Grace will be two at the end of this month. I can’t remember a faster two years.
Nor can this guy.
Grace had a few special requests for her family party this weekend and we were glad to oblige.
The guest list had to include Baby Nick, Clark and Uncle Zach.
We would listen to “Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson!” music.
There would be balloons.
We would eat a Gaston happy cake (they’re like regular cakes, only happier).
She may have a future in event planning.
Grace’s 2nd birthday party
I think I need to ask for a less freaky hand for my birthday.
The weather cooperated (sorry, mid-Atlantic states), but unfortunately cold season kept a few family members home. We missed them and made sure to save them some cake (but I might eat it…).
We kept the menu simple, mostly because nothing could top the Gaston cake. Gaston is one of Grace’s favorite books (it’s about a family of poodles and a family of Frenchies), and the folks at Sweet Tooth bakery in Southie did an incredible job recreating the cover.
Cheese and herb flatbread
Italian turkey meatballs (this was semi-traumatic for my vegetarian self, but I thought they’d be a crowd pleaser and I am trying to branch out a bit when cooking for everyone else… even if that means simply heating frozen ballz from Whole Foods in our crockpot… baby steps)
I photocopied a page from my sketchbook (all little drawings of Gaston characters) and used those images for food labels. Grace helped me make a few decorations over the past month or so, including a giant two and some not-so-giant party hats.
We had our loved ones there to celebrate with, balloons to play with, Michael Jackson to listen to, and plenty of cake to enjoy. So by Grace’s standards (and mine), this was the perfect 2nd birthday party.
I sort of have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. Actually, it’s more of a hate/hate relationship. Like, aren’t people creepy enough already, without having to dress up like zombies and murderous clowns?
Also, I’ve said it before, but I’m not a fan of fall decor. I have already promised Nick that if and when we move to the suburbs, I will not be decorating our lawn with punny tombstones and fake spiderwebs. I just won’t. And I’ll probably want to turn our lights off at 5 instead of give out candy on Halloween… mostly because I don’t want teenagers and their serial killer costumes to give me nightmares.
I’m the Grinch that stole Halloween. Except that I’ll leave three very important elements behind:
Babies in costumes
Dogs in costumes
The rest is no good. But these three things? These three, I embrace.
I had every intention of dressing Clark as a banana, to complement Grace’s strawberry costume (#fruitsmoothie)… but his, shall we say, robust figure did not fit into any of the peels I found. The poor guy was almost off the Halloween hook entirely (and if anyone deserves a break lately, it’s him), but when I spotted a lobster costume tucked in among the Christmas decorations (Yesssssssss! And no, it’s never too soon for Christmas!) at T.J. Maxx on October 30th, back on the hook he went.
I’m basically keeping this costume accessible year round. It’s just too good.
Grace’s strawberry costume got lots of use last week too, from gymnastics to running around Nick’s office, to actual Halloween. She kept telling people, “This my costume. A strawberry.”
We spent the evening with friends in Charlestown checking out the festivities around the monument, and I’ve got to say… Halloween wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it was pretty great. But now it’s time to get the Christmas boxes out of storage.
Also On Tap for Today:
Getting some fresh air at the Trailside Museum/Blue Hills
I’ve always looked at spring and fall as transition times, not giving them the full respect of actual seasons. Spring gets us to summer (Thank you, Jesus). And fall gets us to winter (Happy Birthday, Jesus… and, in the case of winters such as the last one, Help us, Jesus). These are months for passing through, for preparing.
This has never felt more true than this year, as I look ahead to our son’s arrival and attempt to (sort of) have my act together before that moment. I’ve made lists (and added to them, like… an unhealthy amount). I’ve even accomplished several items on those lists. I’ve pinned all kinds of crap to Pinterest boards and tried to imagine what the holidays will be like with a newborn and a nearly-two-year-old (the words magical and wild come to mind… I like both). I thought about making and freezing food to tide us over on the most wild days… but I mostly just ate it.
