The Shoe Saga

Back in ….. April? Though, let’s be honest, knowing the way I get excited about things, it might have been March…. Anyway, the point is that earlier this year, I bought the dumpling a pair of waterproof shoes at Target. I knew he’d need them for splash days at his daycare in the summer, plus I figured waterproof shoes would just be a handy thing to have for a toddler. They were Croc-esque, though made by Stride Rite’s Target brand Surprize. I also bought a pair of shoes that were a breathable, athletic shoe. I bought them both in a size 5, his Stride Rite size, and was a little baffled when they were considerably larger than his current shoes. Oh well! I thought, just more room for him to grow.

And then the dumpling proved once again that you can’t boss a toddler around as he absolutely REFUSED to wear the shoes I had gotten him. RE. FUSED. In fact, to this day, he still won’t even look at the athletic shoes I bought him. I did manage to get him into the waterproof shoes at the end of May, with the distraction of playing outside in the water, but I could never find such a distraction for the athletic shoes.

So, after all this – purchasing the shoes far in advance and my hard-earned victory in finally getting the dumpling to wear them (he even started to request to wear them!!) – we lost them. Yup, that’s right, we lost them.

Though this happened in June, I can still recall the events clearly. We had packed the dumpling up on a Saturday morning to go to the local Farmer’s Market. They have a little splash pad and we had hoped to delight the dumpling with a morning of frolicking in the water. We had put on his regular shoes and socks (to cut back on blisters), but had taken his water shoes with us. We learned that day that the dumpling seemed to have a deep mistrust of splash pads as he staunchly refused to even go near it, going so far as to “rescue” me or Luffy from it when we tried to lure him in. No harm though, Luffy took the water shoes with him as he bought our eggs and a few veggies. I clearly remember that he took everything to the car and then came back for us, and we all packed up and headed out. That’s the last either of us can clearly remember the shoes.

The following Wednesday, when we needed the shoes for splash day, they were nowhere to be found. We looked high and low, searching the house and my car and the diaper bag. We looked through the grocery bags, thinking it got mixed up there. We searched my car again and again and again, as that was the most logical place for them to appear. We looked through the pantry and the recycling bin. We searched the dumpling’s bedroom and the kitchen. Everywhere we could think of, but they never turned up. The best we could figure is that Luffy had perhaps set them down at a vendor’s stall at the market or somehow dropped them on the way to the car.

Because of my hard-earned victory (re: toddler stubbornness), I was worried about replacing them. I didn’t want to have to go through another round of the toddler power struggle because we had misplaced his current pair. Our Target was sold out of the shoes, but I managed to find them at a different Target. They miraculously had his size (as it was the single size 5 pair and then like a half dozen size 10’s) and I thanked the baby shoe gods for – HALLELUJAH – I wouldn’t have to barter with an eighteen month old again. PRAISE BE.


It was Luffy who finally said something, a couple of weeks later.

“I think those shoes are two different sizes.”

Pish and posh! I thought to myself. I’d checked them! The box said size 5. The shoes themselves both had “5” printed on the inside. They were still tied together by the manufacturer when I bought them. They were the same size! I mean, yeah, the left one is a little harder to get on than the right but that’s because I’m right-handed and it’s the opposite side and grumble grumble complicated explanation is complicated. Trust me! They’re the same size!

Then he held them up for me. They were indeed two different sizes and it was so obvious (once I was forced to see) that I’m not sure how I never noticed in the first place. Not only were they not the same size, there had to be at least a whole size difference between the right and the left. At least. Even the breathing holes were smaller. The sole (colored a brightly contrasting neon green) was shorter. So obvious.

Confused, I checked the inside of the shoes and confirmed that they both indeed said size 5. I bemoaned the fact that I’d chucked the receipt the day we had purchased them. I had actually taken the dumpling to get them and he had been so excited to wear them that he opened the box himself once we got back home. I figured we were good to go!

Since this was Target we were talking about though, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try to take them back. This was clearly a manufacturer’s default. Luckily, Target agreed with me and (thankfully) gave me a full refund once they were able to locate my purchase in their system. They were, unfortunately, out of the shoes I had purchased. Even the website didn’t have any in stock. So, I dragged the dumpling back to Target for a new pair of water shoes. I tested out my theory that he actually agrees to wear shoes as long as he’s there for the picking-out process and found it to be true. I again thanked the baby shoe gods because I wouldn’t need to barter with a twenty month old over shoes that were so very different from the water shoes we started with. PRAISE BE and ALL HAIL TARGET.


