Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Makin Taters.

Most nights Tim cooks dinner. He's better at it (seriously) and finds it relaxing and enjoyable whereas I tend to find it stressful probably because I always insist on trying a new recipe. Sometimes, like tonight, I get all domestic and homemakery and map out a whole meal plan. On today's menu it was

Balsamic Broccolini

That's like, straight out of a Jamie Oliver's School Dinners episode. Except put together by me. BAM! And it was delicious! And healthy! Here is a grainy picture that you probably already saw on Facebook. If you want to see fancy photos, click the links above for the recipes. Also, some tips:

  1. To keep the burgers from drying out, I put white cooking wine in the pan (you could probably just use water as well)
  2. I doubled the Tator Tot recipe and left them in the oven probably 5-10 mins longer so they were really crispy on the outside.
  3. I would use half the sugar recommended for the Blueberry Pie. I also cheated and used an organic whole wheat pastry crust for my base, because who has time for all those confusing directions on how to make your own. Not this gal.
  4. Most importantly, make sure you haven't started heating up the skillet before STICKING YOUR FINGERS IN IT to spread the oil around. Brutal. I don't have any feeling in my finger tips except stinging.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tim's Random List

Last night I came across a piece of paper that had been torn out of a notebook and had somehow gotten wedged into a  stack of random bills, tax info, miscellaneous documents etc. - we're not the best about filing over here. On it was written a list in Tim's teeny tiny penmanship. I read the list about five times trying to make sense of it's cryptic contents and the correlation between them. Here is the list in it's entirety (I had to make assumptions on some of the wording as his lettering is so miniscule) followed by a list of burning questions I had as a result:

The list in question

Adae   NJ   H.S.   Ranya  N.Y.   School

Bday 31 Days:  Andrew May 6th Waiting Fam  May 5th
SUV - MiniVan:
No Red Meat:
More than 25 mi:
Ate fast food 24 hrs:
Never spoke in Public:
Multilingual:
Works from home:
Picture of sig. other:
2x pets:
8x cups of water:
Sings well:
Chocolate:
New Years Resolution:
Video/CPU Games: Andrew
Reality Shows:
Coffee:  Andrew
 
  1. What is the relation between these things? For example, "SUV - MiniVan:" is followed by "No Red Meat:" and "Sings well:" is followed by "Chocolate:" WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!
  2. Why the use of so many colons?
  3. Furthermore, why are the colons not followed by some sort of correlating list or response - except in two instance with the name Andrew?
  4. Who is Andrew?
  5. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN????
After much (much) thought, I finally figured out what this was all in reference to and had my suspicions confirmed by Tim. Now that I know the answer it all seems so obvious but I wonder if anyone else out there can crack the code. Submit your best guess! GO! 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Made Scones!

If you follow me on Facebook than this is old news.  Scones with clotted cream, jam and butter was my favorite guilty pleasure while in England and I wanted to bring the cream tea tradition home with me. So I did. And I'm happy to say that despite a lack of confidence in my ability to bake the perfect scone, I felt the results were commendable considering it was a first attempt. The recipe I used can be found here,  though I would definitely increase the sugar to 2 1/2 tablespoons. Clotted cream is hard to find - the only place I know of is World Market and it's $2.99 for a tiny jar. So worth it though!


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
4 ½ Tbs butter (cold)
⅔ cup milk (+ 1 Tbs for egg wash)
1 egg yolk
1.  Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and sea salt.
2.  Drop in the butter in tiny cubes and work with fingers until no butter is larger than a pea. Add the milk and mix briefly, just enough to bind the wet with the dry. Do NOT overmix.
3.  Drop onto a well-floured board and knead very quickly only 3-4 times.
4.  Pat into a circle about 1 inch thick and cut out scones with a small glass or cookie cutter. Knead together remaining dough and cut out more scones until all the dough has been used.
5.  Beat the egg yolk lightly with one Tbs of milk and brush the tops of the scones with mixture.
6.  Bake on baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with clotted cream and jam.
- See more at: http://accomplishedyounglady.com/2010/12/proper-british-scones/#sthash.GgPzrYUB.dp
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
4 ½ Tbs butter (cold)
⅔ cup milk (+ 1 Tbs for egg wash)
1 egg yolk
1.  Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and sea salt.
2.  Drop in the butter in tiny cubes and work with fingers until no butter is larger than a pea. Add the milk and mix briefly, just enough to bind the wet with the dry. Do NOT overmix.
3.  Drop onto a well-floured board and knead very quickly only 3-4 times.
4.  Pat into a circle about 1 inch thick and cut out scones with a small glass or cookie cutter. Knead together remaining dough and cut out more scones until all the dough has been used.
5.  Beat the egg yolk lightly with one Tbs of milk and brush the tops of the scones with mixture.
6.  Bake on baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with clotted cream and jam.
- See more at: http://accomplishedyounglady.com/2010/12/proper-british-scones/#sthash.GgPzrYUB.dpuf
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
4 ½ Tbs butter (cold)
⅔ cup milk (+ 1 Tbs for egg wash)
1 egg yolk
1.  Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and sea salt.
2.  Drop in the butter in tiny cubes and work with fingers until no butter is larger than a pea. Add the milk and mix briefly, just enough to bind the wet with the dry. Do NOT overmix.
3.  Drop onto a well-floured board and knead very quickly only 3-4 times.
4.  Pat into a circle about 1 inch thick and cut out scones with a small glass or cookie cutter. Knead together remaining dough and cut out more scones until all the dough has been used.
5.  Beat the egg yolk lightly with one Tbs of milk and brush the tops of the scones with mixture.
6.  Bake on baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with clotted cream and jam.
- See more at: http://accomplishedyounglady.com/2010/12/proper-british-scones/#sthash.GgPzrYUB.dpuf
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
4 ½ Tbs butter (cold)
⅔ cup milk (+ 1 Tbs for egg wash)
1 egg yolk
1.  Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and sea salt.
2.  Drop in the butter in tiny cubes and work with fingers until no butter is larger than a pea. Add the milk and mix briefly, just enough to bind the wet with the dry. Do NOT overmix.
3.  Drop onto a well-floured board and knead very quickly only 3-4 times.
4.  Pat into a circle about 1 inch thick and cut out scones with a small glass or cookie cutter. Knead together remaining dough and cut out more scones until all the dough has been used.
5.  Beat the egg yolk lightly with one Tbs of milk and brush the tops of the scones with mixture.
6.  Bake on baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with clotted cream and jam.
- See more at: http://accomplishedyounglady.com/2010/12/proper-british-scones/#sthash.GgPzrYUB.dpuf

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

That One Time Moses....

Well, it finally happened. 
I've been barfed on.

See this Starbucks cup?


A few nights ago it was filled with a delicious latte for Tim (and me, a little)
Several hours later it served as a mini vomitorium.
Who could have known.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all began at midnight when Moses woke up crying and on all fours in his crib. I just knew as soon as I picked him up that he was about to throw up and sure enough out it came, all over the front of my dress. Tim had already gone to bed so I quickly woke him up to assist in crisis management. He was just as flustered as I was - probably more so from being woken up - and just kept saying "What should I do?" as I continued to hold a crying, barfing Moses. Except I was just as clueless as he was - even though it's not the first time Moses has barfed, it was the first time there was barf in the sink, on Moses, in a towel and on me. 

