Friday, November 30, 2012

Letters To Tory: 15 Months

Tory Girl,

Today marks 15 months since we welcomed you into the world. It's difficult for me to remember a time before you joined our lives and yet, the day of your birth seems like it was just yesterday.

You are officially a toddler now, evident by the level of engagement in all things you do - more creative play, conversations with Daddy and I, learning new things ... and tantrums. Yes, you are definitely capable of whining and carrying on to make a statement.

This month, I noticed a few new actions which prove your growing independence. Out on a walk during one of the last gorgeous fall days in November, you insisted on walking to the playground instead of riding in your stroller. You walked alongside me for a few blocks on the way to the school by our house and half way there, you reached up for my hand. It melted my heart when I realized how much my baby girl is growing up before my very eyes. You also grab my hand as you lead me from room to room in our house, anxious to show me something new.

I had to laugh at your independence the other day when you opened up the refrigerator door, slid open the drawer and helped yourself to a Babybel cheese. You bit right into the waxy coating before I could stop you! You are a cheese maniac and you'll sit like a perfect angel at the promise of cheese coming your way. Lately, it's my only kryptonite to get you to sit still in the grocery store shopping cart.

Some of your favorite places to play in the house are in Mom and Dad's bedroom and in the main bathroom. You've discovered how to flush the toilets and you love to sit in the shower with no water on. I'm not sure what's so exiting about that activity, but you seem to love it. If you're missing in action for a minute or two, chances are you're digging through my underwear drawer. Again, I have no idea why you like to play in there, but one of your favorite things to do is wear my (clean) underwear around your neck like a scarf. The other day after playing this game, a few of Daddy's employees came over and I was a little embarrassed you'd strung my undergarments all over the living room!

Chloe the Dog has become your best buddy this month. Until a few weeks ago, the two of you basically co-existed in this household. There was an unspoken rule between the two of you; leave me alone and I'll do the same. Suddenly, you're all about petting her and Chloe's not so sure she's ready to reciprocate the friendship. Honestly, you've done pretty well at "being gentle" with Chloe and we try to encourage you to let Chloe approach you by holding out your hand to signal you'd like to play. You have such a loving heart, Tory Girl, and you're always anxious to give Chloe a hug or any little kids you meet on a play date, at library story time or swimming class. I love that about you.

I quit my job this month, Beanie, so now we get to spend every single day together. I'm really excited to not only spend so much time with you, but also to further your learning and development. You and I are inseparable these days, and you've even started calling me "ma ma." I never grow tired of hearing you say those syllables to me, even when you're tugging at my pant leg for attention. We've been doing a lot of cooking together this month, and you love to help me in the kitchen. I give you special tasks like stirring the mixing bowl or dumping an ingredient into the pan I even taught you to sniff the yummy smells coming from our kitchen creations and it cracks me up every time you do it.

Speaking of food, some first-year molar teething this month caused your appetite to nose-dive. Thankfully it's come back now but for a while there, all I could do to get you to eat anything was give you some ranch dressing to dip it in. Since then, you've developed quite the love for dips and you'll dip practically anything in syrup, ranch dressing or ketchup. I even saw you dipping your sandwich in yogurt the other day!.

You've really shown a love for music and dancing. The other day at library story time, you stood in the center of the group, right in front of the teacher and her instrument, and danced away while we sang together. It's comical the way you shimmy your shoulders fiercely in stores when you hear a song playing that moves you. You'll even say "ye" (ye haw) when I sing "She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain" to you. One of your favorite tunes is the "Hokey Pokey" and you can almost do all the actions. It's impressive!

One of these days, you'll be jabbering a mile a minute. I can see the gears turning in your head. You're so smart, thoughtful and strong-willed. I love seeing the girl you're growing into every day.

I love you, Tory Bean.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Deck The Halls

Our halls are officially decked for the holidays. Whew! It took me four days to complete the task with my pint-sized helper by my side. Over the course of the last few days, I put up two Christmas trees, decorated the fireplace mantle and decked out the front porch. I was determined to display every piece of Christmas decor I own because last year, I hardly felt up to it with a new baby at home.

Andi doesn't enjoy decorating for Christmas so I don't object him to participating if he doesn't like it. We're not like other families who brave the outdoors to chop down a tree together or reminisce about homemade Christmas ornaments. I do enjoy all those things, however, so I make it special for myself by blaring my favorite holiday tunes and taking my time to make every decoration perfect. I'm looking forward to the day when Tory's old enough to help. If she's anything like me, she'll love the way a bright Christmas tree makes her feel, shining from inside the living room window.

When my parents moved into a smaller house a few years ago, they passed down their big Christmas tree to me. I know how time consuming it is to assemble as I assisted my dad with it many times over the years. It's completely worth the effort and I love being reminded of my childhood Christmases back home, all the way in Minnesota.

The tree looks a little lopsided, but it's only my awesome picture taking skills.

My mom also gave me her nativity scene last year and I love it. It makes me feel so grown up to have one for some reason, and it also reminds me of her. As a baptism gift last year, my cousin Jen gifted Tory a Little People nativity scene and I set it up in the living room, just below my fragile one. I think it's such a fabulous gift because it's actually something Tory plays with and it so far, it's kept her from touching my real set. I've been using the characters to teach her about all the Christmas Story and sometimes Baby Jesus even does everyday things with us like coloring and riding in the Little People airplane.

So far, Tory hasn't bothered the real Christmas tree. We talked about how it's a "no touch" and I positioned all the breakable ornaments on the top half of the branches just in case. Andi's mom volunteered to make Tory the felt Christmas tree I was eyeing on Pinterest and so far, "Tory's tree" has completely stolen all of her attention. The ornaments my MIL Janie made are absolutely adorable. I love the level of detail she gave to each one, sewing our names and initials onto some and adding pops of color to others. So sweet.

Secretly, I feel like the biggest loser for being one of the only houses on our block without Christmas lights at night. We have a few perfectly shaped trees in our yard so I investigated ways to string lights on them myself. But without outside power (and with our recent pest problem - which is behind us, thank goodness), I didn't want to run an extension cord underneath our garage door. Instead, I saw the most adorable rattan moose on sale at Target the other day and I decided to go that route for outdoor decoration. I love the way it looks on our front porch ... and it was a lot easier to assemble than Christmas lights in a tree.

