30 August 2013

7 Quick Takes (plus one)

--- 1 ---
I met a blog friend in real life this week! 'Poe Kitten' (not her real name) from Many Waters was driving sorta nearby here on her cross-country road trip. I drove up to Michigan and spent an afternoon in her cousin's house and just hung out with her and her adorable daughter (and a handful of other people, too, since her cousin is a mom of 6).

She was as cool in person as she is online! Granted, we talk on twitter all the time and even took a class on Coursera 'together', so I shouldn't be too surprised. It was just like having a baby playdate with an old friend, easy and relaxed.

--- 2 ---
Something weird about meeting an online friend in person: I realized about 10 minutes before I got there that I wasn't 100% sure how to pronounce her first name. Turns out the way I'd been saying it in my head for the past few years was incorrect. Well, now I know!

--- 3 ---
I did a Color Me Rad 5K this past weekend! Read all about it! There was a professional photographer there, and he got this extra pic of me (that I don't plan on buying, so the logo is staying).
At the 4K color station

--- 4 ---
Speaking of running, I'm less than a month away from my Fort4Fitness 4-mile race. I'm starting to realize that this one is THE running event around here! Well, not just the 4-miler, there's also a 10K and a half-marathon at this event. And being a big event, we get cool stuff. Vera Bradley is giving all the participants a market tote (retail value $8!). We also get a medal at the finish (an "EGAM" says husband--is this a military term??) and a FREE photo of us crossing the finish line. (Tips on what wacky pose I should strike are welcome.) Oh, and the finish line is the home plate of our minor league baseball stadium. B kept saying I was a fool for paying to run (something I can do for free), but at least I'm making some of that back in a way. (I think I paid less for this race than the Color Me Rad, too.) I'm sure the atmosphere at the race will be exhilarating, if it's the kind of event I think it will be.

--- 5 ---
The next few takes will be all about our new house! After posting the picture of us standing outside it on FB, there were requests for inside pics. Well, we aren't moving in for at least another month, since there is so much work to do! Seriously, the previous owners were both lazy and cheap--a horrible combination for homeowners--and never cleaned (or paid someone to clean). They also let their dogs pee everywhere and we're pretty sure they smoked indoors. So new paint, new carpet, new lighting, new knobs and kitchen hardware (1990's gold-brass--that has to go), lots and lots of cleaning, and a bathroom renovation are on the agenda. It seriously hurts my brain just to think of all the work, even though a lot of that will be hired out.

--- 6 ---
On that note, my in-laws are awesome. They came up here to help with the house last weekend, and B's dad did some serious work on our landscaping (oh, the people didn't keep up their yard very well either). The neighbors took notice and many came over to meet us and one even brought tomatoes from his garden! I have this strange hunch that they're glad the old owners are out.

While B and his Dad were working in the yard, my MIL and I tried to attack the kitchen. It was a lot of contact paper-removing and lots and lots of cleaning. Still not done. (I can only do so much when Cora is running around there as well.) They're coming up again this weekend, and we can hopefully accomplish more (although B is working every day). I totally feel like a slave-driver, even though I didn't ask them to do any of this.

Here's a sneak peek of our kitchen:
We need a refrigerator, new lights, new knobs, new (or no) curtains, and the floor needs to be professionally cleaned. Oh, my head.
--- 7 ---
Refrigerators? Got one that you love? Tell me about it! I think we want a side-by-side (with the freezer on the left, not on the bottom).

--- 8 ---
Anyone wanna join me for Skirtember? All you gotta do is look purty in a dress or skirt every day of next month.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

26 August 2013

Race Recap: Color Me Rad 5K

Another month, another race!

Although this one wasn't technically a race. It wasn't timed, so it was just a 5K. I was actually really annoyed when I found out it wasn't timed! I guess I'm a "serious" runner, after all. I made sure to wear my watch, even though I had to wash it off pretty well later.

