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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Dreams I've Dreamed for You

I told Al, "I'm going to start taking the kids for an after-dinner walk on weeknights while we wait for you to get home."

And he smiled and said, "That sounds great. What made you decide to do that?"

I explained to him that I have always had this dream, since I was a little girl, of what I wanted my own family's life to look like. And the family after-dinner walk was one part of that vision.

"You're doing that too? I've been thinking just lately about the vision I used to have as a kid of my own home and family when I grew up to become a husband and a Dad, and focusing on doing everything I can do to give you and the kids the life I always dreamed about."

We looked into each other's eyes and learned, after nearly nine years of marriage, a little more about one another. About what kid Al and kid Megan painted in tempera paints and cut out of colored construction paper as we dreamed our childhood dreams. About what we hope to see when we look back at the life we're building together with our children, day by day, season by season, year by year.

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The truth is, every day I let a frame or even a whole scene from my dream spool out unplayed as I concentrate on virtually everything else.  In a way, I think I've kept my dream playing in the background of my mind and left the actual direction of our life to the easy inertia of just going with the flow.  And there's nothing wrong with being flexible and adaptable -- that's a vital survival skill in motherhood.  But the kids are suddenly almost eight and almost four.  It's time to take these numbered days more seriously, be more intentional with them, and do everything I can do to make them look like my dreams.  And theirs.

It's time to keep my eyes and my heart and soul focused so much, so tightly, on their utterly beautiful, funny, wide-eyed, tender, soulful young selves, and to give them that which my heart has longed for them to have since way before they were created.

Diptic

Like green-grass picnics, and dress-up, and face-making and raspberry-blowing.

Diptic
Like talking and laughing and telling secrets with them, just as much as they do with one another.  And wheelie poppin' with Dad in the wagon.

Diptic
Like "Say CHEESE, lovies!" since otherwise they won't remember the playhouse they built in that surprise afternoon shower - the one with the frog and butterfly umbrellas for rooms.

Diptic
Like ball games and hotdogs and foul-ball wishes (we'll catch one next time!) and someone to piggyback them back to the car when it's over.  Car-naps that end with Dad gently lifting them out of their seats and into their beds.

Long, monkey-armed hugs and unhurried kisses every morning and every night.  Like daily alone time with each of them for cuddling and questions and recaps.

Like creating lasting, happy, peaceful memories.  Making them feel cherished.  Allowing them to know their parents well.

It won't be perfect.  It hasn't been and isn't perfect.  I'll have made two missteps before this post publishes in the early hours of tomorrow morning, and they'll have slightly reshaped my vision by whining over something I had planned for them to love for breakfast.

The goal, though, isn't perfection.  It's simply to create a life that teaches them their amazing value through my response to them with my own life.

To show them I loved them so much that I dreamed a dream for them before they were mine.
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I've linked this post, featuring some of my favorite Instagram photos from the past week, to InstaFriday at Life Rearranged.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WIWW: J. Crew Sent Me to Fiji, Only Not Really. (But They Should.)

I was flipping through J. Crew's June Style Guide a few days ago and when I turned the page to reveal this photo ...

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... I pretty much sucked all the air out of the room and then fell out of my chair and died on the spot.

This color combination, y'all.  SHUT. UP. (Faints.)

Does it make you go all woozy, too?

Now I've seen mint done and done and done this season, and I've even done a little mint myself, but mint paired with this beautiful pastel blue? Best mint combo I've seen by far. It's like peeling Fiji up off the map and draping it around your body.

(Which, come to think of it, can I please peel Fiji off the map and drape it around my body? If you say yes, I'll let you have it when I'm done.)

(But I will never be done.)

Well the only thing I could do to revive myself was to figure out how to channel this look, post haste, from things I have in my closet. Sure, I also could have ordered the exact outfit pictured and had it overnighted to my home, but then I would have had Al's hands draped tightly around my neck when the credit card bill came in, so I opted for the Option Less Likely to Asphyxiate.

I'm addicted to oxygen, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Wednesday's ootd: To the maxi.  Skirt, Garnet Hill (thrifted, yeeha!).  Sweater, Talbot's.  Belt, J. Crew. Sandals, Roxy via DSW

How'd I do? Same color palette, yes? And same drapy, flowy style. I loved this look and got a lot of compliments on the skirt, which I found at Goodwill. Oh yes I did!

Sweater - Talbot's
Skirt - Garnet Hill, thrifted
Belt - J. Crew
Bag - Audrey Brook
Sandals - DSW

Thursday's ootd: Boyfriend roll-up shorts, GAP.  Shirt, Polo.  Belt, J. Crew. Sandals, Guess.  Bracelets, CC.

I went preppy the next day. Because after you've worn the breezy colors and textures of Fiji on your body, the logical next step is to wear gingham so crisp and shorts so white they shock you right back into reality. Yeah, I know. You know you've been to paradise when a button-front shirt and a pair of rolled-up shorts is your wake-up call.

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Shirt - Ralph Lauren
Shorts - Boyfriend Roll-up shorts by GAP 
(I need these in another color. They fit great and are so comfy and cute on!)
Belt - J. Crew
Sandals - Guess
Bracelets - Charming Charlie

Fridays ootd: Keeping my eyelet on you!  Eyelet skirt and trench, Target.  Pink gingham shirt, H&M.  Mesh Oxford, Hinge via Nordstrom. Belt, J. Crew

More gingham. I totally only wore the trench for these pictures because it was so hot that day, but I like the layers and I'll do this again in the early fall or a day when a trench is actually appropriate. Like a day that it rains. Or the temperature drops below 97. Either seem rather unlikely at this point, but wearing Fiji was a long shot, too and look what happened there.

Trench and eyelet skirt - Target
Shirt - H&M
Mesh peep-toe Oxfords - Hinge via Nordstrom
Belt - J. Crew
Jewelry - Charming Charlie


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And yet more gingham.  Did I get lost at sea and wash up naked on Gilligan's Island on the way back from Fiji? Because Mary Ann called and said she wanted her wardrobe back.

