Wednesday, February 22, 2017

To PapaGigi's House We Go (and Food, of course)

Thank you for all the fun styling comments on the last post! After sleeping on it and letting the excitement of opening a box full of clothes died down, and I tried everything on in my un-lockable office for my coworker friend, I decided to send it all back. The dress ended up being my favorite piece, but since it's a shirt dress, the hemline goes up on the sides and it was SO short. I definitely couldn't wear it to work and I didn't know how often I'd wear a cute white dress on the weekends. The decision was easier thanks to the $78 price point- not unreasonable by any means, it was a well-made, fully lined dress, but the one I was wearing was also lined at $6 at Last Chance Dillard's, so, sadly, no. But after talking to Stitch Fix customer service I'm trying one more time. I really do want some cute summer separates and my two favorite summer tops in my whole closet were from them last year. Also, it's fun to try on clothes and have people judge them. This is why I always want friends to go shopping with me- now we get to do it virtually instead! The only downside is we can't all drink margaritas together afterward.

But moving on! By going backwards! This past Saturday we headed to my parents' new lake house for an early birthday celebration for me! By 8 a.m. we had two suitcases packed, three kids' kindles charged, and all the children fed when suddenly, Cora's eyes got huge and she threw up all the milk she'd just drunk, all over the floor. Having never thrown up before, she was shocked at what her body had just down and immediately cried out, "I tooted!"

"No, you threw up!" Landon corrected. "I tooted UP?!" Cora replied, delighted by this new phrase. Then she realized she'd gotten a bit of toot-up on her new "mingo dress," a flamingo dress of Claire's (one Claire wore when she was 5 and that fits Cora beautifully at barely 3; Cora is so tall you guys) that she was SO EXCITED to wear to Papa and Gigi's house and she started to cry. Surprising liquids shooting out of your mouth with force? Totally rolls with it. Little bit of liquid on her new dress? Devastation.

So we put on another old Claire dress (Cora may never wear her tutus again, which breaks my heart a bit) and off we went, armed with trash bags, antibacterial gel, a full roll of paper towels, and our last package of wipes leftover from all those Honest Company diaper orders. Lake Houston Or Bust was our motto and since 4/5 of our little family wasn't throwing up, we decided to to stick to our plan. Also we were going to celebrate my birthday and I REALLY WANTED the dark chocolate Hostess cupcakes my mom ordered from a local bakery and the fancy brunch we were eating on Sunday and what I was sure was going to be a late night bargain shopping trip with my mom. I was willing to clean up puke in the car for these things to happen. Let the festivities begin!

And they did! And Cora never even threw up again! It was July in February! Everyone was winning.

Especially me because I got to wear my new $3 dress and drink margaritas and then eat two dark chocolate ganache topped white buttercream filled gourmet Hostess cupcakes. I had some fajitas in between.

My youngest cousin's birthday is 3 days before mine. He's turning 18. I'm turning 34. Way to make me feel old coz. Though he did point out in our texts today that we're the oldest and youngest of the Nordin grandchildren- the bookends- starting and ending with the best.

His mother is my Aunty Mary, so this will be his first birthday without her. As I was filled with a rosy glow all day Friday knowing I was going home to celebrate my birthday, looking forward to my favorite foods and sneaking in some of our beloved mother-daughter shutting-Ross-down bargain shopping, it made me so sad to think of his birthday without his mom. He's too young to be robbed of so many.

I'm glad they were able to be there.

We went on a boat ride, and my parents new/old pontoon boat that I fondly dubbed Bob. Bob is a sturdy vessel, perfect for navigating the occasional 1-foot deep waters of Lake Houston. We got stuck on sand bars twice when we were there in January for the funeral and the kids were SO disappointed Houston had gotten just enough rain in the past month to keep us from getting stuck again this time.

Claire kept asking if pretty please we could go back and try to get stuck again. Upon our boringly safe return, there was much swimming. But before there was swimming there was a sobbing Cora who was appalled that her mother would pack her a two-piece swim suit that "doesn't fit! It doesn't fit!" as she yanked the (very long and modest) tankini top down to try to make it touch the bathing suit bottoms. She FINALLY got over it, though I'm sure I have not been forgiven, and she decided to go for a swim in the hot tub with the rest of her crew.