Downstairs, I put up my smaller Christmas tree I purchased for my very first apartment in 2003. It was  a breeze to decorate compared to the mammoth one upstairs! I like to have one "pretty tree" upstairs and a "family tree" downstairs because that's the way my parents always decorated when we were growing up. The smaller tree is filled with ornaments from my childhood, a few Andi and I've collected together over the years and Tory's first Christmas ornaments received last year.

Top left: Flip flops from our Hawaii vacation in 2006
Bottom left: Tory's 1st Christmas ornament 2011
Right: My 1st Christmas ornament 1981

The fireplace mantle displays my most treasured Christmas decoration - the hand-sewn stockings Andi purchased for our family on our second wedding anniversary (cotton). They're so special to me (I just wish they'd stay turned outwards! I might have to take the mount apart and re-sew it on each stocking).

Now our halls are decked, I'm ready to host friends and family for my annual Christmas Cookie Swap this weekend and to host Andi's family on Christmas Day. Bring on the festivities!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Division of Labor

I'm stealing this Division of Labor post idea from Raising Snowpeas and The Diniwilks because I think it's so interesting to hear how other marriages share the responsibility of parenting and all the other stuff fairytales forget to mention. For Andi and I, here's how the division of labor is split in our household: 

Child Care: Mostly me. When Andi and I decided to have a baby, I completely understood I'd be the primarily child care provider in our relationship. Anyone who is acquianted with us in real life or through this blog, knows how hard my husband works to provide for our family by bringing home the bacon. He's a great dad to Tory and is completely involved in her life, but as far as the day-to-day responsibilities of diaper changes, bedtime, baths, etc., the tasks generally default to me. It's always been my dream to be a mother so I'm fine with this and honestly, I have a certain way I like things accomplished so it's easier on me if I just do it how I like it to be done. Where major child rearing decisions and discipline are concerned, Andi and I discuss our opinions and decide together how we'll raise Tory. Otherwise, most day-to-day child rearing is up to me.

Time off:  As I eluded to above, Andi works 12-15 hour days and often travels for his job. Some months are easier than others in terms of work volume. During the week, there isn't much "time off" for either of us. By the time he returns home from work, he's usually so wiped we have a quick dinner and an hour to relax before bedtime. That means I'm solo parenting every day during the week which obviously leaves little "time off" for me either. During my free time, I try to crank out chores around the house, meal plan and make freezer meals.

The "free time" we usually have is spend together as a family. We make it a priority to spend time at our lake cabin in Wisconsin whenever possible, even if it's just for a day. As I'm mentioned a million times, the cabin is our retreat and helps us stay centered around all that's important: our family. Andi's parents are fantastic in lending babysitting for Tory whenever Andi and I feel like we need some alone time together. During slower times in Andi's work schedule, we try to plan a date night for the two of us a couple times a month. The next two months are super busy for Andi at work, plus the holidays, so we're planning a little getaway for the two of us sometime in February.

Food: In our household, I do all meal planning and grocery shopping. Andi and I share in cooking responsibilities. I'm usually the one who makes dinner most week nights, but it's only because I'm at home. He usually cleans up dinner while I rock Tory to sleep, or sometimes we clean up together if she's already in bed. On the weekends, Andi and I split cooking duties depending on who's hungry and the particular food being cooked (aka: I refuse to operate the grill).

Very rarely do Andi and I order take-out and if we do, it's usually Vietnamese from a place down the street. Typical meals for us are casserole (or "hot dish" as Minnesotans like to call it), breaded chicken breasts with steamed veggies, enchiladas, or something in the slow cooker. 

Housecleaning:  All me. Up until yesterday, we had a lovely housecleaner who visited once a month to do a deep clean on all the most dreaded jobs - toilets, showers, bathroom vanities, etc. (She did other stuff too, but those are the ones I was so thankful I rarely had to do myself). Now that I'm a SAHM, all the cleaning with default to me. I guess that's okay. Andi and I have different standards when it comes to level of "clean" and I always find myself re-doing cleaning jobs he's already done. I like the dishwasher loaded a certain way; towels folded with the pretty fold-side facing outwards, and laundry sorted according to my own method. Therefore, it causes less anxiety if I just do it myself. Sometimes, Andi throws his laundry in the tri-comparment basket system in our laundry room and mixes up all the colors. I try not to get angry when he does this and focus on the fact that he actually put his laundry in the basket. Glass half full, Grasshopper.

Our cleaning breakdown: I do all laundry, floors, counter tops, dusting, dishes (and now toilets, showers), etc.; Andi takes out the trash and recycling. 

House decorating:  Split evenly. Andi and I have very similar taste where decorating is concerned. When we moved into our house in 2011, it literally took us one evening to furnish our entire place because we agreed on everything so quickly. Every frame on the wall, every rug on the floor was peacefully chosen together. 

Yard work:  Mixed. Andi is not a handy guy. Technically, he's perfectly capable of mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, but he hates it ... and I don't like when he's in a bad mood. In our previous house in the city, our yard was small and I had the most beautiful flower beds and potted plants on display. I took so much pride in caring for our yard. When we moved into our current house in 2011, I was 9 months pregnant and physically unable to do anything other than sitting in a chair with my feet up. Andi hired a mowing service for both this house and our old house in the city (which we still own and rent). Our current yard was in pretty bad shape when we bought the house so we relandscaped last summer. I assumed watering duties for the remainder of the season and will do the same next year. We also employ a snow removal service because GAH, shoveling snow stinks and neither one of us wants to do it.

We are also responsible for all yard work at the lake cabin and Andi takes care of all mowing, raking, chopping wood and beach maintenance. For some reason, he likes doing those jobs at the cabin.

Communications:  For the most part, I like to think Andi and I have really good communication in our marriage. We use the calendars on our phones to share Andi's travel schedule, Tory's swimming lessons and future date nights. I've found the more Andi communicates details about his work schedule, the less times my feelings are hurt. He does a great job of setting expectations for the simple things like what time he'll be home in the evenings to how week-long work events will go. If I have an appointment or a date planned with friends, I do the same by communicating my plans with him early and often.

As extracurricular events and appointments are concerned, I take care of all things related to Tory. We each schedule our own appointments to the doctor and dentist. This fall when we scheduled family photos, we talked about dates and photographers together, I scheduled the appointment and Andi coordinated payment.

