Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda

My 6th grader is going to 6th grade camp.  Does that bring back grade school memories or what?  When I went, I was also in sixth grade, and we went for a whole week (god bless those teachers).  I still remember some of the songs I learned, and I love to geek out and sing them for my girls: “Here’s a story, doo doo, doo do, about Jaws, doo doo, doo do…”  They always respond the same way: “Oh mommmmm….”

At any rate, my daughter is only going for a quick overnight, but the packing list is a little daunting.  We tackled it last night, and this is pretty much how it unfolded.

Sleeping bag?  Check.

Pillow? Check.

Socks?  Check.

Jeans?  Check.

Sunscreen?  Hmmm….don’t you have to replace sunscreen every season?  Does Fall count as a new season?  Okay.  That goes on the grocery list.

Bugspray? From my daughter: “What kind of bugs?  Big bugs?  Like spiders?”  Yeah…good luck with this one, Mrs. Johnson.

Pajamas?  Check.

Raingear?  Check.  Oh wait a minute.  We should try that on.  Your arms are like a foot longer than they were last Spring.  Yep.  As I suspected.  You could use a new raincoat.  From my middle child: “I’m not wearing any hand-me-downs that are pink!”  From me: “Grrrrrrrrrr…..”

So mission number one this morning was to quickly locate a raincoat sturdy enough to withstand three go-rounds in our closets, in a shade other than pink (now watch, next year my middle child will be obsessed with all hues in the rose, blush and coral families).  And lo and behold, I think search success is mine! (Now if I could just do the same for my own raingear!)

Anyone else out there love Uncle Dan’s?  They always come through in a camping emergency for me (because I have so many…).  Here are my options this morning:


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(also comes in pink for those of you who do not have children who have declared a ban on the shade!)


Girls Printed Resolve Jacket


(mad for plaid!)


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(also comes in blue, pink and black…but I think the yellow is super cute!)

Now that makes for a happy camper!

I Heart Giraffe Puppies

I know in the past I have encouraged everyone to go out and buy relatively expensive jammies and cookware and candles, and so today I feel the need to redeem myself and do something on the super cheap.  I started by NOT going to my fave cafe for a latte this a.m. (that noise you hear is me opening the Tylenol to ward off my caffeine withdrawal headache), and I am following with a post to alert any and all to the fact that Crewcuts has a great sale section.

We all say the same thing, “They grow so fast,” especially when that DNA of ours is in baby form.  But if you have a Tween, you know what I know: that DNA of ours is growing at warp speed!  My 11-year-old looks like (and I say this with nothing but the greatest affection) a giraffe with puppy feet.  Her legs are LONG.  And her feet are way too BIG for that lithe little body of hers.  And both are growing at a pace my budget cannot sustain.  I think the two most common exchanges between us go something like this:

Exchange #1

Tween: “Mom, my shoes are too small.”

Me: “Tween, we just bought new shoes.  That’s impossible!  Take off your socks and loosen the laces.”  (yeah, I know…that doesn’t really work)

Exchange #2

Me: “Young lady, that skirt is way too short.  Off it goes!  And quickly, ’cause we’re running late.”

Tween: “But we just bought this and I’ve only worn it once!”

Middle child: “Does that mean I can have it?”

So where do I go to keep my 11-year-old in appropriate length skirts (for the record – I don’t make her kneel to check the length…yet) and shoes? I check out the sale section of Crewcuts!  I love how well priced the merchandise is, especially the things she outgrows rapidly like jeans, skirts and leggings.  Also, I feel their selection is age appropriate.  Nothing is overly mature or makes me think “put a sweater on!”  And right now, the deals are unbeatable.  I can pick up some cute solid color tees to mix and match for $15, her favorite leggings for under $20, and even some cute dresses for her to run around in next summer in the $15 to $30 price range.  Great savings on Tween-approved clothing.  Love it!

Happy outfitting!

There’s More than Laughter on these Lips!

I’m gonna’ jump right in today: yippee skippee, it’s chapstick weather!  Shocker I’m so excited about this, huh?

Moms and more, that box in front of my family headquarters next week from C.O. Bigelow?  It’s mine.  And it’s filled with $100 worth of Rose Salve (that’s more or less 18 tins, for those of you wondering).  Yep, I can’t live without this stuff.  You’ll find it in my desk, in my gym bag, in any and all of my purses, in coat pockets, in my daughters’ backpacks, the junk drawer in the kitchen, the car…did I mention that I can’t live without this stuff?  With apologies to all of the Chapstick, Carmex and Blistex devotees out there, I’m convinced C.O. Bigelow’s Rose Salve is the only thing that truly heals my chapped lips, and an added bonus – it functions beautifully as a lip gloss.

Mind you, I’m not knocking the the other C.O. Bieglow products.  As previously disclosed, I do relish a good scented candle, and the assortment of candles is promising for all those with similar olfactory inclinations.  C.O. Bigelow features many of the Diptyque scents, which are favorites of mine.  My sensory advice?  Treat yourself to the Pomander during the cold winter months and pick up Tuberose for the Spring.

