Freckles in April: 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Retrospective

Every year RA does this end of year survey and I love reading her answers and occasionally participating. SO, without further ado, here's a little look back at 2013:

1. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 28 this year! Some friends from church threw me a surprise party (first ever!) and it was awesome. I felt very loved.



2. What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?

 Travel memories galore! Paris! New York! Chicago! Utah! California!


Unfortunately there are also some less pleasant memories from early in the year when I stood up for some things I believe in and got burned. The hurt runs deep but, fortunately, Paris and New York are pretty good at overshadowing the negative.

3. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?

Tried my hand at some french baking in preparation for our Paris trip! I made both macarons and croissants and it was lots of fun.




4. What did you want and get?

Diamond earrings. I mentioned to Aaron one day just in passing that I'd like diamond studs some day. A few weeks later he presented a little box to me as an early anniversary and Christmas present. I was blown away since I was thinking along the lines of 30th wedding anniversary, not 8th.

5. What did you want and not get?

I found this gorgeous leather jacket in Chicago that was 40% off (on sale for the low low price of $450) and Aaron practically had to drag me out of the store because I wouldn't stop snuggling it.

6. What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?

A different house. As of this week that's actually looking like a real possibility. We're in the ballpark. Crossing fingers...

7. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't even remember what they were. Ha! My resolutions this year are pretty simple. I want to write more thank-you notes and be more organized in my use of time. I have some specifics I'm working on for that second one but it boils down to blocking out time for work rather than slowly plunking away on it throughout the day. My current method is ridiculously inefficient.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?

Getting to work for Babble!

9. What was your biggest failure?

As always, my biggest failures are in my parenting. I literally tackled Stinky to the floor earlier this week and ripped the shoes from his feet because he wore dusty shoes on my newly mopped floors right before an agent was going to show our house. His feelings were so hurt. Not a proud moment for me.



10. What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?

Food and melatonin (I sleep so well these days!). I also read a ton. Books have always been my greatest escape and comfort. Also, Aaron and I agreed that this year was the best our marriage has seen. When things got ugly for me earlier this year it was such a relief to have him on my side.

11. What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year? (books, television, movies, music, etc)

I don't remember many of the movies I saw this year but I do remember some of the books I read. I loved Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. I know there were more awesome ones but I can't remember. I've been terrible at updating GoodReads.

12. What song will remind you of this year?

Wrecking Ball. I listened to that song...a lot. #noshame

13. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (not necessarily from the song that reminds you of the year).

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice

....
Now I'm floating like a butterfly
Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes
I went from zero, to my own hero

Yup. Roar. It's my boys' favorite song. And it fits well with the lesson I learned this year.

14. What was your most enjoyable purchase?

I'm a little embarrassed by how much crap I bought this year. Having my own solid paycheck coming in each month was awesome. I'd have to say my most enjoyable purchase, though, was Disneyland tickets. It was so magical getting to share that with my boys!



15. Did you travel? If so, where?

OH DID I MENTIONED THAT I TRAVELED THIS YEAR??

Besties!


16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Running. We occasionally hit 4 times a week but more often it was like twice. It's fine but I feel better with 3-4.



17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Getting sucked into the internet and staying up late. And usually doing those things together. Also, I relaxed my eating standards a lot toward the end of the year and ate a TON of junk food. I wish I'd done less of that. Aaron and I have agreed to swing back toward healthy eating in the new year. Spinach pasta for everyone!



18. Compared to this time last year, how are you different?

Different hair color. Also, I've realized I'm an introvert in extrovert's clothing and that's why I dislike gatherings of 7+ people (I know, weirdly specific), among other things. But recognizing that has made my life so much better. I can plan accordingly and let myself off the hook when there's too many people and I feel overwhelmed instead of sociable.

19. Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?

MUCH changed this year but my heart is the same.

20. What’s a life lesson you learned this year?

A. It's up to me to work to maintain my relationships. I can't just wait for my phone to ring, I have to call and invite and reach out. It's hard for me (see: introvert in extrovert's clothing) but it has made a big difference.

B. It's ok to think and feel differently from the majority. People will judge and I've given myself permission to not care. Roar, indeed.



Monday, December 30, 2013

December Babbles

I'm really happy with my posts over at Babble this month. The personal style posts in particular were lots of fun and helped me come up with some new outfits that I've really loved. So just in case you missed a post, here's a roundup of everything I wrote over there this month-

Personal Style Posts


9 Stylish Ways to Wear a Tulle Skirt & 8 Style Ideas for a New Years Eve House Party
Putting Jenna Lyon's Winter Layering Advice Into Practice & 7 Chic Ways to Style a Blazer This Winter


Other


7 Ways to Feel Pretty on Blah Days & 25 Cabin Chic Pieces to Pack for Your Weekend in the Great Outdoors & 13 Drop Dead Gorgeous Winter Wedding Dress

Dressing for Cold Weather: 11 Stylish Women Share Their Must Haves & 10 Gorgeous Women's Watches Worth Investing in & Ring in the New Year with One of These 15 Chic Cocktail Rings


1 Stylish Mama | Cori of Dress CoriLynn & Save on Style | New Years Eve Leather and Sparkle & 7 After Christmas Sales You Can't Miss


I'm working on my editorial calendar for January, so if there's something you'd like to see, let me know!!

