OH YOU GUYS.
I love them love them love them. I didn't think I would. I mean, I knew I'd love the kid pictures, but I even like the ones with me in them! And these are just the few I ordered. I have a whole box of proofs at home that capture my kids PERFECTLY. And at home, in their space, doing what they do at 6 and 5 and almost 2 years old. That picture of Jack up there? THAT IS QUINTESSENTIAL JACK. (Also, I suppose, my quintessential late summer backyard. Eh.) It's just amazing to me what you can capture!
For my big canvas print I chose the one of the three kids on the couch reading, Molly and Jack looking up at me and Emma looking at them.
THANKS LINDSAY. We would have never done this without your generous offer and I'm SO GLAD!
Oh Internet it's been such a GREAT! DAY! Even though I had to drive all over town fixing a YMCA camp paperwork mess up (MY fault) and then forgetting the paint that I expressly went to Home Depot to purchase AT Home Depot... More on that later. But my multitude of brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews just went home and I am full of what is the most amazing cake I've eaten in a loooong time and I just feel so lucky! Summer birthdays are pretty rad, what with the family in town and sunny days and long wine-soaked evenings.
Today's winner: Miranda! Thanks for playing, Miranda! (Today's winner-picking method: "Phillip, pick a number between 1 and 29." "27.") I am so excited to see what you and Hayley do together and please be sure to send me samples. Also your address.
Okay, first things first. The FPC found my birthday cake here. Holy moly. I'm told it's not the easiest or the cheapest cake around but MAN it can slay even the mightiest of chocoholics (me). Rich, dense, salty, sweet, dark, omg. Recommend.
As for the PAINT... so my Colorado brother and SIL have been in town about a week now and I'm pretty sure SIL and I have talked of nothing but fixing up houses. Specifically ours. We must be the most boring people on the planet, but we think we are FASCINATING. Anyway, a few days ago she was here and we spent a million imaginary dollars renovating my entire house. Then today she shows up all, "MAGGIE. There is a picture on the internet of a kitchen like yours with PAINTED CABINETS." And I was all, "SNARFOMG!" And she was all, "I KNOW!"
Turns out you can use the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation kit to paint even my godawful white/oak laminate cabinets. At least the After pictures on the internet look pretty darn amazing. What SIL and I figured is that even if it doesn't turn out amazing, it will still be better than the 1980s white/oak laminate, right? Because I am the most impatient person on the planet and because she is an enabler, I decided to go to Home Depot right that minute to pick up my very own Cabinet Transformations kit. WHILE I WAS THERE: some kid in a Home Depot polo shirt got me to sign up for a free interior design promotion. The designer is coming on Saturday. I have absolutely no idea what that will be like. I shall report back. Then afterwards I found the paint, asked the paint dude to tint it 'Castle' which is a dark gray, and I wandered around looking for tile. After ten minutes or so (and finding tile, dudes, I cannot help myself) I saw my box sitting on the paint desk and I picked it up and bought it and left. And then I got home and realized I had everything in my box except the paint. GAH! Dummy.
Phillip is not sure about this whole thing. Especially because I want to paint all the wood trim. He thinks we should stain it. I want to paint it (guess) aqua. HA HA HA. I mean, it's MY HOUSE, right? We're not moving for a LONG TIME. If EVER. I'll take pictures to show you, but my main floor has a lot of natural light and is decorated with light colors. I think that's me fighting the October - June gloom. I have the aforementioned white/oak laminate cabinets, a beat up wood floor, pale gray tile countertops, white walls, white windows, and oak trim where there should be a nice tile backsplash. And my kitchen is mostly a long, wide galley with next to no upper cabinets. I actually don't mind the layout at all. It'd be nice if one day we could open it up a bit more, but as that's a gazillion dollars and the paint kit is $75...
So I'm thinking paint all the cabinets gray, add some brushed nickel hardware, MAYBE paint the trim aqua, and add a very thin backsplash of seaglass-looking tile. Phillip, however, thinks we should stain the trim. I would only stain it a dark brown and never thought a dark brown would go in my house. But... now I'm thinking about it. Especially because I have these bar height counters above my regular countertops that are plain butcher block and I could stain those to match... JUST THINKING OUT LOUD HERE, PEOPLE.
