Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: The Chaperone

Set in the 1920's, The Chaperone is a book of dazzling glamour and history. Two women set out for an adventure that will change their lives. Louise is chaperoned to NYC from Wichita by a woman she doesn't know, Cora. For personal reasons, Cora is seeking answers to her lifelong question of where she came from, as orphan life is all she remembers as a small child. 15-year old Louise is on a much different path in search of finding herself and branching out in a desperate attempt to find fame in NYC. Unpredictable to say the least, this book will have you guessing at every turn.

History presents itself at every turn. The glamour of the fashion and rich theatre culture sucks you in to the beauty of the times while being so thankful for such conveniences as air travel, air conditioning, electric freezers and the allowance to wear shorts and ditch the corset for a relaxed-fit tank top or comfy sweatshirt. If you love historical fiction, a little teenage drama, and romanticizing about what America was like nearly a century ago, this book pulls out all the stops and dishes it on fine china.

I received a free book and was compensated for this BlogHer Club book review, but all opinions expressed are my own. If you'd like to check out discussions on BlogHer about the book, go here. I'll be discussing there. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Insta-Friday

This week on Instagram:
I rock this.
B is jealous because he doesn't have hair. Therefore he pulls mine.
Loves on our anniversary. And no, it's not Chili's. It's Mago in the Chi suburbs and it's amazing. Mole, tableside guac, plantain and black bean tamales, a full wall of tequila... amazingness. We had the mariachi band sing to us (B was less than amused but loved them at a distance) with some tres leches cake. Had no idea we'd be sung to-- darn OpenTable reservation tricked me and they ambushed us! Hahah.
Whatevs. Bears don't scare me. I have dirty diapers and that should scare you.
Made this last Friday for a BBQ. Avocado dip made healthy with FF Greek yogurt. Definitely recommend.
What?! Breastmilk famine? Omg. What are we gonna do?
Dramatic sleepers = dramatic teenagers? Someone tell me no.
Smith Island Peanut Butter Cake! Eeek! That frosting is super delish. Anniversary gift!
This is the life.
life rearranged

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quattro

Year 1:
Living in Los Angeles just before heading on our road trip from CA > IL > Germany
Year 2:
This little boy was growing in my belly! We had the anatomy scan before heading to dinner that evening. In hindsight, I would never schedule such a crucial scan on a memorable day like our anniversary again. What if it were bad news?
Year 3:
You guessed it! Pregnant again... but no one knew except us!  I posted this. I'm pretty sure we went to dinner, though the entire year is all a blur to me.
Year 4:
That little poppyseed is now a growing 5-month old and we're his freaking parents! I'd say having him here makes for a pretty excellent anniversary. Though I'd be lying if I didn't wish his grandparents lived closer so we could go out to dinner sans bebe tonight.

For the record, this dress fit way better this year than our first anniversary.  You nursing ladies understand. ;)
I love you, husband. More and more.

Book Review: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns

Gal Garner isn't your typical 36-year-old woman. She's a bit of a loner, brutally honest, obsessed with rose breeding, a ruthless biology teacher, a dialysis patient, and living the single life... until her niece enters her world and rocks the boat of mundanity.

If you ask me, she needed it. I was captured by the delicate facts displayed of rose breeding and the daily life of a dialysis patient, but I found myself desperately wanting to jump into the book at the end of every chapter and explain to Gal that she's missing the point. Life is delicate, much like those roses she breeds, and instead she should be drawing her focus elsewhere.

In every book I read, I find myself questioning where I would place myself in these relationships. Would I befriend a woman who has an interest in something I've never given much thought about? Would her sarcasm be too much to handle? I found some parts of the book predictable, but then I was left to question as a twist was thrown into the mix. But in the end, the predictability from the beginning came back to fruition.

Every so often the chapters were divided by a short excerpt from a professional rose handler's book. It was quite intriguing as I learned snippets of rose breeding expert advice while it craftily tied into the book's underlying saga. Talk of aphids and destruction in roses easily foreshadowed or followed the turmoil and destruction involving the characters and their relationships. Cleverly done.

