This article about an 18th-century doodle. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’m really into old stuff, especially old books and such. And for me, marginalia in old texts is almost the equivalent of winning Ellen’s Twelve Days of Giveaways. Almost. The specific doodle discussed in this article is of a trouser-wearing-chicken, and it’s amazing. I hope the boy that doodled this over two hundred years ago had a long, happy, and creative life.
This book. My best friends sent Sandra Boynton's Are You a Cow? for Raymond’s first Birthday, and what makes it even sweeter is that it’s customized with Raymond’s name and photo! And what an adorable photo it is, if I do say so myself.
This goal. I love to tell a good joke about how much I love chocolate, Half Baked ice cream, etc., but for the last few months I’ve been trying—and overall, succeeding—in eating less sweets. What’s happened as a result: I feel healthier; we’re all eating less sweets because I’m not bringing them into the house as much; we’re saving money (Ben & Jerry’s isn’t cheap, you all); and I’m wearing cuter underwear (insert woman-shrugging emoji here). I’m already looking forward to over-indulging in desserts at Christmas, but for now, I’m enjoying making less sweets on a daily basis a dietary priority.
Other Things I’m Loving: the adults only vacation Dan and I just booked for early next year; wrapping presents; wearing regular bras again because Raymond is weaned (*knocks back three sips of a margarita in celebration.*)
This Lou and Grey sweater. Just before we left for our Thanksgiving vacation, I was thinking to myself—as I browsed the too many clothes that I already have—how I could really use another neutral cardigan. (Sexy, right?) Only hours later, I was holding this beauty, a Birthday present, in my hands. This Lou and Grey sweater is oversized and soft and the color is amazing (even if I do walk around with the fear of an impending stain. It’s happening people. It’s only a question of when).
This boy’s first Birthday. So Raymond turned one on the 25th, and we had a series of Birthday celebrations to mark the occasion. I wrote already that he has brought so much joy to our family, and that is the truth. We all cherish him—couldn’t imagine our lives without him—and it has been so amazing watching him grow up and seeing how he and his brother Sam play with each other. My two boys have so much wonderful-ness and happiness and potential inside them/about them, and I’m happy (and crying on the inside) that my baby is 1.
This article about Eiffel Tower steps. During an elevator renovation at the Eiffel Tower in 1983, 24 steps were removed from the illustrious tower, and they’re now being put up in an auction. On November 27th, you could purchase those steps—provided that you have a lot of money, of course.
This new nephew. When I was in Louisville, I had the chance to meet my sweet new nephew, Azrael, born on November 19th. This is the first child my biological siblings have had, and it was so special to meet the little guy, feel his warmth cuddled against me, and hear the sweet, soft noises that a newborn makes. Ahhh. This baby is perfect!
This Christmas tree. Since we travel for Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas tree before we left this year. Exciting Christmas feelings aside, there is so something so aesthetically magical, peaceful, and warm about a lit Christmas tree to me, and this one has some ornaments on there that are emotionally significant (engagement presents, baby presents, a hot rod car that Sam painted, etc.) And Sam helped me put it up. <--I actually mean that. Sometimes we say that about toddlers and don't mean it, but I do in this case!
Other Things I'm Loving: Sam, Raymond, and I have started listening to Christmas music. I don’t want to start a fight with anyone, but I’m prepared to say that Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree” is now my favorite Christmas song—though others still hit me right in the feels. Does anyone in this world agree, or does it feel disloyal to Mariah Carey and the years we spent singing “All I Want for Christmas” to say so?
No fall foliage in this pic but this was one of the most beautiful mornings I remember seeing.
This article. A 19th-century woman who lived in an asylum “stitched her life story onto her jacket.” I am a little blown away by this story; you have to read it and then see the photos of the jacket itself. So much of what we know about Agnes and her life seems very sad, and yet, there’s something incredibly beautiful—and to me, rebellious—about how she recorded bits of her life (and that she did it at all).
