accept no substitutes

this is my dad.  and this is harry truman.

they both rock the distinguished administrator look and favor each other enough that you could understand how the average almost-two-year-old might mix them up.

but clearly layla is a hardcore student of history and knew the difference between our nation's 33rd president and her maternal grandfather, Pop Pop.

i almost got her to believe they were one in the same, but upon closer inspection, she stayed strong to her roots and forcefully recanted just before bouncing off in to the sunset.


an incredible costume

. .
our kids' preschool has a fall party a few days before halloween. this is good because it gives judah the chance to dress up as whatever solo character he would most like to be before we all get dressed up in our group costume closer to the real date. that way if he is really wanting to be someone/something that doesnt fit into a group idea, he still gets the chance to rock it before toeing the line in our family theme.

last year, he wanted to be buzz lightyear so i made him some wings to go along with the store bought costume that someone had given him (and which was waaaaay too small).

apparently the new tradition is that his solo costume is his current favorite Pixar character, hand made by mommy the night before, because this year he wanted to be Dash from "the incredibles."

we LOVE all of the pixar movies and "the incredibles" is one of my favorites, so i was more than happy to let my little blondie be the speedster son of mr. incredible and elastigirl.

layla hasnt mastered english yet and as such cannot exert her will in quite as specific of a manner, so she just got put into a generic monster costume from our dress up trunk that i had found on mega clearance last year.

oh but yesterday evening was probably the worst ever for me as a parent. both kids, but judah in particular, were acting so defiantly and refusing to obey or have good attitudes. jesse and i were both near tears and at a loss. i cancelled my trip to the store to get a few pieces of the costume because i was NOT feeling like rewarding him in any way for the torture he was putting us through.

well, after some come to jesus moments (mostly by me) and a second dinner for judah at 8 pm, he was back to his normal sweet self. he went to bed freaking adorably and at about 9:30 i decided that i did want to bless him by giving him the costume of his dreams. i also decided to market it to him as a reward for changing his heart and attitude.

after a few lickety-split little sewing additions, $5.50 at walmart, and a little thinking outside the box, jesse and i had created the PERFECT dash costume for judah to wake up to this morning:

yall,  he FREAKED when he saw it. (DIY at the bottom of the post)

i was worried he might balk at the tights, but i called them dash's super speed pants and he went for it. 

the only challenge we had we getting him to go along with was gelling his hair back. he is mega weird about his hair being wet or styled in any unusual way (can you blame him? his natural mane is pretty fabulous).

but after a little blow drying the gel into submission, we had a full blown super on our hands:

who is that masked man?

it's DASH, coming to save the day!

monsters flee from him!

villians quail at the sight of him!

mutant creatures become utterly adorable running from him!

a chilly cold morning can't stop our hero!

"i have come to wage war on peace and harmony!!!"

"you'll have to get through me first, monster!"

the dreaded monster stomp threatens to topple our hero!

they clash in hand to hand combat!

dash exerts his super-strength (of character)  and warns the goblin to give up!

the monster persists, so dash is forced to bounce her into submission!

the monster didnt account for a slippery surface AND the altered center of gravity in her fur! she is vanquished! (but still amazing)

our hero has done it again and heads off into the sunset rise, victorious.

and after a heart-stopping scare when we pulled into preschool and saw a bunch of kids unloading dressed NORMALLY, we were relieved to find that many inside had in fact dressed up. including judah's BFF, logan rocking jake from the neverland pirates. (and pictured together last year in costume in their 2 year old class).

my favorite thing about this kind of DIY costume is that i didnt buy anything that cant be reused and i didnt transform anything that cant be used in a normal day-to-day way (when we arent being super).

or you could just spend $30 on this polyester version from amazon and it can get worn maybe 3 times and used for nothing else. (was the snarky? i am loyal to the DIY process).

so here's the low down on how easy all the elements of this costumer were to throw together.