I've never done one of these "funky" 5K's, so I had no idea what to expect. I also was bummed that I don't really have any friends here, and this seems like the kind of thing you should do with a friend. I convinced B and Cora to come and cheer me on, after the lameness of winning my age group in the last race and having to take a selfie of me and my trophy. We drove up as the first wave was starting in the distance. My first impression? "Looks like a Klan rally." Yes, I said that aloud. (Not like I've ever been to one, but c'mon, everyone was in white. I even saw a big group wearing white bandannas over their mouths.)

It was nice that it didn't really matter what wave you were in, since you just had to join the hoards and push forward to the start line whenever you could. It was definitely a party atmosphere, and I already had some color on me before we started. There was a guy on a platform with a mic getting us pumped up at the start line, and he couldn't remember(?) whether runners should be to the right or left of the walkers. I think he intentionally forgot or was trying to be funny.

That being said, there were SO. MANY. WALKERS. I couldn't even run the start. My whole race was spent just zig-zagging around everyone walking. I probably ran an extra quarter-mile, what with all of that. I caught up to the wave in front of us and possibly the one before that, too. The course wasn't very wide, either, just one lane of a road. The color stations were kind of eerie, though. It was like a big purple cloud and you could hardly see in front of you. Then at a few of the color stations they blasted you with some type of colored liquid. Right in the face, in my case. The powder color (cornstarch) got in everyone's mouth, and it was nasty and gritty.
Big purple cloud. But imagine that on a side street with trees and such.
I managed to run the race as most I could, and it was just a down and back thing. That means you could technically "cheat" and cut over into the back part. Well, two girls who were walking and decided to cheat about 3 cones down from the turnaround and stopped to go the other way. I was running behind them and completely barreled into one of them. I have no regrets and no sympathy. (She didn't even fall.)
My final time, as best I could tell was 29:14ish. Not my best, but I'll take it.
Why was it all between my toes?? I don't understand!
Overall, it was a fun race, but I won't be doing it again unless a friend wants to join. I wasn't nearly as covered in color as some people, since I didn't have a buddy to pelt me with it. My two favorite things from this race was the story to tell and the best t-shirt I've ever gotten from a race! (The material of the shirt is just nice, as is the fit.) Cora likes the sunglasses, too. Oh, and I finally have a picture of me actually running. B wasn't even sure it was me when he took it, but it definitely is!

Form check?

22 August 2013


This past Monday, two days after got back from our trip, we closed on our house!
This picture has over 100 likes on Facebook. Didn't know I even had that many friends.
We're not planning on moving in right away. There's actually a whole host of things we (er, I) want to get done before that, and we have our apartment lease until the end of October. The main thing we're getting done is an overhaul of the master bathroom. We'll also be getting a half bath installed in the basement (somehow), painting, hanging shelves and pictures, and buying enough furniture to actually fill a house. I have some longer-term DIY projects in my head as well that will be conquered later. And yes, of course I will be uploading before & after's to the blog!

This is the only picture I have from the inside of the house right now. 
One thing that has already happened with searching for and then buying a house is unsolicited advice. I've heard you get a lot of this when you have a baby, but that actually didn't happen to me much (minus a random lady at Wal-Mart telling me about some baby who died from getting a vaccine the day before Cora's 2-month shots). Anyway, a few close family members already have a lot of toes in the toilet, or whatever the expression is. At least one of those family members will be helping us with a handful of stuff, so I guess I should listen. Or something.

I'm actually very overwhelmed with the idea of home-ownership, especially since B works so much. I've never had to do much maintenance or upkeep in the small apartments we've rented, but now I have to learn a whole new world (while simultaneously keeping a small child alive and happy). That bathroom renovation I mentioned? Yeah, I don't even know where to start. I think I need to call a bath designer, but where does one find one? Google is okay, but I only got like 3 leads from it. Maybe I need to go old-school and check a phone book.

