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Olivers Labels Agent, Sara Panza

I’m a Pinterest Winner!

Before we get started:  I’m not going to post any recipes here because it drives me NUTS when people blog and say “oh I just got this recipe from so-and-so but I modified it” (and therefore it is implied that it’s modified so much that it is now their own).  Then they proceed to lay out an entire recipe as if they were created it and don’t link to the original when really, they just left out an ingredient or added a shot of vanilla. People: not cool!

I don’t come up with recipes, I just follow them. So you’ll have to click on the link to go back to the creators’ websites.

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Pioneer Woman Chocolate Chunk Cookies Pioneer Woman Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This weekend I was all about the Pinterest. I blame it on the Pioneer Woman. For some odd reason, I had commandeered the TV and was able to watch her show on Saturday morning and had escaped Disney Jr. (I still love you Mickey!!!). She was doing a football show and was making some chocolate chunk (not chips) cookies for her crew. I was sold. They looked like sheer perfection and I knew I had to make them. She made them with “browned butter.” No clue what that was and had never heard of it before.

Ok. So browned butter.

It’s exactly what it sounds like it is. You take a stick of butter, put it in the skillet and stir it up for a good 3-4 minutes until it’s brown. You’ve gotta keep a good eye on it! No texting, Facebooking, wrangling a child who is stealing your other child’s Legos. I wasn’t doing that so I didn’t burn any butter. I mean business when it comes to cookies.  It smells AMAZING. It does get brown and it does leave little brown bits in the pan. As soon as the 4 minutes are up, you turn it off and remove from heat. Set aside for 30 seconds, then pour into a heat-proof bowl. Let set for 30 minutes while you go on your way getting the rest of the cookie stuff set up.

Back to the cookies. So instead of creaming 2 stick s of butter with the sugar, you only do 1 since you’ve browned one. The rest of the recipe is the same, but you add the browned butter further on down the line. I normally use chocolate chips, so chocolate chunks was different. Of course, Ree was right. Chocolate chunks do melt so much more nicely and taste amazing.

These looked exactly like the ones on TV! And taste butterly delicious. I did not walk, I RAN to pin this on Pinterest so I would never forget where I put this recipe. I’m never making Nes-lay Toll-ooz (Phoebe on Friends? Anyone?) cookies again.

Forever and Ever Amen.

RECIPE.

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Mason Jar Salads Mason Jar Salads

Next up, a balance to my butter filled sugar explosion.

I’ve seen mason jar salads all over Pinterest (<<my “sandwiches and such” Pinterest board). Sure, they seem like a great idea. But 1) who keeps mason jars at their houses? 2) who really makes that much salad and eats it?

So you know I’m trying to eat healthier. I’ve decided to try and get on board with this smoothie/juicer business because I think the idea of having something fresh and delicious in the morning sounds great-and quite honestly, far more appealing than coffee.  I rarely drink it anyway. We usually have random fruits in the house, but eating them is another thing. You can only eat so many grapes and apples, or blueberries in your cereal. Plus I want to get the girls eating a rainbow. I figure, why not try to trick them into drinking the goods?

ANYWAY, back to the salads–blender/smoothie post to come later.

So I’d been cruising Pinterest and figured why not try this? I had bought a ton of salad stuff and it’s delicious at home, but just not feasible for work, and not something I’d commit to preparing nightly. So this is what I did–and it made for a delicious lunch!

So based on the millions of pins I saw (I never really read any one post, mostly looked at the pics), you layer like this:

  • Greens
  • Protein (meats)
  • softer veggies (I put my mushrooms here)
  • garbanzo beans
  • Cherry tomatoes (whole–some cut them up but I still think that’s mushy)
  • Harder veggies (peppers, cucumbers, carrots)
  • Dressing (I didn’t put any in the jar)

I brought a container of dressing (see below) to leave at work, so I didn’t put any in the jar. I guess if your jar is upright, there’s no issue, but I’d rather it just not be in there. This is awesome and they look so pretty! Now I have a healthy lunch packed for the next three days!  There are a lot of other options, too. Not just garden salad, but pesto, Greek, and other types to explore. I’m sure I’ll troll around on Pinterest and find others, but for now, this is where I’m starting.

Pin Win #2.

 

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Chuy's Jalapeno Ranch Dressing

Chuy’s Jalapeno Ranch Dressing

Then there was the other famous Pinterest pin (if you live in Texas or near a Chuy’s). Chuy’s Jalapeno Ranch Dip/Dressing. SO good. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A spicy ranch dressing. The recipe can be found HERE. But it’s seriously so simple, that you only need a handful of ingredients and a blender.  The ingredient basics are (see the recipe for the deets):

  • green chiles (canned Hatch green chiles–I’ll definitely buy fresh ones during Hatch green chile season and freeze them)
  • jalapenos (I used some amazing jarred ones from the Hill Country here near Austin)
  • sour cream
  • Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix
  • cilantro (and I HATE cilantro)

SO good. I have a really crappy blender and this was so basic that it still came out with a great consistency with no chunks or lumps.

I’ve seen a lot of variations on that recipe too.

I’d probably add a bit more jalapenos because it wasn’t super spicy (or maybe depending on the type it may be more or less spicy). It all depends on your audience and what you’re going for. I didn’t use garlic because I just don’t keep it in the house and also I forgot. And also, it wasn’t that important to me. Also? I don’t think that the Chuy’s recipe even has garlic in it…if we’re being true to their recipe.

She does call for 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk or Half & Half to thin down the dressing. I used 1/4 cup of Half & Half because I was afraid it would be too watery. It was really watery when it was done, but I poured it into the containers and once set, it was a perfect dressing consistency. It’s probably a bit thicker than Chuy’s has it, but for salad dressing, I think it worked out really well. If you want it for a chip dip, you may want to add a bit more Half & Half or maybe use milk. But why use milk? This is all about the CREAMY.

