Monday, February 29, 2016

Currently: February 2016

And then it was March…

In February we enjoyed the slightly slower pace of post-Christmas life, survived what were most likely the last blasts of winter, and began filling our spring calendar with and looking forward to spring break day trips, school events, soccer games, dance recitals, birthday parties, visitors, and home improvement projects. The second busiest season of the year starts tomorrow!

A couple of my Red Cross pieces - both related to blood donation, a cause near and dear to my heart - went up earlier this month. The links are below if you are interested in reading about why the people in my life donate blood and/or what superheroes, superpowers, saving lives, and blood donation have in common!

This month I started four books but only managed to finish one, not because the books didn't intrigue me, but because there simply aren't enough hours or enough days for me to read as much as I'd like. I finished In a Dark, Dark Wood by Susan Ware and loved it; I found the characters interesting, the storyline engaging, and the plot twist delicious. (Mysteries always include plot twists, so if you like the genre enough to read this book, you're already anticipating a twist of some kind and I didn't spoil anything by revealing the existence of a surprise at the end.)

When it came to February movies, "Jurassic World" rocked mine. I also enjoyed "Kung Fu Panda 3", but I can't get back the 92 minutes I spent watching "Jetsons: The Movie". The one bright spot: Tiffany - of "I Think We're Alone Now" fame - voiced George Jetson's daughter, Judy. Tom and I appreciated the blast from the past. (I picked up "Jetsons: The Movie" for Will and Hallie for Valentine's Day - thankfully it only cost me $4.99.)

Listening To
In preparation for going to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in March, Pentatonix came out and the musical soundtrack went into the car CD player. I first saw Joseph on stage (I think) as a seventh grader, and starting that evening I listened to the soundtrack on repeat until I had learned every single word to every single song. As often happens for us Broadway lovers, another musical  eventually usurped Joseph and before I knew it I'd moved on to new lyrics of new songs. I have listened to Joseph periodically throughout the years, but not regularly, which made the fact that I still know all the words to all the songs even more impressive to Will and Hallie.

"It was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and gray and purple and white and pink and orange and blue."

Nailed it.

Tom and I started talking about buying an edger right after we bought our first house in Michigan. We finally bought (err, well, received one as a gift thanks to my parents) one this past Christmas, 11 years later. I honestly don't know how as homeowners we managed our lawn as long as we did without one. I can already tell that using it once at the beginning of every spring and a couple of times throughout the summer would have saved us HOURS of weed-wacking our way through the tough Texas grass and snipping our sidewalk edges with scissors (go ahead and laugh) back in Michigan.

My parents purchased us a Black & Decker, mostly because we like our other Black & Decker brand lawnscaping tools, but I have no affiliation to their brand. I kind of like the orange though...

Last weekend I wore a pair of capri-length athletic pants to Will's soccer game (I like to walk or jog around the field while the boys warm up). On our way home he politely asked, "what are those things you're wearing?"

I looked down at my outfit, and using his reference to "those things" as a way to rule out anything singular, determined he must have referring to either my shoes or my pants. "Pants?" I answered, somewhat baffled by his question.


"Workout pants?" I elaborated, still confused.

"No…they're not pants because they're too short. They're not shorts because they're too long. Are they called spants? Or ports? Ohm I bet they're called shants. That sounds right."

Then he turned and walked off, without waiting for me to confirm or deny his determination.

So in case you're wondering, in February I wore shants.

Though spring won't technically arrive for a few more weeks, the weather here in Texas has felt fairly spring-like (by my Midwestern standards) recently. I certainly don't stop baking when the temperature changes; I do, however, often skip over heavy, dark-colored (i.e. chocolate) desserts in favor of those that include fruits, showcase light flavors, and appear spring-like because of their color. I made both of these desserts this month, and both knocked our socks off. If you want to try a fresh new dessert for spring, give these a try!

Lemon Crumble Bars (with fresh Lemon Curd)
Pistachio Pudding Cake (with Pistachio Buttercream Frosting)

I can tell you what I'm not drinking enough of: water. I need tips on getting my recommended daily amount - have any?

Happy Leap Day, friends!

Friday, February 26, 2016

High Five for Friday (2.26.16)

1. My sweet High Five for Friday mascot, Cullen (he belongs to a wonderful friend of mine, and I've had the privilege of loving on him since his birth day), finally let me take a picture with him in his HF4F shirt! Notice his puckered lips and the spoon in my left hand…I bribed him with a bite of ice cream before the picture and another bite of ice cream immediately after the picture. Whatever works!

