The “I Do” Chronicles {Part 3}: Trippin’

If you’re new to this series, you can catch up with parts 1 and 2 and then come on back.

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Over the course of our 10 years together, Shaun and I have taken trips to Canada, Mexico, Spain, England, Australia, Hawaii, California, Chicago, Maine, Florida, New York, and a double fistful of other states.

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(Here we are in Kauai, Hawaii; 2-month-old Della is strapped to the front of me just out of the shot)

On those trips, we have hiked together, relaxed together, swum together, eaten together, played together, served together, laughed together, pretty much everything-ed together. With the obvious emphasis being “together.”

Granted, we’re together a lot when we’re home. Shaun works from his home office and often comes down for lunch, and we spend almost every evening together, but there’s just something so important about taking the time to get away from all the dailyness of life—the bottom-wipingness, the “did you get the oil changed”ness, the grocery-shoppingness of it all.

Even if you don’t have kids, chances are, you’ve got a whole lot of dailyness  making it hard to turn your brain off to the constantly ticking to-do list and really focus on your spouse.

But, Abbie, you say, we don’t have the kind of budget that allows for trips to other states, much less other countries.

I totally understand. My husband travels a fair bit, and sometimes, we’re able to mix business with pleasure so that I can meet him in fun places like Chicago

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(I think I’m 25 weeks pregnant with the twins here)

…and California (where I’ve visited him 3 times).

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And because his work has already paid to get him there, our costs are greatly reduced.

But other times, we have simply saved up, shopped around for great deals (vrbo.com and airbnb.com are both great alternatives to hotel rooms), and then bitten the bullet.

Because we know that memories are priceless.

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Memories like racing along a road in Mazatlan in a pulmonia, snuggled close to my husband as the wind whips our hair.

So, my marriage-enhancing suggestion for you today is this: go trippin’ together.

Even if it’s just a few miles to a local bed and breakfast for the night. Or to a cabin a few hours away. Or to the nearest “big city” for a fancy dinner and a Pricelined hotel.

Get away from daily life and do cheesy things like stare deep into each other’s eyes, talk about your goals for the next six months, and hold hands.

It doesn’t have to be expensive or long or complicated. In fact, some of our simpler trips  have been our best.

But I’ve never regretted the investment of either time or money. We always come back refreshed, recharged, and ready to refocus on the daily grind without losing sight of each other, and that renewed energy  makes life’s little irritations that much more bearable and it helps us appreciate just how sweet it is to come home.

Oh, and on a practical side note, if you don’t have family close by who are willing to watch your kids like we do, you might consider swapping babysitting with another couple who are interested in taking a trip of their own.  Chances are you have at least one set of friends desperate enough willing to consider it.

Shaun and I are currently planning our 9th anniversary trip but can’t decide whether we want to swing for the fences or keep it closer to home. We’ve considered a lot of options, but none of them feel quite right. So, he told me to ask you guys for advice (yes, my husband realizes the value of having reader-friends :) ).

So…if you had 5-7 days to take a trip, where would you go, and what would you do? (Descriptions of past trips and things that worked are welcome).

Do you make a point of taking trips with your spouse? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Color Your World “Run Essentials” + the easiest DIY headband of all time.

Hey guys! I get to do something really fun next week in Dallas (Arlington, specifically). And that is my first ever color run. I’ll be running the Color Vibe 5K next Saturday, thanks to Tum-e Yummies who have been nice enough to sponsor me. 

Truthfully, we’re a water, milk and extremely watered down 100% apple juice family. We don’t keep sodas or other sugary drinks of any kind in the house.

But we do let the kids choose something as a treat for special occasions or rewards. I honestly didn’t know anything about Tum-e Yummies before Emily contacted me, but once I saw that it had only 13 grams of sugar and 50 calories per 10.5 ounces plus a day’s supply of vitamins B6, B12 and C, I figured it was a pretty safe bet for that occasional “treat drink” (as my kids call it). Not too surprisingly, they were pretty thrilled at the prospect of getting to “test” all the different flavors.

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They won’t be running with me next week, but in keeping with Tum-e Yummies bright colors and the the rainbow hues which I will be getting pummeled with, I put  together a list of color run race day “essentials” (I use that word very loosely as I’m sure you’ll see).

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1. Colorful pouch for toting snacks, lip balm, Kleenex, sunglasses, etc.

2. Water bottle, natch.

3. Rainbow socks.

4. Colorful floral nail polish stickers.

5. Silly string. (If everybody’s getting blasted with color, they might as well get blasted with this too, right?).

6. Tissues. The better to blow paint out of my nose. Ew.

7. Tum-e Yummies. I’m not gonna lie. Mama thinks they taste pretty good too, but I doubt my kids will actually leave me any (P.S. that random headband was courtesy of the twins right before I took this pic, and I didn’t notice it until after I was already editing; hey, at least they stayed with the color scheme).

8.  Sour Patch Kids. These are a major guilty pleasure for me, y’all, and there’s no way I’ll actually need a sugar burst right in the middle of only a three mile run. But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared!