Shirt - J. Crew
Scarf - Eddie Bauer
Jeans - Matchstick by J. Crew
Patent belt - Can't remember!
Black buckle loafers - Nickels via DSW
Jewelry - Charming Charlie

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Back to the color palette from above.  Gave up and went back to Fiji.  (Can you blame me?)

Sweater, shorts and tank - Old Navy
Flip flops - DSW
Jewelry - Charming Charlie




And that's What I Wore last week! Hey, don't forget to LIKE the FriedOkra Facebook page to find more daily outfit ideas, check out all my fashion-and-beauty related Pinterest finds, and find links to my favorite posts from other style bloggers and much more.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Motherhood This Week: Thoughts on Planning for Summer with Kids




This Friday Bean finishes up her school year, and then we'll officially be footloose and fancy free to start crossing off the fun ideas on our 2012 Summer Bucket List. This week, I'll be focused on setting us up for success. And FUN!

Calendar
I'll spend some time with my calendar, mapping out and finalizing camp dates (they'll each go to day camp for two one-week sessions, both children the same two weeks, so I'll have some time at home alone, which I think will be nice) and trips and generally building a nice, balanced plan for us of peaceful days at home and exciting times afield.

Cleaning & Organizing
I'll do a little cleaning and organizing, just to get a leg up on summer's inevitable influx of all things outdoors to indoors, and all things tidy into chaos. When both of my kids spend full days at home, we can barely walk around in here by days' end, so cluttered is the floor with toys and games and art supplies and stray flip flops and hair clips and on and on and on. I'm going to instigate an idea to combat the clutter called a Junk Jail. Have you heard of this?




Toys and other stuff that gets left out past a certain point (I'm going to try starting with two points daily: One will be nap time and one will be bedtime) will go to Junk Jail. Prior to making any arrests, I'll give the kids a 10 minute clean-up time right after lunch and right after dinner. I'll arrest and confiscate junk they haven't put away in its proper place by the end of those clean-up times and put it in jail. Junk will get released from jail after 24 hours(ish). We'll see if this helps motivate them to put their things away, even if it's just two times daily.

To prepare for the introduction of Junk Jail, I'll do a bit of sorting, culling, re-organizing and labeling of toys and such, just so that the kids and I can be on the same page about which of their things belong in which places, and that we're not inundated with so much junk we become overwhelmed by it all and give up.

Chore Charts
Besides clutter-control, I also want to start givingn the kids a few additional chores to do each day. I know this will work with Bean because she's already in the habit of using her simple morning/afternoon chore chart on school days. At seven, she's able to contribute quite a bit around the house, and for now she actually enjoys it. (I know that's going to change!) This weekend I set out all the ingredients, measuring cups and spoons and a simple recipe for baked beans, and she put it all together and got the dish ready for slow-cooking for me. (SCORE!) I think I could actually put her on lunch duty most days this summer, as long as there's no actual stove/oven action involved, and she'd enjoy that. I think she'll be able to vaccuum as well, and possibly do some of the tasks involved in keeping the kids' bathroom clean.

Peabody already loves dusting and cleaning my glass patio doors, although granted only up to the four-foot mark. He's also an expert dishwasher-emptying assistant.

Meals
Next Tuesday we'll start our weekly runs to the local farmers market to buy fresh produce (and maybe some meat this year, too.) To help guide our shopping, I'll be putting together a very loose framework menu plan we can follow week after week, popping in the fresh veggies in season and available each week. This plan will include plenty of outdoor cooking plus a few freezer meals for days we want to be out and about right up until dinner time. We've already begun making our own bread, and I'm going to buy a few veggie and herb plants tomorrow for us to plant in pots and beds over the next few days. I love the idea of freshness growing outside our windows and AND freshness in our happy, healthy bellies!

Mom Time, Dad Time and Mom-and-Dad Time
This Saturday night, Al and I took a few minutes to discuss our personal summer ambitions. He wants to be prepared to take a big CPA exam by September, and I want to continue posting here and keeping up with my other on-line pursuits, without leaving the kids high and dry for hours at a time. To those ends, we've agreed to forego our usual evening television time on the week nights so he can study and I can write. I've also hired our baby sitter to watch the kids an hour or two three days a week so I can get out and walk to train for the 3-Day.

On Friday and Saturday we'll have our usual alone time together, a mix of date nights in after the kids go to bed, and date nights out at regularly-scheduled intervals that I'll set up with our sitter(s).

It feels good to be this intentional about our free time together and have a plan to take full advantage of it. I think it's going to make for a very special, memorable and even productive summer for all of us.

This week I'm just going to be gearing up for summer's very welcomed arrival, and making sure the final groundwork's lain for an amazing few months of sunshine and mama-promises made and kept.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Summer Weekend Looks: Florals - Are You Rockin' the Blossoms?

You know what?

I just might.

I've never been afraid of a floral. Remember those big ol' Laura Ashley bubble suits of the 80s? I was the first girl in my high school to latch onto that trend and have my mother whip one up on her trusty Singer. I wore it with Keds. And matching crew socks. Of COURSE. I wish I could find a picture, y'all. I weighed all of about 72 pounds soaking wet in high school, so you can imagine how fetching I looked decked out in a full length, 4-yards-of-poufy-cornflower-blue-chintz romper emblazoned with bright pink cabbage roses as big as my teeny tiny head and starchy-crisp pastel pink grosgrain bows on my ankles and shoulders.

Around that same time, Mom also made me a dusky peach drop-waisted sundress that had glaring, life-sized hydrangea blossoms all over it. This piece of haute couture also featured a gigantic self-tie perched jauntily over my left hip.

I was voted Most Likely to Be Martha Stewart's Couch that year.

I can't begin to tell you how tickled I am to see florals come blooming back for round two while I'm still young enough to be on-trend. I kinda thought I'd be in my nineties, wearing models coats and tricot slip-ons the next time I intentionally put on a peony garden.