But anyway. In a matter of days I've gone from going broke on my deck to obsessing over Emma's room to buying children's desks at Ikea and rearranging the playroom to remodeling my kitchen myself. AM A NUTJOB. Poor Phillip.
Oh wait, did you say Birthday Giveaway Week is not quite over? You're right! I have one more day to send you something fun. Well, just one of you, which is a huge bummer. Maybe next year I'll be independently wealthy and I can go all Oprah's Favorite Things on you. A girl can dream!
Okay, for the last giveaway I'm sharing my favorite... war book! JUST KIDDING. It's a PARTY PLANNING book called Party Like A Rock Star. I love parties and I WISH I could throw a major super-glam bash with a actual budget! The Blathering is as close as I get. I LOVE the organization, the planning, the brainstorming, the MAKING. This is not a "how to throw a cute kid party" book or a "bridal shower ideas" book, this is a book for parties I basically could never throw in my lifetime. But I don't care. I love the pictures, I love the ideas, I love the inspiration. Are you a similar sort? This is a fun book to page through. And would you like to come to my Christmas party?
Thanks for making this week super fun. I was just telling everyone tonight how much I love my internet friends. xoxo
Turns out Birthday Giveaway posts are the bright spot in my otherwise not so hot week. Like right now the kids are eating dinner and watching a show and I would like to crawl into bed and hide until Phillip comes home and I get to yell, "Grill me some dinner!", but this is Prime Blogging Time and I have to announce the winner!
Congratulations, Lindsay Collins! Send me your mailing address so I can sign you up for a subscription to HGTV magazine. By the way, I feel I should confess this giveaway was totally not random. Lindsay's was just the only comment to include the words "tornado" and "rebuilt from the studs" and AAAUUUGGGHHH.
Things that totally work on me: chocolate, flattery, pitiful stories, batting your eyelashes.
So it's fun to give presents (as long as the only work I have to do is click "buy" on Amazon) and it's ALSO fun to check out your websites. Something else I should confess: I am very very VERY bad at checking blogs. I still don't have a replacement for Google Reader. But I've been trying to click through to see what you all are saying and I am totally going to post some links. Like Cookie District. This blog is full of pictures of cookies. PRETTY cookies. Need I say more? I will: there are some fleur de lis cookies that I totally wish we'd had for the Blathering last year!
Speaking of cookies, today's giveaway, which is really Thursday's giveaway, which is The Actual Birthday Day Giveaway, is my favorite baking cookbook, Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson. Fittingly, a friend gave it to me for my birthday several years ago. I'm not much of an adventurous baker - I tend to make the same things over and over, but I think I've tried more recipes from this book than any other and they are ALL hits. My favorite is the soft chocolate chunk cookie I've posted on this website (complete with a comment from the divine Ms. Yockelson herself!) - an obscene amount of butter, bittersweet chocolate chunks, brown sugar, MMMM. I honestly don't believe there's a better chocolate chip cookie. I'm also rather fond of the coca cola cake (the frosting melts into the cake, omg), the chocolate almond pound cake, and the large assortment of frosting recipes. I like to have a little cake with my frosting, you know. And always chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.
Anyway, this is a big, fat, hardcore book with lots of baking advice for Real Bakers, but I'm proof it's not too difficult for a Lazy Baker like myself.
Maybe I will call Phillip and tell him to pick up some cake on his way home.
(Tomorrow I will tell you about my birthday cake. Which the FPC started making today. Which I am VERY EXCITED ABOUT.) (Favorite thing about birthdays: cake.)
Thanks for making my days, people. xoxo
I remember when Emma was born and how the big kids just made me crazy. They were so loud. They were always touching me. It was always, like, extra huge sensory overload 24/7 and I wanted to lock myself in the closet with the baby and just rock back and forth in the pitch dark quiet.
Today feels like one of those days, except this time I want to escape all three of them.
