Friday, July 25, 2014

Dixon and D's

This week I've been trying to be intentional about having fun with the kids outside of the house since next week will be all about The Move. Last night I was browsing online and noticed that Dixon Gallery & Gardens offers Food Truck Fridays. A free, shady outdoor picnic amongst the butterflies--what more could you want?
 
We went earlier this afternoon, and it was just beautiful. I can't remember the last time I went to Dixon Gardens, but I don't remember it being quite this lovely. The grounds were in full summer bloom, it was maybe 75/80 degrees in the shade (unheard of in Memphis in July), and the kids and I just had a ball.
 

Enough of all that--Little Foot is ready to get a-picnickin'! :)


Every Friday (April to September), Dixon Gardens offers free shaded seating on the grounds during food truck hours (11:30AM-1:30PM).


I mean, how gorgeous is this?? Under the blessed shade of the umbrellas, we enjoyed a 100% sweat-free lunch in the beautiful outdoors (again, unheard of).


The gardens, the butterflies, the shade...it was just a perfect little picnic spot.




After polishing off our lunches, we toddled over to the food truck area for some refreshments. On this particular day MarksGrill and The Dog & Slaw were cooking up some delicious-smelling sandwiches and hot dogs. I made a mental note to check them out soon, but the kids and I had something a bit "cooler" in mind ;)


Ah, here we are: Mama D's Italian Ice!

Apparently Queen Elizabeth has started a photobombing trend amongst the 60+ crowd.

Mama D's offers both Italian ice and ice pops, both for $3.00.


Little Foot of course requested "pink" (a.k.a. strawberry lemonade), while I went for the hibiscus mint. Oh my goodness y'all.


The strawberry lemonade (background) reminded me very much of the strawberry fruit bars you can get at Disney. Cool and refreshing, perfect for a summer day. Perfectly frozen, too--not too hard, not too soft. Little Foot loved it :)

And mine? Without a doubt, one of the single greatest frozen treats I've ever enjoyed. The hibiscus and mint flavors just complimented each other beautifully; like a perfectly-iced fruit tea. I will most definitely be back!


Dixon Gardens hosts Food Truck Fridays every Friday (April through September) from 11:30AM-1:30PM. Admission to the gardens is free during food truck hours and (shaded!) outdoor seating is available.

Bottom line: Would I eat there again? Yes to Mama D's, and yes to Dixon Gardens :) A new favorite kid-friendly lunch spot is born!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dress-Up Storage Solution

Little Foot is four-and-a-half. Little Foot loves to play dress-up. And Little Foot has a lot--I mean a lot--of dress-up clothes. Dresses, shoes, tiaras, scepters--if it's pink, sparkly and princess-related, she's all in.

All this stuff, as you might imagine, has created a pretty serious storage problem. We actually started storing most of her larger dresses in our coat closet, simply because run-on-the-mill baskets either A.) couldn't contain them, or B.) smooshed them.

One of the pluses of our new house that we're moving into one week from today hallelujah! is the playroom. Finally we'll have a space other than our overcrowded den to store all the pieces of molded plastic that our children have accumulated.

Given that we'll soon have a room in the house dedicated to play, I figured it was time to buy (or build?) something specifically to house all of Little Foot's dress-up items.

A quick Google search of "dress-up storage center" led me to two main options: this and this. I like them both okay, although I wasn't crazy about the price points (around $150 each) or the fact that both seemed more scaled for two- and three-year olds. If I'm gonna pay that much, I definitely want the clothes to hang nicely you know?

So, I turned to Google Images (the anti-Pinterest version of Pinterest that I use in a pinch lol). Lo and behold, I found exactly what I was looking for! I pretty much followed this blogger's tutorial to the letter--check out the finished product!

 
Here's how we did it. First, get one of those standard pre-fab bookcases sold at Target, Wal-mart etc. I found this one at my local Wal-mart for around $27.


While waiting for my hubby to get home and assemble the bookcase, Little Foot and I got started on the colorful backing.


Grab a little spray adhesive...


