Thursday, August 29, 2013

Frozen Stuff In A Wok {a trader joe's recipe}

If you aren't fortunate enough to live near a Trader Joe's grocery store, I'm sorry in advance for rubbing it in. I know how you feel. This is the first time I've ever lived near one myself, and I love it. So much in fact, that a few times a month, I make a 25 minute drive into the city from the 'burbs to do my shopping. Lately, though, life has been crazy and I've kinda dropped the ball on grocery duty.

Graham crackers in the check-out line, and a car nap on the long drive home. Shopping is hard work when you're two.

A few nights ago, at dinnertime, I realized that I had nothing to cook for my boys because I was incredibly overdue for a big grocery shop. The cabinets were bare, and the fridge contained little more than a few yogurt cups and some string cheese. (And Sriracha. Because we always have Sriracha.) We were on the verge of going out to eat at a restaurant when I opened the freezer and decided to do one final sweep. Surely we must have something. And there it was: Trader Joe's Fully Cooked Shrimp. A full bag of it.

Experimenting in the kitchen is not typical for me. Generally, I need an exact recipe to follow, and all ingredients accounted for. Substitutions scare me. Needless to say, I'm no chef, and nobody really wants me getting too adventurous when their stomach is growly.

But here I was with this bag of shrimp and a sudden desire to whip up something for my boys rather than schlepping out to a restaurant. (When I bought that shrimp, I thought I'd use it on a salad one day for lunch. Ha! Glad that never happened.) Luckily, I always keep the freezer stuffed to the gills with veggies, so I pulled out all of my half-used frozen vegetable bags, threw all the contents in a wok with some olive oil, and voila! Dinner.

The result was surprisingly delicious! So good, in fact, I thought I'd share. Since this may be the only time EVER I actually create a recipe myself! It took less than 10 minutes, so stock your freezer next time you go to TJ's, and be ready for your next dinner time emergency...

Frozen Stuff In A Wok:

1 bag Trader Joe's Large Cooked Shrimp
1 bag Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Butter Sauce
Trader Joe's Soycutash (partial bag)
Trader Joe's French Cut Green Beans (partial bag)

So I basically just stir-fried the shrimp in olive oil for a couple of minutes, then added the veg until everything was nice and hot. I seasoned it a bit with salt & pepper, but most of the flavor comes from the balsamic butter sauce in the Fire Roasted Veggie mix.

And then of course we topped it with Sriracha. Because everything tastes better with Sriracha.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mushy Thoughts On Fear and Motherhood

Sometimes I think my heart may just explode. Like seriously thump right out of my chest from the intense waves of emotion that pulse through my soul when I look at this boy. I mean-- look at him.

Before I became a mother, I just couldn't see it. Couldn't picture it in my mind, or imagine what it would feel like. Sure, friends with kids always told me that there was "no feeling like it," and it would feel "different when it is your own." But I still didn't expect this. I didn't expect to be sitting at my laptop, in tears, not knowing what to do with all of these feelings.

We had a perfectly lovely morning. The truly best kind-- just him and me, marching around in our swimming pool with not a care in the world. He was in the best mood, and when we came back to our apartment, he ate all his lunch, and then went down for a nap without so much as a whimper of protest.

So why am I crying? Because it is all just so good. And that terrifies me. I'm a rookie mom, for sure, and at this point, we haven't dealt with much more pain and heartbreak than a busted lip and the ending of the pacifier era (which my dreamboat of a son hardly noticed). But I know it is coming.

The other day, Bo and Marty were playing on our bed, like they do almost every night. Bo lifts him up high over head and drops him down on a huge mound of pillows, strategically arranged to satisfy the highest of safety standards (mine). That kiddo is a real thrill seeker, I tell ya.

In response to being dropped from heights that must seem extreme to an almost-2-year-old, my son gets up and "pushes" his daddy off the bed. Bo may insert a bit of dramatic flair to this part of the routine. Round and round they go, dropping and pushing, dropping and pushing. It never seems to get old for either of them.

But that particular day, the timing was off by just a hair. Marty lunged to "push" his daddy off the edge of the bed before his daddy was in position to be pushed. The result was my baby boy pretty much catapulting himself over the side of the bed, and disappearing with a thud. I saw it happen. Before it happened, even. I knew, but couldn't stop it. As I watched him fly headfirst over the bed, not able to see the landing, I thought to myself, "he's paralyzed...his neck is broken..."