Let's focus on the positive so I stop whining about achieving the American Dream. The things I am looking forward to once we move in? Well, they're the little things.
  • Decent water pressure. Our apartment has absolutely terrible water pressure and it takes so long to fill my water bottle in the kitchen sink that I usually do something else while I wait. (I'm thirsty and impatient!) And we use the toilet plunger more than we should.
  • Not having to haul groceries up an extra long flight of stairs behind a very slow toddler. I can just bring them through the garage!
  • A large pantry. You don't even want to see the state of our apartment pantry right now. Pretty sure when you open the door, everything falls out.
  • A dedicated laundry room with a door that closes.
  • Lots of counter space in the kitchen (yes, that's an island you see in the picture!) Finally going to ask Santa for a KitchenAid stand mixer.
  • A basement for all of Cora's big toys. No more riding cars into the kitchen while I'm trying to cook!
  • A dining area large enough to have more than 2 people over for dinner. My mom has already inquired into bringing everyone up here for Thanksgiving! ("Everyone" is my parents plus my sister's family, so 6 extra people.)
  • A garage for my car! (This will be more awesome in the winter.)
Well, it's an incomplete list, but those are the things I thought of today as I was inconvenienced by my current living situation (which is actually a rather nice apartment).

But here we go on our next adventure. Yikes.

21 August 2013

5 Favorites: Road Trip Edition

We have recently returned from a pretty massive trip! I drove with Cora while B flew, and we met up in Norfolk, VA, for 2 weeks. Then I drove a different route back to our home in Indiana. 2002 miles, 6 states, 3 tunnels, over 25 bucks in tolls, and it looked like this big circle:

Here are some unexpected favorites from the road.

Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience

This album, well, it really is an experience. With most of the songs clocking in at over 6 minutes, this is a great one for a road trip. I was never a huge 'N Sync fan back in the day, but now I just can't deny the talent of JT. I especially love his smooth falsetto (which makes it easy for me to sing along!). My favorites from the album are "Pusher Love Girl" and "Don't Hold the Wall."

Charleston, West Virginia

I have actually been to this city before, way way back in 2006 for 2 days with my college Women's Glee Club that I sang in (I dug that picture above off my Facebook album from then). We went there to sing at a conference and didn't see too much of the city. I decided to book a hotel in this city as a stopover on our way out to Norfolk, and didn't give that much more thought. I didn't see much of the city until I was driving out of it, but it was simply breathtaking. I drove along one side of the Kanawha River cutting through the mountains, with beautiful old buildings to my left and eventually passed the state capitol. There was lots of "ooh-ing" and "aah-ing," and only my toddler to share it with. I definitely want to return and give Charleston a  proper visit one of these days.

Highway Rest Areas
Yep, this was at a rest area on I-64 between Richmond and Norfolk!
These places are awesome. I actually ate very little fast food on this whole trip, thanks to these. We had a cooler bag in the car since Cora needed milk and is also quite picky, so we just ate whatever was in there (read: lots of hummus for Cora). Rest areas were also a great place to just let her 'run' around (as a kid who hasn't actually started running but can walk fast does). If they had handicapped buttons to open the restroom door, she was all over those! (She loves pushing the one at the Y where I work out.) Cora also charmed the heck out of all the old ladies, since her new favorite thing is to say, "Hiiiiii!" to everyone. And I mean, she is cute.

On the way home, we stayed the night with an old friend of mine from Atlanta who now lives in Pittsburgh. She asked if we wanted to go to her favorite breakfast place in the morning, and of course I said yes. I had never heard of Eat'n Park, but had to ask if you get out of your car since no way in heck was I letting Cora eat a whole breakfast in her car seat! Well, it's kinda like a much better version of Denny's. (It did start as a carhop-style restaurant like Sonic, though, hence the name). I wolfed down these S'mores pancakes in about 5 seconds flat.

Yes, there is a layer of marshmallow fluff between the pancakes. I know you're jealous.
My friend made sure that we got their signature Smiley cookies before we left. You can bet that if your mama eats s'mores pancakes and calls it breakfast, then you probably don't turn down giant smiley cookies.
We actually did salvage more than half of this thing to eat later on at a rest area. Also, it's got an eyepatch because the Pittsburgh Pirates are doing well this season and people like them.