Happy New Year!!



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Feeling Very Merry and Bright

Back in October I wrote about how all I wanted for Christmas was donations to Books for Africa. My hope was to see the 9% progress bar doubled to 18% by Christmas. I didn't look at it at all between October and December 25th (I think I was worried it would show no progress and I would feel all dejected) but on Christmas morning I sat down at a computer and pulled it up.

It's at 20% (and still rising...it has gone up since I took this screen shot on Christmas)! That not only exceeds my goal but I also got an email from Books for Africa saying that people coming from my blog were donating to other projects as well.

So THANK YOU to friends, family and lovely internet strangers who totally made my Christmas. It was such a wonderful feeling to see that number doubled from October and know that my blog did some good by playing a small part in that.

I hope you all had a very lovely Christmas. Mine was perfect.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Cheapest Beauty Secret- DIY Hair Rollers



Right about this time last year I had some kind of holiday event to go to and I was struck by a sudden need to roll and set my hair.

This was not something I had done since I owned a set of hot rollers in elementary school so I don't know why it all of a sudden seemed like something I NEEDED to do but that's how my brain works so let's not question it.

I thought about running to Wal Mart for a cheap set of rollers but I didn't have time (also: lazy). Instead I remembered that I'd just finished off a roll of wrapping paper and the tube was sitting in the recycle bin in our kitchen. It's sort of roller shaped, right? I grabbed it, used a box cutter to cut it into 2-3 inch pieces, and got rolling.

Since then I've gotten a ton of use out of my cardboard rollers. They're just barely starting to peel a bit but even then they still work fine. Not bad for free, right?

Since odds are good that you will soon have a few empty wrapping paper tubes on hand and you may ALSO have a pressing need to roll your hair, here's how I use my DIY cardboard rollers.

Start with freshly blow-dried hair (preferably with some product in it. I use a heat protectant mousse).

I know you are astounded at the quality of photography going on over here.

Take a 2ish inch thick section from the front of your hair.


Sadly the next part requires two hands and thus has no pictures. But I start by wrapping the middle of my section around the roller a couple times then wrapping the ends in before rolling it to my scalp. I have lots of layers going on so starting at the ends means a lot of pieces fall out while I roll. Starting in the middle keeps everything together.

Stick a bobby pin in both sides.

Someone should really hire me to shoot hair tutorials.

Continue down the back of your head. Think skunk stripe. But with rollers.

Yes that 3rd one had to be redone.

If I'm going to be straightening my hair OR I want to curl it later, I'll just do rollers in the top layers at the top and sides of my head for volume.  If I want an all-over gentle wave I do my whole head. It's a really good look.

Aaron is a lucky man.

I turn my blow dryer on low and warm everything up and then let it cool to set. Usually I do my makeup or something while it cools.

Then take everything down aaaand-


Bouncy hair with a slight curl.

I was in a hurry and didn't let this one sit long enough but the warmer my hair when I start (and the longer I let it cool) the better it turns out!


If you enjoyed this post then you may also like my romantic curly updo tutorial or this recipe for homemade sea salt spray to give your hair serious texture and volume!

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Monday, December 16, 2013

228 Weeks

Baby 2 has been insisting that I carry him around like this. It feels vaguely familiar...





Friday, December 13, 2013

I Want YOU...


Every month I like to try and put together a collaborative post for Babble. I get really tired of looking at pictures of myself so it's awfully nice seeing other faces!

This month I'm writing about cold weather items you can't live without. I'd love to have you contribute a picture!

You can see examples of past collab posts here and here.

Interested? Find the details right here.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blog Therapy | Autofill Pinterest Descriptions



Someone asked me AGES ago for a tutorial on how to make images on your blog Pinterest friendly so that when people pin an image it autofills with a description you've written. Of course, the pinner has the option of choosing to change the text once they box pops up but I've noticed that, as long as the description is accurate and fairly succinct I generally keep it. I think other people are the same way.



Blogger makes this SUPER easy but you can also do it pretty easily using just HTML code. Pinterest pulls the description for a pin from the TITLE text of an image. If there's no title text it will pull from the alt text.

Here's how to do it in Blogger:

 (scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to do it using HTML)

Open up the post you want to edit.

Click your image and select "Properties" from the image editor menu

Fill in your title and/or alt text with your Pinterest description then click OK.

If you don't use Blogger (or just like doing stuff by hand), here's the (pared down) HTML for that image.

<img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2MroDj13KiA/UqYd6SjWtaI/AAAAAAAAK6Q/Gp8L1M0-3SI/s1600/Creme+Brulee+French+Toast.jpg" alt="Creme Brulee French Toast | Freckles in April"  title="Creme Brulee French Toast | Freckles in April" />

The pink is your hosted image and you follow it up with your alt and/or your title text.

And that's it! See? Super easy.


Now when you pin an image the description will autofill with text of your choice!

Questions? As always, leave 'em in the comments.


