Music Festival Second Birthday

DSC_0511My son loves music. Guitars, drums, piano – you name the instrument, he probably has some version of it and rocks out with it daily. So in thinking of a theme for his second birthday, naturally music came to mind.

DSC_0546I began searching for ideas on Pinterest, but quickly realized that this particular theme wasn’t too popular. Sure, themes like “The Sound of Music” or Hippie-styled events had been done before, but I couldn’t find anyone else who had documented what I was envisioning the party to be.

So I started making things up.

Birthday 4The centerpiece for the event was a play tent my mother had purchased from Land of Nod for Griffin’s birthday. Styled like an RV camper, I thought it would be the perfect kitchy decoration/play space for a kid’s birthday, as well as one he could use well after the event.

Birthday 6My dad made an amazing teepee and pup tent to serve as both decoration and entertainment. The kids were so excited to explore these!

DSC_0592DSC_0583DSC_0521Birthday 2Birthday 3Miniature teepees, VW buses, and vintage album covers were scattered throughout the event, adorning food stations and tables filled with intruments. I found the teepee craft kits at Paper Source, and the buses were an Amazon.com find. All albums were either my brothers or from a tiny shop in Franklin, TN.DSC_0579

DSC_0582DSC_0516Gifts and favors were set up in guitar cases, with accompanying signs to point the way. The favors included S’mores kits for the kids, and hot chocolate with marshmallow vodka for the adults!

Birthday 12Like I mentioned above, we already had several instruments on hand, but my husband scored some real band instruments from the high school he works at, and we had a “musical petting zoo” for the kids to explore. They were able to see instruments like Saxophones and Tubas up close and personal!

Birthday 8From there, I custom ordered some headpieces for the children – floral wreathes for the girls and feathers for the boys. The birthday boy got his own headdress. This was the second year running that I turned to Etsy store Mosey for these items, as well as the bunting and cake topper. She is so creative and easy to work with!Birthday 5

DSC_0603DSC_0813DSC_0573A custom Hot Chocolate bar was set up on the back porch with as many accoutrements as we could imagine – homemade whipped cream, peppermint sticks, white and dark chocolate chips, gourmet marshmallows in various flavors, grain free donuts from a local Nashville shop, and organic truffles. Easy but festive foods were served in the house. One of my favorites were the beet and orange endive cups, which unfortunately we didn’t get a picture of.

DSC_0528DSC_0526For dessert, a colorful macaron tower stood alongside a delicious hummingbird cake – all of which were grain free!

DSC_0588DSC_0619DSC_0620Birthday 10Birthday 11As the evening progressed, Griffin’s Uncle Marty jammed out on the guitar as the children danced around the fire pit and everyone made S’mores. It truly was a birthday music festival!

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New Year, Trying to Get Back to the Old Me

Our doorbell rang on the day we got home from our Christmas/New Year’s vacation. A cute little girl stood on the steps with a sheet of paper clutched in her hands and a hopeful smile plastered to her face. I’ll give you three guesses who she was and what she was up to.

Girl Scout Cookies.

Luckily I had not made any food related resolutions this year, and even if I had our sweet little troops in Nashville, Tennessee aren’t selling the gluten free cookies I’ve heard about in super cool states like California. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but admire the guts it must take these little girls to go house to house like that. Only one week into the new year and they’re knocking on doors like wolves in sheeps’ clothing, for all the world seeming like the little devil on  your shoulder as you weigh your resolution against a green box of Thin Mints.

Again, I’m glad I had no reason to say yes to that cute face. My husband didn’t get away quite so easily.

But back to resolutions. Mine was a little different this year. Instead of trying to lose weight, I’m attempting to lose the false identity that’s crept up so stealthily. I care too much about what others say and how strangers perceive me. It’s time to stop caring.

Me and Marty

This is my year to get back to my childhood self. The girl who wore bell bottoms when everyone else was sporting high-waisted mom jeans. Who had hair I could sit on when my friends were getting chin-length bobs. Who started a journalism club and created her own magazine.

That much cliched phrase “new year, new you” is just so tired. It isn’t new; in fact, it’s exhausting. Attempting to reinvent yourself each and every year is probably the main reason that so many New Year’s resolutions fall quickly by the wayside.

I’m done with makeovers and potions that promise to transform; instead I’m going to seek out my past and hope that I can erase a few decade’s worth of everyone else’s opinion.

Inundated with Flu Vaccine Promotion

No matter your stance on vaccines or other hot topics, I doubt you want something shoved down your throat every time you turn around.

Yesterday my phone rang just after I had put Griffin down for a nap. An automated recording began speaking as soon as I said hello:

“This is Vanderbilt hospital. Have you received your flu vaccine yet?”

That wasn’t even the first time it had happened. I’ve gotten two additional calls like this from my insurance provider.

From advertisements in the parking lots of pharmacies, grocery stores, and Target, to blog posts from major publishers like the New York Times, I’ve been blindsided by just how much society wants me to get a freaking flu shot.