Car Mirror and My Pal Violet
B was driving us to the beach when I took this.
And yes, I know her chest clip is slightly too high--it has a tendency to ride up sometimes.
Driving solo across the country with a toddler in a carseat can be tricky sometimes. We still have her rear-facing, so I am so glad that I invested a few bucks into a good mirror for the backseat. (I found it at Target.) It was easy to see if she was sleeping (she's a great car sleeper, thankfully!) or if she had dropped all her toys. I kept a bag of toys in the front seat and could just hand stuff back to her.

One of the biggest hits for this child was her My Pal Violet stuffed animal. (There's a green one named Scout if you want gender-neutral, too.) It's odd since she really doesn't play with it much at home, but in the car it was seriously her best friend. She just kept hitting all the buttons on the paws and listening to all the songs. It even says her name. And when I finally got fed up with hearing the same 5 songs over and over, I was able to hook it up to the computer and switch them out. As far as annoying kids' toys go, this is one of the best!

Check out more Faves at Moxie Wife

11 August 2013

What I Wore Sunday (Hampton Roads Edition)

It's been 3 years, but I am back! I lived in Norfolk/Virginia Beach (yes, that's in Virginia, for those too lazy to look at a map) back when I was dating/engaged/newly married to B. The rough timeline of that is from September 2007-August 2010. This is a huge military area, and B was a military man, so it makes sense. Now he's only a 'part-time' military man, doing his 2-week Reservist commitment here right now. Cora and I tagged along to see old friends and visit the old stompin' ground.

This old stompin' ground of course included a visit for mass at my old parish, Sacred Heart. We actually used to live within walking distance of the church, and I loved walking through the beautiful urban neighborhoods on Sunday morning. The choir at this church is just amazing, and the music director writes a lot of the music (but it sounds like it could have been written 300 years ago!). And the acoustics in there just enhance the choir sooo much. I'm such a music/choir snob.

I love the detail on the ceiling rafters
The priest saw me during his processional and perked up and gave me a little wave (or maybe it was just a nod of the head?) We got to introduce Cora to him and to some other people, and I remembered how this church really felt like home. I haven't really had that much attachment to a church since, even though I did like our Pensacola parish.

Speaking of Cora, isn't she looking quite adorable today?
Dress: H&M // Shoes: Payless
As for her mass behavior, it was okay. All she wanted to do was climb up onto the pew and then climb down. Finally B gave her his iPhone and she was just entertained by pushing the button over and over. Are there any kids' toys that have buttons that work to do something on a visual level but don't make noise? Because the would be the perfect mass toy for this child.

And oh yeah, what I wore:
Tank: Merona from Target // Skirt: thrifted a long, long time ago // Shoes: Target //
Necklace: Body Central // Watch: Charming Charlie
Two things: This skirt looks awesome with a white shirt, but the white shirt I have got a stain on it right before we left on the trip. Therefore, it did not come with us. Second thing: I know some people out there are anti-tank top or bare arms for church, but I'm not one of those people. My high school had a "2-finger width" rule for the strap of the tank (so no spaghetti straps), and I think that's reasonable. I had a non-matchy cardigan with me in case I got cold, but it's August in the South. Enough said. A lot of women in this parish were wearing sleeveless dresses, and I thought they looked great.

What do you think about bare arms in church?

And just 'cause I love it so, I'll leave you with a picture of the outside of Sacred Heart in Norfolk:

More Sunday fashionistas here

08 August 2013

Our Weaning Story

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (which apparently ended yesterday, but I'm traveling so oh well), I'm finally going to share our weaning story.

I have already written a bit about some of the trials we had in the early days of our breastfeeding journey--see here, here, and here. After hearing lots of different breastfeeding stories from other moms, I have basically decided that those who are successful at it are either lucky or persistent. I unfortunately fell into the "persistent" category initially, but I also ended up lucky (no tongue tie, no reflux, no milk allergies, etc.)