All Andi. Admittedly, I have no idea what bills we pay, when they're due or where most of our money goes. I operate in a bubble most of the time and let Andi assume all responsibility. Andi and I have separate bank accounts. He pays for mostly everything because he makes more money (especially now I will no longer have a paycheck) and I pay for Tory's necessities (diapers, wipes, clothes), my own clothes, house utilities and food. It's no secret, Andi is the big spender in our family and I'd probably have heart palpitations if I knew where our money was going each month.

We also have three rental properties and Andi takes care of everything associated with them.  

Activities: Mostly Andi. My husband likes to be in charge and unless I have a strong feeling on the subject, I just let him. He plans all of our vacations; I just show up with my suitcase and have an amazing time. He researches fun things for us to do as a family during cabin weekends; I just show up and have a good time! See a pattern? If I have an idea about something I'd like to do, Andi is game to try it.

Who wears the pants: Mostly Andi. Regarding the home: me. Involving everything else: Andi. Truthfully, we're usually in agreement about almost everything, so it's never one person leading the other. In all big decisions, we discuss and come to an agreement together. It just so happens Andi is fairly persuasive.


For us, this system works and we rarely have disagreements about the day-to-day duties in running our household. Things should be interesting as we switch to only one income and my new role as a stay-at-home-mom. I'm nervous to see how it'll all shake out; Andi is calm as a cucumber about it all. In a few month's time, I'm sure we'll have a good system established just as we've done for the last six years living under one roof.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happiest Place on Earth

It's easy to be thankful in our happiest place on Earth. As I type this, I'm sitting in front of a roaring fireplace, staring outside the window at the frozen lake and National Geographic-type entertainment before me (this morning alone, we've seen a black squirrel scurrying, bald eagle soaring, white trumpeter swans swimming, a massive flock of geese circling and a brown mouse nibbling).

Andi and I drove up to the cabin Friday morning to enjoy our Thanksgiving weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Classic couple miscommunication: I automatically assumed my husband would be working Friday after Thanksgiving because he rarely takes a vacation day. I planned to pipe the holiday tunes loudly and decorate our house for Christmas. I was surprised (and glad!) to learn Andi reserved the day just for our family of three so we jumped at the chance to spend an extra day in the woods. (SAHM perk: I can decorate for the holidays any day this week, no big deal).

The cabin is beautiful in the winter. We came up here a few times last year, but I don't remember it being so peaceful and charming blanketed in untouched white snow powder.

Andi, Tory and I lounged around the house all day Friday and Saturday morning, entertaining ourselves with just about every game we could imagine. (Tory and I stacked coozies on the kitchen table bench for what seemed like forever). Tory helped me cook in the kitchen and organize the cabinets.

Sitting on the countertop, helping Mom in the kitchen is Tory's new favorite place to be.
The space between the cabin cupboards is the perfect height for her.
Life slows down here in the most magical way. It's the best recipe for relaxation and quality time for our family.

Andi's sister Lindsay and their cousin Laura and her family came to visit us at the cabin on Saturday afternoon. Lindsay is going on a trip to Vegas next week, so we all thought it'd be a fun learning experience to teach her to gamble at the Turtle Lake Casino about 10 miles away. Laura brought poker chips and her craps table and we all sat in the living room and played for hours on Saturday evening. After Tory went to bed, Laura's girls staying at the cabin to babysit Tory while the rest of us when to the casino. Andi and I rocked our matching Pipe Lake jackets for a night on the town.

Playing slots after we loss our butts at the Craps table
We stopped for a few drinks at the bars around the cabin. We warned everyone in the car on the drive over to keep their drinks simple. We're in Wisconsin middle-of-nowhere and they mostly sell can beer and cheese curds. What does Laura do when we arrive at the first place? Order a hot toddy. The bartender almost laughed her out of there. "Make it a whiskey/water with lemon and honey," she said and that he would do for her.

Rarely do we hit the bars when we're at the cabin.

Rarely do we stay up past 9:00pm anymore.

Saturday night was so much fun to cut loose and be crazy with our family. I learned to play roll the die like a high-stakes gambler and we sang karaoke like we didn't have a care in the world. A perfect weekend at the cabin.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I glanced back at Thanksgiving 2011 photos today and I could hardly believe how much our little family of three has grown in a year. I have so much to be thankful for this year; our health, a fantastic extended family who loves us unconditionally, being hitched forever to the man of my dreams and a gorgeous baby girl who has brought so much joy to our lives. These blessings are not lost on me and I praise the Lord for all He's provided. I am truly so thankful.

A few weeks ago, Andi told me his company was hired to shoot aerial video and photography for a 5K race in downtown Minneapolis on Thanksgiving morning. At first, I was a little bummed to hear he'd have to work on Thanksgiving until I mentioned the race to Andi's sister, Lindsay, and we decided to participate. We thought it'd be a great way to get some exercise on Thanksgiving before stuffing our faces full of turkey and gravy. When Andi's mom learned Lindsay and I were walking in the race (because I definitely do not run, oh no siree), she also decided to sign up. I called my friend Raising Snowpeas to see if she wanted to also tag along and she agreed. The weather was unseasonably warm for Thanksgiving morning; perfect to walk a few miles outdoors in the city.

My favorite race buddy
Our entire group
Andi in the helicopter before the race
Andi was harnassed inside the helicopter with the doors wide open as he hung out the side, shooting photos of the event. I'm thankful my husband is lucky enough to have a job perfectly suited for his adventurous spirit.
One of Andi's photos of the race from the sky
After the race ended, Tory and I met Andi at home so we could all ride over to his Grandma's house together for Thanksgiving dinner. While he wrapped up a few work things, I pleaded with Tory to take a nap at home. She only slept for about an hour in the stroller during the race and unfortunately, showed no signs of slowing down. I can't add "sleep" to my Thankful 2012 list, as I definitely haven't achieved enough of it this year. I pushed on to get us all ready for Thanksgiving with Andi's family at his grandma's house.

Our Thanksgiving meal was delicious. I love how everyone in Andi's family brings a dish so it's not too much of a burden on one single person. My mashed potatoes were a hit, as were Lindsay's yams, Grandpa Jim's carrots from his garden, Grandma Marion's stuffing, Aunt Barb's turkey and Aunt Judy's pumpkin bars.

Grandma Janie and Tory
Tory's favorite Thanksgiving foods were mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. More fun than actually eating dinner, she had the best time playing in the booster seat high chair on the floor with a paper plate and plastic spoon for the remainder of the afternoon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Toddler Wish List

I took a blogging break yesterday to spend Thanksgiving evening with my husband and baby girl. We had a wonderful holiday and I'll recap it just as soon as Andi emails me his photos from the day. Tomorrow, maybe ....

