July - Crush List

I cannot believe July is coming to a close. I had an idea to start putting together a little list of things I am seriously crushing on at the end of each month. Here's what is currently catching my fancy.

1 - Pendants from Yellow Owl
2 - Jewelry Box from West Elm
3 - Brooch from Kate Spade
4 - Gilligan & O'Malley Pajamas from Target
5 - Storage Table from IKEA

That storage table is seriously calling to me. A trip to IKEA may be in order for this weekend.

Update: the table is mine!!!!!
Update: Bill got me the jewelry box and brooch for our anniversary!!
Update: My Mother-in-law got me the color wheel pendant for Christmas!!


Kids Date

Yesterday I spent some time with Madeleine one-on-one, and I realized that was the first time we had done that in some time. I took her to get a hair cut after another morning struggle to brush her hair. (She hates getting her hair brushed, so I had them cut about 6-inches off - maybe more.) Afterwards we went to lunch. Nothing special, just a little pizza place in the same shopping center as the hair salon. I had so much fun with her though. She entertained me with silly and scary faces. Whenever I acted scared she assured me that she was only teasing me. She had me in serious stitches. I find this girl very hilarious.
It got me thinking though how important it is to spend one-on-one time with each of my children. I think this should become a regular thing.

Do you go on "dates" with your kids? What are some of your favorite things to do?


Raising The Barre

I mentioned in my 5-Year Plan post that I want (ahem...need) to lose some weight, but it's been topping out at 115 degrees here lately, so exercising outside is out of the question right now. Traditional gyms are not really my thing though; I get really bored on a treadmill and don't push myself. I briefly looked into the CrossFit gyms near my house, but that looks way too hardcore; plus their gym hours did not work at all with my schedule. I was flipping through a coupon book for a shopping complex near my house and saw a coupon for a Barre class. Was that like a ballet workout class? It piqued my inner ballerina's interest enough that I immediately looked it up online, liked what I saw, and registered for my first class.

So, last night I headed to The Daily Method barre studio for my first class, and I survived! I had fun too. If you don't know what a Barre class is it's a mixture of ballet type barre work combined with yoga and Pilates. It's lot of stretching, holding, and small movements that really works your core muscles.

I was a little intimidated when I saw all the other women in the class were already quite thin and toned. I felt sorry for my self for a minute before thinking, "F@&k it, who cares? I'm here for me. Plus, maybe they are all thin and toned because this workout"

As for the actual class itself. I was not able to do every move completely yet. I thought my arms were going to fall off during the arm workouts, and my legs were literally shaking sometimes during some of the poses. I did it though, every move as good as I could. I was actually surprised at how many moves I could actually already do, and how flexible I still was. Plus every time we did anything at the barre my inner ballerina came out and was loving it.

When I came home Bill showed me this inspiring video and gave me a great YOU CAN DO IT pep talk.

I'm going to my second class on Saturday!


What's Your Sign?

I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and the subject of zodiac signs came up. She asked me what my kids' signs were, and I had no idea. In all this time it never even occurred to me to look up what signs they are.

It turns out Madeleine and Bill are both Scorpios.
Photo Source here.
Determined and Forceful
Emotional and Intuitive
Powerful and Passionate
Exciting and Magnetic

Seamus is a Pisces.
Photo Source here
Imaginative and Sensitive
Compassionate and Kind
Selfless and Unworldly
Intuitive and Sympathetic

I'm an Aries, but I've always known that.
Photo Source here.
Adventurous and Energetic
Pioneering and Courageous
Enthusiastic and Confident
Dynamic and Quick-Witted

I grabbed the personality traits from the below chart. Some seem spot on, and others I'm not too sure. The negative traits are interesting to explore too. I think it is funny that I always say Madeleine has Bill's personality - maybe it's because they are the same sign!?! I'm sure genetics had nothing to do with it.
Photo Source here.
Are you into astrology? Do you check your horoscope? I still always read mine whenever I come across it in a newspaper or magazine.