But hey, I look at it this way: When it comes to wearing a floral, I've climbed Mount Everest and planted a magnolia blossom flag on top. Any other botanical print from here on out? Ain't nothing but a flowery little hill, my friends.

Florals


If you look around in magazines and style blogs right now, you can see outfits comprised completely of "complimentary" florals and patterns from shirt to shoes. Apparently, the fabulous fabrics of Waverly have crawled out of the nurseries and sun porches and powder rooms of the South and taken it to the runway. Honestly? My example is very toned-town compared to what I've seen elsewhere, and I think is age-, lifestyle- and weather-appropriate.

Nothin' but a little ol' hill.

So tell me, are you rockin' the blossoms?

Hope y'all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Style Crush Friday: Sonya's Vacation+ Collection

Last week my old high school classmate Sonya left me a message on Facebook saying that she likes my style posts and wishes she could come shopping in my closet. She went on to say that she's making some transitions in her life and she wants to reinvent herself and freshen up her look. I can't even begin to tell you how happy she made me by saying that. Major happy. Skippy, jumpy, cracky-my-facey-smiley happy. Make-my-cheeks-hurt happy.

262777_2065790120941_1130424747_32451973_4689053_n
Sonya with her dog Edward

See, sharing my personal style in pictures all over the internet isn't about egotism or see-how-awesome-I-am-ness, as much as it may look that way from the outside. Honestly, posting pictures of my 44-year-old self feels more like exercise in humility and vulnerability most days. I wonder if everyone who blogs about personal style feels that way? I bet they do, to some degree.

So why do it at all? I can't speak for other personal style bloggers, but just about every post I write or share, be it a style post or a motherhood post or a recipe post or a woe-is-me post, comes from my desire to connect with, relate to and inspire just one other woman out there to first accept, and then to love and appreciate herself, to take great care of herself, and to be joyful and happy about the amazing person she really is. That's all I want, with each post. Just one woman per post. One little nudge away from not thinking she's good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough or skinny enough or Mom enough. That's where I'm coming from, as a writer, as a story-teller, as a style sharer, and as a sister.

When I read Sonya's comment, I did a few cartwheels in my kitchen. SCORE! I'd inspired her to take time out of her crazy busy life, take stock of her closet (she owns a medical practice and says she pretty much lives in scrubs right now) realize she wants to look as fabulous and vibrant as she feels, and give herself a much-needed injection of style before she leaves on a fantastic vacation to Europe in a few weeks. (Gah! LUCKY!) It all sounded so exciting that my mouth had up and volunteered to help her before my brain figured out what had hit it (this is not at all uncommon in my life.) And Sonya leapt at my offer.

So over the past week, Sonya has given me a budget and shared a few details about her body type and color preferences and general likes/dislikes when it comes to clothing. Armed with this information, I shopped on-line for pieces that would fit and flatter her shape and highlight her beautiful features. Sonya has gorgeous eyes and an absolutely sparkling smile, a striking cropped blonde hair-style and the narrow waist that is typical of the perfect hourglass shape. We also wanted to diminish her discomfort with some of the parts of herself that make her angsty. (She says she's ample in the hip line. Like we aren't ALL ample in the hip line, can I get witness?) As I selected pieces I thought fit the bill, I pinned my picks on a dedicated board on Pinterest and let her comment on them at her leisure.

Once I'd pinned all my selections and shared them with Sonya, and she had let me know which of the clothes suited her tastes, I clipped my Pinterest pins to Polyvore (slow me down if I'm losing you) and began creating the collection pictured below for her. I focused the majority of my efforts on finding the right pieces for her to pack and wear for her ten days and nights in Paris and Spain (sigh!), but because I know that Sonya will be transitioning from scrubs to career-wear when she comes back to reality, I intentionally chose some pieces for the trip that will serve as the foundation for her new work wardrobe as well.

Take a look!

Sonya M. - Daywear


Sonya M ... Daytime (2)


Sonya ... Evenings


Sonya ... Extras


I gave Sonya a sneak peek at her collection yesterday and she says she loves it all. Last time we talked, she was sitting down with her credit card to start shopping (it's all on-line!) I'm so excited to hear how this consultation and our finds work out for you, Sonya! I hope that after you pack it all there's still room in your 50-lb.-weight-limit bag for your style consultant. I hear Paris has a boutique or two. I'd make myself useful, I promise.

What about you? Do you have an event coming up and want a hand styling the perfect look? Need a shot of freshness in your tired old closet? Leave me a note. I can put some looks together for you, too.

Hey, don't forget to LIKE the FriedOkra Facebook page to find more daily outfit ideas, check all out all my fashion-and-beauty related Pinterest finds, find links to my favorite posts from other style bloggers and much more.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday: Why My Outfit Pictures are .... Quirky.

You never ask, but I can only assume you wonder.

I take my outfit pictures, obviously, on my camera phone, because it's always in my hand anyway, so why not use for something besides a mirror to check for green stuff in my teeth and interwebby umbilical cords to the husband and my "girls?"  And I use Instagram because after taking the picture, I can add a fancy filter that instantly cleans my bathroom AND makes my knees look less frowny at the same time.

(I don't think I could pull that particular combination off myself with all the Photoshop actions in the world.)

Once I've dolled up the shot, I can post it directly from Instagram to Flickr.com, with one little click of a button, while I'm still standing there, in front of my insta-cleaned bathtub, with my knees impatiently frowning back at me.  I stand in front of the bathtub because that's where the only full length mirror in our house hangs, and plus I know the occasional fleeting peek at my faucet or the whisper of a promise at a possible glance of a random bath pouf, razor or shampoo bottle is just plain titillating.

Keeps 'em comin' back for more, yo?

I take my pictures diagonally because I'm a friggin' giant, apparently.  No, wait.  I'm not a giant.  I'm average.  In all sorts of ways, really, come to think of it.  In this case I mean my height, though.  And because of the placement of the mirror and its unfortunate juxtaposition with my just-average-enough height, it's geometrically impossible (trust me, I've tried, and if my frowny knees in a straight-upright position don't scare you enough,  you should see their contorted-to accommodate-a-vertical-shot grimace) to take a full length shot of myself holding the camera vertically without actually standing inside the bathtub.

