A Few Of My Favorite Things

One of my favorite things about living in a sorority house was the process of getting ready to go out on Friday and Saturday nights. We had a huge bathroom area that was equipped with cubbies, lots of counter space and plenty of outlets to accommodate dozens of blow dryers and straitening irons. I used to love seeing what products all of my sisters were using. It was like having a house full of product testers to share their experiences with you.
Since I no longer live with 70 other women (or even 1 other woman), I thought that I would share my love of a few products that I consider a necessity in my daily arsenal of makeup, skin care and haircare. I’m pretty sure that my male readers just fled the building, but that’s alright. We all need some girl time occasionally!
The first product up to bat is Stila’s Smudge Pots, which are a gel eyeliner that come in numerous colors (I use the black for night time and the bronze for daily wear). I can attest to the fact that this eyeliner will not flake, run, smudge or otherwise make you look like a raccoon. You apply it using a straight edged brush (I think I bought mine from Mac) and one smudge pot will last you years. Literally years. I’ve used the bronze one daily since last Christmas and I’ve barely made a dent. You’re definitely getting your money’s worth here.
Another product from Stila to make my list is their cream blush. This blush works best on top of a tinted moisturizer or a liquid foundation. I have Petunia (the color shown above) and when put on the apple of my cheeks, it gives me the most lovely peachy glow. In fact, it looks like I either just blushed prettily (which olive-toned people simply do not do) or just ran a mile or two. In other words, the flush on my cheeks looks like it’s coming from the inside out. I’ll caution you – a little bit goes a long way, so just a dab will do ya.
With fall here and winter on the horizon, another makeup item to make my list is Nars Pressed Powder foundation. Since I’m not sweating like a pig in cooler weather (I’m sorry, but summer is beastly in the sweat department), my skin is generally clear and needs very little in the way of coverage or correction. This powder foundation actually looks creamy when applied to your skin and gives you a perfect finish that doesn’t look made up. Nars makes this foundation in dozens of colors (with lots of olive tones to choose from) so you’re bound to find the right shade that works for you.
The last makeup item on my list is Kiss Me Mascara by Bliss. I am obsessed with this mascara because it doesn’t run and it comes off super easily with no mess. It gives great length and coverage without clumping and I’m pretty much sold on this for life. I’ve tried Dior Show and a bunch of other high end mascaras, but I hate having to use makeup remover to get them off at the end of the day. Call me lazy, but that’s one additional step in my already extensive night time routine of trying to keep my 30-something skin looking 20-something.
Speaking of keeping your skin looking young, I love love love this moisturizer called Sugar Crystal Cream by Korres (which happens to be a Greek company). In the winter, my skin gets dry and flaky and I start to look like a snake shedding my skin. This lovely moisturizer keeps my skin soft, supple and flake-free. Plus, even when I’m having a breakout, it doesn’t aggravate or exacerbate my skin. It’s gentle and definitely a keeper.
While I could definitely go on and on here, there’s one more product that I wanted to share with you. L’Oreal’s Elnett hairspray. I found out about this item when I was visiting Tallahassee and staying with my friend Meg. I needed to borrow hairspray and she handed a sample size of this to me (it came with her shampoo). I sprayed away, went to breakfast, threw my hair in a pony tail, drove 7 hours, let my hair down…and it still looked great. Um, what? Give me a case please! Seriously, I used to buy a ridiculously expensive hairspray from Sephora, but I’ve happily switched to this drug store find for all of my hair-setting needs.
Well, there you have it. I should add (although it goes without saying) that I’m clearly not getting paid to endorse these products. I just happen to like them and thought that you might too.
So tell me, what products can’t you live without? I’m always looking to add to my arsenal!

Calling All Parents Of Picky Eaters. Help!

Okay folks, I need your help. Parker is a notoriously picky eater. He’s sensitive to textures, colors and of course, taste. It used to be that he would only eat chicken nuggets, meatballs, plain spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and pizza (none of which I’m particularly thrilled about anyways) as his main sources of protein. While you could occasionally convince him to eat an egg or a turkey dog, it wasn’t a sure thing. Now, he won’t eat anything with regularity and I’m not sure if his eating habits are changing or if he’s just testing his boundaries. Regardless, I’m starting to dread mealtime because it’s become such a battle.
Here’s usually how it goes:
Me: What would you like for dinner Parker?

Parker: What are my options?

Me: Your options for dinner are meatballs or chicken nuggets.