It's not them, it's me. It's not a great day. I'm stressed about things that have nothing to do with my kids. The sun disappeared. I have a stack of recycling as tall as Jack in my hallway. That effing tree won't stop dumping pine needles all over my nice new deck.
So let's do something fun. I have picked a winner! This time I closed my eyes and pointed at all the comments in my email and the winner is Blogless Brooke! I will email you for your address, Blogless Brooke. Thanks for playing!
Let's do something else fun! What shall I give away today?! Will you be amused to learn that I am coming up with something mere minutes before I write my blog post? Or, in this case, WHILE I am writing my blog post? I'm saving a certain favorite thing for Actual Birthday Day so today I'm picking... Hmm... Favorite Thing: HGTV and obsessing over my house. How about a subscription to HGTV magazine? Totally works.
This is actually something I want someone to buy for ME. HINT HINT, PHILLIP.
Leave a comment! Win a magazine sure to give you the Spirit Of Lack about your surroundings! (I PROMISE I WILL BE IN A BETTER MOOD TOMORROW!)
Giving away ONE Enneagram book was VERY VERY HARD, Internet. Turns out I would like to send a book to ALL of you and have introspective email conversations with ALL of you. I sulked about this so much today that by the time I finally decided I needed to just pick someone already I'd created this, like, Enneagram CAMP in my head, where we could all go and DISCUSS OUR TYPES. Like a Blathering for NERRRRRDS! Wouldn't that be AWESOME?
Okay, so I looked at the number of comments (34) and picked a number in the middle (14) and that was Tara from Our Little Geekling. HI TARA! SEND ME YOUR MAILING ADDRESS!
(This is not going to be my Method, just so you know. Tomorrow's comment-picking method may be "person who uses the letter z" or "this is the one Emma pointed at". BUT IT WILL BE RANDOM I PROMISE.)
Now I'm going to make you read about my day before I tell you the next super exciting giveaway item.
My day was lovely. My brother and sister-in-law visited and their kids and it was a glorious 70 something degrees and THIS is why people put up with the rain. Some days are just absolutely perfect. My mom gave me a bunch of super colorful Deck Accessories, like lanterns and wire baskets and drink buckets, and I LOVE being out there, glass of white wine in hand. Then my SIL and I spent a gazillion imaginary dollars redesigning the main floor of my house (we knocked out the dining room wall and expanded the dining and kitchen areas onto part of the deck! cheap!) and talking about how they maybe might move to Seattle if my brother can find a job. (LET'S GET ON THAT, UNIVERSE!) This didn't really help with the General Dissatisfied Milaise, but it WAS sort of fun.
The lame part of today [REDACTED!]
BLAH. Let's discuss a different Favorite Thing, namely Favorite Colors. Can you say: AQUA?
I bought this color (Turquoise & Caicos) for my sister's rainbow-colored wedding last summer. LOVE. IT. There's a new Essie aqua out, but I think I like this one best. Leave a comment to get it in the mail!
While we were at the beach this weekend Phillip arranged to have our kitchen and bathrooms professionally cleaned - a most fabulous and thoughtful birthday present - and this fact alone should have me floating through the house, charmed and cheered. Instead I'm sitting here barking at my frustrating children, getting annoyed about the messes all over the rest of the house, and basically feeling dissatisfied about absolutely everything. I need to knock down this wall and renovate this kitchen RIGHT NOW. I need to grab a trash bag and throw practically everything we own away and/or haul it to Goodwill RIGHT NOW. I need to go on a juice fast, I need to cut my hair, I need a new dining room table, I have to go to Target, I need to buy new sheets, I need to fix my bedroom RIGHTNOWRIGHTNOWRIGHTNOW.
Anyone have a name for this malaise? Return-To-Real-Life-Itis? I'm Grouchy McGroucherpants tonight, hoping I get that school job so I can hire a housecleaner on a regular basis. Of course, between whatever childcare we rig up for Emma and a regular housecleaner I'd have, like, five dollars left over, but... still worth it? Feels worth it right now.
But you know what? It's Birthday Week! It's the week I shop on Amazon for YOU! You = suspicious. And rightly so, Internet, because to kick off Birthday Giveaway Week is a copy of Helen Palmer's The Enneagram!!!!!!!! OH YES! My plot to convert the masses to new agey personality test weirdness is just beginning.