I ran over to him and looked down at his sweet, blue/red/green face, eyes and mouth open wide, but unable to make a sound. I scooped him up and blew in his face (because someone had once told me that this act makes them breathe. Wives tale? Whatever.), at which point he finally inhaled deeply and started screaming. He was fine. Scared, but fine.

I was able to hold it together long enough to make sure he was okay, but then I lost it. Tears flooded my eyes, and I felt sick. My mind refused to be still... it raced forward in time, without my permission, and imagined a day with a similar scenario, but a different outcome. Someday, it will be worse. Someday, he is going to feel real pain, and there will be nothing I can do to stop it.

These thoughts are not healthy, I know. Being afraid doesn't prevent the things you fear from happening. All it really does is prevent you from truly opening yourself up, as wide as you can go, and soaking up every last drop of these care-free moments life blesses us with. Oh how I pray that God will calm my mind, and allow me to trust in Him fully, not borrowing trouble, or letting fear steal one single second of joy from me and my boy...

But today, I find myself on the brink once again. Loving this little man-cub so hard that my mind spins to the things I can't control, but frighten me, nonetheless. Will my son get sick? Hurt? Heartbroken? Will he hate me one day? Will he have a proper length childhood, sustained by this gorgeous innocence I see in him today, even in a world where Miley Cyrus and her tongue are front page news? Will he ever really know his value, and how much he is loved?

I don't know the answers, but I do know Someone who does. And I know that God will be consistent and strong and gentle and wise, even when I am a blubbering mess worried about things "above my pay grade." Lord, take him, he's yours. You know what you are doing, and that is the only thing that gives me peace.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand." Isaiah 41:10

Monday, August 26, 2013

One Rainy Day {according to my iPhone}

It was a Puddle-jumping, Car-climbing, Rainy-driving, Loud-singing, School-going, ASTYM-ing, Teeth-cleaning, Package-mailing, Modge-podging, Graham-crackering, Long-napping, Feet-resting, Bath-playing, Pj-wearing, Train-pulling, Tongue-sticking, Mess-cleaning, Blog-reading kind of a day.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stitch Fix Review -- Is Third Time the Charm??

So, my third Stitch Fix arrived this week, and here is my very first review! When I was contemplating scheduling my first "fix," I read tons of blog reviews, and I thought how fun it would be to do one. But I didn't have a blog back then, and now I do, so here we go! (If you are wondering what in the heck I'm talking about, click here >>> to catch up!)

A bit about my first two fixes: The first one was pretty much a bust because I wasn't specific enough on my style profile, and I ended up with some beautiful pieces that either didn't suit my style, or didn't suit my lifestyle (I'm a mama, yo.). All of the pieces were a great fit, beautiful, and high quality. They just weren't me, so I sent everything back.

The second fix had some great basic pieces that were definitely more my style, but nothing really knocked my socks off. I could definitely tell that the changes I made to my style profile had improved the situation, though. I ended up keeping a gorgeous gold necklace that reminded me of the little coins that dangle from a belly dancing skirt. I loved it, and the price was great. Score for not losing my styling fee!

I ended up with a bit of credit since someone signed up using my referral link, so here I am with my third fix. This time, the stylist really nailed it. I could tell as soon as I opened the box that we had at least a couple of winners. I had asked for a lightweight denim jacket and some red or cobalt blue jeans in this fix. A personal note in the box explained that they didn't have any of those pieces in stock at the moment, but that she had selected another colorful pair of jeans that she thought might work.

The first item out of the box was a Subtle Luxury "Batik Dot Scarf" (I am wearing it in the photo above). It was long and lovely, with tassels on the ends. And it made the best little knot in the front. I was on the fence about the color, though. Right now, my mind is on fall, and I was afraid the scarf might be a little too Springy looking.

Next were the pink Kensie "Winnie Ankle Length Skinny Jeans." I didn't think I'd consider these, because cobalt and red denim are both on my fall wish list, and I can't imagine buying another pair of jeans until those wishes are fulfilled. But then I slipped them on. OMG, they were so soft and stretchy, and fit me like a glove, honestly. I luuuuuurved them.