-hair gel

-black super hero mask (we already had a blue one in our dress up box and i just pinned it to some black fabric and sewed all along the borders and then trimmed the excess..super easy). you could also buy one for cheap or make from scratch easily (or even just use face paint/makeup)

-red long sleeve (tight-fitting) t-shirt: i bought mine from walmart for $3 in the garanimals section (and i bought a size down so it would fit more snug).

-"incredibles" logo printed out on one of my shipping label sticker sheets (so i can reuse the shirt without the logo). 

-orange belt: just a strip of fabric with velcro on the ends. we placed this over the waistband of the black underpants (we ended up securing it with a safety pin too since his maneuvers sometimes busted through the vercro).

-a pair of layla's black bloomers for the super-underpants

-store bought pair of opaque red tights (will be reworn by layla) for $1.88 at walmart

-super boots: we took judah's rain boots (which are spiderman patterned) and slipped a pair of jesse's black socks over the entire boot, tucking the excess around the top inside rim of the shoe to give make them look all black but without making the change permanent.

-gloves: i could have bought a costume pair for $3 but instead chose to take a pair of old black mittens and combine them with the cut off top of another pair of jesse's old black socks to get the long super gloves. i just cut the foot of the sock off, leaving the tube of black material. i then turned it inside out and sewed down the long seam; taking it in about an inch to make the circumference small enough to fit snuggly on my little man's tiny forearms, and then sewed the raw edge of the tube to the cuff of each mitten.

-*i didnt catch it until now, but it looks like the real dash actually has some black trim around the collar. if i lived in cold climes i would have done this with a black turtleneck underneath (or, you know, a dickey!), but for GA, i probably would have just sewn another strip of black fabric around the edge of the collar (with a long basting stitch so i could easily remove it)

and just like that we have a tiny superhero!

next week: we tackle or family ensemble. i'll give you a hint, we are from another pixar movie.

stay incredible, yall.

. .


leave of ab[bey]sence

*you should read this while applying my 100% authentic and perfect english accent to it*

my deepest apologies to you, dear reader. it seems as though something has come up that shall henceforth render me perfectly incapable of being on the "internet" (vapors permitting) and doing anything besides spectating this magnificent series.

to those of you who for so long tried to persuade me of the utterly meritorious nature of this drama, you can rest assured that its qualities have duly evinced themselves and i am now favorably inclined to pledge my full faith.

 sheesh. how did people ever talk like that?! i am about to pass out just from trying to compose 4 sentences worth of culture. 


stools, sample

the kitchen upgrades continue, slowly but surely. 

in true us fashion we came out of the gates like crazy folk on the big monster aspects of the redo and now are procrastinating and putting off the final easy little details. we arent great finishers. 

however a little bit of progress was made recently.

we bought our bar stools back in september of 2006 from IKEA. we loved them because they were cheap and they went perfectly with the cherry cabinets (which were years away from inducing vomiting in me). 

the 3 small bar stool boxes were part of a MASSIVE truckload of furniture and boxes that we were moving into the house we had just bought (and which jesse would live in for a few weeks before our wedding).

we seriously had all the furniture for our entire house in the bed of a truck at one time: two couches from my parents, a futon i had from college (with a sketchy looking rubber cement stain on it), and approximately 14 hecto-tons of  flat packed IKEA boxes reeking of cinnamon rolls and yearning to be assembled by many tiny allen wrenches.

we borrowed jesse's dad's old truck and stacked that mother higher than i would have thought possible. we drove the 30 miles from IKEA to our house and aged about 10 years in the process. 

if there was ever a snapshot for jesse of what life would be like with me it was this. i was beyond stressed out about the contents of our entire house being disgorged from the dilapidated truck bed and into immediate oblivion on the 8-lane thunderdome that is the atlanta connector. if only we could have harnessed the strength and power of my butt cheeks as they clenched in fear and used those PSI's to secure the furniture, we would have had nothing to fear.  


"drifting, DRIFTING!!!!!"

"you have to ANTICIPATE the bumps!"