That all happened back at the end of June, middle of July. The dumpling has happily worn his new, though not really improved, water shoes for the rest of the summer. We’ve played at various pools, run through sprinklers, played with water tables. All good summer fun. Now that it’s September, I’m about to pack the water shoes away as I figure we won’t need them for a while.

Today, as I was sitting with Luffy at the dining table, chatting about the new exercise class I tried, I glimpsed something familiar. A shot of neon green against the beige wall. No freaking way, I thought, as I crouched down to remove the books from our bookshelf. Sure enough, back behind a stack of books, were the dumpling’s original water shoes. The ones we thought we lost at the market. In perfect condition, of course, since they’d been sitting back there for literally months.

Sigh. Good thing he’s cute as I have no doubt who put them there.

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Little Light

Luffy was out of town this weekend for a bachelor trip. I was a little nervous as it would be the first time he’d really been gone since we had the dumpling. I mean sure, he’d had a business trip here or there, but it was always during the week, when I would at least have daycare to help with the care-taking load. But here, I was looking at two nights and two solid days of just me and the dumpling. Would he be a handful? Would I be able to keep up with him by myself? Would he drive me bonkers?

I needn’t have worried though; we ended up having the best time.

Sure, Friday night was rough, as Friday nights tend to be, and we had some power struggles, as toddlers are wont to do. But overall, we just had the best time. And, it sounds kind of bizarre, but I just fell so much more in love with my sweet boy. From little things, like the way he just played and played and played at the park. Or the way he carried our groceries to the car Saturday afternoon (never fear! it was a single bag with lightweight items). Or the way he would always give me the last ball to toss in our game of toss-and-retrieve.

I spoiled him a little, with the holiday weekend and all. He asked for a popsicle Saturday after he woke up from his nap. We didn’t have any, but I took him to Dairy Queen for a popsicle there. He was very confused as we were driving because “mama, you said popsicle and yet I have no popsicle…” I wasn’t even sure Dairy Queen still sold popsicles and was relieved to find that they still do. I got him a cherry-flavored, star-shaped one that was bigger than him. You guys should have seen the smile he gave me when we sat down with it. He beamed up at me from his seat on the bench, like a little light. We sat there for a good half hour, watching people come and go, as he ate his popsicle. An older man was delighted by him and stopped by to say hello.

We went to the park on Sunday morning and he astonished me by hanging out for almost an hour and a half. He was a little hesitant, at first, because we went to a different park than we usually do. He warmed up pretty quickly though and was running around in no time. He’d peek out at me from behind the bars and dissolve into giggles when I’d spot him and go “boo.” He watched an older girl bunny hop through a little obstacle course and a moment later I watched him go through the same course, with this little jig. I think it was his attempt at bunny hops and it was absolutely precious. We walked the big kid’s play area and we swung together. He was completely worn out, yet it still took me a few tries to get him to peacefully leave. After an early lunch, we sat down to play with blocks in the living room. He gathered some up and came to sit in my lap, humming Go to Sleep Little Baby to himself, which is how I knew I’d worn him out!


He’s just looking more and more like a little kid now. We’re really getting a peek at his personality as well. He’s observant and a little reserved. He’s sweet and caring. He loves to help, whether it’s feeding Jas or carrying groceries. He loves to sing and dance. He’s an amazing little person and I can’t wait to watch him grow.

 

Le Petit Chef

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I started another exercise program. When Luffy and I were breaking down the exorbitant cost, I realized something a tad bit startling:

In order to “save” enough money for the cost, all I had to do was skip my favorite sushi dinner twice a month. That’s all. Twice a month, I had to choose to make dinner at home rather than get sushi and I’d have enough for the class. Which felt ridiculous, considering I was ranting about how expensive these classes are and yet I’d gladly (and without complaint) eat sushi three or four times a week. The thought woke me up to how expensive my favorite meal is, and how I don’t really consider the cost whenever I’m asking (again) for sushi.

So, kicked into motion by that thought and a sudden desire to be back in the kitchen again, I’ve found a few new recipes to try soon.

Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka – This was the first recipe up to bat. I made it last night just as Deb described and it was delicious. Luffy requested the chicken be cut into cubes first next time, to help maximize the flavor of the marinade. (I had worried about that particular complaint before I made this recipe because it is often his complaint when trying marinated meat recipes. He feels that the flavor is just on the surface and that most of the meat ends up bland. Fair complaint, to be honest.) Next time, I’ll think I’ll chop the chicken up first and try to let it marinade longer.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken – On the menu for Thursday night so that I can give it an overnight soaking. I’m definitely curious about this one – to see what Luffy thinks of it since he typically needs a kick-in-the-mouth flavor to even register a “flavor.” We’ve often joked that some of the flavors I grew up with – rosemary and lemon chicken for instance – are basically non-flavors to him. He can’t help it; it’s that Chinese cuisine he grew up with. I’m going to pair this with wild rice and a salad.

Pasta and Chickpeas – I’m particularly excited about this one, but mainly because I figured out when I could try it. You see, I doubt Luffy will be a fan of this. He doesn’t really care for chickpeas or meatless meals. I, on the other hand, love chickpeas and I do appreciate a meatless meal here and there. I’m curious to try this particular recipe because Deb basically says it’s magic. Plus TWENTY MINUTE DINNER – wut wut!! But what’s a girl to do? If her husband probably won’t like it and yet she really, really wants to try it?? But like, not enough to make it for lunch or something…. [drumroll please] ….. I’m making it next weekend when Luffy is out of town! I figured that it’s easy enough for me to make one-handed when the dumpling inevitably wants to watch me make it. Plus, he’ll probably appreciate the pasta and chickpeas. Probably. Maybe. Oh, who am I kidding, he probably won’t even touch it. The point is that I win because I MADE dinner for us all by myself.

So yeah, that’s what’s on our menu.

[Also, did you see the pattern there? I love Smitten Kitchen. Literally everything I’ve made from her website is delicious, and I’ve made a lot of stuff. Her favorite brownies are my go-to. I’ve made these. This was the dumpling’s first birthday cake. Luffy and I tried this sweet potato dinner. I’m dying for cooler temps so that I can throw this into our regular rotation again. I turned to her when I wanted to try my hand at hummus. I made these fritters up for the dumpling. She inspired me to throw zucchini into quesadillas. These recipes are just what comes to mind; I’m sure I’ve made more over the years. Love her and her site!]

Have your cake!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I drunkenly offered to make a smash cake for a neighbor’s daughter’s first birthday party.

So Belle, how’s that going?

I am SO glad you asked! A week after my offer, our hosts invited us back to their house for more BBQ and swim time. (Holla!) I promised a test cake, so they could see what they were working with. (I imagine our neighbor was vacillating between being suuuuure that everything was going to work out, this-will-be-fine style, and panic at the thought that I’d produce some monstrosity and then how do you back out of that without hurting my poor, sweet, misguided feelings???? HOW?????)

I immediately had a plan in mind. I’d bake a simple butter cake and use an oversized cookie cutter to get 4.5″ diameter circles out of it. I’d then stack those (either three or four, wasn’t sure) and fill it with pink frosting. I’d then frost the outside of the cake with white frosting and decorate with gold and pink sprinkles. Easy as pie cake. I went to a craft store and found some amazing gold sprinkles and these neat pink sugar rock things. It’s hard to describe, but they’re beautiful. I also picked up some piping tips and a new piping bag, with the hope of at least piping a border.

I baked up the cake in advance (and the great part about only using a portion is that I was able to taste test first – it was delicious) and made the frosting/decorated the cake the day of. It turned out really, really well and our neighbors were very pleased with the final result. So yay! And whew!

And then, my big mouth got me again (and I can’t even blame champagne this time!). I was discussing my plans with her and mentioned that I had a lot of cake leftover. This led to me divulging that I wanted to try my hand at cake pops. Which I did, the following week. And they were super cute and delicious. And since they had seemed so excited by the idea, I took a half dozen to the neighbors just for fun. And they loved them. And that’s how I’m making a smash cake and about three dozen cake pops for Sunday.

WISH ME LUCK AND THEN SEND WINE.

Weekend Recap

We had a fantastic one, thanks for asking! It was one of those weekends where every minute was planned, but they were fun plans.