The third item was the Olive & Oak "Allania Striped Jersey Tank." I had mentioned in my style profile that I love black and white, that I love racer backs, and that I love to flaunt my shoulders (hey, they asked!!). And man, I don't think I've ever met a racer back I didn't like, so yeah, I loved this piece, too.

The final piece that I tried on was the Gentle Fawn "Reece Mixed Striped Key-Hole Tie Top." When I saw this top in the box, I knew I would like it. The fabric was oh-so-soft, the color and pattern attracted me immediately, and it looked like it would have a gorgeous drape to it once I tried it on. And it did. But it also had huge arm holes, and that key hole, which would require me to layer a cami or tee underneath for modesty. Since it is a million percent humidity here, that just wasn't going to happen any time soon. But doesn't it look amazing with cut-offs (even with my black-and-blue legs from the torture called ASTYM)? So adorable, so my style. The ideal summer momiform. Dang those armholes.

So those were the four items that I liked. The contenders. The fifth one didn't stand a chance. It was a Tulle brand "Benny Short Sleeve Knit Cardigan." It was also orange. I actually tried it on so that I could give my stylist notes about the fit and such, but I knew it would look hideous on me, and it did. Orange turns me yellow. Weird but true. The sweater was actually a very cute style, though, and it fit great. And the truth is, if that sweater has been a flattering color (on me), I would have kept all 5 items in my fix and taken advantage of the 25% discount that you get for keeping the whole lot. So, now that I think about it, I don't know if I should be disappointed or grateful about that orange sweater.

When faced with paying full price, I had to get picky. I ended up keeping the item that I felt fit me the best, and would transition easiest from summer to fall. I kept the racer back (duh!!). And I can confidently say that I am a fan of this service, and I'll be trying it again when they start getting their fall stuff in.

If you want to try Stitch Fix, please click through my referral link! I will get credit toward free stuff if you do, and what girl doesn't appreciate some free stuff? And if you reviewed a fix this summer, post a link in the comments so I can see what you got!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Easy-Peasy Quiche Recipe

What's cookin,' mamas? Aren't toddlers the funniest little characters when it comes to their food preferences? From minute to minute, you just never know what they will agree to eat, or even just "try." One night, Marty will practically inhale his bowl of spaghetti, and then ask for more (in sign language, because he is still making us wait to hear that sweet little voice of his). Three nights later, I'll make spaghetti again because I am getting desperate for him to eat anything other than cottage cheese, and he won't even taste it. The same exact noodles, the same exact sauce. Nope.

I've given up on trying to figure out the rhyme or reason (or lack of) behind my toddler's mealtime behavior. And while maybe some parenting experts would say that I should require him to eat whatever is served, I just don't. I mean, there are many, many nights when I'm really not in the mood for spaghetti, so I figure he just gets that from me. Fortunately, cottage cheese can always be counted on in a pinch. Three meals a day, regardless of what other foods he has rejected, he will eat cottage cheese. Every. Single. Day. And I'm okay with that. At least it's not french fries.

There are a handful of recipes that I keep in constant rotation because they are Marty's favorites, a.k.a. foods he will mostly always try/eat without too much begging on my part. (Side note about "trying" food: if I can get him to try a bite of something, he will almost always realize that it tastes good, and finish his serving. I may or may not be guilty of shoving a bite in his mouth when he isn't looking and holding his trap shut until the taste registers.)

My sister-in-law's quiche recipe tops the list. In addition to the fact that my child always scarfs down a huge helping every time I make it (so far),  this particular recipe is one of my favorites for the following reasons:

1) Easy-peasy. The prep for this recipe is super simple and quick. Basically, you just mix everything together and dump it in a pie crust. Pretty soon, I think I will even let Marty "help" me make this one. I'm sure he'd love to pour in the flour, sprinkle the cheese, and stir it all up.

2) Healthy!! This dish is packed with protein and vegetables. Marty may not enjoy eating his veggies normally, but when they are hidden inside a big ole egg pie, he doesn't seem to notice.

