Time once again for the Five 5 link-up thang with Hallie and the gang!
-1- 310 Willie Nelson Blvd.
Austin City Limits Live
Many moons ago, when the Hubs and I were still in college, we went to an Austin City Limits Live show in the original venue in a University of Texas campus communications building to experience a taping of the longest running music television series in America. It was housed in a dark, closed-in room with a stage backed by a mock ATX skyline. There were plenty of cameras and wires running here and there. The experience was definitely more "behind the scenes television" than "musical experience." On Sunday, we finally had the chance to go to the new downtown venue. Rather I should say, new to us, since they've been taping here since 2011. It was outstanding! I've never been to a more amazing musical venue. The architecture is amazing. The multi-storied outdoor gathering areas and stairwells were spacious and airy and positively dotted with bars and merch tables. Inside there are three levels with a view of the stage. The floor level, the second level mezzanine which had theater seating as well as partitioned private suites (complete with a personal cocktail waitress), and a third level of balcony seating. There isn't a single bad seat in the house. Every angle and level gives a direct and close quarters view of the stage. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward put on a great show at my new favorite place in Austin!
-2- The Secret Sisters
The Secret Sisters
The other thing that made our night at ACL Live amazing was the opener! Many times we forgo the opening act and arrive in time for the band we're hoping to see, but when we found ourselves downtown earlier than expected and made it to the show early despite lingering over tapas and an amazing Chilean red wine, we were surprised to find ourselves just in time to see The Secret Sisters. Holy smokes! These gals have pipes like you wouldn't believe. They are an amazing country duo who have been compared to musicians like the Everly Brothers and Doc Watson. Apparently, they had a song on The Hunger Games Soundtrack, though I'd never heard of them specifically. The girls, who truly are sisters, harmonized like angels as they passed an acoustic guitar back and for during their numbers. It has been a long while since I've heard such outstanding vocals. Their debut album is available now, but is mostly cover work. I'm really excited for their upcoming sophomore album due out in the fall. They played quite a few songs, and based on that I will definitely be picking up the record when it drops. If you like exceptional vocal harmonization and that particular depression-era lilt to your country songs (think the soundtrack to O, Brother, Where Art Thou), then you definitely need to give a listen to The Secret Sisters.
Nook Simple Touch
I think I'm probably late to the party on this one. I got a Nook Color for Christmas the year they came out, and I use my iPad for Kindle books on occasion, but I'm such a traditionalist when it comes to my bibliophilia. I like the weight of books, the smell as you turn the pages, the rainbow of spines filling my shelves. The only reason that I grudgingly started using e-books was that the first Nook was a gift and I wanted to give it a fair shake (but soon abandoned it for my much-loved physical volumes) and later, I succumbed to Kindle books on my iPad, because it allowed me to easily read (with black screen and lowest brightness setting) late into the night (and early morning) while in bed without disturbing my handsome hubs. Honestly, the back light rather strains my eyes, I find it hard to read outside even in the shade, and again I simply like the tactile experience of a real book. My parents surprised me with the Simple Touch yesterday during a belated birthday dinner. I was thankful for their kindness, but instantly put it in the corner of my mind containing the rest of my e-reader experience. Nonetheless, I thought, it will probably be nice to have when we travel this summer. Very small and light weight. And it would give me a chance to actually read my ebooks, as the girls instantly sense the moment I bring out my iPad and clamor to play games on it, meaning I rarely have the opportunity to use it myself.
Thankfully, after adding a book last night, I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed reading on this version! It is such a great book-sized shape and they weight is even lighter than a paperback, though not so insubstantial as to feel like it's going to break in your hands. The e-ink really DOES look like ink on a page. No harsh back-lit words to roast my eyes should I stay up for hours! And if I was delighted by it indoors, I was even more thrilled when I decided to head out to the porch to enjoy a chapter or two during nap time. If anything, being in the sunlight IMPROVES the look of the page! Not that I would ever give up my much loved library, but for more frivolous fiction, I think that this will now be my go-to medium. Bonus: My hubs is thrilled because I think he's starting to experience some claustrophobia due to the ridiculous frequency at which book shelves keep appearing on every walled surface of our house, to keep up with my addiction, and this little gem will limit the number of additions to the collection!
