Freckles in April: April 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Virginia and North Carolina Bound!

As I mentioned before, I have TWO beach vacations coming up in May. I know I can't be alone in thinking that a vacation means I need a suitcase full of new clothes. Yes, it's ridiculous, the clothes I own are just fine, but I can't help it. I always end up striking a balance by picking up one or two new things then filling up the rest of my bag with regular favorites.

A couple months ago I picked up this dress on sale from ASOS-

No longer available :(
 I haven't gotten to wear it yet so I'm pretty excited to pack it for my trips!

I also got a MUCH needed hat-

Blurry shopping selfie I sent to my mom and sister
On clearance from TJ Maxx!

I also picked up a couple new rash guards for my ghostly pale boys (you can see my little redhead in the background of the above picture...the kid needs as much sun protection as he can get).

I've got an old pair of shorts I love, a new swimsuit, and enough t-shirts to keep me covered for a week. I feel like I'm pretty much ready to go!

We're going to be in the Williamsburg area of Virginia and then staying in a beach house in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Any suggestions for (kid friendly!) stuff to do/places to eat/things to see? We've never been so we're all ears!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Let's Talk About Babies

On Easter Sunday Baby 2 turned four years old (he probably needs a different blogonym seeing as he's not much of a baby anymore). Of course, we busted out the baby pictures and marveled at how precious he was as a newborn.

Chunker Baby 2

Seriously. SO precious.

It also got me thinking about how different I felt at the births of each of my children. Stinky was born 6 weeks early via emergency c-section. I remember the nurse showing him to me and thinking, "Well...it's a baby!" He then spent 2 weeks in the NICU and refused to ever nurse. Bonding with him was a slow process (hampered by his hospital stay, I'm sure). To this day, we still tend to have power struggles and personality clashes. My mom, however, said she felt like she recognized him and that he felt familiar from the start. They've always had kind of a special bond.

Skinny Baby Stinky!


When Baby 2 was born (also via emergency c-section), I KNEW him. They put him on my chest and I thought, "Oh THERE you are!" At age 4 he's still a total mama's boy. We joke that he's our Buster (complete with juice obsession).

I adore both my boys and it's so interesting to me that one could feel so familiar at birth while the other one felt like a stranger that I had to slowly get to know.

Fellow moms- did any of your children feel "familiar" to you? Did you feel differently at each birth? I'm super curious if other people experienced what I did!

Monday, April 28, 2014

April Babbles

It was kind of a weird short month over at Babble but it certainly made it easier to ease back into things! Here are all my Babble posts for this month in case you missed any!

Dresses with pockets | Active swimsuits that are functional AND cute | Fashionable Kickstarter Projects
Cheap or free summer wardrobe updates | Lightweight scarves for spring and summer | WHY you need those scarves!
Cutest swimsuits for girls | Cutest swim trunks for boys | Beach Hats to protect your pretty face

Saturday, April 26, 2014

May is "Date Your Mate Month"

Some of my date night ensembles


And now you know.

What I'd like to know is: what's your favorite date night outfit? Are you a casual type? Do you like to dress to the 9s?

My collaborative post for Babble this month is all about date night! Click on over to get details then send me your pic ASAP!


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Friday, April 25, 2014

What I've Been Reading

One of my sort of unofficial goals for this year was to read more. I used to be a huge bookworm but the past couple years have only seen me reading a book or two a month (if that). Moving in March slowed me down a lot but so far this year I've polished off over 40 books, which feels dang good.

Here are some of my favorites so far:

Nonfiction:

FDR by Jean Edward Smith

I did this one on audio (it's 27 hours long...not for the faint of heart) but I loved every second. Books about historical events and figures can be a little dry sometimes and this one is no exception, but it also made me cry on more than one occasion. FDR's presidency is made up of so many amazing moments in history. I vaguely remembered that he was a key figure in shaping the US as we know it today but I had forgotten many of the details. He saved the country from collapse during the Great Depression and was BFFs with Winston Churchill. He was the first president to ever fly in an airplane. He rose above a serious physical handicap to lead and inspire a nation. I'm not remotely joking when I tell you that FDR is totally my hero after reading this book. He wasn't perfect but he was sure amazing.


Also recommend: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I'm sure 90% of you have read it but it is seriously mind-blowing (and also gave me shark nightmares).