Parker: I want something else.

Me: Would would you prefer instead of meatballs or chicken nuggets?

Parker. Can I please have macaroni and cheese mama?

Me: Sure (I then make the mac and cheese).

Parker: (Takes two bites). I don’t like this, I want something else.

Me: That’s not an option. You requested mac and cheese and now you need to eat it.

Parker: *Cue the whining, arguing, pleading, fussing*

Me: *Cue digging heels in and sticking to my guns*
Now, I’d like to state a couple of things for the record. I’ve tried every variation of this conversation. I’ve forced him to pick from the choices I initially offered, I have removed choice entirely, I have left it open so that he can pick what he eats. Suffice it to say that we always get to the “I want something else” battle.
Now, he will eat carbs and fruit endlessly, but strawberries and goldfish don’t make a meal. He’ll also consistently eat straight peanut butter or a cheese stick, but I feel like we need add in a bit more variety. We always offer to let him sample what we’re eating for dinner, but 90% of the time, he won’t even taste it (even for a bribe). Part of the reason for that is his issue with herbs (of all things). He found a speck of parsley on his pizza and wouldn’t touch another bite until it was removed. I mean, this is the kid that will happily eat boogers, dirt and grass outside. What gives?
I think that I’m doubly frustrated because I’m already offering him things that I consider to be crap. Sure, I can buy the organic mac and cheese and 100% natural chicken nuggets, but they’re still processed foods.
So that’s where you all come in. Please help! How do you get your picky eaters to eat? What foods might work easily that I haven’t thought of? I haven’t tried making cute shapes with his food or going the creative route. Has anyone had success with that? Seriously, any feedback you could give would be greatly appreciated over here. I just want dinnertime to be happy again and Parker to eat the best foods I can get in him.

Mini Pecan Pie Bites

First and foremost, I cannot take credit for these ridiculously good pecan pie bites. I found the recipe online at tastykichen.com the Irishman’s request, but as soon as I sampled my first bite, I knew I had to share them with all of you. Add in the fact that they require only 5 ingredients and cook in less than 30 minutes and these officially made their way onto my “keeper” list. Plus, we are closing in on the holiday season where we’re all going to need to contribute something at Thanksgiving, Christmas or the random office and school parties that we all attend and these are seriously perfect.
Here’s what you need:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup softened butter
2 whole eggs
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees for starters. Then, stir together the brown sugar, flour and pecans in a medium size bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the softened butter and eggs until smooth. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until they’re combined and then spoon the batter into greased mini muffin tins or a mini muffin pan. Fill the cups about 3/4 full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Needless to say, these are beyond phenomenal when served warm. So go forth this fall baking season and knock the socks off of your friends, family and coworkers with this simple recipe.

When You’re Running (Literally) On Empty

Trying to stick with my running these last couple of months has been fairly challenging. If you’ll recall, I didn’t start my running journey until Parker was about 15 months old, so this is my first experience with running while pregnant. During my last trip at the preggo rodeo, I was a spinning instructor and I can assure you, it’s much easier to pull back your level of exertion while your sitting on a stationary bike than it is when you’re out pounding the pavement.
Still, regardless of the constant nausea and fatigue, I wasn’t willing to give running up for the year. I did a couple of pain-free half marathons last year, so I was hesitant to lose the conditioning that took me years to achieve. Instead, I needed to find a way to work with my limitations. As I was thinking about this blog post, I realized that these running modifications would just as easily apply to someone who is feeling a bit under the weather, recovering from an illness, or just getting back into a running routine postpartum. So, here are the changes that I made, which have allowed me to keep heading out to the track even though what I really wanted to do was head to bed or hug a toilet. It’s gross, but it’s true.
1. Go slower. This one was a no-brainer. When you’re not functioning at 100%, you need not push yourself 100%. Just head out nice and easy and either run alone or run with someone who will be respectful of your pace. Your body naturally wants to match the pace of your running partners, so make sure that you choose them wisely.
2. If you need to walk, then walk. This one was hard for me to stomach. I generally like to plow forward, body be damned, but when you’re pregnant (or sick or recovering), you can’t do that. Listen to your body and if you’re straining to keep going, just pull it back to a walk until you’re sufficiently recovered.
3. Break up your runs. I have found that I simply don’t have enough gas in my tank to head out for a straight 6-8 mile run. Exerting yourself for upwards of an hour or 90 minutes takes a toll on your body and I was really feeling the fatigue at about the 50 minute mark. So, I broke up my runs and now I head out twice a day, doing shorter mileage for each run. This way, I’m able to maintain my mileage, but respect my body’s new limits.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on your fluids. Dehydration is not only dangerous, but you’ll feel horrible at the end of your run. Either carry your water/Gatorade with you or plan frequent water stops.
5. Know when to call it a day. I think the most important lesson here is to make sure that you’re taking your cues from your body. When I’m in perfect health and not serving as a human incubator, I will plow onwards knowing that my body will follow my will. It may hurt, it may be hard, but I’ll be damned if I quit before I reach my goals. When you’re operating under special circumstances, it’s a whole other ball game. I generally take the better safe than sorry approach. If I start to feel off, I know that it’s time to throw in the towel and get some rest regardless of whether I only did a fraction of the mileage that I wanted to for that run.
Well folks, that’s pretty much it. The key is to keep going out there and trying. Generally, I found that my nausea went away during my runs (I was too focused on my stride, breathing,..) and it’s pretty generally accepted that the endorphins you generate while working out will help you feel better post-run than you did before. So go out there and give it a shot. Even if you need to make modifications to your workouts, you should rarely count yourself down and out.

