Curing the Winter Blues

I want to be somewhere tropical right now. Somewhere that the white sand is almost too hot to stand on barefoot. Almost too hot, but not quite. Somewhere that a colorful beach towel is perfect for taking a nap in the bright warmth of the sunlight. Somewhere that I can take a couple of steps and end up in the cool, bright blue, salty water, looking for turtles and fishies through a snorkel mask. Somewhere that a line of tall palm trees casts the perfect amount of shade and breeze.

I want to be somewhere that my only care is that my piña colada is going to melt too fast. Or that the sun is going to set too soon. Or that a coconut just might fall on my head. Or that my skin might maybe get a little too red.

Instead, I’m sitting in my tiny apartment. In the middle of suburban America. In the middle of a snowstorm. Where the space heater humming at my side isn’t quite warm enough and the sun has already set and there’s no hope of wearing a swimsuit any time soon. And my cares instead include worrying about what to cook for dinner this week, and when I’m going to finish all the piles and piles and piles of laundry or go grocery shopping, and wondering what bills will make their way to my mailbox tomorrow.

Instead of a piña colada and a suntan, I’ve got the Winter Blues*. In years past, I have cured my Winter Blues with some really fattening foods, as many chick flicks as I can handle, and a healthy dose of a patience, just waiting for longer, warmer days to find me again.

But this year, mostly for the sake of the blog and having something to talk about, I’ve decided to put together a list of 10 things, besides chick flicks and binge eating candy and cupcakes, that can help me through my Winter Blues. And luckily, if you’re reading this, I’m gonna let you use these ideas too. Gosh, we’re nice, huh.

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1) Keep Up on Your Resolutions — Odds are you had some resolutions you made a couple weeks ago when the New Year rolled around. And what better way to keep up on those resolutions than by trying to defeat your Winter Blues? Exercise more. Eat healthier. Work out a budget/get out of debt. Write letters (actual snail mail letters, people) to loved ones. Whatever your resolution may be, winter is a great time to try to achieve them, especially if you’re trying to defeat the Winter Blues. Instead of using winter and the cold and the shorter days as an excuse to get you out of your resolutions, use winter as a reason to actually accomplish those things. Find ways to motivate yourself. It will be worth it, I promise you.

2) Start a Recipe Group or Book Club — Get some friends from the neighbor or from church or from your kids’ schools and plan a time once a month or once every two weeks (whatever fits everyone’s schedules) and get together. Share recipes or read books together. It’s a great opportunity to get out of the house, socialize, meet new people.

3) Be IN Winter — Go out in winter. Don’t let winter keep you inside. Find an activity you enjoy despite the cold outside. Go snowboarding or skiing and snowshoeing. Go sledding or snowmobiling. Go ice-skating or find some ice castles. Go to the zoo. Just make sure to bundle up reaalllyyyyy well.

4) Learn a New Hobby — If you’re too afraid of #3 (understandable if you’re anything like me… I despise being cold more than anything), then stay in your house and learn a new hobby. Learn to sew or cook or bake or scrapbook. Take a class online to help you learn photography or web design or graphic design. Learn how to draw or write calligraphy. Pretty much anything. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to do but just haven’t found the time, why not start now, while you’re sitting in your house feeling sorry that it’s just so darned cold outside.

5) “Spring” Cleaning — Why not get a head start on cleaning your entire house? That way, once spring does actually decide to roll around, your house will be spic and span and you’ll be ready to go outdoors and enjoy the fresh, warm weather!

6) Binge Watch a Show — This is one of my favorite things to do, I admit. It’s bad. I really should do something more productive with my life, but when it’s cold outside and I just wanna curl up under a blanket, Netflix becomes my best friend. Sign up for Netflix or Hulu or even buy a season of that show you’ve heard is soooo good, but you just never had time to watch it.

7) Write in a Journal — I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Write about whatever you’d like. Things you’ve done. Goals you have. Ideas you’d like to share one day. About how much winter sucks.

8) Create a Photo Book — Websites like Shutterfly, Mixbook, or Snapfish are great tools to help you organize your photos into cute, personalized books. Make a book of your last family vacation, or what you did last summer, or what you did over Christmas break. I guarantee looking through all those pictures will chase those winter blues right away.