Saturday afternoon found us two houses over, in our neighbor’s pool. I made some brownies for the occasion (a favorite < I was going to link to them there but OMG it seems I’ve never mentioned these brownies! hold up! time for a recap:

So, I have this caramel brownie recipe that I make. I’ve made it dozens of times over several years, so I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit. It comes from Smitten Kitchen and it’s great as-is, but my original feeling was that the brownie itself wasn’t brownie enough. In my recipe, I’ve upped the sugar and chocolate a bit and I like to add Princess Cake emulsion for even better brownies. Plus I always try to make the caramel the day before because that’s the only way I can ever peel the parchment paper off my caramel (which, as I’m typing this out, probably means I need to add less cream to the caramel, so maybe I’ll try that next time). Anyway. These are my brownies. My signature. My go-to. If you ask me to bring a dessert to your party, this is what you’re going to get. It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t take a ton of time that turns out right most of the time that I love and everyone else loves – so basically the unicorn of baking.

Now that you’re all caught up on the brownies, we’ll continue….

So anyway, we spent Saturday afternoon at our neighbor’s house – more specifically in their pool. We had a great time floating and chatting and eating BBQ in the water. Our host started talking about acquiring a smash cake for her almost-one-year-old’s first birthday party in a few weeks. She was shocked at the price on most of the cakes and disappointed with her options and seeing as I’d had about half a bottle of champagne at that point, I drunkenly offered to make said smash cake. To my credit, I pretty quickly realized what I had done and tried to backpedal a bit when talk turned to colors and designs and inspiration photos. Someone asked if I made cakes for a living or as a side-business and I tried to explain that no…. I’m just a hobby baker. And an out-of-practice one at that given no one in our house eats sweets right now. (Luffy’s more of an ice cream person and though the dumpling would LOVE to eat chocolate chip cookies for dinner every night I am a big MEANIE and won’t let him). Luckily though, our neighbor realized what she had done though and backed off of the peer pressure. She gave me some basic guidelines and I offered to present a sample this weekend. And THAT’s the story of how I’m now a certified amateur cakery.

As bedtime approached, we left to give the dumpling a bath and a few extra bites of food. We put the dumpling to bed and then went back over to their house (that’s the great thing about hanging out with the neighbors – proximity!). We ended up playing a couple of Jackbox games like Fibbage and Drawful. They were a ton of fun and we rounded out the night with a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity. We had a particularly hysterical moment involving a misunderstood prompt and a perfect answer that was suddenly not so perfect. It’s probably more of a had-to-be-there type thing, but I had to mention it nonetheless.

On Sunday we abandoned a suddenly shy toddler at his grandparent’s house and went to watch the latest Mission Impossible movie. I squeezed in an exercise class and then we imposed upon another set of friends with a pool (sensing a theme?) for a little afternoon swim session. The dumpling delighted us with his new skill (he now says this little no-no-no complete with finger wag) and his sense of swim fashion (he requested his swim shirt and shorts be removed at one point).

All in all, we had a fantastic weekend. Let’s conclude with all of the things we learned:

  1. Pour some champagne into Belle and she’ll offer to do things she is in no way qualified to do (next on the agenda: sewing a costume!).
  2. The dumpling has lot of sass with the no-no-no, just you watch out!
  3. My newest favorite summertime drink is grapefuit juice and prosecco.
  4. My drawing skills on my phone are sadly lacking, although I’m still unsure of how I would have accurately conveyed a prompt of key airplane snails.
  5. Luffy is the greatest, but we already knew that.

Happy Fourth!

Happy 4th of July!

[Complete side-note: I laughed so hard the other day because a mix of politics and a dash of proper-holiday-greetings culminated in someone ranting on Facebook that people these days aren’t saying Happy Independence Day anymore. We’re being …. cautious? Politically Correct? Squeamish? I don’t even know, to be honest, but their point was that we should say Happy Independence Day rather than Happy 4th. It was funny and I laughed and then I kept scrolling, but I keep thinking about it every time I’ve said happy 4th of the past week. Crazy what people get offended by these days.]

[Ahem.]

I hope you had a fantastic holiday! Little odd, with it being smack-dab in the middle of the week, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. My family came into town, so we hung out with them and the dumpling. In the afternoon, we filled his water table and wading pool and let him play with the water. We busted out the frozen treats – popsicles, ice cream sandwiches and cones, and chocolate-dipped frozen bananas. The dumpling had three cherry popsicles and his skin is still a little stained today. We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast and BBQ for our late afternoon meal. And so much champagne. It was fantastic.