After a lot of eating and my total domination at corn hole (a bean bag toss game I'm usually not awesome at, but I scored more points than James, my dad, or my mom on Saturday and it was a highlight of my life), and just after the sun set and my dad pulled out the Jiffy Pop for the kids to pop over the fire, I turned to my probably tired mom and asked, "want to go shopping?"

And oh did we ever. TJ Maxx has decided you can try on as many items as you want at a time, so I tried on 36. My mom made me try on a ridiculous white crocheted short + tank combo that did not make the final cut, but I did spent all my birthday money on some beautiful and long-desired tunic tops that actually look good on me, some super cute workout tops, and a fabulous maxi dress. My mom found many treasures as well. We laughed at many an inside joke and thoroughly enjoyed shutting TJ Maxx down.

Sunday morning dawned cool and wet, so the kids got their energy out in my parents' sun room/exercise room downstairs. Landon did 4 miles on the elliptical and now desperately wants one for our own house. Claire perfected her pushups and Cora worked to beat Landon's distance. I drank mimosas with my dad's fresh squeezed orange juice (with oranges from their old lake house orange tree) in the kitchen, exercising by proxy.

The new house looks absolutely beautiful. My mom has everything decorated so well (of course) and its full of long-loved family treasures and new fun pieces to jazz it up and fit the new space. I'm obsessed with this new and utterly impractical umbrella stand.

The kids adore the "bunk room" with all my siblings and my best childhood toys, books, and movies, and the real pièce de résistance- a triplex bunk bed! There has much debate over which berth is best, but the short answer is- all of them.

In one of the upstairs guest rooms, my mom made frames of all our school pictures. "Mommy! You look like a boy!" Claire exclaimed upon seeing them, bringing all my childhood insecurities rushing to the forefront. Kids and old school portraits- so good for your self esteem.

We said goodbye to their beautiful new house and headed out to brunch. Ever since we planned this birthday trip back in December, before we knew we'd be headed to Houston a few weeks earlier for my aunt's funeral, I'd been craving a fancy brunch. And a fancy brunch I had! Bananas Foster French Toast and California Eggs Benedict- it was delicious.

Full and happy, we headed back home with sleepy children and a need to grocery shop.

Sunday: TJ's pesto tortellini with tomato cream sauce, green and veggie salad, garlic bread
Monday: Chicken Rollatini with Prosciutto and Cheese, Orzo with Parmesan and Peas, Kale Caesar Salad (from Costco). (SO GOOD. James declared it one of the best meals ever and the kids inhaled it all.).
Tuesday: Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket, Costco pretzel rolls, Mac and Cheese, other half of the Kale Caesar Salad
Wednesday: Tomato Basil Soup, Pesto Grilled Cheese (loooooove those; love them so much)

Cora does too

Thursday: BBQ brisket enchiladas (just toss any leftover pulled meat with bbq sauce and shredded cheese, roll the filling up in tortillas, top with a bit of sour cream and more shredded cheese, and bake uncovered at 350 for 20 mins; this is my favorite way to use leftover pulled pork, chicken, etc.), Mexican rice, refried black beans
Friday: Out with friends for my birthday; kids are totally going to have Trader Joe's finest organic spaghettios and whatever healthy things Tara adds to it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stitch Fixing, Revisited and Conflicted, and Some Things I Love

We spent this past weekend at my parent's new house and I have wonderful pictures and stories to share, but first, I have important time-sensitive decisions for you to make about what I should keep from my most recent Fix! Because yes, after a year or so off, and in honor of my birthday and the (now temporary) lift of my credit card diet, I signed up for another round of Stitch Fix!

