recognized by the Vatican) miracle, my handsome husband and I actually got out of the house on Wednesday... ALONE. It was enough just to have my impeccably bearded rock star all to myself, but add my favorite band at a small, outdoor venue into the mix, and call me ecstatic. Also, if you haven't heard Metric yet, you are missing out on one of the great glories of the auditory world. Start with their Fantasies album. You're welcome!
Speaking of outdoors: look at this crazy weather! (I just referenced the weather in my blog. Is this this kiss of death for interweb convos like it is for real world ones? Moving forward!) It's in the 40s... in Texas... in MAY! We are freezing our little, southern tuchuses off. This is unacceptable, Texas. You are better than this! Thankfully, you can just look ahead in this little forecast to our predicted weekend weather perfection. Seriously: Sunny, high 70s, BLISS!
This isn't right
Sadly, I won't actually get to enjoy any of said sunny glory, because I will be here. (Yes, I'm referencing weather twice in one post. Just revoke my blogger card right now). I'm sorry, is that too small to see? Why yes, those ARE little snowflake graphics that you see. Thank you so much for asking. I hope my (growing bigger every day) little sister appreciates what I'm sacrificing to come see her this weekend! Aw, who am I kidding. I'd go water skiing in Antarctica to hang out with her. She's the bees' knees. I'm so excited to see her and hopefully feel some of my happily gestating little nephew's awesome inter-womb ninja skills. (He gets those from his Aunt Cate).
While we are hanging around in the KC, we're going to be celebrating the little ninja at a baby shower for my sweet sis. Last week she sent me this pic (she and her hubby are both doctors), so I've been trying to recreate these cuties (the knitted portion, not the wee human) for her. I'm quite pleased with how they came out! Sadly, I didn't have a tiny model for mine, so this pic will have to do until my adorable nephew can properly show off his sweet, science-y accessories!
Li'l E: Gamer Grrl
I don't know how other people feel about video games, but I do know that I enjoyed playing them when I was a kid, and I still went to college, made the dean's list, got two degrees, and became a productive member of society; so I was totally okay with my husband introducing our 7 year old to LEGOS Star Wars on the Wii. I was completely SHOCKED by how quickly she became adept with the controllers. So, once in a while she likes to earn some screen time and play a couple of levels. Yesterday, I decided that her daddy shouldn't have all the fun with introducing awesomeness to her digital world, so I busted out the Katamari Damacy. I loved playing this game when I was just out of college and it was just me and the hubs and a whole lot of time to be silly. It's fun, it's kid friendly, it's wildly soothing and very simple at it's core. Plus, she really delighted in the dialogue between levels. The King is rather verbose and was clearly left alone too long with a thesaurus, so I count it as a vocabulary broadener for an added bonus. Kidding, kidding. Don't send hate mail.
This, by the way, is the little character that you play in the game. His whole motivation is rolling around a sticky ball to collect objects and making it larger and larger. I know- when my best friend was trying to sell me on this I thought: that is the lamest premise for a game ever. Au contraire, pre-Katamari me, this game is created with the most fascinating bits and bobbles with a delightfully Japanese leaning. And the music (also Japanese) is completely ridiculous and utterly charming. It's a fun way to unwind. And look at that little prince doing his happy dance! Hmm- I wonder if my nephew needs another hat...
Head on over to Jen's place for more Seven Quick Takes!
Brian James Shoes
I bought these shoes on a whim over the weekend. And may I just say: Best. Whim. Ever. Let's start here: Have your cusp-of-toddling babies worn those adorable leather Pedi-Peds? This is the same company, but these shoes are designed for the mamas! They are all-leather with cushiony, memory-foam in-soles. The soft, flexible leather basically conforms to your foot like a glove. Walking in them is bliss! They are ridiculously comfortable. I got crazy and went with the red, which I am still loving! However, they are so comfortable that I think I'll be heading back to the store (which had a small discount over the website prices) to pick up the nude or possibly black. This is no false flattery. I adore beautiful shoes, but I'm incredibly selective when it comes to comfort. There are three hanging shoe organizers in my closet and a line of boots along the floor and that still doesn't contain everything, but these are my new FAVORITE shoes! I want to wear them with everything (hence the need for a more neutral color!) I was just looking at the website and they are running a "try before you buy" deal: you can order up to five pairs to try out, then just pay for what you decide to keep. Though be careful, because you're going to want to keep them all!
Speaking of wanting to wear those fantastic shoes everywhere: My first deliciously-shod social event will be Wednesday night when I am finally getting out of the house (with my husband, ALONE, no less!) We are going to see my favorite singer, my musical mentor (no she doesn't actually know she is), the band that ALWAYS finds a place on every playlist I create: Metric. I am so excited! Just getting out of the house for an evening in the company of only adults is like winning a trip to Disneyland. That it is pretty much my favorite group in the history of ever is like meeting all the princesses and being invited to a feast in the castle while I'm there.
