Aug 06 Saturday

American Vacation

I want nothing more than a Clark W. Griswold vacation. Minus Cousin Eddie, of course. So, we piled the kids in the family truckster and hit the road.

It was hot, humid, smelly and almost exactly what I had imagined. It was perfect. There I was, feeling all American. Proud that we were taking a nice family road trip. Exploring our culture with our kids.

As we crossed over a long, beautiful bridge spanning a wide river basin, a kiddo pondered aloud from the third row: “What if there was NO water on Earth?”

As I took a deep breath in preparation to discuss the importance of healthy eco systems, a three footer from the second row chimed in.

“Oh no! That would mean NO FISH STICKS!”

And so it was. There was no arguing with this statement.

Our trip continued on to Saint Louis, MO where we spent a better part of 14 minutes perusing the museum located directly below the Gateway Arch. The air was cool, the kids were behaving and our brains were (totally) fried from the road.

As we strolled around the decades, we came to the 1960’s and a full wall photo of Neil Armstrong’s moon walk. I gasped, finally knowledgeable(ish) about a display, I grabbed the kids and explained to them who it was.

Excitedly, Cooper (7 years old) cut me off mid-sentence and exclaimed, “OH YEAH! I know Neil Armstrong! He was on Dancing With the Stars!”

Defeated, I replied. “You’re right Buddy. Now let’s go get a hot dog.”

Just can’t fight that American pride.

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Aug 03 Wednesday

We are (finally) home

We moved.

There is a long story about how we looked at this house a year ago, decided to build with my dad instead and then well…Life happens.

This house was still available in December, on a technicality,  so we scooped it up. It’s a beautifully built home that was in need of some major updating. It turns out, that was just the sort of distraction I needed this spring.

We are still in project mode, and will be for years, but feel like this is finally our home.

I love this house. I love it because it’s ours. It’s perfect for large family gatherings, hosting friends, creating laughter. We lucked out, once again, with amazing neighbors, beautiful views of sunsets and a place to put our feet up at the end of the day and feel proud of our hard work.

We are home.

Here are a few of my favorite things, that have helped pull our style into this traditional space. And, as you probably guessed, they are all Frugal Friendly. Just how I like it.

Top left: I am obsessed with jars. And so was my dad. The jar that adorns our fireplace mantle is an old pickle jar of my dad’s that I found in his garage. I filled it with pussy willows given to us as a housewarming gift by a neighbor. Not only did the pussy willow warm up our home, it served as my final color palette for every wall color on the main level. Cost: $0

Bottom Left: Kid art display boards. In my previous life, when I was a business owner, I made and sold these boards. They are routed, primed, panted and fitted with metal clasps to hold every precious piece of artwork tiny hands create. The bright colors add a splash of life to our back hallway and the art work makes everyone who passes by it smile. Thanks to 3M Command velcro wall hangers, there are no holes in our walls.  Cost: Materials (varies)  & 3M mounts ($5)

Middle: Quite possibly my favorite upgrade to our home, my kitchen light fixtures. I found these AH-MAZING reclaimed jar lights on etsy. Everything in Jann’s store, Lamp Goods,  is like eye candy. We have two of these same lights in our space, one over our kitchen table and one over the island. They are warm, unique and a conversation piece. We put them on dimmer switches to soften the light when needed. Add quality made goods with excellent customer service (I broke a jar!) and you have the perfect way to add fun to your home.

Right: Three things in this photo make me happy. First, the Sunshine Dairy jar from Sheboygan, Wisconsin circa 1948. It’s been in our family since and just looking at it makes me smile. Second, the aloe plant given to us by a good family friend. With a pool in our backyard, it’s essential to have aloe on hand to soothe sun kissed skin. Third, my green chair. Made by Mitchell Mayfield for Target.com, this super comfy chair makes an excellent desk chair. And extra dinner seat when dinner guests fill our table. Cost: The chair is on sale! Black, red and brown are available starting at $69.99 (regularly $139.99)

Moving is chaotic, emotional and totally insane. But in the end, it’s about organizing a space to create memories. It doesn’t take fancy furnishing to make a home, it takes a family.

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Jul 24 Sunday

Where I am…

There are five stages of grief.

