Friday, January 27, 2017


One of my favorite paranormal romance novel series - Immortals After Dark by Kresley Cole - begins with this line in book #12, uttered by the put-upon mother of the eventual main character "What fresh humiliation does this day bring?"

I've thought that phrase first thing every morning since Monday.

After feeling mildly optimistic after the beautiful, positive, powerful marches on Saturday afternoon, I got to watch those opposed regroup on Sunday and declare equality to be bad, women to be "fat bitches who should be walking to work," (um, it was Saturday; also, without strides in women's equality, most of us wouldn't have our jobs. I certainly wouldn't be able to be a lawyer), and the First Amendment to not be a thing the government should support. On the upside, my facebook feed is less crowded now.

Later on Sunday, I found I still had the capacity to be surprised when our new White House Press Secretary flat out lied to the press in the administration's first ever White House press conference that was called solely because our president, who is the specialist of snowflakes, got his feelings hurt when not enough people came to his party. So, as happened in Harry Potter and Nazi Germany, our official government press office has become a propaganda machine and just lies to the press and the world when our president's ego needs it. Excellent! And the week hadn't really even started yet.

But it got going quickly. Now, six days into the Trump administrative we have a flurry of executive orders (executive orders are cool now) and memoranda ensuring America will spend a bunch of money and goodwill to solidify its new position as a backward, totalitarian country that will fall behind in science, education, safety, and basic morality and human decency. We're silencing and de-funding science, because countries who turn away from science generally do well in keeping up with the rest of the world. We endured a meandering, frequently nonsensical, always narcissistic first interview of the president on ABC Wednesday night (at least these recaps are funny). More seriously, his sore winner mentality now has him trumpeting absolutely false and fabricated claims that 3-5 MILLION people illegally voted. Because undermining trust in our entire democratic system is a thing strong presidents do and will definitely Make America Great Again. And more dangerously, those claims will be used to create even more restrictive voting laws, which are the actual voter fraud. And we weren't done.

On Tuesday Cora completed her first worksheet at school. She's about to move up to the primary class (the final step to Kindergarten, something I can't really think about), so she's doing higher level work. If you know Cora, you know she takes her work VERY. SERIOUSLY. That evening, while I was chopping up a hundred vegetables for dinner and praising her worksheet, Cora told me, "Bob touched my work."

Bob is her classmate- I haven't met him, but I love that there is a 3-year-old named Bob. "Oh," I said, distractedly, "okay."

There was a moment of silence and then I heard her princess shoes click-clacking across the kitchen to where I was standing. "MOM. Bob TOUCHED MY WORK."

Oh! I'm sorry?!" I replied, upping my emotional commitment to the conversation.

"Yes. I tell him, 'I NO LIKE THAT BOB.'"

"Well, good!" I responded, finally properly engaged.

"Yes," she nodded, adding gravely, "He no do it again."

And then she marched back to her princesses.

For the rest of the night James and I yelled "I NO LIKE THAT BOB!" any time one of us did something the other didn't like. It's very versatile.

Back on the national scene, we've got a symbolic repeal of the Affordable Care Act which insures more than 15 million citizens and provides important benefits to employer and private plans (like mine!) held by tens of millions more, without any clear plan for replacement. Wednesday and Thursday brought us the news that Mexico will suffer and American will pay for a 2,000 mile wall that will do nothing but stand as crumbling symbol of hate and higher taxes. Literally no one who knows anything in the security space thinks the wall is a good idea and in many parts of Texas it's not even physically possible (John Oliver did an excellent segment on the wall during the campaign; it explains why a wall isn't feasible, and also why, even if it was, it won't do a single thing to slow down illegal immigration). Not to mention that the flow of Mexican immigrants over the border has DECLINED every year since 2008 and is currently at the lowest point since 1973; in fact, currently more unauthorized immigrants leave the US than enter it. This is a fake problem with a fake solution that makes America look stupid and will cost American taxpayers (i.e., not Donald Trump) approximately 35 billion dollars. I NO LIKE THAT BOB.

In another devastating move, ironically made the day before World Holocaust Remembrance Day, we've suspended the admission of all refugees. So people whose homes were attacked by terrorists, who've lived in resettlement camps with nothing, who have been through a TWO-YEAR incredibly thorough vetting process, were literally turned away on planes finally heading to the US on Thursday. All because it sounds good on twitter and Trump knows none of his supporters will actually read how refugee asylum works. Never mind that immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes than native born Americans, and refugees commit crimes essentially never-- of 745,000 refugees resettled since 2001, only TWO have ever been linked to an act of terrorism. And of the 10,000 Syrian refugees we've accepted (less than 0.01% of the total number of Syrians fleeing the terrorism that has destroyed their homes and lives), 77% are women and children and none have been convicted of a crime. But let's turn away the boat and send those seeking asylum back to Nazi Germany. Except, wait, that's what we did in 1939 to Jews we sent back to die in the Holocaust; now we make refugee women and children wait 18-24 months, conduct a vigorous vetting process, put them on a plane with their meager belongings and hopeful hearts, and THEN turn them away. I have friends who work so hard in that space and they have those women and children's faces branded in their hearts and they are devastated. It is shameful. I can't even yell at Bob about it. (And even if you don't care about the humanity of it, national security experts from past Republican and Democratic administrations issued a statement that the move hurts our allies, strengthens our enemies, and "weakens our core objective of combating terrorism.")

I'm leaving out like a dozen other things, but it's too overwhelming. As I told James in a moment of optimism last night- this is all just a big first-push and stuff has to stop blowing up, right? Yeah, he replied, until he actually starts blowing stuff up.


On the upside, the National Park Service rangers are leading the resistance with alt-twitter accounts and I did not see that coming. I do know that if we privatize national park land, I will be truly devastated. I don't even think I'll be able to be mad anymore.

also Claire lost a tooth!

On the personal side, we got a $20,000 estimate to replace our dying HVAC systems on Wednesday and had to replace both our hot water heaters Thursday. Also, my student loan repayment, one of my benefits and part of my compensation, has been suspended per the new hiring and spending freeze (though, if we want to trouble ourselves with facts, the federal workforce has shrunk every year since 2010, so we do not need to "counter the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years" because the federal workforce hasn't expanded at all), so I won't get the final $10,000 payment on a loan I was counting on to finally eliminate one of my larger payments. Not big in the overall scheme of things, but a big Lag Liv family disappointment nonetheless. Then on Wednesday night I found out that a little Kindergartener at our school was struck and killed by a truck after exiting the school bus. She was 5 years old. I can't even wrap my heart around it. We told the kids Thursday morning before they went to school and I kept crying. I simply cannot imagine what that family is going through.

