Chihuly, Wine, Weather, and Friends

I’m having the best trip to Seattle. Several things have come together to make it nearly perfect. First of all it has been 55 degrees every morning, warming to a sunny 82 every afternoon, then cooling off again by 5 PM. Everyone agrees it’s the most beautiful weather possible here and I’ve lucked out to experience it during my visit.

Second, I saw Chihuly’s Garden and Glass exhibit which made my…year? Decade? Life? I can’t express how much I enjoy his work. The exhibit here was breathtaking. I loved pouring over it and photographing it.




Third, I’m smack dab in the middle of a wine area. My friend lives 5 miles from Woodinville. We spent yesterday afternoon at Chateau Ste Michelle. It was a grand, beautiful estate with a happening tasting room and fun gift shop. We took a tour and really enjoyed ourselves.


Fourth, I’m with my dear friend that I’ve known since our days of grad school at Stanford. (She and Cody were the students…not me!). She’s a kindred spirit and I love her. I’m so thankful for this time to visit, cook, eat, and hang out with her and her family.

This trip has been full of small pleasures. Walking my friend’s kids to and from school, a gourmet meal outdoors at the Chihuly Cafe, sitting on the patio playing cards within view of the beautiful, huge vegetable garden, eating fresh picked green beans and potatoes from that garden along with the best Atlantic King salmon, church today (I’m predicting), and stopping to see a neighbor’s prize winning dahlia garden.


It’s a slow paced, soul refreshing time I’m enjoying. I’m feeling very thankful this morning.

Is It Fall, Yet?

When I see the word September, I start getting very impatient about fall.  Summer I barely survive, Fall is when I come alive!  We had a million things start last week (and the week before), and now I am just ready to kick back with a warm mug of tea in 60 degree weather and read a book.

The kids started school…


Aren’t they cute?  I just realized this very minute that I never downloaded the photos I took with my “Real” camera the first day of school.  This was a snapshot on the phone.  Oops.

I started school, too…



It’s my third year teaching 3 year olds at the same preschool where my own kids went years ago.  I love it- I tell people all the time it’s the only job I’ve ever had that I don’t dread.  It is tiring though, and the first week is always the toughest.  My body has to remember how to wake up at 6:45.

The boys started baseball practice again.  Nate’s team is starting kid-pitch this year so we’ll see how that goes.  I’ve heard it involves a lot of walks.

This week I had a crazy idea to cook a bunch of food and stash it in the freezer.  It’s like Y2K all over again.  Either I’m subconsciously preparing for an impending apocalypse or the fall cooking bug bit me early.  Who knows.  But I am putting my new Costco membership to work.  I bought tons of supplies Wednesday and have cooked 4 Pioneer Woman casseroles, 3 huge batches of chicken chili, a big ol’ heap of trash (that’s a bad name for delicious chocolate covered popcorn goodness), and right now I’m making 4 batches of Pork Apricot Stew.

I’m going to share these recipes because they are so good.  Cody especially liked the Sour Cream Noodle Bake I made via the Pioneer Woman.  I made 4 pans full.

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The chicken chili is a recipe I shared on this blog a while back.  It’s so easy and perfect for a cool fall meal.

The trash is a very loose recipe that you can add or subtract whatever you want and make it to your family’s tastes.  I use about 2 bags of microwave popcorn (remove un-popped kernels), 3 cups chex, 2-3 cups frosted cheerios, half a bag of pretzel sticks, a large bag of M&M’s, and 1 cup cashews.  Then melt 2 eleven ounce bags of white chocolate chips in the microwave along with 2 TBS vegetable oil.  Stir it up.  Pour it over the stuff and toss to coat.  Lay it out on 2 large baking pans to dry for a couple of hours and store in an airtight container.  (P.S.- I use 2 huge bowls when I make this.  It won’t all fit in 1 bowl.)

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Last but not least, the Spiced Pork Apricot Stew recipe I found in Real Simple magazine many years ago is a favorite fall dish of mine.  I like it because it has unusual flavors.  It’s kind of Indian-ish, but not exactly.  I love to serve it over couscous or rice.  I wish you could smell it cooking right now.  The pork and onions are simmering in a mixture of paprika, cumin, ginger, and cinnamon.  Later I’ll add the garbanzo beans and dried apricots.  I’m telling you- this is a winner!

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I like having meals in the freezer for those days I don’t feel like cooking.  They also make easy meals to take to friends or neighbors that are sick or having a baby or something.  And don’t forget the apocalypse!  They come in really handy then.