And then you couldn't see my fancy shoes.

One of these days I'll find the little doohickey that connects my camera to the tripod and start taking real pictures again.

Until then, you can just call me "Eileen."


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Thursday's Outfit  
White cropped blazer, H&M.  
Jeans and belt,  J. Crew.  
Striped shirt, Jones New York (thrifted).  
Electric blue pumps, Katie and Kelly via DSW.  
Necklace, Target.  (Or TAH-gret, according to Peabody.)

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Just wanted you show you my stripes.  Pattern are yummy in combination with a crisp, eyepopping solid like this white blazer.  I think I read somewhere that good old seersucker's making a comeback this season.  Polka dots, eyelet AND seersucker?  Summer 2012, I think I love you.

Friday's ootd: Yellow and gray!  Tank dress VS, cardi Old Navy, flips Target, bracelets Charming Charlie, necklace gifted.

Oh hi pot belly!  Gosh, I love this sequinned tank dress from Victoria's Secret.  But I do not like how it hugs my real gal, mid-life, two-baby frontal pooch.  I sucked it in for as long as I could, but by noon I looked like a kangaroo after a five dolla foot long lunch. (Do they have Subway in Australia?)

(On the pooch:  I'm beginning to understand Grandmama Clover's firm insistence on a  foundational "body shaper" no matter what the temperature outside.  She always looked pretty firm, I have to admit.  The sweat mustache she sported all summer, on the other hand, was a little off-putting.)

Friday's OOTD  
Tank dress, VS.  Cardi, Old Navy.  
Flip flops 
(Remind me to tell you a story about those flip-flops sometime.  
I've nick-named them "The CRUEL Shoes."), Target.  
Necklace, gifted.  
Yellow bubble watch, Charming Charlie.  
Bangles, Old Navy.

Style for Moms


Saturday's OOTD 
Polka dot skort, Target.  
Denim shirt, vintage Levi's, thrifted.  
Red sandals, BOC via DSW.  
Jewelry and purse, Charming Charlie.


A rare Sunday ootd:  Like a Roman Soldier... Tunic, TJ Maxx.  Cropped leggings, J.Jill.  Black sandals Katie & Kelly via DSW.  Jewelry Charming Charlie.

My homage to Roman soldiers?

Sunday's OOTD  
Tunic, TJ Maxx.  
Leggings, J. Jill.  
Sandals, Katie and Kelly via DSW.  
Jewelry, Charming Charlie.

Monday's ootd: Kickin-down the cobblestones... Polka dot shirt, Target from eons ago.  Papaya jeans, J. Crew. Cardi, Old Navy.  Black loafers, Nickels via DSW.
*Instragram also does an extraordinary job of ELONGATING MY HEAD.  Gah!   
Oh, hi Bert!  Where's Ernie?  I see you've finally shaved your bushy unibrow and traded in your signature striped shirt for trendy polka dots.  Looking good, my man.  Lookin' good.

Monday's OOTD 
Papaya jeans, J. Crew 
Polka dot shirt, Target (eons ago.  Like from the LAST time polka dots were a trend.) 
Cardi, Old Navy.  
Black loafers, Nickels via DSW.

Tuesday's ootd: FOUND: White shirt dress, GAP.  Sandals, Katie and Kelly via DSW. bracelets, Charming Charlie.

Ah-HA!  I found my white shirt dress(<---- I styled one that I loved last week on Fashion Crush Friday), y'all!  All that time, you know where it was hiding?






Tuesday's OOTD  
White shirt dress (woot!), GAP.  (Shut.  Up.)
Sandals, Katie & Kelly via DSW.  
Purse, Target, forever ago.

Bonus: Jill at the good life for less styled white dresses today. Just in case you're now wanting one and thinking about fun ways to dress it up or down. And she found a really cute one at Old Navy that is very similar to the one I styled in last week's post. I may have TWO white dresses by week's end!

And that's What I Wore last week! Hey, don't forget to LIKE the FriedOkra Facebook page to find more daily outfit ideas, check all out all my fashion-and-beauty related Pinterest finds, find links to my favorite posts from other style bloggers and much more.

And as always, you're invited subscribe to all of my FriedOkra posts here. Or get my updates in your in-box by subscribing via email using the link on my sidebar.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm Nappy and I Know It

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Precious, precious times, these.

If you're following me on Instagram, you already know I take a millions of pictures of my little boy sleeping. They're almost all blurry and dream-like, because I usually capture them with the camera on my phone in sneak-up, throat-lumpity moments of joy and bliss. See, Peabody's sleeping face delights me because it reminds me of an important lesson I learned about being a Mama. Every nap he takes shines as redemptive and beautiful as a promising rainbow after a long and difficult storm of struggle, worry and frustration...

To read the rest of the story of how my non-daytime-sleeping boy and I have became the cuddliest pair of co-nappers you'll ever meet, click over to my guest post on SortaCrunchy today.


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Friday, May 18, 2012

Style Crush Friday: White Shirtdress

One trend I've seen in all the style magazines lately that I absolutely adore is the crisp white dress. Interestingly enough though, I haven't seen one styled on any of my favorite go-to style blogs, so I wonder if maybe it's just me who's really digging the look. Or maybe it's that like me, no one else can find the perfect white dress for her lifestyle or budget.

While I love the style of the dress pictured in each of the outfits below, it's made of linen (of the wrinkle-fest, dry-clean only variety) and costs (on sale!) well over $200 smackers. Now, call me a pessimist, but just I don't think a white linen dress in that price range would be practical for a Mama to two ketchup-, chocolate- and popsicle-lovin' kids who pretty much roll around in black dirt and on hot asphalt for sport. Thus, I'm on the hunt for a washable, wearable white dress that looks like this one but costs less than $100. And so far, all of my favorite places to shop have pretty much turned up nothing but a shrug and a Good luck with that, ma'am.

