Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dead computer, celebrity gossip and a lot of rambling...

Photo courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net
My computer died. And with it, my hopes and dreams. No, really. My computer is “vintage” at six years old and they couldn’t fix it or recover the files without corrupting them. Or something like that. All I know is that my writing project is gone. Poof. Vanished. Finito (is that Italian?). 

I’m assuming it was some sort of sign that maybe my project kind of sucked and needed a rewrite. In my defense, I don’t think it sucked quite that bad. Slashing off a few pages was expected. Making the cut at page two was brutal. 

Ugh, why did I put my faith in the cloud? Why didn’t I back up my project on the external hard drive? Why are we out of chocolate?

The struggle is real, friends. 

But you know what makes me feel better when I’m down? Celebrity gossip. Not in a “my life is better than yours” kind of way or a “stars - just like us!” kind of way. More like an opportunity to distance myself from my current problems. 

Or my kid is napping and I keep making up excuses not to work out (it’s usually that one). 

There are a couple of gossip blogs that I follow consistently. Do you think they’re hiring? I think it would be a nice change of pace to write about celebrities having babies/getting divorced/banging the nanny. Like what kind of qualifications do you need to write for them? I read Bop as a preteen and like to think that makes me qualified in the heartthrob department. Although, I think JTT has since been replaced with the kids from One Direction. Side note - why won’t that guy cut his hair? Can we start a petition? 

I could totally cover royal gossip because I’m American and have an unhealthy obsession with them. A friend of mine is British and when we met I excitedly told her about my love for the royals and she basically pat me on the head and said that’s nice. They don’t particularly care about them one way or the other, until it comes to money (everyone hates taxes - fact). 

But I guess it’s quid pro quo (am I using this phrase correctly? I’m 90 percent sure I am…) because when I lived in Germany they got very excited about President Obama and I was all “meh.” I think our political system is most exciting during election years and then someone gets into office and it’s like digging a trench - backbreaking work with little reward. Also, Donald Trump is running this year and that guy is a freaking circus all by himself. Like, really, is this the best we can do, America? 

And now I’m feeling a little sad about my lost project and the state of our government.

A government partially run by celebrities (did you like that segue - it was pretty good, right?). Think about Ah-nold in California. What were his qualifications you ask? I’m pretty sure it was that he was famous. Who wouldn’t want that kind of power? I mean, celebrities are paid to endorse products because companies know it ups their brand recognition and power to sell. 

And it’s sooooo easy. Sure, Jennifer Aniston probably calls the paparazzi once in awhile so they can get a “candid shot” of her drinking Smart Water, but how much of a return is she getting on that deal? I’d be willing to bet it’s more than free products. 

Seriously, if I could endorse something and get paid I totally would. I don’t even have to like it. For example, I haven’t had tequila shots in a long time (one bad night will ruin liquor for you forever - take note, young people). But if George Clooney was like hey Jen, we need you to shill our Casamigos Tequila and we’ll pay you handsomely, I’d start washing my shot glasses. 

Just kidding. 

I’d do it for a t-shirt and two bottles of their finest  regular tequila. George, call my people. And by my people, I mean Facebook me. I am my people. On second thought, I use a slightly false name. OK, I’ll Facebook you. Or call your people. You have people, right? Or maybe I’ll just swing by your house?

And this, my friends, is how easy it is to go from working for George Clooney to stalking George Clooney (“you don’t work for him,” - you “.....” - me). 

Not to mention, celebrity gossip is great for idle chatter. We live about an hour to an hour and a half away from the city so there are a handful of things we talk about in the car. 



  1. Career Talk - i.e. when can we move, where will we move, can we make sure there’s a Chick-fil-A within five miles of the house. 
  1. Lottery Winnings - i.e. let’s buy a house, some land, chickens and expensive, but well-made shoes and handbags.
  1. Weather - i.e. are those storm clouds? I think they’re storm clouds. 
  1. Celebrity gossip - i.e. hey, you know this song on the radio? It’s about this other musician. No, really. About their one-night stand. No, he has a tiger tattoo on his chest. Yes, like the animal. Yes, all over. No, I can’t prove it’s about them. Who says so? Only everyone. 



So you see, a good 25 percent of our idle chatter is about celebrity gossip which is often sparked by something we hear on the radio. I think this is the only time my husband will engage in celebrity gossip. If we’re at home and I mention something like the Beyonce, Jay-Z, Solange elevator fight he doesn’t care. Um, I’m pretty sure Good Morning America covered that in their NEWS program. Everyone cares, Nate. Everyone. 

In conclusion (I have no idea where this is going), everyone should read some celebrity gossip (and pay me to write about it). Even if you get it from GMA every morning, at least you know what everyone’s talking about. Also, save your documents somewhere other than your hard drive. And if you don’t know how to do it, find a computer genius to help you. You can trade pop culture news for tech information. Quid pro quo. 

OK, now I’m only 75 percent sure I’m using that phrase correctly. 

Cheers,
Jen 







Wednesday, November 25, 2015

DIY Beer Advent Calendar


About a month ago, we were walking around Costco and I saw a beer advent calendar for sale. It was $50 for 24 German cans of beer. Which is probably a good deal, but I couldn't bring myself to pay that much when I knew I could make my own for less.

So because I love my husband soooo much and wanted him to have his own treat this year, I decided to make him a beer calendar (and managed to do it for less than $50). I may or may not have also been highly motivated to get 'er done because I recently dropped my laptop and we'll have to pay for repairs. But mainly the love thing.

Side note - do you know how hard it is to write a blog post on a mini iPad? Let's not make this a habit.

Right so, I started off with this bin from Target for about $6. There were some more festive prints but this one looked the least girly to me. Pros - it holds exactly 24 bottles of beer, it's reusable and most importantly, it fits in our fridge. Because who wants warm beer?  ("Some beer is meant to be served warm" - you, "I know and it's gross. Don't pretend it's not" - me). Cons - the bottom is soft so it makes picking it up difficult. You may want to place it on a piece of wood or something in order to transfer it to the fridge.


As far as the beer is concerned, I got lucky. Our local grocery store sells singles and you can build your own six pack. I'd buy one every time I went to the store so the expense was spread out over time. Of course, if you opted to buy larger cases of the same type of beer you'd likely save even more money.