Impulse Decisions = Hermit Crabs

Our family doesn’t do pets.  We have had a total of 2 cats in our 16 year marriage, only one of which the kids knew and loved.  That cat disappeared about 6 months ago which caused complete and utter despair and sadness the likes of which I never want to see again.

We especially don’t do dogs.  Don’t even get me started on all the reasons why I would never get a dog even if you paid me a million dollars.  I’m not kidding.  I’m glad you other people have dogs and love them and even treat them like family members- that’s great for you!  It’s not going to happen in our house.

But apparently, we DO hermit crabs.  This happened so suddenly that poor Cody left a crab-free home for a day trip to Austin this morning and will be returning tonight to the surprise of 3 lovely hermit crabs named Herman, Bubbles, and Halle.  Not only do we have 3 crabs, but we have the most decked out “crabitat” imaginable thanks to the helpful guy at Petsmart and a hefty sum of cash.

This is what happens when you let your kids spend the night at the grandparents.

Hahahahahaha- just kidding.  My mother-in-law reads this blog!  But really, that’s what happens. :)  They took the kids to the mall to do all kinds of fun things like bungee jumping and rolling across water in a giant plastic ball filled with air.  And there happened to be hermit crabs for sale at a kiosk and my boys happened to be completely fascinated by them.  So my mother-in-law called to see if there was any possibility they could actually have hermit crabs and I made an impulse decision to say “yes.”

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And I am really glad I did!

I mean, it’s only been a few hours, so it might be slightly premature to announce hermit crabs as the best pets ever…but they are so much fun to watch!  They seem to have their own little personalities.  And the kids are going to have to be responsible for them which is a pretty nice skill to develop.  All in all, these little guys (gals??) might be the perfect pet for us.

We couldn’t let the little fellas live in the boring box above, could we?

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I love the little “Crab Inn” sign Ava picked out.   I must admit it adds a homey touch.

I could have said “no” when my mother-in-law called.  It wouldn’t have hurt her feelings.  I’m so anti-pet that I turn down any requests for living creatures swiftly and deftly all the time.  I’m a pro at pet denial.  I’m not sure what prompted me to say “yes” this time.  There could be aspects of hermit crab care that I don’t understand yet that will cloud my cheery disposition at some point, but so far it’s a wonderful experience.

The (Yes, We’re Crazy) Grand Canyon Trip

I kinda wanted to take my kids to the Grand Canyon this summer…just because…and my friend Jackie was kind enough to invite herself along AND do all the driving.  Win/win for me!  We piled 6 of our 7 kids in the van (one of hers was at camp) and decided we’d leave on a Monday and return Friday.  That’s a lot of driving.  It’s also a lot of kids.  I’ll be honest: we got more than a few “looks” from people in restaurants and other places.  But the kids did great and we even got a couple of compliments about how well-behaved they were.

We made it to Tucumcari the first day.  We got to Flagstaff the second night.  We booked cheap hotels along the way as we drove and only spent an average of $50 a night.  That worked out well for us except for our stay in Flagstaff.  We were really close to leaving and kissing our non-refundable $50 goodbye, but we stuck it out and miraculously survived the night.

On the way to Flagstaff we stopped near Albuquerque at Sandia Peak.  It’s the world’s longest tramway, and definitely worth a stop if you’re ever driving out West on I40.  The ride itself is cool, but the views at the top and the hiking available are amazing.





Wednesday morning we got up and spent the entire day at the Grand Canyon.  The kids became Junior Rangers, we ate our lunch overlooking the canyon, we hiked along the rim, and basically wore ourselves out packing as much into a day as we could.  We also shook our heads at the stupidity of the people who would go off the path right up to the edge for photos.  It became an object lesson for the kids on “how not to be an idiot.”




We slept well that night then started our 2-day drive home.  Not long after leaving the FLagstaff area, we stopped at the Meteor Crater which is another cool place along I40.  It’s a huge and well-preserved meter impact crater.  They have a nice museum and a very well done short movie.


For dinner near the Grand Canyon we ate at a Mexican place called Plaza Bonita.  Their specialty was a dish Jackie and I had never heard of called Molcajete.  It was amazing.  It’s served in a 3 legged pot made from volcanic rock.  It comes out super hot and bubbling.  It’s a tomato based sauce that reminded me of Swiss Steak, and typically comes with all kinds of seafood or steak and chicken.  It was so good that we searched out a place the second day in Albuquerque to eat it again.