To spare you the fancy terminology set forth by the explanation of the Kübler-Ross model, basically these stages of grief come in any order and can last a short time or a long time, and return at any given moment. They are like herpes, friends for life.

They read like Snow White’s dwarfy little friends on crack:

Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance

Since losing my Dad so suddenly, just over 7 months ago, I have experienced anger, depression and denial. And countless other stages that should be on the ballot next time the Stages of Grief are up for election.

Truth be told, the grief still hurts. Physically, mentally, emotionally. There isn’t an hour, of any day, that goes by that I am not somehow reminded of my Dad. He weighs heavy on my mind in every single thing I do. Sometimes it’s comforting, sometimes it sends me into an anxious tail spin of emotion that takes days to climb back out of.

I spend a lot of time, a lot, at his grave site. I have full conversations with him in my head. I hear his voice. I swear I see him driving red SUV’s at the same intersection early in the morning.

Full Disclosure: I’ve mentioned a time or two on here before that I seek professional counseling. In my very humble opinion, it’s imperative. I see a counselor and a psychiatrist. Yes, two. I’s is CRAZY. One gives me constant nuggets of wisdom that assist me in processing the foreign feelings ravaging my everyday existence. One gives me drugs and good conversation. It’s that simple.

Lexapro, or some other anti-anxiety/depression medication, should be added to our water supply. The world would be a better place.

No shit.

There is no shame in saying “I can’t do this alone.” Absolutely none. I have uttered those words more times than I can count. Each time, they have empowered me to accept help. That alone is what saved me. I was losing myself.

I knew I needed to be medicated when…

– I was screaming like a lunatic, while honking and waving my fist at a guy who opened up his driver’s side window and dropped a fast food bag, AND CUP, in the middle of a parking lot. Yes, my kids were in the car. Not my finest parenting moment, although my kids are the farthest things from Litter Bugs. Silver lining people!

– I sobbed through my entire shopping trip at the grocery store where I had coffee with my dad, every weekday morning, at 6 am. I hid in the frozen food aisle to gain my composure. That was a high point, let me tell you.

– I was (again) screaming like a lunatic at the car in front of me who CLEARLY thought that the STOP sign read “Sit for 2 minutes”. Didn’t he know that Dairy Queen closed in 4 minutes and mama needed a chocolate shake? DIDN’T HE?

– I was no longer sleeping. Or writing. Or eating. It’s been awkward for friends and acquaintances the past 7 months. “You look like you’ve lost weight, what are you doing?” And I honestly respond. “Depression looks good on me.” True story. And again, awkward. Especially when it’s in the grocery store and they then glance at my cart to see 4 bottles of coffee creamer, OJ, frozen waffles and string cheese. Staples when you’re depressed. Or in med school.

This post isn’t intended to be a pity party. I want nothing more than to be honest to my readers. Although it might seem the contrary,  I am stronger than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I might linger in between the sheets for longer than usual, or go off the map for a day, or ten, or submerge myself in some random task like de-wallpapering a bathroom.

But it’s how I am surviving. My family is my safe zone and they get me through. My close circle of friends keep me on my feet. The rest, if I am up for it that day, is icing on the cake.

Grief is part of the human experience. It shapes us, whether we like it or not, into the people we need to be. I choose to take it for what it is, a beautiful reminder of life’s small pleasures.

And every morning I read the plaque hanging in my kitchen that reads:

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

It’s so ridiculously true.

 

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Jul 14 Thursday

Spandex, Wax and Ham Sandwiches

I am not a fan of swimsuits. Yes, they are necessary. I mean, have you ever tried to swim in a t-shirt?

What women go through to wear bathing suits, with an eensy weensy bit of self confidence, is appalling. First of all, you have hair removal.

Shaving is fan-freaking-tastic. Until you get goosebumps immediately after stepping out of the shower or go near your bikini line. (Hello itchy red bumps.)

The alternative, waxing is completely archaic. Of course, it’s also the best option.

At the start of the summer, I put on my brave face, and my best tiny under britches, and headed to a local salon to try to get a control on “areas neglected” as we sped full force into lycra/spandex season.

The esthetician was super sweet and instantly put me at ease. Which was difficult considering she had me in positions my husband hasn’t seen me in for years.

Then she got to work. Hot wax, attaches to tiny hairs, in incredibly sensitive areas, then is further pressed on by cloth strips and RIPPED off.

