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Friday, November 30, 2012

My First Holiday Gift Guide - Stylish Gifts for Him and Her

I'm really excited to share some of the stylish things I'm loving for holiday gifts this year for him and her. As I've shopped for my family, I've run across some gorgeous things at various price points, from handmade items under $25 to bigger ticket leather goods up in the $200 range. I'll have something for all of the stylish adults in your life, from your besties to your smoochie.

Best of all, I'll be teaming up with a handful of the smartest women I know to bring you a complete array of gift guides for recipients of all ages and tastes, including kids, toddlers and tweens, your eco-minded and adventure-loving friends and even the wine-lovers on your list (hint hint).  I'll be providing links to all of the guides here at FriedOkra so you can easily click through and get some awesome ideas for even the most challenging people you're shopping for this year.

Join us next Tuesday, December 4 
on these awesome participating blogs.






Happy Weekend!



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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finding Thanksgiving

You know how when you pictured your future life way back years ago, everything looked all dream-like and hazy and beautiful and perfect, and then on the winding way from then to now, you hit about a million huge pot-holes, and your heart broke, and you gave up on it all over and over again, and the picture faded and you couldn't make out details anymore? And you almost began to wonder if that picture you once gazed at and believed was your own actually belonged to somebody else, not you after all? So you sighed and steeled yourself and looked even further off, into a completely misty, deep grey distance to just barely make out a new picture, this one totally different from the first, that didn't feel like yours at all, but seemed like the inevitable outcome to you, from your off-road vantage point?

But then over time, blessing by blessing, the details of the picture began to emerge from the darkness, larger and closer and clearer and more beautiful and perfect (but always with a side of reality), and before long, you looked around you and realized, "I'm living it. I'm living a picture, and it's so good and right and touchable and alive and endowed with spirit and heart and Look at Me Now. I'm happy."

I used to think I'd experienced something unique in my lost tumble off and away from my dreams, but I'm learning over time that most people's life stories veer unexpectedly somehow, have once or twice or three times dipped or turned so sharply they've lost their breath, their hope, and thought they were on the wrong road altogether. But God, or life, or personhood, brings us up and around and out and clears the way again to hope and joy. It's a glorious thing. A human thing. A very thankful thing.

We're far from home, so we don't do Thanksgiving with family. This has been hard for me as I'm from a tradition of all the same people and all the same meals on that same essential white-clothed table with the steaming bowls and knocking knees and tinkling tea glasses. In recent years we've done the turkey and dressing and all of it, and sat, the four of us around the table, and been glad enough. Kids don't love that meal though, let's be honest. And it's just, I don't know, it's good, but I still feel like the doorbell should ring and two car loads should walk in bearing pans of yeast rolls and casseroles of beans-and-God-only-knows-what-else. I don't ever get all the way light or full without that doorbell, and maybe this is selfish of me but I just got tired and wanted to stop trying to make Thanksgiving "right."

So we thought we'd try something really different. Something that my soul wouldn't be able to compare to past Thanksgivings and come up short somehow.

Snuggling and looking out the train window.  Awww.
We rode the train into Chicago the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I love how my kids love on each other most when they're excited.

Checking out their city digs.
This picture perfectly captures how they react to new environments. They're checking out the hotel room we stayed in downtown. Every little detail thrilled her (except WHY DO THEY ONLY PROVIDE FLUFFY ROBES FOR THE ADULTS, MAMA? KIDS LIKE ROBES TOO, YOU KNOW!) But him? Skeptical and critical. He's such a grouchy little old man in these situations. (But a ridiculously cute one.)

Now arriving at little girl heaven.
We did a little window shopping and Christmas-list-making on Michigan Avenue.

He's figuring out escalators. She's helping.
Peabody got the hang of escalators.

Annnd the hotel pool is the best part of any trip.  :)
We swam in the fancy hotel pool.

Settled in for the night.  She is excellent at pretending to be asleep.  His possum skills need some work. ;)
Peabody didn't quite get the hang of playing possum. Hee hee.

Beautiful Thanksgiving day in Chicago.
We woke up to a gorgeous Thanksgiving Day on Michigan Avenue. I mean, seriously gorgeous. And after a room-service breakfast, we grabbed coffees-to-go and walked a few blocks down to watch Chicago's Thanksgiving Parade.

Chicago parade:  Pure awesomeness!

Marshall Field Bldg decked for the season.

Woody Woodpecker.  Again:   Kids -- no clue.  (Shakes head.). I have cultural educating to do.