So it's been a week. Big stuff, little stuff, and the deeply tragic and heart-breaking. I am at least enjoying my new hot water heaters as my baths can now be much longer and hotter. We also finished watching Man in the High Castle, which is a relief because while I really liked it and highly recommend it, watching the US under Nazi rule was no longer quite the escape it used to be. I also made some great new recipes and exercised a lot and ate really healthy until Thursday night when I made 7-layer bars and then ate half the tray today as my breakfast and lunch and after-school snack. Balance!

Sunday: Crock pot chicken cacciatore with whole wheat penne, roasted carrots, my new favorite salad. (We liked this, but ultimately prefer a saucier sauce over pasta. Flavors were really good though.)

Monday: Chicken enchiladas (from chicken thighs I put in the crockpot with verde salsa and shredded, combined with cheese and black beans and then rolled into whole wheat tortillas, topped with a little sour cream and shredded cheese and baked at 350 for 15-20 mins), Mexican rice (leftover rice sauteed and simmered with onion, garlic, tomato sauce, and seasonings), sliced avocado.

Tuesday: Sloppy joes (Claire's favorite meal), roasted cauliflower, salad.

Wednesday: Chicken Schwarma (recommended by one of you!), Greek salad, pitas, homemade tzatziki sauce (LOVED the chicken, the Greek salad is a Lag Liv family stample, tzatziki was good, but I'd like to try another recipe before I decide what my go-to is).

Thursday: Salmon with Avocado Salsa, Black Bean Cilantro Lime Rice. The salmon recipe was SO good. So simple, but the rub made a deliciously amazing crust on the salmon (I broiled it 5 mins each side in the oven; James gets home too late to grill). Highly recommend. The rice I made by combining a drained can of black beans, about 2 cups of cooked white rice, juice of 2 limes, and a whole bunch of chopped cilantro. Delish.

Friday: Homemade pizza, raw veggies and Ranch on the side. (still on our no eating out plan; 13 more days...)

Saturday: Jambalaya, corn bread.

Sunday should involve a trip to the rodeo and sadly will not involve any trips for margaritas. But we're almost done with January and February has Valentine's Day AND my birthday and the end of my credit card diet (probably a temporary lift, thanks to the HVAC situation; you don't need air conditioning in Texas right?), so I'm looking forward to it. Bring on the chocolates and champagne and cookie towers. We need it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Marches and Cookies and Finding My More

At the beginning of this week, I was intrigued and generally supportive of the women's marches planned around the US, but had no plans to participate. I looked forward to hearing from friends who were going, but I was in the lazy category of support- liking some facebook posts and "mentally cheering them on," a nonsense phrase if I've ever written one, but I really just was busy entering a renewed feeling of depression over the whole thing. In the weeks leading up to the Inauguration, Donald Trump remained everything that could be terrible about a future president- loose with facts, looser with promises, unqualified cabinet picks, easily insulted and prone to lashing out. He hadn't divested himself of any of his myriad of conflicted business interests (still hasn't) and every day was one day closer to title on this byline being true.

America, a country that once pretended it had moral authority in the world, elected a man who at the age of 50 with a pregnant third wife at home, bragged about being able to get away with sexual assault. I mean, my god. So I was very busy ignoring the news and spending a lot of time thinking about food and reading about vampires instead.

But then, late on Monday night, I saw a friend post on one of her friend's Facebook pages- hey, we should have a Fort Worth march. Her friend said, okay! And they created a Facebook event page. When I went to bed, 21 people were going. The did some research and found out you don't need a permit if you just stand on the sidewalk, so that's what they were going to do. Then the event grew to 100. Then 200. By Wednesday afternoon it was over 1,000. They did the work to get the permits. They created a march route, working with the police department. And the numbers grew more. On Friday morning over 2,000 were expected to attend in my little dark red area of Texas. I realized I need to pull my head and ass out of the sand and romance novels and go too. Because I support every word of this and if a whole bunch of men, women, and children can go meet in front of the courthouse 5 miles from my house to say they support it too, then I can drive over there and join them.

Our Saturday consisted of workers being at our house to install new French doors from 9-2, me teaching barre from 12-1, Claire going to a birthday party from 1-2:30, Landon going to a birthday party from 4-7:30, and James and I having a date night at 6, but between carpools and Tara, we made it work. Landon spent the night at a friend's house Friday night, but the girls and I made my sign. We talked about women's rights and equality and how every gain that has ever been made for women, the LGBT community, minorities, etc. happened through a willingness to work and stand up for what you want and believe in. I told them why I wanted to go, why James wanted to go, why it mattered to us.

For me, it was not so much about protesting Donald Trump. He's President, it happened, God help us all. It's that him winning the election was a wake up call to me that I can't take for granted my prior belief that publicly bragging about sexually assaulting women will hurt you in your future ambitions. Because it won't. And that realization made me want to lend my voice, body, and sign to a cause that says we matter. All of us- all the groups he's insulted over the course of his campaign- we're here, we matter, there's a lot of us, and we won't be ignored. It was about unifying on something with my friends and neighbors. For me, it was a positive statement and action that came about as a reaction to something that felt very personal and negative.

On the day of the March, our crazy schedule meant that Landon was the only one able to go with me, though James was disappointed to miss. And because we had to leave late, we missed the actual March, but I still wanted to drive downtown be part of the afterglow. And what an afterglow it was. As we drove through the familiar streets, I saw hundreds of people walking back to their cars, smiling, chatting, holding signs, and waving. Women, men, children, seniors, youth, families, and groups. It was incredibly inspiring. We made it to the courthouse and saw a group was still there. We spoke with a police office who told us they estimated 8,000 people had attended. 8,000!! For an event in Fort Worth, Texas that had been organized only days before, after so many people had already made plans to go to other cities, that's just amazing. And my friends who were able to March all shared the same stories as my friends in Houston, Denver, Seattle, LA, NYC, and Washington, DC shared- how positive and happy and inspiring it was. To go from feeling so marginalized to feeling so powerful.