I’m still enjoying my hair. I’m firmly of the belief that I’ll never go back to long hair now. I don’t think I’ll be able to because my hair is so easy now. And cute! I seriously look more put-together now than I ever have before because it doesn’t take much for my hair to look great. I feel more confident too.

In other home improvement news, we’ve finally started on a landscaping project I’ve been working on for weeks. The project has quite the price tag (sorry Luffy!), but they’re doing a lot of clean-up work for us, as well as completely redoing the garden beds around our house. The main reason behind doing the project now is that the existing garden dividers in our yard are metal. Or were metal. They’re rusting away, creating a very dangerous hazard just waiting for little toddler toes. I wanted all of that pulled up and replaced. While they’re out, they removed two old DIY sandboxes. They also removed the drab plants we had in the front and are planting some new things! It’s looking nice, though they aren’t quite done yet. I’m excited to see it all come together.

Also, you guys, I’m prophetic. Remember when I recounted our experience with the wildlife people? And I remembered having to call them back a few times to get something finished up properly? Well you’ll never guess what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks. When they replaced our chimney, they also fixed a few soffits. In one of them though, the one that had the visible nest, they placed a one-way door. It allows anything that’s still in the attic to get out. They said they would leave it for a few days, a week tops, and they’d be back to permanently patch the soffit. Yeah, that was almost eight weeks ago and we still have the one-way door in our soffit. I’ve called their offices numerous times over the past two weeks and each time the receptionist or office manager or whatever she is tells me that she’ll have the manager call me back. I haven’t heard anything from them. I got fed-up this morning and called the guy who came out to give us the estimate directly as he seemed to at least be able to schedule things. He said he’d text me with a date as soon as he could (he was driving), so we’ll see about that.

Chop Chop Now Y’all

Guys. I did it. I finally gathered the courage and moxie to cut my hair off. All of it. Chop chop. I am now the proud sporter of a pixie cut, very similar to this. And I am loving it.

I’ve thought about a pixie cut for years, wondering if I could pull it off. Even back in college, I was curious. The most I managed to do was a pretty short bob, about a half inch above my jaw line. My boyfriend at the time made sure that I knew I looked like a boy and that he much preferred long hair. I didn’t really give a crap about his preferences regarding female hair, but the comment about looking like a boy stung. It eroded any confidence I had in the look and guaranteed that I never went shorter. (I will say, with some pride, that I still frequently sported bobs when I was with him, despite his preferences. A little bit of resistance against my controller.)

But still, every year when I inevitably got tired of long-ish hair and made the appointment to go short, pixie thoughts would pop into my brain. I never took the plunge, but still, they were there. When I made my appointment this time, I didn’t think it would be any different. I figured I would go in and cut it about chin length and go about my merry way.  Then, Sunday evening, manic took hold of me. I googled pixie good or bad and what to know before you get a pixie cut and pixie cuts in image results. I saved ideas. I read articles. I browsed Reddit. I researched cuts for face shape. I discovered that my particular face shape is well suited for a pixie cut. And I decided. Chop chop.

My stylist was super excited when I told her what I wanted. My hair was mid-shoulder blade length, so this was a drastic difference. I had a moment of panic, sitting in the chair as a I watched her cut the sides (wow, that is VERY short), but all in all I handled it well. I had worried that I would have an immediate gut reaction of hate when she was done. After all, I’ve been looking at myself with hair for a very long time. This new cut was/is far shorter than I have ever attempted. I needn’t have worried though because I was already in love, even before it was dry and styled. It really is a great look on me and I think it suits my face particularly well.

I headed to Ulta as soon as I was done to pick up some new product on my stylist’s recommendation – an awesome volumizing powder and a pomade. I showered and washed my hair last night under the guise of getting the hair remnants off my neck, but really I wanted to test two things: how well it air dried and how it would look in the morning after sleeping on it. I am VERY excited to say that it air dried perfectly well (though, in the interest of full disclosure, I will likely still blow dry it if I need it looking super polished). I am even more excited to report that for the first time in my life I actually have hair that I can spend five minutes styling in the morning and go. Shampooing and blow drying are no longer essential to looking barely passable at work. I can get up and go and it is fantastic! A quick spritz of water this morning rectified any bedhead and my volumizing powder brought my look from passable to cute AF.

So yeah, I love it. I’m so excited and I really can’t see myself going back to longer hair any time soon.