“It’s more than just a race, it’s a style.”

I used to run…a lot.  With two small kids in school and a tot who readily napped in the jogger, there was a time when I spent most of my mornings taking nice long strides up and down Chicago’s North Shore.  For me, it was an affordable luxury.  There were no fancy gym membership fees.  The jogger was a gift.  And the lake…the rhythm of my steps…the time to think and relax, really to heal from the mommy frazzle that accompanies three kids under the age of seven, was free therapy.

Now if you’ve read a few of my blogs, you know I have a weakness for pricey shoes.  You may even have an image in your head of a gal running lakeside, pushing a bright yellow jogger in patent Gucci heels (okay, I’m not gonna’ lie – I do kinda’ like that image).  However, I am nothing if not honest, so conjure up an image instead of a gal running lakeside, pushing a bright yellow jogger in a pair of well loved New Balance sneaks.

So if the heels were left at home, where did I get my girly fix while I was laying down all of these miles?  Skorts!  Yes, skorts.  They were my fave of all fave running apparel “must haves.”  Don’t ask why.  They didn’t make me run harder, faster or longer.  And they certainly didn’t prevent shin splints.  Again with the honesty here – I think they just made me feel a little feminine.  My favorite were from lululemon.  Hello?  How cute are those ruffles?  Added bonus – the “we made too much” section of their website has nice sales.

Over the summer, I made time for longer runs again (and am thankfully back in a semi-decent half marathon groove) and so I’m treating myself to a few new skorts.  Of course the less exciting news is that with every step I take I am growing older (and wiser, of course), so you can bet I’ll also be stocking up on plenty of Advil and Ben-Gay…though hopefully not an orthopedist.

See you at the finish line!

My Very Own Tinkerbell

There are so many, many things I find delightful in my oldest daughter (and yes, numbers two and three, I blog about you too!), but one thing that “tickles” me is her propensity to “tinker.”  If she finds an empty shoe box, one hour and one tube of glitter glue later, it’s a car for her Ugly Doll.  Hand her some chopsticks, a few plastic spoons, and a roll of scotch tape, and she’s made catapults for herself and for her sisters (I have a great video of my trio running around the backyard flinging erasers at each other).  Pretty much the best way to keep my girls entertained without the television is to hand my eldest some art supplies.  Give her a few minutes, and she’s sure to concot some elaborate machine or art project in which all can participate.

With this in mind, I keep a lot of art supplies on hand at home.  Glue and tape, mosaic pieces and yarn – even paper clips, rubber bands and empty toilet paper rolls are fair game.  And I always pop into Blick when I’m close and can spare the time.  Blick’s “Crafts” section has everything imaginable for my aspiring DaVinci.  The various collage paks usually scream “buy,” and yep, so does the ModPodge, which comes in every color imaginable including preppy plaid.  Moms, if you have never tried it before, ModPodge is the equivalent of glue heaven.  All three of my girls LOVE this stuff and we have ModPodged tissue paper, leaves and flower petals onto everything from flower pots to baby food jars and maybe a few fingers in between.  The feathers assortment is kinda’ cool, and our Zhu Zhu pets have soft, downy beds as a result.  Oh – and be sure to check out the sand art supplies.  If you can plan around the mess, these are pretty entertaining.

So throw a plastic tablecloth on the table and turn ’em loose with some great art supplies this weekend.  You might end up with homemade birthday cards (the very best kind!), but you might also end up with a “fanboard.”  Wheeee!

Sky’s the limit!

I Surrender

Dear Blogosphere,

I am tired.  The kind of weariness that only a mom with a few kids and a few fall sports and a beginning-of-the-year school schedule can know.  Evidence: it’s not yet noon and I’ve had a diet coke and a latte and I’m sitting here having nap fantasies.  Not that you can blame me, yesterday evening unfolded as follows:

I rushed out of the office at 5:00 to meet the nanny and all three children at a swim meet.  I watched my little fish cut four fast-paced laps of freestyle through the water, and then…

I drove her two sisters to a volleyball game.  I watched a handful of rotations, and then…

I drove back to the swim meet to catch the last relay, retrieved my spawn (get it?) and then…

We went back to the volleyball court to watch the last serve.  At this point in time it was close to 7:30.