Plus your favorite princess-/fairy-themed wrapping paper. (I'd been trying to use up this roll for ages and had just enough to complete the project--yay!)


Then simply hose down the board and paper with spray, press together firmly (taking care to smooth out any bubbles), and then trim around the edges.


Boom! Both pieces done in under 15 minutes.


Then watch the kids while your sweet hubby assembles the bookcase :)



(Or, you know, let them wrestle the minute he lays the thing on the ground. That too.)

As you can see, most pre-fab bookcases (including this one) have one fixed shelf for stability purposes. Initially I wasn't crazy about the placement of this unit's fixed shelf, but you'll see in a minute why I actually think it's a blessing in disguise :)

Tap your backing onto the bookcase...


And voila! You've got a very happy Snow White on your hands :)


Add a $4 curtain rod...


And some sparkly dresses (plus shoes/accessories as you saw in the first photo of this post), and you're done!

Going back to the placement of the fixed shelf, it meant that Little Foot's dresses hang too high for her to reach herself. However, she should soon be tall enough to reach them using maybe a step stool. It'll keep things tidier in the meantime, plus Boo Bear won't be able to reach them whatsoever ;) So again, blessing in disguise.
 
All told, The cost of newly-purchased supplies (bookcase, tension rod and pink basket) came to about $40. Not bad for something that elicited more squeals than Christmas morning! Once we're moved into our new home and decide the wall to which we want to anchor this piece, then I'll add jewelry hooks and a mirror to one of its sides so Little Foot can have a little accessory spot :)
 
Here's to never packing a single moving box again as long as I live! Oy vey, a girl can dream right?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Feeling Nostalgic

Wade and I have been talking about selling our house for quite some time. We actually listed it FSBO about three years ago (you know, during that whole "Great Recession" thing), but never received more than a couple low-ball offers.

So we took it off the market, continued to make improvements here and there, and basically just waited until the market was a bit more favorable.

About two months ago, we decided to give it another go. My husband got the yard into tip-top shape, while I spent many late-night hours spackling walls and painting trim and de-cluttering every last closet and cabinet.

On June 2nd, we listed the house. By the tenth of that same month, we'd accepted an offer! The time between listing and contract represents eight of the craziest days of my life. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say that the number of showings we had exceeded the number of days that it was on the market. One very exciting bidding war later, we accepted an amazing offer from first-time home buyers.

We couldn't have been more excited!

We pretty much knew which house we wanted to make an offer on before ours was even listed. It had everything--location, a little more square-footage in the form of a playroom for the kids, and a great backyard. After the requisite haggling, we were thrilled when the owners accepted our offer. (Which just happened to occur on June 16th--our seventh anniversary! Talk about perfect timing.)

So that's where we've been the last few weeks--doing home inspections, making/requesting repairs, boxing up our lives, etc. etc. etc. We'll close on both houses--old and new--late next week.

Few people may know this, but Wade's actually lived in our current house for more than 11 years. About seven/eight years ago (roughly six months before we got married), he undertook a massive renovation of the house during which he removed every shred of 1970s loveliness :)

I was feeling a little nostalgic recently and dug up a few photos of the house during its renovation in winter '06/spring '07. Let's have a look!

Here's our beautiful dining room now...


And here's what it looked like pre-reno. (You can also see where he pulled up all the downstairs tile and laid down hardwood like a boss.)


Here's our entry now...


And here it is in all its 1970s, tiled, lime green glory.


(These are the stairs before fresh carpet was installed. Oh, and check the smooth ceilings throughout--he sanded the popcorn off of everything!)


The bathroom transformations amaze me. Here's our upstairs guest bath...


And here it was about 7.5 years ago! (Please pardon his roommates' squalor. Boys will be boys!)


I mean tile, vanity, everything--he gutted it all!


Back downstairs again--here's our kitchen (all new appliances, new cabinets/island).


And here it is back in its bachelor days :)


Let's not forget the lovely nook...


'Cause it was ugly before my hubby got involved!


Okay, back upstairs now for one final--and in my opinion most dramatic--makeover. Our master bath :) Nice, right?