The trip flew by, and even though it was a lot of time in the car, it was so much fun overall.  The kids will have a memory of the Grand Canyon AND time with their friends.  Jackie and I confirmed that we are fabulous traveling companions…so I doubt this will be the last crazy trip we take.

TJ Maxx Fix Trumps Stitch Fix

Earlier this week I posted the disastrous results of my first Stitch Fix box.  I was so disappointed.  I know I could try it again and perhaps my “fixes” would get better, but a few friends encouraged me to just hit TJ Maxx and see what I could find.  I probably should have taken a friend, but I honestly just wanted some peace and quiet tonight after a long day with the kids.  I had zero expectations, so imagine my surprise when almost everything I tried on actually:

a. looked good

b. fit well

c. had a low price tag!

I showed Ava the goods when I got home and we did this extremely fast photo shoot in bad lighting in my bedroom.  Not all of these pics are super flattering or really do these clothes justice, but even still I’m happy with them enough to show the world my finds!

Up first, the Cable and Gauge Striped shirt (feels luxuriously soft) $16.99 and the DKNY white capri jeans $15.00  I’ve never had white pants before, so this is totally new for me!  They fit great and I think I can wear so many different tops with them.  The shirt will be nice for fall.


Here’s the same shirt paired with my new boyfriend style jeans (that’s what these are right?  I’m not completely sure…) Max Jeans $29.99  They are so comfortable.  Not too tight or too loose…just right.


I picked up a soft striped maxi skirt on clearance $15.00.  It is unique because of the slit up the side.  It goes great with my super versatile short sleeve black top by Rafaella.  Ringing up at $12.99 it was the cheapest and maybe my favorite find of the evening.  It has a beautiful texture detail on the front and fits so perfectly.



Here’s the same shirt paired with linen/rayon blend wide leg gray pants by Just Living.  These pants were $19.99 and the photo doesn’t capture how beautiful they are.  They are actually more slimming than the photo makes them out to be.  And they are COMFORTABLE.


The dress Stitch Fix sent me wouldn’t zip and felt so short and unflattering.  I picked up this lively coral dress for $19.99 and can dress it up or down as needed.  It has some lacy/cut out detail in the front that is really pretty.


Grand total for 7 items of clothing with tax was $140.  I’ve basically got a whole new wardrobe.  I feel like I tried some new things and didn’t gravitate toward what I always get.  I had a very open mindset and had been looking online at lots of clothing in preparation for getting my Stitch Fix box.  So in that way I guess it did help me…in a long roundabout way.

What do you think of my TJ Maxx fix?

A Letter to My Daughter About Middle School


You are about to enter a span of several years that are often the most difficult in one’s life.  Middle school is a time of desperately wanting to fit in and be “liked.” In the midst of discovering more about who you truly are as a person, negotiating crazy hormones in your body, and navigating an increased school work experience…there’s an overwhelming fear of “not fitting in” that can cause really strange things to happen in yourself and others.

These are the years when friendships are ranked and categorized, all for the sake of making girls feel better about themselves.  By securing the closest friendship with another girl and cutting others out of it, a false feeling of worth is created.  Don’t get caught up in trying to be best friends with one or the other, or feel worthless when certain girls choose to be best friends with each other but not you.  It will be difficult to cultivate friendships with many- the kind that are not based on securing worth but on caring about the other person.  You will know how to do this because of your understanding of God’s love, and not through your own efforts.

The line between leader and follower can be tricky to navigate in middle school.  The desire to fit in is so strong it can cloud the judgement and make us do things we know aren’t right.  Your friends aren’t always going to make the best decisions, but the pull to join in will be strong.  Making decisions based on what you know is right means being a leader, but there’s no guarantee anyone will follow you.  You will have to find contentment in doing right rather than always fitting in, which can be a sacrifice.  Here’s how you’ll know what the right thing to do is:  by staying close to the heart of God and listening to his ideas about it.

The one thing I can promise you is that here in this family you will have a safe place.  This is where you can always relax and be yourself no matter what kinds of drama, hurt feelings, or disappointments you face during the day at school.  We love you fiercely and unconditionally.  There are some things you’ve got to figure out in life, but your place in our hearts and lives isn’t one of them.  You are completely secure, loved, adored, and safe with us.  We are with you and for you and care about you deeply.  We want to know what’s going on in your heart and mind, soothe the hurt places, and enjoy all the talents and beauty God has placed inside you- how lucky we are to have you as our daughter!