Fiction:

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

This is a YA book, which I know some people tend to turn up their nose at, but hear me out: this is YA done well. Over the course of 3 books Elisa, the heroine, goes from a soft, naive princess to a queenly, confident leader of her country. And she does it by saving herself and others time and again, not by relying on the arm of a flawless brawny love interest to save her. There ARE love interests, of course (3 of them!) but they are imperfect, human and more of a side note to Elisa's story rather than the focus of it. I realized halfway through that I didn't particularly care who she does or doesn't end up with. I'm just on Team Elisa (and so is she). This book has depth, plot, and is just generally awesome. It works as a stand alone if you don't want to get caught up in a trilogy.



Also recommend: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. A thinking book wrapped in the guise of a wonderfully different sort of love story.


Not for everyone, but I loved:

Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After my Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood by Leah Vincent

This isn't necessarily a book I'd recommend to just anyone. She goes through some very dark times and there's some sexual content that might make some people uncomfortable. But I found Leah Vincent's memoir deeply touching and strangely relateable. She was kicked out of her strict religious group because she wrote letters to a boy asking questions about their faith that made others uncomfortable. This hit close to home for me. There are groups right now asking deep and hard questions about the Mormon Church. The saddest part is that most of these people are really trying to be faithful. But when they ask questions or raise concerns an incredibly common response from the community is, "Why don't you just leave the church?" Why are orthodox religions so quick to shove the struggling ones from the nest? What is it about doubt that scares us so much that we're willing to kick a soul out completely rather than try and help them through it and find their place? Vincent's book gave me a lot to chew on.

Also recommend: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. Strikes a fine balance between reverence for the Bible and all that it represents for millions of people while also poking fun at some of it's outdated culturally based proclamations. Deeply entertaining.


What have you read lately and loved? I've given up on a couple books this month and need some new recommendations!

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hike It Out (Plus a Giveaway!)



My fitness routine (such as it was) has gone to pot the past couple months. Between the move and some health stuff I just haven't done much of anything. Now that we're finally feeling a little more settled though I'm determined to start getting my exercise in again.



We have this fantastic hill near our house that is SO much fun to hike. It's fairly short but it is steep. It's a great workout with a fantastic view at the top to reward me for my efforts.

Lorna Jane sent me these fantastic pants and top to help kick-start my grand exercise plans. To be perfectly honest, I've been wearing the pants like crazy over the past couple weeks- whether I'm working out or not. They're SO comfortable and perfectly lightweight for all the running around I've been doing lately!



The company is originally based in Australia (cool!) but is planning on opening a store right here in Phoenix. So excited to go browse once they open!

Lucky for YOU, Lorna Jane accidentally sent my order twice and so that means I have an extra Flashdance 3/4 Pant and an extra Marina Excel tank! They're both sized small but there's some wiggle room in there since the pants have a stretchy waist band and the tank is quite loose. Want to grab this look for yourself? Rafflecopter it up below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Lorna Jane provided both sets of clothing. The opinions are my own.

Special thanks to Aaron for going hiking with me and taking pictures!


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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DIY No Sew Bandana Embellished Shirt



I've had this Free People bandana shirt in the back of my mind for ages. It seemed totally DIYable but I didn't have a shirt I was willing to sacrifice. Then I hit the jackpot at Goodwill this week and found a perfect dark chambray button-down for $2.50. Yes, please. I had hoped to find a really cool bandana to use but sadly the Goodwill gods were done smiling upon me that day. I got this one for $1 at Wal Mart instead.

Ideally I would have liked to have sewn my bandana on but I'm not 100% sure where my sewing machine is just at the moment (the joys of moving) so I grabbed some fusible interfacing instead and made a no-sew version!


Supplies:

  • Button-down shirt
  • Bandana
  • Double sided fusible interfacing
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing board
Start by washing and drying your shirt and bandana. Iron if necessary (I always do for this kind of thing).


Use the seam ripper to remove any front pockets. Don't worry about seam lines or small holes...they'll get covered up by the bandana.


Double sided fusible webbing has paper on one side, which makes it fantastic for drawing out patterns or shapes. Line up the side of your interfacing with the side seam of your shirt then trace the curve of the arm. I also drew a line close to the button placket where I wanted the bandana to end.


Cut out your interfacing, flip it over and made a mirror image for the other side.


Place your interfacing PAPER SIDE UP (rough side down) on the WRONG SIDE of your bandana. I also made it so that the edge detail of the bandana would be toward the middle of my shirt. Press with a DRY iron. Steam makes it harder to pull the paper off later.


Repeat with the other piece of interfacing and cut out both pieces.


Peel off the paper backing. A layer of webbing should remain on your fabric.


Line your bandana up with the arm and side seam then iron in place. Repeat with the other side. Trim the excess at the bottom, leaving a 1/2-1inch overhang. Flip your shirt over and fold the ends over the hem of the shirt. Iron in place.