Well, you wouldn't believe what Wade had to do to get it looking like this. He moved the entry door (yes, really)...


Installed a separate shower so I could have a whirlpool tub all to myself (yes, really)...


(Such a beautiful sight she is, too.)


Fresh vanity, tile--the works!

 
I get a bit emotional thinking about it. I mean, this will always be the one house that my husband "fixed up" for us before we got married, you know? The one house we spent our newlywed days in. The one house we brought both of our beautiful babies home to... It's just been such a special, special place for our family. It's been "home."
 
But now, it's time to move on :) We can't wait to move into our new home, fix it all up and start making some new memories. To the next chapter!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Weight Watchers Weight-In: Week 1

Last time around, my first week on Weight Watchers was pretty massive. (I think I lost around five pounds.) This time around...it was even more massive. Here's the deets:

Starting weight: 159.5.lbs.
Current weight: 151.5 lbs.
Week #1 Change: -8.0 lbs.
Total Change: -8.0 lbs.
Left To Go: -14.5 lbs.

So, obviously, eight pounds is a pretty unhealthy amount of weight to lose in a single week. While I attribute a good 2-3 pounds of it to fat loss, there were three other factors that almost certainly contributed a couple pounds each to the total:
  1. I absolutely gorged myself the night before my first weigh-in. (Feast before the famine, so to speak.)
  2. My first weigh-in also happened to fall on my most bloated day of the month. Ahem.
  3. Last night I randomly had a terrible bout of stomach upset. Have absolutely no clue what brought it on, but thankfully I'm fine now.
So yes to be clear, losing eight pounds in one week is not something to strive for, it is not something one should ever hope to achieve multiple weeks in a row, nor is it ever something I think that I could ever achieve multiple weeks in a row unless, you know, I started cutting off appendages or something.

Actually sticking to the program itself has been no sweat--like riding a bike. Oatmeal/toast in the AM, Lean Cuisine for lunch, ice cream in the afternoon, sensible dinner in the evening. (I actually detailed some sample meal ideas last summer--click here if you're interested in the nitty-gritty of what I actually eat every day.)

Here's to a huge Week #1, and here's to a much more sensible Week #2 :)

07.21.2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

On Grace and Responsibility

It's a rare day that some sort of political diatribe doesn't pop up on my Newsfeed. Sometimes the ranting and raving comes from the left; more often, it's from the right. (This imbalance probably stems from the fact that most of my Facebook friends lean conservative, but moving on.)

What concerns me most, however, is the fact that so many of the rantings and ravings are initiated by fellow believers.

And to them I say: Brothers and sisters, enough. Enough.

Pretty much any discussion can turn heated if you let it. But choose a current event from the Fox News roster--marriage equality; health care; heck, even free lunches for impoverished kids--and you're pretty much guaranteed a tirade on some platform or another. Tweets, message boards, comment threads, "Obama this," "Obama that." It's just all so toxic and evil, friends.

Enough.

The conservative's argument often goes, "I work hard, I provide for my own kids, I shouldn't have to provide for some lazy such-and-such's food/health care/etc, too."

Side note: I always chuckle at the fact that public education is generally left off the list of things we don't want our tax dollars to fund. As if we've all gotten collective amnesia and forgotten that our own children's schooling has largely been funded by--wait for it--other people's tax dollars. (Fact: Education was considered a luxury--not a right--until about 150 years ago.) I recently observed voters in nearly every Memphis suburb create municipal school districts by increasing their respective sales taxes 0.25%--without batting an eyelash. Because it benefits them and their kids, donchaknow. But slide a little lower down the economic ladder and it's "Hold on Obama, I ain't paying for some inner city kid's breakfast!" But I disgress. 

It seems reasonable enough on its face. My kids, my responsibility; other people's kids, not my responsibility. I understand the math, trust me. Taxes suck, and they're a large part of the reason that I frequent The Wal-marts.

But let me ask a question, and please meditate on this question for a minute or two before reading any further: "Was/is it God's responsibility to take care of me?"