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As the parade drew to an end, we wandered toward Millennium Park enjoying the sights and feeling the vibrant pulse of the big city and the departing crowd.

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I really love that long weekends away like this give Al and Peabody some time to bond. During normal weeks, Al's long commute to work and home keeps him away for over 12 hours a day, and the kids generally only see him for a few minutes at bedtime. It's been this way since Peabody was born, so he's very attached to me by default (and it's also natural at this stage). Watching my two boys together like this really filled me with gratitude for the break in routine.

Millennium Park
Beautiful Millennium Park with a teenytiny Peabody in the foreground.

Playing Red Light/Green Light at Millennium Park.  #latergram
We played a pick-up game of Red Light, Green Light on the green at the park.

Anticipaturkeys.  (I totally just made that up.)
My little "anticipaTurkeys." We had our Thanksgiving feast around lunchtime at a restaurant called Market House which always features a menu prepared with all local, organic foods from small family-owned farms. We enjoyed the meal, but this was one instance when I did have a little pang of wishing for old times. There's just something about those standard family recipes that even really good, fresh food prepared very well can't replace on a day like Thanksgiving. We're going to make our real, traditional turkey meal this weekend. I guess, in the end, it just demands doing.

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After lunch, we just had a few more hours downtown before we hopped on the train and headed home. We wandered Michigan Avenue again and sat in a bustling Starbucks drinking coffee and peppermint cocoa, watching people come in and out in all sorts of interesting combinations. I made up stories in my mind about how these mothers and sons and uncles with cousins and best friend pairs and sullen-looking solo retail workers ended up seeking their caffeine fixes at a Starbucks on Thanksgiving afternoon. I looked into their faces and tried to see where they are on the road to their own dreams. I wonder if any of them watched this family of four -- the handsome, watchful Dad, the reflective, dreamy Mom, the two small, enthusiastic kids with the big eyes, all up for anything -- and made up a story about us. I wonder how close to the truth about us could a stranger come, from the outside looking in?

We're writing our story, the four of us. And it's a good one.

The founder of Chicago, Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable was both Black and French.  I'm just sayin'.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

One Day {Yesterday, as it Turns Out} in Our Life

A day, just any day, and the captured moments therein.

I use Instagram all day every day, and my phone automatically shoots the photos through thin air to our family room TV's screen-saver. I love having snippets of yesterday's special moments playing in the background of today. Looking back on photos from last Tuesday, or three weeks ago Sunday, or a warm day last May reminds me to focus on and dig my toes into the sun-warmed, perfect moments of now.

They'll be up on that screen, beautiful just on the verge of happy tears, yet already untouchable, by nightfall.

Sling-shooting cheese at breakfast.  I raised her better than this, I swear I did.  #onedayHH

7: 15 AM The kids eat breakfast as I make my coffee, empty the dishwasher that ran overnight, pack Bean's lunch, sign papers, wipe counters, listen to their stories, answer their questions, remind them of their manners. She sling-shoots cheese as he looks on in amazement. I cluck a little, and I let it go. Al left for work an hour ago, minutes before the rest of us first yawned, rubbed our eyes and opened our curtains to faint grey morning, the sound of the garage door closing still echoing in the quiet house.

8:15 Ready for the day.  #OOTD #onedayhh

8:00 AM We're upstairs again, the kids in their rooms, me in mine. Time to get dressed and ready for the day, make the beds, listen for my phone to tell us it's bus time.

Hugs and kisses at the bus stop. #onedayhh

8:35 We hug and kiss Bean good-bye as she climbs on the bus bound around the corner to the school in our back yard.

9:00 AM I drop Peabody off at pre-school. Instagram eats the insanely cute photo and I sit in the parking lot for a few minutes, my eyebrows knit into a curse-word, punching buttons and muttering to no avail.

9:30: Grocery run.  We are out of EVERYTHING after vacation.

9:15 AM We've been on vacation and I let us run out of everything before we left. For the two days we've been back, I've managed to keep us alive on flour tortillas, grated cheese and a baked chicken. So we don't all get rickets or scurvy, I make an out-of-cycle trip to the grocery store to stock up, and put a hurtin' on the produce section.

Considering an impulse buy. These would be fun for the day after Thanksgiving.  #onedayHH

Two steps from the apple bin I spy these beauties. My kids and I are looking forward to a special play date with my dear friend Lainey and her two kids the day after Thanksgiving. I'm thinking these kits would absolutely thrill all four of the kids and buy Lainey and me some precious moments of the tea-drinking, heart-sharing connection we're both craving.