Nook Simple Touch: Inside
Nook Simple Touch: Outside
Remember that Chilean red wine I mentioned a couple of favs ago? Let's revisit that, shall we. The Hubs selected it on a whim to complement some tasty treats at our favorite tapas restaurant and all I can say is: "Uno mas botella!"
I am by no stretch of the imagination a wine connoisseur, but (as they say) I know what I like. The Casa Lapostolle Carmenere was definitely my kind of vino! There was a real spiciness to it and not a hint of cloying sweetness which I loathe in wines. It was flavorful without completely overwhelming the food in which we were indulging. And as someone who suffers from migraines which have at times been triggered by red wines, I am happy to report that I avoided any repercussions after a small glass. All this to say: I will be seeking out a bottle of my very own in the near future!
Now that summer is in full swing and I find myself with one late sleeper, one exercise sloth, and a sad lack of a double jogging stroller, I've given up my daily runs. This is not going well. I've tried replacing them with at home workouts and plenty of outdoor playtime with the girls, but my monkey mind is not having it. I feel like I'm on turbo spin constantly. I finally realize how much I have come to love and rely on my runs to keep my sanity! It has come to this: I may actually have to drag my morning-loathing derriere out of bed to fit in my workouts while everyone snoozes. I really can't overemphasize my dislike of early mornings, nor explain the depths of my love and desire for sleep (which, since I suffer from horrible insomnia, usually only occurs in the early hours of morning). I'm starting to believe my love of the runner's high outweighs my distaste for dawn. I have a feeling the the Heroic Minute and I are about to become reacquainted. Pray for me?
I always love Theme Thursdays over at Clan Donaldson! Up until now, I've merely contented myself with enjoying everyone's wonderful photography, but I just couldn't let this theme pass me by. Seeing my husband become the amazing father that he is to our girls has been one of the true joys of my life. There is no proper word short of "blessed" to describe the knowledge that my girls have a daddy that they adore and can always count on, just as much (and even more!) than I adore and count on mine.
My handsome hubs after lunching with his ladies
Taking his girls to Mass
Perhaps it's a little odd that both of these shots are from behind, but I really enjoy lagging behind a bit and just watching the girls interact with their dad, without being aware of me, or having to pose for a camera. It's moments like these that make my heart sing!
And I would of course be remiss if I didn't add a picture of me with the first man who taught me how ladies should be treated.
It's not the size of the bouquet, but the love behind it.
I hope all of the fathers out there are feted as fully as they deserve this weekend! Don't forget to head back to Clan Donaldson for more fantastic fathers on film!
"He Leadeth Me"
Ever since Jen mentioned this book in one of her interviews, I have wanted to read it. I finally remembered to add it to my order the last time I had things shipped through Amazon (as it is sadly not in their Kindle store). Even while chasing kids, I was able to read the entire book within 24 hours. The author was an American priest who was captured by the Russians during World War II, convicted as a "Vactican spy," and sentenced to hard labor in a Siberian prison camp. Fr. Ciszek's ability to find God's will in the most inhumane conditions imaginable fascinated and inspired me. He found God while imprisoned, starved, and worked past exhaustion in a godless country for over two decades. I find myself out of excuses for losing sight of God's will in the mundane trials of my daily life.
One of my favorite quotes from the book above, which deserves its own spot in my favs; An eye-opening contemplation from the epilogue:
Every moment of our life has a purpose... every action of ours, no matter how dull or routine or trivial it may seem in itself, has a dignity and a worth beyond human understanding. No man's life is insignificant in God's sight, nor are his works insignificant-- no matter what the world or his neighbors or family or friends may think of them. Yet what a terrible responsibility is here. For it means that no moment can be wasted, no opportunity missed, since each has a purpose in man's life, each has a purpose in God's plan. Think of your day, today or yesterday. Think of the work you did, the people you met, moment by moment. What did it mean to you-- and what might it have meant for God? Is the question too simple to answer, or are we just afraid to ask it for fear of the answer we must give?
-Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, SJ
-3- Dried Okra
Perhaps this is a product of my Southern upbringing, but I love me some okra. I honestly couldn't have told you the last time I ATE any of course, but childhood memories of the ooey-gooey-middled, deep-fried goodness occupying one of two veggie slots on my LuAnn platter at Luby's just fills my Texan heart with a warm glow. That didn't stop me from wrinkling my nose when I discovered these in our pantry after my hubs went on a health store buying binge. The entire idea seemed kind of wrong to me. I mean, okra should be served hot and in bite-sized, breaded bits, still sizzling from the oil, right? I started waxing nostalgic about my favorite childhood cafeteria and swore that nothing could replace "proper" okra, but then I tried one. And by one I mean: one container, because Oh. My. YUM! These things are crunchy bits of green deliciousness with just a hint of sweet. This snack is clean-eating-convert, southern girl approved!
Speaking of those southern roots: Have I ever mentioned my ridiculous teen romance with the Dixie Chicks? I have fond memories of driving around in my pick-up truck in the middle of the night with the windows down, sipping on a Sonic Vanilla Dr. Pepper, and blasting the Fly or Wide Open Spaces album and clearing my head before curfew. When I heard that Natalie Maines was putting out a solo album, it barely registered, and fell even further off my radar when I heard that it was going to be a rock album. Not that I question her rockability, but I since being effectively banned from the airwaves after an off-the-cuff political comment, I had long since mourned her musical demise. I find attempted resurrections into new genres are usually sorely lacking.Last weekend I just happened to read that Ben Harper produced the album and co-wrote some of the songs. That piqued my interest. Further reading revealed that the title track was actually Maines' take on the Pink Floyd song. I hadn't realized that before, and knew that I had to give it a listen. It turns out that the fiery, powerful voice I remembered has matured and does impressive justice to the covers as well as her new originals. I've only given this album a few spins, but it is definitely my favorite album released thus far this month.
I stumbled across this app after seeing an impressively accurate, cartoon profile picture. I clicked to get a closer look and noticed the app name written in the corner. I went ahead and bought it. Instant time suck, but so fun. You can make (sometimes frighteningly) exact avatars of friends and family. I had a blast creating my husband and I. Since then, it has been the sole territory of my 7 year old. So far, she has been happy to create for as long as I will let her (her results trend more toward the purple-skinned, pink-spiky-haired, wildly accessorized end of things). I'm already being stingy with app time on this one, so I can use the novelty for road trips in the near future. It's cheap, it's easy for kids, and got some laughs from the adults. Why not? It gets my vote for favorite trivial impulse app buy!
Mr. & Mrs.
Now head on over to Hallie's for more Five Favs.
Summer has officially kicked off in these parts. My seven year old had not been out of school for 24 hours before I found her sprawled out on her belly, hard at work with a notebook and a pen. This is hardly an unusual sight in our house, but she seemed exceptionally intent on this particular project. As I drew a little closer, she never even took her eyes off of the page.
"Hi, Mama," she chirped happily, kicking her feet in the air, "I'm planning our summer."
That had me curious. I sat on the floor next to her to get a better look at her still growing list. She wrote carefully and without pausing and assured me that she was almost finished. When she had completely filled the page, she finally looked up and grinned as she spun the list around, so I could see her battle plan.
Barring the decision to completely eschew the use of possessive apostrophes, I was pretty darn impressed. Can you tell that her favorite section of first grade involved Texas History? She's been lobbying for a trip to the landmark buildings of Texas ever since her class created their Great State of Texas folders. I'm not positive about the actual title, but that pretty much captures the "Texas, Texas! Yee-Haw!" gist of it all.