9) Serve! — Volunteer at shelters or food kitchens or nursing homes or even your kid’s school. Go by yourself or with friends or with kids. Seek out people who may need your help. I know from experience that the best way to keep you from thinking about yourself is to help someone else in need.

10) Plan a Trip — If all else fails, and you happen to have some money you’ve set aside for a rainy day (or in this case, a snowy day?), go on a trip. Take a staycation for a weekend somewhere close. Take an extended weekend somewhere slightly further away. Take a weeklong trip somewhere you’ve been dying to go. Go somewhere warmer than where you are if that’s what your heart desires. Or go to the mountains somewhere and lock yourself up in a cabin and do any of the ideas above.

Let us know what your favorite things to do to cure your Winter Blues are. And if none of the 10 ideas work for you, just appreciate how beautiful winter can be. My husband took this picture with his iPhone after a snowstorm earlier this month. Whoooaaa. Good job, Kent!

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*Winter Blues in its most severe form is sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a real thing. This post is not meant to belittle or demean that condition or anyone who suffers from it. We are not doctors, and our advice/opinions are not meant to imply that we are. We merely want to share our very unqualified opinion about some things that help us brighten up our own dark winter months.

My Ultimate Christmas Wishlist

If you’re anything like my husband, when you saw the word “Christmas” in the title of this post, you scoffed audibly and rolled your eyes. If you’re anything like me, when you saw the word “Christmas in the title of this post, you gasped in joy and your heart started beating with excitement.

If you’re like my husband, you won’t even think about Christmas until after November 29 this year. But if you’re like me, you’ve already been listening to Christmas music for several weeks. You’ve already bought your first bag of Christmas candy (Butterfinger jingle bells, for the win!). You’ve already accepted that Christmas lights are going up and the most stores that have started selling Christmas trees. You may have started decorating (unless you live with someone like my husband who won’t let you). And if you’re anything like me, you have definitely already thought about what you’re going to be asking the fat man in red for.

But, if you’re like my husband, you haven’t started thinking about what’s going to go on your Christmas wishlist yet. And, in my Christmas-loving mind, that’s quite the tragedy. So, I’m here today to help you out. You may think it’s a little early to be thinking about this stuff, but I’m a planner (remember my post on being organized?), so this post is coming at the perfect time.

This is my Ultimate Christmas Wishlist. If money was no object, these are the items I would except under my tree this year from Santa Clause himself. Hopefully this will get your creative juices flowin’ so you can start putting items on your own lists. Santa is going to be so pleased with you for starting early!

Clothes

1) Michael Kors watch 2) Phillip Lim bag 3) H&M sweater 4) ASOS swing dress

5) ASOS kitten heels 6) Urban Outfitters hat 7) H&M peacoat

8) Ray Ban Erika sunnies (see what I did there? ha!) 9) Tilly’s boots

 

Gadgets

1) MacBook Pro 2) Sewing machine 3) Bluetooth music-playing showerhead

4) Kate Spade iPhone 5 case 5) Dyson DC50 vacuum

(yeah, I’d ask for a vacuum for Christmas; that’s the sign of an official adult, you know.)

Home

1) Reclaimed wood chalkboard 2) Pillow 1 Pillow 2 Pillow 3 3) Rug

4) Blanket 5) Silpat silicone cookie sheet 6) Non-stick mini loaf pan

7) KitchenAid cordless immersion blender 8) Hurom slow juicer

Entertainment

1) The Longest Ride 2) Giada’s Feel Good Food 3) I Am Malala 4) Gatsby

Stay tuned for Tracey’s wishlist next week! And we may even have a Christmas Wishlist for Men and a Christmas Wishlist for the kiddos comin’ atcha too ; )

An Ode to Husbands

On this day, exactly 27 years ago, my life was changed forever. And I wasn’t even born yet. On this day 27 years ago is when my husband made his grand entrance into the world. On this day 27 years ago, the world got a little bit sassier. A little bit funnier. A little bit cuter. A little bit better. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the face of my future children.

kentThat face! Does that face just not make your ovaries ache? (Unless you’re, in fact, not a female… in which case, you have no ovaries.) On this day 27 years ago, the infant that became this adorable face, that became the accident-prone teenager, that became the sassy young adult, that became the best choice I’ve ever made, was born. Maybe for the sole purpose of becoming my husband.. I don’t know. But my husband he did become.