Ethan picked out the holiday tags in the Target dollar spot. And I had some leftover ribbon that I added to make it more festive. There are so many options when it comes to decorating it's easy to personalize this gift. Think football colors or movie quotes or specific holiday themes.

Voila! A beer advent calendar sure to impress - or at least please - your significant other, best friend, or even yourself (sometimes you have to treat yourself, right?).

Have you made one before? I want to see photos!

Cheers,
Jen

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

5 Ways to Survive Flying with a Toddler

Me: Ethan, we've made it to our final destination, but we have to sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes because there's nowhere to park the plane.
Ethan: ..... 

Trying to navigate the airport with your toddler is like trying to carry a 30-pound backpack, a toddler backpack your toddler refuses to carry and your 40-pound toddler who can't be trusted to walk in the right direction all at the same time.

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

So here are five survival tips for the next time you have to fly with your toddler.

Tip #1: Stay home
Weren't expecting that one, were you? On our way to Virginia we had a connection in North Carolina. I was traveling without my husband (who had to work, but also got to sleep through the night and didn't have to watch Disney Jr. for a whole week so who really got a vacation here?) so it was just me and my 2 year old. We had been up since 4:30 a.m. in order to make our 7 a.m. flight. After three hours on the airplane, we got off and my toddler had a meltdown. I mean an EPIC meltdown. And then he proceeded to have another one. And another one. And another one. I nearly had one myself. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position, click some magical heels together and go home. Then I realized this isn't Hollywood and I'd have to get on a plane in order to get home. So E had another meltdown for me since I couldn't afford to lose my cool in the middle of the terminal. The only downside to this tip is that if you stay home, you don't get to fully experience life. And I wouldn't have traded our time in Virginia for anything. So while this is practical advice, it's not realistic ("why am I reading this again?" - you, "because my husband has already heard me complain about the meltdowns" - me).

Tip #2: Bring snacks
Think you have enough? You don't. Pack more. A lot more. Anytime your toddler wants to open his or her mouth to whine or cry, stuff it with food. Sure, this will probably create food issues when they get older, but let's not worry about that right now. Let's worry about all of the people sitting around you wishing they hadn't pulled the short straw and ended up next to your kid. Did I mention Ethan was the only child on three of the four flights we took? Couldn't exactly pin the noise on someone else... And for some reason, flying made him hungry. Just keep pulling out the snacks. Preferably new ones or the ones you never let them have. That being said, I do regret the donut at 5 a.m. Probably not the best idea to fill his tiny tummy with sugar right before asking him to sit still for three hours.

Tip #3: Do not sit in the aisle seat
But why, Jen? Then we'll have easy access to the bathroom. I know, I know. That's what I thought, too. But I was wrong. So very wrong. We had an emergency situation (he pooped, of course) and so we had no choice but to use the bathroom. When we got back to our seats, all he wanted to do was run into the aisle. Do you know how hard it is to restrain your toddler on a plane without causing a scene? He was determined to get out. He crawled on the floor. Licked my face. Pulled on my shirt. But I kept him contained without tears or screaming. How you ask? A miracle, my friends. A miracle.  On the way home, he sat in the window seat. He wanted to get to the aisle, but wasn't willing to physically assault the aisle passenger to get out. This is the way to go. Also, did you notice I was in the middle seat both times? Pffth.

Tip #4: Load up on fun games and movies
Before we left, I added a new movie to the iPad for Ethan to watch on the plane. It didn't keep him entertained the whole flight, but it did help. I also brought sticker books, play packs and those coloring books that use white markers, but color shows up on the paper. What is that called? Magic markers? Magic paper? I have no idea. He also played with some of the games on the iPad. While we were waiting on the tarmac (we landed 30 minutes early, but there wasn't a gate for us to park at) he would throw crayons on the ground, say they were "lost" and then bend down to find them. I think that kept him busy for 10 minutes. I mean, whatever works. Also, snacks. Have I already mentioned that? I don't think I can say it enough.

Tip #5: Ignore the Haters
For the most part, we had good experiences with our fellow passengers on all of our flights and in the terminals. Sure, there were some grumpy old people and some easily annoyed business travelers, but for the most part we were golden. E knows how to turn on the charm and when he was having a meltdown I think most people felt sorry for us (or maybe just me?) which isn't great, but is better than the alternative (them videotaping it and putting it on YouTube along with remarks about how they would "raise their kids right"). But if you happen to run into a hater, just ignore them. And if you happen to be one of those people who can't stand kids on flights - try to have some empathy. You can't expect a toddler to have the same amount of patience as someone in their 30s or to sit still in their chair for three hours without complaining. And if you still want to complain about all the kids at the airport well...remember that karma is real, my friend.

For the most part, Ethan did great. We had a few meltdowns at the airport and he cried on one of the flights (for about 2 minutes and then fell asleep). Oh and he cried every time I put on his seat belt. The kid does not like to be restrained. Anyone have tips for that? I tried to be stealthy like a ninja when I put it on and I even left it loose, but it didn't seem to matter. In the end, I'd wait until the last possible minute to strap him in and then threw snacks and sticker books at him until he calmed down (which felt like eternity to me, but really wasn't but a few minutes). Most of the people around us said he did well for someone his age (and were shocked he was 2) so overall, it was OK.

Anyone want to share their tips for flying with toddlers?

Oh you don't have any tips because your kids are awesome travelers and never made a peep? That's nice.

Cheers,
Jen


Friday, September 18, 2015

Save it or Dump it - Pumpkin Crescents

Pumpkin Crescents
Earlier this week, we had a Pinterest play date where everyone brought a Pinterest dish for everyone to sample. I hate to say it, but I think mine was the weak one in the group. Womp womp.

With fall around the corner, I thought for sure I'd have a hit if I focused on something pumpkin-based (who doesn't like pumpkin?).  There were lots of recipes to choose from, but after careful consideration (i.e. it looked the easiest), I decided to make pumpkin crescents

The directions themselves are easy enough to follow. You make your filling, roll the filling inside a crescent triangle, bake said crescents, add icing and voila - a tasty snack. For the record, I believe they referred to it as a a dessert whereas I envisioned it on my breakfast plate next to a cup of hot tea. I digress.