My Mini-Gallery

The living room is really starting to come together. To refresh your memory, we started with this (more photos here).
The drapes came down and we painted the red and beige walls white...very, very white. We added bookshelves to the wall opposite the couch (more on that here and here), but the wall above the couch was begging for some attention. I knew from the git-go I wanted to do a gallery wall there - a big one that would fill up the entire space above the couch. We didn't have enough art to do that just yet, but we didn't want to delay it either. So, we decided to start with a scaled down version just to get what we did have off the floor and on to the walls.
The first step was figuring out which pieces to use and their configuration. We started with the actual pieces laid out on the floor. We just kept moving them around until we came up with a configuration we liked. Then I picked up a roll of brown postal paper and traced all the pieces to make templates. We hung the templates on the wall with masking tape until we got the positioning basically where we wanted. Then we tweaked it a bit more with a tape measure to make the spacing as consistent as possible. We were left with this.
Then, Bill took care of hanging everything. He figured out where the nails needed to go, found the coordinating spot on the template, and just nailed right through it. Once the picture was hung correctly he removed the template behind it. Tah-dah!
 I love the pop of color it brings to the space, not to mention visual interest and texture.
I went up to the loft and took this photo of the entire space. It's coming along, but I still have more planned.
The light fixture above the door needs to go. Now that we've painted the room white it looks super yellow. Next up on the list though is curtains. Stay tuned.


California Vacation - Days 4, 5, & 6

On Friday we went back to Disney, this time to California Adventure. 
I liked California Adventure a lot more than I did Disneyland. It was much less crowded, so we spent less time in lines. I also just liked the feel of it more - can't explain.
Madeleine went on the Golden Zephyr and Tuck & Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies with Bill. I took her on Luigi's Flying Tires. Then the whole family did Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Francis' Ladybug Boogie, Mickey's Fun Wheel.
There were more characters to meet too. We had scheduled a lunch with the princesses at Ariel's Grotto. When we arrived they said the kitchen was out, but that we could still meet the princesses. We met Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty (without having to pay $100+ for lunch - score!). Madeleine had a serious moment with Snow White. They literally hugged with their eyes closed for at least 30 seconds. The men and women who play the characters at the park do such a great job.
We took pictures with Lighting McQueen and Mater and met Mrs. Incredible while walking around too. Later we took in the Disney Junior - Live on Stage show and the Pixar Play Parade.
We didn't stay as late at the park this day, and left around dinnertime. We spent the rest of the evening at home with Bill's dad. It was so nice having an actual house to stay in while we were away. I think it was easier on all of us having a bit of space to spread out instead of being crammed in a hotel room for a week.

When we purchased our Disney tickets we decided to get the 3-day pass because it came with a Magic Morning (early entrance to the park) and for some reason we thought the tickets didn't expire for a year. We thought we could go two days and save the last day for anther time. Well, turns out the Magic Morning is only on specific days (Tues, Thurs, Sat and we were only planning on going Wed and Fri), and you have to use all the days within two weeks of the first day you go.  Whoops!

So, even though we were pretty Disney'd out by this time, we decided to utilize the Saturday Magic Morning to try and meet the Disneyland piece de resistance of the moment - Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Wait times were averaging 5 hours (yes, 5 frigging hours!) the other days we were there, so if we had any chance it was this day. The second we entered the park we ran to where they were located and got in line. Even with getting there an hour early there was still a 2½ hour wait. We stuck it out.

When it was finally our turn, I was so happy that they really interacted with the kids and we were not rushed through. Madeleine had them both laughing, and really bonded with Anna (who funny enough was the same actress who played Snow White the day before).
Afterwards we all went on the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride and did some souvenir shopping. Each of the kids got Mickey ears with their name embroidered on the back plus a little toy. We headed back to the house for lunch, naps, and time with Grandpa.

Sunday morning we drove the six hours back to Phoenix. All-in-all a pretty successful first family vacation. 


California Vacation - Day 3

The next day of our vacation was spent at the beach. We picked up my sister and her family and headed to Huntington Beach. We had breakfast at Ruby's on the pier there, then headed to the Huntington Beach State Park to play.
Seamus loved the sand and water. I would plop him down and he would immediately start crawling for the ocean - no fear this kid. The waves were pretty big. Madeleine liked when we would plant our feet and try not to get knocked down by the waves.
There was lots of play on the sand too. The kids built castles and collected sea shells. I was amazed at how quickly the time passed.

We headed home around 1pm and both kids took great naps. The rest of the day we hung out with Bill's dad. I said I wanted a good burger for dinner, so funny enough we ended up at another Ruby's for dinner too.


California Vacation - Days 1 & 2

The last week of June we decided to drive to California to see Bill's dad and meet up with my sister and her family who were vacationing at Disneyland.
We headed out to California on a Tuesday morning and rolled into Costa Mesa around 1pm. It was about 6 hours total with stops, and the kids did great. We settled in at my father-in-law's home and ordered in some pizza for dinner.