And I’m just here to tell you, all their effort isn’t working. Call it what you will (I call it a scare tactic), all this bombardment has left me hollow. Am I not allowed to make informed, educated decisions for my family and myself? Because I call it highly uneducated when people are running around clucking like chickens about flu vaccinations being important because of the recent outbreak of Ebola.

WHAT?!

That’s precisely what ABC News, NY Daily News, and  many others have reported as recently as last week.

I’m assuming next they will be telling us that the flu shot can help protect against STDs, as well. After all, Syphilis produces flu-like symptoms, so it’s one and the same, right?

My Hormones Love Disney

There’s nothing like listening to the Frozen soundtrack to bring on the tears.

I’m not even talking about the ballads like “Let it Go” or the more emotional parts of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman.” I was in the car this afternoon tearing up to “Love is an Open Door,” for goodness sake! Then to my horror, I found my voice also cracking to Aladdin’s “Whole New World” and Tangled’s “For the First Time in Forever.” Pandora was really playing with my Estrogen today, apparently.

Singing at an ear-splitting volume and flailing my arms in order to hear my son giggle from the back seat, I realized that my passion (obsession? unhealthy adoration?) of all things Disney had finally found a peaceful resting place. I would risk making a fool of myself to fellow drivers simply in order to watch Griffin get into the song and start humming and dancing along with me.

photoAnd it works! He absolutely loves listening to Disney music. We even took him to see Disney on Ice a few weeks ago just to watch his face light up when Mickey, Minnie, and the crew came onto the rink for the first time. Like everything else involving Disney right now, Anna and Elsa were the main attraction, and Griffin held onto his new friend Olaf as he bounced from one lap to another.

Of course, I tear up on occasions other than our car ride singalongs. Reading books to him, especially fairy tale-esque stories that remind me of my own childhood, can also bring on some watery eyes. I’m not even a crier, but it happens more than I’d care to admit.

Therefore I blame it on the hormones, obviously.

Disney aside, these hormones are once again out of control. I’ve taken all the steps that should lead to internal balance – acupuncture, herbs, vitamins, healthy eating, exercise. And yet my face still frequently looks like that of a preteen girl, even though I get monthly facials and follow my aestheticism’s instructions to the letter.

Right now the hormones are in control and all I can do is sing along, according to their demands.

“I Want My Boots On!”

Now that Griffin has a vocabulary that rivals my own, I get to hear phrases like the one above all the time. This particular statement came at 7am a few days ago, as he stood in his crib pointing to the new shoes he had picked out for Fall the previous day.

photo“Mommy! I want my boots on!” Over and over.

Jeremy and I laughed from our bed, turning up the volume on the monitor and listening to our little linguist – and apparent clothes horse.

Yesterday morning he had another demand: “Read Things That Go on the potty!” Anything that gets him onto his little toilet is a win for me, so I took the steps two at a time in my rush to get into his room before he changed his mind.

At this very moment I’m listening to him wake from a long nap. “Kind of like Goofy,” he says as he opens his mouth as wide as it will go. “Open my mouth.”

He can pretty much recite books verbatim based on the page I turn it to, and has just begun to sing the lyrics to songs on his own. Current favorites are “Dyer Maker” by Led Zeppelin, “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah,” and The Beatles’ “Blackbird.”

Next step, reading!

Boots: Livie & Luca

The Family Dinner – Stop Blaming Everything Else

drive thruMotherlode, the NY Times family-oriented blog, has recently been posting a series of articles dealing with the idea of celebrating, not loathing, the family dinner.

I stand behind that 100%.

I don’t care if both parents work full-time, family meals should be a time to de-stress after a long day. In fact, even though my mother was the main provider for our family during my childhood, we still sat around a table and ate together EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Sure, some nights it was my dad who cooked, throwing together hot dogs and green beans. Other nights we got pizza or Chinese. But most of the time my mom would pop something in the oven after work, and we would all sit in the dining room and talk about our days.

From the blog:

We’re trying to do what families have done for hundreds of years: come together to restore our physical and mental energies at the end of the day over a necessary meal. What makes that hard is not that we’re struggling to make a fine béchamel sauce with a baby on one hip. What makes it hard for all families, albeit in different ways, is that we as a society don’t consider family time a priority, and for some of our citizens we scarcely allow their families any consideration at all.

This is something my husband was talking to me about just last night as we shared our own simple dinner together after the baby had been put down for the evening. As much as having a date night allows us to recharge our batteries and have a much needed moment of relaxation, we must also remember that we need to be content and restful in any situation.

That bears repeating: We have to find the peacefulness in any situation!

That’s exactly what my mother would do when she arrived home from work to find hungry children hounding her for food. She would turn on the little purple radio that sat on the kitchen counter, perhaps light a candle, and preheat the oven. Then she’d get into some comfortable clothes and head back into the kitchen to pop some chicken in the oven, or mix up ground beef and taco seasoning for burritos. Like I said, the meals were usually simple, but they were flavorful and always healthy.

If late work schedules, exercise classes, activities, sports practices and homework make taking an hour and a half to prepare and eat a meal together an unbearable challenge, it’s not time in the kitchen that’s the issue.