RIPPED.

Holy Mary Mother of Pain.

There were not “Just two pulls!” There were more like sixteen. I am fairly certain I passed out on the 4th pull after sitting up and screaming a profanity.

The irony was, my legs were still hairy. You’re welcome for that nice visual.

No joke, I think they charged me double. For obvious reasons. I am a busy mom of three who has body parts that haven’t seen the light of day since last summer. Or ever.

I will tell you that with less to worry about in that arena, I enjoyed the first few weeks of summer poolside. My kiddos love the water and I came to the conclusion that sunning like a lizard, while keeping constant vigilance over the pool, is FAR better than folding laundry, cleaning the house or scrubbing toilets.

Plus, I had no bikini spiders to worry about.

Within a few weeks, I had the semblance of a tan. For some people, being a non-pasty white shade is normal in the summer. Not for me.

So, up goes my confidence in a swim suit. A smidgen. Because we ALL know that when you’re tan(ish) your cellulite is reabsorbed into your body and completely disappears until fall.

Fast forward to date night. I made SuperHub shop at stores I never get to enjoy with kids in tow. He was miserable as I decided to take a gander at the latest styles in ladies swimwear at TJMaxx. Thinking I would maybe jazz things up a bit from my normal black sheeth. I picked up a kicky red suit, with ruching in the mid drift.

Note to You (You being men): Ruching is a gathering of fabric that gives an illusion of thinner mid section, while comfortably allow a post baby tummy to be free.

SuperHub, who simply pulls on a pair of swimtrunks and jumps in a pool, doesn’t understand the complexity of a proper fitting swimsuit. Especially a bright red, one piece. He thinks I look pretty in a pillowcase. He doesn’t understand why women worry like we do.

SuperHub: “Red is nice. What’s the fabric in the middle?”

Me: “It’s called ruching. It’s essential for hiding things.”

SuperHub: “Hiding things? Like a ham sandwitch?”

He is a funny one.

So. I didn’t get the swim suit. Although the idea of having a space to store extra ham sandwiches was tempting, I decided that additional landscaping might be required to wear it with confidence for the remainder of the season.

And another wax isn’t happening.

Until next spring.

In the meantime, I think I will go make myself a ham sandwich.

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Jul 05 Tuesday

Shrimp + Watermelon Salad

There are few things I love more than a cool, crispy, flavor-filled summer salad. Consumed in the warm sunshine, along side the aroma of sunscreen, freshly mowed lawns and served with an icy cold (adults only) beverage, summer salads are like eating happiness, one bite at a time.

Thankfully, one reader of mine thinks the same way. Kirsten is the mother of three (adorable) boys and knows how to mix up a mean bowl of summer love. I am forever grateful that she thought to pass this recipe along and look forward to rewarding her with a batch of cookies.

Or a margarita.

Or both.

Before you read the recipe ingredients, open your mind. OPEN YO’ MIND!

Like anything worth celebrating, it’s the finished product that is important, the way everything comes together in the end. Separately, each ingredient is good. Mixed together, just so, the ingredients become one giant party. In a bowl.

And who doesn’t love a good party? (In your mouth. HEY OH.)

Shrimp & Watermelon Salad

1 lb. Shrimp (Peeled, de-veined, cooked and cooled. I bought a bag of frozen cooked shrimp, defrosted and snipped off the tails)
4 Cups watermelon
1 Medium red onion
1/2 Cup Fresh cilantro
2 Jalapenos
2 Avocados
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tablespoon Honey
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Chop and de-seed the jalapenos. Add to a large bowl. Do not touch your eyeball. Even after you’ve washed your hands. OUCH. Now, cut up the watermelon, onion, cilantro, and avocados and add to the bowl, stirring well to mix.  I used a melon baller and made my melon into little balls. It was fun and pretty, but chopping it, any style, would be great.

In separate bowl, whisk honey, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing mixture over the chopped mixtures and toss gently.  Set aside for 10 minutes for flavors to meld.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note to You: I added the juice of an additional lime to keep the avocados green longer. If you only have one lime, that would do just fine. Also, I served it with sliced homemade bread. Instead of licking the empty bowl, I sopped up all the juices. Purrrr.

And the Survey says…

The kids wouldn’t touch it, but I was happy. MORE FOR ME.