So for the next 30 minutes I sat with Moses while he watched Shaun the Sheep and very calmly barfed into the Starbucks cup without taking his eyes off the t.v. Strange, but I wasn't complaining.  After his system calmed down I put him back to bed and began cleaning up the mess. Whether I woke Tim up to help or he woke up on his own I can't remember but nevertheless he appeared with a willingness to assist.  Since I had a lot of soiled wet wipes and a seriously offensive Starbucks cup to dispose of, I asked him if he could grab me a plastic bag. He came back from the kitchen grasping a giant pile of Ziplock sandwich bags. *shakes head* I don't even know. I'll blame it on his being half asleep. 

By morning, Moses was himself and I was proud of how well I'd handled being barfed on - something I've been dreading! I think it must be the adrenaline that courses through your brain and body as you try to comfort and contain the mess that comes from a crying child who doesn't understand why food is spewing from his mouth. 

All in all, not as traumatizing an event as I was expecting.
Next time I'll be prepared with Starbucks cup at the ready.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reading is Good for Me.

I have read some seriously good books lately. I tend to go through spurts with reading - a lot all at once or not at all. It's been "a lot all at once" kind of summer and they're coming one straight after the other which is totally thrilling for me because I love to read.  So far this season, I've read...


While the first two are for a book club, Redeeming Love is one Tim's been encouraging me to read for years (literally) and I never took him up on it until I was faced with two 7 hour plane rides and time to kill. It has a slow start and I would have given up on it had I not already committed to lugging it around with me for the duration of our trip (it's a thick book). Anyways, it was amazing and I already know I'll read it again. It just dawned on me that all three of these books have the same theme of imprisonment/breaking free and/or prostitution. Grim, I know. But all compelling stories.

Can I just take a moment and say I could really go for a thick slice of chocolate cake right now?

Currently I'm reading this lovely little children's novel, which I picked off the book shelf at my best friend's parent's house in England ... when I was there for a wedding and waiting in line for the shower.  I was just at the part of the story where a mysterious event happens when my turn was up and I had to put it down. That is until the kindest of souls very generously gave me her copy after I shared how regretful I was not to finish the story. She just gave me her copy like it was no big deal. Um, that's a big deal. I don't just go giving away my favorite books to people I hardly know. I greedily cling to them like a little troll. And if I happen to let you borrow it, I will make sure you give it back. Except it'll never happen because I never lend books out.  (Probably because of that ONE time I lent a book to someone and never got it back. And it had a cover on it that you can't find anywhere else, and I'm really picky about the covers of books.) Well irregardless, I just got schooled on what it means to be kind and thoughtful. Hannah - you're a better woman than I'll ever be. I still stop and think to myself "That was so nice of her!"


It was a gray day today and during the boys nap I thought "what a perfect time to carry on reading" because the whole atmosphere reminded me of England, and this book is a British classic. But then I got distracted by playing with my camera, so really this is a staged shot giving you the false sense that I had a serene moment in my day, lazily reading by the window. In reality my day was filled with lots of anxiety-ridden parenting to the point where my chest started to feel tight and I didn't read at all. 

Next up - for while we're at the beach in Goderich - I've picked these three beauties. I'm pretty sure they're lighter stories and more on the romantic side which is always a good theme while lying in the sand or in a sun-soaked cottage. 


After that, who knows where my literary adventures will take me.
But I always love a good recommendation!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Laugh Cry

Today has not been a great day in the ongoing battle with my mysterious health issues. So naturally, my way of dealing with the stress and frustration is to eat everything my body tells me not to as a way to stick it my uncooperative digestive tract. TAKE THAT SMALL INTESTINE! Because everyone knows that an organ scorned is one sure to want to turn a new leaf....

(reality is I feel like poop, am super discouraged and have declared war against my body, so clearly things are taking a sad turn for the worse)

I blame it on England and all those delicious scones with clotted cream, jam and butter. How could I say no to that? Exactly. Impossible. And then there were those Italian milk and honey tea biscuits that Trader Joe's were selling - they were totally calling my name and I was missing England and it was completely not my fault that they ended up at home and subsequently in my seriously obstinate intestinal tract. Especially considering they were served on this sweet little sheep tray alongside our amazing macro berry mugs (all from England) with my favorite tea + milk. It was a total set up, and I didn't stand a chance.

But seriously, say a prayer for me.
I feel defeated.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Dream Come True.

We're back from the British Isles. It was a magical ten days. I've been using one of our boarding passes as a book mark and when I pulled it out this morning, it made me cry. Tears of gratefulness for the time we had as well as sorrow for all the friends I'm missing.

It would be laborious to go into great detail on all the things we managed to see and do while we were there but here are a few highlights:

Embracing at the airport
Picnicking in Windsor
Cream teas in Bath
Church on Sunday
An icecream by the river
A whirlwind tour of London
Pub lunches and so much laughter
Standing on the field of my old school
Sweet shops
Late night conversations
Incredible curry dinners
Coffee and lunch with dear old friends
Sitting in the bath in our bathing suits at the end of a long day
Scones at the Dobson's
Watching 3 Men & a Little Lady for old times sake
Country drives
 Eating as much duck, sausage and cake as I liked
Feeling beautiful at a beautiful wedding with beautiful people
Dancing my heart out in the best of company
Gorging myself on delicious food
Sitting on the floor of the Bridal Suite with my best friends
A glorious day in the Cotswolds with my parents
More cream teas
A beautiful evening dinner with my favorite people...
....dreaming of the future.


My heart is full with thanks for the gift we were given in this trip and to everyone who made it happen and provided along the way - you know who you are. Why God chose to bless us so abundantly with friends who love us so very much, I will never know. But I'll happily receive it all again and again.

What a dream come true.
Truly. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Everyone Loves a Bargain.

I have a few friends who are magnets for thrift store finds. Others are magnets for crazy on sale/clearance items. And a select few are magnets for winning stuff.

I am none of these.

At least, my deals and scores are fewer and farther between. So maybe that's why when I find a good bargain I'm elated and feel the need to call people and be all "Hey, just calling to say I bought this great thing for basically nothing." And this post is my call to you to say "Hey.... look what I just bought for an offensively low price!" Anyhoo... I am a huge  -  HUGE  - fan of the Volunteers of America thrift store a few cities over from us.  Now, remember that thrift stores are always hit or miss - sometimes you walk out with a jewel of an item, other times you spend an hour and walk out empty handed. But 4 out of the 5 times I've visited VoA, I've come out with the feeling that I just won the lottery. 

My first big find was a beautiful cherry wood antique side table with gorgeous curves and spindly legs for a room I was commissioned to decorate. It was $25 - a total steal. About a month later, when I needed a new pair of jeans, I found two pairs that looked and felt great for a grand total of .... $3. Three dollars for two pairs of jeans. That's crazy. 

One day when I went in just to kill time between appointments, I found a great satchel that will work perfectly as a second carry on for our flight to England - something bigger than a purse that will fit a book and some snacks on top of the essentials. It's funny when you're at a thrift store because suddenly your idea of a bargain becomes a bit narrower. For example, the great satchel's price tag said $4.99. And I stood there for a few minutes wondering if that seemed a bit pricey. Let's not forget that the original price was probably at least $30... but because it's at a thrift store... and maybe because my jeans were $0.99, I was trying to be shrewd. I decided to buy it since I really did need something for traveling and discovered at the cash register that it had been marked down to $1.99. BAM.