"the MALM, jesse! think of the MALM! that bed cannot die a virgin!"

so yeah, he had fair warning about my stress-management skills. everything made it in one piece (or in the case of the IKEA things, in 97 pieces that we would spend hours putting together) and most of those things still reside in that very house today. the MALM has thoroughly enjoyed its role as the marriage bed and has been fruitful in its production of two little dukelets.

so the stools looked great in the old kitchen and served us well for years.

but when we took over the dining table and made it my sewing area, the stools became the main (re: only) kitchen seating. this was fine, if less than comfy (with no back support and a seat that seems to be shrinking beneath m'rump as years go by). and since toddlers and stools make a bad combination, we mostly just ate in the living room at their little table.

so after the kitchen makeover these stools were not only unused, but also looked really out of place in our new blissfully wood-free environment. 

i was on the lookout for new seating that would look good in the new space AND be more suitable for humans to sit at. 

but, ew yall, there seems to be no bar stools possessing the qualities i required: under $60 each, backed, and NOT hideous. 

and then, after scouring every online furniture place i could think of,  the goodwill fairy smiled upon me when i least expected it:


i almost screamed when i came across these. they were the perfect height, there were THREE of them, they were solid wood with padded leather seats, footrests and a beautifully simple and clean shape. i am pretty sure that these were hand-made by someone (there are no signs of any factory and i send up a mighty praise of thanks to the talented hands that crafted them because these are gorgeous and so well-made. 

did i mention they were $15 each? 

and silly jesse tried to tell me not to get them. he lacks the vision, yall. but he's oh so cute, so we forgive him.

it did hurt to remove the awesome leather (a decision that scandalized the goodwill ladies when i told them my plans), but it just would have worked in that room. i have diligently saved the squares of precious material and will surely use them for something grand.

i had bought a target shower curtain a while back with the intention of making new window treatments for the kitchen, but we opted instead to leave the windows bare and open to ameliorate (somewhat) the light-deprived situation that plagues our house.

i knew that this fun grey print would be perfect for recovering the seats.

4 yards of unique fabric for about $15...thats a win.

a few cans of white spray paint and some quality time with my staple gun later, we had 3 perfect additions to our kitchen! 
oh man i love them!

 look how nice they play with the current decor! (ignore the wicker baskets and red trivet...they are not invited to this party)

i was stumped about the dingy white french doors in the kitchen (now that we had decided to forgo the curtains) and was getting a little nervous about the room being too overwhelmingly greyscale. 

i had seen a pinterest project that involved painting the inside of doors and thought that might work well in this instance.

for a $3 paint sample and a small surface area, it was a low risk gamble and i love how it turned out:

still need to change the color of the door hardware

so much fresher and cleaner and crisper and just all around better, no?


the bad news- now that we have these stools, we are trying to table-train the kids. they spent the first years of their toddler-hood just swooping in for a bite to eat and then running around. we were bad since we never ate at a table, we didnt make them sit in high chairs or anything. this has made them look barbaric when we go to restaurants or other people's houses and it must end. therefore, we are making them sit in the chairs for dinner.  it's not going well. but parenting aside, they also spill like crazy and the beautiful fabric is taking some hits. i see myself recovering these again sometime soon in oilcloth or laminated fabric. live an learn.

the good news- i listed the old bar stools on craigslist and ended up making $55 bucks on them! more than enough to pay for the new ones and the spray paint. an upgrade in style, functionality, and quality for free?!?! thats a HUGE win. 


dukes & sons

if we ever start a family band (and by "we," i of course mean jesse and the kids since i am the least musically gifted human mammal since a burro with a broken tibia), we have the picture ready for the cover art of their debut CD:

of course we couldnt have gotten this picture on purpose if we had tried. rather it was right after we arrived at the fair and i was just finishing buying tickets while jesse attempted to control the kids' insanity at being plunged into so much stimulation, and keep them confined until we could point that energy in a direction that included seatbelts. 

he was trying to get the kids to come with him back over to me and obviously they took that to mean "peel off in opposite directions away from both of us...and layla, bust a sweet move on your way out, please. ready, break!"