(Landon made his own sign; James helped him pick the slogan while I was at barre)

I loved that Landon got to see it. I loved that he saw a big group of people, diverse in age, sex, and ethnicity, still there. I loved getting the cheers and thumbs up texts from my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. Landon and I chatted with an older couple on the courthouse steps- "I was your age in the 60's," the man told Landon, "it's good to start young." We talked to a police officer and I got to show Landon that the police not only protect us from bad guys who are breaking the law, they also protect good guys who are exercising some of our most foundational laws- the Constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly- and how you can't legally do this in every country and aren't we lucky to live where we can.

FORT WORTH, y'all!

I love this town.

And then our day moved on and its breakneck pace until James and I were sitting down for dinner at a new-to-us place on 7th (Cork & Pig; so good; we'll be back), chatting about the day and looking forward to our traditional stop at Stir Crazy Baked Goods for dessert after our meal. Our talk was all political, me trying to stay in the happy headspace of the women's marches and all my friends wonderful stories from attending; James insisting on making us talk about the rest of the news too, how Trump was already lying to the public and attacking the free press and his conflicts of interest were a huge problem his supporters seem to inexplicably ignore (that we live in a country where Barack Obama had to disclose his long-form birth certificate, something no president has had to do, but Donald Trump admits he is never going to disclose his tax returns, something every president candidate has always done, is insane and also makes me SO CURIOUS at what is in them that is so bad) and that his thin-skinned reactive nature is terrifying when you think all a foreign leader has to do is insult him and President Trump will throw diplomacy out the window. (Also, "alternative facts" are now a thing we're pretending aren't just "lies," so I'm sure that won't be a problem later.) Reality is such a downer right now, so I turned my focus to dessert and hoping Stir Crazy would still have the uterus cookies I posted about Friday.

my favorite feminist

And they did!

Are they not oddly adorable? Such cheerful little female reproductive systems. My nurse friend had concerns about the ovary placement, but I can attest to their deliciousness.

Today has been quiet and lovely. Going on walks, playing with friends, cooking a comforting batch of chicken cacciatore, eating leftover cookies, marveling at the hypocrisy of those who I know who marched in the Tea Party Protests after Obama was elected now pretending like protesting isn't as American as it gets or that those Obama protests didn't contain their share of violent, racist rhetoric and/or simulated lynchings and burning of Obama effigies. Or seeing those who denounced President Obama for things they thought he'd do now offended that anyone might denounce President Trump for what he has actually said and done, while blindly ignoring his overt threats to the Constitution they pretended in their own protests to hold dear. Baffling.

Trump Tweets, post-Obama victory 2012
(2nd from the bottom is my favorite- "The Loser One!")

But that's not really what Saturday was about for me. Saturday reminded me the world is also full of people who walk with love and support for one another. So much of what I saw was so surprisingly positive- people who were FOR something. FOR women, FOR education, FOR healthcare, FOR gay rights, FOR science, diversity, inclusion. I felt so inspired by my fellow neighbors right here in my charming, adopted city, and inspired by citizens (and amazing mighty girls!) all over our country and the globe. I have so many friends across the political spectrum who do so much, through supporting our local schools, charities, animal rescues, and more. It was wonderful to be reminded that sometimes just your presence is powerful, that showing up matters, while also bringing home that I need to find my "more." I'm working on it. And I'm thrilled to know I have so many right here in my town who can help me find my voice and place.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Goldfish Princess Food

Thank you all for your kind words on the loss of my aunt. As I mentioned, she wasn't a daily part of my life, so I almost have to keep reminding myself that she's gone- that my uncle and cousins don't have her home, that she isn't calling my grandparents each morning, that she won't be at our next lake house family gathering. It is a cold surprise each time. But I remain thankful for what was really a beautiful weekend honoring her with our family.

my blue, my pearls, and Cora's baby Skyla

The week has pressed on.

Cora remains an irrepressible tutu-clad ball of joy. She is constantly exclaiming over things that are delightful to her, "CWAIRE! I have a purple cup LIKE YOU!" and "MAMA you're HOME! WITH ME!" or "I'm at the POOL and THAT'S MY DADDY OVER THERE!!" and "WANDON, I'm sitting IN YOUR SEAT- WITH YOU!!". On Monday, we dropped the kids off at swim practice (a 5 mile trip for which she had to pack many things, including maracas, obvi), I heard her cheerfully announce from the living room: "Don't worry mom! I just ate that goldfish cracker!"

on my parents' new boat

We hadn't had goldfish in the house in *weeks*. And I honestly keep the house pretty clean, so I cannot imagine from where she unearthed that petrified goldfish or how long it had been there. It gives me shudders, but didn't seem to affect her.

prepared to row us home

She has also started dancing with her princess dolls for at least an hour every night, in full costume. I don't know what flipped the princess switch in her- Claire never cared about them one way or the other, but Cora's love of princesses is as deep as it is true and we all get a kick out of it. Belle remains her favorite and sometimes I'll hear her sigh from the playroom as she pets Belle's hair, "Belle, you are so be-yufull".

Cora Dancing from Lag Liv on Vimeo.

Two nights ago she decided that she needed a dance partner and dug around in her dress up bin before presenting Landon with a rainbow tutu and hot pink eye mask and demanding he dance with her. And despite his initial skepticism, he totally did. Rainbow tutu and all. He is the best big brother.

Cora also got back into her swim lessons last night and she was SO EXCITED to be there. She swam 25 yards all the way across the pool- swimming with her big arms, turning to her back float to breathe, and then flipping back over to keep swimming forward. Her new instructor (or "Coach" as Cora has cheerfully dubbed her; I guess Tara called one of her swim instructors coach last semester and now Cora will hear no name but "Coach" regardless of who is teaching her) said she was a joy to teach and was laughing telling me that she could see Cora smiling even as she kicked all the way down to the bottom of the pool to get a dive stick.

Sounds right.

I've read 4 books in the last 8 days and I am very tired (and equally thankful/remorseful that I can download free books to my Kindle so instantly from the library).

(1) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, on the suggestion of my sister. It was fun and different and I've already downloaded the next in the series.

(2) Angel's Storm, book #5 in Nalini Sing's Guild Hunter Series. I seem to be enjoying those far more than they probably deserve, but I inhale them as soon as each next volume is available through the library and stay up all night to finish each one. I mean, they're good and fun and I'm enjoying the later books in the series focusing on other characters very much, but I really can't explain to you why they are like crack to me.