Thankfully, she did not remember her deep-seated desire to go to NYC and see the Statue of Liberty or to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower until well after she had submitted her list. When she suggested adding those goals, I pointed out that their was no more room on the page, and that we should probably save some excitement for NEXT summer. Then I heard my credit cards giving a collective sigh of relief from my wallet.
I am really delighted by how excited Li'l E is about her summer. My goal is to help her get to check off everything on her list. Already, number 9 is getting a big, fat check, as she headed off to theater camp this morning with her best friend. (Because she isn't dramatic enough?) She was up bright and early, ready to head out the door for the first day of auditions and planning. It's only a week long camp, so it will be interesting to see what they are able to throw together with the kids by the performance on Friday. Given her delight surrounding all things singing, dancing, and having the attention of a large audience, I'm quite sure that whatever happens, she will be thrilled.
Li'l E is definitely her mama's girl when it comes to constant contact with pen and paper and her passion for list-making, and it didn't take many minutes of looking over her plans before I decided that I should probably do some summer planning of my own!
Apparently our love of list-making is not all that we share. Given this level of ambition, I probably should have gone ahead and added NYC and Paris is my plans, too!
Never fear. I'm completely confident that I can accomplish everything on my summer mind map... just as soon as I figure out how to add 12 more hours to my day.
-1- Postal Service
Postal Service reunited for my birthday! Okay, maybe not for my birthday, but they got back together for the ten year anniversary of their album and just so happened to play in my town on my birthday. I'll take credit. To be honest I wasn't really that familiar with their music. I knew Great Heights, which was on the Garden State soundtrack and has been covered several times, and I'd heard a couple of other songs in passing, but I was not a devotee of this band in particular. I am, however, a HUGE fan of the lovely Jenny Lewis, whose solo work and vocals for Rilo Kiley make my heart sing along. So, it was very cool to see her rocking out in celebration of this project. She played (among other things) guitar, drums, and harmonica; and of course, her vocals didn't disappoint. Is there anything this woman can't do? Any of her musical work is worth checking out!
-2- Me with my new love
I've been longing for a ukulele for ages, and my handsome husband surprised me with a little uke of my very own for my birthday. It's a beautiful Cordoba and everything about it makes me happy. It fits my hands perfectly, I love the warm resonance of the entire instrument when I strum, and it has proved really simple to learn. Granted I am no Jake Shimabukuro (and probably never shall be), but it's both fun and soothing, and I positively love spending my free time picking away and adding new tunes to my repertoire. My current favorite is Carulli's Andante. Just lovely.
-3- My new hues
I love art. I'm a fan of ink, charcoal, oil pastels, and settling in to a good, old fashioned coloring book with the girls. The one medium that I've really never taken to is paint. Most of my experience involves water colors, the results of which were just this side of abysmal, so while I deeply enjoy others' paintings, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be creating any of my own. But then I went to that fantastic Art & Wine Night, and discovered acrylic paint! It forgives a multitude of artistic incompetencies (of which I have plenty), so you can actually play around and still have a chance of coming away with something that you might actually admit to creating. My mother-in-law was sweet enough to give me a nice little starter set of supplies, so I'm planning some works of (good enough) art this summer!
My "Starry Night"-inspired creation
Another of my loves is photography. While I'm perfectly smitten with my Nikon d70s SLR and its various lenses, I'm more often than not capturing the day to day stuff with my iPhone. There are several photo related apps that I use and enjoy, but this past weekend, I discovered ColorSplash. It allows you to quickly and easily turn your pics into eye-catching black and whites with a (imagine that!) SPLASH of color! After opening a photo of your choice in the app, it is immediately converted to black and white. Then, just like a coloring book (my favorite!), you simply use your finger to "color in" the part that you want restored. They make it very easy, and there is a great tutorial upon first opening the app. If you are a fan of photos and filters, then I completely recommend taking things to the next level and adding this app to your arsenal!