costumes...or DO i???

if you had asked me yesterday if i was into costumes and dressing up silly, i would have immediately responded, "NOPE!"  sure, i may play along if an invitation requires it or if we have a good DIY idea for a group costume. but its not like i go around looking for reasons to dress up like a mighty freak.

but then jesse and i were brainstorming our halloween (or "falloween" if you think jesus hates halloween) costume for this year. we have set the bar pretty high in the 3 years we have been parents so far, and i was at a loss for what to do this year to live up to our streak.

my requirements: 1) i will NOT buy a costume. never ever. zero points for store bought. 2) we like to go for a family-wide theme (the kids will overrule this soon so we're making the most of it while it lasts).

usually we think them up on our own, but shamefully last night i did a pinterest search for DIY family costumes.

i was bummed when most of them were ones i had seen before or were too easy or expected. eventually jesse and i actually did think up an idea on our own (and it rocks), but i figured i would offer up our past ideas to pinterest and the world at large in case there are other adults who like to forgo their dignity and join the kids in dressing up creatively and with easy DIY construction.

this is also something of a "watch me grow" collage for our family.

 here are closeups of each and the links on how the DIYs came together with household items.

so the part where i surprised myself was when i was going back and trying to find these pictures. i had to go on facebook for a few since my computer was out of commission, and in the process, i found that maybe we actually DO enjoy dressing up. (aka, here are 4 more ideas for DIY costumes).

halloween 2005 while we were dating: britney spears (inspiration here) and kevin federline in happier days (it was topical at the time)

that was a deflated kickball in my shirt standing in as sean preston federline-spears. fun fact: we went to a bar later that night and i got some MEAN looks as i inhaled second hand smoke and drank my beer. i'm betting that was actually pretty true to character.

halloween 2006 (we were 3 week newlyweds!): we teamed up with 2 of our BFF couple friends and all DIY'd ourselves into the characters of "clue." also known as the best effing group costume in HISTORY. jesse is ROCKING it as colonel mustard.

2008 (pregnant with judah) niece's birthday party (costumes required, but no overall theme): we went south of the border as a latino couple (sweet baby bella is our adorable bee friend)

2009 for my niece's "wizard of oz" birthday party. we kind of copped out here and just dressed judah as a lollipop guild member and we phoned it in and called ourselves the ruby slipper and yellow brick road.

there you go, feel free to pin, recreate or just laugh. the costumes for 2k12 will be coming atcha soon enough!


progressing to 30

for my 30th birthday we didnt have plans. i definitely did NOT want a party or anything group-ish. it may surprise you that i am a hardcore introvert and though i love people and being in groups, what fills me up is alone time. especially with jesse.

we took care of the #1 main thing and that was getting rid of the kids.  i swear those little gremlins KNOW when they are headed somewhere else for the night because they try to pack a whole extra day's worth of boundary-pushing, food-spitting, and harpy-screeching into the abbreviated time we are with them.

by the time we bustled them into the car at 5 pm, we were but frazzled, empty husks of the robust, well-meaning parental life-forms we had begun our day as. we looked at each other over the console with the haunted eyes of bewildered teenagers who've just realized that the house they are making out in is possessed by poltergeist, both thinking, "what the HELL would we have done if we had to keep them for 3 more hours?!?!?"

needless to say, having grandparents who are near, willing, and able is a boon beyond compare. bump "wit beyond measure," rowena ravenclaw; i'll take free, loving babysitting and you just keep that diadem.

so when we dropped them off at the grand dukes (barely controlling the impulse to turn and flee before they changed their minds), the first thing we did was sit there in the driveway brainstorming how to use our dizzying new freedom.

i'm so wishy-washy and unpredictable that jesse knows not to bother planning anything. a few years ago i would have been pouty at this and called it "unromantic," but now i am at peace and know myself a little better. i am too much of a controller to handle surprises well. 