This massage. My amazing friend Stephanie treated me to a Birthday massage at Spa Visage. The word magical would not be a hyperbolic word to describe the experience. Sitting in a robe and sandals and having a sustained conversation with one my closest friends before the massage; having a personable and skillful massage therapist who also appreciated my desire to be quiet and relaxed. It was all so good. (And before that I went to Barnes and Noble and then out to eat at a place that only serves chicken salad. So. Best day ever.)
This dry shampoo. I’m never more unreasonable than when it comes to my hair. I’m not sure if it’s plain foolishness or unflagging optimism, but I expect amazing results with nearly zero effort. But now that my hair is growing out, I’ve been using this dry shampoo to perk up my lackluster locks just enough to pull my hair in a stubby ponytail and not be embarrassed to step out into society.
This game. I’ve written before about how we’re finally getting to the stage in life where Sam can handle playing an age 3+ board game. It’s not very relaxing (much of the time is spent repeating instructions and threatening to put the board game away if he doesn’t listen), but it’s also been surprisingly fun. Sequence for Kids is a new favorite.
This season. I’ve written before about how much I love fall. I’ll go ahead and admit that part of the reason is probably (read: most definitely) because I was born in the middle of October, and I’ve always been a little too excited about my Birthday. But having kids really makes this season even more special for many reasons. First, there was Halloween, which as one of my closest friends, Mary Catherine Starr, noted, is so exciting with a toddler. And then there are the changing leaves, which always fill me joy (especially when I win an anonymously submitted three-person “best leaf” contest judged by my picky husband). And the mild afternoons and cool mornings and evenings. It’s the best.
Other things I'm loving: planning Raymond's first Birthday parties (!) ; seeing Dan's progress on our fireplace renovation and bookshelf construction; almost being done with the rough draft of my second book.
Do NOT buy the creamy Caesar dressing. Unless you want to.
Robin reading her memory album.
This dressing. When you find a really good salad dressing, you hold it close and never it let go. At Centre College, a lovely private college that I attended in Danville, Kentucky, I discovered a delicious Caesar salad at the Old Café. (RIP—also, I know this wasn’t its real name, but it was what we called it after the New Café was built. Also not its name). This was one of those salads that would have been included in a “Least Healthy Restaurant Salads” article—right next to the Wendy’s Taco Salad and probably a salad from Chili’s—but I didn’t care because we were in love. Crispy chicken, asiago cheese, mounds of croutons, the best salad dressing, and…lettuce. The Old Café closed, and then this salad dressing was at Three Babes and a Monkey (RIP again), and then I lost it for years, until somehow miraculously finding this taste again in Newman's Own Caesar dressing. If you frequented the Old Café or Three Babes, try this dressing for a walk down memory lane. Otherwise, just try it because it’s really good.
These shoes. I bought another pair of black and white tennis shoes, but these are theoretically for exercise. I’ve been trying to make exercise more of a priority lately because it hasn’t been one since I was heavily pregnant with Sam. (In other words, for a long time.) These shoes were cheap, but they’re cute and comfortable, and I’m willing to take any bit of help I can get in the exercise department—like the good feeling I get from putting on new shoes I like.
This movie. As far as I’m concerned, the golden age of the contemporary rom com was the ‘90s. Give me a scene with a feisty, independent, and also, uptight Meg Ryan—her short, flipped-out hair nearly bristling with outrage—any day of the week. But. I heard about the movie Set It Up on Netflix—hailed as a delightful rom com from some acquaintances—and I was intrigued. Though some moments made me roll my eyes (a prerogative I might over-indulge when I’m in knee-deep in ice cream after my kids are in bed), there are also lots of funny moments in this Netflix original, and there’s a sweet HEA that gave me that rom com high I crave. Zoey Deutch was a stand-out in the lead female role—affable and charming, but not afraid to stand up for what she believes in when she needs to. Watch it and tell me what you think!
These shirts. Colder weather is finally here, and I’m enjoying these blissful two-three weeks before we get into full-on winter territory. As such, I’ve finally embraced my jeans and flannel shirt combos, which I’ve added to with a few selections from TJ Maxx (ahhh, adult Birthdays). I’ve been wearing flannel shirts since the aforementioned Meg Ryan rom com heyday, although these days I’m accessorizing less with gold chain necklaces and more with my fave Kendra Scott earrings I keep on standby.