So back to our journey. After we got into a groove, breastfeeding went along fabulously. We started table food, nursed in public both with and without a cover, and all was well. Cora never really 'asked' to nurse, so around 9-10 months we fell into a schedule of 4 sessions a day. We ended up sleep training at 11.5 months, after a month of middle-of-the-night-won't-go-back-to-sleep-after-nursing issues. We never did and still don't co-sleep, and I have no regrets on that.

After Cora turned a year old, I had planned to wean. I was never one of those people that thought I would nurse through the toddler years. I reveled in our sleep training success, I bought some whole milk, and we dropped her second feed of the day (the one after her morning nap). She had no problems with it, and drank it out of a sippy cup like a champ.

This was just after she turned a year old. I used that MBF pillow all the way to the end!
A week later, we dropped the third feed. This left me nursing her just after she woke up and right before we did her bedtime routine. And that's where I stalled out. My mothering attachment emotions got the best of me, and I decided we didn't need to fully wean so soon. We stayed on that partial wean for a few months, and it was seriously the best of both worlds. I loved that I could leave her with Daddy all day and not have to worry about her, but I still got my breastfeeding cuddles to start and end the day.

Around the 15-month mark, I decided to drop the morning feed. I always thought that would be the last one to go, but for whatever reason, it just worked out better. My boobs were fine with it, too. So then Cora was on once-a-day pre-bedtime nursing. She was beginning to revert to a newborn-style of nursing, in that she would either fall asleep on the boob or just not want to be taken off, ever. I realized after a bit that it was just the best time for us to end it. I also had some physical issues of my own that couldn't be fixed until she was weaned (feel free to ask me about that privately, kinda TMI for the blog).

Just after Cora had turned 16 months, B and I had plans for a night out. It was more business than pleasure (not exactly a date night), but we got his aunt and uncle to babysit Cora that night. I decided that the night before would be the last day of our breastfeeding relationship.

So on May 29, 2013, when Cora was 16 months and 3 days old, just over 2 years after I found out I was pregnant, Cora and I had our final nursing session. I was a bit sad about it, and had B take a few pictures of us to commemorate the occasion.

Final nursing session
I think there is something special about nursing your first baby, since you can give them soooo much attention. I haven't had a second kid yet, but I'm betting that there will be a lot more hollering over his head or walking around and doing stuff while nursing than with the first. (I'm already looking into ring slings!)

I'm thankful that I ended up having such a positive breastfeeding experience with Cora. I never would have considered myself a "pro" at it--I still had to fix her latch half the time even at the end, and there's no way I ever could have cooked dinner or done the dishes while nursing--but she is healthy and happy, so I think I did pretty good.
My view :-)

02 August 2013

7 Quick Takes (Pre-Road Trip Edition)

--- 1 ---
We're getting ready for a road trip! And by "we," I mean me and Cora. B will be flying there! He's going to Norfolk to do his Navy Reserve 2-week commitment, and we will be joining him. I'm excited, but a little overwhelmed by how much crap I have to cram in my Corolla for a 2-week stay in a hotel. We're leaving Sunday and stopping for the night in Charleston, WV. If you can throw a prayer for a safe journey our way, we'd much appreciate it.
This was me on the day I bought the car in 2007! So if 23-year-old me can fit in the trunk, then surely it can hold a stroller, a pack-n-play, a small strap-on high chair, a suitcase, a cooler, a bookbag, some jumper cables, and who knows what else. Right?

--- 2 ---
B decided that he finally needed to sew on his LT rank bars to his second set of NWU's (that's the blue camo one, for all you non-military folks). He made LT in November 2009. Yes, almost 4 years ago! But he deployed soon after then moved to a shore job where he wore his khakis every day.

