Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Monthly Medley: April 2019

I have an article - about the Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Houston - in this month's issue of Texas Living Magazine. It was truly an honor to learn and then write about these exceptionally valiant and skilled members of the United States Armed Forces, and I look forward to visiting the museum with Will and Hallie later this summer.

In April I read Ruth Ware's fourth psychological thriller, The Death of Mrs. Westaway. Like Ware's previous three stories, Mrs. Westaway twists and turns from the first page to the last. Unlike Ware's previous three stories, Mrs. Westaway's gut-punch surprise ending was somewhat difficult to follow - I had to backtrack more than once to make sure I fully understood the unfolding plot. That said, I still recommend this and Ware's other three books - once I finished the first chapter I couldn't put it down!

We've had little time for watching this month, but we did try out and enjoy the British nature documentary Our Planet on Netflix.

By the time I get everyone to bed, finish working, and settle down onto the couch or into bed myself, I lack the energy and focus required to start a new television show or follow new storylines on shows with which I'm already familiar. So I watch Friends. It is my all-time favorite show, about my all-time favorite characters, and it makes me feel happy. Anyone else? What's your go-to show on nights when your brain simply can't handle new and complex?

Listening To
In April I started listening to Cold, a podcast about the 2009 disappearance of Susan Powell. When Susan went missing 10 years ago, I was a sleep-deprived mother of a toddler and an infant, with two jobs at the Red Cross and a husband in graduate school. Needless to say, I spent little time watching television (except while feeding Hallie in the middle of the night) or on social media and therefore didn't know any details about the case. I had heard just enough back then, however, to be intrigued when I came across this podcast at the beginning of the month. Thus far the podcast has been extremely well done, and I plan to continue listening through to the end of this season's 18-episode arc.

This cat hair towel seems ridiculous and unnecessary, but it looks adorable and does a remarkably good job drying Hallie's hair. I consider it well worth the $14 I paid for a two-pack!

I usually overwear my athletic shoes. (Until last week, the pair I wore to the gym every day had multiple holes near my toes and in the heels.) The problem is that I prefer Mizunos, and they are typically both expensive and difficult to find; stores like DSW, which carry 60+ pairs of Nikes, carry zero pairs of Mizunos. My solution is to regularly check Amazon, and when I find a pair I like that are also in my size and come with a price tag below $70 (which only happens once - maybe twice - a year), I click "order". A couple of weeks ago the stars aligned and I found a great pair. It's wonderful not to see my pinky toes sticking out the size of my shoes anymore!

I can't use it quite yet, at least not officially, but I LOVE my new Simplified Planner from Emily Ley. I tried the weekly version a few years ago and wasn't a fan, but the way I take notes, make lists, and track events/activities has changed since then and I think this daily version will work for me now. And it's SO pretty...

I also can't wait to use my new Pilot pens, also from Emily Ley. (Yes, I could technically use these now, but I'm holding off until I can also use the planner, since they go so well together.)

It's a little embarrassing to admit that after nearly 30 years of cake decorating I just now figured out a technique to make filling my frosting bags easier and neater. In case you can't tell from the picture, I put the prepped frosting bag upside down in a similarly-sized cup, spooned the frosting into the bag, and then tapped the cup on the counter to gradually shift the frosting down in the bag. So easy. So neat.

I somehow forgot to share in March's Monthly Medley two delicious desserts I made at the end of the month. I took both to a dance event and watched as every single morsel disappeared within just a few minutes.
  • I wanted to make a cookie that would appeal (even more so than cookies in general) to kids, and I had a hefty stash of sprinkles on hand thanks to a friend. I started searching the internet, and when I came across these Sprinkle Cookies I knew I'd found the perfect dessert for that day. Per usual, I cut the sugar, this time by half. No one missed it in the slightest!
  • I used this Andes Mint Cupcake as my guide, but I tweaked both the cupcake and frosting recipes a bit. For the cupcakes, I cut both sugars to about 1/3 c. and added 1 T. of mint extract. (You could make any chocolate cupcake and mint extract here - you don't need to use this specific recipe.) For the frosting, I added 8 oz. of cream cheese and 1 t. of vanilla extract and used milk instead of heavy cream. If you like mint, this dessert is for you!

Feeling Good About

Farewell, April! 

Friday, April 26, 2019

High Five for Friday (4.26.19)

We desperately needed the Easter four-day weekend. We stayed surprisingly busy, but at this point in the year we regularly go a mile a minute from sun-up until (long after) sun-down and appreciated the *slightly* more relaxed schedule during our break.