9. Pink shades. I’m pretty sure I will look ridiculous in these. But in every picture I looked at, the people running were wearing sunglasses, which totally makes sense after you see just how covered in paint they are. No fun to get it in your eyes.

10. Trail mix, with M&M’s, of course. Yes, more sugar, but hey, at least this version has nuts.

11. And just in case I come down even an inch from my trail mix + Sour Patch sugar high, I can always eat a chocolate chip cookie (using my favorite recipe). I substituted peanut M&Ms instead of the usual Heath bits, and theyre pretty great.

12. White top and shorts. The whole point of a color run (other than, you know, running) is to get absolutely blasted with every color in the rainbow. So, white is the best clean canvas for showing up all those bright colors.

13. Of course, I don’t really want my hair dripping paint in my eyes, so I decided to make a DIY head-wrap.

I got 1/8 of a yard of this slightly stretchy, sequined fabric (the sequins are rainbow colored in the sun), since nothing else about this whole set up had anything to do with subtlety, and I figured it was best to just embrace the flamboyance.

I had a grand plan to cut my fabric up and sew a headband, tapering the shape to fit my head. And then I tried it on and realized…it needed no sewing.

All I did was fold the edges in a little in the middle and then a little more and a little more until I got to the ends, then wrapped it around my head, tied a knot in the back, and—voila!—a DIY headband that literally took 30 seconds to make.

As a busy mama of 5, I can emphatically say, that is MY kind of project!

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(See how the thickness tapers down on the ends? I didn’t shorten the length at all, so this is just an 1/8 of a yard wide X 44” long)

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Who knows? Those “tails” may bother me while I’m running. I’ll probably do a test run (ha ha) and cut them shorter if they do, but I still love how the stretch of the fabric and the width keep my hair in place (my head must be shaped like a bullet because it tends to shed headbands within 5 minutes).

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Just a quick knot in the back, and you’re good to go! Easy peasy!

I’ll make sure to post pics after the race to let you know how it holds up.

Don’t you love it when a project ends up being even easier than you expected (practically never happens around here!).

The Best Fish Tacos EVER (even if you don’t like fish)

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About once a year, my husband and his dad go on a fishing trip for several days.

It’s their thing.

And every time they come back, they unload and clean their catch, and then they describe the trip, which always goes a little something like this: the food was really bad, we didn’t sleep much, the diesel fumes from the boat were so strong they gave us headaches, and we didn’t catch much.

Sign me up.

And yet they keep doing, and they actually seem to like it!

I guess it would kind of be like my describing a Goodwill trip with all five children to them. It’s 48% miserable but 52% exhilarating, so I keep going back for more (only, I haven’t actually gone to Goodwill with all five kids in like a year, so you be the judge between the boys and me about which one of us is finally learning our lesson).

ANYhoo, despite the fact that the boat they go out on always seems to have a record catch on the trip before theirs and then one of those most pathetic catches ever on the actual trip Butch and Shaun go on, they boys always manage to come back with a pretty decent mess o’ fish.

Problem is, I don’t like fish.

Or so I thought until I had really, really fresh fish. But, even when it’s crazy fresh, it’s still not my absolute favorite.

OR SO I THOUGHT until we used some of Shaun’s latest catch to make fish tacos for our friends, Rob and Jolinda, the other night.

Y’ALL.

They were AH-mazing. I simply cannot exaggerate how wonderful these tacos are, but let me put it this way: they’re rather time intensive in terms of prep, and we got started late, so when the Millers got to our house for dinner, we were madly chopping and dicing and mixing, but we still didn’t get dinner on the table for another hour and 1/2.

And even though they had to wait until their poor stomachs were twisted and growling with hunger, both Rob and Jolinda not only declared these the best fish tacos they had ever eaten, but they unequivocally proclaimed that they were worth the wait and then some.

Have I sold you yet?

Okay, so here’s what you’ll do. There are 4 parts to the recipe, so I’ll break them down separately.

Tortillas

We use corn tortillas for this recipe and usually just rub them with a little butter and throw them on the griddle until they’re slightly browned on both sides right before serving the tacos.

Apple Slaw

3 cups chopped cabbage

1 red apple, 1 granny smith, unpeeled, cored and chopped

1 grated carrot

1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

2 green onions, chopped (less if strong)

1/3 cup mayo

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

TIP: if you have a food processor, you could cut down your chopping time considerably by  using it to shred the cabbage (or you could buy it pre-chopped), the carrot, and the bell pepper. I would still chop the apple separately since it helps to have different textures within the slaw

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Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup yogurt

1/2 cup mayo

1 lime, juiced

1 jalapeno, minced

1 tsp minced caper

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried dill weed

1 tsp cayenne

Note: this can be made ahead of time, but it gets considerably spicier the longer it sits, so you might adjust the amount of jalapeno or cayenne according to the heat you prefer based on when you make it. (Also, we made this without the capers or the dill weed because we didn’t have them handy, and it was still fabulous).