The rolling part was a bit difficult and I definitely had some filling leak through the cracks, but overall it wasn't a tough recipe. It gets high marks for ease, that's for sure. 

My two issues with the recipe are 1) my icing was too runny and 2) it tasted like canned pumpkin.  The icing was obviously my fault. It said 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of milk and I went full throttle and maxed it out. Dialing it back to 1/2 a tablespoon would easily fix that problem.

As for the pumpkin taste...I don't know. I mean, I did want pumpkin ("it's in the name of the recipe" - you, "I know...." - me). I think the problem was that it tasted like canned pumpkin. And if I wanted to eat canned pumpkin I would simply eat it out of the can. I think it needed something else. If I were to make these again (not likely) I would add pumpkin pie spice to the filling. I think that would do the trick.

Right so, the other moms assured me that it was good, but I'm on the fence about it. I gave one to my husband at breakfast this morning and he said it was gross. Granted, I did leave it in the fridge overnight so that probably affected it somewhat. 

But since I'm already on the fence, I know what needs to be done. You don't need to waste your time with an iffy recipe. When it comes to the pumpkin crescents:



Cheers,
Jen 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pin It or Screw It: Neiman Marcus Dip

Neiman Marcus Dip

The other night I was trying to fall asleep when I had the most ridiculous thought pop into my head. I have lots of pins on Pinterest, but I rarely use any of them. Which shouldn't surprise anyone, least of all me, because I really don't have a lot of extra time and the super awesome pins are usually past my skill level.

And since this is likely a common problem for most of us ("it's not" - you, "damn" -me), I've decided to include some posts where I do the dirty work for you. I'm going to pick popular pins, try to recreate them and then tell you if it's worth your time.

I have a sneaking suspicion that most of my posts will end up as worthy candidates for the Pinterest Fail site, but at least it will be entertaining for someone. Not me, of course. No, I'll probably be weeping in the corner over my hot glue gun or burnt pie crust. Which brings me to my next point.

If I can successfully recreate a pin, then you most definitely can recreate it. I'm not a professional builder, baker, chef, DIY-er, painter, seamstress, fashionista or fitness guru ("we know" - you, "shhh, I'm on a roll here" - me).  If I can do it, you can do it.

Yesterday, I decided to try something easy for our play date. This particular recipe - Neiman Marcus dip - has been hanging out on my Pinterest board for two years and never seen the light of day. You can find the original recipe with lots of photos and directions at Just A Spoonful Of.

I failed to take any photos other than the last one, but they have more than enough to get you through it. And really, you don't even need them. The recipe is simple. You take all of the ingredients, mix them in a bowl and stick them in the fridge for a couple of hours. You take it out, throw it in a dish, add some crackers and chips and voila - the perfect dip!

It took me five minutes to put it together. Seriously. Five minutes. And it looked pretty good. Or at the very least, it looked like it took some effort. And it tasted pretty good, too. Then again, I like bacon ("who doesn't?" - you, "people I don't want to know" - me).

There are a couple of downsides. One, it's not healthy. Not by a long shot. And two, it's more expensive than buying dip at the grocery store. I did the math and it probably cost me about $10 to make it - likely the almonds and bacon bits tipping the scales a bit.

So, if I was throwing a Super Bowl party I'd probably skip this in favor of salsa, guacamole and/or (who are we kidding here - AND) queso. But if I was having a dinner party and needed some type of appetizer or needed a quick potluck app, I wouldn't hesitate to make this dip.

And since I know you can't handle the suspense any longer, here's my verdict.



Cheers,
Jen

PS - Have a pin you want me to test out? Shoot me a message or leave a link in the comments section! Here's the recipe for the dip:


Neiman Marcus Dip

5 - 6 green onions
 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 jar Hormel Real Bacon Bits 
1 pkg. slivered almonds

Chop the green onions.
Shred the cheddar cheese.

Mix the onions, cheese, mayo, bacon bits,
 and slivered almonds together.
Chill for a couple hours.
Serve with Ritz crackers or corn chips.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Return from the Busy

Photo courtesy of nenetus@freedigitalphotos.net 
This is exactly how I look when I read. Pensive, taking notes, eating some kind of carb. Well, at least the carb part is accurate. 

A couple of months ago I was so excited to start my own website. I looked at different options online. I convinced my husband it was the right thing to do. I polled friends and family about possible names. And then I came up empty. When push came to shove, I simply couldn't decide on a new name for my site and so here I remain, a partly crunchy mama. Shortly thereafter, writer's block reared its ugly head. I did the only thing I knew to do. I started reading again.

Reading, for me, is both a blessing and a curse. I love to read. LOVE it so much. And that's really the problem. I get completely engrossed in my book and everything else falls by the wayside. Sure, I could've written a blog post, but why should I when I could sit curled up in the armchair during nap time and read my book? In this particular case, it's not so much a book as a book series that's kept me away from the keyboard for so long. One word - Outlander.

I scored an awesome deal and got all seven books for $1.99 on my kindle. That was about three weeks ago and I'm now on book five (and these are rather large books). I couldn't help myself. What would happen to Jaime? And Claire? And Brianna? These are things I need to know. Every time I looked at my laptop all I could think about was how my people were faring in their world and I had to stop what I was doing and feed the beast.

It's a wonder I'm writing this right now. Truly. Because I've just hit a sweet spot in book five and I'd really like to read a bit.

So this post is to let you know that I'm alive and well (so is everyone else). Oh and for those that are interested, we tried potty training for about three days about two weeks ago. It went about how I expected. Here's a quick recap:

Ethan sits on the potty for 20 minutes. Nothing happens. Set timer for 30 minutes.

15 minutes later, Ethan says he has a leak. Put him on the toilet for several minutes. Nothing happens. Reset timer for 20 minutes.

10 minutes later, Ethan says he's all wet. Sit him on the toilet. Nothing happens. Reset timer for 5 minutes.

3 minutes later, Ethan has peed his pants. 