I received a free book and was compensated for this BlogHer Club book review, but all opinions expressed are my own. If you'd like to check out discussions on BlogHer about the book, go here. I'll be discussing there. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Funnies

B is now laughing, but you have to work for it. I'm always reading how others think babies grow up so fast, and while that's true, Ray and I agree that we're surprised it takes so long to master certain things (i.e. hand-eye coordination, laughing). He's been laughing for awhile, but it's just now becoming a regular thing. Five months today, this munchkin.

It's basically Hades here. Hope you're not melting wherever you live.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Insta-Friday: Weekly Photo Dump?

I've seen these done for what seems like forever now. But of course I wasn't cool and on Instagram yet. Now I am and now I want in. Maybe. I've tried these weekly jaunts in the past and #epicfail. Here goes nothing. Perhaps super boring for those already following on Instagram? But since MY MOM is not (yet), she has to somehow see these, right? I promise to try and think up new captions.

Heeeey Ladies. 
Totally went to Ikea to snag me a freebie kid's meal. My kid inadvertently will digest some of those carrots, right?
 Just chillin' on the couch before bed. Head control master, this one.
Tummy time fail. What you can't hear is him making the most exaggerated nom nom nom noises ever while literally trying to inhale his thumb. He doesn't appear to be a true thumb sucker, but doesn't mind it either.
And le piece de resistance. I'd like to refer to this one as: Le Meltdown. Other titles might include: Give me milk and put me to bed immediately, you crazies. And also, Where is the love?

Now let's just see if I can make it two consecutive weeks posting this whole Insta-Friday business. 
life rearranged

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dividends

Well, he's already pulling his own weight, it seems. B is nearing 5 months old and has started contributing to the family financially. He received his first dividend check from his stock this month.

Total: $.08

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We Time to Me Time



On any given day, I have the little mister attached to me, often literally, for hours and hours. While I wouldn't want anything more than to be his mama and care for and nurture him, I need some me time. Here's how the story goes:

7:30 a.m. B cries & is ready to be fed. Pull him into bed with me. Feed. At the same time, Ray leaves for work.

8:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Duties of a mom ensue. I hold my little babe, feed him and get peed on and slobbered on repeatedly. Sometimes I even manage to eat lunch one-handed. It's a wild job, this mom business. Nothing I take for granted... but when Ray gets home... I'm t-i-r-e-d.

6:30 p.m. usually means I get some sort of break from holding B and move into the kitchen for dinner creation if that hadn't already been in the works while holding a certain baby boy in one arm and navigating through the kitchen with the other.

8:30 p.m. is me time. I hop in the shower and get to enjoy time all to myself. It's lovely. And in this time, I like to really enjoy myself. Being a stay-at-home-mom definitely has its perks, but it's not the job that really gives you a feeling of beauty like I felt when getting up, applying makeup and setting out in my nice clothes to teach my eager fourth graders. I know it's all a choice, but most days I'm relaxed and live in whatever is comfortable for breastfeeding and going for walks with B. But this time of night... this is my time to relax and  really feel beautiful in my own skin.

Lucky for me, BlogHer has given me the opportunity to try out a new product that I actually love. And it does just that-- it makes me feel lovely. We've always been a huge fan of Dove products in our home, and this one is no exception. It could account for the higher water bill we've been experiencing however.

Dove Visible Care Body Wash is new to me and I can tell you that my 8:30 me time has been one joyous occasion. It's feminine and silky and makes my skin feel oh-so-lovely and soft. It reminds me a little of my favorite spa in Hermosa Beach where I used to visit back in California. Every time I'd go, I'd use a plumeria-scented body scrub and just revel in all it's delicious glory until well into the next day. This body wash has a similar amazing scent that I absolutely adore. It's island-like. This is Dove's premium line.
Body wash + loofah = heaven
Dove's Visible Care Body Wash is made with their NutriumMoisture technology... simply translating to mean that you can skip out on having to moisturize post-shower, which is a big plus for me. I usually apply lotion or body oil, especially in the summer, but I've found that I didn't need to after using this product... and I can say that after about a week of its use, my skin feels considerably softer.