Today Tim mentioned that he needed a suit for the wedding we're attending in England. Oh you need a suit? VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA, BABY! I knew it was a long shot, to try and find a classy suit in such a short period of time and at a limited inventory thrift store, but it was worth investigating. Both of us were hoping he'd find a grey three-piece suit - again decreasing our odds of success. I knew we couldn't afford for him to buy anything new even by Burlington Coat Factory standards (which isn't all that affordable anyways, I feel) but Tim did need something to wear to the wedding. So I said a prayer, asking God to help us find something we could afford at VoA. So let me review: Tim needs a suit for as close to $0 as possible, preferably a grey three-piece. And the Good Lord, because He is kind and generous, chose to bless us with exactly what we were looking for the amazing price of..........

 $5.99.


On top of that, he found a powder blue dress shirt to match (on sale for $2) and an additional suit coat from Gap. Of course, I couldn't help browsing the racks myself while he shopped. I was in the market for one last pair of jeans (skinny jeans, specifically) and also happened upon a great top originally from The Limited that will be perfect for the cooler British weather. You can also see my great satchel here:


For all these gems (3-piece suit, Gap suit coat, dress shirt, skinny jeans, satchel, Limited shirt) we paid less than $30. That's crazy! Shop second hand folks - as much as possible. You can save a bunch and feel like you won the lottery. Win win.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sometimes I actually accomplish things....

Summer feels like it's just getting going for me. The temperatures are super hot - which I never like - but it also means that July + August are almost here and lots of exciting things are happening! We leave for our glorious 10-day British getaway next Friday afternoon and I am itching to get started on packing! I love packing for a vacation, but always procrastinate unpacking once we get home. The opposite is true when moving - I don't enjoy packing up a home, but love the process of unpacking and setting up. I have been keeping an ongoing list of things to bring so as not to forget when it comes time to put everything into a suitcase; sure I'll remember my toothbrush and passport but I might forget to pack a spare pair of contacts or my jacket if I don't write it down.

Something that I really wanted to get before we left was a new DSLR camera. My Canon Rebel was fine, but sometimes the quality wasn't what I had hoped for in such an expensive camera. As it turns out, Dodd Camera was having a "buy your old equipment" event at the same time a really nice Nikon camera I now own went on crazy sale. I still have to learn how to make the most of it's capabilities. But I'm hopeful it'll live up to my expectations.

I tested it out for the first time last week after I'd had an unusually productive day in the "being creative" department. These days are few and far between, so it was worth documenting. First, I finally got around to making a pom pom garland for our front window. It cost me all of $2 to make in about 40 mins. I found the pom poms at the dollar store (2 bags of various colors) and then strung them together using a needle and some white thread. Simple!


This isn't exactly a huge achievement, but I also figured out a way to get some vegetables in my kids! They used to love them as babies but now I can't seem to persuade them to eat anything except maybe potatoes. It's the oldest trick in the book, but I decided to blend a ton of spinach into some homemade pasta sauce. At first the color was a bit brown so they probably would have passed on it based on presentation alone, but after adding a tin of tomato paste I was back to some basic who-knew-it's-full-of-green-veg spaghetti sauce. And they ate it all! Woo! I even got a smile out of Jack.


Today was spent less productively killing a ton of flies which I suspect are coming up from our basement. SO stressful. Although I guess I was successful if you count that I'm 20 for 20 in terms of flies and their squished little bodies.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Word of the Day.

I've only posted on this once before, but every now and then I get a random word stuck in my head. More often than not, I'm not quite sure of it's definition. Last time it was spanakopita. The way it works is that I'll just be going about my day and every now and then the word will pop in my head for no reason. Example: As I was changing Moses' diaper.

Today's Word
(time stuck in head: since this morning)


haberdashery| ˈhabərˌda sh ərē|

noun  ( pl. -eries)
the goods and wares sold by a haberdasher.
This definition is not helpful at all considering I don't know what a haberdasher is. Thus: 



haberdasher|ˈhabərˌda sh ər|
 

noun
1 a dealer in men's clothing.
2 Brit. a dealer in goods for dressmaking and sewing (such as buttons and ribbons).
 

 ORIGIN Middle English : probably based on Anglo-Norman French hapertas, perhaps the name of a fabric, of unknown origin. In early use the term denoted a dealer in a variety of household goods, later also specifically a hatter. Current senses date from the early 17th cent. 
source

Friday, June 14, 2013

Things to Note.

Lessons + Observations:

- Never again order shoes online that don't offer free return shipping. Otherwise you end up paying half the price of the shoes in shipping.

- Don't self-diagnose a health concern via the internet, buy supplements and then decide you have a different issue altogether and buy more supplements on top of the ones you now don't need but already opened.

- On the brighter side, you can return almost anything - including nail polish that chips right away (something about neon colors....) Thank you Sally Beauty Supply for letting me exchange one that chips for one that doesn't.

- Being on a Paleo diet (another facet of my self-diagnosis) makes me appreciate things I shouldn't have (like coffee and the taste of chocolate) all the more. It also makes me crave it like an addict.

- Unlike watching t.v., I never feel like I'm wasting time when reading a good book.  Just finished A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison. Can't recommend enough.

- I like watching "Lady and the Tramp" as much now at 29 years of age as I did at 9. And I still wish I lived in the little town they show in the opening credits.

- Cell phones + cell phone plans will eat your bank account alive.

- Chip Ingram is so on the money when it comes to preaching the Word. Heard part of this sermon and can't wait to listen to the rest.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Three Years.

Dear Jack,

On Sunday you turned three. Three! We celebrated you all weekend because you're that special. My favorite part of your birthday was taking you out for ice cream, just the two of us. You chose Chocolate Chip Ice Cream w/ Dinosaur Sprinkles.


I also love that for months you've been requesting a carrot cake for your birthday. I had fears you'd change your mind day of, but you I think you loved every bite. You were such a good host at your party - making sure to play with all the kids, and (my favorite) changing where you sat to eat your cake so that you could "mingle." Daddy and I were so proud of the way you were quick to say thank you to the giver of each gift you received. In fact, you have become so quick to say thank you for lots of things these days - you recognize when someone does something nice or considerate and you make note of that. I really admire that about you.

You and your best bud Rylan at your party

I like that you are such a lover of people and companionship. You just love to be around others. So much so that you hate having to go to bed, in case you might miss out on something. You also love to use your intelligent brain as much as possible by asking lots of questions (lots and lots and lots), playing board games, reading books and doing puzzles. However, you recently developed a real interest in super hero action figures. It's fun watching your interests expand and grow.

You are also a creature of habit - you like toast every morning while watching a movie. Sometimes cereal if you're in the mood. At nap/bed time you always need your blanket ("bee"), your stuffed Peter Rabbit ("bunny"), a cup of cold water, some books, one of your action figures, and a tissue. You love being outside most of all - especially if it involves running in the sprinkler, playing water guns with Daddy, blowing bubbles or watering the plants. You would go to your Nan's every day if you could and you really love your friends and family - especially Ben, Luke, Brianna, Reese and Rylan. And Moses of course - but you guys fight a lot. I hope you both grow out of that!

Other things you've really enjoyed this past year are: wearing your rain boots, going to the Nature Center, eating popcorn for a treat, going to the library, pushing the kiddie cart at Trader Joe's or riding in the "speed racer" cart at Heinen's, watching "The Sandlot" or "Fantastic Mr. Fox", going to any and every playground, riding in your wagon, helping with the laundry and cleaning the toilet!

Your vocabulary and speech is pretty incredible and I'm not just biased! Everybody says it, and it is quite remarkable the way you are able to communicate. It's also crazy how many things (memories, facts, etc) you are able to recall. Below are some little quotes I shared on Facebook and I wanted to compile them here. But before that, I just want to say how much I LOVE YOU even if I get frustrated a lot or seem mean like a "bad guy" in Spiderman's world, as you compared it :P - I treasure you and who you are. Oh, and you're "I love you Mom"s in the midst of my stress really does change my perspective.