This gift. When my mother-in-law was turning 60, I went on Pinterest to look at sweet gift ideas and found this gem that I’ve done three times now: for my mother-in-law, my mom, and this September, my step-mom, Robin. Here’s what you do: you send out inquiries to friends and family, asking them to write down (or tell you and you can transcribe) their fave thing/memory/qualities about the giftee, and then you collect them all in an album. It turns out to be pretty much a yearbook, chock full of wonderful things about that person, and without all the “see you next year” and “I was the first to sign your crack” nonsense. You can ask anyone I love and/or have drunkenly cornered at a party—I believe in telling people how you feel and how wonderful they are. (I don't have a specific link to recommend. Just search for memory book on Pinterest.)
Other things I’m Loving: my Candleberry candle, my new pajamas (the tag actually referred to them as butter knit?!), and our new routine with Sam and Raymond: collecting eggs from the chickens and then searching for ripe garden tomatoes.
This Roomba. The iRobot Roomba has not changed my life, but my floors have definitely been cleaner than they were before I received it as a Mother’s Day gift. Two kids, two humans, and two dogs (weighing a total of approximately 190 pounds) mean that my floors are pretty much always covered in crumbs, dog hair, and now that we live on a little land, leaves and beggars lice. It’s not great, I’ll say that much. I’ve found that the Roomba cleans about 2.5 to 3 large rooms well on one battery charge, and then it’s (eventually) sent back to the charger. Other things to know: our dogs mostly leave it alone, our toddler enjoys attempting to get as close as possible to it without letting it touch him, our baby likes chasing it, and I get a sweet thrill every time I empty the canister.
This music. So I guess I’m really into ballads now? I’ve always had a soft spot for the genre (90s Celine Dion, I’m looking at you), but I’ve been particularly excited about recent and upcoming releases. Have you seen this performance from A Star is Born? Or heard this song from Kelly Clarkson? And Christmas is quite some time away—I get that, and I respect it—but I saw an advertisement for this John Legend album, and I’m adding it to my cart right now because life is short and love is forever and can you put a price on happiness, Daniel? Can you?
These mums. Continuing this very adult “Things I’m Loving” post: these mums always feel like fall to me, and I love how luscious the ones from Costco are. I’ve been trying to make our entryway less sterile, and these were a good step forward.
This game. We are somewhat on the verge of being able to play like three board games with our 3-year-old, Sam, and this is one of them. It’s actually a fun game, and it was going so well--until Daniel said that Sam tried eating some of the acorns. But let me start at the beginning: this is a game in which the objective is to feed a cute little squirrel lots of acorns. My favorite part: the squirrel tongs in the box. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a gift for 3 or 4 year olds (thank you, Stephanie!).
Other things I’m loving: sending my toddler Sam to preschool; fresh tomatoes from the garden (Daniel planted ours late so they’re still coming in); Sam saying “it’s my favorite!” a million times a day and also, “mom, you’re the best!”; watching Raymond stand on his own.
Pic from Mary Catherine Starr's Etsy page (click for link).
Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron. That paintbrush is looking a little rough.
National Muscadine Festival. That cotton candy was gone fassssst.
Pic courtesy of Southern Grace Mercantile's Facebook page.
This required reading for October. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that October is my jam. How about making October even more special by reading this list of recommended books with witches?
This monumental event. Sam had his first day of preschool yesterday and it had me feeling mildly untethered the entire day. Since Sam was born, he and I have stayed home together. There have been the occasional hours of rare, random days when I’ve slipped away—and maybe 6 days where I was gone on trips—but other than that, we’ve been together pretty much 24/7. Two occasional frenemies/mostly best friends who have been sharing the same story for three and a half years, even if we maybe would have told it in different ways. Now we’re living somewhat different stories, and that has thrown me for a loop. Yes, I’m happy for him and for me—we both need this—but I missed my little guy (which proves my first point. This is good for us).