I’ve Googled things like “How do you dress up yoga pants?” and “Okay, but what if I no longer own a Beadazzler?” and “Skinny black tuxedo pants are out of the question” and “Does dry shampoo really work miracles?” and “Right, but it’s possible that I haven’t showered in days.” and “Why are you being so mean, Google! In this imaginary scenario, I JUST had a baby!” And then I feel badly for wasting twenty minutes that could have been spent organizing baby clothes or making homemade jam for Christmas gifts. Or, you know… napping.
My mind was feeling particularly busy this morning. I must have been making more lists in my head on the way to Grace’s gymnastics class (which is basically the most amazing, most adorable hour ever), because I pulled into the parking lot without remembering most of the 30 minute drive.
I’m doing all this preparing and passing through, and completely missing the view. This is an actual season, despite my being prejudiced against orange and yellow and red and brown and turkeys. It’s one that provides the opportunity to (spoiler alert!) dress Grace like a strawberry and Clark like a banana, stick them in a very oversized yogurt cup (that I need to invent) and call them a smoothie. It’s one that makes me kind of itchy, but doesn’t make my hair frizzy… so I can forgive the allergies. It’s one that brings us apples (and therefore, apple crisp) and leggings and dark nail polish and hot tea.
Instead of just passing through, I’m trying to stay for a while.
The sign of a great summer: My beach bag is getting more use than my handbag.
Whether you’re toting around a beach bag, a pool bag, a gym bag or a something-else bag, I’ve got a few upgrades to share. Things that make my life a little bit easier and a little less messy.
Beach bag upgrades
Some of these beach bag upgrades are technically baby items, but don’t let that scare you off. And if you find yourself childless yet running to Babies ‘R Us after reading this post, allow me to either 1. talk you out of it (with one child and another on the way, that place still terrifies me) 2. offer you one of the 19 about-to-expire 20% off coupons I have crammed in my wallet.
A wet bag
This should really be called “a prevent everything else in your beach bag from getting wet… bag.” We use this one from Skip Hop, which is on the small side, but is perfect for storing my wet bathing suit, Grace’s wet bathing suit, and at least one towel. If you’re heading to the pool or a friend’s house, wet bags are a great place to store your change of clothes (which can be swapped out for wet suits). This also works for sweaty gym gear.
I like the mesh pocket on the outside of the Skip Hop bag — it’s perfect for stashing keys and a few dollars, or an extra swim diaper or two. The snap handle is great too — I often attach it to the outside of our beach bag if we need a little extra room.
A giant carabiner
I sort of wonder what life was like before I discovered stroller hooks. I also sort of wonder what I would get done if I weren’t wondering about things like life before stroller hooks. This thing is essentially a giant, glorified carabiner. It’s padded on one side, allowing you to comfortably carry a bunch of bags or items that have been clipped together.
During the non-summer (I’m just not ready to say winter, or fall even), I use our hook most often when trying to make a single trip into our condo with the groceries and Grace. I keep one in my car, and another in or attached to whichever bag I am carrying. In the summer, however, it’s perfect for securing extra items to our beach bag (sand toys, towels) or keeping multiple sets of keys from getting lost.
Reusable snack bags
I use these reusable snack bags to store small items that, like keys, have a tendency to go missing in the very bottom of our beach bag– my phone, lip balm, hair elastics, band-aids, and sunblock sticks. Again, these work for your gym bag, too. The larger size can take the place of my wallet (because who wants to bring their entire wallet… 20% off coupons and all… to the beach?) and the smaller sizes are great for collecting shells and other treasures. They can be easily washed or wiped clean.
Also: I am obsessed with the patterns on these bags. They make me want to start designing fabric. If I had any clue how to do that. Which I don’t. Mostly because I am busy thinking about life before stroller hooks.
A waterproof camera
This is a bit of a splurge, but I bought a waterproof camera before our honeymoon to St. John and I’m so glad I did. We’ve been able to capture photos from amazing snorkeling trips and swimming in tropical caves to Grace’s first swimming lessons and days spent at the Cape with our family. In my dreams, I am the sort of person who swims under waterfalls and regularly partakes in SUP yoga in the harbor… but um, it’s perfect for my less cool, less adventurous (real) life.