3) Variety. Since you can use any combo of meat/veg/cheese that you choose, you can make this recipe often and still enjoy plenty of different flavors. I used leftover ham after Easter, I've used Jimmy Dean Turkey sausage crumbles (yum!), and sometimes I like to clean out my fridge and throw in all of my veggie bits and pieces. Meatless Monday, anyone?

4) Spoonless. Okay, maybe that isn't a word, but I love the fact that Marty can feed the quiche to himself without my help. He is still workin' on those spoon skills, but has become quite good with a fork. This food is a little spongy, and just perfect for fork-stabbing, or eating with fingers.

Easy Peasy Quiche Recipe (introduced to me by my sweet sister-in-law)

3 eggs
1Tablespoon Flour
2/3 cup Milk
1 cup shredded cheese (any kind)
2 cups total of any combination of fully cooked meat and/or raw vegetables, chopped (turkey sausage, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms is our favorite)
1 unbaked pie crust (I use the frozen ones from Trader Joe's, so I have to remember to let it thaw out in advance. Refrigerated ones are better if you are in a hurry.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Press pie crust into a 9 inch round pie pan

Mix all ingredients in a bowl

Add salt and pepper or your choice of seasoning to taste (I use Trader Joe's 21 seasoning salute for just about everything).

Pour mixture into pie crust and bake for 50-60 minutes, until set and no longer jiggly in the middle. I like to let the top get slightly golden and crispy. My oven takes almost a full hour, but depending on what meat and veg you are using, time may vary slightly.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marty's Fall Haul: Styled By Mom (Part One)

I have been doing lots of shopping this past week to get Marty ready for fall. Most of the loot has been purchased online or at Target (our second home), with plenty of thrifting mixed in because who doesn't like $2 skinny jeans?

At the moment, temperatures here in Houston are up in the 90's, and we still have a few more months of summer before it really cools down. Fall is nowhere in sight, but sweaters and jeans just keep popping up everywhere, calling out to me with their adorableness. I can't seem to resist, even if it means hoarding them all away for a month or two.

Short sleeved t-shirts are practically year-round attire here, and living in a HOT part of the country has its perks during summer clearance time. It thrills me to my bones to get 80% off on a t-shirt that can still be worn for another 4 months! Layering those babies with cardigans, flannels, and hoodies will get us through our handful of cold snaps and our annual trip back home to Memphis (fingers crossed for a week of proper fall weather).

This last look is dedicated to my in-laws. If Marty ends up with the geek gene, it will have certainly hopped over from their branch of the family tree, and I won't mind at all. I will just have my sister-in-law on speed dial for emergency superhero/sci-fi education when I can't understand a word my son is saying.

Part two of this post to follow tomorrow or the next day. In case toddler boy fashion doesn't float your boat, you've been warned. I had to split this one into two because I lost the light before I could photograph the last few outfits. One of them includes a graphic tee featuring a picture of Albert Einstein, a fellow late-talker. *wink*

Outfit details:

#1- Shirt | Scarf | Shoes- thrifted | Jeans- thrifted | Sweater- thrifted

#2- Tee | Vest | Skinnies- thrifted | Shoes- thrifted

#3-  Shirt | Tee | Skinnies | Shoes | Toddler Wrist Watch

#4- Cardigan | Tee | Shoes

#5- Cardigan | Tee | Skinnies | Shoes

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Skipped Church Today + Blessings From the Blogosphere

Life has been busy lately. I much prefer my days slow and simple, with no particular place to be before 10am. But somehow in the last few weeks, my calendar has taken on a life of its own and every square seems to be full.

I enrolled Marty in the cutest little preschool about a month ago. He only goes two mornings a week, from 8:30-1:00, and when he started I thought how much free time I was going to have, and how much more productive I would become during all of that free time. Wrong-o.

Just as Marty was starting "school," my orthopedic doc discovered a problem with my feet and prescribed physical therapy twice a week. I had been in pain for several months, and I'm not a fan of pain, so I have been a good little patient and obeying doc's orders. Now, on school days, I drive Marty to school, drive to PT, drive to the grocery or post office or whatever errand is most urgent to do kidless, and then drive back to collect Marty. By the time we return home, we are both needing a nap.

On the in-between days, I am usually teaching fitness classes, or having play dates or doing whatever end of summer activities are written down in all those little squares I mentioned.

