Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Best of Both Worlds

So remember when I told you I'd been interviewed by Sarah (@ the SHU box) for her Best of Both Worlds podcast a few weeks ago? Today was publishing day. I woke up, realized the significance of the date, and immediately felt like I was going to throw up. A feeling that was relieved only by the email I found already waiting in my inbox from someone telling me how much they'd enjoyed the interview. Thank you M, your efforts to find my email address on my blog, type up such a nice message, and sent it out all by 7 a.m. meant I could find the courage to defeat the nausea and listen to my own recorded voice rambling in response to Sarah's questions.

(Here's the co-host Laura Vanderkam's blog post re: the podcast; she was traveling out of the country and wasn't on air with me, so got to be a listener this time instead.)

Verbal responses are hard y'all. I work with written words, lots and lots of typed out words I can read and edit and finesse until they match what's in my head. But I was relieved to hear I sound coherent. I sound generally like myself. Would I like to edit, you know, every single thing I said? Absolutely. But it's okay. My rambling run-on fears are unrealized. I very genuinely enjoyed getting to talk with Sarah and I think that comes through. I first met Sarah when she asked me about having a third baby, a question that resulted in my favorite and most heartfelt blog post I've ever written. It was an honor to be asked to be on the podcast and I hope you enjoy it!

But because this is a balancing of many worlds and humans, that was only a small part of the day. A day that began at 11:15 p.m. the night before when book #5 in Kresley Cole's Arcana Chronicles (which I ADORE far beyond what is reasonable or really even earned) downloaded onto my Kindle. Oh I'll just read the first few chapters, I told myself, knowing I was a lying liar who lied. At 2 a.m. James rolled over in bed, saw the light from my phone screen and sighed, "Really? Really." and then rolled back. "I'll stop soon," I lied again, knowing already my words were false, but he worries about me and my sleep and I like to make him feel better even though underneath he knows I'm lying too. At 3:08 a.m. I was done. I loved it. I have criticisms, many of them, but it doesn't matter. I love that series. I'm so sad I have to wait another year or so to get a new book again.

And then four hours later I was up and bracing myself for the impact of listening to my own recorded voice. Work was good. I was supposed to go to yoga at lunch but it was so cold and dreary outside and I was so tired, I thought I'd skip in lieu of obtaining emotional support french fries. Of course the one week I actually publish my little workout/dinner plan post-it system I flagrantly violate it immediately.

James called around 11 and asked if I wanted a Freebirds burrito. I used to have a Freebirds by my office but it closed and I miss it and I mentioned it to James the other day. So when he drove by today he thought he should bring me some. And with the burrito came a big bouquet of cheerful flowers.

I'm so glad I skipped yoga.

I left work at 4:45 to come home and pick up the kids to feed them an on-the-go dinner, another extreme rarity, but a promise met with much excitement among by the party pack when it was mentioned last night. We had our school's science night at our local museum of science and history from 6-8 p.m. (bedtime!), so a quick dinner on the way felt right. They chose Subway of all things, so sandwiches it was.

Science night was a huge hit. Free admission, many kids, lots of noise, LOTS of fun, and even a few attempts at academic enrichment.

We came across many friends and I even had fun as I logged two extra hours in my heeled boots and work clothes.

Cora LOVED the bed of nails and beamed her way through her every turn. As soon as she popped off, she'd run to get back in line to go again, glaring at any kid twice her size who dared to try to cut in front of her. It was amazing to watch from a distance.

The kids had a GREAT time and we stayed longer than I'd planned. James stopped at the store on the way home from lessons to get his heart-shaped pizza ingredients and a few extra things for the kids' Valentine's breakfast table, and we all got home about 8:15.

The kids got ready for bed, I readied a well-deserved margarita (or Mexican martini, if we want to be accurate), and James boiled some pasta because he's practical and didn't pick up takeout somewhere like I totally would have after all that coaching if my family had eaten earlier without me.