Now Thanksgiving's come and gone, I'm more than ready for the Christmas season to begin. I've been dreaming of holiday decorations and scouring online shopping deals for weeks. I'm excited for Santa to visit our house for the very first time (last year we were in Nebraska for Christmas Eve/Day) and I can't wait to see the look on Tory's face when she sees all the wonderful presents left for her under the Christmas tree.

I had a hard time deciding what to get Tory for Christmas last year from Andi and I because she was so young and I knew she wouldn't really "know" if we gave her a gift. In the end, we purchased her a charm bracelet - a keepsake she'll have for many years to come - and I plan to add charms to it as she grows older.

This year, I want to give her more traditional toddler presents. We haven't hit "toy overload" at our house yet, and I'm also looking forward to having some new things to occupy our time at home this winter.

Here's a few things on Tory's Christmas wish list:

V Tech Spin and Learn Flashlight
Fisher Price Ready Steady Ride-On Trike
Little Tikes Cozy Coupe
Radio Flyer Pathfinder Wagon
Fisher Price Stroll-Along Walker

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mom's Mashed Potatoes

Andi bought a Costco membership a few months ago and today, on my first official day as a stay-at-home-mom, I decided to go check it out. Apparently, I'm an idiot and forgot it was the day before a holiday. It was nutso in there.

Everyone raves about Costco - amazing deals! great selection! giant tubs of sour cream! - but I've had a hard time understanding why you'd need that much of anything. Today though, it made sense. I stocked up on boatloads of crackers and baking goods for the holidays and ingredients for my Thanksgiving contribution at tomorrow's family gathering: mashed potatoes.

This afternoon, I slaved away in the kitchen during Tory's afternoon nap time. I made my mom's famous Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, complete with sour cream, cream cheese and butter. They're fabulously creamy and oh, so delicious. The best part is, you can make them ahead of time so there's no fuss on celebration day.

Mom's Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs potatoes (or 1 large box of instant potatoes)
1 1/2 packages of cream cheese
2 cups of sour cream
3 tsp. onion salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter

Combine all ingredients together and place in a greased casserole dish with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. May be kept in refrigerator for up to two weeks. Makes 8 cups.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

So long, office life.

Remember being in high school and something dramatic would happen, like not making the cheerleading team or puking in the hallway outside the popular seniors' lockers? Times when life seemed like it just couldn't get any worse - when suddenly the people you thought were your friends didn't want anything to do with you - and you realized those left standing by your side were the ones who really cared about you all along?

Today on my last day at my job, I was seriously touched by fellow co-workers who made a special point to stop by my office and say good-bye, who delivered a thoughtful card, send an email, text message or met me out for dinner tonight. These are people I've shared some fond memories over the years, and a few I've just leaned to know in recent months. I never knew they cared so much. There were also a few I never heard from at all. It's no big deal really, just surprised. I was reminded today why it's important to always be the person you want to be; to be kind and honest and cooperative because you never know how you'll make a difference to someone else.

All of those comments and well-wishes today really meant a lot to me. I hope those people know how much. I tried to reciprocate with hugs and thank you's and I'm happy to know other people enjoyed working with me just as much as I did them. I'm thankful for the friendships I made there.

So long, office life.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tomorrow It Ends + So It Begins

This is happening.

Tomorrow's my last day of work and after that, I'm a stay-at-home-mom. For reals. As in, everyday from now until whenever, I have nowhere else to be but in my house raising my little girl. Which isn't a bad place to be because well, she's pretty awesome.

Sloppy kisses, my favorite.

It's all a bit dizzying, in a good way. Andi was in California for work this weekend so it was just me and Beanie. Friday was a long day thanks to a sleepless Thursday night. Saturday and Sunday were lovely and we kept busy with lots of activities. By today, I had to check my phone a few different times to remind myself it was Monday. Is this how everyday from now on will be? No beginning of the week. No end. Every day is the same as the other, except for the occasional activity to mark a spot on the calendar? I'm not regretting my choice to stay home with Tory - not in the least bit - but I am a bit nervous-tummy about what to expect on the other side of tomorrow.

I know it'll be great. I know it will. There were several times today I stopped in my tracks, present in the moment, and gave thanks for this wonderful life of mine. I am seriously so lucky to be mother to this little girl. She is smart and witty and loving.

One of my favorite memories of today was when I tried to teach Tory to stand on one foot. It always takes me by surprise when I remember babies and toddlers can't do all the things we take for granted everyday. We were being silly in the kitchen and I lifted up one of her legs, showing her how to balance on one foot. Of course she couldn't do it by herself, (she just learned to walk three months ago!) but she belly laughed at the feeling of almost falling over. Such a simple thing, a goofy moment between the two of us, and my heart burst into a million pieces as I realized I get to be with her everyday. I get to be there when she experiences every little piece of life for the very first time.

We played outside in the backyard this afternoon (hello beautiful unseasonably warm Minnesota weather!) and once again, I had one of those surreal moments when I realized just how fun it is to be a kid alongside my daughter. We crunched the leaves underneath our shoes. We climbed through the flowerbed and ran down the small slope in the yard. Over and over again we did this, all while Tory giggled like it was the best moment in her lifetime. She'd stop still and look overhead at the sound of a passing airplane. To be a kid again, where life's simplest moments are observed and appreciated.

I experienced some of those moments as a working mom, but a lot of times my brain was racing from a day of meetings, after-hours emails or text messages or scrambling to put dinner on the table. Sometimes I had a hard time switching my brain from work-mode to mom-mode and therefore, I had a difficult time slowing down to enjoy playing toys or being goofy in the evenings. In one day, I no longer have to chose to be in the moment, I'll be there.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pinterest: I Finally Get It

I don't know what took me so long to get into Pinterest, but lately I'm loving it. I think I might have been using it wrong (if that's even possible) because I could never find examples of the specific things I was looking for. Now that I've got some time on my hands - hello last day of work on Tuesday! - I can more leisurely search for recipes, decorating ideas and toddler activities.

I tackled several recipes I found on Pinterest this week. I'm growing tired of serving Tory the same ol' meals every week so I choose some breakfast and lunchtime items I can easily reheat for her. She a bit slower than other kids in her development of eating I think, as she still needs her food diced pretty small and isn't a big fan of meat or complex entrees. Therefore, I try to sneak protein and vegetables into foods she likes (aka, cheese). So, Tory-friendly meals: that was my first goal.