I also think the packaging on their soaps is pretty, or in some cases quirky, and I think these might make great hostess gifts – tied up with a grosgrain ribbon of course, and complete with a handwritten note on matching stationery.

With laughter (and Rose Salve) on the lips – smack!

Gear Up

According to various weather reports, Chicago is due for a bad winter.  I’m not saying I put any stock in these reports, last year they said the same thing and we were the beneficiaries of the balmiest winter ever despite dire predictions of an arctic armegeddon.  However, these reports have made me think a little bit…about running.  Not from Chicago to Cali (I wish!) but from my house to the lake and a few suburbs up “the Drive.”

Because the weather was so unusually warm last winter, I was extremely lucky to log some runs that were neither uncomfortably cold nor windy.  This meant I simply threw on a pair of leggings under my skort (love it!), donned a long-sleeved tech shirt and hit the pavement.  If the weather gurus are right about this winter, I need to actually dig up a hat, gloves, and yes…some kind of a jacket.  The jacket part of this equation gives me pause.  I HATE (yes girls, mommy used the “H” word) and I mean HATE (yes girls, mommy used the “H” word again) any kind of bulk while running.  I also HATE (uh-huh girls, I went for the trifecta on bad words today) feeling cold.  The product designers at North Face, Patagonia and Helly Hansen couldn’t possibly make a jacket thin enough…yet warm enough to meet my needs. (In their defense, they do try.)

In fact, I am so picky that what I have worn for my longer runs for the last 20+ years is a very well loved North Face windbreaker that I owned in college.  For whatever reason, it is the perfect combination of weight, flexibility and warmth, and I have never been able to part with it.  Unfortunately, it is also from the late ’80s, and the last time I wore it, my friend actually said to me, “Did you wear that to a screening of the Breakfast Club?”  Yeah…by 2012 standards, it’s ugly.  But aside from my skorts, I don’t really think running is meant to be a beauty pageant.

However, his teasing comment has prompted me to do a little online research, and now what I’m really appalled by are the prices of performance jackets!  Holy 50-yard dash, Batman!  $189 for a jacket in which I am going to sweat?  You have got to be kidding me!  Fortunately, I managed to find a few on sale at Athleta which look promising.  I’m also going to see if The North Face has an updated version of my beloved windbreaker.(Added bonus, my girls love those fleece-y beanies from North Face, and I feel like I can’t have enough of them on hand once it’s time for sledding and snowmen.)

Wish me luck in my jacket quest! And hey, if you’re northbound on Sheridan Road this winter and you happen to see someone on the running path in a skort and a day-glo jacket, it’s okay to roll down the window and shout, “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?”  (quote courtesy of John Bender, The Breakfast Club)

“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!

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?!?!?!


In my neck of the woods, the beginning of a school year is the harbinger of the “black tie season.”  In a matter of weeks, my calendar will start to fill with school fundraisers, corporate dinners and holiday dances, and I will inevitably find myself pining away for a personal assistant to manage the RSVPs, purchase and wrap the hostess gifts, and of course babysit the girls for free while I mingle and mashed potato (I said I had good shoes, not good dance moves).

My go-to outfit for all is an LBD.  The same LBD, in fact, that I have had since my ten-year high school reunion.  Talk about motivation to maintain your weight!  Way back then I splurged (whole-paycheck kind of splurged), on a very high end “runway” item, and to this day, I do not regret a single penny spent.  This little number has seen me through rehearsal dinners and anniversary dates, awards ceremonies and weddings, with equal amounts of class and lovely and yes, just a hint of fun.  It hangs in my closet and I joke with my girls it is my “storyteller” dress, because it has been witness to and participant in enough moments to underwrite a novella.  Some of the stories are happy, like the time I told my family I was pregnant with my first child.  And some of the stories are sad, like the time my dear friend learned mid-dinner-dance her mother had passed away.  And some of the stories are funny, like the time I lost my shoe in the Museum of Science and Industry while dancing – never to be found!  But all of the LBD stories remind me that life is made up of moments, and our best foot forward is to handle each moment “as if the dress itself,” with equal amounts of class and lovely and yes, a hint (or more!) of fun.

But after so many events in the same LBD, how best to mix it up?   Accessories, of course!  Sometimes I go with a simple, understated stud earring and pretty bangle, and sometimes I pull out chandelier earrings in an unexpected color.  And sometimes I go with a sentimental favorite (I have a fabulous pair of drop earrings in a lovely shade of green that once graced the lobes of my grandmother).  Regardless, now is a great time to plan ahead.  I often turn to Net-a-Porter for inspiration, and their “Shop by Occasion” section is a fun place to start.

And don’t you worry ’bout me, dear friend, I’ll also hit Zappos up for a complete pair of heels.  🙂