These chips. If you know me, you know that I will inhale a bag of these within 48 hours of opening. Plus-side: these chips never have a chance of getting stale. Negative: I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that.
This sweatshirt. My amazingly talented best friend, Mary Catherine Starr, has designed these beautiful French terry sweatshirts, and I took advantage of a 5:00 am breastfeeding sesh to order my very own. I have a couple pieces of clothing from her Etsy studio, and they are so comfortable--especially this pullover. Supporting a best friend + buying something I love and would have wanted no matter what = winning all day long.
This paint. After you have kids, getting anything extra done—like painting the exterior doors of your house—feels like a monumental achievement. This is why: first you orchestrate childcare for your children, then you complete part of the task, take an extended break for childcare related things, complete the task, and finally, you try to ignore the million other things that you didn’t complete as a result of achieving the first task (the dishes, the laundry. Oh God, the laundry). Before I painted these exterior doors, they were faded white (and also gray and black. Come on, Jessica, clean your doors already). Now they’re Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron, and I’ve caught myself sneaking glances at them at least ten times a day.
This wall décor from Southern Grace Mercantile. Last weekend we traveled to the National Muscadine Festival. The views of the mountains were marvelous; I tried edible cookie dough (as in the kind not made with raw egg) for the first time; and I spotted these amazing pieces of art, perfect for the bibliophile in your life. Each piece features a beloved quote, and I could see one of them (ten of them) hanging in my house. I picked out the Anne of Green Gables piece and gave a halfhearted effort to convince my husband that we needed it. I let him think that I’ve given up, but you know my secret.
Other things that I'm Loving: the Armchair Expert podcast (I listen to podcasts super infrequently but always love them when I do); making progress on a rough draft of my second book; the movie Deadpool 2.
These sneakers. My sneakers have always held up remarkably well, and these beauties have been no exception. Unlike my other tennis shoes—which I suspect are durable because they don’t necessarily get a lot of action—these get worn on the regular. I like to wear them with leggings and some skirts and dresses, just like I used to do in the third grade. Do I have the right ankles for this? No. Do I care? No.
This book. Part of the reason why I haven’t been posting as much in the last week or so is that I’ve been working more on a book. It’s a fantasy-romance which I lovingly refer to in conversations with my husband as wizard-p*rn. (This is mostly a joke, particularly considering how chaste the story is as of yet.) But the words are flowing and that makes me happy—even if they are draft words and I’m still not sure how entirely I’m getting to my ending.
These earrings. I’m a dangly earring connoisseur who has been lusting after these earrings ever since I discovered them on Instagram. If you know someone who likes earrings, they make a great gift; they make an outfit special and they’re often a splurge that a person might have trouble justifying for themselves. (Please spread this information to my baby, Raymond, who enjoys trying to rip them from my ears in a sneaky, and also terrifying, Gollum-like fashion.)
This cake and this beer. I take back *almost* anything negative that I’ve said about my husband, Daniel, because yesterday he surprised me with a cookie cake. And, in further proof that he adores me and wants me to be happy, he had the Food City employee write just my name on the cake in icing! It was like he wanted me to eat the whole thing. Another delicious treat I had yesterday: a sip of Pretentious Beer Co.’s New England Pale Ale. (I'm not positive that's the exact name of it.) This beer was the best that I’ve ever tried. It had a freshness to it, a crisp pear note at the end, that was delightful. Surprisingly, this beer made my husband, a beer snob (if you’re being negative) or a beer devotee (if you’re being positive, which I am because…cookie cake), happy as well. Our good friend Matt makes these beers and also crafts these beautiful glasses, and I can’t wait to check them out more once Raymond is weaned and my body is 100% my own again.
This scarf. Fall is coming people, and it is the time of year when I am at my best. Have any decade-long mysteries you need solved? I’m on the case! Need to confess something devious you’ve done to wrong me (maybe in our childhood? **hint hint**)? I can handle it! Need to talk to me before 9 am or after 9 pm? Give it a shot! I just might answer! These offers expire promptly when the leaves have fallen off the trees—then I’m a little bit of a sad sack until Christmas. I could, and one day will, give you a list of everything that I love about fall, but spoiler alert: one of the things is scarves, especially this one. I get compliments on this glorious gift all the time, and it makes me feel happy every time I wind it around my neck. Isn’t that what the best clothes should do?