You're done!





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Friday, April 18, 2014

Camping!



We are (maybe, if the stars align) going camping soon. I have been going absolutely stir-crazy lately and I need to get awaaaaay from my house, the internet, cell service, everything.

Unfortunately, our favorite camping spot is still seeing temperatures in the 30s(!) at night. Aaron and I are fine with that but our almost 4-year-old has a really hard time when it gets anywhere near that cold so we're thinking about trying out a new spot instead that is significantly closer to home and a little warmer.

Which brings me to: what do you EAT when you go camping? Planning the meals is always by FAR the hardest part for me. We don't have a dutch oven but we do have a camping stove (and a fire). Suggestions? Recipes? I'm alllll ears.

S'mores are a given though. That much I've already got planned.



A few links for your Friday:

-Did you see Janssen's post about the new BareSkin makeup from Bare Minerals? I love my Dr Jart BB cream buuut that BareSkin stuff sounds amazing for summer (even better after texting with Janssen about it). Maybe a little birthday present for myself?

-I wrote a post for Babble a couple weeks ago about active swimsuits that are actually cute. I've been searching haaard for a reasonably priced top that would keep me all contained while I jump around in the waves next month. I finally sucked it up and ordered this top from Athleta. It's more than I really wanted to spend but I've made my peace. I also found a gorgeous Pendleton beach towel for cheap at TJ Maxx this week. BRING IT ON, BEACH.

-If you're rocking a pregnant belly and like to sew, you should give this pattern from Megan Nielsen a try. I downloaded the pattern back when I was pregnant with Stinky over 6 years ago and was a total novice seamstress. I still dream about wearing it again. LOVE it.

-My current phone background. A much needed reminder.


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Grilled Artichokes with Herbed Butter Dipping Sauce



I've never been a huge artichoke fan. My mom made them occasionally while I was growing up but A. I was a veggie hating child, B. she served them with straight mayo for dipping (sick), and C. they're so much work. Then, last year, we went on a group date to this fantastic restaurant in Phoenix called Le Grande Orange and I heard from at least 6 different people that under NO circumstances were we to pass on the grilled artichoke appetizer. I was skeptical but we ordered a few for the table.

Oh. sweet. mercy.

You really just have to go there and try it for yourself but, if you can't be bothered to fly across the country to try a truly incredible artichoke, I guess you can just give my version a try.

The sauce is different (I'm pretty sure theirs was mayo based. I've tried a few recipes and never loved my attempts quite like we loved the original) but this butter dip has a similar bite to it and was so ridiculously good that we dipped our bread in it after our artichokes were gone.

It was so good that I told myself I could justify the $3 to go buy another artichoke if I turned it into a recipe for my blog. Thanks for being my justification, you guys.

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A note on prepping artichokes: the leaves have little thorns on the end of them. A lot of people snip them off before cooking but I don't bother. They soften with cooking and aren't a problem when you get around to eating the final product.

Start by rinsing your artichoke in cold water. Then cut off all but one-ish inch of stem. Remove any of the small leaves on the stem.



Trim off an inch of the top.

Pretty!


Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop your artichoke in. Cover and cook (turning occasionally) for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of your artichoke. Pull it out when a fork inserted into the stem goes in fairly easily and the outer leaves are easy to pull off.



Carefully remove your artichoke from the pot and let it drain upside down.


While the artichoke drains, get out a small microwave-safe dish and stick 3 tablespoons of butter in it. Add a small clove of minced garlic (1/2-3/4 tsp, is my guess, depending on how much you like garlic). Stick it in the microwave and nuke until it's about 90% melted. Then take it out and stir until it finishes melting.

Then, add to taste: a dash of oregano, basil, cayenne and a little rosemary.


 Stir it up and set aside for just a moment.

Grab your artichoke and slice it in half.

Now you need to remove the fuzzy bit (fun fact: it's called the "choke"). Use a small knife to cut a smiley just under the edge of the fuzz and then use a spoon to gently loosen and pull it out. Some of those purple leaves will come out with it and that's fine. Try to avoid pulling out too many leaves though- those middle ones are the best part!



Grab a pastry brush and brush the butter mixture on both front and back of your artichokes. Try and get it between the leaves if you can.


Grate a little parmesan cheese onto your cutting board, grab your tongs, and head out to the grill.


Also, if you are capable of using tongs without singing "The Thong Song" (but with tongs) then you are a better person than me.

(tong tuh-tong tong tongs...)