This new line has 3 options to choose from in case you're hitting up the grocery store and need to make yourself all beautiful and spit-up free, too:
- Dove VisibleCare Toning Creme Body Wash
- Renewing Body Wash
- Softening Body Wash (that'd be the one I have)

Visit Dove® VisibleCare® to get a coupon for $1 off! 

I got to try out a new body wash and encourage y'all to enter to win a spa day. I think that sounds amazing, personally. Follow the link below to enter the sweepstakes for a chance at one of two $500 spa gift cards! Which of the new Dove body washes would you like to try?

Enter to win one of two $500 Spafinder gift certificates!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
COMMENTS TO THIS POST ARE NOT SWEEPSTAKES ENTRIES. PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR ENTRY METHODS FOR THIS SWEEPSTAKES.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Follow this link, and provide your email address and your response to the Promotion prompt
b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: "#SweepstakesEntry"; and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that Tweet.
c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that post.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. Winners will have 72 hours to claim the prize, or an alternative winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 7/18/2012 - 8/22/2012
Be sure to visit the Dove® VisibleCare™ Crème Body Wash brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adventures in Baby Food Making, Blendtec Style

I've confessed my obsession and love for our blender, and here's more love.

We're reaching the time period where I'll be starting B on some solids soon and I wanted to test out the blender on its amazing abilities. We own the Blendtec Home and love it. I've now made smoothies, soups, bread, sauces, and now baby food. I think I'll attempt almond butter next. Just because it sounds good. And you know what? The blender won't break. Because it's made of steel. Literally. The parts that are normally plastic at the bottom that connects to the base unit are steel. Solid steel. We had a $200 Breville before and it was no different than the $20 blenders you can buy at Target. Plastic parts. I digress.

I wanted to try my hand at making some oat flour which would then turn into the consistency of rice cereal, but a whole lot healthier and not at all processed. Plus, I love steel cut oats and had a whole tin of this delicious stuff to grind up. Well after B is over the pureed phase, I may just create my own pureed cereal for the winter for us all to eat. Because, nom nom. So yummy.

Started with this. Oats + well seasoned blender I heart, heart, heart.
 Fat, fiber, protein, calcium, iron. Yeah, I'm aware this might stop up some pipes... but luckily we've had no issue with food up until this point, so that's at least on our side. That, and the 3-4 dirt-ay diapers a day.
 100% grain oats. Yes please.
Delish, but far too large for the B-meister. Also, the original instructions call for it taking lots of time to soak, then cook. Scratch that. This mama doesn't have time for that.
So glad I picked this up at the store in the winter. I usually buy Trader Joe's, but I'm definitely a fan of this can of goodness.
 Insert blender + 1 cup oats.
 Turn on and grind until a fine powder.
 Doing its job like no big thang.
 Vroom, Vroom. A little peek of the action.
 Just about doneski. Took about a minute.
Pull out your small saucepan, add 1/2 cup of that oat flour (it makes approx. 1 1/2 cups) & 2 cups of water. Boil, and stir with a whisk until desired consistency is reached. Less than 5 minutes.
Bust out those unused ice cube trays and a spoon. That 1/2 cup of oat flour + water will make exactly one ice cub tray with 18 spaces. Doing the math... that one cup of oats makes three full ice cub trays.
 Yes, I know... so easy.
Take the rest of that oat flour and save it for later (or make and freeze it all... get down with your bad self!). This is packaged for travel since we have places to go and people to see coming up soon here.

Pop the oatmeal cubes out once frozen and Ziploc them up for later. Readily available 1 oz. (ish) cubes for a quick meal. Oats + banana. Oats + apple. Oats + {insert fruit or veggie}. Or just plain oats. If they don't pop out of the ice cube tray easily, just fill your sink with a bit of water to cover the bottom and they'll loosen up in no time. Just be conscious, otherwise it will thaw them out completely!

Ziploced and labeled and ready for a special little nugget to chow down!

Don't have a baby, make it for you! It's seriously the best darn cream-of-wheat oats you've ever had. And, it is ready way faster than the traditional cooking method. YES.