Other things making me happy: the upcoming release of Robert Galbraith’s latest book, Lethal White; my toddler Sam coming up with more and more inventive things (i.e. “There’s a bad guy coming!” while we were at a restaurant); the Tennessee Aquarium; and my baby Raymond getting ready to walk. Also The Real Housewives of New York City. I’m finally getting ready to watch the “Reunion” episodes, and I love them because they’re an opportunity for all us who are owed the truth to get it. Roll the tapes, Andy! (I realize that I’m quite late on getting to these episodes, but thanks to On Demand justice will still be served.)
A pint of this ice cream. I’ve been trying to reduce the number of sweet treats I consume, and I’ve been doing better than before but I could do even better. For example, I could stop eating ice cream every night after I get the kids in bed…but I don’t want to. Here’s what I’ve realized: everyone needs a food or drink vice, and that goes double if you have kids. If I had my way, I’d probably cap off the end of every day with a big ole glass of wine (and by glass, I mean two to three, since according to every alcohol awareness seminar that I attended in college my glasses were much larger than a standard “glass”). But I’m breastfeeding and my tolerance is probably lower now than it was when I was a college freshman taking sips of Smirnoff Ice and wincing at the sickeningly sweet taste. And guys, it’s challenging to have two kids, particularly when it comes to bedtime and dealing with toddler sleep issues, and I deserve. the. damn. ice cream. Less enjoyable side effect of indulging my ice cream fix: watching my husband futilely root around in the freezer for a pint and realizing that I’m going to have to tell him it’s long gone—so long ago that it’s barely a memory.
This bag. I heard the siren song of this bag and before I knew it, I was purchasing it and trying to act as if I’d always had it, always, Daniel. (I don’t lie to my husband. It’s more like when you’re playing hide and seek and you don’t look at the person trying to find you because if they don’t feel your eyeballs on them they won’t know you’re there.) I love the rich hue of this bag and how it’s starting to look a little beat up. This is my first Madewell bag and I’m loving it.
These tiles. These tiles are ridiculously expensive but they’ve been worth it. Sam gets hours of play out of them, and we’ve been building fun things together, like wizard towers and parking garages. Raymond has also enjoyed knocking down any of our creations like he’s a rampaging giant come to lay waste to a beautifully conceived and executed village. Only negative so far: it’s easy to slip on the tiles if they’re lying around the house and/or if you’re adorably clumsy.
Unpacking my books. I wrote earlier this week about what a joy it’s been unpacking my books, and it continues to be amazing. We have an extra room off of our guest bathroom, and it has a very unattractive gray shelving unit that will be a great temporary home for my beloved texts. I’ve been buying a lot of ebooks lately because I have a thing about instant gratification, but there’s something completely and utterly magical about a hard-copy book.
This light. This week is the first week that Raymond started sleeping in his own room. Since he was still waking up in the middle of the night, I didn’t want to risk him waking up Sam—who is a light sleeper anyway. But to my ecstatic surprise, Raymond has taken to it brilliantly, and he’s been sleeping about 12 hours a night (!!!!!!!!!!!!!). We needed a nightlight in there, and as soon as I spotted this whimsical beauty, I fell in love. Can you blame me?
Other thrills: eating Mexican food a couple times a week—you should see Sam tear into a quesadilla--it's a thing of beauty; watching Raymond pull himself up and speculating what kind of beautiful terror I’ll be living in when I have two walking children.
These Kendra Scott earrings. Pull up a chair and let me tell you about my love of statement earrings. I got my first pair of Kendra Scott earrings about a year and a half ago, and then promptly lost one six months later in a tearful incident at the Knoxville Zoo. I blame the gibbons. Since then, I've gotten four pairs of Elle earrings, and I definitely don't pet them every night before placing them on a bed of red velvet and then locking them in a safe. Kendra Scott earrings are, in my opinion, fairly expensive for earrings, but they come in an array of beautiful colors, and I love that they pair with pretty much anything. I just got these abalone beauties during a Fourth of July sale, and they are every thing I hoped for and more. *This exact pair doesn't appear to be on the website anymore, but there are several pairs of Elle earrings still in the sale section!