Please keep talking to us.  I hope the dialogue we enjoy right now will continue, even if it has to limp a bit- it’s ok.  We may not understand exactly what you are facing, but we do understand difficult feelings like fear, anger, embarrassment, and anxiety.  You have our promise to be a safe place for you always.  It’s ok to make mistakes, by the way.  We already know that’s going to happen, and we are going to love you through the consequences of any mistakes.  (We know it’s going to happen because it happens to us all the time.)

Keep your head up, look people in the eye, and be YOU because you have nothing to be ashamed of.  We are looking forward to walking with you as you continue to grow into the woman God has planned for you to be.

We love you.



Stitch Fix Review: July 2014 (A Total Bust)

I’ve been eagerly awaiting my first box from Stitch Fix for almost a month.  I’ve heard so many great things about this service, and just knew it would be a fun experience for me.

(The definition of Stitch Fix in 30 seconds: Fill out an online form, a personal shopper chooses 5 items to send to you, try them on in the comfort of your home, keep what you want and send back what you don’t want, the $20 fee you paid to have a box sent gets applied to anything you buy, if you send all 5 items back you lose the $20 fee, if you buy all 5 items you get a 25% discount on the total.)

Seeing my box on the porch was quite a thrill this afternoon!


The little note inside the box was a nice touch.  My personal stylist Angela had read my blog post about why I shouldn’t try Stitch Fix and looked at my Pinterest board.  Her reasoning for choosing the pieces she sent was pretty much right on, and I appreciated her thoughtfulness.


The box contains a card that shows how to pair the items which is helpful for people like me.


At this point I tossed the camera to Ava and dug into my box of goodies.  And this is also the point where the giddiness and excitement began its downward descent into disappointment.  How’s that for foreshadowing?

Chaney Textured Detail Blouse $48  First I pulled out this solid black top with a delicate texture detail on the shoulders.  I understand that Angela was trying to break me away from my solid shirt addiction gently…with texture.  And who can’t use a good black shirt?  I was excited.  But it fit too tightly around my midsection AND arms.  Crap.  I felt like I was honest about my sizing, so it felt disappointing that this was too tight.


Instead of getting discouraged, I grabbed the next top, the Whistler Graphic Print Button Front Blouse $48.  It was too tight also!! I couldn’t even begin to button it across my chest.  At this point I’m feeling sad, but I do realize that I had given a slightly smaller bra size in my online questionnaire than I actually am.  I was recently measured by Vanity Fair and realized my true size.  This might account for it being too tight, which is totally on me.


Next I tried the dress they sent.  Justine Abstract Printed Dress $54.  I couldn’t get it zipped.  This is when I started to feel really fat and like a liar even though I didn’t lie about my sizing.  That’s probably not the sentiment Stitch Fix is going for in response to it’s boxes.  However, even if I could have zipped the dress, I wouldn’t have kept it because it looks too much like a violent murder was committed while wearing it.


After these failures, I was looking forward to the 2 accessories they sent because those are one size fits all.  Hard to go wrong with a necklace, right?

Wrong.  The Zelda Bead Fringe Necklace $32 was very confusing to me.  I must have fiddled with it for a solid 10 minutes but never could get the “fringe” to lay right.  Some beads seemed to be on the wrong side, but flipping them didn’t really help much and the whole thing looked messed up with some higher than others.  I’m not going to buy a necklace that takes 20 minutes to adjust so the fringe lays right.  I gave up and put it back in its box.



That leaves the last item.  The Astair Ikat Print Scarf $48.  I don’t think scarves should cost $48, The End.  I’ll spend that much on a shirt, sweater, skirt, almost anything else but a scarf, because there are too many cute scarves at TJ Maxx for $15.  See my eyes?  They are saying the scarf is too expensive.


So there we have it.  A total disaster.  The only thing I could possibly keep from this box is the scarf, but it would cost an additional $28 over my $20 styling fee, and I’m not going to do that.  This means I’m saying goodbye to the $20 I put down to have the box sent.  Never in a million years did I think I wouldn’t want at least 1 item from my box!  I’m really surprised.

Now I have to decide if it’s worth trying again…perhaps adjusting my answers about sizing on my questionnaire and definitely giving lots of feedback about how the pieces didn’t fit.  Or I could chalk it up to a mistake and move on without it.

What would you do?  I’m seeking advice and willing to hear any opinion!