And, how cliche is it that he really is the best choice I’ve ever made? All the stupid, ignorant, heart-breaking choices I had made up until the day his name became my name were totally, 100% worth it. How great of husbands to do this for us, right? How amazing is it of them to make our miserable, self-wallowing, awkward teen years worth every second? I know I speak for wives of incredible husbands everywhere when I say, thank you, husband, and I love, love, love you.

And so, this is my ode to husbands. (And by “ode” I mean “declaration of gratitude and love.”)

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To the best choice I ever made. Thanks for being that for me. Thanks for making it so that I don’t doubt “us” for a single second when I am with you.

To the friend who doesn’t leave my side for anything. Thanks for being with me. I’m not quite sure what I did to deserve having my best friend by my side, always.

To the comedian who makes me laugh when I’m sad. Or when I’m already happy. You make me happier. You make me the happiest. You get me.

To the cuddle buddy who, well, cuddles. Thanks for the snuggles. And the kisses. That’s pretty much that.

To the ear that listens when I just need to talk. Thanks for listening. Or for pretending to listen, as the case may sometimes be. Sometimes I’m just chatty, I love ya anyway.

To the confidant to whom I can tell my secrets. Thanks for the trust. I like knowing I have somewhere to vault my secrets, my desires, my doubts, my fears, my joys.

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To the sass-mcfrass who sometimes makes fun of things I do or say. Thanks for keeping me humble. For keeping me on my toes. I know it’s all in jest — usually. Never a dull moment with you.

To the dynamo who works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. Thank you for your hard work and your motivation and your dedication; it is literally the sustaining force behind our small little family of two.

To the accident-prone teenager of your past. I know you think you just had a “bad year” on your dirt bike. But, anyway, thanks for being alive. And don’t you dare have a “bad year” again. I don’t do blood.

To the brother who brought me into his family for good. Thanks for having the most wonderful family. I love being able to call your parents my parents, and your siblings my siblings. I love them as I love my own family. I am the luckiest ever.

To the alpha-male in you. Thanks for changing my oil, checking my breaks, getting me new tires. Thanks for grilling dinner. Thanks for hanging shelves. Thanks for fixing the toilet and the faucet and the water heater. Thanks for doing man-stuff. You keep doin’ your thang, because I sure can’t.

IMG_0505bwTo my other half. Thanks for being human. You’re not perfect. And I am most definitely not perfect. We’re human, we make mistakes. Your mistakes remind me that it’s OK to struggle on occasion. We learn and we grow, but we do it together. And, anyway, the struggles remind me that the good times we have are the absolute best.

Because you really, truly are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. My best choice ever. I pat me on the back. Good job, self.

Happy Birthday! And thanks for being in my life, husband.

My Love Letter to the State of Texas

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Thanks to Erika, the blog is rolling on as my family and I are rolling out of the state of Texas. In what has been a quick (and miraculous) couple of weeks we have gone from being potentially unemployed to finding a fantastic job and home in Raleigh. The downside? We have to leave my beloved Austin.

Emotions are mixed. Children are confused and I am EXHAUSTED. We managed to pull off this move in less than three weeks. This translates into me sneaking out of Austin like a thief in the night. So in the early morning hour, as my family snores around me in my Shreveport Hotel I thought I’d take a minute to write Texas (and Texans) a love letter.

Dear Texas,

I knew from the second that I ordered a Diet Dr Pepper at McDonalds that you and I were going to be good friends. It didn’t hurt that when I walked into church the first Sunday you sent an old work friend to ease the social transition. And then you brought my aunt to Texas at the same time?! Nicely done.

You must have known about my love affair of food because you certainly pulled out all of the stops on Austin. BBQ, Tex Mex and food trucks? Oh, my! We literally ate our way through this town and enjoyed every single calorie. My only regret is that I didn’t get to take Hey Megan to all of our faves. I promise to share a list soon!