so we decided to head north to atlanta for dinner. but i was oh so starving. so i asked if, before we got to our destination north of the city (and 45 minutes away), we could stop at a bar by georgia tech and have one of my favorite appetizers from my college days. this would be a way to calm the hunger monster that was getting agitated in my belly and plotting an emotional ambush on jesse to tide it over. PLUS we could do a few things we wanted to do in midtown before real dinner.

then an idea hit me, what if for my 30th birthday we went all around town and got my favorite course from a few of my favorite restaurants? a city-wide progressive dinner.

so that's what we did. i posted a little of our journey on instagram and lots of folks asked to see the full list of my favorites. so here's the full menu. there were no rules or restrictions on geography, price, or cuisine type. 

*this isnt a BEST OF ATLANTA list or anything (i could totally make one of those though...food, she's my forte). it's just what i was feeling like that night at a few of my favorite places that i dont get to go to very often because we live so far in the suburbs.*

1st COURSE:   

this is the bar that sits pretty much right on georgia tech's campus. on the night of my 21st birthday my senior year in college, this was where the party started (ending destination: a vomitorium on the outskirts of regretsville). i was so nervous as we pulled up in our minivan that the college kids would just smell the 30 on me and throw produce at the shriveled crone i must look like to their nubile young retinas, but we entered unscathed.

we found a seat at the bar (hoping to avoid having a fully tip a waitress) next to the drunkest man i have seen in a long while. there were several moments where his esophageal integrity was in question and i thought jesse might be getting baptized by jagermeister and shame. 

we ordered the strizzata, a favorite that my best friend and i often drooled over in our dorm before, duh, finding ourselves shoveling it in a few moments later at the nearby source.

i can never describe it adequately to anyone, but its just good. heres what the official menu says about it:

Baked Strizzatta- rocky mountain pizza dough rolled thin, topped with our own white sauce mixed with applewood smoked bacon, baked and then rolled up and sliced into bite sized pinwheels.  Insider Tip! add pepperoni for 50 cents more

this was where i first learned to love banana peppers. 

we washed it down with some beverages (and a healthy dose of, "so help me, if i see that guy get behind the wheel, we are calling the cops") and reminded ourselves how stupid we must have looked as college kids who thought we were the coolest thing the greater metro area had ever been lucky enough to see. 

we tooled around atlantic station for a bit afterwards doing some shopping with a little light illegal parking thrown in for good measure. then we departed for the 


if you are blessed enough to have a chuy's in your area, stop what you are doing and go there NOW.

i first sampled the manna of this establishment when i visited a college boyfriend at his home in arizona. it would be 10 more years until i tasted the sweet mexi-goodness again when one opened up north of atlanta.

whatever you order when you go, you MUST ask for the creamy jalepeno dip to go along with your chips and salsa (all complimentary). 

the first time i went to the atlanta one, i was so afraid they would leave and never come back that i ordered a HALF GALLON of this stuff to go and ate pretty much just it and chips for an entire week. my colon got the scourging of a lifetime, but dont you think for a second it wasnt worth it.

jesse and i split one plate of the ONLY thing we ever order: the baja shrimp tacos (with extra creamy jalepeno sauce atop) and i got a mind-blowingly delicious strawberry margarita. jesse willingly gave up his drinking rights to be the driver and keep me in my happy zone for the night. 

at this point we were feeling full so we took a little detour and went goodwill thrifting. it's always exciting for me to go to a goodwill away from my home one because EVERYTHING is new. 

it was pretty funny to be tottering around in my fancy wedges with my date-night clutch in goodwill on a saturday night. 

 you see me rollin'...

after a little thrifting, digestion and deliberation we hit the highlands for:


harry & sons is a thai and sushi place and is my all time life's favorite restaurant. i have eaten here probably 200 times since i found out about it my junior year of college. 

i can think of at least 30 people that i have taken here. it is my [other] gospel.

besides having amazing sushi, thai food and a great bar, this place also randomly has the WORLDS GREATEST CREME BRULEE. 