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Beer Batter

We used this recipe, and it is so stinkin’ good. Don’t be intimidated by the huge amounts of paprika and garlic powder. They make the recipe.

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Also, we used Amberjack, but most fish (the fresher the better) would work. 

Rabbit trail: The day I first made this recipe, Ezra was hugging me goodbye as I dropped him off at his Softa’s house, and he looked deep into my face and said, “Mama, you have wrinkles.” (This will be important in a second).

Cue: major blow to the ego.

As the twins and I made our way through the produce section at the grocery store about an hour after that, a lady walked up to tell me how pretty the girls were. I said, “Thank you,” and then she said, “Girl, I don’t know about you, but if I had twins first, I’d be done!” I laughed and said, “Well, they’re actually my 4th and 5th.” This lady gave me a flabbergasted look and said, “NO! I wouldn’t have thought you were a day over 24! You go ahead with your bad self doing whatever you’re doing, girl, ‘cause it’s working.” (Take THAT, Ezra!).

Ego slightly restored.

And I grinned and grinned. Because, let’s face it, she was just being nice. I don’t look 24 or anywhere close to it. But I’ll take every bit of encouragement I can get. You might be able to argue, though, that her “You GO GIRL-ing” went to my head a little bit because as I got close to the checkout, preparing to buy my first can of beer ever for the fish batter (yes, you read that right; I had literally never bought alcohol before), I thought, “Oh! I guess I need to get my ID out. I mean, after all, that lady thought I looked 24. So, surely I’ll get carded!”

And then? I went through the line, clutching my driver’s license at the ready, and the checker took one look at me, and…scanned the beer with no comment and no request for ID.

Ego completely deflated. Hmmph.

That’s okay, though, because I just ate an extra fish taco later on that night to drown my sorrows, and it totally worked.

The End.

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P.S. Seriously. Make these. Even if the ingredients look weird to you. Even if you don’t think you’ll like them. They are pretty much a delicious party in your mouth. I’ve yet to meet anyone that doesn’t like them, and they’re currently in my top 5 favorite foods of all time.

We carried a jerry!

Hi there, folks!

Sorry to leave y’all hanging last week, but between a crashed computer and battling a nasty cold, blogging sort of fell by the wayside out of necessity.

So, just to catch you up on the last 5 days or so, I taught exercise classes (including subbing a 5:45 AM slot while battling the aforementioned cold, which = pathetic kicks and punches), shopped a local (MASSIVE) consignment sale (twice!), hung out at my mom’s house, had pizza picnics at the park with the kids, and stayed home from church with a sick kiddo.

In other words, pretty much life as usual.

One thing was a little unusual, though, and in the best possible way.

If you’ve been reading along for a while here, then you know that one of my favorite ministries is Parental Care Ministries. I’ve talked about them several times here, and y’all have even helped me raise money to build them a classroom, supported Sarah, and just generally prayed for and rejoiced in their successes.

PCM started, not as an official organization at all, but instead as the response of one godly Ugandan man (with a painful past of abandonment and abuse), whom everyone affectionately calls “Pastor Emmy,” to God’s call to practice “pure religion”—caring for the fatherless and the widow. He started by taking needy children into his own tiny home with dirt floors until he had 35 children sleeping end-to-end on those floors. And over the past decade, by the grace of God, Pastor Emmy’s passion for being the hands and feet of Jesus to the struggling children of Uganda has spread. And spread. And SPREAD. Until, by now, I’ve lost count of just how many PCM schools—each with several hundred students—have been started to care for and educate the orphans and the needy.

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{Evy wasn’t feeling super-cooperative, but I’m pretty sure Pastor Emmy has held his fair share of ornery toddlers}

My family has had the privilege to sponsor a precious girl named Harriet for the last four years. We love getting her letters. She calls me Mama and Shaun, Daddy (even though her parents are living) and all five of my children her brothers and sisters.

Well, last Saturday, our city (which is the American headquarters for PCM) hosted a Carry a Jerry event. To clarify, a “jerry” is the can that Ugandan children (and many others worldwide) have to carry back and forth to their water source, to the tune of 10-20 miles each day just so they can have “clean” (sometimes not so much) water for drinking and washing of any sort. Can you imagine not being able to turn on the tap and see clear, cool water flow out of it? Y’all. The few times my water has been off because of some sort of malfunction or bad weather, I can’t tell you how impatient and irritable it made me each time I walked to the sink, twisted the knob, and…nothing happened.

And yet, this is their reality (minus even the possibility of knob-twisting).

And YET…this is their attitude:

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{This is Adrine…moments after she met Della; she proceeded to hold her for another half hour, and Della loved it!}

So, Saturday, our family participated in the family Carry a Jerry walk/run, which basically consisted of Shaun, the boys, and I jogging along for about a mile, taking turns “carrying the jerry,” while the girls rode in strollers.