And now it's nearly 11 and I must go to bed on time to atone for my ridiculous behavior last night, especially since I know we'll be up early with the kids' Valentine's Day-fueled excitement. They love a dollar store decorated table and I must admit, I love it too.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Crunchwrap It Up

So we've been totally caught up in Olympic Fever. I *love* the Olympics but this is the first year the kids have gotten really into it. I mean, they enjoyed the swimming and gymnastics in 2016, but this time they're watching all the things and listening to the commentary and learning and, by the end of the first night, offering the athletes advice and commiseration from the couch like any good sports fan.

We don't watch any sports, really ever, outside of Olympic years, so it's funny to watch the inevitable armchair coaching evolve on its own in each of them. Yesterday they got totally caught up in the speed skating and biathlon coverage and it was the best.

But first, when we last left off I was in San Antonio for work by day and grandparent tours by night. Night 1 involved a meal at my Grandma Mary's FAVORITE restaurant- "the one with the shrimp scampi." So, Red Lobster it was.

They are so cute. My grandpa continues to be a living breathing miracle. He's still coping with the changes to his health and life- he was so robust and active right up until the moment he collapsed on their lake property. But they also live every day so thankful to have it together. They've always been very openly affectionate with and about one another, but there's an added layer of simple gratefulness to greet each day side by side. I sent my grandpa a packet of my blog posts and facebook updates when he had his heart attack. I hoped they wouldn't be too hard to read, but I thought he'd want to know we were all thinking of him during that time. He called in tears, so many tears, SO very moved to be able to read what was going on while he was unconscious and recovering... I didn't know anything from when I got back to the cabin from my walk until I woke up two weeks later. I'm glad to have filled in a few blanks with all the love that was surrounding him, including that which was sent from you all.

On a lighter, but colder note. I have never mis-packed more for a trip in my life. When I left Fort Worth on Sunday it was lovely outside. I wasn't at the counsel's bench for the trial, so I was excited to be more casual and comfortable in the galley. I knew I'd be visiting my grandparents for dinner each day and wanted to be able to go straight there without changing, so I went with simple work dresses. I was proud to pack super lightly with my two dresses and same flat shoes so I could have room for my workout clothes and running shoes, because I'm a person who works out while traveling now. I woke up early on Monday, did my workout (running on the treadmill + yoga), got ready, and walked outside to 38 degree temperatures. 38 degrees, grey, and windy, in my dress and ballet flats and no jacket. I walked the River Walk anyway, because I had 30 minutes to kill and I was pretty sure I'd find a Starbucks over there (yes!), but it was very cold. Luckily the River Walk by morning is empty and lovely and I didn't regret it.

That night I had dinner at the retirement community with my other set of grandparents. I love that one work trip can take me to see them both.

We had a delightful chat over wine in their apartment and then headed down to the main dining room. I was feeling festive and asked if I could have a glass of champagne. My grandma immediately told my grandpa to order a bottle for the table and a bottle for the table was had.

It was such a great dinner. I told them stories about Disney that made my grandma cry and she told stories of taking my dad and his sister there when they were young. We closed down the house, the very last to leave the dining room that night. I left with hugs and a smile on my face as I Ubered back to my hotel, very much wishing I had my full complement of fleece clothing waiting there for me.

While sadly, I was to remain cold for the duration of my trip, my hotel did have a resident peacock. I tried to bond with him on numerous occasions, but he could not have been less impressed with me and my black work dress.

Isn't he magnificent? Sadly, I was judged to be not that.