But OH, I LOVE how this completely impractical, no-y'-nevah-gonna-get-it white dress looks, styled all sorts of fun ways.

How about a little boardwalk casual, for your beach or lake vacation:

style crush friday - white shirt dress 1


Or buttoned-up and belted (after removing the sash) for a Friday in the office:

style crush friday white shirt dress 3


Or sweetly accessorized for Sunday brunch:

style crush friday - white shirt dress 2


Cute, huh? It'd also be perfect un-belted with a wide-brimmed straw hat, cat-eye sunnies and a pair of bright canvas boat shoes on the deck of my imaginary yacht. Since the dress remains a figment of my imagination, too, I guess it'd fit right in.

Run across a trend you're loving? Send me an email with a picture or link, and I'll see if I can whip up some outfits (real or imaginary) for next Friday's Style Crush post.

Hey, don't forget to LIKE the FriedOkra Facebook page to find more daily outfit ideas, check all out all my fashion-and-beauty related Pinterest finds, find links to my favorite posts from other style bloggers and much more.

And as always, you're invited subscribe to all of my FriedOkra posts here.
Or get my updates in your in-box by subscribing via email using the link on my sidebar.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WIWW: Sassy, Flirty and Fun

Happy Wednesday. Last week's outfits have no discernible theme at all except that they made me feel sassy and flirty and fun. Especially, of course, the skirts. I'm really into the ruffled skirts right now, and I love how the style has an element of playfulness while still being totally wearable even at 40-something. Or maybe I'm kidding myself. But they FEEL wearable, and I guess that's what counts, isn't it?


Wednesday's ootd

Last Wednesday's OOTD: These papaya jeans from J. Crew are getting a real work-out this spring. I love them so much I'm considering splurging on a second pair in another color. J. Crew has come out with a similar jean style in a lighter-weight fabric that features a little zipper at each ankle. Those come in a wide array of colors and I tried some on in-store this weekend and loved them but couldn't for the life of me decide what color I liked. I'm still pondering to this day.

Papaya jeans - J. Crew
Bluebird shirt - Old Navy
Straw bag and yellow bubble watch - Charming Charlie
Necklace - LOFT, Bracelet - New York & Co.
Bright blue pumps - Katie and Kelly via DSW on-line


Thursday's ootd: Ebony and i-vo-reeeee.  White matchstick jeans J. Crew, black silk Henley VS, textured black leather belt Calvin Klein, bracelets Target, black patent loafers Nickels

Thursday's OOTD: Ebony and i-vo-reeeeee... I do, as you know, have a soft spot black and white together. (Wink.)

Black silk Henley top - Victoria's Secret
White matchstick jeans - J. Crew
Black patent belt
Black patent loafer - Nickels via DSW in-store


Fridays ootd:  So fun for a park date with my bitty boy!  Skirt, Garnett Hill.  Gingham shirt and tank, Old Navy.  Bucks, GH Bass & Co. Belt, Target.  Happy Friday, y'all!

Friday's OOTD: What could be more appropriate for a park date with my little guy than a gingham shirt? A bright, fun, colorful, comfortable outfit with a touch of whimsy. Just like my date himself!

Gingham shirt and gray tank - Old Navy
Ruffled skirt - Garnett Hill
Western-inspired leather belt and green bracelet - Target
Bucks - Bass & Co.
Necklace - Lia Sophia


All ready for date night.  I even white stripped my teeth.  Fancy!  ;)

Saturday's Date Night Outfit - We went out for drinks and dinner and then had coffee and enjoyed some music at a piano bar close to the restaurant. I felt so great in this outfit. The skirt is just SASSY, but I think the black top grounded it a bit and kept it age-appropriately understated.

Black silk Henley top - Victoria's Secret
Lace skirt - Garnett Hill.com, on major sale right now
Patent and animal print belt - Talbot's
Black heeled pumps with gromet and bow embellishment - Circa by Joan and David


That's What I Wore last week! Hey, don't forget to LIKE the FriedOkra Facebook page to find more daily outfit ideas, check all out all my fashion-and-beauty related Pinterest finds, find links to my favorite posts from other style bloggers and much more. I would LOVE to hang out with every one of you there.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Motherhood. It's Hard, and Sometimes You Will Yell.

Hey Mama? Mummy? Mom? Mother? Mumma?

Come here.  I want to whisper some words into your ear.

Stop beating yourself up. Stop being so hard on yourself. Please.  You're not the only mother who loses her $#@& sometimes.  WE ALL DO IT.

I'm around Moms all day. We all start off with small-talk and pleasantries, but it's always just a matter of time before the Mom-worries begin to flow:

  • "Only two more weeks of school. I don't know if I'm ready. I'll be a basket case by mid-June. I don't think I was cut out for parenting."
  • Or "She won't sleep! She screams all day and all night and I'm so tired I can't even focus my eyes. I'm completely useless at this."
  • Or "I have to take Josh to the allergist later today. He's making that weird sound in his throat again and I just can't figure out what's going on. Why can't I get some answers?"
  • Or "My daughter cried at the bus stop today. The other girls pick on her about her clothes. I know it's just how girls this age act, but telling her that doesn't help and I just hate seeing her so sad. How am I going to make this better?"
  • Or "His teacher called again last night. He's zoning out in class. I've changed his diet and taken him off the soccer team, but nothing seems to help. What am I doing wrong?"
  • Or "I have to clean up my kids' diet. They eat too much junk and I know it's horrible for them. I feel like I'm failing them."
  • Or "I yell all the time! I used to swear I would never yell at my kids. I HATE yelling. They're going to have complexes!"
  • Or "They're experimenting with drugs.  I'm terrified they'll destroy themselves.  And I can't even tell them that I didn't do drugs so they shouldn't, because I did it when I was a kid.  I don't have a leg to stand on!"

Meanwhile the internet, Twitter, Facebook, every outlet of expression available absolutely hum with the words of mothers, overlapping and intertwining -- a million-voice women's chorus of worry and wonder and what-should-I-do-about-this and why-am-I-this-way-when-I-want-to-be-THAT-way? No matter where you look, one or many of us quietly or loudly ponder our brokenness and ineptitude as mothers.