For those who don't know, Stitch Fix is a personal styling service where you fill out a detailed style profile, including sizes, preferences, needs, wants, non-wants, and price range, pay $20, and wait for a magical box to arrive on your doorstep full of clothes picked out just for you! You get a style sheet with outfit ideas and a personalized note. If you keep anything, you can deduct your $20 styling fee from the cost (making the styling free) and if you keep everything you get 25% off the whole order! You get a postage paid return package to send back anything you don't keep, give feedback on your items, and then decide when you want a box to come again. For those who hate shopping or don't have time or just want someone else to mix up their wardrobe, it's great! I enjoyed my Fixes in the past, but took a break when I decided I wasn't getting enough items I loved and I no longer needed to expand my wardrobe. (Note: the links in this post are referral links.)

On to the items!

Item 1: 41Hawthorn Shelley Split Neck Blouse, Coral, XS ($48.00)

I like a geometric pattern and I love coral/orange, but this just isn't killing it for me. But it would be nice and light to wear during the summer. If it cost less, I'd probably keep it, but for $48? Probably no? (After typing this whole post I've realized this is my answer for everything. I have a lot of questions. Questions you'd think only I could answer, but instead am asking you.)

Verdict: Probably send back?

Item 2: Cosmic Blue Love Adrianne Distressed Boyfriend Jean, Light Blue, Size 2 ($88.00)

So I asked for white jeans, but they didn't have any in stock. As it turns out, I really do need other jeans- I currently have one pair that I like and I don't really even like them very much, but I HAAAATE shopping for jeans with the irrational fire of a thousand suns, so this could be very serendipitous. But I'm not 100% sold. Are they too short? They're supposed to be a little short I think? Right?

There's also this gap in the back, but all my jeans gap in the back, so maybe this is the way of the world. If I was keeping all 5 items and could get the 25% off, I'd keep these for sure.

Verdict: Undecided.

Item 3: Alice Blue Zinnia V Neck Blouse, White Floral, XS ($48.00)

I love a good floral, but I do not love sheer tops because I'm not big on layers or visible bras. It's too hot here for sleeves in the summer, even sheer ones, but if it was cool enough to make me want sleeves, I wouldn't want them to be sheer. Plus I just bought this floral tank from Express for $21 and it fits me perfectly, so I'm going to stick with that. (Right? Should I like the sheer?)

Verdict: Going back.

Item 4: Dear John Finnegan Roll Cuff Chino Short, Blue, Size 2 ($58.00)

I specifically asked for shorts. I have some old pairs from Express that are really too small/short for a woman of my now-advanced years. I like these. I like the faded blue color and relaxed fit but still fairly short length. Do I love them?

Verdict: Undecided; probably keep?

Item 5: 41Hawthorn Cristen Shirt Dress, White, XS ($78.00)

I assumed this would be a hard no. I look terrible in shirt dresses and anything that ties at the waist, but then I tried it on and I was no longer sure. I like the bright white and blue colors, I like the pattern, I like the neck, and I surprisingly like the fit. What's up is down. I usually have such strong opinions about my clothes, but I don't know anything anymore.

Verdict: Who knows; do you?

I do know that I need a better place to take brighter pictures. I also know that Stitch Fix seems to work better for some of my friends than it always does for me. Two of my favorite shirts in my closet are from Fixes in the past, so it's not that I never have victories, but I also enjoy shopping when I have the time for it and generally find cute things for far cheaper than the average Stitch Fix price point. Plus I'm (probably overly) picky about how clothes look and fit and don't like straying outside my comfort zone. But then I get something like that white/blue dress and think, maybe I should?

I do know that I love this necklace I got for Christmas from Stella and Dot after the cheap initials trio I got on etsy after Cora was born finally broke.

I love this new print from Cabana Life (they're getting more pieces) and I love that Cabana has extended my Lag Liv discount code of LLSPF through the end of the year for anyone who would like 20% off their order. I have found their stuff to be incredibly high quality- I'm not even mad I paid full price for the first five things I bought from them. I also got the girls their rash guard sets for Mexico from Cabana's end-of-summer sale and they were gorgeous and held up so well after endless hours in the pool, sun, and sea. My sets also still look perfect. I can barely even justify buying them something new for this summer, though of course I'll manage. (No referral links there, just a code if you want to use it!)