You are an incredible little boy, and I'm so blessed that you're mine!!

Love Mom

Jack Says:

Jack - "Mommy do you like those sandals?"
Me - "Yes, I'd like to them get them"
Jack - "You can't they're too expensive."
Me - "Is that right?"
Jack - "Yeah, and they'll hurt your back."


Jack and I were doing a puzzle today of a cartoon marching band. I asked him if anyone in the picture looked like me and he pointed out the long blond haired prom queen who was riding in a car behind the band and waving. Inaccurate, but flattering none the less. Then I asked him if anyone in the picture looked like Tim. I thought maybe he'd point out the prom king, since he was seated next to the prom queen. Instead he pointed to a Latino boy playing the trumpet and said "That looks like Daddy." Interesting.

Every time (every.time) we have a dance party, the first song Jack always requests is Beyonce's "Single Ladies: Put a Ring on It." He says, and I quote, "It cheers me up." Bless his heart.

When he makes a mistake or has to restart a statement he often does this little laugh and says, "Oh, sorry sorry..." and then begins again.

According to Jack, Tim is good at: driving, pooping, opening doors and knocking on them. Sounds about right.

I spent the morning writing out invites to a little party we're having for his birthday next month. He later thanked me for doing so, completely of his own accord.

Jack says "I have to go potty. I can't poop my pants. That's how I roll."

Jack opened his Bible today and asked if he could pray for me. Um, yes please. His prayer was as follows... and I quote: "Please protect Mommy....from Moses pulling her hair and from touching the heater, so that she doesn't freak out." Jack, you know me too well. I should have you pray for me more often.  




Love you buddy!
May the Lord bless you, keep you, and protect you all the days of your life!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Morning Breath

This morning Jack climbed into our bed as he usually does and laid down between us. He and I were both laying on our backs while Tim was laying on his side facing us. This is important to note because it meant Tim's very potent morning breath was being blown in our direction. After a few minutes of laying quietly the follow exchanged happened:

Jack (whispering) - "Dad..." pause "Dad..." pause "Dad...."
Tim (still half asleep) - "What Jack"
Jack - "You stink"

Classic.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Music & Memories

OK folks - I've done a lot of thinking.  I don't want to write this blog so that I can feel good about myself or my house or my life.  I realize that when I show you how I decorated my house or the picture I took of my kids during a really idyllic moment I'm not accomplishing anything except feeding my pride. Plain and simple. So, we're done with that.  I just want to he honest and blunt (in the non-hurtful way) and make people laugh, or smile or think, or feel something. There is no joy or motivation in writing when I'm too concerned with how it will make me appear, or because I'm hoping to elicit praise or envy. And that's def. why I haven't posted for over a month. I do love interaction in the comments though - so please, if you have something to share, as always, please share it.

Anyways - I recently did a bit of spring cleaning which somehow stretched into my music collection. I almost never listen to music on my own these days, which is weird because I LOVE music. But I love to listen to music loud and I definitely prefer singing along at the top of my lungs especially in the car. However,  since I'm almost never alone in the car anymore and I can't get through a song without Jack putting in his two cents on which song he'd prefer we listen to - I've just sort of given up. But back to the main point here - so I'm going through my iTunes account deleting stuff I don't listen to anymore but also rekindling a love for lots of songs I just forgot about. And I found it interesting that certain songs have the power to stir up strong, specific memories like a mental time machine back to a very definite time and place. I know this is true for everyone. 

Tonight I had a playlist going of random songs I loved at one time or another and it was strange the mix of seasons in life they represented. I thought I'd share some of these songs and where they bring me back to, even if that's only really interesting to a few of you:

Other Side of the World by KT Tunstall - Very much THE song that I was obsessed with when I moved to England for a year in 2006. I listened to this all the time. Anytime it plays, I'm immediately back on a train heading into London wearing my infamous "Sexy Army" shoes, a brown sweater that I still own, with long dark hair, heavy bangs and the smell of this self-tanning lotion I used all the time while I was there wafting in the air.

Best for Last by Adele - I started listening to her around the time that I met Tim and we started dating. This song specifically reminds me of driving back and forth between our little dates. I liked this song so much I put it on a mixed cd for him. It reminds me of all my feelings of uncertainty (of whether he liked me) and excitement (when I knew he did).

Looking Glass by Sleepy Rebels - This is a really obscure band that I discovered a few years ago on some Indie music site.  I can't even listen to this song anymore because of the connotation it has with the Jonestown massacre. Weird, I know. For the longest time I always thought those "don't drink the Kool-aid" references had to do with a small group of people that all committed suicide together in a small room somewhere. Um, no. I later found out by watching a two hour documentary on the whole thing how wrong I was. I was so disturbed I cried all night and couldn't sleep. And then I was like obsessed with learning more details (I have a "need to know" complex). I'd call Tim crying and even more disturbed because I listened to one survivor's horrific tale. Tim had to forbid me from reading into it further. This song happened to be a favorite of mine at the time and ended up being the background music to me reading all about the horrors of Jonestown. So yeah. It totally gives me the creeps now. 

These Streets by Paolo Nutini - I lived in a place called the Isle of Man for three months at the end of 2006. It's a beautiful, peaceful island and every night at about 11 o'clock (sometimes as late as midnight) I'd go for a run and this song was always on the playlist. Looking back, that was a totally unsafe decision but hey, crime on that island was limited to stolen purses. I remember I was so used to this routine that when I moved back home the following year, I didn't think anything of going out for a run late one night until my parents came looking for me with flashlights and were seriously mad. It was 1 am, so fair enough but I was 23 at the time so... I didn't think I had a curfew!

Belief by John Mayer - Tim teases me that whenever any song from this album (Continuum) comes on, I tell him how it reminds me of the time I house-sat for a family I dearly love. I was there for a week and drove their car around which happened to have this cd in the player. But at the time I was also pretty depressed and was struggling with a serious eating disorder, so while I love this whole album, it tends to bring up mixed emotions and serves as a reminder of a very dark period in my life. 

Ordinary Day by Vanessa Carlton - Another song I can't handle anymore, but at the time it was what I'd listen to as I daydreamed about someone I had feelings for. The feelings were never returned so now it's just a symbol of some seriously painful unrequited love. Anytime it happens to come on, I'm brought back to the summer it was first popular and the ache of my pining heart.

Into Your Hideout by Pilate - This song was big when I was in college up in Ontario. While I don't have a specific memory related to this song, it always reminds me of my first year living off campus and the feeling of freedom that brought. I loved living with my friend Elektra at the time so the song is deeply rooted in a time in life that I would happily re-live!

Super Trouper by Abba - A song that brings me straight back to England, circa 1993. I can still picture being in the car with my mom en route to middle school, sitting at the exact intersection pictured below (Windsor/Oxford Road in Gerrards Cross). Abba's Greatest Hits was the soundtrack to my school commute for two years - and I loved this song the best, so I probably played it everyday. That and Michael Ball, who I'm sure you've never heard of.  We lived in England as a family from 93-95 and having cd players installed in the trunk of your car was the newest thing. Of course, that meant you tended to stick with the five or six cds it allowed and rarely changed them out. Thus our road trips were sound tracked exclusively by the greatest hit compilations of the very random following aritists: Cher, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Chris Deburgh (the guy who sings "Lady in Red") and Sophie B. Hawkins.


