Thursday, February 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday x3

I love this social media trend, but I never get around to posting for it, myself. In the last week, however, random hometown acquaintances have surprised me in my FB newsfeed with THREE throwback shots of *my* mug!!! So now I have #TBT to share:

My three-year-old preschool class newspaper clipping! I love that I still know some of these people today. Can you find me? [Clue: the photog should've told me to put my knees together & sit up straight!]

Little elementary me! (I have to be younger than Annelise here. I wore this sweater in my Kinder school pic, but I think this is probably 1st Grade? Could be 2nd, though - I was the tinest girl in my grade until 9th. :-P)

Fast forward at least ten years from the last shot to October 1995 for me in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar - this was the show that really launched my passion for dance. [I took dance lessons my whole childhood, starting at age 2, so I was a very competent dancer; but as a performer, I focused extra attention on singing & acting. Being the Dance Captain of this show (+ losing 20 lbs in the two months of rehearsals!!!) is what turned my attention more seriously to dance.]

Monday, February 24, 2014

Daddy Daughter Dance Night

Saturday night was JB & Annelise's Daddy Daughter Dance. ♥ They got ready...
And we all went out to a fabulous family dinner at our fave, Taste of Texas. Mmmmmmm... Sweet note: one of the desserts there is served with a sparkler...which when it burns smells *exactly* like our family's beloved Tweetsie Railroad. We hadn't seen the sparkler at the table behind us, but the instant he smelled it, Will quietly looked over at me. His eyes welled up with a few honest tears, and he whispered, "I sure do miss Tweetsie." It may sound silly, but it was honestly one of the most precious moments of my life - to see his genuine display of quiet, pure emotion. ♥ Melted me to bits.

Will & I dropped off our daddy & daughter, and we ran a few errands: bookstore and Bath & Body Works. (He has decided he loves the scent of "Ocean for Men" - I know now what his teen years will smell like! :-D *sniff* :'))

JB & Annelise had a ball! They had a carriage ride, gelato, danced, and rocked the photo booth:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Friday Night RODEO Lights

Friday Night Lights in February = a little different than in the fall, but no less fun! :-) We went to our town's annual rodeo Friday night and had a ball. It was obviously a lot smaller than Houston's (which starts in another week & is literally the biggest rodeo IN THE WORLD), but they still had all the events, and the atmosphere made me feel like I was back at my hometown county fair. We watched Bareback Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Steer Wrestling, Stickhorse Race (kids 5 & under :-)), Ladies Breakaway Roping, Mutton Bustin' (6 yr olds under 50 lbs.), Calf Roping, Tie-Down Roping, Team Roping, Calf Scramble, Barrel Racing, & Bull Riding. What are all those crazy events??? Don't worry - I had no clue before last year, either. ;-) Here is a pic of each, and also a cool "Rodeo 101" explanation guide. Y'all get prepped now for the BIG one in March! :-D

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Elsa, the Betta

The Blake family has expanded by one: welcome Annelise's crowntail betta, Elsa! (a la Frozen ;-)) [& yes, she's really a boy fish, but we don't have gender issue hang-ups, so she can rock her Elsa-dress scales with pride! :-D "She's not getting married or having babies, so it doesn't matter." Ha!]

Last summer at church, everyone who memorized their Bible verses got their names put in a bowl to win a fish. Annelise asked us if she could still get a fish, even if she didn't win, as long as she memorized all her verses. JB said, "Sure," ...and then we all promptly forgot. Fast forward to last weekend: "Remember when you said I could get my fish?" They never forget. ;-)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Run 4 The Children

I've said it for years: "I do NOT run."

But I admit, I have been curious as I've grown in fitness via Zumba what I could be able to do *IF* I ever tried. I've seen friends on FB who say they couldn't make it through one of my classes w/o taking a break do 5k's, and 5k's seem so "trendy" yeah. I was curious.

But not looking to actively do anything about that curiosity...until Run 4 The Children.