My other issue with cooking for our family is that Andi's a bit picky. If you asked him, I bet he'd say he isn't, but I struggle to come up with new and different meals that aren't a chicken breast or steak. He prefers foods with crunchier textures and isn't a big fan of pasta bakes, chili or sandwiches. If I leave it until 4:30pm to make a decision, it almost always ends up being one of those two options. I now understand why my mom always said she was so tired of coming up with dinner ideas when we were kids. It's hard to please everyone AND come up with something new all the time. So, make meals the entire family would eat to save on time and effort. That was goal two.

First up, homemade hamburger pizza. I thought this would be a good way for Tory to eat beef since it'd be covered in cheese. I made this for dinner on Wednesday. Tory and I had fun making it together ...

... as she dipped her hand into an entire jar of marinara. She especially enjoyed patting the pizza dough into the pan. Of course after all of our effort, Tory would not eat the pizza at dinner. I had some and I thought it was pretty good. Andi was working that night, so I saved leftovers for him in the fridge. He didn't eat them. I followed the recipe on this one, only subbing marinara in place of pizza sauce. Overall recipe rating: C 

On Thursday night, Andi and I passed the parenting torch at the door as he came home from work at 6:45pm and I left for a haircut. I made him this Coconut Chicken Strips recipe - a classic example of me waiting until the 11th hour to make something quick to eat with chicken. Breaded chicken strips fit the crunchy requirement so he usually likes them. While I didn't ask him his opinion that night after I got home, I did have the leftovers for lunch the following day and I didn't think they were very good. Too coconutty? It was strange. Not surprisingly, Tory wouldn't eat them either. I did follow the recipe on this one, except for the sweetened rice flour (because who has that lying around in their pantry)? I used regular flour instead. Overall recipe rating: F (at least as leftovers)

First up for freezer meals this weekend, I made black bean and rice burritos. I thought these would be an easy lunch idea for future days when I'm home with Tory and even something I could send with Andi to work. I didn't really follow this recipe at all, mostly because I didn't have cilantro or yogurt sour cream sauce, but the frozen burrito idea's the same in method. I made mine with frozen corn, black beans, cheese, and rice. I reheated one for Tory's dinner tonight and she kept spitting it out. Surprised? I wasn't. She was having a hard time chewing the tortilla and I don't think it was anything to do with the recipe but her own ability to ingest "big people food." I ate what was left of her burrito and I thought it was pretty good. Easy, too. I think Andi will like them. Overall recipe rating: A-

I also made breakfast burritos with the same idea in mind. Tory really likes eggs and cheese so I thought these would be a big hit with her but in hindsight, maybe not because of her difficulty with tortillas? Who knows. Worse case, I could always remove the tortilla for her. I haven't tried these yet, but I think they'll be a great addition to our breakfast routine and so easy to throw together. Overall recipe rating: A

I thought Tory might like these Pizza Pinwheels. Flaky croissant breading that tastes like a pizza - what's not to love? Plus, they have pepperoni in them and that's technically a protein (although I'm not sure how much nutritional value forced meat provides). Anyway, these were kind of a pain to put together. It could've been my awkward kitchen skills, but I had to refer to the recipe several times to figure out what the heck I was doing. Tory and I had a few for lunch yesterday and froze the remaining rolls. Not surprisingly, she wouldn't eat it so I had a few. They were alright; a bit greasy (from the pepperoni, I think). They tasted like pizza so I think Andi will like them. Overall recipe rating: B-

Tory loves muffins and they're an easy thing to give her in the mornings. She'd eat four or five if I let her! I saw this recipe for Cinnamon Pear Popovers and thought they'd be something different than the standard blueberry and morning glory muffins she's used to. Tory loved helping me make this recipe. She sat patiently on a dining room chair and watched the mixer churn the batter.

We haven't tasted these yet, but they look delicious. My only gripe about the recipe is they were really difficult to get out of the muffin pan (which I sprayed liberally with cooking spray). Maybe it'd be better if you had an actual popover pan? Also, I think these are better classified as a breakfast dessert. Just because they're muffin shaped, doesn't make it a muffin. The sugar glaze goodness looks pretty sweet to me. Not complaining, just saying .... Overall recipe rating: B

Now after I've done all this cooking, I'm going to go pour myself a bowl of cereal for dinner. Andi's still working and when the day is done and it's just my stomach left to feed, that sounds perfectly fine to me.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mommy/Daughter Day

Despite teething and lack of sleep dominating our lives, Tory and I had a fun day. Andi was working, so we spent a full day of quality mommy/daughter time together.

Our morning started early around the 4 o'clock hour so thankfully a few episodes of Curious George and a snuggle session in my bed pulled us through until 5:15am. The problem with beginning the day so flipping early is that Tory was melting down and ready for her morning nap by 6:30am. I tried to explain to her how it's the "weekend" and that means we sleeeeep in, but she just looked at me like I was crazy. I made a bold, risky move and put her down to sleep at 6:50am. She slept until 8:15am which made for a long stretch of morning, so I tried to kept us busy with activities.

First, I decided to make some freezer meals. The pressure of my new job as housewife, preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday for our family, is weighing on me in a strange way so I'm attempting to get ahead of the curve. I kept my little sous chef busy by letting her sort the red potatoes and an apple into various pans. She really likes to help in the kitchen and I get a kick out of her stirring "ingredients" together. As she's cooking I ask her, "ma'am, may I have a bite of your soup?" She always shakes her head no. It's adorable.

Then Tory took a bite out of a raw potato and she was done with that game.

While we were in the kitchen, I pumped Christmas tunes throughout the house. I think Tory approved. She shimmied her tiny shoulders just as fast as they'd go. I realize it's a bit early in the holiday season to be playing Christmas music, but I'm so excited for the festivities this year. Plus, playing Neil Diamond Holiday Station on Pandora non-stop for two months isn't exactly Andi's favorite thing in the world, so I best do it when he's not home. Oh, I also took the opportunity to light a smelly-good cinnamon candle. (You're welcome, honey).

After I cleaned up our giant kitchen mess, Tory and I decided to take Chloe for a walk around the neighborhood. The weather was beautiful outside today and it's probably one of the last days we'll be able to visit the park. My big girl walked all the way there by herself. Strollers are for babies! 