*I'm sure breastmilk or formula can be substituted or even added in once thawed out to warm it up, but since B is still being EBF, I will be feeding him breastmilk anyway in addition to any solids we introduce. There are no rules-- just trying to keep it healthy and nutritious for the little mister. And if you really want to start on rice cereal, you can grind your own brown rice in the blender and serve that up for rice cereal credit. 


Anyone else making baby food out there? What did you start your kids on and what was your favorite recipe to make?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Perception

I can't find my sunglasses. It's not like it matters anyway, because I made a big scratch in them. But now I have about 4 pairs of sunglasses that all have scratches on them. So instead, I busted out a freebie pair I picked up at a party last year... and let me tell you... they're special.

Picture white Fay-Ban sunglasses. {I'm not as cool as my friend Alli who is also 4.5 years younger than me who calls her own sunglasses FBs. I even urban dictionaried-- clearly a verb-- it to find out they are, indeed, fake Ray Ban sunglasses which have apparently made a comeback}.

Exhibit A.

I had to go to the County Clerk's office today to pick up B's birth certificate because I forgot to mail in the form nearly 5 months ago when he was born because I was a little busy or something. And also, I had no rush to get things moving since the document would still be there, 12 miles away, as long as I waited. Maybe there was Andrew guilt in there, too, because I don't have any documentation that he ever existed according to the state of Illinois. Maybe I can get that, but I honestly still have too many emotions about that. Except now we decided to get B a passport for some upcoming travel (more on that later) and the procrastination had to stop. Let's also not discuss how I nearly broke down right there reading at the top, "certificate of live birth", because I'd never seen that for my own child typed on a piece of paper with my own two eyes before.

Also, perhaps the cutest thing you've ever seen is a baby's passport photo.

Exhibit B.
We had him in a collared onesie to show his sophistication, but he naturally pooped through that before we arrived at the drug store for the photo opp. Random white thing in his mouth = glare. You try getting a baby to close his mouth for a photo!

I'm getting away from myself here. As I walked into the County Clerk's office, I wanted to appear respectable to have a baby in my possession. And when you're asking for documents such as birth certificates, you sort of feel like you should present yourself respectfully. So here I was, walking in with my white Fay-Bans on and totally, utterly embarrassed. I was convinced people thought I...

A. Was 18 years old
B. Had just stolen this child
C. Had Illegitimately acquired the child and was totally white trash/uneducated. 

As Ray and I entered the Post Office together later to submit the passport paperwork, I was telling him that people were giving me weird looks and I was convinced these stupid glasses were making people judge me inappropriately. He said I was being too self conscious. I assure you, if I saw a lady with white Fay-Bans with a baby, I would totally think less of her and drop her down at least one college degree. At least. Shame on me, maybe. But I speak the truth. Someone has to. And for the record, I'm one of the least self conscious people around-- I truly don't care what people think of me most of the time. But when it comes to being a mom, I'm quite protective of that title. I've mentioned that a time or two before.

I took the glasses off before we got into the Post Office. Oh, and in case you're wondering, both parents must be present in case the other happens to be trying something sneaky and abducting the kid or something.  We were happy to be inconvenienced by this requirement. Because, the horror.

It got me thinking further about this whole perception business. I stood putting the groceries into my trunk this afternoon with B's carseat in the cart {not resting on top, ever} and wondered if there were other BLMs out there getting out of their cars or purchasing their produce that were burdened by seeing my seemingly perfect life. She's young and has a baby and is buying groceries and looks relatively in shape and is wearing stupid Fay-Bans that make her look 18. Wow, I wish I had that life. The life of happy.

The truth is, it is happy. Most of the time. But there's definitely so much emotional baggage and sadness still that it's not perfect and I'm not just living the perfect little life with my perfect little husband and child and delicious produce and driving my perfect little Honda around. I envied these women I saw every single day from the day Andrew died until the day B arrived and I still envy them in so many ways. I envy their emotional stability and full hearts that will never be missing a piece.