I flew home after a second day in court on Tuesday, landing in Dallas at 7:30 p.m. after a quick 48 minute flight. Unfortunately, everything had fallen apart weather-wise while I was gone and it was 26 degrees outside and there was ice all over the runway. We sat on the runway for nearly 2 hours, waiting to be allowed to move forward. Then we sat by a gate for another hour because the planes were grounded and all the gates were full. FINALLY they moved a plane out of the way for us so we could disembark. I had not been prepared for a 4 hour plane ride- just my 1 hour one, so my phone was dead, I had no water, and my single snack of peanut m&ms had been eaten up LONG AGO. Then I had to take a tram and walk a million miles to get to my car because we didn't land where we were supposed to and it was TWENTY-SIX degrees outside and I was still in my dress and it was SO COLD. Once I unfroze myself on my car's seat warmers I realized I should be thankful to have been allowed to land at all- the airport was a disaster and I'm sure tons of people were having their trips ruined. Still, if it would have been possible (and legal, and safe) to drink a glass of red wine while on that drive, I would have.

My very sweet welcome home card from Claire

And then my week at home started on a Wednesday which always makes things seem a little off. Happily, James 100% handles life when I'm gone and we had food and meals for all the nights and can pick things back up without pause. Thursday was barre teaching and swim lessons and this amazing crock pot recipe. New family favorite, I served it over mashed potatoes with steamed green beans on the side. Light and flavorful and different. 12/10.

Toddler at Work

We didn't have our nanny on Friday and I had a big meeting at work at 2, so I couldn't get the kids either. Luckily James owns his own business and can host bring your kids to work day at any time. At the last minute, Landon ended up going with a friend to Main Event (lucky him!) but Claire was cheerful about her swim school Friday afternoon while her brother was taking down monsters with laser guns.

It helps that she'd had a field trip to Bass Performance Hall she was VERY excited about on Friday and then ended up getting to spend the night at a friend's that night too.

Also on Friday night, we had an Olympics Opening Ceremonies party! The kids ran around outside like crazy people and the adults ate and drank and wore festive necklaces. Our beverage contribution was a pitcher of excellent sangria carefully crafted from all the leftovers from our wine party the Saturday before. When you have 10 bottles of nearly-empty wine, you dump it all in a pitcher, put it in the fridge and wait for a sangria opportunity. I added OJ, brandy, and a bunch of cut up fruit the night before, let it all marinate, and then added a can of sprite just before serving. In no way authentic or official, but it was *delicious.*

Cora is always delighted to see her fans.

Ladies in blue! Had we actually coordinated ahead of time, I feel like we would have managed more of the red and white.

I feel like our Saturday was a pretty typical Saturday-with-three-kids situation:

6:30: James wakes up to go swim (I actually have no idea when he leaves, but I know he always gets home a little before 9).
7:38: Cora wakes me up in a panic because she couldn't find Claire (she'd left the party early at her bedtime with James and Claire got permission to sleep over after that). I set Cora up with Beauty and the Beast in the TV room ("the one with REAL people mom"), sleepily realizing how nice it is to have big kids because I usually never have to get out of bed earlier than I want to anymore. I check under Landon's door, but don't see a light and am shocked and pleased to see he's sleeping in.
8:00: I mourn my lost 30 minutes of sleep, but put on fuzzy clothes, make some tea, and pull up to my usual Saturday morning spot at the kitchen table with my laptop, iPhone calendar, and a post-it to plan the week's menu and schedule.

our life; 2 weeks at a time

(I do this every Saturday morning at exactly this time; I write out the next 2 weeks (really only the first week counts, but I like the blueprint for the next one already there), look through our calendars, jot down anything that's unusual for the day and then start to fill in meals. This means I ensure all our meals work each day's schedule and conflicts and I'm never forced into a fast food dinner or abandoning the good food I've bought to cook that day. Then I write in my work-outs. This means they all fit in our schedule (like this Saturday's when I realized I could squeeze a 2:00 yoga in between Cora's friend's birthday party and Landon's basketball game) and I don't have to abandon them either (this is of course also because I have a steady and predictable job, as does James- whatever our schedule will be for the week, I generally know it in that moment on Saturday morning). It's old-fashioned and involves a ruled post-it note, but it works for me and I get a thrill each time I check off a workout and a meal I cooked because dammit those are each their own accomplishment.)