And herein lies the problem. It’s not even a matter of cooking for many people – it’s a matter of prioritizing the family. The results of decades worth of debate about this topic are frozen food sections overflowing with quick options, many of them even organic and specializing in different dieting lifestyles. But it still takes time to set the table and gather everyone together to eat it. I’ve seen way too many SUVs and Mini Vans barreling down the road with passengers sitting inside and stuffing their faces out of brown paper bags – the modern day feeding trough. It’s just easier when every hour of your day is scheduled, I guess.

If we would like to physically come together with our family and friends at the end of the day, there’s no end to the things that get in our way. Cooking, ambitious or not, is not what stands between parents and a pleasant evening at home.

Most of the family’s with lives that revolve around a tight schedule of demands from work and extracurricular activities may not view dinner as that big of a deal. But it’s one of the most reoccurring memories I have as a child, and I’d wager it’s the same for most other adults, as well. Catching up on the lives of our family – whether it be children, spouses, siblings, or even friends – is mandatory.

Those evening hours around dinner….are what you get, if you can get them. That’s your time together, whether your meal is simple or elaborate.

Puerto Rico – Skip the Resorts to Find the Culture

Lessons Learned while Traveling – 5 Year Anniversary Edition

Typically, my husband and I choose to stay in any town’s historic center when traveling, so that we can explore what makes the place stand apart from every other village and city in the world. On this particular trip, we wanted to go the lounging-by-the-pool, drink-in-hand route, instead.

photo 2That was our first mistake.

But first a bit of back-story. Labor Day will always be preceded by weekend getaway for Jeremy and me. Our anniversary falls at the end of August, making it the perfect time to use that extra day to find a new spot on the map to explore. This year we decided we needed a chance to recharge our batteries, as it were. With only 4 days to make that happen, we jetted off to Puerto Rico since it only takes a minimal amount of points with a Southwest credit card.

Waking the next morning, it didn’t take long to realize we just aren’t long-term lounging-by-the-pool, drink-in-hand people.

photo 5 copyWe had already come to terms with the fact that we aren’t laid-back. Not in that sense, anyway. That first morning in Puerto Rico, we walked along the beach as far as we could go, swam up to the bar and sat in the water with a beachy cocktail, and then finally settled into some lounge chairs and kicked back to read while simply enjoying our time together. But after only a little while of being in the intense Caribbean heat (of which we were mostly in the shade), we had to either get another drink or risk melting right into tropical landscaping that surrounded us.

We did wind up having that second drink, then decided to get all dressed up and go into the Old City for the evening. A $25 dollar cab ride later, we were walking along cobblestone streets and reveling in what we knew we were missing.

photo 5Like every other historic town we visit, our first stop was the cathedral. A truly picturesque wedding was taking place that evening, so we weren’t able to see inside. However, right across the street was an ancient building that had at one time been the cathedral’s convent, but had since been turned into a boutique hotel.

photo 4In fact, after our mega resort, the Hotel El Convento felt like a corner of heaven. Before our trip, I had looked into this hotel – it had even made it to our short list. But without direct beach access and only Queen beds outfitting their adorable guest rooms, I passed them up. What a huge mistake! We promptly asked the front desk attendant if there was any room in the inn for the remainder of our stay, but this hotel – along with each and every other place we checked – was sold out for the weekend.

photo 4 copyBut we explored the hotel’s nooks and crannies anyway, and soon wandered throughout the city looking for the other hotels the helpful attendant had recommended. That’s when we came upon The Gallery Inn. Being familiar with this eclectic hotel due to rave reviews online and in magazines like Travel and Leisure, I knew it was highly sought after. But I didn’t expect to come face-to-face with the hotel owner, an imacumlant woman I took to be hovering in her mid-60s.

She was, in fact, in her early 80s. With silvery blonde hair and a Cockatoo perched upon her right shoulder, she graciously welcomed us into the lobby. She left as quickly as she had appeared, but the lobby attendant let us in on the fact that the sculptures which filled every crevice of the courtyard and lobby were the creation of the owner, who was quite celebrated in Puerto Rico.

photo 1 copyWe both fell in love with Old San Juan, and succumbed to the exorbitant cab fees in order to get there each day. Local unions have not only ensured that cab drivers are paid handsomely for their services, but also that the hotels and resorts will not be implementing shuttle services any time soon.

photo 1That’s not to say we didn’t sit by the pool again during our trip. On the contrary, we enjoyed a few more frozen drinks at the swim-up bar and took many more walks in the sand. The resort next door even had an amazing Airstream that sold nothing but Clicquot – so decadent! But our credit card bill can attest to what really entertained us.

I guess you could say we’re explorers at heart. But sometimes we do fall victim to the touristy cliches!

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Where to Stay in Puerto Rico

Hotel El Convento

The Gallery Inn

Villa Herencia Hotel

Da House Hotel

What to Eat in Puerto Rico

Marmalade

El Picoteo in the Hotel El Convento

Casa Cortes Chocobar

Caficultura Coffee Shop