(3) Feversong, the long-awaited final book in Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. I read this until 3 a.m. two nights in a row and liked it far more than I expected. I thought the last book was terrible and if I had to hear Mac equivocate inside her head for 300 more pages without actually doing anything I was going to demand a refund (something I've only ever done for the 3rd book in the Divergent series which remains one of the worst things I've ever read), but it was good. Things moved forward. Plots concluded. And there's room for a Dani spin-off series which would be much appreciated because while I enjoyed Mac and Barrons, I'm quite done with them and I think they're done with us. My obsession with the Fever series is a mystery to me. I have many very legitimate complaints about Moning's plotting, writing style, and tendency to get distracted by subplots that don't go anywhere but I am addicted to those books in a way that defies logic. Each time I new one has come out over the last 5 years I have started reading it at midnight and stopped only at dawn. I don't know. I'm not even sure how heartily I recommend them, and yet, I didn't sleep for 2 days to finish the last installment.

(4) First Star I See Tonight, a new book in Susan Elizabeth Phillips Chicago Stars series that took me completely by surprise when my friend wrote about it yesterday. Phillips hasn't written a Chicago Stars book for about 9 years, so I assumed the series was over. When I learned otherwise at 10:30 p.m. last night, I obviously downloaded it immediately from the library and then finished it around 3:30.

I have a problem.

On to food, my other favorite thing, and another belated thank you for your amazing recipes and cookbook suggestions on my food post. I've written down every single one and bookmarked anything linkable and can't wait to try them. This week ended up being a giant Skinnytaste Tasting Menu because I ordered the two Skinnytaste cookbooks (the original and fast and slow) for myself after Christmas and took them with me to read in the car on our drive to Houston and planned my menu from there. I love a good post-it flag and enjoyed feeling old fashioned in my recipe planning. But next week I'll start branching out again. Until then, here was our menu:

Thursday's chili hurt Cora's feelings
(though she ended up eating her whole bowl)

Monday: Santa Fe Turkey Taco Salads (from the Skinnytaste cookbook; possibly not exactly the right name, but it's and the book is too far away for me to go check), lots of toppings, tortilla chips. (We all liked this; healthy and hearty and eaten on top of a bed of chopped lettuce instead of rice or taco shells, and since I made a bunch of the AMAZING avocado cilantro crema and then mixed it up into the salads, the kids ate every bite. They'll do anything for avocado.)

Tuesday: I had a PTA Board Meeting, so this was a test of some new pre-made ingredients for a healthy, quick dinner: TJ's organic whole wheat spaghetti, TJ's organic tomato basil marinara sauce, and Costco's organic chicken meatballs (in the refrigerated section), plus orange pepper slices and cherry tomatoes on the side. And it was all really good! So good it's possible I'm not making meatballs from scratch all that often anymore... And the whole meal was $12. Not bad for filling and healthy with no effort.

Wednesday: TJ's BBQ brisket slices (another pre-made, you just heat and serve; James had bought it about 2 weeks ago so I needed to use it up), whole wheat rolls and sandwich toppings, and another round of the Kale Radicchio Salad with Farro and Lemon Miso dressing because I am OBSESSED with it. I seriously love this salad, especially now that I add chopped avocado.

Thursday: Turkey, White Bean, and Pumpkin chili. A new and interesting take on chili. Everyone really liked it, though it definitely needed a few toppings and James needed hot sauce as it is very mild. But the pumpkin gave it an unctuous creamy flavor (you couldn't tell it was pumpkin, but you knew there was something wonderful in there) and I liked having a variation of chili that was lighter and made with different spices. (Also, I didn't make it in the crock pot; I browned the turkey and sauteed the onions and garlic in a Dutch Oven, mixed everything in, brought to a boil, and then covered the pot and put it in a 350 degree oven for about 90 mins, came out great.)

Friday: Supposed to be another Skinnytaste meal (Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore, tossed with pasta, roasted cauliflower and carrots on the side), but it's a beautiful day and I want a margarita so badly, so rather than break my credit card diet and spend money to save money at happy hour, I'm going to make our own nachos and frozen margaritas to eat outside while the girls play. Landon is spending the night with a friend (it's a brave new world for us with occasionally missing children; we've always been a pack and it's super weird but also not terrible), so that means I can douse everything in cheese without anyone complaining about it.

Saturday: DATE NIGHT, location to be determined. I wanted frozen margaritas (a craving that should be cured this evening), James wants to try Cork & Pig on 7th, and we both want Stir Crazy Baked Goods for dessert (they decorated uterus/ovary sugar cookies in honor of the Women's March on Fort Worth tomorrow; just when I thought I couldn't love them move). It may be a progressive dinner. My brother gave us a gift card for Christmas and this night is my one allowed exception to my month-long credit card diet. The kids are having their choice of TJ's finest organic spaghettios, mac and cheese, or mini pizzas. With veggies, because our nanny is a nutrition major and I like to not disappoint her.

Sunday: Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa (from a facebook recipe video that caught my eye), Skinnytaste roasted corn salsa side (cookbook), probably also tossed with brown rice because James needs carbs.

And I made these Protein Egg and Quinoa Jar salads for lunch for two days. I am killing it on this no eating out/spending money thing. And it feels so good and so emotionally cleansing. Not that I won't absolutely go back to enjoying my lunches out more than once a week and perusing the sale sections of my favorite internet stores, but much like how after a big meal, other food doesn't even look good. Well after the last 2 months of vacations and Christmas and a bunch of other random expenses that just happened to fall in December, shopping doesn't even look good. It's like a financial Whole 30. (Because goodness knows I'm never doing the food one; my understanding is nachos are not approved and that doesn't work for me.)

And finally, workouts. I'm doing them. Still loving yoga, still getting my butt kicked at OTF (are the workouts harder lately? I've been going for nearly a year and I have been DYING at the last few):

Monday: Orangetheory
Tuesday: eating pizza, reading until my eyes bleed
Wednesday: CorePower C2 Yoga
Thursday: Orangetheory
Friday: C2 Yoga
Saturday: Barre (teaching)
Sunday: Cyclebar spin class

I'm off to buy ingredients for nachos and margaritas and ignore reality and the news for a little while longer. A wonderful weekend (and happy marching, to those who are!) to you all!