Motherhood, so full of joy and bliss and reward and beauty, drips fear and pain and stress on us every single day, no matter the age of our kids. Each of us started off as wide-eyed, dependent children ourselves, and now all-of-a-sudden we're totally responsible for a brand new pair (or two, or seven) of wide-eyes and a case of full-on dependency. And as growing up itself does, every moment of mothering brings a new question or problem to solve that we haven't ever had to solve before. So while we naturally feel for them, the moment they're in our arms, this fierce, protective attachment, and while our children wash our hearts and fill our eyes with love, they also drag us further and further into unexplored frontiers of ourselves and our experience with every subsequent heartbeat.

Walking in the unknown, bearing responsibility for one little life or many little lives is some enormously and constantly tough mental and emotional weight. No matter how many children we have, no matter what support we have, no matter where we came from or how we were raised ourselves, we're in brand new territory every day, having to read the map while running full speed in the direction we hope leads to the final destination of happy, healthy, affirmed, responsible children-grown-adults. Running and wondering and researching and readjusting and recalibrating. It's important work - the most important, I'd argue, of all the work that humans do - and it's heavy and stressful and complicated and never-ending.

Is it any wonder we blow up, break down, and occasionally (temporarily) give up? Why we deeply crave reassurance? Why we stress and worry and occasionally panic? If we were, say, brand new heart surgeons, showing up for our first solo surgery, but wearing blindfolds, with our operating rooms set up on top of a space shuttle as it rocketed to Mars, and our patients remained awake and alert and periodically (or constantly) screamed at us while we installed our first new valve and sewed up our first real artery, would we not eventually have to blow up, tell our patients to SHUT UP!, throw down our instruments and storm away sobbing? (Because I'd argue that trying to shepherd a sick, tired, opinionated three year old through a grocery store run or get a hormone-riddled teenaged girl put down her phone, clean up her room and do her homework can be every bit as complicated and stressful as blind, non-anesthetized open heart surgery in mid-air.) (Wouldn't you?)

We are truly all unsure of how to do this job right. We all, at times, find it unimaginably complicated and stressful and frustrating. We're all on-the-job-training on the blurred, moving line between adoration and terror, trying to get it right in flight, trying to figure all it out and get it done, simultaneously.

It's motherhood, it's beautiful and privileged and rewarding, but y'all?  Motherhood is doing the impossible every day, and it's hard, and sometimes it just plain drives us bonkers and brings out the ugly in us. And it's okay to admit that, and it's okay to feel it, and express it, and even resent it sometimes. 

And as the chorus of mother-voices will echo, you are totally, totally not alone.





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Monday, May 14, 2012

The Summer that Didn't Get Away (Our Summer Bucket List 2012)

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I looked at my calendar today and nearly fainted dead away when I realized that the end of school year looms only 13 days away.  (Digs around for a paper bag to breathe into).  And then I got to thinking and remembered how last summer went by in a blur.   Way sooner than I expected, I found myself wondering, as I was putting Bean on the bus those cool early-fall mornings, where the months went, and regretting not taking bigger and better advantage of the time we'd had together to do anything and everything we wanted to do.

I want to make SURE the kids and I do the coming summer up right.  I want us to squeeze every bit of that warm, sweet, ripe June and July nectar out of our days, and make plenty of happy family memories with Al on the weekends. So I'm starting to formulate my summer plans and get myself into a summer mindset of making fun a priority every day while still getting the absolute have-to-dos done enough to keep me from getting twitchy and b*tchy.  (I need order and cleanliness. I can lower my standards a bit when I need to, but I know I won't fully relax into spontaneity and good times if I'm sticking to my kitchen floor or having to dry myself with towels that smell like tacos and wet dog.)

I'm going to sit down with the kids at the end of May to present this plan, born of my vision, which I will paint for them in brilliant pool-water blue and bubblegum ice-cream pink detail, of a summer that is one part daily chores and forty-leven parts awesomeness. A clean, orderly you-and-you-and-me adventure-packed summer.

I've decided the easiest way to present the plan to the kids is to break summer activities into two easy categories:  Keep It Going and Keep It Fun.

A.  Keep It Going
  • Eat healthy, whole, natural foods.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Do the laundry and keep the house neat-ish clean-ish.
  • Bean needs to read 35 books or chapters per month.
  • And work on learning her math facts.
  • And write in her journal once a week.
  • I need to train at least 3 days a week for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day coming up in August.
  • Peabody needs to learn how to ... um ... well, he needs finish up potty training. (I'll spare you the gory details. For now, anyway. But there may come a time when I confess everything to you and beg you to come help me figure this one out.)
  • Clean and organize the basement.
  • Convert Peabody's baby room to a big boy room.  (tear.)


B.  Keep It Fun
  • Plant flowers and herbs and maybe some tomatoes, and take care of them.
  • Swim at the pool.
  • Try out a local beach.
  • Play with neighborhood friends.
  • Have a sleepover.
  • Go to the farmers' market on Tuesdays.
  • Go out for ice-cream.
  • Make homemade ice cream in the old fashioned churn at least three times.
  • Have bonfires with s'mores.
  • Bake our own bread.
  • Make jam from fresh fruit.
  • Have picnics at the park.
  • Take a long weekend trip to Blue Harbor or Door County or somewhere in Michigan (or somewhere close enough to drive to on a weekend.)
  • Go camping.
  • Go to a minor league baseball game.
  • Go to Lincoln Park Zoo.
  • Do some crafts.
  • Do some science experiments.
  • Go to a concert or play.
  • Listen to music when at home.  All kinds of music.  Not just "Party Rock" on constant loop.  (Please!)
  • Play board games and read books and build forts when it's rainy.
  • Make sock puppets and put on a play.
  • __________________________
  • __________________________

(The blanks are for the kids to add some things.  One will be "get a puppy or a kitten" and the other will be "Eat more ice cream.")