Since we did more than just eat while we were here, thanks for all of the fun things you offer as entertainment. We loved our trips to Port Aransas (Port A to the cool kids) Dallas, Houston, San Antonio. The sweet little towns of Fredericksburg and Marble Falls were darling. Ben even managed to hit a bunch of little BBQ towns like Lockhart. Completely worth the gas. . . used to fuel my car. (I have to clarify for my super mature siblings.)

Also, can we talk about your weather? Other than a couple of months in the summer, you can’t beat it. I even kinda like the humidity. The summer is almost bearable as long as you take advantage of fantastic pools, splash pad and the occasional “Girl’s Night Out” wake-boarding on the lake. (Who knew we had such mad wake-boarding skills or in my case wake board boat driving skills?) Then there is SPRING! The only thing I love more than Texas in February is Texas in March. Hello?! Bluebonnets!

And speaking of March, thanks for the fantastic medical care that brought us our own little Texas bluebonnet. She is as delightful as the sweet friends she shares we middle name with.

Oh, the friends. A couple of days ago Hey Megan was saying that when you move to a new place it takes about a year to really make friends and another year before those friends feel like family. Well, you certainly upheld your end of the moving bargain because you gave us great friends, many of whom I would happily claim as family. While there are too many to mention, (and most would be super embarrassed) I have to say, it is the people of Texas that I love the most. I couldn’t bear to say goodbye to most so I just kinda mentioned it on social media and did my best to avoid tears. That is until Sarah’s stinking mom started tearing up! And letting people at church know we were leaving a week early?! Foregetaboutit. Words cannot describe the love and warmth that I have felt in Austin. Even random people in HEB (Oh, wonderful grocery store, I’m going to miss you too!) are warm and friendly. Ben says that I should have been a Texan my whole life.

Then there is the love you have shown my children. I firmly believe that we moved to Austin for my kids. Sam was embraced by wonderful teachers, therapists and a fantastic school. Each of them changed our lives for the better. As I walked him out of school yesterday I had teachers I didn’t even know telling me how much they were going to miss our little guy.

Well, guess what Texas? We are going to miss you too. We love you wish you nothing but the best and can’t wait for the opportunity to return to you loving arms. Even if it is just for a visit. You will always hold a place in our heart comparable to your square mileage.*

Love you more than breakfast tacos,
Tracey

*Seriously?! I never thought we would see the state line. Nothing takes longer than driving out of the state of Texas. This may not be a bad thing.

Father’s Day printables

fathersday2My dad is pretty great. I know, I know. You all probably have pretty great dads. But, I mean, really. My dad takes the cake as far as great dads go. For example. In my growing up years, almost every single night my dad would tickle my back (to this day, one of my favorite things) and sing lullabies or his favorite songs to help me fall sleep. To some of you (my husband included), this might sound kinda cheesy. And though cheesy it may be, those moments were the highlight of my day a lot of times. “Puff the Magic Dragon“, “Feelin’ Groovy“, “Lemon Tree“, and “Pooh Corner” were juuuuust a very few of my favorites. The “Chocolate Ice Cream Cone” song alwaaaaays made me tear up (that pooooor kid)! If it was ever raining (which wasn’t very often since I grew up in Arizona), dad would sing “It’s Rainin’ Again“. If he was going out of town, “I’m Leavin’ on a Jet Plane“. Seriously. Some of my very best memories.

My dad traveled every so often for work, and it was always bittersweet when he’d sing the “Jet Plane” song the night before a trip—sad because he’d be leaving for who-knew-how-long, but awesome because when he came back he’d have treats/presents! Some of my coolest gifts came from dad’s business trips. One time he brought back a yard stick of bubble gum. Yes. An entire yard of bubble gum. When you’re 8, that’s a looooot of bubble gum. One time he brought back the biggest bubble maker I’d ever seen! (It was similar to this and we loved it!) Another time, he brought back these cool little eagles that balanced just about anywhere by their noses. Again… when you’re 8 and living in the 90s, that’s a pretty sweet thing to get. When I was older, he brought me a beautiful, handmade, jewelry box from a trip to an African country. I still have it!

Now that I’m older, I’m beginning to understand just how special my dad is. I mean, I knew that when I was young too, but now I realize it for different reasons. I understand a little better the sacrifices he made for us. I am beginning to realize the amount of love and dedication he put into helping my mom raise and support our family. And I will be eternally grateful for the example that my dad was and still is to me of all things in this world that are good and worthwhile.