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Sudden Farewell

On our second day skiing, when it was -5 degrees out and dumping snow, I took a morning break in the Summit House at the top of the second peak. I thawed my hands and checked my phone - already down to 12% power because the cold temps were draining my battery now matter how many layers deep I buried my phone. I had an email from my dad, the title: MB in Hospital ICU.

MB is my mom's sister. My aunt and godmother. Her name is really Mary Beth; my dad has always - fairly exclusively - called her MB. She was 19 months younger than my mother. Child #2 of 4 in their family. Married for 23 years; mother of two, my only male cousins on my mom's side, currently in high school and college. She had been sick, in and out of hospital and care facilities for more than two months. Though we did not know it at the time, she had cirrhosis of the liver. My aunt was an alcoholic.

My dad noted that my grandparents were on their way from San Antonio to Houston and he was ready to drive my mom as soon as she could leave school. I wrote a quick response, asking to be kept updated, and went on skiing, pulling my phone out on every lift I could to check for updates. I didn't know what that meant. She'd just gone back home again from the hospital right before Christmas. What could have them heading to the ICU in an ambulance so suddenly on a Thursday morning?

My phone died after lunch, so I took a break at 2, tromping out to the parking lot in my ski boots to turn on the car and charge it up enough to check my messages. I had one from my mom- brief and heartbreaking: all Mary Beth's organs were failing, but they would keep her on life support until everyone could arrive to say goodbye. Most were already there and my uncle was on his way from Atlanta. I was shocked. Sitting in a car alone, half-buried in a snow drift, I called my mom to hear her cry for maybe the 10th time in my entire life. I said I was sorry, so sorry. Asked some inane questions, inquired about my grandparents, and let her go. Called my sister, did the same, taking turns asking questions neither of us could answer. I tromped back to the village to meet up with James before getting the kids from ski school. I didn't know what to do. "How do you feel?" James asked, when I told him. "I have no idea." I responded.

I've never had a death in the family. All four of my grandparents are alive and healthy. I think maybe it always feels a little bizarre, that someone can be here one day and not the next. My distance from the event made it even more surreal. Gathered around the table with James and the kids in Colorado, eating a cozy meal of Mexican Rice after a hard day of skiing, trying to chat with them about their days, my eyes riveted on my phone waiting for the news. I thought about the first time I ever had our family-favorite Mexican Rice dinner. My siblings and I were staying the weekend at my aunt's town home in Houston. She wasn't married- she married later in life and thus spent a lot of time as a doting aunt to the three of us, babysitting us frequently and bringing us special gifts. We loved her new town home- an apartment with stairs!!- and her complex had a very cool pool with a bridge over it. She made us this delicious Mexican dinner, with all the toppings, because she knew it was simple and tasty and we'd love it. And here I was, serving it to my three, because it's simple and tasty and we always love it. I started crying into my bowl. I got the text - "She's gone."

I told the kids. They knew her, but not very well; we hadn't spent as much time together in more recent years. I was shamefully thankful for that bit of emotional distance as they hammered questions at me in their curious way as we lay all together in Cora's big trundle bed. They spent a while trying to figure out the family tree; the fact that I have an Uncle Erik and they have an Uncle Eric and I have an Uncle Carl and a cousin Carl and they call my grandparents "grandma and grandpa" when really they are Gigi's (and thus Mary Beth's) parents all made for quite a bit of confusion. They were shocked she could have kids in school and still die. We talked about the disease of alcoholism. We talked about crying, since I was doing so off and on throughout, and about being sad and how it can make you feel funny inside to see other people so sad and that's okay- it's okay that they're sad, and it's okay if you're not. We talked about funerals and burials and I answered 55 questions from my resident biologist about what happens to bodies after death. I wikipedia'd things I've never wikipedia'd before. We talked about all of these things that night and for most of our car ride home. It was exhausting and therapeutic and still completely unreal. Like I was talking a hypothetical.

I spoke with my mom on our drive away from the mountains the next day. She told me the story of the night before. That everyone was able to be in the room as she passed- all her siblings and spouses, her husband and sons, her parents, my brother and one of my cousins. Every single person who lives in Texas and two who flew in from Georgia. She understood what was happening and though she couldn't speak for the breathing tube, she was able to say goodbye. They sang her favorite songs, recited her favorite Bible verses. At the end, my grandmother was able to say "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" to her daughter as she passed. Constantly fearful of losing my signal, I tried to make some noise in acknowledgment of her words even as we were both crying and unable to talk. It was beautiful, my mom said. We all got to say goodbye, to tell her over and over how much she meant to us, to put her in the center and love her every minute of her last hours. I'm so glad for them. For her, for my uncle and cousins to have had that around them.

We pressed on with the trip, unsure of what else to do. I didn't want to say anything publicly, feeling like it was so much less my loss than my cousins' or mom's or grandparents'. It still felt surreal. Seeing her obituary pop up on my computer was a cold, sudden shock.

The funeral was Saturday. Having just unpacked from skiing, we packed for entirely different weather and left our house very early Saturday morning to drive directly to the Houston church. We all wore blue and yellow in honor of her favorite colors and beloved Swedish heritage and flag. I wore the beautiful pearl choker and earrings set she'd bought for me in Spain many years ago. Always one for occasion and tradition, she'd shown me the necklace when I was young - maybe 8 - and had told me she was saving it for me when I turned 18. And sure enough, she gifted it to me my senior year of high school. I wore them to my first job interview and on my wedding day and innumerable times since. The pearl drops she gave me when I graduated college. I was so glad to wear something of my godmother on Saturday, and glad I could tell my uncle the story, surprised he hadn't heard it, and glad again that he could smile and cry over something so very her. He'll know now that I think of her every time I wear them.

The service was beautiful and very personal. She was extremely involved in their church and it showed in the way the pastor spoke of her and the way the service was written. I read a Bible verse, along with my grandfather and cousin. She was a former English teacher and her sons read passages from literature. My uncle, her brother, read her biography and my mom read a story she wrote of the night she passed. It was beautifully done and I can't believe she got through it. The kids were very well behaved, even as the service went past the hour mark. We'd told them they could ask us any questions at any time, as long as they were discreet and quiet, but they couldn't ask anyone else. They're close to my mom and Grandma and I could only imagine what they might find appropriate to question right then. The church was completely full. I saw very personally what I have always read to be true- when someone you know dies, you go to the funeral. You show up. Just be there, hold space, fill the pew. I cannot tell you how much it meant to see so many people present, even if I had no idea who 90% of them were, and that feeling is amplified by 1,000 when I think of my bereaved uncle and cousins, of my grandparents and what it meant to them. Of my mom's face when she saw friends of hers she'd had no idea were coming. You show up. It doesn't matter if you weren't close, it matters so much that you are there. My aunt's high school boyfriend sent flowers. It gave everyone a smile to see the card, to know she was thought of after so many years, to be able to share stories of when she was so young and vibrant. A different Mary Beth than some of us knew.