We left the gym, I pulled the car into the garage, and then I managed to get three kids plus their backpacks plus all of their towels, knee pads, and assorted gear into the house.  I immediately ushered some children into showers and others into homework.  At this point I was going to take a breath (and maybe pour myself a small glass of wine) when I got hit mid states-and-capitals-practice with, “I’m starrrrrving.  What’s for dinner?”

Ummm….dinner?  “XXXX” (insert four letter word of your choice, said silently in my head, not out loud).  I know that some of you are out there thinking, “Duh.  Why didn’t she just hit the drive-thru on her way home?” and I hear you, I do.  It’s just that I hate fast food.  Not because I’m a calorie freak or a prophet for good nutrition, but because where I live, the lines at the drive-thru seem to take forever, and all I want to do after a full day of work followed by two simultaneous sporting events and at least 45 minutes in the car is GET HOME.

And so today I turned to the internet for ideas on how to solve this “feed the kids on the run” dilemma, and the consensus seems to be that there are lots of healthy, hearty snacks that you can take on the road to stave off hunger, allowing you time when you get home to either throw something together quickly or even order a pizza.  Some of my favorites came from ChefMom:

Fruit and Yogurt Smoothies

Ingredients:

32 oz. plain kefir

2 cups fresh fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, oranges and bananas

Milk or juice, if necessary

Preparation:

Let your kids add kefir and fruit to a blender or food processor.

Secure the lid and purée until smooth (consider the sip opening of their bottle and make sure that no chunks of fruit will get stuck).

If you need to thin smoothie, add your choice of milk or juice.

Transfer smoothie to drinking containers and refrigerate until ready to go.

Honey Glazed Almonds and Dried Fruit

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup honey

2 cups raw almonds

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Generous pinch of salt

2 cups dried fruit

Preparation:

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in honey and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture starts to bubble. (If your children are old enough, let them stir the mixture.)

Add almonds, coriander and salt to the honey mixture. Stir to coat. Cook for 5 minutes or until nuts are lightly browned.

Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and spread nuts out in a single layer. Allow nuts to cool completely.

Let your kids transfer almonds to a large bowl and toss with dried fruit.

Teach your kids how to package nuts in 1/4- to 1/2-cup portions for a healthy grab and go snack.

Bagel Thin Almond Butter and Fruit Sandwiches

Ingredients:

4 whole-wheat thin bagels, split, toasted

4 to 6 tablespoons almond butter

Bananas, strawberries, grapes, apricots or other soft fruit

Preparation:

Have your kids spread almond butter on 4 bagel thin halves then smash fruit on the other 4 halves with the back of a fork.

Let your kids assemble the sandwiches then place in lunch bags. If making ahead, keep sandwiches in the refrigerator until ready to go.

Cook’s note: If sandwiches will be at room temperature for more than 2 hours, pack them with a lunchbox ice pack.

Hummus and Crackers

Ingredients:

2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed, drained

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup parsley leaves

1 clove garlic, crushed

Olive oil

Crackers of your choice

Preparation:

Have your kids combine beans, lemon juice, parsley and garlic in a blender or food processor.

Secure the lid and blend. With the machine running, let your kids slowly drizzle olive oil into the hummus until a dip consistency is reached.

Transfer hummus to individual serving lunch containers. Portion 1 ounce or less of crackers into snack bags or containers. Keep hummus refrigerated until ready to pack.

And just in case you need a stylish, insulated tote in which to store your homemade goodies, grab that Bed, Bath & Beyond discount postcard you get in the mail every month and check out these totes!  Attractive and roomy…just like a Birkin, only insulated!

I’m hanging in there Moms, you do the same.  We’re all in this together!