i know youre thinking of some place in your town that you think has creme brulee that cant be beat, but i have to tell you, youre wrong. it's at harry & sons and i will fight you about it.

but this time i had to forgo the brulee since this was just to be a sushi and wine course.

 tropical maki. heaven

next i had to make up my mind about dessert.  was contemplating the not-flashy-but-delicious chili's chocolate chip paradise pie, but there is one of those near us that i can go to any old time. 

inspiration came via instagram when someone i followed posted a picture of CHEESECAKE! 

we turned back north and plunged into the chaos of


on a saturday night, even at 9 pm, this place was SMASHED. people were lined up outside (i am guessing that reading the 50 paged menus doesnt help the average diner's time spent) it was going to be a 30 minute wait and we would have to valet the car. so i sent jesse to do a lap while i got the goods to go.

because youre only 30 once, instead of sharing a piece (which a family of 4 could easily do) we EACH got a slice. 

i ordered a tuxedo and one slice of just oreo, but the dude gave me the oreo extreme dream instead (which i was sad to see didnt have the oreo crust that i adore, but did have lots of other goodnesses to offer). 

we went to a nearby starbucks to dig in, and naturally be came the target of many an envious eye. poor guys probably thought their muffins where the cat's pajamas until we waltzed in with our bounty.

 we made it through maybe a 1/3 of each slice before we tapped out. the leftovers would get me through a stressful locking-in of keys the next day as i awaited rescue. 

in the end, we only spent about 60 dollars total because every place was just one dish and maybe a drink. it was SO much fun to be completely untethered  by time or geographical restrictions. i felt so special and had SUCH an amazing time with my #1 boy be-bopping all around creation for whatever my tummy felt like at that moment.

it was my progressive fantasy birthday dinner and it was perfection!

would you ever do this? what would you construct as your dream progressive meal in your city?

UNRELATED: i will explain this more tomorrow, but can you  PLEASE go here and thumbs up layla? (there might be something in it for you)


all a-jumble

i was going to take a whole week off from blogging, but recent events have my brain too full to cope. 

take heed, poor souls of the internet, thou art mine pensieve.

here comes a bunch of stuff.

-i turned 30 on tuesday. it was harmless. other than the spontaneous evaporation of all my collagen and that government agent showing up and confiscating all of my cool jeans and issuing me my official over-30's pair of high-waisted Lee's.  also: i still have zits. WTF?

-speaking of clothes, i tried out wittlebee for layla, and her first box came yesterday. i was really happy and will show yall the results next week.

-this morning i came in to work and found that my wireless internet wouldnt connect. so i rebooted. and that was the last i saw of my hard drive as the blue screen of death mocked me to my face.  the even better news is that i was using my work computer to back up our home computer so its like getting kicked in the electronic balls at home and on the job!  it's at the ER right now seeing if anything is salvageable, but prospects are grim.

-judah is going through a tricksy phase right now. he gets out of bed a million times a night, usually because he, "needs sumfin!" he also is having major trouble coping with the smallest disappointments and spends much of his day flopping around on the floor in sack cloth and ashes because we told him he couldn't have cheez-its for dinner. i dont know if the interrupted sleep is causing the moods, or vice versa, but we are losing it. i had heard the 3's are the new terrible twos, and so far 3 has been WAY harder than 2 was in the raising-judah department. help, please!

-the first episode of the final season of "30 Rock" was last night. i feel the same way that i did about the 7th harry potter book. i was so excited to read it, but also knew that every page consumed was getting me closer to the end. i love this show with the fiery passion of a bi-solar tattooine summer's day.

-i am offering 20% off all my braided scarfs right now in my etsy shop. enter code SCARFTOBER at checkout. i have some brand new colors and stripes in stock this year.

-i HATE politics (though i love freedom and democracy...so unwad your panties) but this was obviously the best thing accomplished by the presidential debate.

sorry, that's all i got. i am mostly just needy today. please tell me how to parent this 3 year old boy of mine AND please send me all of my hard drive's documents. thank you.