Boiled Peanuts

When I was an undergrad at Florida State, I had a game day ritual. Six minutes before halftime, I would head down to the concessions area and pick up a large Powerade and some boiled peanuts, which would provide my nourishment during the halftime show. I remember the salty goodness of the briny peanuts that were the perfect snack on either a hot or cool day. As a result, boiled peanuts and the fall football season became intimately linked in my mind.
Fast forward a couple of years and we’re now living in the middle of boiled peanut country. Almost every North Carolina country road has a boiled peanuts stand completely with a huge silver pot cooking immeasurable quantities of peanuts. Whenever I pass by these stands, it seems like I always see them a second too late to stop, which has resulted in an unintentional peanut fasting these last couple of years.
Well, last weekend on my drive back from Tallahassee, I finally saw one with enough time to stop. I walked up to the stand with anticipation just as another car was pulling away, but before I could utter a word, the girl informed me that the car that just left bought all of her peanuts. Oh the humanity! I must have looked utterly crestfallen because she quickly grabbed a plastic baggy and said, “I think I have about 7 peanuts left. You can have them free of charge.” And so I left the peanut stand, pitiful baggy in hand, forlorn and dejected.
My dejection didn’t last long though because as I swung by the grocery store on my way into town, I saw a bag of big, fat raw peanuts just begging to be boiled. With renewed energy, I went home and vowed to make them the next day. And I did. And they were everything I’d ever dreamed of. The end.
Just kidding. Here’s how you too can make your own boiled peanuts at home!
For a 2 lb. bag peanuts, you’ll need about 3/4 or 1 cup of salt. Just wash your peanuts, put them in a large stock pot, fill the pot with water, add the salt and bring them to a boil. They’re going to boil for about 3-4 hours, so you’ll want to check on them every 30 minutes or so to make sure that they have enough water in them. I almost burned them right at the end when the water evaporated too quickly. Make sure to add more water (and a little bit of salt) as you need to.
After about 3 hours, check a peanut to taste the firmness. You’ll want to cut the heat right before they’re perfectly cooked. I like my to retain a little bit of a bite to them and not to be soggy or mushy. Then, my friend Jason posted this very helpful tip – once they’re just about done, turn off the heat and let the peanuts sit in the brine. As they fill up with the juices, they will start to sink and this soaking/cooling process helps them get salty. Taste them every 15 minutes or so and drain the brine when they’re just right according to your preferred level of saltiness.
I like my incredibly salty, so I err on the side of 1 cup of salt and I let them soak for a good bit. Seriously, they were incredibly tasty. I was quite pleased…and very full. You can also experiment with different types of flavors, but I’m a sucker for the original. I hope that you all will enjoy this Southern tradition as much as I have.