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{I carried the jerry in my right hand while running and pushing Della in her stroller, but that can is not nearly as big as most of them are. Side note: Simon did AMAZING! He ran practically the whole mile, and I was genuinely running to keep up with him at the finish line}

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{Shaun came through with the next round—hilarious to me that our family is big enough to come through in shifts—because Ezra was already starting to not feel well, and had to take several walking breaks. He still finished strong, though, and I was so proud of him!}

Obviously, our jerry-carrying experience was hardly a true taste of what these amazing children do every single day just to get access to a basic necessity. But the event itself was just so stinking enjoyable and humbling and awesome and fun.

Why?

Because of these lovely people!

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(You can hear a clip of their singing here)

The PCM Uganda choir of 17 children came to America to perform mini-concerts all around East Texas (and beyond), and although neither Harriet nor Sarah are part of the choir, Harriet’s best friend, Shallon, is. Christie, PCM’s sponsor coordinator, had already texted me Shallon’s picture, so when I saw her, it was like spotting a friend!

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{We made sure to snap a pic so that we can send it to Harriet with our next letter; I love how, out of all our kids, only Ezra is actually looking and smiling}

And when we actually met Shallon, it felt that way even more! There is something so artless and infectiously joyful about these sweet people.

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{So, Nola obviously had not gotten the same hair consideration as Evy; I did put hers up soon after this}

I can’t even express it other than to say that Jesus just SHINES out of their faces. The moment you meet them, they hug you and tell you how grateful they are for you (I found myself saying back, “No, we’re the ones who are grateful” and completely meaning it. I think, in many ways, they have more to offer than I do). They take your children from your arms and hold them and play with them with no self-consciousness or worry about offense. To them, we are all related, and this is just one big family reunion! And they’re right! But how quickly we lose sight of that fact when we focus on denominations and cliques and get so bogged down nitpicking theological ambiguities.

The clarity and conviction of the love of Jesus that blazes forth from these kiddos’ faces is undeniable and incredibly convicting and inspiring all at once.

Tears started leaking out of my eyes the second this happened…

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(that’s the first Ugandan runners leaping jubilantly through the finish line of the 5K that came before the family run/walk)

…and they pretty much didn’t stop completely until we left.

(Which is why I’m wearing my sunglasses in every picture; I didn’t want my kids constantly asking, “Mama, why are you sad?”).

Thing is, they weren’t sad tears. At least not mostly. But amongst the happy tears were a few tears of conviction at how much more prone I am to complain than my dear Ugandan brothers and sisters in Christ who are so much more “underprivileged” than I.

Another fun treat was getting to meet this pretty lady.

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This is Kristin, and she and I have emailed back and forth a few times (once she figured out that I lived in her area) and interacted via Instagram, but we had never officially met. I spotted her while we were eating our picnic lunch and thought, “Man! She looks familiar!”

But I couldn’t quite place it until she walked up and introduced herself. I’m so glad she did! We ended up chatting while we waited in the face painting line for our kids to get smeared, and she was a delight. Her husband, Jamy, and Shaun hit it off too, joking about how they’d never talked online or ever seen any pictures of each other (such a strange virtual world we live in, no?) and yet were still glad to meet each other.

The weather was gorgeous, and, even with five small children to wrangle, and Ezra’s not feeling very well, the whole thing was just such a joyous celebration of the Lord and His love for us.

I can’t say enough how big of a blessing PCM is in our lives, but I want to encourage you to find out more about them yourself. They are a small ministry with a selfless, hardworking staff that I know personally here in the States and tireless, godly, devoted pastors and leaders in Uganda. Every bit of their resources are poured right back into those precious kids. There are alwaysmore kids who need sponsoring, so if you’re looking for a “worthy cause” to invest in, let me assure you that this one is and that you will easily reap just as many, if not more, benefits than you extend to them.

P.S. Shifting gears dramatically, I need to thank all of you guys for your awesome feedback on my breakfast nook. There were so many helpful, thoughtful suggestions, and I really feel like I’ve got a better handle on the direction I want to go with it. Y’all are so nice!

Tum-E Yummies “Color Your World” Color Vibe 5K Run Giveaway!

Hey there guys! You know how I ran 9-ish miles about 6 weeks ago? (Was it really that long??) Well, I’m at it again. Only this time, I’m only running 3 miles, and it’s a COLOR RUN, which I’ve always wanted to do.

ALSO?

I have a really fun giveaway for you today. Sadly, if you aren’t in Texas, it probably won’t be for you, but hey, if you’re a hardcore runner and want to travel to Dallas next week just to run The Color Vibe 5K, then feel free to enter.

If you ARE in the Dallas area (or anywhere surrounding you’re willing to drive from), then you have the chance to win a pair of tickets to do this color run as well as receive some fun swag from Tum-e Yummies, who is also being kind enough to provide me with my ticket and other race day essentials.

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In other words, I’ll be there too!

Race day is Saturday, April 26th, in Arlington, Tx, so if you’d like to win a ticket for you and a friend or family member to run your little tails off while getting blasted with every color of the rainbow, then simply leave me a comment below letting me know what your favorite color is and how you like to experience it most (i.e. food, clothes, home decor).