I'm also planning on making these lists into laminated checklists for our kitchen wall, so that we can all look at them from time to time and stay on track with our adventurous plan.

How are you preparing yourself and your family for the big changes to routine and expectations summer brings?  Is it a big mental shift for you? What are your big fun plans for hot weather fun? Share your ideas in the comments and/or come join the discussion on my FriedOkra Facebook page by hopping over there and clicking LIKE.







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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

WIWW: Closet Reorg = Instant Happy!

My eyes can't get enough of the vibrant colors of spring. I'm completely in love. I just reorganized my closet this week by color, so it's this cool rainbow, and now every time I walk inside, BOING! INSTANT HAPPY!

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See what I mean?

After a closet reorg, I find I'm able to "see" my clothes better. Pieces that I've been overlooking or even wearing quite a bit get reframed in a new context and often that makes me visualize them styled in different ways than I've tried before. Bored with your clothes? It's possible all you need to do is arrange them differently to give yourself a fresh new perspective on combinations of colors and textures. And bonus: A reorg almost always comes with a few, shall we say, layoffs. And layoffs are ba-a-d in the workforce, but they're oh-so-good in the closet! With more space to spread things out, I've got a better idea of what I have, and what I need, and now there's extra room for more shopping.

In summary (or In summery, hee!): Closet reorg = Instant happy + bright new outfits + more shopping!

Wednesday's ootd: Channeling my inner Audrey?  Gingham top NEW from H&M, papaya toothpick jeans J.  Crew, patent belt with leopard embellishment Ellen Tracy, black buckle loafers Nickels.

Wednesday's ootd: Channeling my inner Audrey. (She'd probably have gone with black pants instead of orange, though. And I can state that with certainty, because as I just said, I'm totally channeling her. And she said so. She also said she adores my new rainbow closet.) Gingham top is new from H&M, papaya toothpick jeans J. Crew, patent belt with leopard embellishment Ellen Tracy, black buckle loafers Nickels.

Thursday's ootd: Oh hai Summer!  Dress - J. Crew, sandals - Hinge, new from Nordstrom, jewelry - Charming Charlie and Target, embellished leather belt - new from Target and an absolute little treasure!

Thursday's ootd: Oh hai Summer! Dress - J. Crew, very fun new kicks (a complete and happy departure for me) - by Hinge, from Nordstrom, jewelry - Charming Charlie and Target, embellished leather belt - new from Target and an absolute little treasure! You will be seeing much more of this one!

Fridays ootd: Old Navy shirts and shirt, Guess sandals, Target belt, Jewelry Target and Charming Charlie, tired eyes courtesy of last night's crazy thunderstorms.  :)

Fridays ootd: Old Navy shorts and shirt, Guess sandals, Target belt (hate to say I told you so, but ...), Jewelry Target and Charming Charlie, tired eyes courtesy of the previous night's crazy thunderstorms and my storm-terrified Bean.

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Sunday's ootd: I was riffin' on Everyday Mom Style's "Oh So Plain" post from last week. She said I could wear jeans, a white shirt and a statement necklace and call it an outfit, and that made me happy, so I tried it, and I liked it, except I don't like the sandals I wore with my version. I think ballet flats or loafers or a flat sandal like she paired with her "plain" outfit would've been better. I bow to your wisdom, Ms. Mom Style!

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I blinged out my arm to make up for the plainness of the outfit itself. Arm parties are all over the style world right now. They're often worn to be purposefully playful and over-the-top, but done in a mix of similar tones and styles and paired with an understated outfit, I think they can also add a certain elegance.

Tuesday's ootd: After months of layering, I feel oddly under-dressed in just a plain old skirt and top.  Both from Old Navy with Target belt and BOC sandals.  Bracelet is Target, too.

Tuesday's ootd: You know, after months of layering, I have to admit that I sometimes feel oddly under-dressed in just a plain old skirt and top. But I'm willing to make the adjustment! Both from Old Navy with my favorite new Target belt AGAIN, and BOC sandals. The red racelet is Target, too.

That's What I Wore last week! Hey, don't forget to LIKE the FriedOkra Facebook page to find more daily outfit ideas, check all out all my fashion-and-beauty related Pinterest finds, find links to my favorite posts from other style bloggers and much more. I would LOVE to hang out with every one of you there.



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Monday, May 7, 2012

Mama: The Tone-Setter of the Household

Peabody (staring sadly out the window as storm clouds gather, thunder booms and the first few drops of rain splatter and pock dry sidewalks with lace-edged spots.): Oh no-o-o-o... now we never gonna get ta go ousside.

Bean: Oh, well. Back to blowing dust off tables, I guess. Si-i-i-i-i-i-gh.

(Then Bean took a deep breath, blew on my bedside table, and created a dust storm that conjured up images of Miss Havisham's decrepit mansion in Great Expectations.)

I wish I could tell you it got better after that, or that this was just one funny anecdote from our weekend, but the truth is it's an honest glimpse into what life's been like around here lately. We're glum, we're crabby, we're dusty... our lives have felt like one disappointment after another. I've been sick, and tired, and busy, and Al too, rushing out early in the morning and coming home late from work, beaten down by the busy season and the demands of his many clients and employees. Even our usually happy, bubbly kids have lost some of their joy and hopefulness and are taking note of the fact that everything feels like it's crumbling around our ears.

As a Mama of seven years, wife of nine, I've slowly discovered and hesitantly emerged into my role as the tone-setter in our home. Here, I live surrounded by mirrors big and small, faces and hearts reflecting back at me the portrait of all that inhabits my soul. My joy giggles back in Peabody's morning greetings, my tranquility smoothes Bean's brow and lightens her steps, my love and passion stands my husband's shoulders tall and shines his eyes confident and future-hopeful. I center and stake this family's emotional circumference -- nobody gets too much lower or too much higher than my own current mood. And I don't know if every mother sets the emotional tone for her family (do you?), I just know that this mother does. It's a noble role, gorgeous really, in theory, I'm lucky to be the rainbow thread that binds hearts and imbues spirits with joy.