In case you lost track, that would be three outfit changes in about 30 minutes. At this point, I was ready to give up, but we continued until nap time for a total of about three hours worth of potty training.

He peed his pants eight times. EIGHT TIMES.

And I know what you're thinking. Why isn't he naked? Just let him run around in the backyard. OK, one, it's hotter than the damn sun here and I refuse to deal with those types of burns and two, we don't even have a tree for him to pee on.

But Jen, why isn't he naked in the house? Um, because I don't want to clean up pee off the floor and furniture? We potty trained Layla (our dog) on a tile floor and I've got news for you, pees travels quickly when it has carved routes in the floor to follow. Besides, he hates being wet so you'd think he'd start to make choices that would allow him to stay dry. Right?

Anyway, it went like that for a couple of days and we had zero success. Not one time did he go to the bathroom on the toilet. And it wasn't for lack of trying. He'd get up in the morning and sit there with the iPad for 30 minutes until his cheeks had a red ring around them from sitting so long only to get up, get dressed and pee all over himself two minutes later. Honestly, I think he may have been holding it until he got dressed.

Needless to say, we're taking a break. I don't think he's ready for potty training yet. We'll reevaluate in a few weeks and maybe try again. He's not even 2 1/2 and I've heard that most boys are successful in the toilet arena closer to age 3. I'm definitely not stressed out about it yet. Although, I have stopped muttering "this will be the last box of diapers I buy" whenever I'm at the grocery store. Once I resigned myself to more diapers, I was better off.

If you have any potty training tips, feel free to share them. I'll all ears. Just do it gently. I need sage advice and encouragement. And for the love, if your child potty-trained in three days and never has accidents and uses just the right amount of toilet paper, please keep it to yourself. I'm happy for you, but let's not pour salt in the wound, eh?

On that note, I'm off to read another chapter in my book.

Cheers!
Jen


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Stitch Fix #14 & Important LikeTwice Update

Sadly, box 14 wasn't much better than box 13. And the note my stylist sent me made me have second thoughts about our fashion relationship. I don't think she gets my sense of style (whatever that may be) and it may be time to call it quits.

Here's what she sent me:

Sometimes I look at a piece and think it'll look cuter when I put it on. It didn't. I can't pull off ruffles down the front of my chest. 


I asked for a t-shirt with a similar cut to the striped one I bought last time around and this is what my stylist sent. I like the extra detail on the sleeves, but the shirt was too big. And not in a trendy oversized way, but more of a I can't find clothes to fit me so I settled kind of way.


This black lace blouse was by far my favorite. It has a camisole underneath and the detailing looks great. I loved the way it fit and see myself wearing it with slacks or even dark jeans. Interestingly enough, this is the one piece my stylist didn't talk about in her note to me this month. And it's the only one I decided to keep. Of course, there was some drama with it. There was a rip under the arm, but customer service was great and has already sent out a replacement blouse. 

These black shorts were a bit snug (sigh), but I loved the length and the quality was excellent.

Not. A. Fan. My stylist said I would love this print, but I don't...

I'm not sure if the shiny has worn off and I need to quit SF altogether or if I need a new stylist. Truthfully, I love getting a fun box every month and I'm beyond happy with all of the pieces that I've kept so far. My wardrobe definitely thanks them. Which makes me think maybe I should try out a new stylist instead. It could be that she's tired of trying to make me happy ("it does seem impossible" - you, "It is what it is" - me) and in her defense, I think their inventory has been on the low side as far as options go. Anyone have a stylist they'd be willing to share?

In other news, Like Twice is being sold! This is the same site I've been recommending for months for selling your gently used clothes. The owners are being bought out by eBay, which let's be honest, is probably a dream come true. The golden ticket, if you will. On the downside, they're kind of slapping their loyal followers in the face with an extremely short turnaround time. They're transitioning to eBay at the end of the month and your store credit will no longer be valid. What the what. So if you've sold clothes to them and have store credit lying around, go spend it now. They're offering an extra 30% off (FINAL30 at checkout) and they've lowered a lot of their prices to clear their shelves. My understanding is that they won't be adding anything new so get in there now before it's all picked over. Also, heads up, it took me about three hours to go through the site yesterday because they're being hit with so much traffic. 

On that note, have a wonderful Tuesday!

Cheers,
Jen 

PS - If you're interested in trying out Stitch Fix, please sign up using my link here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

50 Reasons My Toddler is Screaming

Technically, this is supposed to be the Earth, but I think we can all agree that it also resembles a toddler in meltdown mode.
(Photo courtesy of kookkai-nak@freedigitalphotos.com)
I think every toddler goes through a phase where they scream everything. Happy, sad, upset, scared, excited -- everything comes out as a scream. When I started the list, we were knee deep in scream city, but we've since made a clean exit toward speaking loudly. And yet, I still remember the screams like it was only yesterday. Or was it yesterday? I think I need a nap.

If you're going through said screaming phase maybe you can relate to some of these. And for those that aren't, remember that these aren't necessarily "bad" screams. They run the full gamut from pissed to cloud nine.