After lunch and an afternoon nap for Tory, we drove over to Raising Snowpea's house for a play date. Tory had a fun time playing with all of Allie and Jake's awesome toys. It was like a Christmastime practice session to see which toys she loved the most!

It's so wonderful to think I get to spend every single day with this amazing girl of mine. As trying as toddler tantrums or early wake-ups can be, being mama to this girl is so rewarding. Love her to the moon and back.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Teething's a Real B

Lordy, teething stinks in the worst way. Grrrrr.

Tory had a solid six weeks of consistently sleeping through the night and let me tell you, it was glorious. I'll always remember fondly the age of 12 1/2 - 14 months. Late September through October, you were the best. How quickly I forgot the feeling of sandpaper eyeballs and the motivation to do anything above and beyond sitting my behind on the couch during nap time. Tory's cutting her one-year molars and her sleeping-through-the-night track record has taken a nose dive. Except, it's almost worse than it was a few months ago because she can walk now and wiggle right out of my arms when I attempt to soothe her back to sleep. Gone are the days when I'd just cozy her and I up in a blanket and hunker down in the rocking chair. Now she fights me with all she's got, kicking her legs and screaming bloody murder because she does not want to go back to sleep at 3:00am. It's happened that way twice this week and it's painful for both of us.

To make matters worse, Andi's been putting in 15-18 hour days the last two weeks, so I feel like he needs his sleep when he's home. I try my best to quiet Tory with all the tricks I know, but she is flippin' cranky in the night. On Wednesday, I literally threw my hands up and watched her flop like a fish on the floor, tantruming like a crazy lady, because I seriously did not know what to do for her. Sometimes I just want to shout, I'm only trying to help you, kid! Andi walked out into the living room and sort of gave me a look like, "what is going on out here?" and I felt embarrassed that I couldn't keep her in check. Randomly, Chloe came up and licked Tory on the hand and that's what distracted her enough to stop crying. Toddlers, man.

I get that Tory's the one really in pain here (because I can function on no sleep, right? I did it for whole first year of her life.) and I do feel bad for her. She's got a big ol' swollen lump on her gums where the tooth is about to pop through. Drool is pouring out of her mouth and today I even thought about putting a bib on her because her chin was seriously that wet with slobber. At least the diaper rash has gotten better. We're blowing through a tube of $8 diaper paste every three days to keep it at bay.

I really have no point to this story other than to say I'm exhausted and I'm going to bed at 8:30 pm on a Friday. Real happenin' life I lead around here. Andi's working tonight and as I solo-parented this evening, I struggled to stretch out our night to Tory's 7:00pm bedtime.

You know mama's tired when I resort to bathtub play.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


By now, I'm sure you've seen the daily posts of gratitude people are sharing on Facebook this month. I'm not one to jump on the bandwagon for this sort of thing, but it has sparked a bit of thanksgiving reflection in my own life as I prepare for the upcoming holiday. Aside from the obvious things like fantastic friends and family and the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mama (of which I am very grateful for), lately I'm also thankful for the blessing of life and some of the simplest pleasures.

My very best friend, Ashley, gave birth to her first child yesterday and I'm absolutely over the moon about the news of her baby boy's arrival. Not only does this mean I have another little one to love and spoil to pieces, but now I'm also connected to my best friend on a whole new level. I'm trying reeeally hard to give her space to adjust and learn her new role as a mother but I'm just so stinkin' excited I could burst right through the phone and squeeze her! Tory and I are flying down to Nebraska to visit them in December and I can hardly wait to hold him and give my friend a giant hug. God is so GOOD. What a blessing.

I'm thankful for new friendships, like those I made in New Orleans this past weekend or local ones like Raising Snowpeas. This year I've worked to develop new friendships and it's paying off. At 31 and after living in this city for six years, I finally feel like I'm hitting my groove and coming into the woman I'm suppose to be. It feels good to grow in new ways.

Sometimes it's the small things and lately I'm thankful for Starbucks. Maybe it's a true reflection of my adulthood, but I'm grateful for coffee every single day. I NEED IT. It gives me the get-up-and-go to be a better mom, smarter employee and kinder person. Thank you, caffeine. You really are the best.

As my final day at work draws closer, I'm thankful for the relationships I made there with people I would have likely otherwise never crossed paths. Today as I shared my news of departure with some of my colleagues, everyone thanked me for my efforts and contributions in a lovely, genuine way. It made me feel really special. Appreciated, even. I'm leaving that place on a good note with far more positive memories than the opposite.

I'm thankful my kiddo is sleeping through the night. 'Nuff said.

I'm grateful for technology which allows me to capture memories forever and keep me connected to those far away. Today I was digging through old photos of Andi and I in the early days of our relationships and I was just so glad I had those tangible mementos to hold onto forever.

Life happens so quickly that it's easy to zero in on what's happening right before you. I'm thankful for moments of clarity when I can step back and see all the wonderful things happening around me. I AM SO FORTUNATE and I want to give thanks for life's biggest and smallest blessings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There's Always a Downside

When I made the decision to quit my job for life as a stay-at-home mom, I knew I'd have to pull on my big girl pants and tell my boss in person. That part always sucks at the point of job transition, but I've been in those shoes before and also held my share of managerial positions long enough to realize it's about ripping the Band-Aid. Just do it. Yes, quitting anything stinks. It's uncomfortable and awkward and you honestly feel empathy for the other person. I'm sorry for putting you in such a tight position! Surprisingly though, quitting this job wasn't so difficult. It helped matters that my newly appointed boss is my "best friend" at work (thanks for the classification, Gallup) and sharing my feelings with her has always come fairly easily. Rip the Band-Aid. Done.

What I didn't see coming is all the other people I'd be affecting with my decision. I had to let our nanny go; someone I've grown very fond of and who loves my little girl to pieces. I hated that part, I really did. It hurt me deep down in my gut as I let her go and I hope she knows just how much we're going to miss her. Of course I told her so, but I hope she really understands how much I appreciate her compassion, creativity and patience with my daughter. I want to believe she'll keep in touch, maybe even babysit once and a while, but I completely understand if she cuts ties and moves on with her life. I really don't want to see her go.