P.S. I’ll be sharing about my favorite race day essentials soon (in other words, you’ll get a preview of what I’ll be wearing/eating/taking so you can recognize me while were both there getting doused in color!)

♫If you’re going to San Antonio, be sure to wear a flower on your dress ♫

 

I’ve talked about packing several times before here on the blog. About how I used to be a major over-packer. About how I have mild packing anxiety (I’m always afraid I’m going to forget something important…hence the over-packing).

Well, as I’ve taken more trips over the last several years, I’ve gotten considerably more adept at remembering the important stuff and not taking too much of it.

But I am proud to say that on a trip Shaun and I took to San Antonio last weekend, I really outdid myself.

I packed everything I needed plus clothes for the twins, and I even managed to round up the boys soccer uniforms, socks, shin-guards, and shoes in—wait for it—37 minutes. THIRTY-SEVEN.  It was almost as miraculous as the time I got in and out of Wal-mart with five kids and two carts full of groceries in 38 minutes.

And then? We were getting ready for a date night on the River Walk, and I put on my thrifted J. Crew dress (Goodwill, $6), which is really pretty and fits great but is a tad on the plain side for my taste.

And I reached into my perfectly packed suitcase for my new Anthro belt and came up with…nothing. I checked all the pockets. I checked the car. I muttered a lot of about how I just KNEW that I had packed it. I am not crazy (debatable). I just KNEW IT!

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Turns out I was right. But it took my husband’s rooting around in my “perfectly packed” bag to find it. Which, of course, made me feel a little bad for all those times I tease him about not being able to find something in the fridge when it’s right in front of his nose (he was the one who found the strawberries when I looked right past them this morning, too, so there’s a worrying trend developing).

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(Isn’t the belt fun in black and white?)

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One drawback of packing everything in 37 minutes is that you don’t necessarily take varying weather conditions into account. Like the fact that, sure, the high on Saturday was supposed to be 76, but the low was in the 50s, and it’s always colder down by the river.

I rarely wear strapless dresses, and even when I do, I almost always have some sort of jacket or sweater over them, but last weekend, I literally brought nothing long-sleeved.

Lucky for me, there’s a shopping mall right on the River Walk. Shaun and I ducked into a store right before dinner, and I snagged a $12 cardigan in the perfect shade of teal to match my belt and shoes and instantly felt more comfortable in multiple ways (less tugging and readjusting and a lot more warmth).

We ate at Paesano’s on the River Walk, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while.

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Just in case you’re in the San Antonio area or planning on visiting, I highly recommend the Chicken Artichoke Pesto pizza and the Parmesan Crusted Chicken Piccata there. Both were beyond yummy.

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Of course, not all aspects of our trip—in fact, the very reason we took the trip in the first place—were as enjoyable as that date night.

But I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow…

Have you ever bought something on the fly after you forgot to pack something you needed?  I have several times, but I always try to make sure that I buy something I would want in my closet anyway. (I think  it worked this time, considering that I am wearing the teal cardigan I bought as I type this).

A Color Conundrum (aka: wanna help me redecorate the breakfast nook?)

I mentioned last week when I showed you my awesome “industrial chic” shelf that I’ve finally gotten most of the rooms in my house pretty much how I like them.

Buuuuut…I’m also a perpetual tweaker.

Which is why we’re returning to the breakfast nook today to take another look at something I’d love to change/fix.

Here’s what the view from the kitchen looks like at this point.

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This picture is fine. I’m happy with the colors on the walls. I like the rug. I like the shades.

However.

I’m not as thrilled about the super-dark chairs.

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I do like the pattern, and they’re in perfect shape (I scooped them up, newly reupholstered, for $50 each from an antique store that was going out of business).

But they’re just a bit too somber and traditional for the vibe I want for this room. Plus, I would really love some contrast with the ultra-dark stain on the wood of the chairs/table/benches.

A while back, I decided the easiest fix would be to take down the shades (that I sewed 4 years ago) and use that cheerful fabric (Pottery Barn’s Bettina…long since discontinued) to recover my chairs.

But when I finally got around to testing it out, I discovered two things:

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1) Holy COW is there a lot more light in the room without the shades (even though they have a white background)

and

2) I’m not convinced that the Bettina fabrics works super well right up against the rug.

So, now I find myself with a bit of a conundrum, not to mention several different permutations of things I could do to solve it.

Do I…

Leave the shades down to allow more light in, recover the chairs with the Bettina fabric, and find a new home for the rug?

Put the shades back and find a different fabric to recover the chairs?

Leave the rug, trust the Bettina fabric to work better on the chairs once it’s actually shaped to fit them, and find a different, sheerer fabric for the windows?

????

I just can’t decide. And while the actual execution of any conclusion that I come to will probably take months, I still like to have a plan for a room in the back of my brain whenever possible.

Which is where you nice folks come in.

I always love enlisting your decorating help and am so grateful that you’re so generous with it.