The next day began the epic Disneyland day. This was my first trip to Disneyland, so I had no idea what to expect. We met my sister and her family at the Paradise Pier Hotel for Breakfast with Mickey. We had a huge buffet style breakfast, and a number of characters walked around the restaurant for photo-ops and autographs. We saw Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Pluto, and Stitch during breakfast.
After that we headed into the park. We saw a lot of characters. Madeleine really loved meeting Goofy. Besides him, we met Tinkerbell and her fairy friend Rosetta, Alice, Minnie again, and Mickey again.
Later in the day they had a really great parade. I think that was probably my favorite thing we saw that day. Fun music, colorful floats and costumes, more characters, and dancing.
We went on lots of rides too. As a family we did It's A Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, the King Arthur Carousel, and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I was surprised how many rides we could take Seamus on. Bill also took Madeleine on the Mad Tea Party (aka the teacups). At some point Madeleine got her face painted too.
I don't remember where we ate, but we had hot dogs and soft pretzels for lunch, and Mexican food for dinner. There was also a lot of stops at little stands for drinks or ice cream.
It was an absolute crazy day. We stayed at the park until after 9pm. I was hoping Seamus would nap at some point, but he stayed up almost the entire time. He finally crashed around 8:30pm. We were all exhausted and went straight to bed the minute we got home.


Getting My Mood On

When last we left Madeleine's bedroom it was looking like this (more photos here and here). Yeah, it's in rough shape.
But I do have a vision, and it is something like this!
In fact, I have more of an idea what I want to do in here then in any other room in the house.

It all started with the awesome drapes from Ikea. They were the original inspiration, and still are. I picked up two packages for a nice full look. Then I picked up the white/pink bedding and the pink/gray/orange striped pillow from Pottery Barn Teen. Then it stalled. I did manage to hang one pair of the drapes up just to get rid of that awful blue, but that's it. We started going full steam ahead with painting the downstairs and this project got shelved.

I really want to get back to it now, so I spent some time putting this mood board together. I love mood boards! It's such a great visual to take the vision in your head and see if it will actually work. Some of these pieces I definitely want to get. Some are just inspiration or represent something else. For example, Madeleine has a vintage bed and dresser in her room already, but I wanted to see how the color of them will play off everything else. The dresser on the mood board is similar in color and style to what she already has.

I still feel like it is missing something, but I'm not quite sure what it is yet. A lot of times I end up going too matchy-matchy (that's a real design term, right?). I decided to add in some emerald green and gold so that everything is not just pink and orange, but we'll see.

The first thing we really need to do is paint followed by a new ceiling fan. Once that is done I can properly hang the drapes and it will really just be a matter of just putting it all together. I might actually have one room completely done by the end of the year.

Here are the sources for the entire mood board.
DraperyPink nightstand - Pink/Orange Striped Bedding - Orange Flower Bedding - White/Pink Bedding - Pink/Gray/Orange Striped Pillow - Gold Pouf - Aqua/Gold Table Lamp - Gold Clip Lamp - Green Shelves - Tiger ArtBird Art - Hippo Art - Dresser - Balloon Animal Bookend - Desktop Cubby Storage


Touring AZ - Montezuma Castle, Well, and Sedona

My sister is visiting this week!  Yay!!!  Last time she was here we were hoping to get up to Sedona and see the sights, but the kids got sick.  I wanted to make sure we did it this time, so yesterday her and I took a little road trip North and visited Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Sedona.

Sedona is not quite two hours North of where we live, and Montezuma Castle and Well are along the route. So, we thought why not check them out too.
The first stop was Montezuma Castle.  It was built by the Sinagua people sometime between 1100 and 1425 AD.
They used the natural indentations in the cliffs to build their clay homes.
Montezuma Castle was one of the first of four sites in the United States to be declared a National Monument in 1906 by President Roosevelt.
Eleven miles away from the castle is Montezuma Well.
It was formed by the collapse of a limestone cavern.
It's fresh water, but no fish live in it.  It's primary occupants are leeches!!
We spent more time than we planned at the first two stops, so by the time we got to Sedona we were starving and exhausted.  After we ate, we shopped for a while, then were too tired to explore much more of Sedona after that.  Luckily I snapped some pictures as we were driving in. 
We both agreed Sedona is beautiful and this would definitely be a great weekend getaway trip.  To fully experience it I think you need at least two days.  One for sightseeing and one just for shopping and eating.
I'm sure we'll be visiting Sedona a ton.  It's so nice to have something so beautiful so close to home. It has definitely made me want to get out there and explore more of my new state.


Big Bugs

While dropping my kids off at daycare we spotted this huge bug crawling in the rocks.  It was about 4 inches long; so big you could literally hear it walking on the rocks. 
Of course I had to look it up to see what it was when I got to work.
It's the Palo Verde Beetle. They can grow up to 6 inches long, and they fly!! I'm simultaneously grossed out and fascinated. People told us one of the best things about Phoenix was the lack of bugs. Let me set the record straight. Phoenix may not have mosquitoes, but they do have bugs...really fricking big bugs!!