...

Hopefully, you arrived at the same answer as me. (That answer would be: No.)

Think about it: The air we breathe, the food we eat, the clean water we drink. It's all naturally available to us, and it's all from Him! We don't deserve even a drop of water or a speck of soil on this beautiful Earth, and yet here He created it all for us to enjoy! And I haven't even mentioned the biggest, best gift of all--our salvation!

...

Okay, so, next question: "What did that last gift (our salvation) cost Him?

Answer: Everything. His precious, first-born Son--everything! He watched Him hang, and suffer, and die on a cross--and He allowed it all to happen just so that our ugly, sinful souls could have a chance at redemption. He didn't throw money or a couple doves or some other lesser offering at the situation either--no, He gave His best; the perfect atoning sacrifice; the single most special part of Himself. His Son.

...

So let's talk about what we "deserve," shall we?

Nothing.

Nothing. That's it, that's all we deserve. Did we deserve for God to send His Son to take our place up there on the cross? No! We are sinners, fallen from God's grace. We deserve n-o-t-h-i-n-g, save for an eternity separated from God's goodness.

But wait, God saved me! My sins are washed away! I'm totally taken care of!

Yup, if you've placed your faith and trust in Him, God's totally got your back. But did you deserve it?

Nope.

You're still a sinner, still completely undeserving of His Grace.

I don't care what tax bracket you're in, how you vote, how many good deeds you've done this week, how many sins you've committed/not committed--you. are. a. sinner.

And so am I, and so is every single person on this Earth. No one is good enough to enter His kingdom--no not one!

...

There is sin in this world, folks. And because there is sin, that means there are things like poverty, and sickness, and unfair situations like people who (for whatever reason) are unable to properly care for themselves or their children.

But that's where the good people come in, folks. That's where you and I, Christians, the salt and light of the Earth, have the opportunity to help. And whether it's through tax dollars, or time, or whatever is needed in that moment, I'm going to offer it without complaining. Because it is my joy to pick up the slack where this fallen world has let others down. I consider it a privilege to help a fellow human being in need.

Did I have any control over God's decision for me to be born into a stable, healthy, white collar, Christian family? No! I could've just as easily been born the sixth of nine children on some scorching stretch of northern Africa, starving and completely dependent upon the mercy of others. But no--today I am privileged to even be in a tax bracket that requires me to fork over a few extra bucks every April. Because it's not even mine to begins with--it's all from the Lord--and because I can't take not a dime of it with me when I go.

I've not lived long here on this Earth. But in my 28, almost 29 years, I've come to become somewhat ashamed of some of the "grown-ups" around me. I've watched dear friends and family become embittered by "The Gospel According to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh." I've watched a news channel be lifted up to an almost God-like status; all those other channels are obviously drunk on the Obama Kool-Aid and incapable of any measure of responsible journalism. And I've watched our First Family--the closest thing we have to royalty in this country--be ripped apart and mocked by the media, often with thinly-veiled racism. It's just shameful, really.

...

I love my radically conservative friends. I really, really do, honestly. I just happen to reject the notion of a "Republican Jesus." Because (at the risk of losing a Facebook friend or two) there's one particular incident in the New Testament that's always struck me as a bit, well...democratic. Some of you may not be aware that the feeding of the multitude is the only one of Jesus' miracles (apart from His resurrection) that appears in all four canonical Gospels. Pick your book--Matthew (14:13-21), Mark (6:31-44), Luke (9:10-17) or John (6:5-15)--it's there. Must be pretty important, right?

I'm going with Matthew, concentrating on verses 15-20a.

"As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied."

I choose (as a Christian and yes, a political moderate) to follow my Lord's example. I choose to give cheerfully, to remember that every dime I've "earned" is His anyway, and to do everything I can to help meet the needs of even the most undeserving. In doing so, my prayer is that others may see Christ's love through me and be more open to learning about Him. Because that's really what it's all about.

Love, peace, and a wonderful night's sleep to all. Please say a prayer for my Boo Bear; he's feeling a bit puny at the moment.