SuperHub: “Oh wow! It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I don’t like meat and fruit mixed. It’s got a good flavor though.”

Me: Noshing noises, followed by a giddy, delighted moan as I head back for more. And then back for more.

My mom: “Very, very, very good.”

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Jun 29 Wednesday

Pucker up!

I have said it before, my girls take after me. It’s not just the constant stream of drama oozing from every pore in their perfectly pale white skin vibrant personalities they possess, it’s the mannerisms too.

Because my sister and her family are here visiting this week (YAY!), we found ourselves with just one kid last night. How this happens, I don’t know, but I like it. A lot.

Sammy is 2, going on 17, and obsessed with princess everything. Music, movies, plastic dolls, books, fruit snacks…Basically every Disney media machine product except under britches. Because that would mean she has to actually be potty trained. And that is another story for another time.

So there we were. Myself, Sam and SuperHub. All snuggled in bed reading princess books and talking about our favorite parts of the day. It was time for kisses and Sam leaned in to give SuperHub a nice juicy one, smack dab on the lips. Not your usual “good night daddy” kiss, but the romantic kind that our kids are constantly subjected to by Cinderella and The Little Mermaid.

As he turned his face side to side, trying to deflect her pucker, I let him in on a little secret. “She won’t stop until you just give her a quick peck.”

He relented and as soon as her lips hit his, she farted.

Loud.

As he came up for breath, drowing in a sea of laughter, he mustered one last comment.

“Yep, she takes after her mother!”

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Jun 20 Monday

(Lack of) Volume Control

In our house, there are two volumes; loud and louder.

Being loud, at times, comes in handy.

Like when you separate from your spouse in Target and don’t have your cell phone on hand. All he has to do is listen for the shrieks, giggles and commentary to find you, with a cart full of kids, exasperated in aisle 17.

There are also times when it is not ideal.

Like when you decide to take your family on an impromptu picnic at the park. If only other families didn’t have the same idea.

The family next to us had reusable water bottles, a cooler and cloth napkins. We did too, just at home. I could feel the judgement being passed on us as we plopped our plastic grocery bags, filled just minutes ago with picnic essentials, on the bird poop covered picnic table.

Then it began.

I HAVE TO PEE.

ME TOO.

LIKE NOW MOM, I HAVE TO GO REALLY REALLLLLY BAD.

Note to you: I have this ridiculous idea that sexual predators, drug addicts and video cameras inhabit every public restroom with outdoor access. Therefore, I will not enter one, especially with my children.

Being that we were in the forest, I suggested they each find a tree, very very discreetly.

The kids slipped off the beaten path, pulled down their britches and then began to yell…Of course they did. At the very top of their lungs. What is worse? They require an answer so they keep yelling until you yell back.

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM, I HAVE TO TAKE ALL MY CLOTHES OFF BECAUSE I ALMOST PEE’D ALL OVER THEM! OKAY? OKAY MOM? OKAAAAAAAAAAAAY?

On second thought, maybe the drug dealers hiding in the public restrooms aren’t that bad, right?

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Jun 13 Monday

Adults Only Cupcakes

Cops throw the best parties. And rather enjoy my bakery.

It’s true.

And if you’re lucky to have cop friends, you not only get to make your neighbors suspicious on various occasions when a squad car pulls into your driveway, you get to enjoy things like great stories about handcuffs while noshing on molten nacho cheese straight out of a bag.

Every year our friends (one of whom is a cop) throw a party to celebrate the acquisition of their Nacho Machine.

“This marvel of slightly aged engineering flawlessly maintains up to 18.8 lbs of synthetic nacho cheese at the delicious temperature of 137-142 degrees.”

And it’s beautiful.

Related: I am completely obsessed with Skinny Girl margaritas. Tis the season! I mean seriously. It’s summer vacation, no school, mama is here alone with three kids ALL day long. At the end of an emotionally (and physically) exhausting day, sometimes I just want a drink sans the effort. Enter Skinny Girl.

While putzing around my kitchen before the party, I decided to whip up a batch of margarita cupcakes. While I used Skinny Girl margarita, this recipe isn’t for the faint of heart. Or maintaining thin thighs. There is nothing skinny about these cupcakes. As with all good food (and drinks), it’s about moderation people. Do what I do, SHARE!