It's just plain interesting how much we can assume about others without knowing their story. I try to remind myself of this, but even I get caught up in the battle of perception. Maybe this post was all over the map, but it's something that's definitely been looming around in my brain these days. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Either Way

I received a pamphlet in the mail about storytime at our local library. While B's only 4 months, I thought it might be a way for us to find something to do that didn't involve melting in the sun or being stuck at home. I can only walk around Target so many times. I also like the idea of him being exposed to other children-- not in the sense of germ sharing, but more to allow him to interact with and watch their mannerisms. It's good for social awareness.

We receive our mail at 9:15 every morning. I read the pamphlet and dialed the number to our library. You know, the one we pay taxes to use. And a hefty load of them, too. I was already annoyed that I couldn't just sign up online or... here's a thought... just show up.

I received the news that storytime was full. But they were happy to put me on the waiting list. :/ And of course, they managed to email me my non-admitted status.

I guess you have to have some insider knowledge about signing up for storytime or something. Clearly I'm a rookie at this whole parenting thing. I should've learned that long ago when I attempted to snag some free tickets to the local arboretum and there was a woman at the library more than 30 minutes before it opened just waiting to snag those same two tickets. People in the 'burbs don't mess around. 

Our library requires you renew your card, in person and with valid proof of residency every two years. My mother-in-law hasn't renewed her library card since the 80's and it's still valid. I filed a verbal complaint when I had to drive the 3 miles just to have them look at a medical bill from B's birth to slap a new sticker on my current library card (a new picture card would have cost me a few bucks) that renewed it until 2014.

I received a call last night telling me that we were allowed to come to storytime because the attendance has been low recently and there should be an extra chair. Like I said, they run a tight ship at our library apparently!

We showed up for storytime today and B decided it was one of those days that he wanted to spit up. He rarely spits up, but today the movement was plenty for him to feel like emptying his stomach was a cool idea. So there was that fun to contend with. And the only thing I brought was an Aden & Anais blanket. The majority of children were walking and much older than B. There were about 15 children and only 3 others were even close to being under 1 year old, like B. 

The rest? They were all Andrew's would be age. Why it didn't occur to me when I called to reserve a spot for storytime (ages 0 months - 2 years) that children Andrew's age would be there just baffles me. I'm acutely aware that Andrew would be 19 months and therefore we'd be attending the very same storytime with these very same children who were probably born at the very same hospital in the very same months surrounding Andrew's birth and death. 

All that didn't seem to click until about halfway through storytime when the leader deemed it "playtime" and all the littles who were about 19 months walked to the center of the circle and started stealing one another's toys. I sat with my 4-month old on my lap and wiped spit-up from his collared onesie.

It occurred to me right there that either way, I'd be attending that same storytime. It's like I saw the two paths of my life converge in that moment and I wasn't sure I liked it. I wasn't sure I hated it, but I know it wasn't supremely comfortable.

And by the way. That room was HUGE and there was room for at least 20 more people and their kids. So much for that whole waiting list ordeal. I was told that during the regular school year calendar they follow, children of B's age will have their own storytime, but in the summer, they merge the babies with the toddlers under 2 years. As luck would have it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Moose

Remember this post when I discussed B's room and how I wanted to create a mobile and hang a map over his crib? Well, the map was a fail. After two attempts at ordering the map, I decided it was a no-go because of quality.

Then we took a trip to Milwaukee and saw these at an Anthropologie store. Found here.
Have I mentioned that Anthro is my absolute favorite retail clothing store? Well, it is. 

We could have paid the $68 for the animal, or we could make it ourselves. I wanted to have some kind of craft project that could represent both of our children in the room and didn't quite know how-- this was now the new idea. I searched online and found an amazing tutorial. Internet, you are awesome. 