8:30: I'm done with my week's plan and make Cora pause the movie to eat some breakfast. Landon wakes up and expresses great surprise for sleeping so late while I thanked the sleeping gods because this means it will be a good day. We turn on the Olympic coverage.
9:00: James gets home and, in the middle of eating the scrambled eggs he just made, gets a text that he needs to teach his Saturday swim lessons because one of his instructors has the flu (usually he doesn't go to those). Cora has a birthday party at 10, so we decide James will take the big kids to the pool.
9:45: We all pull out of the driveway to go in opposite directions, with James planning to stop at our friend's house to pick up Claire on the way . (I found out later Claire was still in pj's and looking forward to waffles so our friends said they'd drop her at the pool when they were done with breakfast.)

Cora and I went to her friend's bounce house birthday party, and though it was a Star Wars theme, she INSISTED crowns and gowns were appropriate. "Mom. We wear crowns to birthday parties, she explained patiently.

Nailing it

action shot

11:30: Cora and I are eating pizza at the party when our friends text saying they had so much extra beer we should come back for Olympics night 2 and they'd order pizza. I offered to bring a salad (my FAVORITE salad, mostly because I'd already had pizza, but also because it's delicious), so we stopped at Trader Joe's on our way home for the necessary ingredients.
12:30:: We get home and I prepare the lemon miso dressing because Landon has a late basketball game that will go until right before the party.
1:00:: James and the kids get back and make lunch. (the kids make their own on weekends and always involves a lot of peanut butter and fruit, with a few reluctant slices on cucumber)
1:45: I run out to a 2:00 Corewpower yoga class while James and the kids hang out at home (biathlon coverage was on; also I believe a fort was built while Cora napped). I brought clothes to quickly change into after class ends at 3 because Landon has a 4:00 basketball game and changing at home takes way longer.
3:30:: I get home at 3:20, James goes to wake up Cora, and we all leave for Landon's basketball game. He scored a basket (yay! I mean, it didn't count because the ref called a foul right before he shot, but we're claiming it anyway) and we could really see his improvements in the game, though ultimately his team lost. It's been a good season so far, and since I almost know all the rules of basketball now, I'm really hoping he'll play again.

5:25: We leave the game, stop at home to pick up my salad and some other offerings, and head down the street to our friends' house for Olympic party round 2.

There was more eating and drinking and Olympic viewing, though it was now below freezing outside (after being 60 the night before), so the kid craziness was all indoors.

7:50: James left with Cora and Claire (and my car) so they could go to bed on time. Claire burst into tears at having to leave and we gently explained this was exactly why she had to go to bed, particularly after spending the night the night before.
8:30: Landon and I left when other friends packed up so we could hitch a ride home. It's a short walk, but it was also well below freezing. Landon stayed up with us for a little bit to watch the snow boarding.
9:15: It's just James and me and some fuzzy blankets on the couch watching the Olympics and perusing rental homes for a friends skication trip our group got inspired to take for January 2019 while watching the downhill coverage.
11:00: We go to bed; I read until 12.

And that was our day. It was a good one. Cora doesn't always nap, but she had time and she always loves an opportunity for some daytime sleeping. Mostly though we just go from 8-8, carve out some time for ourselves, and enjoy being at home with whatever collection of children/adults are with you at whatever time. It's a lot more relaxed that it probably reads.

Today involved another birthday party for Cora, some yoga, a workout for James, a trip to Target with the big kids, a visit from a customer of James's who happened to be in town from Kansas and wanted to buy 35 swim bags for his team, and me making CRUNCHWRAP SUPREMES. Details below. They were delicious. But it started with a viewing of Cool Runnings, and you guys, as the tears poured down my face during the last scene and I freaked out my children, I have to say, that movie really holds up. And it's streaming on Netflix right now.

Oh and the kids did their Valentines. They're store-bought Valentine's because this is a store-bought kind of holiday and I love it in all its $4 for 28 card glory.

They take it so seriously and select the Valentine's for each kid in their class with such care and earnestness.