Meanwhile, if you want to try Stitch Fix (which I can’t imagine you would after my terrible review- I really sold it, huh??) you can sign up via my referral link and I get an amount credited to my account.  (Maybe it will cover the $20 I blew on my first box…)

Enjoy this post?  Then head on over and read how my TJMaxx Fix Trumped Stitch Fix.  That’s right.  I hit TJMaxx on my own a few days after my disappointing Stitch Fix box and found 7 amazing items for $140 total.

Oh, and they were all the size I had told Stitch Fix I am.  Turns out I DO know my size.  The post includes photos of my TJMaxx finds.  Maybe it will be an inspiration to anyone else who was disappointed in Stitch Fix.

Kinder to Sixth Grade Went FAST

When my first born baby girl started Kindergarten I remember looking around the school thinking Look at all those huge 6th graders!  They are like grown-ups!  They are taller than the teachers…why are they still here at this elementary school?  My little baby girl is so tiny compared to them.  I can’t believe she will be in the same building with these over-grown monster children!

See how cute and little she was?




Little did I know 5 years would pass in the blink of an eye and my baby girl would BE a huge over-grown monster child entering 6th grade!  Ok, so maybe monster is a bit harsh…

In fact, she’s really quite lovely.




There she is with her 3 year old cousin.  I’m so thankful Ava gets to stay at her elementary school for 6th grade, and I take back all the crazy thoughts I had when she was starting Kindergarten and I was worried about the “big kids” at her school.  I’m so glad she gets to be there one more year before changing to middle school.

To those of you whose kids are starting Kindergarten this year, I promise a couple of things.  First, elementary school will go too quickly.  And second, those big 6th graders aren’t so scary once you get to know them.

In fact, the one I know best is highly compassionate, caring, helpful, and an amazing leader and friend.  I’m so proud of the young lady she has become.

You Need A New Bra

If you’re a woman, then I can almost guarantee you need a new bra.  99% of us do.  We make bras last way past their intended shelf lives for so many reasons: we’re too busy to shop, we don’t want to spend the money, it’s not fun to try on bras, etc.

Plus, 80% of all women are wearing the WRONG size of bra anyway.  I was.  Until tonight that is!  I was invited through Dallas Moms Blog to a Vanity Fair Lingerie event at JCPenney at Stonebriar Mall.  Vanity Fair Lingerie has an amazing campaign going on right now called “Here’s to Women Who Do.”  They are on a “Lift Tour” right now going across the country giving women free bra fittings and donating bras to charities that make a difference for women.

They are going to be at the Stonebriar JCPenney this Friday (July 25) from 11-3.  You can do what I did tonight…get a free fitting (and find out you are wearing the wrong bra size, oops!) then write an encouraging note and tie it onto a bra that will be donated to Dallas’s own Dress for Success.  That’s an organization that helps clothe women for job interviews and helps them every step of the way as they gain careers.

After the fitting, why not use the great coupons and deals going on at JCPenney to pick up a couple of bras for yourself?  I did that tonight, too, and I am feeling pretty good about my new bras.  The prices are already good, but with $5 off PLUS buy one, get one 50% off, it’s impossible to beat.

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Discipline Post

In case you follow me but not Dallas Moms Blog, I always like to link to the posts I write there and encourage my readers to go check them out.  I’d love to get some discussion going on my most recent post for DMB- a breakdown of how I view and incorporate discipline as a parent.

This was not an easy post to write for a couple of reasons.  First of all, in no way did I want to come across as a “know-it-all” or like I think I’m the discipline genius.  I do think I have some insights because of my degree in education, my experience teaching and parenting, and because of some long discussions with my BFF who happens to be a highly trained counselor.  I certainly know a lot about what DOESN’T work, thanks to some total disasters and fails throughout the years, too.

Secondly, discipline is a multi-layered, intricate system of beliefs and actions that I wanted to do justice without being too wordy.  It isn’t easy to capture the heart of my beliefs about discipline and express them succinctly.

The cool thing is that when I first thought about this type of post many months ago, the “C” words fell into my mind automatically and almost on their own.  I didn’t have to strain or think about it.  I had the basic frame of the post in those 5 “C” words almost instantly.

I invite you to read the post and let me know what you think!  Did I miss something you consider key to discipline?  Is there something you thought was “right-on?”  Would you have said something differently?  Which of the 5 “C’s” do you relate the most to and why?  What do you think are the most important aspects of discipline?  Any feedback is welcome and appreciated.