We originally planned to create two animals. I was creating the moose and Ray was creating a mountain goat. When my moose started to look like a pile of newspaper with no special shape at all (read: I suck at art) and Ray's goat started to look like a moose, we abandoned our original idea and stuck to making a moose only. And by we, I mean Ray. Needed supplies: newspaper and masking tape. And also maybe some skill.
Once the shape was constructed, we took a piece of cardboard and attached it to the bottom of the neck where it would later be mounted. It creates a flat piece to attach. Next comes the paper mache. I learned through the tutorial above that paper towels are best because they allow for more sculpting. I whipped up a recipe of that paper mache goop (1 part flour, 4 parts water... bring to boil and remove from heat) and got started.
Posted this on instagram and received a comment from Tiffany about the randomness. Us Wilsons are a little crazy, we'll admit. Instagram: brandywilson. I only started up to stalk Brooke's baby pictures. Truth. And now I'm sort of obsessed and fully intend to use this website to make an awesome collage or two. Mom and Kay (B's grandmas) should really get on instagram. Download the app and find me. I post pictures there often.
This was only the first of two coats. The second was intended to strengthen and cover the colors of the newspaper.
 Does he look like a moose yet?
What about now? The board on the left was from Michael's for $15. Obvi we used a 50% off coupon. It's the mounting piece for the wall. The paper mache is completely dry at this point. A file folder was used to create ears and obviously those are coat hangers from our dry cleaning, as we have very few to be found in our house since Ray has an obsession with all white, plastic coat hangers. 
 Moose antler paper mache.
I think this was our 4th batch of creating the goop as well. Sometimes I used 1/4 cup flour and sometimes 1/2 cup. Still using 4 parts water for each batch. I scrubbed our granite counter tops way too many times, folks.
These pictures are hilarious. Look at B's face in the first and second. Here he looks pleased and like he's learning from his dad.
And here's he's like, "This dude be craaaazy. We're not related."
Moose in the background and Modge Podge. We used a sponge paintbrush we had on hand... and instead of using pages of a book (though that was the original plan), Ray gave me the idea to print out some of my blog posts to create a more family piece. I already intended to use each of our names so both of my boys would be represented in the art. It was quite the project, but I went back to every single post I'd written for the last year and used the title of the blog post and a short excerpt from each post. Then, I went back into my pregnancy with Andrew posts and selected some titles and excerpts as well. It ended up being 6 full pages of 14-sized font with only .5" margins. We cut those margins off in the end, but that's what we had going for us. We reprinted a few times to have enough (believe it or not, 6 full pages was not enough to cover the moose and I sooo wasn't making any more) and began the Modge Podge process.
In the meantime, I was spray painting ($2 can at Ace Hardware) the wood mounting piece outside. Let's just pretend this photo is in focus. Good tip: use a box so your grass doesn't turn red. As if it needs any more help looking terrible considering our intense dry spell here in the Midwest with matching temps of over 100 degrees.
The moose was finished and mounted onto the red backing using a staple gun (which we own, oddly) and hung on the wall above B's changing table. We chose red for the backing because our other moose hanger in the room is red. We thought it would provide some kind of cohesion in a room with no theme.
 See some familiar names?
 <3
All words from our family and lives. It was quite fun picking out little excerpts of what I've written from my heart over the last couple years. I obviously tried to avoid the truly sad parts of posts and focus on more meaningful and loving quotes.
 And there you have it. Le Moose.
Total supplies used:
  • newspaper
  • masking tape ($1 at hardware store)
  • paper towels (about 1/4 roll = $.25)
  • flour and water for paper mache mixture (total about 1-2 cups flour = $.25 worth)
  • 2 coat hanger and 1 used file folder (can use cardstock or whatever scraps on hand)
  • bottle of glossy Modge Podge ($9 retail, use 50% off Michael's coupon for $4.50 large container) We didn't use all of it, but you don't want to end up short... so just go for the big one.
  • Sponge Paintbrush to apply Modge Podge ($.50 or less)
  • Wood mounting piece ($15 retail, use 50% off Michael's coupon for $7.50)
  • Spray paint ($2-4 a can)
Project total was around $16. Sure beats $70 at Anthropologie and we have a unique and fun piece that is literally made up of our family stories and experiences over the last couple years. I also included the boy and girl "C" names we've already selected for our next child (no Mom, I'm not pregnant), if we're lucky enough to get that opportunity. It took a few days to complete this and plenty of hours, but it's done. 

And just for kicks, here is my favorite moose shot we took in real life. Amazing creatures.
  • Road trip from CA>IL when we moved here in 2009, just before boarding our plane to Germany from O'Hare. This was at Grand Teton National Park. We were about 30 feet away. It was amazing.