Truth be told, I am wearing myself out. My house is a wreck because of so much time away from it lately. And when I am home, my feet and legs are screaming (I still have a long way to go with my recovery), and all I want to do is sit down and not move. It feels like I am going and going, yet accomplishing practically nothing. Seriously, this basket of clean clothes hasn't moved from this spot in about 2 weeks:

Last night, after yet another long, filled-to-the-brim week, I told Bo that I needed some rest. I decided to skip church this morning and just stay home with Marty, both of us in our pajamas until whenever, nowhere to be and no one rushing anyone else out the door in a frenzy. A slow morning was what I needed. And that is what we had.

We stacked up some blocks and threw a beach ball at each other's heads for a bit. We played the late-talker's version of a vocabulary game: I say "where's a............ [whatever]??" and then he points to a [whatever] in his first words board book. Then we blew some bubbles in the kitchen until the floor was a sticky, slippery mess. And finally, we got dressed and drove to Target to buy diapers, because you can only put that one off for so long, right?

A morning well spent, I think. I even got to catch up on some blog reading, and was quite touched by several things I read. I may not have made it to church, but I felt almost like church made it to me, right here through my laptop. Blessed by the blogosphere... Take a peek and maybe these words will bless you, too...

Small FryDay  ||  Marty is still not talking. I'm not in a tizz about it or anything, but as we approach his birthday next month and his progress just seems to creep at a snails pace, I do start to get down on myself, wondering if I should be doing more. Perfect timing for me to read this post.

Facing Fear  ||  Casey's blog is beautiful and her life appears magical through her photos. But no matter how things appear on the surface, you just never know when someone might be struggling with something. I relate to this big time.

Love Taza  ||  I guess all moms just need to slow down every now and then.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Chips For Dinner

Have I mentioned that we live in a mall? It is one of those trendy "Shop, Dine, Live" concepts. And since I personally love to do all three of those things, it only took about 2 seconds for me to fall in love, sign a lease, and move right in.

On weekends, you can usually find the three of us strolling through the mall, visiting our little splash pad (Yes, I said "our." Marty seriously thinks this whole retail & entertainment wonderland belongs to him), and most definitely making our way down to Barnes and Noble to visit [what he thinks are] his trains.

Last weekend, after some wandering and a quick hello to the trains, my husband declared that he had a craving for sushi and nothing else would do. As luck would have it, there is a sushi place mere seconds from B&N, so off we went.

Marty had not eaten sushi before that night, but due to his adoration of all foods white, I was optimistic. With eyebrows raised, and my best "this is going to taste soooooo good" smile, I placed two California rolls on his little plate. Next, I began the standard first time food performance, telling him how num-num-nummy the "rice" was, taking an over-exaggerated bite of my roll, chewing and mmm-ing dramatically (eyebrows still up, by the way). The success rate of this routine hovers somewhere around 4%, but we mamas all keep trying, don't we?

After I swallowed my huge bite, Marty reached out toward the community sushi plate, and attempted to load his plate with a few more rolls before he had even taken one bite. Had my dramatics finally paid off? I'll admit it, I got my hopes up. Hopes that we would actually pull it off: introducing him to this foreign food, one that his mama and daddy happen to love, and having him gobble it up with a smile. For a split second, I dreamed of us leaving the restaurant with a full-bellied baby, all happy and ready for a long night's sleep. I imagined all of the other patrons looking on during the meal, impressed by our well-behaved toddler, eating his sushi like a big boy and letting his parents have an interesting conversation.

Silly Mommy.

This kiddo here had no intention of actually eating the rolls. He just thought they might be something fun to destroy. So after both of his pieces were ripped to shreds, and he realized that his little belly was still empty, the tantrum began. Bo and I started shoveling our dinners, shoulders slumped, heads hung in shame. Peeking out the corners of our eyes to see if people were staring and thinking, "...that poor starving toddler... and those parents who thought it was a good idea to bring a baby to a sushi joint..."


But wait! The waiter! He had the brilliant idea to bring Marty some chips to snack on. I didn't even know sushi places had chips. But they do! And so our night is saved by that saint of a waiter. And the emergency iPad mini stashed in my purse. God bless good waiters and iPad minis.