Other defining sounds for seasons in my life:

High school : Backstreet Boys and Alanis Morrisette - a natural pairing, obviously! Haha.
College : Coldplay and David Gray - still classics.
Now: Anything Tim listens to because I'm too lazy to find new music on my own.

I WOULD LOVE IT if you'd share a song that brings up a very specific season of life or memory for you. Ready, set, GO!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reading Material

::SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:: 

There's this great new blog that just started up. It's one of my new favorites - great writing on topics that matter, with some humor thrown in. I also might be totally in love with author. He might also be my best friend. And the father of my children. Hop on over to his blog and see what all the buzz is about --------> click here!! Do it!

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

I love that Jack is now at a stage where he loves to be read to. I'm also thrilled that he likes to read longer stories that actually have a plot and not just "See Spot run" if you know what I'm saying. I grew up loving listening to stories and I hope to instill that tradition in my children.

Which brings me to my main theme - the joy and fun that comes from picking out books at the library! I'm like a kid in a candy store at the library and usually have a huge stack by the time I checkout. However, because I very much judge books by their cover I don't always love the content once I have a chance to read through them. For every 10 books that I get, 6 are decent, 2 are great and 2 are not so good. But this last trip to the library was a total hit and I thought I'd share the several books that I really enjoyed because I never had the chance to be one of the kid reviewers on Reading Rainbow and this is my only avenue to try and fulfill that dream (except I cheated and just used the editor's description of each book instead of writing my own):




Immi's Gift by Karin Littlewood - Immi wishes she had some company out in the cold winter, but hardly anyone ever visits. Then one day a gift appears at the end of Immi's fishing pole. And then another...and another...Bright surprises fill Immi's wintry world with color and magic. And friends. When finally it is time for Immi to leave, she stops by her fishing hole to send out a little magic of her own...Who will receive it?

The Growing Story by Ruth Krauss - A boy and a puppy and some chicks were all very little. From this simple beginning grows a story that celebrates those little changes that tell us we're growing up! This Ruth Krauss classic enchanted young readers when it was first published in 1947. Now it blooms again with lush illustrations by one of the world's best-loved illustrators: Helen Oxenbury.

Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach - Based on the true story of 1960s - era subway cars that are now being used to create artificial reefs in the Atlantic, this train tale will delight parents and kids alike!

Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson - This tender story gives a charming and unusual urban setting to an American family tradition - and includes a recipe so the readers can celebrate their own Applesauce Season. Caldecott Medal winner Mordecai Gerstein's whimsical illustrations are full of the color and hum of the city on the crisp, sunny days of fall.

One Smart Cookie by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - One Smart Cookie offers a fresh batch of words that encompasses everything you might say to a child, whether it's the first day of preschool or the last day of high school. Cookie-centric definitions range from wanting to know everything about cookies to thinking carefully about what kind of cookies to make for your friend.


All these books are winners because of their sweet and lovely content as well as their great illustrations. But in the timeless words of LeVar Burton
"Don't take my word for it!"
(har har har)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

On Accepting Things.

 

Why is it so hard to move on? 
Why do we (I) love to dwell on what was and is no more?
 Why have I not yet learned the art of letting go and trusting that

God is sovereign and has my best interests at heart

and is preventing something from progressing any further into my life?

The last several weeks have been particularly painful for me as my heart clings to things that I don't think I'm supposed to hold onto anymore. There's a voice inside that cries, "But I really want this! Please let it be so!" and yet circumstances won't budge. And it's so hard to keep my heart from breaking over not receiving what I'm so certain is good for me.

But then, in a moment of clarity, I remember that God is for me not against me, that He loves me, that He can see the big picture and all I can see is what's in front of me, and in His goodness He says "No" because "No" is the better way.

In acceptance of that "No" there is peace.
It's time to move on from what isn't and move towards what is.
Amen.

Monday, April 8, 2013

For Jack

 

Dear Jack,

The first time I heard the song "Meadowlarks" by Fleet Foxes, it made me think of you.
Ever since then I've wanted to make this.

Let me start by saying I recognize the need, on a daily basis, to extend more grace and understanding to you. Many times I find myself being too hard on you and expecting more of you than you are able to give at the tender age of almost-three. In so many ways, you remind me of myself and maybe that's why - because I'm hard on myself too. Everyday, you deserve to hear of the value you hold not only in our family but in this great big world. To know that you are loved and cherished, unique and special.

My sweet little man - always know that you are precious in the eyes of God and worth more than my words could ever express. If I ever fail to say it enough, know that I love you to the depths of my bones and that my heart is held in the palm of your little hands.

Love always,
your Mother


*in case the video doesn't automatically load, here is the link

Saturday, April 6, 2013

On Here and Now.


Most days I wake up in a fairly good mood. It really all depends on how late I go to bed and I'm trying to be better about that. In my ideal world, I'd get up well before the boys so that I can exercise, shower and tidy the house by the time they're out of bed - at 7 am. HA! Definitely idealistic. A mother can dream.

Anyways, I do generally start the day off cheerfully. (Upon editing this post I realized this isn't exactly true.... because most days I'm woken up by someone crying, or letting us know he wants his breakfast made, but in a super whiny tone that threatens tears if its not done soon. This results in lots of harsh words and bad attitudes on my part. Not exactly the best way to begin your morning). So let's just say I try to start the day in a positive, optimistic mood: I make them toast with peanut butter and jam (cut into tiny squares for Moses) and do what I can around the house (or the internet, whomp whomp) as they watch a cartoon while they eat. Yeah, that's right. I let my less than 2 year old watch t.v. and I have mom guilt about it, but hey, it is what it is. Right after breakfast I get them dressed and we play a little in their room. But everyday at exactly 10 am I'm almost always drawing a blank on what to do until lunch time. I'm a creative person, but when it comes to children's activities I am seriously challenged. I have zero ideas. At least if it means staying within the confines of our tiny home. I'm too lazy (selfish) to do a craft that requires a ton of prep and clean up. And packing them both up for a day of errands always feels like a lot mentally. Mom of the Year award right here, huh? So anyways, that's when I start to get all - I don't know - agitated. Maybe it comes from feeling frustrated that I don't have a lot of ideas. Or just a general feeling of I "can't" or "don't know how" to make this whole stay at home mom thing fun.


And here's the thing - I really truly like being at home with my boys. It's Hard - with a capital H! - and it's not always exciting, but it's worth it. They're worth it. And they are great little guys. And there is nothing I'd rather be doing with my days then spending it with them. Without a doubt. (Ok, except on those days where I want nothing more than to be alone, but you get my point). And so I find this strange tension within myself - part of me gets annoyed with every little thing they do and ends up resenting my lack of personal freedoms. But the other part of me loves their little personalities and adores their sweet (mostly) innocent hearts and just wants to make life dreamy and happy for them. Guess which side of me wins out most of the time? Yep, a woman I like to call Angry Mom.

I'm working on it, I really am. I'm reading a book and debating giving up sugar - I keep hearing it changes everything. I'm trying to get to bed earlier so that I'm less tired throughout the day. I'm trying to say "No" less and change my tone of voice heart throughout the day to let them know it's me, not them. That is to say - I work on being cheerful, not just sounding cheerful. Oh and please - if you're a mom, don't take my advice. I have no idea what I'm talking about. And the last thing I want to do is add more guilt to your life if you try to say... be cheerful when you're not. And then you fail. And then you think "Why can't I just BE cheerful?" Cuz that's what I do with a lot of well-intentioned mom advice out there - I shovel it on to my steaming pile of stinking mom-guilt. Mom-guilt for the harsh words, raised voice, disengagement, frustration, lack of desire, lashing out etc. etc. Mom-guilt for falling short of being the mom I wish I was. Or better yet, the mom I think I should be.