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
I've just re-started this book. I read the majority of this a while back and was really enjoying it, but first illness and then the simple business of life (and distractions of other books) interrupted things. I decided it deserved the time it would take to re-read the beginning. Once again I find myself enamored with the writing of Eric Metaxas. He truly has a gift for telling a good story. The best part about his story is that it is true! Bonhoeffer, the author of The Cost of Discipleship (a great read in itself), was a quite brilliant theologian and a truly heroic man during one of history's darkest periods. I hope to have a fully fleshed out review when I finally complete this work, but so far, it has been well worth the read!
Head on over to Hallie's where the Moxie Wife herself is revealing her Five Favorite easily attainable, budget-conscious beauty picks!
Art &Wine Nights
There are new places popping up around town that offer "Art & Wine Nights." It's along the same lines as the "paint your own ceramics" places, but with better paint and better drinks. On a particular night a class meets (bringing their own beverages) and a teacher provides a the inspirational art for the night, all the supplies, and some direction. While there are businesses that are cropping up to offer this particular brand of fun, I am thankful to have a very talented friend who is not only an artist, but an art teacher at a fantastic school here in town. Natalya offers Art and Wine classes twice a month to help fundraise for her classes. I've been wanting to go for quite a while and it turned out that the night I was able to finally commit, the planned art work was one of my favorites: Van Gogh's Starry Night! My sweet friend, Kiko, came along and Natalya led us and six others to create our very own works of art. It was really quite fascinating to see everyone's take on the same painting! I wish now that I'd thought to take a picture of each. They were all so fantastic and unique! While I love drawing, I've always felt like an elephant with a calligraphy pen when it comes to paints, but Natalya made the evening fun and taught us some quick tricks of the trade, so that each and every one of us was able to walk out with a painting after a couple of hours. If you have such a place in your area, I would highly recommend it! I will definitely be headed back for more!
Blue Bell Coffee Ice Cream
I'm fairly certain that I mentioned my brief love affair with the flavor of the month at Baskin Robbins, Jamoca Heath Crunch. Sadly, a flavor of the month only lasts for a measly four weeks, so as soon as my addiction was well developed, they yanked it from their freezers! Alas! Thankfully, I was headed to the check-out lines at HEB and had to go through the freezer aisle. Low and behold, behind a pain of frosted glass, beneath a heavenly glow sat a half gallon of the world's best ice cream. Flavor? Coffee. It didn't take long for me to devise a plan in order to get my fix. I grabbed a Skor bar at the checkout line and crushed that sucker the moment I returned home. Pure magic these two flavors. I felt obligated to imbibe in the coffee ice cream alone the next night, in order to be able to give y'all a full review because I'm dedicated to my readers like that. No sacrifice too large. No bowl of ice cream too deep. It is a work of art on a spoon. Get thee to the store and purchase thyself a half gallon! You're welcome!
Nights Out with My Hubs
It has just worked out that we've had a lot of adult only outings over the past month or so. It has been amazing. Between being bedridden and horrifically ill through most of my pregnancy and surviving the baby's first year (and attending hormonal surges and sleep deprivations), it has really been good for us to have some time together as a couple again. Pretty much everything we've done on our own has involved music, which makes us both really happy. The truly awesome part is that it has made us both even more committed to getting out and planning adventures with the kids. When we get time together to recharge as a couple, we have so much fun and are so inspired that we want to share this kind of time with our kids. I'm so thankfully to have sweet cousins and kind parents that step up to look after our girlies, so that we can get out and get inspired to be even more involved with our family and to appreciate each other even more!
Music from my Musician
I mentioned that a lot of our outings have revolved around music. In the past month, we've seen one of my favorite bands (Metric) and one of his musical heroes (Paul McCartney), but tonight's music featured my favorite musician of all time: My Husband!