I probably should have limited the number of chips he ate that night, because they totally spoiled his dinner. He wouldn't eat a thing when we got home. But, whatever. My man and I got to finish our sushi in peace, aaaaaaaaand we even got to have some of that conversation I had hoped for. I can't remember if it was interesting, though. *Mom problems*

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Late Summer Buzz

Some folks will call me crazy for paying twenty bucks to get my toddler's hair cut. But lots of others are standing right there in line with me, during this back to school frenzy. (Next year, I'll try not to let Mart-meister get so shaggy as to require a cut in August.) Snip-its is packed this week. Today I saw a girl of probably 6 or 7 getting quite the works: hair washed and cut and curled and glittered, plus a manicure and pedicure, etc., etc. I guess maybe I actually get off cheap, having a boy.

I love going to the kiddo salon because I honestly don't possess the skills, tools, or patience involved in cutting Marty's hair myself. Our local place has friendly stylists who have perfected the art of distraction. Belt the child in, snip-snip, buzz-buzz, here's another cookie, and we're done. Not a teardrop in sight, which is totally tip-worthy in my book.

In typical almost-two-year-old fashion, Marty wouldn't stand still long enough to get a good "after" photo of the front. We basically just buzzed the sides and back, leaving the top long so that we could sweep it over. The style was inspired by this little cutie.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Submissive Chalk

Marty finally found some chalk that knows how to fall in line. 
And if you ever find yourself short one caboose? Colored bubbles will do in a pinch.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Boys and Blood

Poor little busted lip boy. He fell at pre-school today. His teacher is new at the school this year, and I think Marty was the first to bleed on her watch. Poor Ms. April, she just kept apologizing and telling me how it happened and explaining how carefully she tended the wound. My heart went out to her. The sweet lady felt so bad. She must not realize that around here, a day isn't complete until a body part is scraped, bruised, or perhaps a little bloody. My short tenure as a "boy mom" has convinced me that boys are just meant to get banged up. Rough and tumble and fearless and wild... how quickly they find ways to get hurt. But once the kisses are dispensed and the tears dry up, they are just as quickly on to their next adventure (natural consequences forgotten), in pursuit of more ways to test limits. And keep mama on the verge of a heart attack.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Church with these two handsome men, and then a super healthy and nutritious lunch. Marty got to try his first McDonald's Happy Meal because he has the best daddy in the world who insisted. And also because we are American, and what respectable American almost-2-year-old has never had a McDonald's Happy Meal?

Marty loves a splash pad, so it is especially convenient that we have one in our backyard. Perks to living in a mall, I suppose. I took him out to run off all that post-nap energy, and he was just so full of life and personality that I couldn't stop taking photos. And the sunglasses. Oh my, he rocked those things throughout the whole splash pad affair. The ladies were impressed, I assure you...

H&M FINALLY opened their online shop, and the Internet was buzzing all about it. So of course I had to hop on the bandwagon and order a few things for my little stud-muffin. My friend is convinced Marty is going to strangle himself with that scarf. In the name of fashion...!!!

We are dreaming of Santa Barbara this week after chatting on the phone with my sweet friend who lives there. I met Ava while living in China, and I miss her like crazy. We are planning another trip out to Cali in the next couple of months. Santa Barbara is to die for, and I seriously cannot wait to see my friend. And the beach...

After more than 6 months of wearing my hair in some variation of a bun or ponytail, this mama got a new look. You know your hair is bad when a) your closest friend asks you how long your hair is these days, and b) your other friend calls and books you a salon appointment followed by text messages with the date, time, and driving directions. Bad hair. Good friends. (p.s.- I have never in my life worn my hair wavy or had it colored this light. My husband is still in shock. Ha!)

Bo was in California all week on business, so Friday night we all three went out for dinner and then had ice cream in the Pearland Town Center pavilion. There was a band playing, so Marty danced around (well, more like spun around and around and around) and we just enjoyed a simple, summer evening with nothing else to do but be together. Being together is the best.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Take Me to Your Reader...

If you are like me and needing a new blog reader now that Google Reader is no more, check out BlogLovin. They have a Google Reader importer that can transfer your feeds!