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Recipe: Creme Brulee French Toast

Creme Brulee French Toast | Freckles in April


Aaron and I went to Chicago for vaguely work related reasons. He has this client who he has become good friends with over 2ish years of working together on a product and this client was going to be in Chicago for a conference so we joined him.

Aaron's client and his lovely wife stayed at the Conrad which, as it turns out, boasts some pretty amazing french toast. On Friday morning we met up at their hotel for a farewell breakfast and a little taste of the french toast we had been hearing about.

When they told us it was the best french toast they'd ever had they weren't exaggerating. It was SO ridiculously good. About halfway through my breakfast I thought, "You know...I bet I can make this."

The night after I got home I gave it a try and almost nailed it. One more shot and we've got a dang good creme brulee french toast that doesn't require any overnight waiting like other recipes I've seen. It's only slightly more work than your average french toast but with much higher payoff!

Creme Brulee French Toast

1 egg
4 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1/2 c white sugar
4 T brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 loaf day old french bread, cut into 3/4-ish inch slices
Butter
Maple syrup, for serving

Put egg, egg yolks, sugars and vanilla in a blender. Blend on medium-low speed until combined. In a saucepan, heat half-and-half until warm. Then, with blender running on low, add half-and-half to egg mixture in a thin stream until it's all combined.

Heat frying pan over medium-low heat and grease with butter. Dunk bread slices in egg mixture and let cook until slightly browned. You should see some caramelized sugar on there. Flip and repeat on the other side.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.


Watching what you eat? Try these whole wheat waffles or these apple yogurt pancakes for a lighter breakfast!

Find all our family favorite recipes on Pinterest.


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Monday, December 9, 2013

Home Again, Home Again

Thank you all for your wonderful Chicago suggestions! More than once Aaron and I pulled up my blog comments when we needed to fill a couple hours. Super handy!!

Our flight was delayed by several hours BUT we were childless and fancy-free so we didn't mind too much!
We flew in super late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning and got to our hotel around 1am. We stayed at Hotel Sax, which I totally recommend. I got a good deal through Priceline and we were so pleased. Our room was spacious and had a great view. It was super close to everything and the staff was awesome. Plus it shares a parking lot with the House of Blues, so we walked like 30 feet one night to go catch some live music. Super convenient.

The House of Blues as seen from the front door of Hotel Sax

More views from the front door of our hotel.

View from our hotel window

 My freshman roommate, Nicole, lives in Chicago so that was the first email I sent after finding out we were going. Fortunately, she and her two darling kiddos were able to meet up with me and we spent Wednesday morning wandering around Millenium Park and the downtown area.

Wednesday was the warmest day. We even described it as "pleasantly cold." We did not use those words on subsequent days.

We forgot to take a picture in the morning so Nicole, being an awesome friend, came back that night so we could take a quick one.
I loved the Cloud Gate so much I went twice! First time with Nicole then again with Aaron.
Love Macy's at Christmas! We looked at the windows then went in and got some Frango mint chocolates. That was a good decision.

After getting yummy deep dish pizza for lunch with Nicole and fam Aaron and I headed over to this gorgeous theater to see Wicked with Aaron's client and his wife and their friends. I've been listening to the music for years but had never seen the play. It was SO fun! We had 5th row seats and it was incredible.




We followed that with a crazy good steak dinner and cocktails and coffee at the Trump Tower (well, Aaron and I had water. The rest of the group had cocktails and coffee). We were feeling pretty darn fancy right about then.

The view from the bar at the Trump Tower








 Thursday included a trip to the Art Institute, an attempt at Navy Pier (Under renovation. Most of the restaurants were closed) and some business related stuff.


It's a bit like being in Paris again. The Impressionists are always my fav!

The bean. With Aaron this time!


Inside the bean. Too trippy for my eyeballs.


At Navy Pier

On Friday we had THE most amazing french toast breakfast at the Conrad where Aaron's client was staying. Of course I attempted to copy it as soon as we got home. Recipe is forthcoming.

We were originally planning on heading to the airport early with Aaron's client and his wife but then we got a few texts about our flight getting pushed back and we decided to stick around the city for a few more hours instead.

They play music!

Thank you, blog commenter who recommended this!
This girl was working a booth at Christkindlmarket calling out, "Candy! Free candy from strangers!" She had the best laugh and we dubbed her the coolest person we met in Chicago. Also, the candy was delicious.


I got a cream cheese filled pretzel. It was warm and delicious.

Aaron and his German food.

O Christmas tree!



Hand-painted ornaments. So pretty!

"At some point I should start to feel warm and just fall asleep, right?"

If Wednesday was "pleasantly cold" then Thursday was "cold" and Friday was "I actually think this might kill me." I don't own any boots meant for truly cold weather and there were a few times when I wondered if my feet would ever be the same. They didn't really thaw until I got home that night and spent 8 hours under my electric blanket cranked up to high.

Beastly cold weather notwithstanding, we had SUCH a lovely time. Chicago is a gorgeous city and we can't wait to go back when the weather is warmer! I desperately want to do the architecture boat tour (doesn't run in winter. Which I get but I'm still sad about) and the Sears Tower and the Navy Pier when it's back up and running, and so much more!

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