Cabana Life girls

I'm also loving the Legend series a co-worker recommended and am very annoyed at the person taking so long to read Book 3 so I can't check it out from the online library. I'm not loving that Landon got stuck really high up in a tree today for nearly an hour and scraped his legs and arms all up trying to get down while obstinately refusing any advice and telling an increasingly stressed-out me that he's "always wanted a broken bone anyway." He was eventually able to jump out onto the roof and then climb down a different tree. He's literally grounded to the ground for the next month. Argh.

So tell me what to keep because I/you only have until Friday to put anything I/you don't want back in the mail!

Friday, February 17, 2017

My Little Valentines

Valentine's came and went on Tuesday. We decorated the table on Monday night, our simple tradition I started years ago that the kids get SO excited about. I heard them gathering in their hallway, asking "can we come out to the table now?!" just like it was Christmas morning. It never occurred to me they'd wait for a signal.

Everyone was very taken with their new plates (Target dollar spot!), flowers, and chocolate, and of course- the most treasured tradition: milk in the champagne glass. It's the little things that always end up standing out the most in their minds.

We got the now-traditional Valentine's morning couch pic. It started when Cora was a baby and now we're on round 4.

Mind boggling.

And then facebook took me all the way back to Valentine's 2008 and I died a little. Who is this baby?

I mean seriously, who is that? Not only does present-day-Landon suddenly look 15 years old to me, which is crazy enough, but baby-Landon really doesn't look like big-kid-Landon to me at all. But present-day-Landon also doesn't look like 6-months-ago Landon so maybe my whole brain is in denial about the fact he's going to college in like 3 years.

But he labored away at his desk to make me a special Valentine's card, so he's still my little boy, even if he's solidly in men's shoes.

I got to have a lunch date with my Valentine- sushi at our fave place. He even put on a non-swimming t-shirt for me! He loves me an awful lot.

Our heart-shaped pasta dinner was a HUGE hit. This might be a new tradition- it was way easier than hand-shaping a heart pizza. The nice bottle of champagne for after dinner/kids' bedtime tradition remains unchanged, forevermore. Though adding more chocolate is okay.

Cora couldn't figure out this odd new holiday. At dinner that night, out of nowhere, she announced: "I got choc-late today! . . . but I did not say trick-or-treat. . . . and I did not sing Happy Birthday. . . . And I got CHOC-LATE!"

On Wednesday morning, admiring her Valentine's Day spoils still sitting on the table she again verified, just to be sure, "... this is not my birthday party?" No baby. It's just a random day for champagne and chocolate. Enjoy it.

Claire started soccer yesterday!

It was a triumph of friendship and neighbors as Thursday was really the worst possible day for the coach to set her practices. All three kids swim, Landon and Claire starting at 5 and Cora starting at 5:30. Tara takes everyone at 4:30 and hangs out with Cora until her lesson starts and then she leaves and James takes everyone home. Now Claire will need to be at soccer practice at 5:30, which seems like no problem since I usually get home at 5:15, but there's that 45 minutes between Tara leaving to go the pool in the opposite direction of my office and me getting home to potentially pick up Claire. Another mom friend of ours was out of town, as was her husband, and her daughter had Girl Scouts after school and before soccer, and the other mom I know on the team was hosting a church small group at her house at the exact time practice would end. Eight emails later, we had it solved. And Tara, a legit soccer star back in the day, even braided Claire's hair in a super cool soccer braid and then texted me a picture of our little soccer star before they left the house. Not to get distracted, but I pink-puffy heart Tara SO MUCH.

Claire is super excited for soccer to start, even though she has no memory of playing two years ago, prefers to carry the ball in her hands, and excitedly chirped at me Thursday morning before school that she "really hope we win our soccer practice today Mom!".

She's adorable. (And they totally won their practice.)

I picked all the girls up and we rocked out to the Moana soundtrack on the way home. I felt like such a cool mom, cruising in my Hyundai, blasting the speakers and singing along with every word of "Where I'll Go," awash in memories of carpools in my mom's car. Big kids are fun.