I just joined yesterday so that I could keep up better with all of the feeds I follow. The reader isn't super fancy, but there is a cute social element that allows you to "like" posts (or even the entire blog), and also see what feeds your friends are following. This is perfect for me. Sometimes I don't really have anything super meaningful to leave as a "comment," but I'd still like to let my bloggy friends know that I enjoyed reading their post. BL also just launched their mobile app, which is always nice to have...

People can follow and "like" your posts even if you haven't registered your blog through BL. You may actually have likes and followers already that you don't even know about yet (like me!). Therefore, if you don't need a reader, you may want to register your blog anyway just to track your following. 

If you do decide to BL as your new reader, make sure you find me! :)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Blue Painted Piano

When I think back on the first time Bo took me home to meet his parents, I really only have one vivid memory. The memory has nothing at all to do with his parents, but rather it is all about their 1940's Baldwin piano, at which my boyfriend sat and played the first song he ever wrote for me. It is really quite romantic dating a musician. And being married to one...? Better.

...I remember snuggling up next to him on the floral brocade seat of that piano bench, leaning my head against his shoulder and thinking how lucky I was to be having that moment right then. So lucky. The atmosphere was perfect. His parents had long gone to bed, the lights were low, and it was just him and me and his beautiful song (and the ginormous portrait of his mother hanging above the piano, but I try to block that part out).

A few years after that night, Bo's parents down-sized their home and asked us if we would like to have the piano. Without hesitation, my man snatched that thing out of his parents' home and moved it across town to live with us. And that is the story of the first time we moved our piano. In the years following, we moved that big, heavy beauty so many times it is a miracle it still plays a note. But it does. And now there are usually 4 hands tickling the ivories on any given night. Two big, two small.

When we moved to TX last year, I looked at our once lovely instrument, with her curvy legs and swirly feet, and realized that we had accidentally beat her to a pulp. The once shiny finish was dull and lifeless, the wood scratched and chipped. Too many bumps and bruises from too much movin' around. Not to mention the shabby (and not in the "chic" way) floral brocade on the bench. Ick. Our girl was in baaaaaaaaad shape.

So we painted her blue.

DIY Painted Piano Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
This was taken right after we finished the project. It has since been moved to its permanent spot and re-accessorized.

I knew we could never afford to have the piano professionally restored or refinished. That costs thousands of dollars. And since I knew I wasn't willing to use up such a huge percentage of the square feet in our teeeeeeeny apartment on something that was not (in my opinion) beautiful, I started searching for a DIY solution.

Annie Sloan chalk paint was our answer. After reading that it was pretty much fool-proof (a requirement), and that you didn't have to do any sanding or priming (very attractive), AND that you could paint indoors with limited ventilation because there are no fumes and no smell (jackpot!), I was in. Somebody toss me a paintbrush.

We chose Napoleonic Blue. Gutsy for sure. But I figured that since we couldn't afford to bring the piece back to any version of its original self, we may as well go polar opposite. We don't like to take ourselves too seriously around here.

So we painted and painted and painted. Lots of nooks and crannies in our girl. We did NOT take the piano apart. I've seen other bloggers who were way more particular and thorough than we were. But we live in a 3rd floor apartment with no garage, and Marty was starting to walk at that point. I had to keep our little project contained, so we just did the best we could. And it turned out awesome. Fool-proof, indeed.

In the end, I probably used about 3-4 coats of blue (which was only about 2/3 of the can of paint), followed by several coats of clear wax. I loved the clash between the antique lines of the piano and the modern finish of the opaque blue paint, so I didn't use any dark wax or antiquing techniques on this project, other than sanding just a few spots to bring out the curves. I also went kind of crazy with the buffing once the wax dried, because I wanted that super shiny look. I love it so much. After we were finished, after the wax had cured, I placed all of my knick-knack and photos back where they belonged and stood back for a look. It was as if we had gotten a brand new piece of furniture. A work of art that quickly became the centerpiece of my home decor. And for the price of a can of paint, some wax, and a few brushes. Happy, happy me.

DIY Painted Piano Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
We ended up moving her to the corner near a window.  The natural light in these pics shows more of the true color.

Almost a year has gone by since our painted piano project and the paint is holding up incredibly well. I haven't touched it up or re-waxed it yet, although I think I will wax the most loved areas again sometime this year. And trust me, this thing is loved...