Is this just my experience ladies?
Something tells me no.

Oh and by the way - if you love being a mom, and cherish every minute you spend with your kids - Amen. I hope you don't feel in the minority either. I met a girl the other day who was nannying for three children. She couldn't have been more than 19 or 20 and I mean - she was out numbered 3:1 (two of them twins). I feel like my hands are full with 2. We had the pleasure of meeting at the turtle exhibit at a local nature center, where one turtle slowly (but clearly urgently, for a turtle) mounted another turtle and...assumed "the" position. It was an awkward moment, to say the least, as our children looked on with puzzled expressions and we sort of nervously giggled and tried to decide where to look so that we weren't just staring at two turtles humping. Anyways, I made small talk and asked how long she'd been nannying and she said she'd been with the family for 8 months and loved it. That she worked 11 hour days and felt like the children were her own and couldn't wait to start a family. I told her how wonderful it was to love what you do, especially when it involves being a caring, positive influence in the lives of children. At 20 years old, I was so very far from ever wanting to watch other people's children as my job, let alone start a family of my own. I was the girl who would run to the other side of the store if I was near a crying child, and if I couldn't get away from them, I'd have to cup my hands over my mouth and breath deeply to keep from freaking out (seriously). Needless to say, I think I've come a long way since then.

Anyways - here's my point: I love my kids to bits and pieces even if they do bring me to the edge of completely melting down every few days (sometimes hours). They are insanely beautiful, sweet, intelligent, thoughtful little people and may I never, ever begin to take their lives for granted. But the thing is... I spend a heck of a lot of time feeling angry rather than grateful. And I sigh with exasperation more than I smile. All I know is, for me, finding joy in motherhood is a slow (very slow) learning process for me. It's a journey and I stop quite frequently to wrestle with it all. It breaks me down, but in the best of ways because I am forever being refined & sanctified along the way. When I let my children minister to my heart, they teach me a thousand things I would never learn without them. If only I would stop to listen more to what their little hearts desired, I think it would sound something like this:


stop being busy
sit down next to me
eat.sleep.play alongside me
be with me

And isn't that we all want, at the end of the day?
To just be together?

From the mouths of babes...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring @ Home

Today I'm feeling much better after a bout with the flu and Tim finally returned from the hospital this afternoon. I'm loving that the sun has been out all day to lift our spirits. I can not wait for the warmer temperatures to arrive for good. How it goes from 50 degrees to 35 degrees in 24 hours is beyond me. Nevertheless, spring is officially here and I have had the house decorated accordingly for about two weeks (I couldn't wait!) Here's a little tour:


 It's all about the seasonal mantle.
The vase of flowers on the little table w/ the books was from Tim on a day I was definitely Angry Mom and probably was mean to him and SO didn't deserve them. That's true love, folks.
Here's a closer look at everything else:


I used the three white mug idea for my winter mantle and I think they'll be a mainstay. I knew I wanted little "sprouts" in the mug, but was a bit of a challenge trying to come up with a way to execute that. In the end I filled them with lentils ("soil") and used the leaves from some artificial flowers I wasn't using to create the sprouts. It's not perfect, but it works.


My friend Cherish and I went on a spring-mantle-display-hunt and we both picked out the artichoke tea light holder. The vase with split pea filler was a Pinterest idea and we used those faux candles instead of real ones. They last longer. The picture is of my Grandpa taking a nap on his honeymoon in England. I cherish it.


I love the smell of both these candles. Especially the yellow one - it makes the apartment smell like lemons! I've been wanting a little birdhouse for a long time and decided to paint it myself.


These windows are on either side of the fireplace. I think the three little white candles will be another mainstay. I added some lemons to cheer it up.


The End.
Lots of (faux) flowers and bright yellows to cheer this place up.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One Hundred Days

source

We leave for England in 100 days.

By "we" I mean just Tim and I. It will be our first time away from the boys since Moses was born. And while I know I'm going to miss them (probably more than I realize) I know I'm also going to treasure my one on one time with Tim, which probably won't come again until, well, a long time from now. It's not everyday one of your best friends gets married in England and your parents offer to cover the cost of the flights (God bless them).

There's a part of me that never wants the day to come, so that I always have the joy of anticipating it's arrival. In the past - during the summers I was in college - I always returned with nervous excitement. I was single and free and there was nothing I wanted more than England. I graduated from college a year early to get there faster. At one point, England was all there was. That was the plan. It was the plan I had 7 years ago - visa in hand, job interview at the other end of the line. But of course, here I am. With a totally different story to tell. I never returned because God redirected my path and thank goodness He did because it led me to Tim and to two little boys who wouldn't be here otherwise.

But there is and always will be, I think, a little piece of my heart that stays on the other side of the Atlantic. England is like a first love that I can never forget nor can I help but be drawn to. And to come face to face with it again, after all these years, knowing full well that when those ten days are up I will have to say goodbye again breaks my heart a little.  Knowing that I will have to come home with my heart fresh and vulnerable. I think I'm making this sound all very over dramatic, but in my head it makes sense. I'm sure some of you are saying "Lady, just take your trip to England, appreciate it for the amazing opportunity that it is and stop finding reasons to complain" and to that I say - Amen.

It doesn't change the fact that for me this is more than a vacation. It's a return to a place and a dream that I put away a few years ago when I knew if I kept on yearning for it the way that I did that it would kill me. I'm scared to have to say goodbye all over again. To go through a period of longing to be back. I want to go and see and love and dream and then come home and love my kids and be happy to be home. Best case scenario. I have faith that God knows all these things and will keep my heart safe with Himself.

Below are snippets from a post I wrote while I lived in England in 2006. It is a piece of a day I hold close to my heart and my 22 year old self does a much better job of encapsulating the deep connection I feel to this place. Because of course, she was there. In the present and loving every minute of it:

Rewind to Saturday - approximately 12:40 in the afternoon. It's going to be a hot day. I'm on my way to Milton Keynes Central station with 9 minutes to spare before my train leaves the platform for London... I pass the time to Euston station by reading my book and listening to music as the scenery to my left blends into lines of green and blue. I'll never tire of watching this country from the vantage point of a passenger en route.  My favorite is from the clouds. There's nothing quite so captivating as observing England from a bird's eye view. The countryside becomes a patchwork of rolling fields and meadows, divided into lopsided squares by hedges and ambling lanes, and polka-dotted by sheep and cows and little houses and ponds. Sometimes I wonder if I come here just for that....just for those few minutes of all-seeing splendor; when it's all a silent masterpiece promising to offer me something it knows I may never find. That image, that aerial view that keeps me disconnected but filled with anticipation of touching down, is what I hold on to when I feel the dream slipping away.

"...Somewhere between Warren Street and Green Park, I begin to daydream and realize two minutes too late that I've missed my stop. Circling back, I finally arrive at Waterloo and as it's one of the National Rail connection points, it's much grander than your typical London underground station. I step into the heart of a thousand paths crossing all at once, and it looks like life in fast forward. It’s almost heavenly here, with the sun streaming through the glass ceiling into this wide open white space. But time is ever the burden and there’s art to be seen so I move out onto the street, only vaguely aware of the direction I need to head in. A crowd of boisterous males temporarily clogs the flow of pedestrians, drunk on beer and England's win against Paraguay in the World Cup match of the day. I'm still warming up to the excitement surrounding the tournament. At the moment, all I'm focused on is getting back to Oxford Circus before the shops close. 