J.R. Watkins Coconut Sugar and Shea Body Scrub
Lovely smelling products for the shower are among my favorite things to discover. I was already a fan of this brand for their all-natural, organic ingredients from renewable sources. I love their dish and hand soaps so much, that they grace nearly every sink in the house. I was making a late night run to Target, when I just happened to see this on sale. A body scrub that exfoliates and then moisturizes AND smells like coconut? Twist my arm! The sugar in this mix is thickly granulated so it's a rougher exfoliator, but you feel like it's really doing the job! The shea oil was so moisture rich, that it left a sheen on my skin. I don't know how other people feel about it, but I go through ridiculous amounts of moisturizer, because I cannot stand dry skin. This was mega-moisturizing without being greasy, so it got the thumbs up in my book! I like a frequent rotation of fun bath products, but this is definitely my favorite of the week.
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
(Fair warning: I'm going to say the m-word twice!)
I started using this back when I was having the crazy, drowning-in-mucus, sinus and ear infection. Apple cider vinegar is supposed to be great for getting rid of mucus and improving health during colds and sinus infections, and I was desperate to get to the good side of healing. Once (sometimes twice) a day, I would add two tablespoons of this raw, unfiltered probiotic to a glass of water and gulp it down. It's not a spoon full of sugar, but it's easier on the taste buds than most liquid cough suppressants. I'm fairly certain that my antibiotics and guafenesin did all the work on the respiratory front, but I did discover that Bragg's ACV is fantastic for my stomach! I have suffered from belly aches and digestive awfulness from my infancy and during times of stress it is always worse. I was aware that I'd been symptom-free for a couple of weeks, but didn't realize that it was Bragg's ACV helping me out until I stopped taking it for a couple of days. When I started feeling lousy again, I added it back to my routine, and it seemed like magic when my "nervous tummy" faded into the background of life again. I've never experienced this much efficacy with any other "pro-biotic" that I've taken (on good recommendation), so Bragg's definitely has lifetime fan here!
My Baby Sister
I'm flying to visit my baby sister this weekend! I'm so excited that I can hardly stand it. She is my very favorite* sister, so she had to be in my five this week! I haven't seen her since last year, and I've missed her like crazy cakes! I really can't wait to celebrate (and SEE!) her beautiful belly at her baby shower! I'm so glad that I get to spend two days with her and so thankful that my husband is willing to play Mr. Mom for the weekend. I'm already nervous and missing my tiny girl, but I know it will be a wonderful two days. By the way- yes, that's a pic of me and my little sis. That pretty much summed up my first reaction to sisterhood. I'd like to think that I've really warmed up and hit my stride since then!
Head on over to the ever-lovely Moxie Wife for more Five Favorites with Hallie!
For three weekends in a row, we have had one-year-old birthday parties. The first was my cousin's little girl, who was born just a day before our Li'l Bear. The second was said Li'l Bear's party day. The third was Li'l Bear's best buddy. All the parties were wonderful. The kids were absolutely adorable. The food and cakes were positively delicious. And each and every one was completely... EXHAUSTING! Especially the one where I was the decorator, baker, appetizer-er, hostesser, etc-er. So this weekend I was so thrilled to have two big, empty squares on our calendar!
Saturday was mostly a recovery day. We started the day at our nearest locally-owned breakfast house, where Li'l Bear wielded her fork dangerous close to several eyes and sometimes managed to spear her pancakes. Then we ran a few small errands, but mostly lazed about. Late in the afternoon, Eric took the girls to the grocery store (so I got an entire hour and a half completely to myself: slice of heaven!), and then he came home and made dinner! This man is brilliant in the kitchen. He is a jazz chef. Just throw some ingredients at him and he will grab the spices and just riff on delectability. Saturday night, he tried something completely new and, as usual, created pure gustatory magic.
We are mostly fish-eaters, but Eric picked up some pasture-raised, grass-fed, organic beef, grilled it up, and placed slices of the Asian-marinaded steak on a bed of baby bok choy, basil, and cilantro with oven-dried dinosaur kale and fresh radishes. We topped it with Sriracha (Rooster-sauce!) And, y'all, it was a dish upon which culinary legends are made.
Sunday was even better. We were well-rested and able to go have some fun. We started the day by taking the girls to my absolute favorite little taco dive in east ATX. Not only did I get to start the day by devouring the world's most phenomenal breakfast taco, I was able to watch BOTH my girls take down egg and cheese breakfast tacos. Li'l Bear's love of all things TexMex and spicy makes my heart sing! After breakfast we headed into the heart of downtown to admire our lovely capitol (Li'l E's favorite building in the city!) and walked to the cathedral for midday Mass. Then we took the girls up north to the kid's shoe store that my parents used to take ME for shoes when I was a little squirt, and bought some new summer shoes! I love this particular place. It is family owned and run, and they are some of the nicest folks you will ever meet!