We have a bunch of friends who have or are in the process of adopting children, and this race is an annual fundraiser benefitting adoption. When our worship leader encouraged us on the Praise Team to sign up, I shockingly thought, "Why not?" It's a rare family-friendly (even stroller-friendly) professionally chip-timed 4-mile race that has a 2-mile shortcut. I *knew* the kids & I could - at the very least - walk 2 miles, so we could sign up to support the cause, get to be a part of the party, and run/walk pressure-free. I wouldn't need to worry about being mowed down by professional runners using this race to qualify for their next marathon. :-P

I still couldn't believe I had voluntarily signed up to *run*, but when I picked up our shirts, bibs, & packets Friday morning, it felt real. :-) [They were for me & the kids; JB was at an all-day youth football league board meeting.] Of course, we were thrown a couple wrenches: 1) Annelise fell off her bike Friday afternoon & shredded her knee into a bloody mess! I'm talking 3 giant extra-large bandaids. And 2) the kids were up until after MIDNIGHT Friday night at open gym while we went out for Valentine's. (Their normal bedtime is by 8 PM!) Surprisingly, neither had a negative impact: the kids woke up cheerful & ready to run on Saturday, and Annelise swore up & down that her knee did not really hurt. Thumbs up!

We were still wavering on whether we'd run the 4-mile course or take the 2-mile shortcut, even at start time. :-P Will wanted to run out ahead of us; I gave him permission to run ahead of me as long as he promised to never ever leave the course and stay always in view of people in our race. (I was VERY familiar with the route and many people running, so I really did feel it would be safe.) I stayed with Annelise the whole race. When we hit the shortcut, she wanted to take it, and I talked her out of it, b/c we were doing so well. I'm SO GLAD I did, b/c she absolutely had it in her to not only complete the whole distance, but to BEAT WILL by 4 minutes! :-D Awww, yeah!

Ready to start!

Action selfie to prove I really did this!

3-mile mark!

Seeing Will sent Sis charging ahead with fresh steam ;-)

Girls finish 4 minutes ahead of Will!

Family success!

And now for your viewing amusement, our complete in-race commentary! :-D

I'm still not a running convert. (I can't imagine having to actually train for a run! Running by myself would be the height of boredom for me - I don't want peace & solitude, I want a pack of friends pumping me up! :-D) I'm definitely where I belong in Group Fitness, but I could do this race annually. :-) It HAS to have a big party attached at the end to make me show up! :-P Doing this race was fun, b/c there were tons of happy people interacting (not spacing out in their own worlds with their ear buds) & a big celebration at the end. Plus, it was a GORGEOUS day! I simply require the shared enthusiasm & energy of others in a party atmosphere to willingly exercise, (which I guess is why Zumba has stuck with me! :-))

I will say, though, I was honestly shocked at how much more I felt I could've done, had I been w/o offspring. ;-) Annelise & I ran the entire first mile, then alternated run/walking the rest...and I was dying to drag her faster & faster. I was in full-on cheerleader "you can do it!" mode the entire time. :-D

So, curiosity satisfied. Not only could I do a 5k, but my kids & I did a 6.4k! (4 mi = 6.4 k) That's one check mark that was buried awfully deep on my bucket list. ;-)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's 2014 (& the Vagabond!)

We've never put big expectations on Valentine's Day. JB & I have been together for 16 years, and our first Valentine's Day in the same time zone was 3 years in! (I was living in Germany & he at grad school in WI for the 1st; I was finishing Davidson in NC while he was still in WI for the 2nd.) I think b/c it's so "no pressure" for us, it usually ends up being full of surprising fun!

This year, JB invented a character: the Valentine's Vagabond. Yeah. :-P "He brings you things, but not necessarily what you ask for; more like whatever he finds available." :-D The sheer genius of this is that it's purely about fun, not "stuff". The kids don't need anything Santa-esque, but they're so excited for ANYTHING that shows up unexpectedly: a bag of Goldfish! Hershey kisses! A little flashlight! Cereal! Tic-tacs! Pencils! The Vagabond was a huge hit - and I love that my husband is that creative. ;-)

Rocking out to my Valentine's card from JB in the car line on the way to school:

As Homeroom Mom, I ran Will's 4th grade class Valentine's party, so I was able to take this class picture:
One boy gave Valentine cards that were punch-out paper animal mask glasses, so they all put them on - super cute! (Yes, I already submitted it to the yearbook. ;-)) Will's in the #11 jersey.

Friday night, the kids were thrilled to go to open gym (where Annelise takes gymnastics) from 7 PM - MIDNIGHT! :-O JB & I took advantage of the entire time slot by going out to dinner at Palma de Cera (outstanding Colombian cuisine!) and then to a movie (The Monuments Men - I didn't care that the reviews are blah. WWII movies are my ultimate favorite genre, and I love this cast, so I was happy to give it a chance! Best film ever? Nah, but we DID enjoy it. :-))

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Off My Wall: Fan, Vet, Shattered, Warmth, Yay!