Loaded up and headed for home.  #onedayHH

10:30 AM Loaded up and ready for the trip home.

In my beloved 15 year old Toyota 4-Runner soaking up lovely music on my local public classical radio station.  Aaaaah...

Inside my beloved 15-year-old Toyota 4-Runner, listening to gorgeous music on the local public classical radio station. You'll see as the day goes on that I am big on creating small pockets of tranquil down time here and there. My largely-introverted, beauty-and-aesthetics-fueled, needs-plenty-of-processing-time temperament absolutely requires these. They keep me sane and fully-charged.

11:15 - Groceries unloaded, kitchen re-stocked.  Early lunch of tea, heese, nuts and apples and finally a chance for me to look at everyone else's #onedayHH pictures!

11:15 AM Groceries unloaded and kitchen restocked, I take advantage of the Cozy Room and a few free minutes to have an early lunch of hot tea, cheese, nuts and slices of sweet Honey Crisp apples.

Back at it... Gas station, check. #onedayhh

11:35 AM I'm back at it, running a few more errands. Gas station.

Drycleaners, check! #onedayhh

Dry cleaners.

Boy, check!  #onedayhh

12:00 PM And the preschool, to pick up my little man.

12:30 PM - Lunchtime for my Peabody-boy.  He's telling me that he drew Mommy and Daddy at school today and had blueberry bars and carrot juice for snack.  #onedayhh

12:30 PM Lunch for Peabody. He's telling me that he drew Mama and Daddy at school, and had blueberry bars and carrot juice for snack. "Carrot juice?" I ask him. "It was good," he informs me. Well, okay then.

Finally, a little computer time to check in on everybody and promo my first post at togetherin10.com.  #onedayhh

1:00 PM Peabody settles in to watch some Shaun the Sheep and I take up my post at the computer to get a few things done.

2:30 PM Taking leftover baked chicken off the bones for enchiladas tonight and getting veggies ready to make chicken stock for soup.

2:30 PM We head into the kitchen to take leftover baked chicken off the bones, make enchiladas for dinner and get some chicken stock simmering.

3:30 PM Mocha and Facebook to fuel up for 4 o'clock bus time and the afternoon snack, homework, dinner, bath and bed break-up-squabbles-o-Rama.  (The part of the day in which Mamas are made or broken daily.).  #onedayhh

3:30 PM Mocha and Facebook to fuel up for 4 o'clock bus time and the afternoon snack, homework, dinner, bath and bed break-up-squabbles-o-rama. (Otherwise known as the part of the day in which Mamas are made or broken daily.)

Me:  Are you ready to go get Bean at the bus stop? Him:  Noooo!  Bean is mean!  I gonna hit her! Me:  Well I guess you'll have to stay home then. Him:  Noooo Mama!  I needs go git her!  I love her!  She's my best friend!   Me:  (Blink blink). #onedayhh

4:00 PM Time to walk down to the bus stop to gather our Bean.

Me: Are you ready to go get Bean at the bus stop?
Him: Noooo! Bean is mean! I gonna hit her!
Me: Well I guess you'll have to stay home then.
Him: Noooo Mama! I needa go git her! I love her! She's my best friend!
Me: Excellent choice, sir.

And so it begins!  :). #onedayhh

4:10 PM This is always the moment I look at her face and know what kind of day she had, which then tells me what kind of afternoon we're all going to have.

Trying to convince her to get up and dance with him.  Rhythm Nation, of course, because he's my music twin.  #onedayhh

5:00 PM Now that it's too chilly to go outside and play, we're having to come up with new things to do between snack and homework time and dinner. Today, Peabody thinks we should have a dance party. His sister needs a little convincing. (And it works, but I don't have any pictures of them dancing because they were moving TOO FAST.

"Tea" for the kids.  They eat earlier than Al and I do because he gets home so late.  But tonight I'm joining them because mmmmmm... Enchiladas.   #onedayhh

6:00 PM "Tea" for the kids. They eat earlier than Al and I do because he gets home so late. But tonight I'm joining them because mmmmmm... Enchiladas.

Kids both finished their dinners, so they get one piece of Halloween candy each, and then pay me a Twix.  That's their "Mama Tax."  Heeheehee.

6: 30 PM The kids both finish their dinners, so they get one piece of Halloween candy each, and then pay me a Twix. That's what's known as The Mama Tax. (Evil snicker.)