50 Reasons My Toddler is Screaming
1. He doesn't want purple grapes. He wants green grapes. 
2. He's at the movie theater...in the middle of a movie. Paddington Bear! Penguins! 
3. He wants to wear his pajamas to the park. 
4. He wants our dog to chase him.
5. Our dog is chasing him.
6. He's wearing shorts. He wants to wear pants. 
7. His shirt got wet. 
8. We dressed him up in an Olaf costume (this screaming may have been justified. He sure was cute though). 
9. We're in the grocery store and he's naming aisle numbers. It gets progressively louder until I acknowledge said number. 
10. He's pretending to be a purple minion. 
11. Daddy is home from work (this one is sweet, right?).
12. He doesn't want to leave the park. 
13. He doesn't want to leave Target (oh wait, maybe that one is me). 
14. I won't let him eat the entire pan of rice krispie treats.
15. He's smashing blocks.
16. He gets cut off after one glass of juice.
17. We're at the library. 
18. He wants to swipe the credit card at checkout. He also wants to hold the receipt, which he will drop in the parking lot and insist we chase down. 
19. He wants to go outside. Probably during the hottest part of the day. 
20. He doesn't want to wear sunscreen. 
21. He doesn't want to wear underwear (And Nate wonders why I keep putting off potty training). 
22. Someone is pooping. It may or may not be him.
23. He doesn't want me to put lotion on his dry skin.
24. He doesn't want a tissue.
25. He wants all the tissues.
26. He doesn't want to be covered up with a blanket.
27. He needs a drink of water. Saying "no water" really means "yes water."
28. He wants to play on the iPad.
29. He wants to look at the movie section in Target. Movies! Movieeeeeees!
30. He wants to sing slippery fish.
31. He sees numbers somewhere. Numbers > Letters.
32. He wants to feed Layla. He does not want your help.
33. He wants to lick the spoon.
34. He sees a rabbit in the yard.
35. His hands have something on them (dirt, melted sprinkles, poop - you name it)
36. He doesn't want to wear his swim suit.
37. He sees the shooting water at the splash pad.
38. He doesn't want to get into his car seat. He wants to ride in the wagon.
39. He wants to put the fruit in the bag at the grocery store. We have a lot of bruised fruit.
40. The slide has water at the bottom of it.
41. He wants chicken and fries for lunch. Do not offer pizza. It is an unacceptable substitution.
42. Someone is in the shower. It's not him.
43. He's pushing a suitcase around the house. Screams will turn hysterical when it falls on his foot.
44. He doesn't want to take a bath.
45. He doesn't want to get out of the bathtub.
46. He dropped his snack on the floor.
47. Our dog ate said snack on the floor.
48. Our dog refuses to open her mouth and give his snack back.
49. He doesn't want a replacement snack. He wants the one in her stomach.
50. His mom is slowly ripping out her hair while throwing new snacks in his general direction.

I could probably keep going, but then you'd be screaming too and really, isn't it loud enough already?

Cheers,
Jen 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Stitch Fix #13: Shrug

This time around I didn't ask for anything specific so when I opened my Stitch Fix I had my fingers crossed for everyday casual items. Lucky for me, my stylist sent all casual pieces that I could wear this summer. Sadly, I only decided to keep one. Here's what she sent me:

This is the one I decided to keep. Yes, it's a t-shirt, but if feels like an expensive t-shirt. And really, that makes all the difference, doesn't it?

I liked the pattern on this maxi dress, but it wasn't very flattering on me. Something about that floppy area right at the waist just doesn't do me any favors. 

This was a disappointment. This is a navy t-shirt that I could find anywhere. There's no reason it should've been in the box. Also, the seam down the front looked ridiculous when I put it on.

The colors didn't work with my skin tone. I don't think I need to elaborate anymore with that one...

I loved the way this maxi skirt felt against my skin. Seriously, it almost felt like silk (and it's definitely not silk). I didn't even mind the pattern (Nate thought it looked like a peacock). But when I was walking around the living room (modeling, of course) Nate said he could see through the material. That's an automatic no-go. 

So this time I ended up with just the one piece. I had such high expectations after the last box, too! I'm going to chalk this up to unlucky 13 and hope that box 14 is much better. You never know, that could be the box that makes me want to keep all of the clothes! Have you tried Stitch Fix yet? Part of the fun is not knowing what's coming in the mail each month. Give it a go by clicking my link here: Stitch Fix.

Cheers,
Jen 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

And just like that, parenthood and alcohol are forever linked.



Last night was rough. E was awake every hour and a half, which means I was awake every hour and a half. And it's not like he would roll over and go back to sleep. Oh no, he was awake and crying/whining/whimpering. Honestly, it was pitiful.

At this point, we're chalking it up to gas pain and crossing our fingers it doesn't happen again tonight. I don't think either of us can handle it. I told Nate to sleep in the guest bedroom since he had to get up for work, but if it happens again, I may have to hide out there too.

The point of this ("there's a point?" - you, "misery loves company?" -me) is that it made me think of wine. Like oh, I've had a rough day so I need a glass of wine. Which in turn made me think of dishes because our glasses don't fit in the dishwasher. So for me, I have to decide if the benefit of wine outweighs the downside of washing the glass by hand. Although, now that I think about it, I could probably just drink from the bottle and eliminate this problem for good.

Right so, that led my thoughts to the baby bottle brush. I've been meaning to share this life hack for some time, but hadn't gotten around to it for whatever reason ("probably all the wine" - you, "I wonder if we have any prosecco?" - me). One day, I was painstakingly cleaning my champagne glasses (I could drink champagne with dinner. I'm pretty sure that makes me future BFFs with Mariah Carey) and I realized that the baby bottle brush was the perfect tool for cleaning them! We're way past the bottle stage, but I keep the brush around for our wine glasses and some of our tall beer glasses. It really is the perfect solution.

So I thought I would share it with you in the off chance you have a similar problem. That and I think it's funny. I mean c'mon. A baby bottle brush to clean your wine glasses? You can't deny the link is hilarious.

Or is it just me?

Cheers,
Jen

Monday, June 8, 2015

9 things I wish I could've told my 17 year old self

Photo courtesy of Theeradech Sanin at freedigitalphotos.net

I graduated from high school more than 10 years ago and if I could go back in time and give myself some pointers I totally would. This isn't to say I have regrets (I have none! OK, maybe a few), but I wish there were some things I would've navigated better.

Here's what I would've told myself:

1. Don't go to the tanning salon. You are part Irish. You will always be pale. Having a dark tan during the summer is a pipe dream. One year, you will achieve said pipe dream but probably at the expense of your skin's health. You will spend the following years agonizing over every blemish and bad burn  thinking it'll only be a matter of time before it turns into skin cancer. Listen to me. Wear sunscreen on your face and neck every day. Quit trying to be something that you're not. Embrace your paleness. Be like Nicole Kidman. 

2. It isn't always about you. You will struggle with this concept. You think everything is about you. It's a generation problem. You were brought up with a bunch of narcissists. Later, you'll realize the following generation was even worse and came up with something called selfies. Remember, it's not always about you. There's more to this world than one person. 

