Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Going Elegant

Even here in Texas, we get home delivery of the New York Times every day. Of course the Times has a great website, I use the NYT app on my iPhone all the time, and it is not green at all to get the paper. But, I treasure my ritual of a latte made on my Nespresso D150 and a few minutes with my real paper, black newspaper elbows and all. I tend to block everything else out for a little while, including screaming children. Though I read the front page and skim the first section every day, there are some weekly sections to which I truly look forward. These include Wednesday's Dining Section, Sunday's Travel Section, and Thursday and Sunday's Style sections. I have found so many of my favorite things on these pages. A few weeks ago, I read this article and filed it away.

I love invitations, but I am not a saver and do tend to take people's invitations, send in the reply cards, put the date in iCal and then recycle the beautiful, carefully chosen and pricey invite. I have used Evite many, many times and it is convenient, but I have always found it a little bit disconcerting to send an invitation that has ads attached to it. Also, they are cute, but so informal. So, in planning for Little Ladybug's very "grown up" first birthday party, I knew I would have to check out Paperless Post. It was so much fun to design my own beautiful invitation. They remind me of the modern, elegant engraved invites that our parents spent way too much money on for our wedding. You do have to pay for stamps, but they run about 5 cents each. A bargain for something so gorgeous, elegant, fun and easy.

Speaking of Ladybug's party, we have decided on a theme of Cocktails and Cupcakes and are making it a grown up party to celebrate our little girl growing up. We thought that a house full of kids would overwhelm the birthday girl and that she should really be a star at her party. Plus, she can be there at the beginning, charm everyone with her toothy grin, look adorable in the dress I will find for her, make everyone smile when she makes a mess with her cake, and then go off to pleasant dreams while the grown ups can continue to enjoy grown up treats. We will have wines and drinks, charcuterie and cheese platters, hors d'oeuvres and cupcakes! Plus, I get to wear my new Elizabeth and James cocktail dress and my Louboutins. Fun!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gossip Girl Hair

One of my (albeit many) guilty pleasures is the CW network show, Gossip Girl. I love the scenes of New York and all of amazing fashion eye candy. It is so much fun to watch the melodrama and sheer over-the-topness of this show. However, to assuage my guilt at watching this (awesome) teeny bopper spectacle, I only let myself watch when I am working out. I have bought seasons one and two on iTunes and have been known to stay on my elliptical for two episodes because I am so hooked.

I truly cannot get enough of the fashion and style showcased on the show: Lily's luxurious elegance, Jenny's trendy funkiness, Vanessa's vintage flair, Blair's preppiness. However, Serena van der Woodsen is my fashion icon. Her style is a blend of rock and roll and boho. I LOVE it! If I had her money, I would dress exactly like her. (Though really, what 17 year old dresses like that?)

As much as I idolize Serena's SoHo style, Blair Waldorf is my hair icon. (Serena would be that too, but that blond would just not work for me.) However, Blair's red is gorgeous and really flattering. I love her color, her waves, her length, her thick locks, even her headbands!

I have the color now, after many months of dying my brown hair more and more red. I have found a way of creating soft waves with no work by spraying my hair with Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray, twisting it into a bun and letting it dry. However, I do not have the length or the thickness yet. So, last week I went to my usual salon to explore getting extensions to complete my Blair Hair look. It is incredible what they can do with extensions! They can last for six months and would be oh so beautiful. But Holy Hair, Batman, are they pricey! I mean really pricey. As in, to get Blair Hair for up to six months, it would cost me over $2000! Now, I am quite good at taking care of myself and treating myself very well, but even I could not consider this. Oh well.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Hate Wal Mart

Here in the bubble that is The Woodlands, we have two Wal Marts. One of which is pretty standard and one of which is actually quite nice, for a Wal Mart. But, I rarely go there. First because I use Amazon Prime for so many of the things and that one might buy at Wal Mart (which is everything) and thus can avoid dragging my children around. But, secondly, because Wal Mart just gives me the creeps. I love Target, but Wal Mart just makes me feel kind of dirty.