I have little heart emojis eyes while they do it.

And so, also with hearts in my eyes, I offer you our weekly meal planning. I haven't had them all yet, but I can definitely vouch for tonight's. Everyone in my family, none of whom had EVER experienced the joys of a Taco Bell crunchwrap supreme, gave rave reviews. I want to crunchwrap everything now.

Sunday: Homemade Crunchwrap Supreme!! After my quadrenniel visit to taco bell a blog reader informed me that one of my favorite restaurant blogs (home of this fabulous recipe we eat ALL THE TIME) has a recipe for it and it is HAPPENING in our house tonight. I'm the only one operating at all caps levels of excitement, but that's just because the kids don't know what they're missing yet. (Will also be served with Mexican rice and refried black beans.)

Monday: Veggie Turkey Chili (I'm making this up, it will involve diced onion, diced green pepper, diced carrot, a can or two of diced tomatoes, 1 lb. ground turkey, a packet of Ranch seasoning mix and 1-2 packets of Taco seasoning mix (or the equivalent from the Costco size containers I have of each in my pantry), and some of whatever stock I have hanging out in my fridge, probably chicken?), plus TJ's organic corn chips because they are amazing and make you almost feel healthy for eating Fritos.

Tuesday: Pasta with a TJ jarred sauce because we have science night at the children's museum after work and it's going to be a night of craziness. (I've also allowed that this may be a night we just have to stop for tacos on the way home; I can't predict the future, but it may be necessary.)

Wednesday: Valentine's Day! I like to embrace the kitsch here. We decorate the kitchen table for the kids in the morning with dollar store supplies and for dinner we used to order heart-shaped pizza from Mangia's in Austin. James picked up the tradition by hand-making a heart pizza here in 2013, and after a detour for some heart-shaped pasta last year (swim lessons really make mid-week holidays difficult), he's determined to pick up the mantle yet again and have heart shaped pizza waiting in the fridge for us when I get home. A really good bottle of champagne after dinner and a date night on Friday will also be involved.

Thursday: Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken, broccoli, brown rice. I teach barre on Thursdays on my way home from work and get home at the exact same time as James pulls up with all the kids from swimming, so Thursday is ALWAYS a crock-pot night.

Friday: Date night! We're headed to HG Sply and the kids will eat something terrible and delicious with the babysitter.

Saturday: We have a children's play in the evening, so I've learned I have to have a crockpt recipe to come home to to resist the urge to eat out afterward. This one looks delicious. Grilled Pineapple Pulled Pork Sandwiches, chips, fruit.

Sunday: Run Fast Eat Slow Bison Meatballs with Marinara Sauce. DELICIOUS and will make your whole house smell amazing.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

18 Bottles of Wine on the Wall

I'm alone in a hotel room in San Antonio. I'm here for work through Tuesday and already had dinner with one set of grandparents with a date set up with the others tomorrow. Step Up is playing in the Amazon app on my phone that's sitting next to my laptop with blogger up on the screen while HGTV plays silently on the giant TV across from my bed while peacocks roam the garden my room's balcony look out on. Step Up, laptop time, and resident peacocks. Basically, I'm living my best single life.

Speaking of living my best life - this was what I found on my kitchen counter when I woke up this morning. (I later discovered my newly restocked beer fridge was also empty.)

So Wine Party 2.0 was a success.

After visiting every store in Fort Worth, I went with a simple gold and silver theme because it already matches the rest of my living room and also I found the plates and tablecloths for $1 and the "cheers" napkins for $2. I found some red and pink sequins in my desk drawer from our Women's March sign decorating and BOOM, a mildly sparkly, slightly Valentine's inspired, wine party tablescape was born.

Everyone was bringing an appetizer or dessert and their wine entry for the contest. I made the cocktail meatball recipe I stole from a friend (they're SO good; recipe below because I love you), caprese skewers I made up thanks to the discovery of tiny mozzarella balls at Costco and Trader Joe's delicious balsamic glaze that James already pours on everything, and my dark chocolate bundt cake. And vodka punch. It was pink and I love a mixed cocktail at a party.