Cora started in the primary classroom at school on Tuesday, after surviving her first ever fever on Monday. She is LOVING her new class (there's so much more work for her to do! And no one loves work like Cora loves work), but she is a TEENSY BIT tired at the end of each day. There have been a lot of emotions and on one notable occasion her first big act of toddler defiance-- putting Claire's boots away in HER bin instead of CLAIRE'S bin. Cora's such an orderly soul, I know it hurt her more than it did me.

I'm off to bed because we're off to Houston tomorrow (basically today, since it's 11:50 p.m.). May you all have a fabulous weekend, with all your shoes in the right bins.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Few Wrinkles in Time

I don't even know what's happened to the last few (9?) days. I've been tired; my computer has remained closed. I read a lot, cooked a lot, worked out a lot, took a lot of baths. I had a PTA Board meeting on Tuesday night and then on Thursday I stopped at Loft while all the kids were at swimming, tried on 15 things, and then carefully put them all back. It was an enjoyable hour, but like people who find a new way of eating through 30-day diets, I've come to enjoy my non-spending. Also, we did our taxes last night and wowza, that whole not-spending-money thing is now extended through at least April.

hello there

Cora attended the PTA Board meeting with me on Tuesday and when I called out to her that it was time to go, she exclaimed, "Wait!! I not dressed yet!!" Then she emerged moments later, dressed in Queen Elsa's dress and Princess Rapunzel's shoes and announced, "Okay. I ready to go to meeting now." And so she was.

She picked out one of my fancier necklaces for me to wear, but I still felt sadly under-dressed.

Also last night, post-tax-bloodbath, Cora popped her first fever since babyhood. 99.6 at bedtime; 101.3 at 10 p.m.; 102.9 at midnight when I finally woke her up to give her some ibuprofen. "My head hurts mama." she told me, bewildered and shaky. I checked her again at 3 a.m. and her bed was soaked, her fever broken. I tucked her in a new sheet and she slept soundly until 8 a.m. when she spent her first ever preschool sick day playing cheerfully and independently with her princesses for hours and then accompanying her dad on a few errands while wearing her Belle dress. In the words (word) of James she was "chipper" and fever free all day, so hopefully she'll be back in school tomorrow, passing out her beloved Moana Valentine's and taking her first step towards total domination of her new Montessori Primary class.

Because oh yes, she's now in the big kid primary class. How is this possible when she's just a baby? As Landon said in the car on the way home from swimming when I told them Cora was moving up rooms, "Mom! That means it's Cora's LAST class until she's in KINDERGARTEN! Can you believe it? Next is KINDERGARTEN?!!". Then after a pause, "...I don't like that mom."

Me either buddy.

(Also, doesn't Landon suddenly look 14? This is from the zoo on Sunday- WHAT IS HAPPENING?!)

But back to earlier on Sunday, before taxes and fevers and finishing Catastrophe on Amazon (hilarious; highly highly recommend), I took a few hours to shop at the last chance Dillards at Ridgmar Mall that our nanny is always raving about. It was 1:00; we'd gone to the zoo and done all our grocery shopping, Cora was napping, James was working, and the big kids were doing work in the backyard (something about moving logs; this happens when you don't do something each parent asked you to do multiple times), so I headed out into the discount shopping mecca. Like a Ross on steroids, this place is INSANE. It's all the merchandise not sold at Dillards all over North Texas, ruthlessly organized by category, color, and size, and then heavily discounted off the lowest marked price.

So this dress? $129 originally, marked down to $45 and then 75% (75!!) off the final price, landing at $11.25. It was the most expensive thing I bought.

This dress? $69 to $15 to $3.75. $3.75.

Even on my diet I can allow myself to shop here on occasion. It's totally overwhelming and I desperately wanted to teleport my magical shopping mother to guide me, and it's exhausting and hot and the lines for the dressing rooms are long, but you get to be a modern day Indiana Jones! Searching for the Holy Grail! Or formal gown! Or both!

Unfortunately I didn't find any formals I liked, but I still walked out with 5 really cute dresses that I really love, that fit holes in my wardrobe left after last week's deep closet clean-out, and that all came to a total of $33. Original price total $419.