3. Don't work at Red Lobster. It's a lousy job. You will be the worst bartender in the history of bartending. Your work clothes will smell like fish. Your fellow employees have a few screws loose. You will get yelled at by Mother's Day mobs in the lobby who want to be seated immediately even though there's a two hour wait. You will gain weight from eating cheddar biscuits when no one is watching. Do not work there. I repeat, do not work there.

4. Go to class. The longer you're in school, the more you'll want to skip. You will have nightmares into your 30s about missing an exam and flunking out of college. Do not sign up for Russian or philosophy. You will drop both and be forced into four years of French. Do not believe your communication professors. They think your writing sucks, but you will win journalism awards in the future. Tell those old, sexist white males they can pound sand (but not to their faces because you still need good grades). 

5. Don't get caught up in the drama. Because you will. There will be a lot of drama and you will always be included in the mix. Take the high road. Be mature. Handle things like an adult. Be tough, but fair. Make friends for life. 

6. Don't go to Mexico for spring break. It will not be the trip you expected. You will want to cross back into the US almost immediately. There will be tears. There will be police. It will be mayhem. You will stop in Port Aransas on the way there - do this instead. Still go with your friend. You will still be friends 10 years later. She is awesome. PS - Do not eat the fruit from the street vendors.

7. Call your parents. They will become some of your closest friends as you get older. When you're in your 30s, you will call your mother every day because you want to, not because you have to. Tell them you love them all the time.

8. Invent Facebook. It's a way for people to connect with each other using the Internet. You will be rich. Also, buy Apple and Amazon stock. Put money into a retirement fund immediately and keep putting money in. You don't need that shirt from Charlotte Russe. Seriously, it's not that cute. 

9. Learn to let loose. You struggle with this concept. You like to be in control. But you need to loosen up a bit. Learn to dance. You are a horrible dancer (this isn't harsh, this is reality) and your husband will like to dance. Take lessons. Put your long limbs to good use. In the future, there will be a show called Dancing with the Stars. Take the appropriate steps to make sure you can get on the show if your career Plan A falls through (spoiler alert: Plan A goes just fine). 

If only future Jen could've communicated with 17 year old Jen, right? Then again, the things I experienced made me the person I am today, who by all accounts is happy and what I assume to be well-adjusted (but with a lot less rhythm than most). Still, just think of how much money I'd have now if I had invested it properly? I need a time machine.  

Cheers,
Jen 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Another breastfeeding scandal.

Photo Courtesy of ImageryMajestic@FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writing is cathartic for me. So when hot button issues are floating around I usually take a few minutes and bang out a blog post. It helps me get my thoughts together and decide which side of the fence I'm on. Most of the time, these posts don't go live. Mainly because they're controversial and that's not really the point of the blog ("wait, there's a point to all of this?" - you, "only that I'm awesome," - me).

But to address the elephant in the room, yes, I did write a post about Caitlyn Jenner. And no, it won't go public. Not because I feel strongly about it either way. In fact, it's exactly the opposite. I really don't care. I've adopted a live and let live approach and it's working well for me. But I had to get the words out of my system so I could move on and write about other things. This post focuses on something I'm much more passionate about.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Enter to win a $50 gift certificate to Secret Chef!



As some of you know, I recently won a recipe contest for my baked ziti ("how often is she going to mention this?" - you, "Probably as often as possible." -  me). Sadly, the prize was a gift certificate to a restaurant in Waco and by the time it came in the mail, we were already living in another state. So I double checked with the company who ran the contest and they said I could give the prize to someone else.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone who actually lives in Waco. But I know a lot of people who visit (the zoo!) or pass through on their way to Dallas/Fort Worth or the opposite way headed to Austin. This would be the perfect place to stop for lunch.

I checked out their website, as I've never been there, and it looks like a lot of family recipes - yum. It also sounds like they tend to sell out of certain items each day. If we were still in Texas, you can bet I'd be looking for a reason to head to Waco so we could try it out. But since we don't, I thought I'd offer the gift certificate up as a prize!

Enter using the Rafflecopter box below to win a $50 gift certificate to Secret Chef in Waco. The winner will be announced on Friday, May 29. If no one enters, it'll show up in someone's mailbox as a surprise. Which sounds sort of ominous, but really, who doesn't like free food?


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cheers!
Jen 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Stitch Fix #12 - It keeps getting better

Believe it or not, we moved into our new place fast enough that I was able to keep receiving my Stitch Fix without any interruptions. My box showed up a couple of days ago and I was not disappointed. This is box number 12, which means I've been doing this for about a year and I think I've finally hit a stride with my stylist.

I almost kept the entire box. Almost.

When I made my request, I asked for another maxi dress, another pair of Bermuda shorts and bright, colorful items for summer. Here's what she sent me:

I liked the colors, but it didn't do me any favors once I got it on. The top half was just a little too big. I considered alterations, but in the end decided I didn't like it enough to go the distance. This was my one hold out. If the dress had fit, I would've gotten the entire box.

I love this t-shirt. It's exactly my style. But I didn't buy it. I know, right? I couldn't justify almost $50 on a t-shirt, especially when I already have similar pieces hanging in my closet. 


Monday, May 18, 2015

Moving Recap

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles @freedigitalphotos.net
We move every two to three years for my husband's job. There are lots of benefits to moving - you get rid of things you no longer use, you find things you thought you'd lost and it's an opportunity to get organized. But more than anything, it's a hassle. A legitimate pain in the ass. A giant pile of  - you get the picture.

I was doing the math and this is my 8th move in 9 years. Now, part of those moves were while I was an intern so some of my items were in storage. And to be fair, moving by yourself is much easier than moving as a family of four (including Layla). Now that we've moved with E, I have a lot more respect for my parents (also military) who moved frequently with not one, but three children and one to two pets depending on the year.

We were truly blessed this time around because E did great in the car. He slept, he snacked, he played with the iPad and he was - for the most part - a real peach. I was so proud of him because two days in the car isn't fun for anyone. We actually left around 4-5 in the morning so that he'd sleep longer in the car. If you're taking a long road trip with a toddler, this would be my recommendation. Of course, once we got to the hotel the kid was crazy. He was all over the room, placing phone calls (yeah, that got unplugged real quick), wanting to ride on the elevator, wanting to get ice, jumping on the bed, jumping on us - that's where the real trial of my patience came in. Thankfully there were two of us and only one of him. What do you do when your kids outnumber you? I think I would curl up in the corner and weep. Hats off to those with more than one kiddo during a trip. Hats. Off. 