I brought out the 24 cheap wine glasses I bought for the last party ($16 for all at BB&B! so much sturdier and better than plastic and reusable! they live on the top shelf of our pantry until their service is required), a stack of brown wine bags I borrowed from our local grocery store, the score cards I made (that somehow, despite improvements, were STILL unclear to some people (you know who you are); next time we're having a longer orientation and a printed FAQ), all the kids' homework pencils, and a sign I bought at At Home for $3 on clearance.

"Love the wine you're with."

Sage advice. Unless your job is to score them. Then you should only love the wines that deserve it.

all due seriousness

The food was a random combination of delicious things. Just some light bacon-wrapped roasted butternut squash to cleanse your palette and ready yourself for your next taste of wine.

Somewhat unexpectedly we ended up with an 88% acceptance rate on my evite, so we had 28 people in our living room that is cut in half by a couch. Next time I'm moving the couch to the playroom and opening up the whole space. I can't imagine why I didn't do that this time? I must have gotten distracted by the sequins. Though people did spread out a little, including an offshoot that immediately went outside with a bottle of whiskey and were never seen from again.


One of my favorite things about our friends is how seriously they'll take a competitive task. Most people participated in the rating and the comments were a delight: "toothpastey," "communion wine," and "this makes up for that other one" were just a few of my faves.

After 90 mins or so of tasting and eating and tasting some more (and/or dumping out all your "tastes" into the sink halfway through because you're apparently incapable of pouring a small enough sample size to handle the 13 wine entries you have to try (me, that was me)), I collected the filled-in score cards and attempted to determine a winner. This was immediately impossible and I had to draft in my laptop, some Microsoft Excel, and two outside auditors.

"I love when you talk VB to me."

That's Visual Basic he's talking about and it was far and away my favorite line of the night.

After taking the AVERAGEIF of all columns (to control for those entries that some people skipped) AND, when we had a nail-biter between the top two, eliminating the one card that failed to rate both of those entries, we had a winner. A winner by 0.003 points.

I'm not sure what's happening in that picture, but I think one of my auditors just discovered his wine was the one that lost the top prize by three one-thousands of a point. Numbers can be so emotional.

Final standings: (1) Menage a Trois Silk Blend; (2) Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon; (3) Las Rocas (Old Vine Spanish Red).

Me announcing the final standings, possibly a capella(?), while balancing my laptop, phone, and notepad with the winners. I'm a one-person wine party circus act.

The winners received a bottle of my favorite champagne and wine socks.

Wine socks that I STOLE and WORE an hour later when it was 10 p.m. and I decided I didn't need to wear 3" heels anymore, and despite it being my house with all my clothes and the fact that I had just given those socks as a gift to someone else, I opened them and put them on and wore for the remainder of the party. I'm sorry guys, thirteen samples of wine is a lot. We're lucky I didn't try to open the champagne.


Post-tasting we all soaked up our losses by dancing to music from the late 90's and early 00's. "Back when music was good!" we cried, like every generation of old people ever.

My children came home from Tara's apartment at some point, maybe 10ish? The party was still going strong and this morning Claire told me with a judgy sigh, "there was a lot of screaming at your party mom."

I think our last guest left around 11:30. And since we're all paying babysitters by the hour, I consider this the highest of compliments.

I can't wait to do it again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tamara's Meatballs

3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp minced onion (I use dried)
2 tsp horseradish
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried mustard
3 drops Tabasco
dash pepper

Meatballs (I use 1-2 bags of TJ's frozen party-size, or you can be an over-achiever and make your own)

1. Combine all sauce ingredients and stir in slow cooker.
2. Add meatballs.
3. Cook on low for 5 hours (or less; until meatballs are warm and the sauce has soaked in).
4. Eat so many you double it next time.