There are some conditions. You have to tell me what you decide your type is. Then you have to participate it long winded email conversations about it. All right fine, you don't have to. But if you WANT to that is TOTALLY THE KIND OF THING I LIKE TO DO.
(Quick reminder: my dad looked at my book and said, "Why do you read this garbage." So. Not for everyone!)
The good news is, the giveaways can only get better from here, right? RIGHT!
Even though I could positively karate kick every single person who feels compelled to tell me that my baby doesn't look like much of a baby anymore, they're right. At some point in the last few weeks Emma Cheung morphed into the next version of herself. She's not two yet, but for all the whining and demanding and temper having and sheer personality getting thrown around, she might as well be. And it's as I suspected - there's a loud, assertive, charming little extrovert inside that kid and I admit it, I'm a little intimidated.
I thought my other kids were full of personality at this age too, but I think they were personalities I understood a bit better. Maybe a little more like my own, or easily handled. I see a lot of myself in Jack, and Molly is a sweet, soft, delicious little spoonful of girly whipped cream. Or maybe it's because I'm familiar with them, I know what to expect, and Emma's self is suddenly exploding all over the house. Even Jack and Molly seemed stunned by the force at times, unthinkingly handing over a toy or snack, immediately giving in, yielding to the emotional noise that is their baby sister.
Just this last week she's begun to choose walking - a drunken stumble, really - over scooting, and she's high on the experience. "LOOK AT ME!" her face says, as if she started walking at 9 months instead of 20. She talks. Constantly. Repeats everything we say. Yells it. And if she can't form the words she emits this awful mind-numbing "Eh-ehhhh!" until we figure out what she wants. She is sweet and darling and cuddly and loving until the instant she is not, and then she is furious, offended, indignant, and spilling white hot tears of HOW COULD YOU?!?!?!
And while she is still very clingy and attached to me, she has absolutely no fear diving (literally) into her siblings' games and toys and carefully structured pillow forts. Aren't all of these things here for her own amusement? Including the older siblings? Is not this entire house and everything within it simply existing for her own personal enjoyment?
I feel sorry for my kids sometimes, having as they do a mother obsessed with Myers-Briggs and enneagrams and birth order and various other personality theories and assessments. I don't WANT to assign them traits and characteristics before they can pronounce "enneagram" but dudes, if Emma Cheung doesn't have YOUNGEST CHILD oozing out of every pore. I see it in action every day. She studies Jack and Molly, she takes note of what gets a laugh, and she'll do those things over and over again. She REMEMBERS those things, weeks and weeks after they happen. I'm afraid she'll be playing "steal Mommy's napkin" for laughs until she's thirty-five. Even at not quite two she's the ham in this family, though admittedly she doesn't have much competition. I fear for this child, growing up the lone noisy extrovert in a family of rule followers. But see - I'm doing it again. Who knows what she'll be like! Who knows what the other kids will be like! I don't blame her for capitalizing on being Super Cute Funny Baby Sister, a role I've often envied.
I think of all the times growing up when I swore to myself that if I ever had kids I would be FAIR! And EQUAL! And I would remember how old the oldest was when she got to shave her legs and not even CONSIDER letting the youngest do it until she was AT LEAST the age the oldest WAS etc. etc. etc. But I cannot fathom a time when Emma won't be my BABY and so much younger than her siblings and therefore needing special treatment and attention. HORRIBLE! But even Jack and Molly fall into this line of thinking, getting irritated when people would try to get Emma to stand on her own and walk, taking over, protectively grabbing Emma's hands and barking, "SHE CAN'T WALK."
How am I encouraging Jack in his "oldest" role and Emma in her "youngest"? How am I neglecting Molly as the "forgotten middle"?
It is such a BIZARRE and AMAZING thing to have three brand new never-seen-before individuals living in your house. Where you're observing every minute detail, recording many of those details in a BLOG for heaven's sake. WHO ARE THEY? More importantly, HOW AM I SCREWING THEM UP?