Next time I might even allow myself to look at separates, though I'm going to need to strap on a Camelbak and running belt full of granola bars before I go. Last chance Dillards is not for the weak. Also, I came home from my marathon to find two of my children on the roof. James had sent them up with a bottle of window and roll of paper towels. Our skylights look great and they didn't come down for another hour because flat roof >>>> any other place you could possibly play in our house.

And since apparently I'm taking the weekend in backwards order, I'll note that it did not help my endurance by starting my shopping quest day with a few hours at the zoo. It had been a few weeks since our last visit, so after lazing about in bed until 9, semi-listening through our closed door while the kids got their cereal and then watched their weekly bout of television (I may be depressed about Cora's refusal to stay 2, but big kids are the BEST), we decided to up our weekly dose of penguins and jungle cats.

I love our zoo. And they've embarked on an ambitious plan to make it even more amazing.

The kids just can't understand how incredible it is they get to live 4 miles from a zoo they can stop by whenever we want. Our Sunday morning stops are the best; we're the only people there for the first hour or so and the animals are SO active and it's so special to see, every single time. We don't even need a stroller or diaper bag anymore- just a cell phone, car keys, and a willingness to yell "no, don't climb on that Cora" a lot of times.

On Saturday we did our grocery-ing, went on a walk, taught a barre class (that was just me), and then enjoyed our next play in the fabulous Casa Manana children's series. This time it was Rapunzel and we loved it. Totally different from Tangled or the original Rapunzel story I read as a kid, this version was super funny and cute and involved a knight looking for a maiden to save and his sidekick, a hair stylist looking for the perfect head of hair, and a reference to #alternativefacts. It was a good time.

Cora, of course, was dressed for the occasion.

And now, as I continue my backwards retelling of time, we're at Friday! It started with a 6 hour counsel meeting in one of my cases, so I had to be fancy instead of in jeans or at home in my pj's. Then Landon decided to spend the night with a friend and James was coaching until 7 and I REALLY wanted the frozen margarita I've been craving since mid-December and I realized, I didn't have to wait for James! We could eat SEPARATELY! We never do that, and it took me at least 30 minutes of wishing we could go to happy hour to realize I could go to happy hour! With the girls! It could be a girls night out! I told them my plan and immediately dressed down from my work clothes, while they dressed up in their best.

into jeans I go

A purse for everyone and we were off, Cora pulling a microphone out of hers when we got to the restaurant. Never know when you might need one.

fancied up; purses on

And with Landon missing, we could even order queso and not listen to someone (LANDON) moan about how cheese is so gross and why does he have to look at it and ewwww cheese. I love him very much, but in this, he was not missed. Cheese for all!

I had a margarita, the girls had 3 tortillas apiece, and we split a tray of queso, bean dip, and salsa. It was $17 and it was MARVELOUS.

Then I texted Claire's best buds on our way out to come over in pj's to watch a princess movie and everyone piled on the couch to watch Aladdin. Cora was thrilled to be part of such a big girl activity and Claire was shocked when we let her stay up until 8:30 to finish the show. A fabulous Friday for everyone.


And now we're back to today. That was for sure the worst retelling of a weekend ever, but it's nearly midnight and I can't go back now. Pressing onward! Food for the week! This time with actual links to actual recipes!

Sun: Naked Spinach Quinoa Lasagna, garlic bread. We really liked this! A different take on yummy flavors, I subbed sliced zucchini for the mushrooms because mushrooms are terrible.

Mon: Chicken taco chili, assorted toppings.

Tues: Heart-shaped pasta with tomato cream sauce, salad, double chocolate brownies with ice cream sundaes. ALL the champagne after the kids are asleep, and then probably more sundaes.

Cost Plus World Market, $3!

Wed: Chicken soup with dumplings (skinnytaste cookbook)

Thurs: Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad (from a reader, I'm so excited to try this!), Trader Joe's veggie spring rolls

Fri: Meatloaf (trying another recipe because the kids keep asking about it; who knew meatloaf would be such a hit??), roasted sweet and russet potato wedges, roasted cauliflower and carrots. We're super into roasting things right now.

And with that I wish you a Happy Valentine's Day full of french fries and chocolate, washed down with champagne. And nachos and cookies. Or whatever you like best.