Random shareworthies for the week on my mind and off my FB wall:

* I got to sing in church last Sunday, and the sweetest thing happened: a random little girl walked up onstage at the end of the first service while most of the congregation was filing out the back. She stood there for a second looking at me, so I bent down & smiled, "Hi! What's your name?" One thing I feel really comfortable with is having conversations with kids, so I just chatted with her for a while until her mom got up to the apron of the stage. I introduced myself to the mom, and she said, "She just saw you singing and said, 'Mom, I have to meet her.' She saw a kindred spirit!" ♥♥♥!!!!! I mean... Is there a higher compliment? My heart is still so full that the Holy Spirit made a connection with this young girl via our worship music.

* After church last Sunday, we made the pilgrimage most American families seem to have made to The LEGO Movie. :-D "Everything is awesome!"

* Bonnie Blue beagle had a PERFECT vet visit!!! She's almost 12 (*gulp*) & you never know what's going to show up as they age; I was honestly dreading this visit, but the vet couldn't stop going on about her perfect condition, esp. as a "senior citizen". ♥ Yay for our old lady puppy!!! Silly rolling on her back:

* This is the 2nd large Pampered Chef batter bowl we've shattered in 5 years. :'( I am NOT a mom who does well cleaning up messes; I'd rather sit & cry until my prince swoops in...but my prince has done enough by tackling my most dreaded daily chore (dirty dishes) so I got this. Fun fact: tiny shards of glass are invisible in water on the floor, but your hand will easily be able to find them...

* There was a huge ice & snow event in the southeast this last week. I was so happy my friends back in NC & ATL were enjoying the snow...and even HAPPIER that I didn't have to be near a single nasty freaking flake!!!! God bless Texas!!!! :-D I flipped with joy when I saw our forecast last Thursday. It's been WAAAY colder than normal here this winter - average Jan/Feb highs are low 60's with lows in the 40's, but we've had so many days in the 30's & 40's. We did *NOT* move here for that crud!!! So thankful for the forecast change and the gorgeous blue skies & sunshine we've finally got back!!!

* On Thursday afternoon, Will biked home from school with a buddy, and since he beat me & Annelise (we walked :-)) he started his homework in the driveway. :-) It was such a gorgeous afternoon, we all plopped ourselves out there to read & soak up the vitamin D! After paying my yankee snow dues with loooong winters in WI, MI, & Chicago, it would be a sin not to fully revel in this answered prayer!!!

* I'm not big on boxed meals, but I couldn't help but try a Cooksimple meal starter when their "Non-GMO Project Verified" label caught my eye at the store. I love their story, and their Cowboy Chili was a hit with ALL FOUR members of this household = unheard of outside pizza & plain pasta! (It wasn't spicy enough for JB, which is precisely why the kids still liked it; but he could add hot sauce = no problem.)

* CONGRATULATIONS, ANNELISE!!! She handed me an envelope (right before bed, of course :-P) from school...with a notice that she's been cast with a special speaking part in her big 2nd grade musical on March 6th!!! She wants details of the musical to be super secret, though, so I can't even tell you what it's about, b/c she won't let me know, yet. :-D

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Texas Truck Owners

We bought a truck. Because we live in Texas now, so it seems fitting. :-P

Seriously, JB's beloved almost-12-year-old Aztek bit the dust last month (the engine repair would cost more than it was worth) so we had to bite the bullet & replace it. It's no secret that 1) I hate spending $ on cars = depreciating assets, and 2) saving & prepping to buy a house here next year is WAAAY more important to me! ...But I will be the 1st to admit, our lifestyle is not conducive to being a one-car household, (trust me - my cheap self tried several days in b/t rentals & test drives over those 3 interim weeks!) so we finally took care of business last Saturday.

It's a new 2013 (yes, I know that's last year, but it was still new & just cheaper than model year 2014) sterling grey Ford F-150. Oooo & ahhh! :-)

It will be sooo great hauling all our football equipment, and truthfully, I'm excited to ride in it out on the beach!

We were really blessed to get an UNBELIEVEABLE trade-in deal on the Aztek. It was literally worth maybe $50? Pristine Blue Book value was $500, and we all know it was far from pristine... But God worked it out! We had to have it towed to the dealer, b/c it literally could not make the 20-minute drive w/o dying, but we ended up getting a TON of credit toward the truck = praise!!!