A Place for Everything

I live in a very old house – circa 1929 I’m told.  I know there are plenty who prefer new, and when I remodeled the bathroom and the contractor actually pulled newspaper out of the walls , I understood why.  But at the end of the day, I just love my home.  I love that creaky third step and would never have it fixed; I can always tell when someone’s outta bed and up to no good.  I love looking at the hardwood floors and imagining the dozens of people who’ve traversed them over time; I can see the peplums and pleats, capelets and cloches.  I love listening to the wind through the huge trees in our yard at night; I think about all of the families who have gone to bed before me and done the very same thing.

Though my father will insist the very worst thing about my house is the fact that it is constantly in need of repair and is the “money pit” of all “money pits” (Really, Dad?  How about the golf habit?  The convertible in the garage that is rarely, if ever driven?  The wine club membership to every vineyard in Napa and Virgina and a few in between?) I will tell you the absolute worst thing about my house is the closet space.  It is pathetic at best, and keep in mind, I have a nasty shoe habit and three growing girls.  I’m not really sure if people in 1929 just didn’t own many clothes (likely) or were perhaps so diminutive in stature, they actually did own a lot of clothes, but they were tiny clothes (less likely).

I’ve tried everything to create more space.  First, shoe racks. The plus: I could see my fave shoes at a glance.  The minus: The racks actually took up too much space on the floor, and they couldn’t accommodate all of the shoes anyway. Next, portable closet storage thingies that I put in the basement.  The plus: good cardio running up and down the stairs to grab a dress.  The minus: the basement is damp and icky, and so were the clothes.  What worked the best and was truly game changing, were Elfa shelves.  I had the girls’ closets done as well as my own, and they were worth every penny.  I had shelves installed from top to bottom on all three sides of the closets, some with drawers, some for hanging, and I managed to  create enough vertical space to decently accommodate most of our wardrobes.  The folks at The Container Store did all of the design work, and they were very insightful.  To this day, I’m forever grateful for the little drawers they suggested to house belts (me) and Zhu Zhu pets (my girls).

So here’s a shout out to those of you who, while pretty certain your fave LBD is at the back of your closet, know retrieving it will require a carabiner and a crash pad.  The Container Store is currently running its annual Elfa sale – 25% off everything including installation!   And once everything is within eyesight and arm’s reach, you can save even further by shopping in your own closet!

Wishing you tidings of tidy!

 

California Dreamin’

I grew up in Southern California.  I was not a Midwest gal back then.  No, I was a sand-n-surf kinda’ kid, with almost every day of summer break spent beachside.  When I was younger, almost all of my time was spent in the water, and I could body surf and boogie board with the best of them.  Once I caught a jellyfish and brought it home in a bucket (either something ate it or it ate itself, because when I woke up the next morning, it was gone).  Frequently we would see schools of dolphins or pilot whales not-too-far-out, and I’d beg my mom to swim out past the waves to get closer.  We’d also bring our rollerskates and walkmans and roll to the pier and back, again and again.  It was pretty idyllic and quintessential California, and of course now appreciated more fully in hindsight than it ever was in the moment.

When I was a teen, I’d hit the beach every weekend with my girlfriends, and then it was all about the music and the lifeguards.  (If you’re reading this in Cali, does K-ROQ still exist?)  We collected and traded surf tees like they were Pokeman cards.  Maui and Sons, Quicksilver, BodyGlove – I can still see the logos across our backs.  I can still see the tan lines too.  I don’t think we ever used sunscreen, but I don’t ever remember a sunburn either.  After my first year of college in the Midwest, I was shocked to discover I actually have pale Irish skin.

While doing some research on stand-up paddle boards this morning (I remain to this day part water), I stumbled across Swell – a site for all things surf and sun. For a brief moment, I was ridiculously tempted by board shorts and a turquoise body board.  Am pretty sure neither are appropriate for Lake Michigan, but the trip down memory lane has been a pleasure.

And of course now it is almost lunchtime, and I am desperately CRAVING a burger from In ‘n Out, while awash in a sea of Italian beef and deep dish pizza.  Is there no justice to be had in this world?!?!?!