We have an older version of the Nikon Coolpix Waterproof AW100 series. It is waterproof up to 100 feet, is shockproof and has built in GPS/world map. It seems like there are more options available (and at better prices) these days, and the new Nikons have built in wifi to easily transfer images to your smart phones. If you’re going to invest in a camera, I highly recommend getting a waterproof camera float, too. This can be used to carry the camera… but also lessens the chance of your camera disappearing, sinking, or sneakily bodysurfing ashore without you.
Speaking of bodysurfing, I’ve got a wave to catch. Toodles!
Take it from your friendly neighborhood not-a-meteorologist: It is hot as blazes today. I slowed things down a bit at bootcamp this morning, but I’m not sure it made much of a difference. By the time Grace and I got home, we were both ridiculously sweaty and in need of an extra nutritious lazy summer lunch: Popsicles, raspberries and lots of water.
Now that I’m feeling rehydrated and somewhat normal, let’s revisit the weekend according to Instagram.
There is no point to this photo, except that I am obsessed with my dog. Clark has been extra patient and playful with Grace lately, and I think he’s finally back to his usual self after a not-so-usual winter. The poor little guy had emergency spinal surgery at the end of February, was on bedrest for six weeks and is still waiting for most of his back fur to regrow. It’s sort of like built-in air conditioning, but looks… weird nonetheless. Nick recently found the breeder’s new website (she was sort of MIA for a while, which fits the bill)– the last thing we need right now is a puppy, but there were three that looked so much like baby Clark that I almost tried to convince Nick this was a good idea. ‘Tis not.
I know I need to get over myself (and I mostly did this weekend), but as long as we’ve lived in Southie (and in the past two years, right on the water), I couldn’t bring myself to swim at Carson Beach. Supposedly the beaches in Southie are cleaner than Miami Beach, but… what does that even mean? Long story short: We all went swimming on Sunday. And it was actually kind of nice. So that’s that.
Sunday was National Ice Cream Day. I don’t know where this crap comes from, but I am happy to celebrate anything that involves sprinkles.
This poodle is one of Grace’s new best friends. As previously mentioned, she is a miniature dog whisperer. They flock to her (when she is not chasing them).
We went for a nice, long walk with my sister in Charlestown on Sunday (which is where we encountered the poodle), strolling through Paul Revere Park and through the Navy Yard.
My first Google Express delivery arrived on Saturday afternoon. We each received a gift code at last Tuesday’s dinner at Serafina to try out the service, and I’ve got to say, I’m impressed. I’ve got a gift code to share with you (please see below), too. The hardest part for me was deciding what to order. I originally planned to go with diapers (boring, but necessary), but Grace’s size wasn’t available… which was just the motivation I needed to order a few fun things instead. I love that you can purchase from multiple retailers in the same order. I ordered some moisturizer and my favorite eye shadow from Ulta, and Go Set a Watchman and a grown-up coloring book from Barnes + Noble. Everything was delivered the next day (in adorable packaging) during the delivery window I reserved. I can see this service being perfect for last minute gifts or entertaining (in addition to household staples) and would love to hear if you have or planned to order from Google Express.
And a leftover from Thursday: Why bring a teddy bear to a teddy bear picnic when you can bring a sloth? Exactly.
Here are the details for Google Express:
Now through August 2nd, use the code EXPRESSBOSTON to receive $25 off your first purchase with Google Express (limited to the first 2,500 users; please note it is stated in your cart when paying that Google Express may need to authorize payment method for the total amount of your order without the promotional credit, but the promotional credit will be reflected in the amount actually charged to your payment method.
Who needs a vacation alarm clock (set for 3 hours earlier than you desire to wake up), when you have a toddler at the foot of your bed?
I woke up like this. With Grace pinching my toes and yelling, “Hellooooo!”
In an effort to spare the rest of our family the 4:30 wake-up call over the 4th of July weekend, we snuck out for some early morning walks down to the beach. The Cape might be my favorite place on Earth. Except for the place where they make popcorn (I’ve never been to a popcorn factory, but I just know it’s magical).