When we finally made it back home that afternoon. Li'l E had a friend over to play and Li'l Bear went down for a well-earned nap. I went out back to tend to my plants and decided that it was finally time to revive the dog run. We had this amazing dog run built back when we were trying to establish grass in our yard. After a few summers of drought, the yard had become a huge dust bowl, so every time it rained, the dogs were instantly mud covered the moment we allowed them outside. Once we had the dog run built, we were able to spare the meager grass that we did have from getting crushed or dug up. Now we have a nice yard again, so the dog run has been rather neglected and the weeds have taken over. Even our enormous, hundred-pound pup would disappear in there if we left it open. So, I attacked it with gusto!
That night, since we had some leftover produce from Saturday's dinner, E riffed on the same meal, but broiled some carrots, shallots, and garlic to add to the mix. I didn't think it possible, but it was even MORE amazing! The play of the sweet carrots against the spicy, hot rooster sauce. The delicious, warm steak with the cold, crisp green veggies! It was eight kinds of right. We were so enamored, that we decided we had to give it a name, so that we could easily reference it for a repeat! With a nod to the bok choy, steak, and rooster sauce, I dubbed it "Bok-Bok Moo Cockadoodledoo!" (I've been reading a lot of Sandra Boynton books lately if you can't tell!) This has earned a spot at least monthly on our home menu!
It has been far too long since we had such a wonderful weekend together as a family! The past couple of days will definitely be one of my templates for all of the fun I hope to have this summer! I hope that everyone had a fantastic, fun, and food-filled weekend as well!
I play piano decently, mandolin haltingly, and guitar rather pathetically, but right now I have this deep burning desire for a ukelele. I blame living with a musician for my gear lust. I blame the choice of ukelele on Zooey Deschanel and Amanda Palmer:
Zooey and Joseph Gordon Levitt being adorable and awesome:
Amanda Palmer and my anthem recently:
(I would post the video, but it's probably several leagues over the top for most people. NB: there are two bits of language in this one, so if that bugs you, skip it.)
I'm sorry if you now desire a ukelele of your very own. They're hypnotic little buggers.
Hidden Water Pools
This is some next level wet
I was lazily daydreaming last week while adding pins to my Outdoor Living board on Pinterest. I happened to come across a cute little splash pad (these are in parks all over the ATX area). Having grown up with a pool, I knew that I never wanted that kind of upkeep or liability, but I think that it would be really fun to have a little splash pad in the back yard for the kids. BUT THEN my friend Jackie clued me in to Hidden Water Pools! If I ever win the lottery (which would be a truly enormous surprise as I don't play), I'm going to have on of this circle of awesome installed... on the grounds of my mansion... in rural France (What? In my fantasy it's a really big jackpot!) Patio to pool in 120 seconds or less. Love it!
The 1960s: When hats were... dinner?
When I was having a rough day last week, a friend sent me a link to Retronaut. I lost myself down that rabbit hole for quite a while, and when I resurfaced I was in a much better mood. The site is full of fascinating and often funny pictures from history which are separated into eras and you can make your own time capsules. At the moment I haven't joined up, but I have definitely enjoyed browsing through all of their fun photos! (Don't miss the book cover for Communism, Hypnotism, and the Beatles. Undoubtedly a hallmark of superior writing from the 60s!)
OPI... Eurso Euro
Don't mind if I blue
I'm a complete polish addict. I have a huge container full of colors and nearly all of them are OPI. Today I was walking through the store with two grumpy kiddos, feeling rather grumpy myself, when we past the polish and my 7 year old begged to look. Who am I to pass up a color browse. She lobbied for a new blue to add to our collection, and I just had to pick up this color from OPI's Euro Centrale collection. The OPI names are as fantastic and ridiculous as many of their outlandish colors. This particular hue: "OPI... Eurso Euro." The color suits, but I find the name too much of a mouthful, so I've just dubbed it my "Tardis Blue." (But I'm not obsessed with the Doctor... really!)
Remember last week's Five Favorites when lamented my rather neglected, hoof-like feet and then extolled the virtues of the amazing little foot scrubber spongeables that I found? Well, allow me to add a weapon to your arsenal: Kerasal! After you've gotten your oh-so-relaxing lavender foot cleansing on, step out of the shower and rub some of this magic into your heels! I have sucked it up and added socks before bed (which drives me positively crazy, but obviously not so much as having rough feet). No matter how frightening your feet are looking these days, I can't imagine doing this every night for a week and not seeing some small miracles! I've talked about the abuse I put my tootsies through, but they've softened right up with the one-two punch to which I've been treating them lately! Kerasal should be easy to find in any grocery or drug store and it's well worth picking up a tube!