There was a reception at the church after the service and we got to see many old family friends I hadn't seen in a long time. We went to dinner as a family- just the aunts, uncles, cousins, and my grandparents. My sister was there with baby Sky; it was wonderful to see them again even after only 6 days apart. A funeral isn't a good reason, but it is good to be with so much family, particularly as we are now increasingly far flung, with cousins of mine flying in from LA, Atlanta, and Boston to attend. That night, we finally headed to my parents' new house- a rather impromptu first visit. It is incredibly beautiful, and while maybe not home yet, it's lovely and warm and filled with them. All the rest of my family came too, to gather again, loathe, I think, to separate, even as we were tired and drained. I worried so much for my grandparents. My aunt was extremely close to them, calling them twice a day, every day. And I can't imagine watching your own child pass, and enduring their loss when they're gone. But they are strong. Hurting, but so strong in their family and their faith. It was good to see them surrounded by all of us and to know they felt the love for Mary Beth and for them.

We left yesterday afternoon after another family gathering at my parent's house for lunch. We drove home in a torrential downpour, with tornadoes touching down 20 miles away and lightning illuminating the whole sky. We had to pull over a few times because visibility was nil, but the kids weren't bothered and we eventually made it home okay, though James- who does all the driving- is pretty done with road tripping for a while. I'm so glad we were able to be there, that we all were. I still find it so impossible I've lost an aunt. My godmother. My mom's sister and my grandparents' daughter. I'm so sad for her, for my uncle, for my cousins. I'm thankful for the memories I have with her, particularly when I was young. The ones Eric can barely recall, but I remember so clearly- she was such a big part of our lives in those years and gave so much of herself to us. She introduced me to the books Heidi and The Secret Garden (both of which I loved); the movies The Princess Bride and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (both of which terrified me); and told me that animals can talk to you at midnight on Christmas Eve, something I was skeptical of but desperately wanted to believe (not that I ever made it to midnight to check). I'm thankful for the pearls she gave me, that I have something so tangible to remember her by. I'm deeply grateful for family and friends for their support of my grandparents, Mary Beth's family, my parents, and my other aunts and uncles. I think they have felt very held up right now; it has made me realize how much more I can do to support those in my own circle.

We made sure to leave before the kickoff for the Packers game yesterday (or tried to, we were like 5 minutes behind). My aunt was a huge Packer fan (and shareholder), as are my grandparents and cousins, and they take their watching very seriously. As I googled updates on my phone on our endless drive home- perhaps the first time I have ever googled a football game result, I smiled to see the game be so close- I could only imagine the tension at my parents' house- and then got a huge grin to see the Packers win it all at the very end. I'm quite certain my aunt was cheering them on from above, smiling to see her husband and sons on a couch surrounded by her parents, my mom, dad, and brother, her brother and his wife and daughter, all cheering together, all thinking of her.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kamut Berries, Brussels Sprouts, and Other Culinary Adventures

First of all, did you know what I formerly knew as "brussel sprouts" are actually the always-plural "Brussels Sprout?" I did not! Google just told me. I declared google to be false, checked all the recipes I read on our drive to and from Colorado that involved this sprout and discovered, to my genuine shock, that it read "Brussels sprouts" in every one of them. I have been wrong my whole life. So wrong that I deliberately read them wrong over and over again. This is like when I discovered reindeer are real animals while talking to the reindeer handler at the Dallas Arboretum two Christmases ago. I kept trying to get him to tell me what the reindeer really was. Like, dude, I'm in on the secret. I know Santa isn't real and I'm just trying to figure out what kind of animal you have behind you wearing all those bells. "It's a reindeer ma'am." We did that about four times. He probably knew it was Brussels sprouts too.

But what IS it?"

In another moment of breathtaking genius, I decided to make three brand new recipes from scratch for dinner Monday night. I did something wrong to all of them, resulting in three totally mediocre components to a meal that took me three hours and a near paycheck's worth of organic ingredients to make. My big moment of redemption was supposed to come on Tuesday when I revealed the amazing chicken broth I was going to brew overnight in the crockpot with my whole roasted organic chicken carcass, big chunks of onion, carrot, and celery, fresh herbs, and lots of water. But when I came out Tuesday morning to smile beatifically over my concoction I found it cold and congealy because I never plugged the freaking crockpot in. So into the trash everything went, along with my tears, and what might as well have just been the money I could have spent on the new pair of snow boots I wanted.

But I remain undaunted in my New Year's Quest. I am cooking new things and they are going to be amazing! Or some of them will. It's going to be an adventure.

new books!

My cooking and our eating have been a long evolution. We've eaten dinner as a family every night since Landon turned 1, but my approach cooking has changed drastically over the years. In Chicago, recipe blogs weren't a thing yet, so my newly married self stumbled through some simple childhood favorites, casseroles full of cream-of-whatever soups, and a lot of frozen stuff from Trader Joe's. We didn't have any money and we never ever threw away a single thing without at least trying to make something edible with it. I remember making a bean stew that cost about $5 with all our leftover canned goods and eating it for 5 days straight. I had never heard of quinoa, but we were vegetarians much of the time because chicken was the most expensive thing I bought at the grocery store and I generally avoided it. Food was about enjoyment when we treated ourselves to a meal out and survival at home. I didn't put a lot of thought in to it.

In Austin it was all about what was fast. We didn't get home from work until 6:30, with 1-2 hungry kids in tow, so whoever got there first started cooking. We ate a ton of pasta, anything we could make in advance over the weekend, and once I got over the cost, we got a lot of prepared meals from local delivery services. I had now heard of quinoa, but I pronounced it wrong and didn't really know what it was. I didn't exercise, ever, though James still swam daily. I was getting more adventurous about recipes and starting to really enjoy the process of chopping and cooking, but only on the weekends when I had time.