...I pause outside Westminster station to take in the greatness of Big Ben - once again thrilled by the closeness and tangibility of it all. Moments later I'm plunged back into the belly of London's underground, hundreds of feet below the city streets. Here, everything moves in fast, parallel lines all headed up or down or sideways or backways. Passenger tunnels branch out in every which way, like a maze of rabbit holes, each leading to a new destination. Platforms are the only places where bodies stand still, if only in wait for the next journey onwards. The walls are peppered with brightly colored floor-to-ceiling adverts, while the train tunnels straddled at either end are a deep, smoky black abyss. Sometimes, if your eyes are quick enough, you can spy a mouse scurrying along the track line making its way, perhaps, to Paddington Station. 

...Back at Euston station, I settle into my seat on the 7:54 train to North Hampton. The journey home is cast in fading sunlight, and once more I abandon my book for the beauty outside my window. From a still, small place in the back of my mind, I carefully take out the plans that sit on the edge of December and slowly weigh the options in both hands. As always, I'm left with vague impressions. But for now, in this quiet moment of solitude, all that matters is that I'm here, now, witnessing life unfolding itself before me - and there's nowhere else I'd rather be."

- June 9, 2006

Saturday, March 23, 2013

On Smart Phones

I held off as long as possible, but it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to getting a smart phone. They are a complete and utter time-suck, not to mention expensive. But after both of our phones stopped being able to receive texts from people with iPhones, it got to be annoying and we knew it was time to upgrade. So after much research we settled on the Droid 2. Is it just me or does the name Droid conjure up thoughts of all those robot movies where they develop a will of their own and annihilate civilization?

Anyways, I was just thankful that we got to keep our no-contract plan with PagePlus Cellular (only $60 a month total for both of us!) and that the phones themselves were reasonably priced considering phones out of contract can cost around $300-400 on average.

Naturally, the best part about a smart phone is the apps. Including.. Instagram. The same Instagram I referenced in my last post. And this even better picture app called Aviary. Ok, I promise I won't take pictures of my nicely folded laundry and make you think that my day is going way better than yours. But I do love to use it to take pictures of the boys:



And in the true spirit of keeping things in perspective, here's what else happened behind the scenes of these serene moments:

Jack and Moses both keep pooping. I mean, like all day. Just pooping. At one point, a turd fell out of Moses's diaper, down the leg of his pants and onto the dining room floor. I didn't see it happening in real time, but I knew right away what I was looking at when I spotted something on the floor from across the room. We're thinking the influx of feces was caused by swallowing some pool water yesterday when we were swimming. Whatever the reason, it's gross and messy. And while it's convenient Jack is potty trained (less diapers to change) Tim said he almost barfed when he had to..... ok, I'm sure you get the picture. Yesterday and today have been good days, but there's also been lots of poop.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On True Life


Hi. I'm back. I don't know why I'm so uninspired to write these days. I think the challenge with blogs is the want to post about all the pleasantries of life (complete with lots of professional looking photographs) but there is a need for posts about what's really going on behind the scenes. Especially as a mom. It's easy to believe that many are living this really rosy, hipster-chic drinking iced tea from a Mason jar and eating organic yogurt with homemade granola from this bowl I carved with the knife I got in Europe while I watch the sunset over the pond by my cabin in the woods kind of life. And MAN would I love for that to be my reality all the time, but it simply isn't. It's natural to want to share pictures or posts of the happy, beautiful moments in your life - like the one above! With Instagram you can even make folding laundry look like the best moment of your day. And there's nothing wrong with that. But when that's primarily what everyone else is doing as well, it can easily make me feel like my life is dull or boring or hard. There's whole studies done on this topic:

Utah Valley University conducted research last year which indicated that people are becoming depressed after viewing Facebook. A sample of 425 undergraduate students was surveyed and for those who spent the most amount of time on Facebook, depression was more likely. Why? Those student perceived that others were happier and had a better life than they do. This phenomenon is known as “Facebook depression". (source)

Similar outcomes were found in a study done by Standford University:

By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people's lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles' heel of human nature. And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.

Facebook is, after all, characterized by the very public curation of one's assets in the form of friends, photos, biographical data, accomplishments, pithy observations, even the books we say we like. Look, we have baked beautiful cookies. We are playing with a new puppy. We are smiling in pictures (or, if we are moody, we are artfully moody.) Blandness will not do, and with some exceptions, sad stuff doesn't make the cut, either.

I think this can ring true for blogs as well. Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to say people are lying, or that there's anything wrong with sharing pictures of the happy, beautiful moments in life. But it can make me feel alone in my struggles.  I've been reading this great book called Desperate: Hope For the Mom Who Needs to Breathe and I relate so much to what Sarah Mae, one of the co-authors, shares:

"The days became long and impossible. Taking care of my children was too hard. Being a good wife was too hard. Cleaning, creating life, living...was just too hard"     - Sarah Mae

"I've lain in bed too scared to get up and ruin another day - ruin my kids"    - Ann Voskamp (forward)

There's a lot I've found encouraging too, especially their perspective on what motherhood is supposed to be like rather than how we've been taught to approach it - primarily alone:

"Motherhood was meant to be experienced with other mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and a community of women sharing the load. Please do not attempt this alone!...Going at it alone is, without a doubt, one of those most common and effective strategies Satan uses to discourage moms...We are living in an isolationist culture today and have become accustomed to lonely living that God never intended us to experience. ..God made us for community and accountability and close friendship..Young moms were never meant to be without the advice and care of multiple women assisting them and advising them in their lives"      - Sally Clarkson (co-author)

To all these things I say "Yes!" and yet, it is so easy for all of us, no matter what our situation to feel ashamed to confess that we are struggling and need help. It's never easy to be vulnerable. And yet it's exactly what we need. Of course, we also need moments and memories that are joyful and photogenic because they remind us that there is always beauty to balance out the mess.

The point here is: Life's highlights are only highlights because of the shadows cast by our low points. It is right and good to celebrate eachother's highs, including our own. But it is seems to me that relationship and soul-bonding is almost always most deeply felt when we are willing to be vulnerable and relate to one another's lows.

So let's do that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dark Chocolate Crunch

(Confession: The actual name of this recipe is Date Crunch, but I think most people have an aversion to dates and wouldn't bother trying the recipe based on that alone. I suggest you try it with the dates first and if you don't like it maybe sub dried cranberries or blueberries. Trust me, it's SO good.)

This dessert is so unbelievably addictive. You will eat the whole pan. I adjusted the original recipe to make it gluten free, but using any of the Annie's Bunny cookies will work (except for maybe the ginger snap kind).  I made this last night when we had friends over to play cards and it's always better to eat it with other people so you can marvel over how good it tastes. Mmmmm.

Dark Chocolate Crunch

8 oz Annie's Bunnies (I used the gluten free Snickerdoodle kind)
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
2 TBSP honey
6 TBSP butter (I use a non-dairy kind)
3 oz bittersweet baker's chocolate
3 oz semi-sweet baker's chocolate

Crush the bunnies before opening the bag (or with a rolling pin). Finely chop the dates and mix with the crushed cookies along with the raisins. Melt the butter with the honey. Pour over cookie mixture and stir until well combined.  Press the mixture down into a 8 x 8 inch pan. Chill in fridge for 1-2 hours until firm. This step is key, so that you don't lose the "crunch" of the bunnies and the base won't fall apart.