And so, to celebrate my pretty great really incredible dad this Sunday, I got him a pretty great gift, if I do say so myself. In the interest of not spoiling the surprise, I’m not going to disclosure what I got him on these here interwebs. But I’m excited for him to receive said gift come Sunday. And for those of you who haven’t had time or money yet to get your really incredible dads a gift, we’ve got your back! Here are some free printables just for you. They can be customized if you’d like them to be. For example, if you’d like a different color combination, just let us know! Or, if for some weird reason you’d rather use a picture of you and your own dad, instead of the picture of my dad and me or the picture of Tracey’s son and his dad, just send me an email with your picture and I’ll switch it out for you—you can find our emails on our About Us page.

And Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there—I’m sure you deserve it, and then some!

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Keep Doing

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Andrea’s company, Girls and Giggles. How cute is this woman?

I’ll tell ya, for whatever reason, this danged post was so haaaaarrrrrrrd to write – in that “Ugh, I don’t want to write this, whine whine whine, grumpy cat face procrastination” kinda way. So yes, it’s coming to you later in the day, and it’s a little messy, but that works, because it embodies the ideas I’m about to set forth.

Just do something. (Okay, “just do it” was taken, alright? As was “just keep swimming”. Golly, this is not a new sentiment, is it?) And keep doing. Take a deep breath, quiet your fears (this step is optional sometimes, actually), and do something.

My example of the day? My friend Andrea, who had an idea, and rather than just bringing it up every few months with her friends and saying, “Gosh, wouldn’t that be cool?” she went for it. Now, she has a patented design and a Kickstarter project (underway now! Check it out and donate!) and she’s got more ideas and she is DOING.

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On a much less grand scale, doing for me is usually just getting my house clean. And I’m not saying that in some humorous, hyperbolic kind of way. No dears, that’s quite literal. But this: If I think too much, it never gets done. Thinking is not action. I can plan and figure out the recommended ways and research homemade cleaning supplies and all that, but my house is still in the same state. But if I pick up a fruit snack wrapper off of the counter and put it in the trash, well hey, I’ve done something. The trick is to keep doing after that. Start small, sure, but don’t stop. Eventually, things will fall into place.

“But!” you say. “But! You could be doing things inefficiently – wasting your time and energy!” Yeah. I agree. More times than not you won’t be doing anything right at first, but I’ll hazard a guess that in most instances, it’s just as do-able to figure out those things along the way. This is about not over-complicating things, so if trying to figure out the best way to do something is preventing you from, you know, doing it, then it’s time to set aside that dream of perfection, at least for now.

But most importantly, trust yourself on all of this. You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for, you know? At least about things that pertain to you. Don’t do something because it’s going to get the approval of others and therefore validate you. That’s not producing, that’s taking. Do because you love it, do because you love somebody, do because you just want to try. And keep doing.

Mom’s Brownies

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My mom makes the best brownies.  Simple as that. I don’t say this to brag or to put down yours or your mother’s or your cousin’s or your uncle’s brownies, but really – she makes the best I’ve ever tasted.

This epiphany came recently.  My little family and I were on one of many visits to my parents’ home, and yesterday’s batch sat waiting for me in a 9×13 Pyrex dish. Next-day brownies are brownies in their prime, too.  Just settled enough: soft, but the edges still retain the faintest chewy crispness.   I helped myself, as I always did, and I suddenly remembered.

These are what brownies taste like.  They are both fudgy and cakey, and give just properly to your teeth. They taste of chocolate and vanilla and sweet and a bit of salt, and they satisfy. The best brownies, they satisfy deep. I had tried and loved many brownies before – and I will love more in my future, I’m sure – but these are it. My mother makes the brownies I will forever judge all others by.

And also in that Very Important Gastro-Moment, I knew that this was a testament of a very good mother. I love them not just because of how well they are made, but because of the pleasant associations that come each time I taste one. They speak of my childhood, my home. And her brownies, unspotted as they may be, are still only a very small representation of the good she puts into the world.  And similarly, her daughter is at times so completely overwhelmed by how unassuming yet so incredible her mother is. My mother performs the work I will forever strive to emulate.