We had planned to host our annual garage sale a few weeks back, but Hallie broke her wrist the night before (as we were setting up for the garage sale, as bad luck would have it), so we postponed it until last weekend. The moms cleared out lots of stuff, the girls sold lemonade and cookies, and we all ended up with a little cash in our pockets.

As soon as we wrapped up our garage sale, the kids and I hopped in the car and headed to Houston for Will's 714th soccer engagement of the season. (Just kidding, of course. There have actually only been 183 soccer engagements this season.) (Just kidding again. I think.) The tournament itself didn't end well for Will's team, but the boys learned a lot and in between games we enjoyed the pool, pizza delivery, and Harry Potter movies at our hotel.

We celebrated Easter with our annual Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday afternoon and as a family on Sunday morning (before Tom had to go out of town for work). A highlight this year: for the first time I the Easter Bunny hid chocolate eggs around our house. In years past, Will couldn't eat chocolate eggs because of the risk of peanut contamination. However now that he has completed his peanut desensitization, he can eat all of the chocolate ("processed in a facility that also processes peanut products") he wants. I don't know that I've ever seen a 12yo and a 10yo so excited to look for anything!
Hallie requested "bunny butts" for this years Easter cupcakes. 
Almost all of our egg hunting kiddos.
Take one step back and you can see the 3yo who - in
typical 3yo fashion - refused to have his picture taken.
The Young/Ferris boys at this, our fourth annual Easter Egg Hunt...
...and at our first (what would become annual) Easter Egg Hunt.
Thanks, Easter Bunny!
Can you spot the hidden chocolate egg?

Happiness Highlights
Will's second-to-last baby tooth
fell out during our Easter Egg Hunt!
These flowers smelled amazing. 
And these blooms were stunning.
Four sweet girlies - with matching pink curly ribbons
in their hair - waiting for their next dance class to start.
Their best attempt (having not seen the original in years) at recreating a
photo we took at the end of dance photo weekend when they were six.
He's SO tolerant. And apparently a Cavalry fan.

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wayback Wednesday: In the Blink of an Eye

It happened in a blink of an eye...

One Whole Hand

Two Whole Hands

Monday, April 22, 2019


For the second year in a row, I started my New Year's Resolutions in September and with the intent to tackle one resolution each month, rather than following the more traditional route of starting January 1st and attempting one or two resolutions over the course of the year. I gave "themed" resolutions a try during the first month, but quickly learned that I need more flexibility than the category system could provide and went back to choosing resolutions as they come to me and according to what I need to work on as each new month rolls around.

It's been quite a while since I shared an update on my monthly resolutions, so I suppose the time has come to catch you up on what I've been doing...and not doing.

April Resolution: declutter my digital life. I talk about decluttering fairly regularly, because decluttering is something I do fairly regularly. I believe that cleaning, organizing, selling, donating, and trashing should be ongoing activities, rather than tasks to tackle once or twice a year. I also adhere to the "one in, one out" rule, in an attempt to keep only what we love, need, and/or use (or to quote planner-guru Emily Ley, "the best, your favorite, or necessary"). But from time to time, certain areas need a little extra attention: maybe one of the kids went through a growth spurt and their closet overflows with clothes a size too small, or maybe I accepted the fact that I don't enjoy camping and we no longer need to devote four shelves in our garage to storing camping tarps and dishes and toilet paper, or maybe I simply haven't had the time to delete old and duplicate photos from my computer. When this happens, I try to set devote an hour/day/week/month to that area so I can return it to its natural and comfortable state. This month I am cleaning out and organizing both my phone (contacts, photos, videos, notes, and apps) and my computer (downloads, documents, folders, and photos), in hopes that less digital clutter will translate to less mental clutter. 2/3 of the way through the month I'm about 1/3 of the way through my project...I've certainly made progress but I still have a long way to go!

March Resolution: well... Full disclosure: the first few months of this year have been tough. Not in a catastrophic way (no deaths, major illnesses, or financial crises, thank goodness), but in a mentally challenging, emotionally draining, "one paper cut isn't that bad but when you get one paper cut every day you start to feel like you have a huge, gaping wound" sort of way. I managed to get so caught up in all of my paper cuts that I actually forgot to make a March resolution. The month came and went and I didn't think about resolutions even a single time, so I guess that means March's resolution was to simply make it through the month. Which I did, so high five for that.
Hallie's reenactment of 2019. She
has a flair for the dramatic, this one...