It only took us a day to find a rental house - mainly because most of the ones that fit into our budget/criteria weren't places we wanted to live. We're not overly picky, but we also tend to stay away from giant red walls and outdated appliances. Oh and if it's filthy, I can't get on board. And you'd be amazed at the number of rental properties we saw that were dirty. Not dusty, but straight up dirty.

Which isn't to say that our house is spotless. Just ask the movers. Every time a piece of furniture was lifted, there was a mound of crap underneath it. Dust, toys, goldfish crackers, puzzle pieces. I think there were six books under the couch. And a living spider (much to his dismay, he didn't live much longer). So if I'm saying the house is really dirty, it IS really dirty. And I hate cleaning on both sides of the move. I want to move into a fresh, clean place and not have to worry about cleaning the baseboards or the mini blinds. I already did that once. Twice in a one week? No, thank you.

So of course, the place we chose required some additional cleaning. Always, right? To the property company's credit, they did send a cleaning crew over to do a touch up job before we moved in. And then they sent them out again when I complained that one of them literally left a pile of crap in our toilet. Let me say that one more time. One of them left a giant pile of POOP in our toilet. Sigh. And since that's the stance they took on cleaning our house, I had to re-clean everything. Because, obviously. I'm not even finished yet.

On the bright side, our household goods got here the day after we moved into our place so we only had one night on the air mattress. On the down side, it meant more cleaning for me. I'm starting to think I may have a problem. Like, I know some people unpack their dishes and put them away as is, but I can't do it. What if the person who packed those dishes used the bathroom and didn't wash their hands? What if they sneezed on my plates? And the ultimate no-go, what if they touched their cell phone? ACK - have you seen how dirty cell phones are? You may as well lick the urinal in a public restroom.

Right so, our dishwasher basically runs all day, every day for about 48 hours. See: modern appliance requirement above.

But for the most part, everything is done. We're still putting things up on the walls and the office needs some work, but we're entering what I'd consider a livable condition. I no longer classify us as "moving." I do need to work on the baseboards and the blinds (I don't think even a magic eraser is going to be able to save them) or maybe just buying some curtains to hide the blinds...

And since Nate still has some time off, we're going to spend some time exploring the mountains, fishing and traveling to nearby tourist attractions. That last one is all me - who doesn't want to see where more than 300 movies and television shows were filmed? ("Um, not me" - you, "Are we breaking up?" - me).

Cheers,
Jen 


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Your child is throwing a tantrum? Good job, parents! No, seriously. Good. Job.

Photo courtesy of Clare Bloomfield @freedigitalphotos.net
I have a strong-willed child. He is stubborn, determined and hard to manipulate. When he decides he's going to do something, he's going to do it regardless of safety risks or admonishing. And although it's frustrating now, I know that in the future I'll be glad because everything I've read says that these are the kids who become leaders. I mean, these are not bad qualities as long as they're directed in a positive way. But right now, as a 2 year old, it's a real strain on my patience. This is especially true in public.

I wrote a post several months ago about an epic tantrum he threw in the mall. In fact, he threw one yesterday. We were going into an antique store (bad idea, I know) and I told him he couldn't run around. He immediately started wiggling and trying to get on the floor. So I took him outside and he started screaming hysterically because he wanted back in the store. But let's not stop there, let's add the flinging of his body and my noble attempts to keep him from cracking his skull open on the sidewalk. Nate had to throw him over his shoulder and carry him to the car. All with an attentive audience. I vaguely remember someone saying oh he's not a happy guy and I'm sure people were thinking much worse like, why can't you control your child?

And you know what? I let it get to me. I shouldn't have, but I did. I felt the mom guilt. My child threw down a massive tantrum in public and I felt bad about it.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Stitch Fix #11 - One more before the move

As it turns out, my Stitch Fix was scheduled to arrive the same day as our moving truck. You may be thinking that's poor timing, but really, it was perfect. Kind of like a reward for a job well done ("you didn't actually load the truck yourself" - you, "you've never actually moved have you?" - me). 

My stylist did an awesome job of taking my requests into consideration when she picked out my five items this month. Here's what she sent me:

First up, this super cute dress. A little background on this one. So each month Stitch Fix sends you styling cards that match your box items so you can see two different ways to incorporate the piece into your wardrobe. Last month, she sent me a green jacket and on the styling card it was draped over an awesome striped dress, which of course I asked for in my next box. Sadly, that dress wasn't available this time around. However, she sent this dress in its place and I LOVE it. It fits perfectly, it's got a classic appeal to it and it has pockets. Pockets! It's also a nice weight and should last a long time. The only downside is that it's on the expensive side, which makes me hesitate. For what it's worth, Nate told me to get it. 

I also requested another maxi dress in different color. I really like the pattern on this one and I liked the black strap across the back. Even better, you could wear a regular bra with it (I hate messing with different straps). The only downside is that that pattern didn't match up at the seams. So when you look at it from the side, the pattern is off.  Womp womp. Any Project Runway watcher will tell you that's a no-go.

This tank is much cuter on me than it is on the hanger. And if you're nursing, it's the perfect addition to your closet. I'm on the fence with this one as well. It's reasonably priced, but if I get the expensive dress I'm not sure I could justify getting this one as well. And again, Nate told me to get it. My husband spoils me.


This blouse was cute, but not really my style. It kind of had a billowy effect to it. It's also on the shorter side which could be problematic with my long torso. 


I also asked her to send a pair of Bermuda shorts. Don't hate. I love Bermuda shorts for two reasons. Number one - I'm too old to wear short shorts, but too young to wear grandma shorts. And number two, my pale legs never tan (but my arms do because of course my body wants to resemble a yin-yang sign as opposed to the ladies in the tanning commercials) and this helps protect them from the sun. Skin cancer is real, folks. Lather up or cover up. Or do both. Yeah, let's go with do both. Sadly, these shorts weren't very flattering. They fit well, but the color didn't work for me. 