Yes, I'm such a girl. Flowers from a handsome man make me feel like a million bucks! This week has been pretty darn stressful, and it is only Tuesday. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and more than a bit like I'm juggling by myself lately. Of course my Hubs is working incredibly hard for us and the long days and late nights are necessary for the Greater Good and all that. I appreciate him and his efforts like nobody else, but fellow mamas, say it with me now: Solo parenting from the moment those little angels awake to the moment you tuck them in is EXHAUSTING. And I only have TWO. Tonight just as I had wrapped up baths and was getting the girls into pjs, my Hubs came through the door with a gorgeous bouquet, a sweet card that said just what I needed to hear, and to top it all off... well, I mean, just look at that masterful BEARD! Flowers don't fix everything, but they can put a smile back on your face after a long day; mine are happily ensconced in a large vase on my desk as I type. Cheery writing space for the win!
Head on over to Hallie's for more Five Favorites with all the linky-loos!
Something has really been weighing on me lately. I've been thinking a lot about the specific direction I want to take with this blog. I've been deeply considering post topics before pushing them aside. I've been contemplating my reading audience (Hey there, you two!) In other words, I've been making this into just another chore, and it stinks. I was having fun just writing a little of this and a little of that, and I was happily surprised when a handful of friends or family happened to wander over once in a while when they needed to slack off during work or wind down at the end of the day. I used to like writing here. There was a target audience of ME. I wrote just to write, because I enjoyed seeing the words on the screen.
There are other things in my life that have followed this path, things that I've enjoyed right up until people started expecting things from me. I was enamored with photography for a long time, until people became interested in hiring me for photo shoots; then suddenly I was working for people and there was pressure to do it their way, because they were paying. I never had a problem, people always loved the results, but I was unhappy. The whole time I was taking or editing or showing pics, I felt overwhelmed by the fear of not being good enough.
I used to love to sing and write music. I wrote prolifically for a short period of time, and I was incredibly proud of my songs. Then things got intense: my writing partner suddenly laid out all of these big dreams of fame and fortune, we had music picked up for airplay on a tv show, and I found myself in the studio recording an EP. I was at the studio, with a producer whom I admire (and truly enjoy as a friend), with supportive people helping me along, singing music for which I used to care deeply, but I could hardly enjoy it. I was so concerned with the possibility of being awful and disappointing all of the people who supported me.
It is embarrassing to admit that I quit doing things I truly enjoy when other people start to take notice. I let the idea of people being disappointed overwhelm me. Never mind that I was partaking in my little hobby quite happily before those people appeared on the scene (so why should I care whether they are there during or after I do or don't mess up?) And never mind that in the grand scheme of things, I never ACTUALLY messed anything up or disappointed anyone (at least in those specific situations). I want to please people. When they are kind, I feel a desperate need not to disappoint, and many times I think that ends with me not trying. I know that in the past I have frustrated friends who could not understand the disconnect inside of me that allowed for the energetic, excitable, fun-loving me to exist in the same body as the part of me that is so incredibly self-effacing and full of self-doubt.
Thankfully, I happened to come upon something in my readings that really spoke directly to me regarding where I am right now. (Don't you just love a little direct intercession?) I've been working through Beth Moore's David: 90 Days with a Heart Like His bible study. Last night, after reading part of Samuel 9 where Saul is chosen as king of Israel, there were several questions about how we choose to receive compliments. In the reflection, the author asked:
"How do we distinguish between godly humility and low self-esteem?"
I loved her answer:
"One key lies in our focus. A person with godly humility looks to the Master. He or she neither exalts nor deingrates self, because to do either is to make self the center of our universe. When we're really serving Christ, our reputations and abilities simply cease to be important. We must decrease so that He may increase... We need to recognize that a lack of confidence does not equal humility. In fact, genuinely humble people have enormous confidence because it rests in a great God."
I had never considered that in drastically downplaying gifts I may have been given, I am actually being self-centered. I am so concerned with how I may be perceived that I let gifts go to waste rather than using them. So, I want to try and backtrack, to return to the place where I began: writing for the joy of putting down words. And perhaps, I'll take the camera along the next time I have a long drive ahead of me. And maybe I'll re-build up those callouses on my mandolin strings.
Already, I'm considering deleting this because my mind is asking: "Does this really even need to be said in a public forum?" I guess the great thing about my site is that it's mine, so I can put up whatever crazy thing jumps into my head. And the great thing about The Interwebz is that you can enjoy it if you want and if you don't, there are a lot of other cyber rabbit holes in which to lose yourself. So, do what makes you happy, and I'm going to try to unapologetically do the same.
If you made it this far: Thanks for sticking with me through my literary social awkwardness, y'all. I'm sure there is more of that to come, so... yup. Bye now!