We hauled out my sewing machine the other night, and I taught him some basics. He has actually sewn before--he apparently was blessed with a Home Ec class in middle school--but there was a lot he didn't know or remember (like how to turn a corner). He started doing this during Cora's 'witching hour' before bed. I was trying to explain something to him, and of course Cora pulled a chair over on herself! The chairs are light, she was fine, but I had to go tend to her while he just guessed at sewing. I luckily was able to come back and bark orders a bit more. (I still know very little about sewing, but I can do a straight stitch pretty well. ) B ended up doing a pretty good job on his bars, and he thankfully didn't break the needle!

--- 3 ---
B's seamstress skills inspired me to finally get around to working on the infinity dress that I had bought fabric for almost a month ago. (I'm slow on these things.) The pattern I found on whatever blog just isn't making sense! It told me to only buy 2 yards of fabric and to only cut a half-circle for the skirt. I haven't cut the skirt part yet because . . . half-circle??! I started digging around a bit more, and most infinity dress instructions use 5 or 6 yards of fabric and a full circle skirt. I obviously haven't finished the dress, but we'll see how it turns out. I think I might end up making a second one once I figure out what I really want. (I already think the straps need to be wayyyy longer, too!)

--- 4 ---
I made Chicken Tikka Masala the other night. I have not attempted this dish since the great Indian Food Debacle of Summer 2010. (Not to be confused with the Indian Restaurant Fiasco of Winter 2010, wherein I broke a restaurant's table while completely sober. Story for another day.) Anyway, I found a recipe online that used a slow cooker. Thank God! I still had to do some stove-top cooking, but I made it all during Cora's nap and threw it in the slow cooker. Later that day, I even made naan! Any bread I make from now on will be on the stovetop, after the Most Expensive Loaf of Bread Burnt-Baby-Hand Disaster of 2013. (Seriously, that loaf of bread cost us over $100 in hospital bills. And it didn't even taste good!)

So this is the way to go, for sure. It was awesome. Here is the recipe for the Chicken Tikka Masala and here is the one for the Naan.

Yeah, it probably needs rice on the plate, too, but B said he didn't want two starches. And there's a chunk of naan torn off because Cora was hungry. And cranky.

--- 5 ---
Speaking of food, I tried out this thing called Hello Fresh this week. It's basically a grocery delivery, but really it just delivers 3 meals with recipes and all of the (very fresh!) ingredients in the proper amounts. I got a coupon code from a running site I'm on called Earndit, where your mileage can earn you points towards prizes (almost all the prizes require you to actually spend money though, so I haven't redeemed much lately).

This was what was delivered to my door last Thursday:
I think this sucker was like 16 pounds! Mostly packaging and ice packs.
Everything was labeled as to which recipe it went toward.
Some of the recipes I made were soooo good! But the price, I just can't do it. Even with my coupon code it came out to $11 a night. Great if you eat out all the time, but each night it usually only made 2 servings. I try to keep my grocery budgeting to $2-3 per serving usually, so I just can't justify it. And without the coupon code, it's definitely wayyyy too pricey. If you are made of money and want to try it, use my referral code GVU56G and you'll get $20 off your first box.

However, I kind of thought of it as a cooking class. I learned how to make 3 new dishes that I can definitely repeat on my own. The Greek Lamb Pitas are absolutely going in my repertoire, although I'll probably make it with beef to cut costs. And hey, I finally got to try quinoa! (B thought it was couscous, and I had to laugh.)

--- 6 ---
House update: We had our inspection last week and have currently been back-and-forth in negotiations with the sellers. My in-laws came to the inspection, and my father-in-law made sure we weren't getting screwed out of anything. Not sure what other crazy hoops we'll have to jump through, but I'm already prepared to find an office store or something in Norfolk in case we need to fax/scan stuff. My guess is we'll close on this house the week after we get back from our trip!

One thing I kept noticing while in this house is just how much furniture the current owners have. This house is actually going to look a lot bigger inside once we get all THREE china cabinets out of there! Seriously, three! (Two in the dining room, one in the living room.) The master bedroom also had a lot more stuff than I like to keep in a bedroom. (We are those people who refuse to even put a TV in our bedroom.)

--- 7 ---
A celebrity tweeted to me yesterday! I didn't even tweet at her, just about her.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!