February Resolution: take a vacation. How did it go? While my parents held down the fort, Tom and I took a short trip to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We had planned to spend about 48 hours and two nights away, but when we realized that TAMU doesn't recognize Presidents Day and Tom had to teach at 11am that morning, we returned home earlier than anticipated. We had a great time though, and hope that another similar trip makes its way onto the calendar later in the year.

January Resolution(s): first, write for at least one hour a day. This seemed like a silly resolution, since I consider myself a writer and all, but I needed to give myself permission to focus more on my work and less on other responsibilities. Second, complete Emily Ley's 2019 Simplicity Challenge, which is a series of one-a-day steps that can be accomplished in 15 minutes or less and together add up to achieving a more simplified life. How did they go?

I did reasonably well with my first resolution, though I would have done even better if January hadn't also contained the nearly-all-consuming Variety Show. I missed a few Saturdays and one Sunday and had to devote a couple of days' writing time to volunteer writing responsibilities (which didn't technically fall under the umbrella of work), but all in all my fingers stayed busy. I didn't do quite as well with my second resolution, at least initially. I have every intention of finishing all 31 challenges, but I intentionally postponed a few that for me will take more than the expected 15 minutes. You can find all of the daily challenges on the Simplified Instagram page (they're brightly colored and easy to spot among the other posts), but here are a few of my favorites:
  • Detox your social media feeds. Follow inspirational accounts. Unfollow anyone draining.
  • Dump out your purse. Throw away trash. Create a little bag of essentials.
  • Create a birthday list of friends you'd like to reach out to on their special day. (You can update this list and use it year after year.)
  • Clean the trash out of your car. Papers. Straws. Receipts.
  • Start the habit of throwing a small load of laundry in every morning.
  • Walk your house with a donate bag. Schedule a pick-up or drop it off as soon as the bag is full.
  • Simplify your phone. Delete old contacts and unused apps. Refresh your lock screen.
  • Put two things - just two - that make you happy on your bedside table. You should also have a lamp and a clock.

December's Resolution: read to my kids every night. I resolved to read to my kids every night last December as well; doing so seems to happen less and less as they get older and I wanted to "make" myself get back into the habit of snuggling up next to them and either reading to them or letting them read to me. I loved the precious moments we spent together - and losing ourselves in all of our Christmas books - so I brought this resolution back for a second round. How did it go? Reasonably well. I would estimate that Hallie and I read together two out of every three nights, and Will chose to join us for about half of those read-aloud sessions. As was my goal last year, I wanted to carry our reading momentum into January this year, and while we had trouble doing so in the evenings, Hallie and I found a new time and place to read together: in the afternoons (on the days she doesn't have dance) and in front of the fireplace. Perfection.

November's Resolution: write in my gratitude journal daily. Doing so has been my November resolution for the last few years, and because I love intentionally documenting one thing for which I am thankful every day between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day, I kept the tradition alive. How did it go? Quite well! I missed a couple of days as usual, but upon realizing I had done so, and because I remembered the days I accidentally skipped with relative clarity, I was able to go back and update my gratitude journal.

October Resolution: use what I have, specifically beauty and skincare products, makeup, cleaning and household products, and food in my pantry and freezer. I had so many freebies, sample-sized "gifts with purchase", and full-sized products purchased at the recommendation of others, and because I wanted to start streamlining what I buy and use in each of these categories, I decided the time had come to "use it or lose it". How did it go? Incredibly well! I used up multiple lotions, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup and perfume samples, and chapsticks. I tossed lots of items that had reached the end of their lives or surpassed their expiration dates. And I donated a bag of unopened samples and set aside a box of assorted products for my next garage sale.

September Resolutions: sleep seven hours every night; play with my kids, husband, and friends; and manage my social media stress. How did it go? I did well at tallying seven hours of sleep a night - I think I only missed the mark three times, and none of these nights were because of simply staying up too late. Second, I did horribly at (officially) playing with my kids, husband, and friends because...I completely forgot about this resolution, which perfectly demonstrates why I can only have one resolution each month. I did play with the kids, go on a date with Tom, and go out for dinner and drinks with friends, but not once did any of these activities remind me that I had pledged to do more. And third, I did moderately well at managing social media stress. I unfollowed quite a few people and sources and sites that regularly made me feel worse rather than better, and I added a few to lift my spirits.

Did you resolve to change anything about yourself or your life this year? Last month? This coming month? How are those resolutions going?