The Prettiest City In Geogia

A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of meeting some dear friends in the darling city of Savannah, Georgia. Two of our friends who met us there have a sweet 3-year-old girl, so Parker had a friend for the trip, which was nice since he’s usually the only little person around. It was a fun-filled trip with lots of sightseeing, eating, playing and sweating. Good Lord was it HOT there! Here are a (ridiculous) number of photos from our trip, which explains why it took me 2 weeks to finally write this blog post. Enjoy the mini-tour of Savannah!
We arrived on Friday night and started off our trip with a bang…literally. There was a fireworks show on the river, which was very close to our hotel, so after dinner, we wandered over to the river to check it out. Neither of the kiddos seemed overly impressed with it and we had all had a very long day, so we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.
The next morning, everyone was fresh and ready to go. The kids put on their conductors hats and we hopped on the trolley for a morning tour of the city.
We made it half way through the tour and hopped off at Forsyth Park. Across the street was the Mansion at Forsyth and adjoining hotel, which is where the Irishman and I stayed 4 years ago when I was 33 weeks pregnant with Parker.
There was also a playground there where the kids got a chance to burn off some energy.
After a bit, we hopped back on the trolley and made our way back to the river where there happened to be some bounce houses and this crazy, ridiculously fast slide. I swear, Parker must have been going upwards of 30 miles per hour. The child was a blur coming down!
He loved it of course. After bouncing and racing down the slide, we settled in for lunch. Did I mention that it was hot outside?
After lunch, we walked down the historic river bank…
and then we got back on the trolley to check out the railroad museum before it closed for the day. Needless to say, Parker was seriously excited to see the trains and the roundhouse with the train sheds.
Later that evening, we tried to take some pictures of the kids. Check out my little ham.
We did manage to get a couple of sweet pictures (of the 86 that I took), but the above picture definitely catches Parker’s spirit and silliness.
The next day, we decided to walk around some of the squares in Historic Savannah. There were beautiful tree lined streets…
and cannons…
and other great shady spots for taking pictures.
Then, Parker got to sit in time out right in front of the Mercer House where Jim Williams shot and killed his “friend.” In case you’re wondering what the time out was for, Parker ran across the street without holding one of our hands.
After that, we headed out to Tybee Island. Here’s the Tybee lighthouse, which I believe is the oldest in Georgia.
After the lighthouse, we headed over to the Crab Shack, which was a fun (and tasty) outdoor restaurant.
The Irishman and I taught Parker to take out his aggression on the Gators. Boo Hiss!
And there actually were a number of live alligators, which we wisely counseled Parker not to punch in the face. We are the pinnacle of responsible parents.
I thought this sign was cute.
Then we chowed down. Parker had crackers and a hot dog while the Irishman and I split a seafood boil. He ate the sausage, corn, potatoes and shrimp while I had the crawfish, crab legs, mussels and the other half of the shrimp.
They also had a cute little Cat Shack there…
…with this hilarious sign.
Finally, Parker got a chance to feed the alligators.
We headed back into Savannah and let Parker beat the heat by playing in the fountains at Ellis Square.
I saved the best picture for last – tell me that this kid does not look just like Michael Jackson striking a pose here. I have no idea what he was doing, but it sure does look funny.
All in all, it was great to catch up with friends and I think we all had a pretty good time.

Spilling the Beans

Oh my goodness does it feel good to finally share our wonderful news! It also is an incredible relief to be able to tell you that I’ve been nauseas for about 2 months now and have not been able to consume much beyond starch (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread…), hence the serious drop-off in recipes on this little blog. Let’s hope the second trimester is better in the food consumption department. My other main symptom is this incredible fatigue. By about 3-4pm, I’m simply exhausted and it’s all I can do to finish up my day before crashing around 7:30pm…you know, a whopping 1 hour before my regular geriatric bedtime.
I can’t even begin to describe the incredible range of emotions that I’ve gone through over the last 10 weeks. Directly on the heels of pure joy came terror, apprehension, fear and above all, a fierce protectiveness of Parker. I never want him to feel brushed aside or replaced, so we included him from the second that we found out that I was pregnant. He had a hoot calling up our families and telling them that he was going to be a big brother.
While I’ve been much more relaxed during this pregnancy that I was with Parker, there’s still that tiny seed of fear that worms into your thoughts during the first trimester. By the time you make it to your first ultrasound appointment, you’re laying on the examination table fervently hoping that you’ll be greeted by the sight of a heartbeat. And when you see that beautiful heartbeat, your own heart just floods with relief and delight. There’s nothing quite like seeing that little bean for the first time. Wiggling their little body and flexing their limbs, they become real to you in that moment. I actually said aloud, “Well, hello there.”
So for the next six and a half months, it’s time to catch up on sleep, love on my boys and revel in the thought that a little person is growing in my womb by leaps and bounds. We feel so incredibly blessed to get to go on this crazy ride a second time around.