Snuggles before sleep. #onedayhh

7:15 PM I "lie wif him" for a few moments after prayers, so he can get cozy and sleepy.

Tucking in my sweet girl.  #onedayhh

7:30 PM I tuck in my big girl, who doesn't really need me to anymore but goes along with it because she's sweet like that.

7:30 PM Handsome man finally home.  #onedayhh

7:35 PM Al's home and ready for dinner. YAY!

I take a hot bath before bed most fall/winter nights.  Quiet, peaceful, warm... Just 10 or 15 minutes all my own.

8:15 PM I take a hot bath before bed most fall and winter nights. Quiet, peaceful, warm - it's perfection. Just 10 or 15 minutes all my own.

Sock bun curls at bed time.  I think I'm doing this backwards.  #onedayhh

8:45 PM Hmmm... Sock bun curls at bed time. I think I'm doing this backwards?

Last pic of the night.  I have my own lovey beside me, a great book to read and a little boy who will be up and ready for action at 6 AM tomorrow.  My One Day is a wrap.   Good night!  #onedayhh

9:00 PM Last photo of the day. I have my lovey beside me, a great book to read and a little boy who will be up and ready for action at 6 AM tomorrow. Good night!

I'm linking up my #OneDayHH post at HollywoodHousewife.com, where my friend Laura is encouraging all of us to stop, notice and capture the moments of minutiae that add up to life.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

For Instant Mojo, Add A Blazer

(Bean sneakily took this shot of me setting up the shot for the blazer mojo post. She's clever like that.)


Well hello!

I'm over at Together in 10, a new gathering place where a bunch of stylish girlfriends encourage and inspire each other to look fabulous in just a few minutes a day. I'll be contributing there once a month, and today I'm rocking a tweed blazer to demonstrate how it can make any outfit look put together with very little effort.

Come on over and see me, y'all!

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Udder Duh Wedder

Good morning friends!

I'm taking this week off from the blog as the Okra family has quite a bit going on and as it turns out, some of us are udder duh wedder, to boot. We're hoping for a visit with my sister and her family later this week, so we need to get well very quickly.

If I know me, though, I'll still be updating my Facebook page, tweeting, and sharing photos of all the convalescing on Instagram, so feel free to catch up with me there. You can find links to follow me on all three at the bottom of this post.

If you're here to link your post about parenting to The Parent 'Hood, I'll send you over to LoveWell -- Kelly's ready and waiting for you.

Have a great week!




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Friday, November 2, 2012

Style Crush Friday: Warm Winter White




I remember that even as a fairly young girl of eleven or twelve, I used to lie awake on my bed at night with my eyes closed and dream up dates for my teenaged self, that I'd go on with whichever boy was en vogue at the time (please tell me that no boys at all, will be in any way en vogue when Bean is eleven or twelve. SIGH.)  Once I had the activity completely imagined in endless, perfect detail, I'd go on to style myself and my handsome companion in my mind.

I think I always believed that once I got done dressing myself and my current crush for, say, our imaginary ride in a sleigh pulled by twin white horses over a hilly snow-covered acre in the woods, I'd move on to develop a plot and some dialogue between us. But let's be real, I couldn't confidently handle real plot or dialogue with a real boy very well until oh, about last year, so it's probably a good thing I could never get past meticulously selecting handbags and bow ties and lap robes and bell-covered horse collars.  No need to inject awkward adolescent silence into an otherwise perfect date, right?

Ironically, in this season of having young kids and a very choosy eye for babysitters who insist on growing up and getting on with their own lives, Al and I don't get out much these days, so I'm largely back to imaginary dates again. I know, POOR ME.

We're going down to the city this weekend for dinner and nightcaps and an overnight stay at a boutique hotel on Michigan Avenue -- well, at least in my mind we are. And I'm wearing a sweater and lace skirt of winter white, which is trending now, with pops of gorgeous berry on my nails, lips and feet.

They have horse drawn carriages downtown, too.  Maybe we'll take a clopping ride around the park under the sparkling lights of the city, out in the cold night air, holding hands and snuggling under a white faux fur lap robe.

Sigh.

You know what?  Who needs dialogue?

warm winter white


White House Black Market red pumps
whitehouseblackmarket.com



 


I've styled pretty red shoes by White House Black Market and an adorable polka dot clutch from J. Crew. Both of them feature affiliate links through RewardStyle.




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