At this point, I'm really leaning toward the striped dress and maybe the blue tank. Maybe. Nate gave me the go-ahead, but spending that much money on clothes is tough for me. I need to give this some more thought. I mean, I did handle most of the move this week. Surely that's enough bonus points for the dress, right? 

Thoughts on this box????

Cheers,
Jen 

Have you tried Stitch Fix yet? Sign up using my code here. They offer maternity and petite sizes now so there really is something for everyone!


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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bloom Where You Are Planted


As most of you know, my family is getting ready to make another move. It's nothing unusual since we typically move every two to three years. And to be honest, I'm looking forward to a new adventure. I grew up moving all the time so this is my normal and I'm OK with it. What I didn't expect, however, was to make a group of friends here that I would be sad to leave.

Usually when we move somewhere new I make a couple of friends and that's who my social circle consists of until it's time to move again. Again, I'm totally OK with this. I've never been the type that needed a huge group of friends to be happy. Quality over quantity, right? But I have to say, I've been so blessed to be surrounded with so many amazing friends this time around.

When E was between 4-6 months old, I decided it was time to get out of the house and make "mom friends." And at first, it was a struggle. I'm a more reserved individual, which often means that making friends is a bit harder. But the more events I went to, the more I felt like I belonged. We started as strangers, bonded as mothers and are now friends. I mean, I have their phone numbers. In this era of social media, having someone's number is a legit form of friendship, right?

Anyway, we've been with the group for nearly a year and a half and the idea of leaving these great women and kiddos that I usually see a few times a week makes me really sad. Today was our hail and farewell event. I had a little something I wanted to say, but never got the opportunity. Mainly because my toddler was at Chuck E Cheese and would rather ride the jeep than sit there while the "official" part of the event was happening. It's probably for the best. As I was passing out gifts, someone asked why I had made them and I couldn't answer the question. I think I mumbled something and got confused and tried again and then got really emotional and started to cry and then she was getting teary and that was the end of that -- Let's be real here, it's much easier for me to express myself with words that are written on paper (at least in circumstances like this).

It's just so hard to explain. These women were there for me when I needed it the most. When I was struggling as a new mom and struggling with my toddler and struggling with tantrums/health issues/lack of sleep (basically, lots of struggling). The support and friendship within the group is amazing. The lack of judgement is refreshing. The fact that we all get along so well is astonishing because we've all heard about "mom group drama." Basically to sum it up, I'm really going to miss them.

I gave everyone a flower with the saying "bloom where you are planted" on it because it's the best piece of advice that I can give. Whenever we move somewhere new, we always make the best of the situation. I could be in the middle of nowhere Texas, but damn it, I'm going to find a way to have a good time. And that's what I want them to remember. That no matter where you end up, you can always find good people and good times. You'd be surprised how much having a positive outlook changes your experience. And if you're lucky enough to be part of a group like mine, it won't take much to make a difference.

I wish my fellow moms and tots the best of luck as they continue on with the group and with life in general. Remember, you are all beautiful, competent, loving, kind, generous, selfless, happy individuals and you just happen to be kick ass moms, too.

Cheers,
Jen

Monday, April 13, 2015

Send me your best recipes


So here's the deal. One of the reasons I enjoy baking so much is because I'm not very creative in the kitchen. Baking is precise and deviating from the recipe usually ends up in disaster. This, I can live with. But cooking requires more finesse. I absolutely loathe when I see things in recipes that say, "add more seasoning if you want" or "taste it to see what else it needs." Fool, if I knew what needed to go in there I wouldn't be using your recipe in the first place.

Needless to say, I rely heavily on cookbooks and recipes to get food on the table. And even then, I'm somewhat limited because of the gadgets I don't have or the skills I don't possess (why are some of these recipes SO hard to follow?!). But back in February, Nate got me a new cookbook and everything changed.

And I know you're probably thinking really? Suddenly you can cook because of a cookbook? I've got tons of cookbooks and I still turn out mac n cheese from a box. But I can tell it's made a difference in my cooking. I think Nate can, too.

To be honest, I think I really like it because it's not uptight and stuffy. Don't get me wrong, there are some ingredients I've had to look up online (and still can't find in the grocery store), but for the most part it's easy. The instructions are easy to follow and that makes a world of difference to someone who isn't uber familiar with kitchen gadgets. It gives me a level of confidence that other cookbooks can't - or haven't - given me in the past.

Which isn't to say I've loved every recipe that I've made. I had high hopes for their pancakes, but they fell flat for me. Technically, they were really thick and pasty and hard to cook. And I know my way around some pancakes so don't start hollering human error ("It was totally your fault," - you, "Please, I plate my breakfast like I cook for IHOP."). But I've had great luck with some of their other recipes.

I've now made flautas from scratch twice. From scratch. Like, I literally mashed my own beans. Are you impressed? Because you definitely should be. And the second time around, I took some free reign and added a chipotle sauce. Adding things gives me anxiety as mentioned above so the fact that I felt comfortable enough to tinker with the recipe is amazing. I really think the way it's worded - and how it doesn't take itself so seriously - allows me feel better about cooking. Not so worried I'm going to screw it up, you know?

I made the sweet potato, black bean and squash enchiladas one night and got a standing ovation (not really). But I put sweet potato into our enchiladas, man. Mind blown. Just this week I made roasted chickpea and broccoli burritos - whaaaaat? YES. And they were so good I ate the leftover chickpeas for lunch the next day. Oh and the spiced chickpea wraps with homemade tahini dressing? Also a keeper. I made black bean tortas with homemade chipotle mayo one weekend and Nate said it could've been a $15 sandwich from Panera. That's high praise when my go-to sandwich is a grilled cheese. Or a PB and J. Although, technically I've switched to almond butter so that bumps up the class level, right?

Right so, I'd like to capitalize on this confidence in the kitchen and start expanding to some other recipes. What cookbooks do you rely on? Or do you make everything up in your head and then magically get it on the table in time for dinner? I wouldn't go so far as to say cooking is a hobby, but I do want to keep improving.

Hit me with your best recipes. Pleeeeaaase?

Cheers,
Jen

PS - Some folks have asked for my baked ziti recipe. You can find it here. I promise it's worth your time.