But it's a weighty burden too, and crucible-hot when my own soul loses its way and thrashes and aches and sighs out laments. Because when I drop into the sea of tired, anxious and frustrated, my failure to stay afloat bobbles and tosses and threatens to submerge my family in inevitable concentric circles of not-so-good feelings. Having a husband and kids comes with so many surprising reasons you have to grow up and give up self, doesn't it? I think I knew it, but I didn't really comprehend it until I married up, bore my own children and got into the serious thick of mother-wifely things. Selflessness is pervasive in this maternal role. And it stinks sometimes. I mean, can't a woman just slink off into a bad mood without her entire household being sucked into the vortex?!

Apparently, no. But thank God I've got an enormously selfless saviour to show me how this whole sacrifice thing is done.

Here's the catch, though. I know that God leads those of us with young gently. I believe that with all my heart because I have empirical data to prove it. I've seen tight knots of anxiety and confusion loosen and fall away the minute I yield to the soul-tugs of my Father. I listen in the darkness, I capture the lightness of counsel from those I trust, and God unravels snarled tangles of mother-guilty and mother-baffled and wife-inept *poof* in moments. I have many a personal tale to tell of long, stubborn internal struggles set perfectly right overnight when I've just shut up and yielded. His gentle leading is just... well, true.

But gentle leading relies upon a heart willing and able to hear and respond respond. God's quietly-tugging truth only illuminates a soul open and listening and able to recognize His voice, a soul who follows it quickly and willingly. Lately my soul has trouble hearing above the din of just ... life. The rush and business of keeping everything around here on the right rail and moving forward, coupled with this undercurrent of fear and dread and sadness over my nephew's illness and the suffering of so many other friends and family (it's just been one thing after another, y'all), and complicated by me and everybody else being sick, and then compounded by the negativity I'm spewing out and breeding in the space and people around me. I'm SO not who I should be, which makes them not who they should be, which makes me more irritated, tired and frustrated, and GUILTY, until the din of my self-talk and their fussing and his restlessness grows by decibels and my ears ache for quiet so badly I just want to silence everything with easy, available distractions - my computer, a b*tch-session with a friend, the TV, a bag of Cheetos, or blissful sleep, even though I know intellectually that after I give in to these distractions, the din just comes back all-too-quickly, and much louder, fueled by more guilt and frustration than ever.

As good as they may feel in the moment, distractions solve exactly nothing. They just stir the chaos and fuel the crackling, hissing fire of failure and disappointment and blah. They further the distance between who I should be and who I'm stuck in rut being instead. It's an ugly, ugly downhill spiral without something (someONE) to break in and redeem it. My only hope, my only way back to joy and peace and passion, is God - is my Father, who sees and knows all, has a perfect picture specifically drawn and waiting for me to step inside, and yearns for my reliance on Him, for my utterly overwhelmed, face-first fall into His arms, my eyes locked into His eyes and my ears and heart intent on lapping up His counsel. But it's up to me to fall. Up to me to shove aside distractions, find the only-moments it takes, to make them His, and to quietly listen, believe, and obey.

It's so simple! It's up to me to just shut it all out momentarily, fall into Those arms, to allow myself to be loved and led, to let the Leader do His work in me, so that I can get back to doing His work in my family, setting a tone that points to Him with clarity, joy, faith and honor, and brings out their best along with my own. And now that I've written it all out and mulled it over (for the forty-leventh time - this is a lesson I have to learn over and over again), I guess I'm just going to DO IT.

(And after that, I guess I'm going to dust.)


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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

WIWW: Mother Nature Needs to Get Her $%&#@ Together

Last week was as unseasonably cold as March was unseasonably warm. I feel like I should be wearing these outfits this month after wearing the outfits below last month, but Mother Nature? That's one fickle little wench. So here I am, still shivering, still layering, still trying my best to make eskimo warm look Miami cool.

I'M RUNNIN' OUT OF IDEAS HE-E-ERE, MIZZ NATURE!

Wednesday ootd: Oh spring, where art thou?  Rainy and chilly again.  Denim jacket forever old, new Garnet Hill tiered skirt, crochet top Liz Claiborne, polka dot boots and scarf, Target.

Wednesday: Oh spring, where art thou? Rainy and chilly again. Denim jacket (forever old - no idea where it came from anymore), new Garnet Hill tiered skirt (I got it in black too! Totally love it!), crochet top Liz Claiborne, polka dot boots and scarf, Target and dude... tights? Seriously? Yeah. Otherwise my legs would've been an unbecoming shade of blue.

Thursday's ootd: Layering over sequins.  Just a hint of sparkle today!  White jeans -J.  Crew, sparkle swing tank and blush blouse - Old Navy, Bandolino peep toes.  Fun look for Peabody's spring sing at school.

Thursday: Layering over sequins. Just a hint of sparkle today! White jeans - J. Crew, sparkle swing tank and blush blouse - Old Navy, Bandolino peep toes, grey wool ruffled sweater - Talbot's. This was a fun look for Peabody's spring sing at school. He didn't sing a single note, but he was adorbs anyway!

Tuesday's ootd:  These jeans look precisely as good as I feel, LOL.  Old Lucky brand jeans, top from TJ Maxx, raglan sleeved cotton sweater from Target, belt J.  Crew, sandals BOC and red jeweled necklaces by Lia Sophia.

Tuesday (yesterday): These jeans look precisely as good as I felt yesterday, LOL. Seems the FriedOkra household's enjoying the Viral Ickiness Domino Effect. Now it's strep. I don't have it yet, I'm still getting over the upper respiratory crud that is SO LAST WEEK. But strep is the next to take us all down. Anyway. Shabby old Lucky brand jeans, top from TJ Maxx, raglan sleeved cotton sweater Merona from Target, belt J. Crew, red sandals BOC and red jeweled necklaces by Lia Sophia.

As always, I'll be linking this post to What I Wore Wednesday! I hope y'all are all feeling healthy, warm and adorable this week! xoxo

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