Melt chocolate. Pour over bunny mixture and spread so that it completely coats the top of the cookie base. Chill in fridge for another hour until chocolate is hard. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2013

On Cosmetics.

Disclaimer : If you're a guy or you don't wear makeup, this post will bore you to tears. I don't spend a lot of time doing my makeup but I feel like I've learned a little bit about what's good and what's not and wanted to share it with those of you who care to know!

I've always loved doing my makeup. I think it's because I like to paint and color and shade and draw. And makeup is like a big box of crayons.  I've been wearing makeup since I was teenager, so I can only imagine the $$ I've spent trying different brands, shades etc.

My problem is - I always go for the cheap makeup that tends to look better in the packaging than it does on my face only to result in a hoard of cosmetics collecting dust in a corner of my bathroom cupboard. The problem with cheap makeup (anything in the $7 and under range) is that it looks cheap. It may look alright freshly applied, but a few hours in and everything has either faded or looks what I describe as "messy" - especially when it comes to cheap eyeshadow. The same could be said of cheap clothes - you get what you pay for. Spend the extra $$ and it tends to fit better and last longer than bargain brands.

Well I got to a point about a month ago where I felt like buying the cheapo brands was actually costing me more because I was having to replace it frequently, and there was a greater chance that after trying it out once I wouldn't want to use it again which equals total waste. One of my biggest gripes was with mascara - which tends to either clump and/or flake off throughout the day. I decided to try out some of Sephora's brand after falling in love with one of their products. I also had a gift card there from Christmas, so perfect. Turns out - going expensive isn't always the best either.

What I've learned is this:  

Covergirl and Mabeline ($5-7 range) are the best for your money brands in terms of affordable makeup. Anything that costs less than these brands is going to be pretty poor quality, even though its cheaper. L'Oreal's products ($9-11 range) are better quality for not much more money - at least in my experience. So now I generally skip CG and Mabelline and go for L'Oreal. Unless it something like a cover stick, in which case I go cheaper.

One thing to completely avoid are those all all-in-one makeup kits - you know, the ones with about 30 different shades of eyeshadow and 5 lip glosses.  Unless it's a high end brand it's definitely going to be super cheap quality and you'll never end up using it. I speak from experience here.

Speaking of experience, I don't know much about higher end brands like Chanel or Clinique. I've never been able to afford them but I assume they're better quality. A friend of mine has a tube of red Chanel lipstick and it always looks flawless. That said, one thing I learned the hard way that a higher price tag doesn't always equal significant difference in performance. But more on that in a minute.

For those of you who  are interested, here's what I'm currently using and why:


1. Foundation + Primer

I only use foundation (and spot stick) under my eyes so I'm not too picky when it comes to brands. I have a bottle of Covergirl Visalift that's a liquid foundation but it's a little too orangy for my pale skin, so I mix it with a lighter shade of a Covergirl spot stick.

I had one of my best friends do my makeup for my wedding day and I remarked on how flawless it looked the whole evening (like, no fading whatsoever). Turns out that the key to keeping eye makeup from fading is to use Eyeshadow Primer. This was my first "big" purchase when it came to makeup but it was worth it. A $20 tube of Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer (Sephora) will last one to two years depending on how frequently you use it.  I only use a tiny drop and don't use it on a daily basis so it's lasted me a long time.

2. Eyebrow Shadow + Tools

I only recently started using eyebrow shadow - in order to match my darker hair color - but I love the definition it brings to my very fair eyebrows.  I use Mirabella "Naked" shadow that I got on sale for $5 at my hair dresser's. I got the black eyebrow brush for $4 at Walgreens and I've had the blue brush (to smooth out the look) for ages. I think it's Mabelline and it's probably around $2.

3. Eyeshadow

I tend to stick to neutral colors when it comes to eyeshadow (brown + creme + peach tones) but occasionally I use Orange Facets that I got on sale for $3 at Sephora. The tri-color shadow was given to me by someone who wasn't using it and it's Wet n Wild brand - one I tend to never buy because the quality is almost always lacking. That said I only use a little bit of the middle rose tone to add some color and sheer.

I actually prefer using matte eyeshadows, as shimmer tends to fade or look messy after a couple of hours.  I love the neutral shade on the right (L'Oreal). It doesn't add color but it evens out the tone of your eyelid and highlights your eyeliner - my favorite part!

4. Mascara

Here's where I've had the hardest time finding what I like. My lashes are long but sparse and thin so I wanted something that plumped and filled out. The problem is, most mascaras that promise to plump also tend to clump. So that was my initial reason for switching to the more expensive brands. I saw a recommendation for Fiberwig Beautizer (at Sephora) which cost around $22 - triple the price of what I usually spend. But I had a gift card so I figured I'd try it. It was worse than my $5 tube. Thankfully Sephora accepts returns. This time I switched to They're Real (by Benefit at Sephora) which was around $28. So expensive. And it was good - it pretty much did what I was hoping and had a great brush, but I didn't think it was doing the job 5x better than a $5 brand. That's when I tried out Mabelline's newest mascara - The Rocket. It had a very similar brush and does the same, if not better, job of plumping and filling out as the almost $30 tube. So in this case, cheaper was more worth the money (though I've heard from a couple different sources that if you're willing to spend $30+, Dior makes really good mascara).

5. Blush + Cheek Stain

Tim doesn't think I need to wear blush, but I love the color it adds. Just a hint of rosiness. Right now I'm using a shade by Mabelline, but once that runs out I'll probably switch to L'Oreal because as I mentioned I tend to find their makeup better quality.

The only reason I even have this cheek stain is because I got a sample as a "birthday gift" from Sephora.  It's called Watt's Up! by Benefit and is more of a highlighter than a stain. But I like adding it to my cheek + brow bones for a bit of shimmer.

6. Eyeliner

I feel like eyeliner creates the most dramatic effect for me. In my experience, even after using eye primer, pencil liner almost always fades. So I decided to switch to liquid liner. I bought Lancome's Artliner in black (at Tim's request, though I prefer brown) from Sephora for around $22. Like the pricey mascara, it doesn't do the job that much better than cheaper brands of liquid liner but I used my gift card, so I didn't feel so bad. In the future I will stick with the gel pots (in the middle) that you apply with a special brush. It goes on just as nice as liquid liner and is also easier to apply under the eye. I use L'Oreals gel liner in Espresso ($9) and love it. Once the Lancome stuff runs out, I'll also probably get it in black.

7. Chapstick + Lipstick

Tim's obsessed with Burt's Bees, so naturally I use it too. I also like using Mabelline's Baby Lips if I want a quick moisturizer with a bit of color.  I didn't wear lipstick for a number of years, but then Tim and I were at the mall one day and passed an Avon counter that was offering two lipsticks for $10 and I went for it. I use a berry red color that I sometimes mix with a peachy color (by Mabelline) if I want to tone it down.

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Ok so this probably makes it seem like I take a lot of time to put on a lot of makeup. If you know me, you know I don't wear a lot of makeup - I tend to keep it subtle, which is what I prefer. I also heard years ago, that if it takes you more than 5 minutes to do your makeup, you're taking too long or wearing too much. I think I've kept to that 5 minute rule for many years and it works for me - not that there's anything wrong with taking more time.

Up until recently I never really gave makeup brands that much consideration, but when you think about it (if you are a woman who wears makeup) it's something you use everyday so it makes sense to buy wisely.
   
Do you have any brands or products you swear by?
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