However, I had to take the dog to the vet today and the vet's office is right next to Wal Mart. I asked them to keep the dog for 20 minutes while the kids and I ran across the parking lot to get a trunk load of storage bins and hangers for my upcoming and much overdue closet cleanings. These things really would have cost me more on Amazon, so I sucked it up and went to Wally World. I found everything that I was looking for (and a few things I didn't know I was looking for) and $250 later, we were out of there. I felt like I needed a shower. It might have to do with the lighting and the layout of the store that makes one feel like a mouse in maze. It probably has more to do with the idea that "Hey! We have everything, why do you need to go anywhere else?" Well, they do have everything, but much of it is crap. And ugly, And, well, cheap. Which is great for some things, like storage bins, but for other things just seems yucky.

For example, on the way out of there with my storage bins, hangers, dvds, cumin, toddler tighty whities, a hot wheels car, pool noodles, a pair of scissors, sugar free dulce de leche pudding and biter biscuits, I saw Rainier cherries. As you know, I LOVE them, so I was thrilled to see them on sale there. I never made it to Sam's Club the other day and figured that these two are the same company (BTW, though I hate Wal Mart, I adore shopping at Sam's Club), they'd be the same cherries. I was WRONG! These were mealy and gross. Ugh! I hate Wal Mart


My good friend from high school and his lovely wife had a baby boy the other day and I am so thrilled for them. They have a spritely three year old and now have a tiny little boy to join their family. Congrats J and J!

Though I know that they do not expect me to send a gift and that it is not necessary, I LOVE when I find the right thing for someone. I am really good at gifting and love thinking of something that will really make the recipient smile. Today I sent a gift from my go to source for baby gifts. When I found Uncommonly Cute, I immediately bookmarked the site. The make adorable baby shoes that are like the ubiquitous Robeez but personalize them for you. (These are the shoes with non-slip soles that actually stay on a baby's feet.) Ladybug has a pair and I have sent a few as gifts that have gone over really well. Uncommonly Cute also makes clever tee shirts and onesies with ironic and amusing phrases like "Elmo is my homeboy" and "AB/CD". Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I have reconnected with J and J. For their new bundle of joy, I found a onesie that says, "Famous on Facebook". I can't wait to see the photo they post there of little B.

If you ever need gift ideas, please ask me. I love to think about it and make suggestions!

A Bone in My Fish.

Sushi is one of my favorite cuisines (the other being Thai), so one of the things I lament about living down here is the lack of really good sushi. Because the quality of fish is just not all that high at most places, I end up getting a lot of maki (roll) sushi because the fish is somewhat obscured by the flavors of the other fun ingredients. There are so many interesting combinations of fish, veggies, spices and colors that I am usually pretty content even if I am not blown away.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a place called Thai Cottage that opened up on 242, not far from my house. Not only is it a new Thai restaurant, but it houses a small offshoot of Houston's "Blue Fish House" sushi bar. Though it looks like a fast food joint from the outside, the inside is cool and inviting. We had a pleasant lunch there with some fun maki and a big dish of edamame. The Z-Man loves sushi, and we polished off a ton of it.

This afternoon I had to pick up MrRuckus from work. Poor guy! He has been working like a fiend and had car trouble again today! A few months ago there was some flash flooding at the hospital at which he was working and he unwittingly drove through a lake of water. His engine had to be replaced and this is now the second time since then that his car has had a problem. Thank goodness that BMW pays for all service for the first 50K miles! But, it is frustrating and saddening to have our beautiful convertible have to keep going into the shop.

But, I digress . . . So, we were on the way home from picking up a loaner and wanted to get dinner near the BMW dealer and decided to return to Thai Cottage. Started out great. I had a grilled shrimp salad with a very spicy citrus and garlic sauce that I couldn't stop eating. I then ordered two maki rolls: a tasty mango crab roll and a yellowtail, ikura and avocado roll. I had one bite and found a bone in it! I have had so much sushi in my life and have NEVER found a bone in my fish. The whole point of sushi is that the preparation is an art. They did replace the roll but I couldn't eat it after that.