It was really a blast to get out and see him playing with the guys again. I went to high school and college with three of the four people in the band (including my Hubs, of course), so I've known these guys for ages. They've had several incarnations of bands together, and I know that the Hubs has been working harder than ever on giving this one a lot of time and effort. Watching him tonight on stage I was reminded of what a steady, reliable man he is. He has impeccable timing and many talents and I was so incredibly proud to call him mine.
The night was fun. A lot of friends came out, including one of our dearest friends and his lovely new bride. I also got to meet quite a few of E's coworkers, including one of the bosses from Colorado. It was fun to catch up with old friends and put faces with names while meeting new people. My little inner introvert is going to need at least a week to recover, but I'd say it was well worth it. So happy to be there to clap the loudest for my favorite musician!
My favorite way to relax, to recharge, to get excited, to gain knowledge, and/or to better myself has always been to read. I started reading quite young and just never stop. In school, I was frequently bored and often sat at my desk with a book hidden in my lap trying to finish my latest literary adventure. When I got to college and was able to major in English, some semesters found me with 30 or more required reading books. I usually finished them all in the first two weeks of class. Before I got married, I had a queen sized bed. Half was for me to sleep, the other half was for the piles of books that I had in progress. After I had my first daughter, the time available for reading was drastically diminished. I would still fit in a few here and there, but mostly it was Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton for me. Now that the youngest is a little bigger and I am getting more sleep and discovering more energy, I've started to get back in to my favorite past time. I'm on my third book in four days, and I must admit I feel like I'm having a reunion with an old flame. My mind is constantly contemplating new ideas that are presented in the text, I'm anxious to get back to the next chapter, and I'm delighted by the clear parallels between seemingly different books. I read Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, followed by Strange Gods by Elizabeth Scalia. The first is based in Buddhist philosophy, the second in Catholic theology. They were both amazing, and honestly I felt as if I was meant to read them together. I hope to have more to post about them both and a third book that I'm just wrapping up, but for now I just wanted to celebrate READING! (In case you wondered: Strange Gods is even BETTER than everyone says. It was the book I didn't realize that I needed to read!) Head on over to Hallie's for more folks sharing their favs and offer a little prayer and word of encouragement to the Moxie Wife herself as she looks after her sick sweet peas!
We've really been racking up the musical outings in the past month, with more to come in the next couple of weeks. On Wednesday, however, I got to experience the most epic concert of my entire existence:
Sir Paul McCartney
It is the first time that Sir Paul has played in ATX, and seeing him live has been a mutual dream for my musician and I for a long, long time. We were ridiculous about sitting side by side at the breakfast table refreshing the websites on our respective laptops as we waited for ticket sales to begin. Thankfully, the persistance paid off!
With my handsome musician and our favorite Sir
We met up early with a group of friends for TexMex and margaritas before walking to the event center. Now, I was delighted to be seeing this show, but I had no idea what a complete fan girl I was going to turn into when Sir Paul walked on stage in that smashing pink jacket and started playing those first notes. The man is 70 years old and played the most phenomenal, energy-filled, audience-involved show that I have ever seen. May we all have his health and stamina! I can't describe how great it was to experience, and even more so to be with my handsome husband as HE got to experience one of the true musical greats of our time! Beyond thankful!
Sir Paul blowing up the stage in ATX
Unfortunately, after getting home that night, I just couldn't wind down, and only ended up with about two hours of non-consecutive sleep. I dragged from the bed feeling rather rotten and with that mild queasiness of over-exhaustion. No time to dwell though, because I had a date with an orchard. Friends of mine have been on vacation, and I was one of several that offered to look in on their cats and make sure that all of the gorgeous plants and trees on their acreage were well watered and looked after. I got out there with the baby, laced up my barn boots, tucked Bear into her Beco backpack, and we spent the next couple of hours tromping over the land and working the five different watering systems before finally heading over to feed the fat cats.
Fruiting pomegranates, red roses, pumpkin vines, and a kitty with a gift. Thanks?