Just to give you an idea of a few things I could do and a few fabrics I like, here are the same pics as above with some fabric swatches.

jo jo option

This fabric is called “jo jo” in aquarius by Premier Prints, and I love that it’s playful and light but not crazy busy. I also think it works fairly well with the rug. If I were a photo shop pro, everything would be to scale, etc., but just so you know, the dots on this fabric are approximately 1 1/2” across.

Another option is this:

clementine

This one is called Morrocan Lattice in Clementine by Michael Miller. Obviously, it would NOT work with the rug, so that would have to go, but it would give the rest of the space a whole lot of punch. I’m not sure it would lighten up the chairs as much as I’d like, though.

And then there is this one:

burlap

Yup, that would be the neutralest of the neutrals. Since I want a lighter look for the chairs, I could, of course, just go with a natural-colored burlap or linen. The fun thing about this one is that, although you can’t see it in the pics, there’s a sparkly gold thread running through the burlap, so at least we’d get a bit of sheen to fancy things up.

On the flip side, if we assume that the Bettina fabric is going on the chairs, these are some options for the window shades.

window shade options

The burlap is the same gold sparkle that I just showed you above, and the yellow is Duralee’s Stockholm Sungold fabric—definitely more expensive than the rest of the options at $20ish/yard—that I already have a yard of. It’s a really nice weight, and those big, mustard-colored flowers are HUGE.

I could definitely keep going with different combos of chair and shade fabrics until all of our eyes were crossing, but instead, I’ll just leave you with this Urban Outfitters rug to consider throwing in at least one of those mixes (I personally think the Jo Jo + this rug + the Bettina on the shades would be pretty awesome).

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So, now that I’ve thoroughly overwhelmed informed you about the options, would you pretty please do me the favor weighing in on what you think?

The options I’ve given you are to establish a look I’m going for, but I’m not necessarily stuck on any one of them, so if you have an alternate version that you think would work great, fire away. I’m open to any suggestion as long as it’s not: I don’t like anything and think you should just scrap everything and start over. (Believe it or not, I have gotten that suggestion before about other rooms, so if that’s how you feel, that’s fine; just don’t tell me. : )).

So,  what would YOU change?

The Twins are 18-months-old!

Two things:

1) Thank y’all so much for your sweet comments on Monday’s shelf post. I’m glad you guys thought it was as awesome as I did. But darn you all for wanting a tutorial! Just kidding. I did want to say, though, that I will do my best, but since my husband made it all sneaky-like, I won’t have much in the way of pictures, so be prepared to try to understand my convoluted written directions.

and

2) GOTCHA! I can definitely say that Tuesday (April Fool’s) was one of my most enjoyable blogging days to date. As the, “I totally fell for it!” comments came rolling in, I was practically chortling (just used that one in Words With Friends, so it’s fresh in my mind) with glee. I just love the fact that I received a concerned text from a friend because she hadn’t had a chance to read all the way to the end of the post. And then there were the obviously-didn’t-actually-read-it shares on FB that  went something like: “See?? I KNEW it. STOP THE OIL PULLING.” Snort. I even fooled my pastor, y’all. That was fun. Of course, now you’re expecting it, and I think it was the very fact that I’ve never done a post like that before that made it so believable, so I’ll probably never do another one (or will I?….muahahaha).

Anyhoo, thanks for playing along and being such good sports with my little prank. Y’all are rad.

In other news, last night, I watched Nola sitting in a big person chair eating Lil’ Smokies out of a big person bowl, simultaneously all nonchalant and, “Hey, look at me and bad self” and wondered when my baby morphed into a little girl.

At one point, she almost knocked the bowl off the table but stopped it and pushed it back from the edge and then resumed eating with even greater nonchalance and bad-selfness. And I almost shed a little tear for the fact that my “twinnies” (Della’s word for them) are babies no longer.

*Sob*

In fact, at 18 months (as of the 24th of March), I’d say they’re officially toddlers. And, although I am at a complete loss as to how I ended up with identical twin toddler girls when I am absolutely certain that they were tiny and bald and utterly helpless, like, yesterday, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got a couple of awfully cute little girls (babies, no more) on my hands.

Here’s proof:

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{Evy, pink; Nola, blue}

You may recognize this bridge from my Sisters post. Not only do I like the look of it, it’s basically in the back yard, so to speak, of the gym where I work, which makes it awfully convenient as photo shoot locales go.

All of these shots were taken in a whopping five minutes, both because the girls tend to yank any bows or clips out of their hair in much less time than that and also because, well, they’re two 18-month-old toddlers. Photo sessions lasting longer than 5 minutes are met with much resistance (aka: weeping and gnashing of teeth + elaborate escape attempts). Plus, I had to go teach class right after we took these pics.

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Even so, I managed to snag a few cute ones, although I’m pretty sure this may be the only one where they’re both facing me (although not both looking; that would be asking too much, apparently).

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{That random black thingy by Evy’s feet? Yeah, I didn’t notice it until we were almost done}

I think I just happened to catch Nola in this pose, but she might actually be admiring/showing off her adorable Joyfolie shoes (which I received at a steeep discount for a review way back before the twins were even born). Both the twins are shoe-obsessed and will find random pairs in all shapes and sizes around the house and bring them to you and thrust a foot out with plaintive little, “Schoooo, schooooo?” requests.