I'm not trying to sound superfiscial here, but I'm also really going to miss my house cleaner. I know. I've been spoiled by having this wonderful lady visit once a month and scrub my house from top to bottom. We originally hired her to help around the house when Tory was born because there was no way I could keep up on everything as overwhelmed as I was feeling. Admittedly, we probably could've cut her loose when I got a handle on things a few months later (I mean, I was only working part-time for goodness sake) but she's just so sweet and makes my house look so sparkly and beautiful. It was worth the money for extra time with my girl, that's how I always justified the cost to myself. But now, NOW, I have no excuse. I will be home every day. I am the homemaker. This is what I signed up to do. And now I'll be forced to clean my husband's shaved whiskers off the bathroom vanity because there is no one else assigned to this job but me. WEEP.

I'm also worried I'll suck at being a housewife. Sure, I've got the mommy part down and I know I'll kick butt at creating fun activities for Tory and I to do together. I can even clean toilets and whisker mess, fine! But what if I don't live up to Andi's expectations? What if he comes home and asks what the heck I've been doing all day? What if he starts to see less in me as a wife because I'm no longer the career-driven woman he married? I'm sure he's reading this right now and rolling his eyes at how ridiculous I'm being, but what if?

I sort of made this half-joking offer to make my husband lunch everyday. "Think of all the money we'll save if you're not eating out everyday," I said to him a few weeks before I got the go-ahead to quit my job. I worry about his stress level and the amount of (or lack of) food he consumes during the day because he's just so dang busy at work so I volunteered to send him off everyday with a packed lunch, just as a good housewife does. Then I actually started to think about what that entails. The guy doesn't like sandwiches. For real. He prefers foods with crunchy textures. He doesn't always want leftovers. What the heck am I going to make him every single day for weeks and years to come? What if I take the time to make him a special lunch and he ends up bringing it back home untouched because "oops sorry, he had a working lunch meeting" kind of deal. I will be so defeated. That'll burn me right up. So trivial, I know, but this is the stuff I think about these days. Welcome to my appropriately named blog, Live Inside My Bubble.

I have to say, I'm a little surprised with people's reaction to my stay-at-home-mom news. Every single person I've told has fallen into exactly three categories: 1) Genuinely happy and for a few, a little envious (which I get, I've been there) 2) A little bit snotty as in "must be nice to be able to afford such a luxury," or 3) Ha! I'd strangle my kids if I had to stay home with them. I really don't know how to react, so I've taken the policy of not bringing up the topic with anyone anymore. It's an awkward conversation to have with someone and I feel the need to justify our decision over and over again. We will be making sacrifices to make this arrangement work for our family because Andi and I believe it's the right thing to do for us in this moment. I guess I don't have to explain our thoughts to anyone and yet, I feel like I do.

It's so ridiculous I'm worrying about all of this stuff, right? The decision is done, this is happening. I'm not regretting my decision to be a stay-at-home-mom in the least bit. I'm actually really, really excited and thankful for the opportunity. The sacrifices Andi is making by working double-duty are not lost on me. I can clean up messes and pack a lunch if it means I get to spend every day with my Tory Bean. What am I really complaining about? I guess it's just the fear of the unknown. I'll know soon enough if I'm cut out for this line of work. I'm sure there will be an adjustment period, just like there is with every job. This time though, it affects the center of my world: my family, so it's kind of a big deal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mother Knows Best

Last week, Tory came down with a crazy-bad diaper rash right before I left on my New Orleans trip. Of course these things have a way with timing as I was just about ready to leave her in Andi's care for three days. Up to this point, Tory's never had anything a generous goop of Bordeaux's Butt Paste couldn't cure, but this time was different. She had several days of diarrhea brought on by the impending arrival of her first-year bottom molars and it was irritating her skin faster than we could heal it. The standard tricks of warm baths, changing her diaper frequently, creams and using warm wash cloths in lieu of diaper wipes weren't helping. I called the pediatrician's office on Wednesday, but they weren't much help in suggesting alternatives.

So, I called my mom for advice. Sometimes moms just know the right answer, you know? She reassured me it sounded like teething symptoms to her as well, and ran through a laundry list of remedies I'd already tried. Then she offered an out-of-the box suggestion that worked wonders, so I thought I'd share it here.

"Just trust me," she said. "Take some flour or corn starch and brown it in a skillet, just enough so it turns brown but not burnt." (She always has to give me very detailed directions when it comes to cooking. You'd think common sense would weigh it, but no, not where I'm involved). Then she told me to pat the browned flour or corn starch (I used flour) onto Tory's bottom after I changed her diaper. Actually, she suggested using a pizza or flour shaker to sprinkle it on but I didn't have anything like that at home so I used my fingers  to pat the browned flour generously onto her bottom area.

You guys, IT WORKED. I did exactly as I was instructed and Tory's bottom looked 80% better the next morning. The diaper rash was still there, but hardly as severe as it was the evening before. Isn't that the wildest old wives-tale trick you've ever heard?

Poor Tory endured diaper rash for a few more days unfortunately, as the diarrhea kept on coming. Andi cut her off from dairy products and pumped her full of Pedialyte before it finally healed. He also picked up some Baby Anti Monkey Butt, which is primarily made of corn starch, and that seemed to help as well. Her molar still hasn't pushed through the gums so we're fighting through a few more days of teething around our house. Hopefully the tooth fairy has pity on her little mouth and we'll be in the clear soon.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A New Chapter

Oh hey, I quit my job the other day. That might be worth mentioning on the ol' blog. I made it six years at my workplace, which is a bit shocking when I think back to the gallons of wine I consumed after work every day to get me through that first year. Somehow I adapted to a very different work culture than I was accustomed to and over time, I folded right into the landscape. On most days, I enjoyed what I did and felt accomplished about the work I contributed.

It wasn't a small straw that broke the camel's back or one big incident that pushed me over the edge. Andi came home from work at the end of October and said he had some good news and some bad news for me (isn't that how it always goes)? The Good: I could quit my job tomorrow, he said. Our aspirations for family, finances and careers were falling into place. Why wait until a second baby is born or some date we'd circled on the calendar. The Bad: The year 2013 means work, work, work for my husband. The upside/downside of owning a successful small business.

For me, all I've ever wanted was to be a mother and now that I am one, there's no place else I'd rather be than at home with my baby girl. Meet my new boss: she's one high maintenance lady.

I'm so very fortunate to have this opportunity to raise my little girl every single day. I have big dreams for our time together. I know the road ahead won't be all sunshine and rainbows; I've been a part-time at-home mama long enough to realize there's a lot of poop and puke and mess in my future, with not a lot of recognition. I know I'll be doing the solo parenting gig more often than I'd like (remind me of this post when I"m down-in-the-dumps lonely and frustrated with Andi's crazy work schedule). 