I truly can't believe what a beautiful time we had. Li'l Bear was so delighted to survey it all from her perch in the backpack. There were buttercups everywhere in the fields between planted sections, and I would pluck one occasionally and offer it to her. She delighted in examining them, feeling the soft petals, and getting the buttery pollen on the tip of her little nose as she sniffed them and proclaimed them "mmMMmm." I went from anxious exhaustion and feeling mildly ill to brimming with a sense of energy and peace. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to help some friends, give the baby a chance to really interact with nature, and just fully immerse myself in the quiet gift of the natural world. It was a great way to combat the post-concert blues.
Fruiting apple trees, a moment of Zen, new peaches, and rows of edible greens.
The best experience of my week didn't involve rock stars or acres of beautiful land, but rather a moment at home with my girls. Yesterday the baby was signing her hunger for dinner earlier than expected and with much grumpiness. I made a quick little meal and sat across from her. As I attempted to get her to eat, she kept refusing and getting more and more agitated. I started to feel overwhelmed and stressed out after a long day and too little sleep.
"Bear, PLEASE," I pleaded in exasperation.
Suddenly, Li'l E walked over and stepped nearly between us. I felt a flush of annoyance and almost snapped, "Move out of the way!" Before I could lose my cool, Li'l E lifted one of her stuffed animals and pretended to make it eat off of the baby's plate.
"Mmm, Bear. It's so good! Dolphin likes it! Don't you want some?" she asked cheerfully.
Bear's face lit up with a huge grin and she reached for her fork and started taking big bites of food, occasionally offering some to the dolphin.
Amazing. So completely humbled to be the mother of these girls. Talk about God's miraculous gifts to the least worthy.
We've got a great weekend planned. Tonight I'm headed with a friend to an "Art & Wine Night": a byob event where we get the opportunity to paint a famous picture while chatting and sipping. Another of my friends (an exceptional artist) actually runs the event, and I've been wanting to come out to one for months now. I'm so excited that I finally have the opportunity. Tomorrow Li'l E will be going to her very first slumber party for her best friend's birthday just a few houses down. She is so excited that she can hardly contain herself. Mommy is... going to need a few more glasses of wine. Sunday we'll be with our dear friends celebrating the baptism of their beautiful daughter. I'm so thankful to have them in our lives and to be able to share in this wonderful day with them!
And now it's time for a run, because I'm guessing there won't be much opportunity in the next couple of days! I hope that everyone had a fantastic week and enjoys a wonderful weekend!
Head on over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes and congratulate Jen on her new publishing deal! Ignatius Press, you've chosen wisely!
-1- My one time only shorts modeling gig
Banana Republic Ryan Cut Shorts
I don't know what it's like in the rest of the country, but here in Texas we are starting to dabble in 90 degree temperatures. Summer is a-comin', y'all. On Monday, I took advantage of an extra-curricular-free afternoon (yay, summer!) and braved the heat with my sister-in-law and all our kiddos to spend the late afternoon at a nearby outdoor outlet mall. My two must-visits were Banana Republic and Nine West (desires which were fulfilled after Li'l E's must-visit, The Disney Store). I was actually on the hunt for dresses, but I came across these shorts and just loved the material, the green stripes, the buttoned waist. I loved all the things!!! And when I tried them on, it was clear that they were meant to be mine. Normally, I try to avoid shorts because I'm I totally crazy person about my little chicken legs and nobby knees, but these just treated me right. It completely made up for the fact that I didn't return home with a single new pair of shoes. I'm not sure how easy these would be to find (they are no longer online, hence my shoddy foray into shorts modeling), but if you can find BR Ryan cut anything, I don't think you'd regret the purchase! Fantastic!
-2- Doesn't do justice to the COLORS!