2. Last Friday, a group of friends and I took a day (just a few hours, really, given that we couldn't leave until we dropped our kids off at school and had to return home in time to pick them back up) trip to Kendra Scott and chocolate something or other in Houston. Oh, the beautiful jewelry! Oh, the delicious chocolate!

3. On Saturday night we attended a couples birthday party for a friend and most appropriately, this Wisconsinite took responsibility for the cheese. Rather than just bring my favorite cheeses in Tupperwares (classy, right?), I decided to go the more sophisticated route and build a cheese plate. Having never tackled this kind of appetizer before, I was pleased with my finished product!

4. The weather in our neck of the woods has felt anything but February-like recently. The temperatures have climbed high enough, in fact, that our lawn "woke up" from hibernation and started growing again. Tom and I spent part of Saturday mowing and weed-wacking, and then on Sunday Tom busted out his brand new (Christmas present) edger. The crisp, clean edges this lawn maintenance miracle left in its wake made us both giddy. It's kind of sad what gets us excited as a grown ups…

5. Happiness Highlights:
This was perhaps the best cake I've ever eaten, and that's
saying something given the amount of cake I consume.
(I had to brush my teeth and wash my face and hands
as soon as I got home so as not to expose Will to the
peanut butter, but it was completely worth it!)
What would a party be without my girls?!
Spring soccer started up a couple of weeks ago AND Will's
soccer pictures finally arrived - double the happiness!

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Texas Bucket List: Kyle Field

My Texas Bucket List began taking shape shortly after we arrived in College Station. At first the list consisted of only a few touristy day trips and experiences - like Sea World and Six Flags - I'd thought of or heard about prior to our move. But as we made new friends, especially new friends who grew up in Texas, we learned from them about the lesser-known - at least to Midwesterners - but not-to-miss sights and sounds of the Lone Star State.

Each time I cross something off my Texas Bucket List I document it here, both because Chasing Roots serves as my Texas journal and because looking back on these posts and "watching" our love affair, if you will, with our now-home state unfold is a beautiful thing. 

You can see my full Texas Bucket List here. Feel free to tell me what I'm missing!

For the last three years, our elementary school's PTO - which I support as Board Secretary, Fundraising Co-Chair, and a few other "odds and ends" positions - has put on a large fundraiser midway through September. This fundraiser, coordinated in partnership with a company called Boosterthon, focuses on physical fitness and character development above all else; the fact that we raise money while helping our students become healthier, stronger, more confident, and kinder is a bonus.

The Boosterthon company plans to open a branch office in College Station this fall. (In past years, Boosterthon staff members from Houston have come to our area to help us run the program.) To get all of the CSISD PTOs - those already participating as well as those interested in participating down the road - together for a little networking ahead of the opening, they set up an incredible afternoon tour of Kyle Field.

I have yet watch a regular season Aggie football game at Kyle Field. (We attended a local high school football showdown and an Aggie spring football scrimmage at Kyle Field, but neither officially met my Texas Bucket List requirement.) And while this tour didn't allow me to cross that bullet point off my bucket list either, it did allow me to experience the stadium in a way I won't likely ever have the opportunity to do again.

Our behind-the-scenes tour took us through the Hall of Champions, Presidential Lounge, and a few of the suites and boxes, and while we couldn't enter the Legacy Club, we had an opportunity to admire - from "our" side of the velvet ropes - the luxurious and elegant space. We took in the sweeping views from the top deck, and stood up close and personal next to the beautiful grass on which the Aggies play their hearts out on Saturdays each fall.

At every turn I thought to myself, "well, it's safe to say I won't stand in this spot ever again!" I'm grateful to Boosterthon and my affiliation with PTO for affording Will, Hallie, and me to opportunity to experience a piece of College Station and TAMU that I would have otherwise known only in my imagination.

As you can see from the pictures above, the kids had a good time. The tour didn't start out so well for Hallie though… Upset about everything and nothing, she refused to cooperate and whined for 20+ minutes straight about how devastatingly thirsty she had become after walking approximately three blocks from the parking lot to the field. Even though one of the Boosterthon team members hunted her down a bottle of water, she still looked like this in the first series of pictures I took:

Another day, another experience, another picture of Hallie looking as though her parents have ruined her life. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Note: this is not a sponsored post. I have no relationship or affiliation with Boosterthon other than being a satisfied customer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesdays With Tux (2.23.16)

I apologize for the lack of Tux posts recently - when time gets tight, Tux posts are (sadly) the first to go…especially given that his behavior hasn't changed much recently.