So Internet, I have this terrific beloved friend who really likes food. She likes Actual Food the way I like Dessert. You know? She's the sort of person who asks the waiter what's good that night and can't decide between things like beets and fennel and she'll have four bites of chocolate cake before declaring she's full, etc. etc. I know, Internet. How can I be friends with such a person? But her inability to pound chocolate chips aside, she's one of my favorite people.
What she really wanted to do for her birthday, which was in DECEMBER btw, was go to a cooking class with friends. But because food Matters, it couldn't be just any cooking class. I forget what the exact requirements were, but I do know that one option was rejected because "Maggie wouldn't eat it". (Now you are allowed to wonder why she is friends with ME.)
But Pancakes happens to know someone who is An Aspiring Personal Chef. And recently I got to know this person as well. And we were hanging out, eating sushi actually (well, they were eating sushi, I was eating potstickers) and Pancakes came up with the Most Perfect Idea. Our friend couldn't find a cooking class she liked, but we could give her her own private dinner party!
So we picked a date, the Aspiring Chef planned five courses, I cleaned my house and made a cute menu, and you guys, it was seriously the Best Thing Ever. I am mad I didn't think of it myself. It's so awesome when you come up with the PERFECT GIFT for one of your favorite people, especially when it's not something you would ever pick for yourself. (I told the Aspiring Chef that when she does this for my birthday (since we decided this is just what we should do for our birthdays from now on) it will be five courses of dessert. Can you even imagine?! HAPPY GLUTTONOUS SIGH.)
We kept it a surprise until a few days before, when we sent our friend a fancy invitation inviting her to a private dinner in her honor. It was just so! fun! And it really was just the perfect thing. We sat around my table talking and talking and talking while the Aspiring Chef bustled around my kitchen, occasionally interjecting in our conversation. She plated everything and SERVED us and you guys, the food was SO GOOD. I mean, I'd given myself a big pep talk on Trying Everything and Being A Grown Up, but I didn't HAVE TO. Everything was DELICIOUS. Even things I've been VERY suspicious of, like FENNEL. I should go on and on about how the Aspiring Chef was so talented, but really I'm just stinking proud of myself for enjoying Grown Up Food.
Anyway, I am telling you all this because I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING IT YOURSELF. I thought it would be fun, but it was way more fun than I expected. It just felt very SPECIAL, I think. And it was special for the Aspiring Chef too, because this is a dream of hers and we were her first 'job' and she did SO well. If you have a handful of friends that you can sit and talk to for hours AND you like to eat while you do so, this is really the best way to hang out with them. It's a super fun present. Now go plan it. (If you are local, let me give you Aspiring Chef's info!)
I will creep around the living room and oh so carefully unload the dishwasher and snap at my friends to keep their voices down because a BABY is SLEEPING, OH WAIT.
I will still wake up early.
I will still wake up in the middle of the night.
I won't miss them as much as I think I will. Which will make me feel guilty for about ten seconds, until I move on to the next no-kid thing I happen to be doing.
My parents are incredibly fantastically amazingly generous people.
I will still go to bed early.
I will eat too much and spend too much money.
I can think about things that are not fixing meals, cleaning up messes, and managing schedules.
I have things to say that are not about kindergarten or sleeping through the night or discipline charts.
I am good at things other than Trio blocks and sticker mosaics and making discipline charts.
I won't obsessively check Twitter.
I will still want alone time.
Okay, maybe I will miss my baby a LITTLE bit omg when do I get her back waaahhhh.
How blessed I am.
How much I like juicy pork dumplings.
Also Trader Joe's yogurt pretzels.
I will panic about re-entering normal life, especially with kindergarten starting on Wednesday and I am woefully unprepared in the Preparing A Lunch department.
My house will still get dirty.
How much I miss talking Deep Stuff with my husband.
Every Labor Day weekend Phillip and I get together with three other couples we've known since college to hash out Life. We've been doing a yearly Examen for, I think, seven years now. Anyway, if you are so inclined, I so highly recommend doing this with your own group of committed people. Maybe it sounds weird and scary to share the highs and lows of your year with Other People, but every year the awesome increases. MAKE IT HAPPEN.