Not a bad way to start the day.
We covered 3.5 miles on Friday on our own, and 2.5 miles on Saturday with my brother and sister-in-law and their own mini-human alarm clock, my niece.
6 AM pajama parties on the beach are the best.
And with the entire world still sleeping, we had the beach to ourselves and our pick of the prettiest shells.
Any day we are lucky enough to wake up at the Cape (even if it’s at 4 AM), we are lucky enough.
This week I got got down to (messy) business a bit earlier than usual. Most weeks, I spread out my art journaling over the better part of the week and wrap things up just in time for my Get Messy Thursdays post to go up. With the holiday weekend upon us, however, I gave myself a time limit (1.5 hours on Tuesday) and let the creative vibes and liquid acrylics flow.
This is where the mess happens. Believe it or not, all that crap tucks away neatly into a little handled container I found on clearance at Target. It’s like the Transformers of art storage. Except less cool.
Materials used: [left side] Sakura watercolor paints and a white gel pen (forever obsessed); [right side] Sakura watercolor paints, water brush, Sharpie pen
I made the right hand page on Friday afternoon, shortly after the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. I cried happily as I listened to President Obama’s statement on the radio on my way home from working out (and man… later the same day, I would cry not so happily, listening to the President sing Amazing Grace in Charleston, South Carolina) and as soon as Grace went down for her nap, I broke out my watercolors and pens and started doodling. What a powerful, moving day. Love is love.
“God wants us to love. And not a twisted , crabbed, narrow tolerance, which often comes in the guise of condemnations, instructions and admonitions that try to masquerade as love, but actual love… Love first. Everything else later. In fact, everything else is meaningless without love.” –Fr. James Martin, S.J.
I added the left hand page on Tuesday. The quote is from a statement Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. made about the Catholic response to gay marriage. For me, being Catholic is as much a part of my identity as my (mostly — sometimes I think I am more liberal than I really am) liberal social views– they go hand in hand. And they’re rooted in a desire to see both God and good in all things, in all people. So when I read Fr. Martin’s statement, I was like, Yessssssssss.
Materials used: Extra-sharp, extra-unsafe scissors; black gesso; magazine clippings(the letters are from an article about seaweed farming in Ireland… okay); Faber Castel gelatos; waterbrush; palette knife.
So it’s been a month since I left my job, and though they’ve been few and far between, I’m still fielding emails and calls from the office. The other day it was one about a grant from 2007. I wracked my brain, but could not (and still can’t) remember the last name of the development officer I worked with on that project. Part of me was like, “Let it go, that was… how ever many years ago 2007 was.” But another part of me was like, “OHMYWORD! You are suffering memory loss! Your brain is disintegrating! You are not playing enough Suduko! You spend most of your day attempting to converse with a 17-month-old child and a six-year-old French bulldog!”
One of this week’s Get Messy prompts was to use hand-cut letters from a magazine, photo, etc. This seemed like a good exercise for my potentially aging brain. I free cut them (no drawing letters ahead of time) and let me just say… not easy. Once I got a few letters down, I tried to switch to my left hand, and managed to almost cut my other hand with the scissors… so I put a stop to that (safety first, brain health second).
I filled in the gelato circles with a few adventurous bucket list items. Is it weird that I really want to visit Mount Rushmore?
Materials used: Magazine clipping; Scotch masking tape with a ruler pattern (love this); Sakura watercolors; Micron pen
As sort of a foil to making plans and keeping a bucket list, I made this quick page using a photo of a man praying and a teaching from Buddha about dwelling in the present. I could stand to work on being more mindful. Like… a lot.
Materials used: Papernerd cutouts; Golden high flow acrylic paint; palette knife; white Faber Castell oil paint pen; blue Micron pen
This last page was really fun to make. I used cutouts from Nina’s printable (she shared a little challenge on the Get Messy instagram account) and threw together an abstract background in response to one of this week’s art prompts. I love how beautifully liquid acrylics blend. I almost never use red (I once had a flaming red rental car and was all, Everyone is staring at me!), but really like how it turned out here.