Our little fish has been hitting the water once a week every week (and heaps more during the summer months) for a year and a half. When she started, her swimsuits were a little baggy and in the past month or two they've became rather snug. I was so excited for swimsuit season, because I thought I might pick up something cute from Target (which is where we have always gotten her suits). I was completely distressed this year because all of the swim suits in the LITTLE GIRLS' SECTION are either triangle top bikinis or one pieces with similarly deeply cut V's in the top. Now I'm no swim prude. Heck, my favorite lakeside wear is my vintage, black bikini with well-placed ruching, but this is KIDS' wear. As in made for girls as young as 5. Maybe it's the result of becoming a mama, but ew, ew, ew! I was really disappointed with Target. Thankfully, during our little outing to the outlets, we decided on a whim to run into the Gymboree. They have THE CUTEST girls swimsuits! And (at the outlet at least) they were only $8.00! WIN! There were so many it was hard to decide, but Li'l E finally settled on this cute little stripy one piece. It had its maiden voyage in the lanes today during practice and got the two, cute thumbs-up from our fishy!
-3- "Fat Rabbit"
Now that I've given, Li'l E a fav, I feel like I can't play favorites! Bear should have a piece of the action, too. So, introducing the patron rabbit of bedtime: The Babo Bunny. This little guy appeared the first week we were home from the hospital with Bear along with a hot meal from some sweet friends of ours. Babo bunny, who soon earned the name "Fat Rabbit" for obvious reasons) came in a basket full of Babo Botanical baby bath products (Wow! That was awash with accidental alliteration!) I can't remember the first time I handed the little guy to Bear as she was laying down to sleep, but soon after she was refusing to sleep until his soft little ear was tucked into her tiny hand while she sucked her thumb. I'm already purchasing another one, because I completely fear the day when we can't find Fat Rabbit in the crib. These little guys are made with all organic materials, and if you head over to the site, be sure to check out their certified organic botanical bath products, too!
-4- His & Hers
His and Hers Wireless Nerdery
I know that I mentioned a few posts back, that in a fit of techy-geek pique, I introduced Li'l E to the PS2 game, Katamari (after seeing the blast that she had with her dad when he gave her Star Wars LEGOS for Wii). In spite of the fact that I hadn't been near a gaming console in years, she has talked either her dad or I into the role of Player 2 when she cashes in a little screen time credit and we have a rare hand free. After laughing about how we enjoyed playing around with video games again, but lamenting the fact that our new living room set up (arranged for maximum play space) no longer allowed for game play from the couch, I purchased us his and hers wireless controllers. He got an epic, clear controller with blue "lava" sloshing about inside, and I picked a ridiculous hue of pink for myself. I know. Completely nerdy, but total cute points for the his-and-hers-ness of it all, n'est-ce pas??
-5- An Old Friend
I'm in the midst of reading at least four books right now, but I've been making hardly any headway with any of them. Not for lack of time, though that also is an issue, but I just can't get settled into the right headspace. Reading is one of my true loves and comforts in life, so having trouble there is pretty upsetting for me. It happens very rarely, but I know a sure fired way to help boost me out of my biblio-funk! Turning to old friends. If I can open up a dearly loved book, I can usually settle back in the rhythm of regular reading. This week, I reached for Hermann Hesse. I was first introduced to his works in college when a very dear friend gave me a dreadfully battered copy of Magister Ludi (otherwise known as The Glass Bead Game). It had a cover exactly like the one pictured, though far more tattered and discolored. It was a very unassuming little paperback, and I began reading it for love of the giver rather than any deep curiosity inspired by the book itself. It turned out to be one of those volumes that finds you in exactly the right stage of life. I love this book, not only because I find it to be a wonderful and wildly intelligent story, but because each read brings me back to those days and that mindset and a blossoming world of long talks and plenty of time for self-reflection. I wouldn't trade a single moment with my wild girls to get it back again, but it's nice wrap up in those memories as I read. I have enjoyed all three of his major works, and this is one of my favorite quotes:
"Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours."
Once you're done contemplating that one, head on over to Hallie's. She's got some truly fantastic Five Favorites up this week and a wealth of other fabulous folks linking up, too!
My handsome hubs and I are going to the Paul McCartney concert tonight!
I've already checked out for the day!
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!