I will go back to Thai Cottage, but I will stick with the Thai food. I will not be ordering sushi there any more. I might wait until my trip to Hawaii in October when we can get really amazing fresh fish!

Monday, July 20, 2009

I have chosen

I love fruit! Really, I have yet to meet a type of fruit that I do not enjoy. (Though I have met many individual fruits that were no good). Apples, blueberries, mangoes, tomatoes, kiwi, honeydew, apricots - I love them all. And, in the summer, there are so many to choose from. I have been eating so much fruit that I fear I may be developing a musky odor (shout out to you know who!)

I love them all, but I have chosen my favorite. Ranier cherries. They are juicy, slightly tart, sweet and just the best fruit ever! Apparently, they were bred in a lab in the 50s and are a cross between Bing and Van cherries. They are super difficult to grow and since they’re a relatively new fruit and probably have a lower production, they can be as much as a dollar a cherry (says Wikipedia)! Their red and yellow skins are almost as pretty as they are delicious. Best fruit of the year.

Yum! My friend, E, picked some up for me from Sam's Club on Saturday and they are so fantastic. I can't stop eating them and will have to drive there myself tomorrow to get some more. I have not even considered baking with them because they are sheer perfection eaten over the sink. Yes, I wash them and pop them in my mouth. Cannot even wait to put them in a dish and use my cherry pitter. I just eat them and spit out that sucker!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cape May 2009

I haven't written for a while because we were in Cape May, NJ for 8 days visiting MrRuckus's parents' beach house. We returned last night and spent the day trying to catch up, organize ourselves and recover. Z-Man took a long nap and he seems to be doing well, but he is the most adaptable kid ever. The Little Ladybug, on the other hand, seemed to be doing great until 6 p.m. tonight when she just started screaming bloody murder! My little girl is so sweet, loving, playful and fun. But, when she is unhappy, she lets you know it. We call her Drama Queen (or DQ for short) because when she is unhappy, her cry is so loud, piercing and painful, it is almost operetic. So, after putting her to bed for the night at 6:30, all has been quiet and peaceful.

In many ways, it is the most peaceful I have felt since before vacation. Don't get me wrong. Our trip to Cape May was wonderful and I wouldn't have missed it for anything, but it was not peaceful and relaxing. It is difficult to have peaceful and relaxing when you have two kids under 4. It is even more difficult to achieve it when you are staying at your in-laws' house (albeit gorgeous and well-located) with plans for every minute of the week. I am ever so grateful to my mother-in-law for being accommodating,helpful, thoughtful and the most generous person I have ever met. She did everything in her power to make sure that all of our needs were met, to take care of both of my children so that MrRuckus and I could have a break, and did not even take a single moment for herself to relax. Still, it is a lot of proximity for 8 days and I felt like we were on a treadmill the whole time we were there.

Some Highlights of the trip:
1. We took Z-man to see Lucy the Elephant on the beach in Margate. This was the highlight of my three year old's vacation and the part he had most been looking forward to before going. This six story elephant was built in 1881 and, in addition to being a tourist attraction that you can climb in and look around, it has also been a hotel, a private home, and a saloon.

2. MrRuckus and I got to spend a night at The Water Club in Atlantic City. Lovely room, chic hotel, but it is still Atlantic City and you can tell that by looking around. I got to lounge by the pool for an hour and he got to play poker at the Borgata for a few hours, so this was a little get away for us. Plus. . .
3. We had dinner at Chef Vola's restaurant in Atlantic City. We met my sister and her friend and had a 10 p.m. reservation at this gem of a restaurant. I had heard that it is the best Italian restaurant in NJ, and I had to try it, so we took what we could get. it is a tiny, hidden little restaurant on a residential street in Atlantic City, run by a couple who are truly passionate about what they do. The portions were enormous and the food was incredible.

It was like eating someone's Italian grandmother's best food in a speakeasy. Because they are so great to their customers, we we were not seated until nearly 11, but the owner makes 21 unique desserts and said that they were on the house for us. So, of course, we each tried one!