In support of that statement, here are a few photos of Tux engaged in what have been and continue to be his two favorite activities: riding on my shoulders and rolling in the dirt.

Not even two years old and already a creature of habit.

More Tux to come, I promise!

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Monday Heart Attack

Ok, friends. This post is neither here nor there, but that works on a Monday, right? I don't know about you, but most of my Mondays fall into the "neither here nor there" category.

I always visit Hallie's room one last time after she falls asleep to cover her up, turn off her lights, and turn on her alarm clock. Last Monday night I walked into her room and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this:

Hallie had fallen asleep cuddling her doll, but in a way that made it look like her sweet, normal-sized head had been swapped for a much smaller, somewhat creepy American Girl Doll head. I couldn't see any part of Hallie's neck, head, or even hair, and while my brain processed the situation correctly, the rest of me experienced a panicked adrenaline rush.

After I calmed down I took a few pics; I needed the one above for documentation and the one below so that I'd have a more pleasant image of Hallie loving on her doll.

Nothing like a heart attack to close out a typical Monday!

Friday, February 19, 2016

High Five for Friday (2.19.16)

1. As per usual, this month's holiday of love lasted a lot longer than 24 hours and included little gifts from Love Bug (she leaves inexpensive love-themed gifts for the kids to find during the first 13 days of February), two classroom parties, baking and decorating heart-shaped cookies, donuts for breakfast, a movie date with friends, and the kids' traditional treasure hunt to find their Valentine's Day present.
Treasure hunts involve a lot of running at our house.
I just stand in the middle of the house and try to take
pictures as the three of them sprint past me at top speed.
I gave everyone their own small present and gifted
this wooden hanging sign - inscribed with the prayer
we say every night at dinner - to our entire family.
For Valentine's Day Tom gave me (along with a bouquet of tulips, chocolate-covered strawberries, and the boots I picked out for myself last month) the gift of "staying awake for an entire movie". He had to stand up, jog in place, and do push-ups to keep himself alert, but he made it through all 125 minutes of Jurassic World. Best gift ever!

2. Last Sunday - yes, Valentine's Day - my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Throughout the years I admittedly I questioned their communication styles, relationship problem solving methods, and parenting choices (who doesn't question all of the adults in their life as they grow from child and adolescent to young adult, spouse, and eventually parent themselves?!), but at the end of the day, my parents found a way to make it work. For 40 years. The support they've shown each other as well as the hard work they both put into creating and sustaining a strong, happy marriage are beautiful examples of what love is all about. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

3. On Presidents' Day - a school holiday - we slept in, worked out at the gym, had lunch with friends on the patio at a favorite restaurant, and went on a tour of one of College Station's more historic and well-known venues. (More on the tour next week.) We needed a low(er)-key Monday to balance out yet another crazy weekend, and thankfully Presidents' Day showed up and delivered.

4. Many of you - more than I expected, quite frankly - completed the survey I posted a couple of weeks ago and I am so grateful for your responses and support. I plan to share a some of the results (anonymously, of course, as your responses were anonymous even to me) in the coming weeks, but for now, please let me extend to you my thanks for sticking by me and helping me make this blog a better space!

If you haven't already taken the survey and would like to do so, you can find it in this post.
5. Happiness Highlights
Hallie is on the right and her sweet friend Emma, giving
the biggest sleep hug ever, is on the left. We went on a
double date to celebrate surviving 50 Men Who Can Cook,
and left our kiddos with a babysitter…much to our surprise,
two of the four actually fell asleep while we were out!
Surviving soccer practice looks a lot different than it once did!
He still likes to snuggle - oh, my heart.
Somehow I think this girl will always love snuggling… (Yes,
these pics are of two different kids. They like to wear matching
pajamas, and to coordinate their pajamas with my pajamas.)
This is what Hallie expects to look
like on her 100th birthday.
I should probably start a series called "Appetizers by Tom".
This is #2 in the series; here's #1. He has a talent.
Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bring Earplugs

As an elementary schooler, did your music class include a unit on the recorder? Did you learn to play Hot Cross Buns? Did you think you sounded incredible, but once you reached adulthood look back and realize that when you practiced, your "music" probably sounded more like fingernails on a chalkboard?


Me too.

And now, my son has picked up the recorder in a quest to both find himself musically and unknowingly show me that what goes around, comes around.

If you stop by our house, might I suggest earplugs?