And then we came to Fort Worth and I found myself in a job that let me be home with the kids by 5:30. Suddenly, as food shows and recipe blogs were everywhere, I had time to (try to!) cook whatever I wanted. So we started to get more creative. I didn't eat meat for most of college, and James has a terrifying family history of heart disease (no man has made it to 50 without a heart attack, and no man has made it to 70 ever; both his paternal grandparents died of heart attacks before he was born), so he's always been eager for heart healthy vegetarian meals mixed in with meatier dishes. I finally tackled quinoa and it's a staple ingredient in two of our family's favorite meals (Southwestern BBQ Quinoa Salad and Greek Quinoa Salad). The kids are older and don't need anything hands-on in the evening; we lost a wall of our kitchen so I can see them and chat with them while I cook and simmer. Cooking has truly become a fun hobby and enjoyable task. I know someday they'll have more activities and my precious evening time will get scattered, so I'm trying to savor it now. James coaches every night and gets home about 7, so I have everything ready to go and we sit down to eat the minute he steps in the door. He does all the breakfasts and packs lunches, two chores I strongly dislike, so it balances out perfectly.

But now I'm trying to branch out some more. I still need recipes. I'm not a good chef- I'm not a chef at all- but I'm an excellent follower of directions. Because of this, I rely more on one pot meals than I really want to. I love them, but I wouldn't mind a few nights of a protein + seasoning or sauce with veggies and grains on the side. But I don't know how to cook a protein just on it's own, so I rarely go that route. This is one of my goals in 2017. Conquer the chicken. Be the beef. Slay the salmon. Pump up the pork (if we ate it, which we don't).

Quell the Quinoa!

(Pictured because I FINALLY found a pre-rinsed quinoa available in large quantity for a reasonable price - Costco, of course.)

My other goal is to find more recipes with fuel-rich, energy-giving ingredients that are "light" in that they are not rich or heavy, but that aren't also too light in calories. No one is trying to lose weight; in fact James is constantly eating to keep it on, and I'm now a bona fide worker-outer, so I struggle to find recipes that are the kind of "light" we're looking for- more of a personal preference in whole food preparation than any kind of dieting plan.

On shu's recommendation, I bought "Run Fast, Eat Slow" which I greatly enjoyed and was the source of my three mediocre meal extravaganza on Monday (totally not the book's fault). Tonight I made their Kale Radicchio Salad with Farro and Lemon Miso Dressing and it was AMAZING. James devoured it and then ate all the leftovers I'd stored in the fridge. The farro was such a delicious addition to the salad- chewy and hearty while providing the extra much-needed calories to an otherwise pretty light and definitely very healthy salad. I'd never thought to add a grain like that to a salad before, and that's exactly the kind of recipe I'm searching for now. If anyone else has that book has any favorite recipes, let me know what I should make next.

In a separate "new year" type venture, we're on a credit card crash diet for the month (2 vacations + Christmas in 6 weeks was a bit much, even if they were all carefully planned, saved for, and within budget; my credit card is just tired and wants to be left alone), so I've planned all our meals for the whole next month (NO restaurants, except a date night here and there, because marriage is important. and also sushi) and unsubscribed from all store emails. There will be emergencies, but there will be no discretionary spending. James never buys anything or cares that I buy everything, so he doesn't even know we're on a diet, but I am COMMITTED. Today was Day 1 of the new credit card cycle. It ends February 10th, conveniently before Valentine's Day and my birthday, because let's not be ridiculous.

never ridiculous

This week's menu:

Monday: Whole roasted chicken, Zucchini quinotto (like risotto, but with quinoa and a bunch of grated zucchini; I love the idea, but didn't find this one to have enough flavor; this could have been my fault and I want to try again, but with more stuff added in), Roasted BRUSSELS sprouts, Costco's seeded wheat bread. All from Eat Fast, Run Slow; all will be made again, just in a more informed manner than I made them the first time.

Tuesday: Whole wheat pasta (another change going forward!) and Bolognese sauce. The sauce was really good (I omitted the bacon step and the ground pork, using 1.3 lbs. of organic ground beef from those magical Costco packages I always have in the freezer), one of the best bolognese's I've found so far, but I did not read the part that said simmer 2-4 hours in advance so we simmered for 30 mins. It was still awesome and I look forward to finding out what 4 hours will do.

Wednesday: BBQ quinoa salad! A family classic, this time with leftover chicken from Monday's roasted chicken, chopped and tossed in a little bbq sauce.

Thursday: Grilled tuna steak, Kale Radicchio Salad with Farro (and an amazing Lemon Miso Dressing that had me searching "what is white miso paste" on google; for the salad I used a bagged blend of shaved kale, radicchio, brussels sprouts, and broccoli from Trader Joe's because it was easy, and I subbed out the walnuts for toasted cashews because I hate walnuts and love cashews), whole grain bread.

Friday: leftover pasta bolognese

If you have any favorite recipes, books, or blogs in the "healthy and hearty but not heavy" long-worded-vein of what I'm looking for above (or something I don't even know I'm looking for!), let me know! It's a year of new things. Brussels sprouts yesterday, farro today, Kamut berries in our breakfast tomorrow. Who knows what madness next week will bring.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Snow, Sky, and Home

We got home late last night after a full day of driving. Eight days gone, seven nights in three different cities, a lot of packing and unpacking and a whole lot of fun. We only stopped twice on our drive home from Denver. We meant to stop for dinner, but the kids never asked and once you pass Wichita Falls there's basically nothing until Fort Worth so we just pushed for home. Within minutes of pulling in the driveway I was hip deep in unpacking and the kids were eating the finest organic spaghettio's our pantry could provide. Everyone was thrilled to be in their own beds last night, though we were sad to leave our baby (cousin/niece) Skyla behind.

She was SHOWERED in affection from her big cousins.

And was bemused and incredibly tolerant of all the fuss.

The guided tours of her own toys.

The fact that four people needed to feed her one bottle. (Seriously, we all took turns. I got to go first.)

That a strange lady had to snuggle her before bed and hold her at every opportunity.

I've mostly healed but my heart still aches sometimes when I think about the 4th baby we couldn't have. Before she was born, I wondered if seeing Sky would help or hurt. It does neither, it just feels good to be her aunt.

And it feels extra good to watch my kids get to be cousins.