I was a bit misty to see it go... It was my primary vehicle for two years before we got the van when Annelise was three weeks old. It was the vehicle that brought both of our babies home from the hospital. It was the one of the few constants we had over all of our crazy moves...

Thanks for keeping us safe all those years!

Closing fun note: on our lunch break (Grub Burger Bar! OMIGOSH! ♥) from the truck quest, we saw a real General Lee!!! Now *that* made me smile (& Will flip out! :-D)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Why Costco Is Worth It

The newest Costco in Texas opened this Thursday! I posted on FB:
Partied at the newest Costco's grand opening just a few miles from our house!!! JOY!!! Best part of a Costco event? Sample overload!!! Chocolate-covered berries, croissants, rotisserie chicken, sirloin beef tips, chicken tortilla soup, ribs, chicken salad, broccoli kale salad, meatballs, frozen yogurt, quinoa & kale salad, vitamix smoothies, crackers, fresh bread w/ avocado oil, caramel apples, cinnamon swirl cake, etc... Mmmmm...

A sweet friend who was interested in possibly joining now that there's one so close asked me why it's worth a membership for us. I didn't realize I was so passionate about Costco ;-) but all this poured out:

For us, Costco is sooo worth it. I buy all our toilet paper, paper towels, & laundry detergent there. I get a (HUGE!!! DELISH!!! $4.99) rotisserie chicken about once a week, (we usually get two meals out of it,) and it's also the only place I buy gas: $2.93 right now, (current avg: $3.05). I've been going to Costco in the city, b/c it's just one more exit down the interstate after I teach Zumba Mon & Wed, but I'm excited to have this one closer to pop in w/o it being a M or W! ;-) Their inexpensive store brand, Kirkland, is excellent quality, too - I'll feel confident buying Kirkland anything. I don't go crazy in there & spend $300 a trip; I just go every week or so & get what I need, so I don't fall prey as easily to "all the cool stuff." :-D I get lots of kids' school lunch snacks there, too - Annie's Organic Bunnies, Belvita crackers, etc. One more thing: we only had a Sam's where we lived in south GA before moving here, so we had to join there for a year. There is NO comparison! Sam's had fewer options for everything; Costco usually has several at higher quality. Example: applesauce - Sam's had giant regular jars or brand name regular cups. Costco has those as well as no sugar added versions in brand name and their Kirkland, and organic versions as well. Sam's had so few organic & healthier options.

I didn't mention many of our other fave items: organic frozen fruit (esp. cherries & mango!), organic frozen veggies, fresh grape tomatoes, clementines, protein powder, chocolate chips, coconut water, Chobani yogurt cups, Ling Ling All Natural Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers, Plats du Chef French Onion Soup, Eat Smart Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad Kit, Pasta Prima Grilled Chicken & Mozzarella Ravioli, Santa Barbara Mango Salsa with Peach, Kirkland Signature Tortilla Strips, Golden Island Natural Grilled Korean Barbeque Pork Jerky, Popcorners, Amylu Sweet Caramelized Onion Chicken Burgers, Nature's Earthly Choice Freekeh, Nutiva Organic Raw Shelled Hemp Seed, Better Than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base, etc., etc....

My friend, Stacy, also included this stellar point: "Not only is Costco an awesome place to shop, but they are head & shoulders above so many other retail companies (and *especially* Sam's/Walmart). While Walmart keeps employees at around 35 hours to avoid paying benefits, Costco's part-time employees who work 25 hrs/wk get full benefits - including employee matching! I feel so much better giving my money to a company like Costco." Amen.

So, I'm getting nothing for this post, (Costco - if it takes off, can I have next year's membership for free? :-D I'm here for you! ;-)) but I feel like it's a valuable thing to get an honest, unbribed opinion.

[If you're reading this the weekend I'm posting, there's an amazing online deal on memberships for NEW members only. Doesn't help me, but maybe it will help you! (Not an affiliate link.) :-)]

Friday, February 7, 2014

Go Red for Women

Today is National Wear Red Day®. It's part of the GO RED FOR WOMEN campaign by the American Heart Association to bring awareness to heart disease in women, so I went red! Even at my Barbell Strength class this morning!

Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America. It's given the women in my family some serious scares, (and has taken the lives of the men genetically closest to me.) "An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease, yet only one in five women believe heart disease is her greatest health threat." :-O It's scary business, but we can reduce the risk with exercise and a healthy diet. (Did y'all hear that exercise part??? Come Zumba with me!!! :-))

Go red all February long! ♥

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Monogrammed Yoga Mat

Y'all know good & well that I will monogram anything & EVERYTHING I possibly can. The latest & greatest: my new yoga mat!!!

JB & the kids gave it to me for Christmas, and I had my lady (yes, I have an embroidery lady just a quick text away! :-D) monogram it in gold thread for me. I cannot tell you how many people have stopped me in the yoga studio to ask where I got it!!! Even the yogi in the kids' class we take together on Wednesdays after school went nuts over it today. :-) Pleased as punch!!! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February Already?!

How is it February already?! January absolutely FLEW by!!! Notes on the last week or so...

* My sweet mom had a total knee replacement surgery last week and came through great. :-) She was only in the hospital 3 days and is rocking her PT at home. It obviously wasn't a fun thing, but I'm so excited for her healing & (eventually) pain-free future!!!

* Will is addicted to "The Dukes of Hazzard" (yes, from 1979) & Annelise sings the "Frozen" soundtrack nonstop, often at the top of her lungs. (Where does she get that??? ;-))

* And how cute is she with Bonnie Blue Beagle here???

* I did plow pose in an Ashtanga yoga class for the first time last week. (I usually just take Yin yoga, but I actually had time to stay after for Ashtanga Thursday. :-))

* I FINALLY sat down & digiscrapped our Disney trip - this is HUGE!!! I was really guilt tripping myself over procrastinating, but it was such an overwhelming project: 17 pages. (I'll share the pages when I get them uploaded to Shutterfly.) So now onto Turf Bowl, Gingerbread Houses, Christmas, Downtown Aquarium, New Year's, American Girl, the Alamo...

* I ate too much (what else is new?!) at our friends' super fun Super Bowl party. Oatmeal raisin cookies are healthy-ish...until you eat ten. :-P

* Annelise had the roughest tumbling class of her short life on Monday - her normal coach (who coddles her & whom she obviously adores) had a sub...& this guy was awesome - pointing out every single error to fix! But my perfect pumpkin broke down, b/c her average passable was being called out for corrections. It stung a twinge to see her cry, but she needed this!!! I loved it.

* I had my biannual dentist visit Tuesday = scheduling another crown (...and not a gorgeous sparkly one atop my head, either.) :-/ In a desperate grasp for the silver lining: 1) I'm thanking God for dental insurance, 2) it's way less work than I needed last year, 3) I definitely deserved Sbux afterwards. ;-) This latest one has been on the radar for two years; I just wasn't ready for the ax to fall today. (And technically, I could wait on it a little longer still - there's no pain associated; but I'm scared to risk it breaking on its own & then "just a crown" not being an option to save it.) I am SO THANKFUL, though, to NOT BE MOVING anymore, so I can stick with the same dentist for longer than a year or so, and truly get consistent care!!!

* Will will be taking a King Cake to school on Thursday to celebrate his Half Birthday. (Summer bday kids often bring treats for their class on their Half Birthdays. :-P Cute!) It *must* be store-bought [nothing homemade] with an ingredients list [allergy liability], and luckily our grocery store makes DELICIOUS ones for $5! Will LOVES that his half bday is close to Mardi Gras! This is becoming a tradition. :-) Now for me to figure out how to cull an extra slice for myself of out the 19 needed for his class...

* Speaking of cake, I *lovelovelove* the way Will sings "Sugar, Sugar" which he learned as the "Cake Boss" theme song: "Sugar, sugar! Ahh, honey, honey! You are my family, girl!" :-D

* BIGGIE: we have to buy or lease a new vehicle by the end of this week. :-O JB's car is dead in the driveway. We rented an extra car last week, and this week, I was blessed enough to have a fantastic friend recommend me for a free week-long GM test drive.
God knew we'd need it this week, and it's been the most wonderful gift to not only enjoy this fully-loaded luxury truck, but to get an extra buffer week to plan our real purchase. [I HATEHATEHATE spending money on depreciating assets!!! Barf. Stress-o-rama. Pray that God will make it very clear which vehicle we need to get and whether we should buy or lease. (No, beloveds. It won't be my dream Jeep. :'( Jeep time comes when the van finally dies...which, while I would love a Jeep now, really needs to hold off a few more years!!!)]