DIY Painted Piano Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"The accidental therablog" -or- "Perhaps the deepest thoughts you're ever gonna get out of me"

Just couldn't choose a title for this one... 

It took Bo and I eight years of marriage to talk ourselves into getting pregnant. We had relocated 11 times in those eight years, and we were not entirely sure that a child would respond well to our transient lifestyle. Many conversations were had, many scenarios were discussed, many pros-and-cons lists were made. Did I mention that we were smack in the middle of our three-and-a-half year stint in CHINA during all this?? Oh, the timing...

We ultimately decided to give it a go, figuring that no time would ever be the "perfect" time, and heck, I wasn't getting any younger. I got preggers so quick we couldn't have changed our minds if we had wanted to. And man-oh-man am I glad. Marty was born in Beijing, China on 9.10.11 and I wouldn't change a single detail about how things went down. (I want to write a post about his birth sometime soon).

My Chinese pregnancy test. Couldn't read a word of the instructions. Thank goodness pee sticks are fairly universal.

When I look back on my thought process before I had Marty, I realize how completely wrong I was about so many things. The main one being that having a baby would add more chaos and stress to a lifestyle that has both of those things in spades. But God gave us exactly the kid we needed, as He is known to do. Marty has, in fact, brought so much calm into our crazy life that I can't imagine how we survived without him to mellow us out.

Having him around caused me to slow down and simplify my routine, which resulted in me having less on my plate and fewer things to worry about. Becoming a mom has also made me less self-centered, translating into less time worrying about whether this or that is impressive to those around me,  be it the clothes I'm wearing, my relationship with my husband (how it appears to others anyway), or how many events I get invited to. Since Marty's birth, all I want every day is to impress this tiny little man, which makes me think about what qualities a child actually finds impressive. Does a 2-year-old care if I'm 6 months past the point of needing a haircut or pedicure? No. He looks to me for kindness, consistency, patience, and love.

>>Side note: I'm embarrassed to say that those qualities weren't necessarily tops on my priority list pre-Marty. My mind was once filled with so much anxiety, fed by a desire to be accepted and admired by my peers. Maybe it is just part of being young. I don't know. Does everyone wrestle with this at some point? I want to think that it is a typical part of personal growth (to make myself feel better?), but then again, I want to hope that not many others waste valuable years looking inward when there is so much to see out there.  When I think about how much time I spent worrying about what others thought of me, or if enough people liked me... well, it's just shameful, really. I'm not sure how nearly all of that evaporated with the arrival of my child, but it did somehow. And for whatever reason God saw fit to change my perspective, I'll accept that gift with gratitude.<<

Anyway, back on track... Isn't that brilliant?! Becoming a mother was like a chance to start over as a totally different person. A better, more authentic one this time. Someone who strives to display the characteristics I want to see develop in my child. Qualities that I'd want him to seek in a wife someday. In about 40 years.

It comes fairly easy in these early days, when your hero status is correlated to the number of blocks you can stack (and I can stack high!).  Nice that I get to eeeeeeaaaaasssssseee into this whole transformation thing. Whew! But everyday, I am aware of (and thankful for) those two little eyes that stay locked on me. Those little eyes that are making me want to do better, be better, every single day. I must admit, however, that if I let my mind settle for too long on the fact that I am raising a man... well I start to hyperventilate a little bit. Lord help me.

Mart-man has totally perfected the fist-bump and peek-a-boo. We are still working on closed mouth kisses, though...

Does anyone else feel that blogging is like really cheap therapy? Yeah me, too.

Moving on... Overnight, my baby has morphed into this toddler and is on his way to turning into a full fledged boy. I can hardly even type that without my heart tightening just a smidge. He is just so BIG. Independent like nobody's business. And his buddha belly is shrinking by the minute (which is downright sad).

So naturally, as more and more of the baby disappears, more and more people start asking about the next baby... sheesh. I guess we don't have another 9 years to mull this over (as a matter of fact, I always said I didn't want to get pregnant after I turned 35. That happens in like...5 months. Yikes.), so the conversations are starting once again. Pros and cons of just keeping it like it is. It seems pretty perfect at the moment, but that is what I thought when we had no kids. Decisions, decisions. Tick-tock, tick-tock.