I usually just grill these on high, mostly because "high" for our grill isn't all that impressive. You're not doing any cooking here, just looking for some char. Use whatever grill setting works for you.


I cook flat side first. I usually move them around a bit while cooking to get a more even char.

Probably could have let it go a little longer but...I was hungry.


Flip them over and sprinkle some parmesan cheese on the flat side.


Let the back side get a little char then use your tongs (...tuh-tong tong tongs) to pull them off the grill.


Dip leaves in the remaining butter and enjoy!

(psst...never had an artichoke before and not entirely sure HOW to eat the thing? Hop on over to this post from Simply Recipes and scroll down to "How to eat an artichoke." The first few leaves are always kind of tough but they get more delicious as you move toward the center!)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Trying to Find My Groove



The problem with not writing is that it makes you less able to write. Blogging, like so many things, is comparable to a muscle. If you don't use it regularly and exercise it then it atrophies and becomes weak. Over the past month I've thought several times, "I should blog! ...But what do I write about? I got nothin'."

I tried to take some outfit pictures for Babble yesterday for the first time in over a month and was literally standing there thinking, "How do I do this?? I don't remember! WHERE DO MY HANDS GO." It was really frustrating and my pictures were crap and I'm back to the drawing board with that post.


Finally I changed back into the clothes I was wearing before and went outside and just tried to rediscover my comfort zone in front of the camera. Aaron came out and helped me remember to think about things like light and ISO and all that stuff (OH YEAH) and we both had an awkward nervous laugh over this crazy aggressive hummingbird that lives in our backyard that I swear is going to take one of my eyes if I'm not totally aware of where it is at all times.

I haven't quite gotten my groove back but heaven knows I am going to TRY. I've been in kind of weird place with this blog. For a while it got moderately popular and I felt really awkward writing about anything personal so I stuck to mostly style related posts. And then I got my Babble gig and it was super hard coming up with enough content for both there AND here when they had such similar focuses. So this blog died a bit because it makes zero dollars and Babble makes a little more than that and, if I have to choose between the two, I pick the one that allows me to save up and buy plane tickets to New York and go swimsuit shopping whenever I feel like it.

Now that my blog has dropped back into obscurity with like 5 readers maybe I'll feel a bit more comfortable with the personal stuff again. Regardless, I need to find my groove and figure out what I'm doing over here. Don't mind if things seem a bit uneven in the coming weeks and months...I'm just trying to find my footing.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Arizona Blogger Meetup

Planners extraordinaire from L to R: Camille, Meghan, Chrissy and me. I just really really like these people.

So in the past yearish there have been four AZ Blogger Meetups. I got lucky enough to catch the first one, somehow missed the second, helped plan the 3rd but then didn't go (had a reason..I'm sure it was a good one...) and THEN, just to ensure that I would actually make it to the 4th, offered up my backyard as our venue. Bonus: it was free!

Downside: panics about possibly having a serial killer from the internet show up at my house. BUT it all turned out fine and lovely (except for when my 3yo came downstairs naked to greet Meghan) and I have zero complaints.

I literally took ONE truly terrible picture with my iPhone before getting down to the business of finding plastic forks and directing the million pregnant people to the bathroom, so any and all pics have been stolen from Chrissy and Camille.



We moved in only 2 weeks before the event, which wasn't quiiite enough time to resurrect the grass all the way, but we did what we could. We told participants to bring a blanket or cushion to sit on and I think it ended up being fine (except for that table at front right. It got taken over by ants). A little more lighting would have been nice- we had no idea our backyard got so DARK at night- but all in all I think it turned out lovely. I got to meet a lot of really nice people and it forced me to be social during an otherwise rather difficult week.


Local bakery Nothing Bundt Cakes donated two ridiculously lovely cakes and they were so. stinking. good. Like, sugar hasn't been agreeing with me at all lately but I still went back and had more (I like to live on the edge).


Also, I didn't have quite enough knives for the cakes so I ended up busting out my wedding set from 8+ years ago. Which led to this lovely moment between Camille and Chrissy-



To compare:



I think the floral crowns win this battle.

Everyone got 1 minute to do a little spiel about themselves and their blogs and it's such a great way to get to know people! 

There was a photobooth, obviously.

Fashun bloggers. We fancy.


But we lost the light fast and ended up taking a group shot in my living room-


Thanks to everyone who came and helped our event turn out so fun! BIG thanks especially to Camille, Chrissy and Meghan for being awesome party planners and generally lovely people.

Are you an AZ blogger and interested in coming to our next event? Join the FB group! We'd love to have you!

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