These shoes. Do not go to Target, and do not shop the Ultimate Thread part of the store, unless you are prepared to spend some money that you did not need to spend on clothes and accessories that you did not need and yet adore. These Aileen sandals are really cute, surprisingly comfortable, and they stay on my feet since I double knot them like all the cool kids do.
This sandbox. I want to say that it doesn't bother me at all that I feel like I'm living in that beach house vacation rental on that Friends episode, but I promised never to lie on this blog. In a supreme act of motherly devotion, I encouraged my stepmom to buy Sam this sandbox for his Birthday, and he loves it so much. Who could have guessed how much a kid would enjoy playing in a box of what is basically kitty litter, as my husband Walter Matthau once eloquently said? But Sam loves it and it's a great way for him to get out of the house and be creative or something like that.
This place. I've written before about how much I love living on 4.5 acres and it's more true every day. My sister, brother, and I lived on acreage for most of our lives, and while it was always important for me to live on land like that once I had kids, I never realized how happy it would actually make me. There is nothing like it. Every day feels like a revelation of some kind. Also, I am highly sensitive and also anxious but I feel like carefree, beatific mother Earth every time I walk across our lawn barefoot.
Other Things I'm Loving: my new kitchen counters and backsplash, which Walter Matthau (I mean, Dan) is working on; a southern style restaurant in Sweetwater, Tennessee called The Dinner Bell; the virtuous feeling I get every time I don't eat a sweet treat (my sugar reduction lifestyle change is still going well, all things considered!); and these books, The Kiss Quotient, Spinning Silver, and After We Fall.
This coffee. I’ve told myself that I’m allowed one delicious cup of coffee per morning, and I take the ritual very seriously. Flirting with the one-cup rule a bit, I select one of my larger mugs, but not the largest, and I pour my coffee and add my cream but no sugar because I’m getting plenty of that from my Lucky Charms. #adulting. This coffee tastes delightfully light and like freedom on my tongue.
Mowing the lawn. I used to love mowing the lawn when I was younger, but thanks to a lawn mower issue which made it difficult to reverse on our latest lawn mower, my husband suggested (read: stated) that it might be better (read: would definitely be better) if he just mowed. Well, he fixed the issue, and this week I remembered that I used to love mowing and that it would be a good way to get a break from our kids for a while. (Mowing to get some space from my children? This, for me, is when my adulthood gets real.) The smell of freshly cut grass, the opportunity to unplug from the phone and Kindle and beloved offspring…it’s all very good.
This hat. I’ve loved hats ever since Blossom. Anyone else? This one is from Target (like that even needs to be said), and it fits comfortably atop my recently shorn locks. So far, it also has the bonus of not attracting the attention of my hat-obsessed toddler, which means that I might actually get to keep it as my own.
This recipe. I was recently struck with the inspiration to make carnitas. This was immediately followed by the inspiration to ask my husband to make the carnitas. The carnitas were flavorful and crisp, thanks to the end step and my husband’s cooking prowess, and we had enough left over for a couple days of magical meals. I highly recommend this recipe if you like pork and are human or canine.
Living on 4.5 acres. For most of my formative years, I grew up on acreage. I knew it was something that I wanted to return to, for myself and husband and our future children, and Dan and I recently got the opportunity to make that happen at the end of last year. Dear readers, I can’t explain how all of the green makes me feel every day. These are the things I love about living here: the impossibly blue, impossibly big skies; the variety of trees on our property and how they’ve grown leaves and how sometimes those leaves have changed colors; listening to the wind rushing through (it sounds like the ocean!) and watching it bend the long grass back and forth; waking up to feed Raymond in the middle of the night and seeing the stars shining overhead. It has felt immensely peaceful and soothing and I love it here.