Besides this guy, we've also seen on a regular basis Crane Flys and House Crickets. I have yet to see a scorpion though, and that's fine with me.

Palo Verde Beetle image from here.


4th of July

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend. The kids have been under the weather lately, and it's hot (July in Phoenix); but I think we'll still do some poppers and sparklers with Madeleine tonight. Plus hot dogs are on the menu for dinner tonight. YUM! I'll leave you with one of my favorite pictures taken of Madeleine on the 4th of July 2011.


Up, Up, and Away

BUYER BEWARE - Please see my updates at the bottom of this post. I do not recommend purchasing this product.

Last Christmas I asked for and received the JawboneUP24. I’ve been using it for about six months now, so I thought I’d take a second to let you know what I think of it.
Image from here.
First of all, I like how it looks. It has a more bracelet type feel than a lot of the other fitness trackers out there right now. It’s unobtrusive and easy to slip on and off. I wear mine on my left hand. If I want to wear a watch though, I usually take it off as the two don’t work well together. Maybe if you had a little watch you can wear both, but mine is a big clunky one that I wear loose.

Next, I specifically wanted the UP24 because I wanted the Bluetooth capability. I wanted to be able to check my stats at any time on my phone. You can’t check your stats on the bracelet itself. The app is actually all where it’s at. It has a great look, and it is easy to see where you are with your goals at any time. It also gives daily tips to help motivate you are interesting little factoids. However, if I don’t ever look at my phone then I have no idea how I’m doing. It’s funny how many days I just don’t check it at all. That’s on me though, but maybe if you could check the stats on the device itself it would motivate me even more.

I’ve enjoyed the sleep tracker a lot. It tells you not only how long you slept, but how much of that was sound sleep versus light sleep; how long it took you to fall asleep, and when you wake up during the night. When I first got it, Seamus was not yet sleeping through the night, so it was always really interesting to see how much sleep I was actually getting. It was pretty novel in the beginning, but it’s really sort of useless information when you think about it. It’s not like it does anything to help you get the best sleep possible each night. It does provide tips that may help you sleep better, I suppose; but really, it’s just a snap shot of how you slept each night.

I’m also digging the alarm. You set it for whenever you want to wake up, and it will simply vibrate to wake you up. You can even set it to wake you at the optimal time for your body. For example, you set it to wake you at 6am, but at 5:52 it notices you’re in a light sleep. So, it will vibrate then instead of waiting the 8 minutes in which you might fall back into a deep sleep. Supposedly you wake up more awake and less groggy that way.

Another great feature is that it can hold a charge for a long time – 7 days. You have to plug it into a computer to charge (although they do have a wall charger available to purchase separately). I charge once a week or so while I am at work, and that seems to work fine for me.

So, it really does have a lot of great features, but in the end it’s all up to you and how you use them. I find it really has not motivated me at all, yet I continue to wear it every day. My goals are 10,000 steps and 8 hours of sleep a day and I hardly ever meet them. Usually I look at my total each night and am surprised by how little I moved that day. Or sometimes I feel like I didn’t do anything, and I’ll have a high step count because I was running a lot of errands or something. It’s all interesting information, but I’m definitely not using it to its full potential. I don’t look at it and think, oh, only 1,000 more steps and I’ll have reached my goal, let’s get moving. Maybe for you it would though. Most days I just use it in place of my alarm clock.

So, that’s the Jawbone UP24. I really intended this to be a more favorable review than it turned out to be. I really do like it, and I think if used right it can be a great tool. Unfortunately, I think I just need more to really motivate me. I do get excited on those rare days I reach 10,000 steps; but apparently not enough to care if I ever do it again.

UPDATE: In September 2014 my UP24 conked out on me. For some reason it just stopped holding a charge. Luckily it was still within the 1-year factory warranty, and I was able to get it replaced. The Jawbone customer service was really great.

Also, since my initial review above, my husband has started using the FitBit. I don’t like the look of that one as much, but I must say I am a little jealous that he can check his stats right on the device. Plus, it tracks stairs and he can check the time. A watch function would be really cool to have.

UPDATE 2: In May 2015 the replacement UP24 conked out on me again. The same issue as the first, it just stopped holding its charge. I called customer service again, but was out of luck. They stated the warranty period did not re-up when I received the replacement band and it was past their 60-day return policy. My only option was to trouble shoot, which I declined. I could understand one faulty band as being a fluke, but two? No thank you.