They LOVE babies. This was the highlight of Cora's whole trip.

Also, and this is big news, Cora LOVES snow.

At least once it stops hitting her in the face.

We woke up on our first morning in Denver to fluffy snow that was on the ground instead of in the air, so we took our hyperactive children who'd been in a car or house all day the day before (it had been 0 degrees; even in ski clothes, the shopping and hiking we'd planned to do in our fave mountain towns just wasn't possible for long) to a nearby park.

It was a toasty 15 degrees, so I got to bring my real camera along and get some pictures.

Because everyone looks good in bright white snow.

James and I were done long before the kids (frozen feet; frozen hands; frozen everything), but I loved seeing them play the way I hoped they'd get to play when we'd decided on a winter Colorado trip.

And now that we have Cora on board, Colorado remains a favorite of the Lag Liv family, though it is awfully good to be home.

Even if I crafted an overly ambitious meal after reading 4 cookbooks during our car ride and thought it would be a good idea to make 3 totally new dishes from scratch: roasted chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, and zucchini quinotto . I cooked for 2.5 hours, spending too many dollars on organic ingredients and it all turned out too mediocre for the effort, but my drive for new meals from good ingredients has not waned. I'm just glad I'm making things I already know and like for the next two days. A blog post on food is coming next!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Skis Up!

Here I sit, fleeced out once again after an invigorating and freezing day of skiing. Today's high temp was 15 degrees, with a low of -7, and it snowed another million inches (or 14). It has actually never stopped snowing for a single second since we walked out onto the mountain on Tuesday morning. Apparently Colorado really needed it, but I'm not sure we needed quite so much all at once. Thank god for four wheel drive, Cora's spot in childcare, and the fact that the rest of us really like skiing.

I love tiny skis, though Landon's are a lot less tiny than they used to be. Both he and Claire had great days in ski school, each skiing precisely to their personalities. Landon, enthusiastic and driven, skipping ahead several levels by the end of Day 1 and dying to get out and ski on the "really big slopes." Claire, equally enthusiastic, happily motoring down her bunny hill, refusing to be graduated to Level 2 where she might be in any way challenged.

And Cora. Cora loved childcare, her teacher said she had a great day and is "just a joy." It was noted on her daily report that she cried during their "outside play time" which involved a walk through the snowy woods. Consistent with her feelings about snow forts and tubing, Cora used tears as an escape vehicle, this time crying for "mommy and daddy," making her sweet teacher think she was homesick instead of just manipulative and snow-hating.

James and I had a great day. I remembered how to ski, which is always a relief after a 3-year break and we went down some lovely and powder-covered blue runs to head to the Outback mountain. James loves the back bowls like he loves the Manitou Incline and I tolerate them with the same fervor. I popped off my skis at the top and gave them to James to carry as we hiked to the summit and start of the South Bowl run. I had promised to do it once, and I've done it lots of times before, but my enthusiasm waned with every step into powder and up the edge.

James's grew.

We finally got to the bowl and I went to put on my skis, only to have them immediately sink about 9 inches into the fluffy powder. I looked at the bowl, looked at the trees and rocks and SO MUCH DEEP SNOW and decided, this no longer looks fun.

And so I said goodbye to my sexy snowboarder, told him to be as careful as he's capable of being, and began the long sloooooow walk of shame through the deep snow, carrying my skis back UP the bowl and then down to the lift. It took me 30 minutes and it was terrible. Why in the hell does anyone want to climb Everest? But at no point did I wish I had skied down the bowl, so I was okay with my gasping breaths and burning legs. We'll call it my New Year's workout. At high altitude, even.

And James did make it down, and then he did the bowl 5 more times because, as discussed, he is a crazy person.

But he's my crazy person.

We met up occasionally at the lift, with me coming down the blues and him coming down from another black bowl. We ate lunch together and then ran into our friends and neighbors who were also here skiing with their kids. We live about 8 houses away and our kids are in the same classes at school and now they're in the same class at ski school - it's a small world. Our run-in gave me a buddy to ski down the blues, James got to continue his back-bowling without feeling like I was lonely (I was not), and our other friend got to ski the greens as he preferred. Everyone was happy!

me and my friend Kim, or really, anyone

After a few more hours of being pelted in the face with freezing snow, I decided to call it a day at 2:30, maybe my earliest ever, but damn. The snow beating was starting to feel personal and I discovered there were ice blocks forming in my hair.

I fixed this with a hot toddy, which is a magical combination of whiskey, hot water, lemon, and honey, and it is delicious after a snow-slapping. James called it a day not too much later (clearly we're getting old) and we got the kids from ski school and childcare and headed home. Claire and Cora fell asleep before we left the parking lot which is maybe the best part of a family ski trip - total happy exhaustion.

Today was much the same, except even colder, and even snowier. I know everyone loves fresh powder, but simple turns were becoming feats of strength and power. The Outback Bowls were closed (sad?), so James stuck with me and humored me with blue runs all day. He loves me so.

It was so, so cold (SO COLD), but the snow was great and we got a lot of great runs in. The big kids had another great day, with Landon jumping to Level 5 and Claire even allowing herself to do her turns properly so she could go up to Level 2. Cora had another fabulous day in childcare, made more fabulous with the temperatures being too cold for "outside play." Her teacher noted that "Cora didn't miss mommy and daddy today!" What a coincidence.

Landon surprised us by wanting to go down another run with James after ski school was over (the look on James's cold tired face said maybe it was an unpleasant surprise), so they headed back up the mountain for a final run of the vacation while the girls and I headed to the village Starbucks to drink hot beverages and pretend we weren't still wearing ski boots. The boys made it back to the bottom 40 minutes later without any tears or falls and James said Landon did awesome. They both looked as pleased and proud as they did frozen. I suppose we'll be letting him ski with us on our next trip!

We trudged to the car, the girls immediately fell asleep, and we dropped off our rented equipment-- another successful family ski trip under our belts.

I love skiing, but next time around we may push it back to Spring Break. I've only just now regained feeling in my toes.

We head to Denver tomorrow, assuming the snow stops like it's supposed to and the roads can be cleared, to see my sister, brother-in-law, and baby niece. Cora is SO excited to see "her" baby Skyla, so she'll finally have something going for her on this trip besides wrapping her daycare teacher around her little finger and looking amazing in her superfluous snow suit.