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.

 

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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.

Memorial Day 2018

Whew! We made it! We took our first road trip with the dumpling and we all survived. We had to break a few rules and we did deal with one round of puke, but yay! WE DID IT!

In all seriousness though, I am very grateful Luffy agreed to make the trip down to hill country Texas for my mini family reunion. In the end, my grandparents really only got to say hi to the dumpling, but it made their day. They hadn’t had the opportunity to meet him. Plus I got to catch up with my cousins and their children, so that was a lot of fun. We compared notes Sunday morning on how our respective children handled the night in the hotel room and our parents marveled over how it felt for their kids to have kids now. Weren’t we just in diapers and swim floaties like last summer?

We were there for less than 24 hours, but it was so wonderful to see everyone. We introduced the dumpling to the swimming pool and taught him how to kick his little legs (from his perch on the pool steps) and splash people (mainly my brother [his target] and my mom [an innocent bystander since he didn’t quite understand how to aim his splashing]). We also found a nearby neighborhood playground that he got to romp through. He also took full advantage of the VAY-CAY-TION!!! rules around food and had snacks on snacks on snacks.

To round out our holiday weekend, we spent yesterday afternoon in the backyard with his kiddy pool and bubbles. I managed to distract him enough to get him to wear a pair of sandals for the occasion (have I told you guys that I bought a couple of new pairs of shoes for him at Target that he has flat out refused to wear? because if anyone has ideas on how to convince a toddler that new shoes are not the devil, I’m all ears) and I laughed over his enormous swim trunks. He definitely had a little booty showing at the end, that poor, skinny dumpling.

I’m looking into water activity tables now because I discovered a great solution for all of those little ow-si??? inquiries when it’s 1,000 degrees outside and I don’t want to take his wagon for a walk around the block. A shady backyard and water activities are where it’s at!

Speaking of ow-si? I have to say that my favorite story from the road trip itself is sitting in the back with the dumpling and having to field the ow-si?? question as he’s forlornly pointing out the car window. No, my sweet baby, we can’t go outside. We’re driving. Ow-si?? I know it’s right there, but we’re driving, we can’t go outside. Ow-si?? We can’t go outside; I know you’re bored. All dun. I know you’re all done baby, but we’re not there yet. All dun. We’re still driving my sweet boy. All dun. If it makes you feel any better, mama and dada are all dun too.