4. The Z-man LOVED the beach. My in-laws' house is right on the beach on the Delaware Bay and so it is really easy to take him down there to play. He loved to have his feet in the sand and to be in the water. We put him in the kayaks with us and paddled right in front of the house. He was so happy being on the sand and in the water; it was spectacular to be with him there.
5. Little Ladybug is at a great age and charmed everyone. Her personality is really starting to show and she is so active and funny! Although we were running around trying to catch up with so many people, she was flexible, easy-going and happy.
6. We got to see J, L and their new baby. They are such great friends who we get to see so rarely, so it was special to have our kids all together and then to have a night with my MIL sitting so that we could really catch up.
7. Sunsets. They have the most beautiful deck overlooking the dunes and the out to the bay and we saw some spectacular sunsets from there.

But, it is good to be home. Have my space, sleep in my bed. Plus, as of tomorrow, our theater room and our new home gym will be complete! We will have all the amenities of a resort right here!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Feeding the Ladybug

My Little Ladybug is almost ten months old and I can't believe how big she is getting. In the beginning, I couldn't imagine getting to this point because she was such a difficult newborn. My little hurricane baby was born three days before Hurricane Ike blew through our part of Texas. Though it could have been so much worse (and was for countless others), it was challenging to have a brand new baby during the storm and in the days after when we had no power. Nursing and changing a newborn by flashlight was quite nerve-wracking. At least we were only without power for three and a half days. Plenty of people had no power for three and a half weeks!

Then, a few days later, I was told that my Little Ladybug was not gaining weight properly due to weak sucking and the lactation consultant suggested that I might want to try a speech pathologist in order to help her get stronger. So, of course, I went that very day and started a regimen of exercises intended to help her eat better. I also was pumping every time I nursed her to keep my supply high and giving her syringes of breast milk in order to give her a burst of energy to use to suck hard. I was obsessed with feeding her and how much weight she was gaining and it was pretty stressful. But, I stuck with it and in a couple of weeks she was eating like a champ and nursing started to get easier.

And then the colic hit! Nursing was the only way to keep my Little Ladybug calm and quiet and I was doing it all the time and starting to resent the fact that I was the only one who could keep her calm. So, MrRuckus made it his mission to be able to give her a bottle of pumped milk a few times a week and this made a huge difference. We both firmly believe that it is important for him to be able to feed and calm the baby and made sure he was able to do this. In fact, when she got an ear infection at 3.5 months and would not take a bottle, we were all distraught at the idea that she would never take a bottle again and made sure we stuck with it.

Then, all of a sudden, at about 5 months, she got easy. She started sleeping through the night and being quite placid most of the time. Now she is a doll, smiling, laughing, crawling around after her brother, pulling up on everything and just being a total sweetheart, my princess baby. And, all this time, I have stuck with nursing. For the Ladybug and me, it is our time to just be quiet and relaxed and we both enjoy it. At first, I had no expectations of how long I would stick with it, but here we are at 10 months and still it works so well for us. I was even able to go away from her for multiple days twice in the past few months, having MrRuckus or her grandparents give her bottles and spoon feeding while I brought my pump with me.

After 10 months of nursing, many months of losing weight and exercising, my nursing bras were just not working for me any longer. The ones I had just did not fit and did not give me the shape I was looking for. So, the other day I decided to take myself bra shopping. I went to Dolce Bella Lingerie at Market Street. They do a great job measuring and suggesting bras and found a number to meet all of my needs. I decided that I was tired of wearing nursing bras but wanted something that allowed me to nurse but also have nice shape and support. So, they suggested the Spanx Bra-llelujah underwire front closure bra. Now, I already knew that Spanx produced magical products like the thigh and butt slimming shorts, but this thing is a revelation! It is so comfortable, so light, seamless, and allows easy access for nursing either by folding away the flexible cups or opening it up in the front. I got it in two colors and will be buying more in the future. (I got a few other useful bras, but this one is tops!) - Bra-llelujah! Underwire Contour Front-Closure Bra