Friday, April 19, 2019

High Five for Friday (4.19.19)

I almost scrapped today's post completely, y'all. I spent an hour on Sunday evening writing text and adding pictures, but when I came back to the post on Monday afternoon, everything had disappeared. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised - Monday felt like a Monday in every way possible. And I thought long and hard about skipping today completely or posting something grumpy, but in the end I decided to put together an abbreviated version of what I had first crafted. 

Oh, and I KNOW I saved my work. Many times.

Will's soccer team had an incredible opportunity to practice with the Houston Dynamo's Development Academy team (think of a MLB farm system team that feeds players into the minors and eventually the majors) last Thursday night. We had to drive an hour and half each way on a school night, but the trip was worth it, not just for the instruction, but for the experience as a whole. The coach of and the players on the Development Academy team were talented, yes, but they were also leaders, team players, and good sports. Will won't ever play professional soccer, but someday he might be able to say he practiced with a professional athlete or two.

Speaking of, last week Will "trained with" an Olympic Gold Medalist! United States sprinter Phyllis Francis was working out at Will's gym during his weekly personal training session, so while Will and Phyllis didn't exactly hang out and get to know each other, they still shared a relatively small fitness space while training for their respective sports.

Last Friday night Will participated in his first Solo Ensemble competition. His seven-person ensemble performed as a quintet due to one illness and one miscommunication about their scheduled time, and he performed a solo as well. Though he didn't walk away from the experience feeling confident, I was so proud of him for trying something new and intimidating.
And they/he ended up scoring a I for both pieces!

Post-Solo Ensemble, Hallie and I donned our pinkest outfits and headed to the theatre to watch our friend, Paloma, crush the role of Sharpay in her intermediate school's production of High School Musical. Meanwhile, Tom and Will attended Tom's department's annual banquet, where Tom received two different awards and Will impressed everyone with his luscious blond locks.
(These are supposed to be our Sharpay faces.)

Speaking of Will's luscious blond locks...

Minus the braces, he looks 16, doesn't he? Where did my baby go?

We survived dance picture weekend. If you've ever experienced a dance picture weekend yourself, you know this accomplishment deserves more than a high five.
They were as delirious as we were by this point.
When we finally arrived home, I gave myself the
cheers I - and so many other dance moms - deserved.

Happiness Highlights
Hallie the Riveter
Target gave me all of these free samples on Saturday. I usually shop
during the week when it's less crowded, but if this is what Saturdays
look like, I might have to make time for a quick visit more often!
This might be the first time I have ever had a flower bloom
for a second season, which makes it even more gorgeous!
Face painting at the Castlegate Easter picnic!
Visiting with the Easter bunny. 

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wayback Wednesday: Grandma Gets a New Computer

Grandma Brenda and Grandpa Paul got a new computer, which prompted Grandma to go through many of the umpteen thousand photos on her old computer in order to figure out what to transfer and what to delete. Here are a few of our favs...
Me and Sara at her wedding almost 13 years ago.
Baby Will. Those curls... 😍😭
An Itty bitty cowgirl trying on my boots.
An itty bitty ballerina having a tea party.
Little Lily. She was such a precious baby.
Winnie the Pooh with Winnie the Pooh.
Two day old Hallie, still not all that happy to have been born.
And not all that happy to
be held by her big brother.
Tom and I look tired - we had a toddler and a baby -
while Jeff and Sara look fun. They had no children yet.
This was taken a few months before we swapped her out at the park.
(We've always joked that while at the park I exchanged my brown-
haired baby for a blond-haired baby, because around the time she
was 13-months-old, Hallie's hair color changed almost overnight.)
She didn't think very highly of miniature golf.
Or riding in the stroller.
Blurry, yes. But worth showing as proof that
even when she weighed less than 20 pounds she
could dominate her older and bigger brother.
Always a fan of sunglasses.
Lily and her shoes. Clearly shoes for Lily
were/are Sara's kryptonite, just like shoes
for Hallie have always been mine.
Family pics in 2007.
Will tried to put his head in the metal alligator's
mouth for a photo. Somehow it "bit" him.
Oh, he was so cute.
Family pics in 2010.
And finally, family pics a million years ago - maybe 1989?
Will holding his baby Hallie. 
A swimsuit-clad Lily riding a lion at the zoo.
A picture of a picture of the four Ferri
and my parents in a cave in Wisconsin
Hunting for Easter eggs.
Sweet swinging girl. 
That's Will, rockin' in "the 'stein". We took that thing everywhere.

Happy Hump Day, friends!