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{Their dresses were a recent clearance buy from Old Navy, by the way}

For some reason, I really love this next one. They’re both just focused and in their own little adventuring world.

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Sometimes, that’s pretty accurate, but they’re usually a bit clingier than that. Or at least one is at a time. They trade off. Fortunately, although they’re Mama’s girls (which I love), they’re also content to be carried by/played with/fussed over by their big brothers and sister, all of whom happily oblige.

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“You coming, Evy? Oh, and quit making that face, or it might freeze like that, and I would totally be the prettier one for keeps.”

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“See? Toldja.”

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Honestly, they are pretty much the best babies toddlers (choke) imaginable. They sleep all night (in the same crib) and never make a peep at bedtime (probably because they can’t wait to get in bed and whisper secrets). They also take awesome naps during the day and wake up happy and jabbery.

They eat well (Nola, especially; I think she’s just trying to maintain that pound-ish lead she’s always had on her sister), play really well much of the time, have the sunshiniest personalities, and are very liberal with their kisses.

But for all their similarities, they are also vastly different. I’ve mentioned a few of their distinctions before, but most notable is Evy’s tendency to close her mouth primly and emote with her eyebrows and eyes, whereas Nola’s mouth is almost always open (usually because she’s shoveling food in it), and she is prone to gesticulate wildly and bounce around in her seat. Their voices, too, have become different enough that unless both are crying at the same time, I can tell who is who even from another room. Evy LOOOOOOOOVES to “draw” (I have to really stay on top of her because she seems to have a radar for markers and pencils), and Nola is big into baby dolls (she walks around most of the time with one tucked under her arm). 

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Mostly, though, they are both just huge blessings in our lives. I know I’ve said it many times before, but I will say it again: I was so shortsighted for thinking I didn’t want something just because I knew nothing about it, and it sounded hard, and I’m so glad the Lord paid me no mind. Hard, it is, sometimes, but it’s always so, so worth it.

An open letter of apology to my readers about oil pulling…

Y’all.

It’s really embarrassing to admit this, but…

I think I jumped the gun when I wrote my post praising the virtues (or at least the potential) of oil pulling a little while back.

I mean, I knew that I was writing a bit prematurely since I had only been doing it for 2 1/2 weeks, but I had seen such improvement in the whiteness and cleanliness of my teeth that I just couldn’t resist.

Lesson learned.

A little less than a week ago, I started noticing some odd, mottled yellowing beginning along my gum line, especially on my bottom teeth, and within a few days, more and more discoloration started to show up on several of my upper teeth as well.

As much as I don’t want to show you this, I really feel like it would be better if you had a realistic expectation of the side effect you could experience if you started oil pulling as a result of my post (sorry!) or have been doing it for some time.

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{It’s way too embarrassing to show you a closer up picture, but this one is gross enough to give you an idea, I think}

Of course, I freaked out and ran to the trusty (or not so much?) internet to self-diagnose.

And this is what I discovered: apparently, some people can have a weird reaction between the coconut oil and the plaque build-up on their teeth, producing this unsightly brown discoloration.

In fact, awesomely enough, there seems to be some sort of connection with exercise, so the more you exercise, the more likely you are to have this reaction.

Just my luck.

And the awesomest part of all? It takes (at least one) trip to the dentist to fix it. Some people said theirs only went away with expensive professional whitening.

Y’all. I am SO sorry to have led you astray like this. I promise to do a better job in the future of vetting my information (I don’t know how I missed all of this during my initial research). And I reeeeeally hope none of you who have started as a result of my post have experienced any of the same issues I’m having.

Really, that’s all. I feel so bad.

But before I leave you totally depressed and down for the day, I did just want to say one more thing…

 

 

……………………………………………………………..

 

 

april fools

P.S. To be very clear, while I am in no way claiming that oil pulling is the cure-all for, well, anything, I have experienced zero adverse effects from using it and continue to see the same good results that I reported in my initial post.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

(I’m off to plan something maniacal for my children!)

A shelf story (AKA: the coolest shelf EVER)

We have lived in our house for 4 and 3/4 years. And I am just now starting to feel like I’ve gotten most of our rooms how I more or less want them (I think I’ll be tweaking everything ‘til the day I die).

Part of that long, drawn out process is because we only had two children when we moved into our pretty much, sort of, kind of, mostly finished 95%  DIYed house (which is code for: it was definitely livable, but there was still a ton to do).

And now we have five, with 40%  of our brood arriving all at once in the form of identical twin girls.

Another part of that is because it’s taken me this long to more fully understand my own design aesthetic. I’ve repainted a lot of rooms, y’all. And, most of the time, it was less that I was sick of the color and more that I finally had to acknowledge that whatever color combo that sounded amazing in my head just wasn’t working on my walls.

Naturally, between the constant bottom-wiping and repainting projects, certain things that I’ve wanted to do something about for forever have taken a backseat to the more necessary aspects of running my household.