My bosses were very supportive of my decision, and truly weren't all that surprised. I've really enjoyed my time working there and now I'm ready to start a new chapter in my life. My priorities have changed and I'm anxious to do something I know I'm really good at: being a mom.

So, here goes nothing! My new gig starts November 21.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Blathering, New Orleans

What they say is true: Come to The Blathering to find your people. I went to New Orleans to meet my e-bffs Laura and Lacey in person and wound up making friends with sixty funny, engaging women gathered in the same place.

Thursday night, I arrived at the airport and met Lacey and a few others arriving in at a similar time. A little bit nervous and mostly excited for a weekend of sightseeing, great food and girl chatter ahead, we cabbed to our hotel at the Astor Crowne Plaza in the French Quarter. The roar of so many high-pitched girlie voices all in one room was a bit overwhelming at first so Lacey, Laura and I decided to split off for dinner to get to know one another in person. We ate at Le Bayou Restaurant and were seated at a quiet table on the second floor, perfect for catching up with one another. I ordered a New Orleans classic, the Muffaletta sandwich, which was literally bigger than my head. It didn’t disappoint.

The three of us chatted like long lost girlfriends. It’s unreal to meet someone in person after you know so much about them from the Internet, emails and texts. Already friends, but asking one other basic questions about jobs and kids and family. The Internet, it’s such a crazy phenomenon.

We stopped for a drink at The Old Absinthe House, a haunted bar on Bourbon Street. It didn’t feel very haunted while we were there, but it was fun to be in a place where history exuded from on the walls. Andi pressured me to try a hurricane cocktail before I left as if no trip to Bourbon Street would be complete with out tasting one. I’m lame; I opted for local beer instead. Rum and fruit juice just doesn’t seem like my thing. After drinks, the three of us also wandered the French Quarter, dodging beads and taking in the action. Bourbon Street was far less smelly and gross than I imagined, so win? Maybe it was because I found myself mom-ish and in bed by midnight. Maybe I missed the part when Bourbon Street gets really raunchy.

Laura, Lacey and I stopped at Café Beinget for coffee and signature beingets on Friday morning. The café was open-air and adorable, with tiny wrought-iron tables and New Orleans décor. I was having an amazing time until dirty birds started dive-bombing my head in the café. Then a cat strolled indoors. Why do dirty birds and random felines always find me? Suddenly, I was transported into my own personal hell as Laura and Lacey laughed at my shrieking.

We met the remainder of the group for a jazz brunch at Court of Two Sisters. Another outdoor patio and Blathering conversations with attendees from across the country.

Some of our group decided to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the French Quarter and it was a wonderful opportunity to see the area and learn a little history at the same time. We saw Bourbon Street up close, old houses and Nicolas Cage’s estate. The tour guide looked at us like we were crazy when we asked for directions to the Real World house. What? It was a top priority for thirty-something moms on vacation.

After the French Quarter tour, Laura, Lacey and I decided to find a classic New Orleans cemetery. This was one of the things on my “must see” list so we walked the streets of the French Quarter before finally arriving at the St. Louis Cemetery #1 just a few blocks away. Our iPhone maps led us on a few wrong turns, but I’m glad we stayed the course because the cemetery was one of the best things I experienced all weekend. There was so much history inside those old walls. It was nothing like I’d ever seen anywhere else in the world. I wish we would’ve signed up for an actual cemetery tour so we could have learned more detail to exactly what we were looking at, but St. Louis Cemetery #1 was still worth the trip.

The Blathering organizers rented a bed and breakfast for Friday night’s dinner. What a unique idea! I loved how homey and low-key our evening was with everyone on Friday night. It gave all sixty of us a chance to mingle around the party without shouting over loud restaurant music and the decor felt so warm and inviting.

My least favorite part of New Orleans wasn’t Bourbon Street after all, but the noisy drunk people who stumbled through the hotel all hours of the night. I slept with earplugs and a pillow over my head to drown out the sound of annoying people coming home at all hours of the night. The French Quarter was surprisingly clean compared to my expectations (which must’ve been pretty low considering I did step over my share of sludge and puke in the streets), but the noise. I didn’t prepare myself for that. Read also: I am getting OLD!

Saturday morning, The Blathering rented out Daisy Dukes restaurant for breakfast. I think meal times were some of my favorite memories of the weekend together. It was always so fun to sit with someone new and chat over food and cocktails throughout the weekend.

After breakfast, a big group of us cabbed to the Garden District to shop on Magazine Street. Admittedly, I didn’t do much research for this trip so I was a little disappointed the Garden District didn’t actually include gardens. The shopping was okay; I wasn’t really interested in lugging souvenirs back home in my suitcase so I window-browsed mostly. Still, it was fun to walk around pretty neighborhoods and enjoy the perfectly warm and sunny weather.

Several us met at the famous Café Du Monde for beingets and coffee on Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t convinced I needed to have another beignet since I’d already tried them the day before, but they were amazingly tasty at Café Du Monde. Definitely work the visit. I also loved the way a poof of powdered sugar floated through the air every time one of us took a bite of our flaky fried pastry.

Laura, Lacey and I broke from the group and wandered Jackson Square for the rest of the afternoon. There are so many street performers around the French Quarter, I could have been entertained for hours by all the people watching. Laura stopped for a tarot card palm reading from some gypsy-looking lady while Lacey and I sat upon the St. Louis Cathedral stairs and watching all the action around us. It really couldn’t have been a more perfect way to spend a Saturday.

We stopped at Royal House Oyster Bar for a cocktail and sat on an old thin second-story balcony and chatted while the music of street performers played below us.

Saturday night dinner was at Tujagues Restaurant. Once again, The Blathering organizers out-did themselves with beautiful decor. Dressing up for a fancy dinner on Saturday night is so uncharacteristic of my daily life so it all felt so special. I opted out of the shrimp remoulade and seafood gumbo courses at dinner – I know, shame! – for not tasting very New Orleans speciality. Lacey and I did a little more souvenir shopping after dinner before cozying up in our pjs and recapping the weekend back at the hotel. I had a wonderful weekend getaway and I’m so happy I took the plunge to sign up for The Blathering. I missed my husband and baby girl terribly, but I will also always remember the great memories we shared in New Orleans.