When I picked up the recorder for the first time in 20+ years and played Hot Cross Buns for Will and Hallie, I BLEW.THEIR.MINDS. They acted like I'd just finished a marathon or won the Nobel Peace Prize. It's nice to have such a supportive and easily impressed audience when I show off my 3rd grade musical stylings...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Thanks and Gig 'Em, Miss Rev

Throughout our first three years in College Station we walked around the TAMU campus fairly often, as a way to both learn about and better understand our new city and the university. Though TAMU spans almost nine square miles, our strolls generally centered around the main campus and ended up near Kyle Field; the prospect of seeing the football stadium and grabbing a snack at the nearby Memorial Student Center more than once kept Will moving when his feet started to drag.

Each time we passed Kyle Field we would stop and pay our respects to the deceased Reveille mascots buried in the special cemetery located at the north end of the stadium.

Now that soccer games, Tae Kwon Do tournaments, dance rehearsals, and birthday parties take up the majority of our weekends, we have less time for wandering around on campus. A few weekends ago an Aggie basketball game happened to fit into our Saturday though, and rather than park close to the arena and deal with the traffic (Tom and I HATE - and I don't use that word lightly - post-event traffic congestion), we chose to park a mile away and walk through campus to get there. On our walk we passed the north end of Kyle Field for the first time since its recent renovations, and were surprised to see that the Reveille Mascot Cemetery had received a makeover.

Will glanced at the headstones, chuckled at the perfectly positioned scoreboard (situated so the Reveilles can always keep track of the score), and kept walking toward the basketball arena. Hallie, on the other hand, stood with Tom and read all of the stones, taking her time to acknowledge and speak to each one. (She did the same thing when we visited the Alamo last year.)

My girl has so much (sometimes misdirected and often untamed) passion swirling around inside her, but every once in a while an experience or environment calms her fiery heart and we see the love she feels for others shine brightly. On that day, on that walk, we had an opportunity to see this updated but still traditional TAMU historic site as well as the compassion it brought out in Hallie. Thanks and gig 'em, Miss Rev.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

High Five for Friday (2.12.16)

1. After a LEGENDARY Friday night, Tom and I could have used a day or two to recuperate...instead, we got up early on Saturday morning for, among other things, a soccer tournament. This tournament was Will's first, and the experience shocked his (and my, heaven help me) emotional, mental, and physical systems more than any of us expected. Life lessons about teamwork, sportsmanship, failure, and success flew at Will like baseballs in a batting cage, and at times he struggled to keep his head up. He survived though, and I'd like to believe he came out the other side a stronger soccer player, more coachable athlete, and better teammate.

I came out the other side with 100 or so more gray hairs, a hoarse voice and sore throat, a sun- and wind-burned face, and 21 loads of laundry waiting for me on the floor of my laundry room.

2. I made this macaroni and cheese recipe on Super Bowl Sunday, and it hit the spot like I couldn't believe. Give it a try this weekend - you won't regret it!

3. On Monday the recycling truck drove by my house without stopping AGAIN. This time, however, the driver realized his error, made a 17-point turn at the end of the block, and came back to empty our overflowing bin. Woo hoo!

4. On a related note, after last week's "Green Texas" post a few people asked me what kind/style/brand of reusable bags I regularly use. Here are a few of my high-fiveable favorites!
My favorite reusable bags!
  • I keep this one in my purse to pull out when I hadn’t planned on purchasing anything and therefore didn’t bring my sets of bags into the store.
  • I keep a set of these under the passenger seat in my car.
  • And I keep a set of these in my trunk, so that when I’ve taken the first set inside the house and I’m not without bags.
  • These are a little more expensive, but hold their shape better than the envirosax bags.
  • I put my produce in these.
  • And here are a few tips on how to remember to bring your bags with you!

5. While on last weekend's "work date", when I wrapped up the piece I was writing before Tom finished his journal article, I spent a few minutes looking at all of the kids' artwork, notes, and pictures hanging throughout his office. I took and framed many of the pictures, so they felt familiar to me; the artwork and notes, however, often went straight from the kids to Tom to Tom's office so I had never had an opportunity to admire them before. Warmed my heart...
Hallie and Tom at their first Daddy Daughter Dance.
A photo collage I put together to display in Tom's
otherwise empty office right after we moved here.
World's Best Dad is…Will? I don't quite get this one, but I like
the combination of briefcase, tool, and mustache embellishments.
Love the colored pictures, love the "it shappy time" notecard
(I know it's supposed to say "it's happy time", but when I look at
it all I can see is "it shappy time"), not so sure about the photo... 
Another cute pic of Tom and Hallie at Daddy Daughter Dance
(they were on the front page of the newspaper) but the picture
of "dad <--- awesome dude" takes the cake. 
Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!