While I made this cake recipe from scratch, it was only out of necessity. I didn’t have a white cake mix on hand. In my humble opinion, boxed cake mixes work JUST fine. If you want to be fancy, do it this way. If you are a believer in Betty Crocker, like me, just substitute the liquid in the cake recipe with Skinny Girl margarita or any other pre-mixed margarita mix.

Margarita Cupcakes

You will need:

½ Cup unsalted sweet cream butter, room temperature
1 Cup sugar
2 Eggs, room temperature
Zest and juice of 1 lime
4 Tablespoons Skinny Girl
½ Cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 Tablespoon vinegar poured into 1/2 Cup skim milk, let stand for 5 minutes)
1½ Cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix your vinegar and milk to make “buttermilk” if needed. With a mixer, blend sugar and butter together for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add your eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the lime juice, zest and Skinny Girl. The batter will turn clumpy. That is OK! Scrape down the sides and blend again.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add slowly to the wet mixture, blending well.

Scoop batter, in even amounts, into liner filled cupcake pans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean) and remove from oven. After 5 minutes, baste the top of each cupcake with Skinny Girl and move to cooling rack to cool completely.

Lime Tequila Butter Cream Frosting

1 Cup unsalted sweet cream butter, room temperature
3 Cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon lime juice
3 Tablespoons Skinny Girl
Zest of 1 lime
Pinch of coarse salt

With a whisk attachment, or hand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar, lime juice, Skinny Girl, lime zest and salt. Add more sugar if needed until you reach the desired consistency.

Using a large plastic bag, with the corner snipped off, swirl frosting onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with a lime wedge if you feel fancy! Or if you’re like me and want to mark the cupcakes with a fruit your kids won’t eat intentionally.

Store out of reach of children, if they last that long.

Seriously. These are ridiculously good. The idea of them is nearly as good as the frosting.

Nearly.

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Jun 01 Wednesday

Everyday Hero (the edible kind)

I walked into a local sandwich shop today.

Me: “Do you have $5 foot long sandwiches?”

The lady behind the counter roller her eyes at me and said “No. But we have $5 TWLEVE INCH sandwiches.”

I went ahead and let her think I was the dumb one.

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May 30 Monday

Knock, knock…

I am not crafty by nature. But I am a smidgen (or a lot)  frugal. When I spy with my little eye something I love on Etsy, and feel I can make it myself for a portion of the price, I will usually make a valiant attempt.

And so I did.

Random related factoid: I am obsessed with my front door.

There is a long, drawn out story about this topic, go figure. It’s me.

Here it is in 44 words: A girl wants a new front door. Asks her Dad’s business to order one. Dad delays, knowing daughter wants to move. Dad moves on to heaven. Daughter buys house Dad would be proud of. Moves in. Orders new front door. It’s nearly perfect. Nearly.

So armed with a vision, I set off to peruse the aisles of the local craft store.

Seriously. You crafty people have it made. The craft store is like porno for a creative mind. You can make, do, create ANYTHING your little heart desires.

I purchased my supplies: A foam wreath, foam balls (2 different sizes, any sizes), pins and yarn.

Go ahead and skip the pins, they are useless. Instead, get yourself a good glue gun and some ammunition.

The rest is basic.

You wrap the yarn around the foam ring. You can do whatever size you want, in whatever color. This portion of the project takes some time. A lot of time. I turned up Pandora, poured myself a Skinny Girl Margarita and wrapped, wrapped, wrapped. Sipped. Wrapped, wrapped, sipped. Repeat.

Once the main ring is complete, tie it off and secure your string. Then begin wrapping the foam balls. This is not easy, go slow. You have to find your groove in going around the ball, while switching directions, while holding the yarn in place with your thumb. Practice. Soon enough you will get the hang of it. Plus, they’re balls.

When everything is wrapped to your liking, secure the balls on your wreath with your hot glue gun. After another margarita, and three stuck fingers, I threw away all pins, safety pins and my sanity. Mama got serious and found the glue gun. There is nothing like packing some heat. Literally. Be careful. I have the burns to prove it.

Finally, your wreath is ready to hang! I secured mine with 3M Command strips to the door.

Whimsy, playful, beautiful and simple.

And now my front door feels like home. I am certain Dad would agree.

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