Things like this big black hutch that took up way too much space in my breakfast nook.

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Sure, it’s cute, and we got a great deal on it from a furniture store closeout when we got married. Plus, it served its purpose of hiding our messes pretty well (it swallowed up everything from kids’ drawing supplies to tangled up technology to rarely used plates and decorations).

But it was just all wrong for the space, mostly because it was waaaaaay too deep (it encroached about 6 inches upon an already too narrow walkway).

Also, the black was just so…black. I thought about painting it many, many times, but never felt motivated enough to keep it to put the effort into it.

Finally, after a big kick in the pants which I’m leading up to, I posted it on our local swap and shop, and pretty soon I saw the words: “Would you consider a trade…” scrolling across the top of my phone. And I thought, Noooooo, I want to sell the thing, not trade for another piece of randomness. I’m trying to be intentional, here, people!

And then I saw who had the left the comment and what she wanted to trade. It was a friend, and she was offering a mantel, which was quite possibly the only thing that would have tempted me (I’ve been on the hunt for a decorative mantel for years).

So, we swapped and were both happy, happy, happy!

Of course, that left a huge blank spot on the wall, not to mention a very messy breakfast nook table strewn with all the aforementioned junk necessities that had formerly found a home in the big black hutch.

It wasn’t blank for long, though.

Let’s rewind a bit, shall we?

Back in November, on a visit to my crazy-talented friend, Sheila’s, house, I spotted a table she had designed and built using pipes + wood and fell in love with its “industrial chic” vibe. Plus, I’ve always liked the look of this World Market shelf.

So, I told my husband I wanted to make a tall, shallow, open shelving unit out of pipes and boards. We went to Lowe’s and scouted out the pipe (and I got an education in just how stinkin’ expensive that stuff is!), and I jotted it down on my mental “someday” list.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day and the aforementioned kick in the pants. My husband and my brother have a side business they’ve started, and both of them had pulled several literal all-nighters (which spilled into the next day as well) filling orders in the week leading up to and the week of Valentine’s. So, yeah. Shaun was tired, to put it mildly. And I wasn’t expecting too much of V-day.

I certainly wasn’t expecting him to take me out to his workshop that morning and show me my dream “industrial chic” shelf that he had secretly put together in all his “free” time, finished and gorgeous and pretty much exactly how I wanted it (one of the shelves was too tall, but that’s only because I overestimated my measurements when I first described my vision to him months before).

I was giddy!

Shaun fixed the too tall shelf (poor man had to completely disassemble and reassemble the shelf), and I stained the shelves with Early American (the same stain we used on our patio table), and then I loaded my V-day present up with all kinds of prettiness that I had never had a place to display before. 

Ready to see? (I can only imagine how much after such a long intro).

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TADA!

Ain’t she a beaut?

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She measures approximately 13” D X 54” W X 72” H. She is the perfect size for the space (because we were able to custom-design her), and she makes me smile every single time I walk in the room.

Here are just a few of the reasons why.

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Isn’t that silver teapot gorgeous? (Ignore my reflection). It’s sort of a family heirloom, and my mom spent forever polishing off the tarnish, so she could pass it on to me. Until Shaun made my shelf, I didn’t have a good place to display my teapot, but now I get to see her shiny silver face whenever I want.

Oh, and let’s not forget quite possibly my favorite worldly possessions: my khaki rose PiP china. I’ve mentioned before that Shaun has been giving me pieces from the collection over the last year, but some of them were still boxed up because I just didn’t have a place to put them.

Well…

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Now, I do.

 I even decided to stack the boxes that the china came in on top of my new shelf because, seriously, how could I not?

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I love the intense pop of color they add to my other more neutral elements, like my brand new (FAKE!) Ikea plant. (Side note: how in the world did it take so long for this black thumb to get on the fake plant bandwagon??)

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A few other faves are this random, quirky rooster…

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…this little vintage ashtray…

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…this ginormous, chunky pitcher from Lowe’s ($7)…

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…and my $6 “vintage” baskets that I scored at Ross.

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And then are there the pipe fittings which are so pretty they make my heart skip a beat.

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Seriously. Swoon.

Overall, though, I think my absolute favorite thing about this crazy-awesome shelf is how well it marries form and function.

Yes, it’s my kind of beautiful. And the top three shelves give me a place to display my favorite pretty things. But it’s also really practical, thanks to the bottom two shelves of baskets, which I stocked with kids’ craft/drawing supplies as well as picture frames, often-used serving pieces and other random supplies that I need easy access to. I even found a (much better) home for all the random technology  and mismatched dishes that were just taking up space before.

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So, what do you think of my new shelf? If you’re interested, I can do a dedicated post on the details of how to make the shelf + the cost breakdown. Just be sure to let me know in the comments, and I’ll put that together if it looks like the interest is there.

Once you have a vision for a room in your house, do you knock it out right away or slowly chip away at your list? I definitely tend to spread things out, unless I have a specific deadline.