Really good on my Mason Jar Salad ;)

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So there you have it! My weekend on Pinterest. Definitely a delicious WIN.

Be Inspired.

Recently, a friend posted this on a forum and I loved it. Danielle LaPorte has a ton of these amazing #TruthBombs. Check out her website for more. Be inspired by the one that speaks to you.

But for now, read this one. We forget this as women. I’m incredibly guilty of NOT practicing self care and always have been. So today, remember:

self care

Why you need to see American Sniper

Photography by Brandon Thibodeaux-D Magazine (Click for link)

Photography by Brandon Thibodeaux-D Magazine (Click for link)

We went out last night and saw American Sniper.

Wow. All I could leave the theater saying, was wow.

I knew the movie was about a soldier (actually he’s a sailor, to be precise) who had the most recorded kills in history. I was uninformed and didn’t know the full story.  I won’t share it all here, but there was so much more to it and the movie laid it all.

Chris Kyle, the U.S. Navy Seal who the movie is about, is a Texas cowboy–a legit roping, riding, hunting, cowboy from Texas who joined the military to make a difference and join the war on terror because it was something he believed was his duty.

The movie goes from his beginnings in the military through his time overseas, his personal life, and the implications of his duties on his mental health. What a story. What a burden to bear on one’s soul. On one’s family.  If you want to read more about him, D Magazine did a great story, here.

I’m going to stop there because I don’t want to give anything away, but let me just say, go see it. We walked out of a sold out theater in utter silence. Many of the others around us had tears running down their faces, like I did.  I can’t even watch the previews for the movie anymore, without thinking about Chris’s story.

Why should you see this? Besides that fact that it’s won 6 Academy Awards and had an opening box office of over $90 MILLION, it’s a story as Americans you need to know.

The battle that troops who have served and fought in war zones doesn’t end when they board a plane home.

My brother did his tours in Iraq.

The movie revealed a glimpse into some of the things that the Marines and the Seals did in Iraq.

When I think about my brother, the few things he’s told me, the things I saw in this movie, my heart aches. I think of these young men and women who are eager to fight for something they believe in, at all costs. This isn’t a job to be taken lightly and you can’t just leave your work at the office when you click out-if you get to clock out.

There is a toll taken on the mental health of these brave men and women. I’ve talked about this with my brother. I remember what it was like when he came back from Iraq.

At the end of the day, these heroes are fundamentally changed for life. It would be impossible not to be, for better and worse. With the bad there is the good–the stories of the people they did help. The horrors that there are on the extreme other side and can never be forgotten, no matter how hard they try.

We go through the motions of our daily lives without missing a beat–school, work, errands, home, dinner, bed. We don’t realize the full magnitude of what it means to be active duty military, especially in a war zone. We can’t fully appreciate the commitment that is made to protect us thousands of miles away so that we can have the safety for ourselves and our children. It may sound silly and overly patriotic, but it’s true. This movie is the reminder we all need.

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So next time you see a sailor, a Marine, a soldier or someone who has on military clothing, say “THANK YOU.” To their spouses and families, say “THANK YOU.” Whether they’ve set foot overseas or not, they signed up knowing full well that they could. And that’s reason enough.

Jacob: You will always be a Marine, enlisted or not. 12 years of sacrifice, you will always be my hero.  THANK YOU. Oorah.

Friday v.2

Yeah so I missed a Friday. But here I am.

What a week! I had #satansstomachbug and it was horrible. I was sick from Monday till mostly Thursday morning when I finally ate. I even gave up and went to urgent care on Wednesday because I realized I hadn’t had any water (or food-oatmeal) since Monday. Not good. It was sheer misery. But I’m back up and running and was working like a mad woman to catch up at the office.

So what’s going on here?

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*Well, my new boss got sworn into office last week. Yes, he’s elected. I got to attend and also got to work the event. So I got all dressed up. Gotta say, it’s kinda nice sometimes. Ava picked a new dress for me and it was kinda awesome. She was so proud that she picked it out. I may try and do this dressier thing. I’ve been sporting the redder lipstick lately, too.

*So my cousin, B (my John Mayer-lovin’ partner in crime) and I signed up for a 10k to be held on April 12. We’ve got a lot of time to get ready but need to get training. We’re not gonna walk at all, because that’s how we roll. I have no doubt we can do it. The awesome? Our bibs will say #JCMclarityJB. John C. Mayer-Clarity (song)-Jess/Brandon. Yup. That’s us.  John Mayer lovin’ fools.

*Speaking of training, I’m not running yet, but I’ve started doing yoga. I’m using an amazing app called Yoga Studio for iPad. It’s $4 and it’s unlimited access to a ton of videos for every level, every length, every type of class you want. And you can download them (small files) and do them whenever you want.

*See next frame: my favorite John Mayer song came on iTunes radio after a long night of animal acting children when I just needed to relax. Also, you can’t tell but I cracked the corner of my iPad. UGH. Speaks for why you need a good case. I have a Tech21 on my iPhone and I’ve dropped it, no exaggeration, at least 20 times (oops). Knock on wood, no issues yet. My iPad tipped over and fell on the wood floor and cracked. Needless to say, I bought a new completely protective case to keep it from further cracking or chipping away.

*Last week it was cold in Austin. Ha, see how I said “last week” because it doesn’t actually stay cold around here. It was 60 and sunny today even though it was 40s and drizzly earlier in the week. So anyway, the cold. It was so cold last Saturday that we had “ice warnings” and all types of stuff was cancelled. That pic was taken when we were supposed to be at dance class. I didn’t check email so I didn’t know it was cancelled because of the potential for ice. That’s Allie enthralled by the “ice” on the rails. It was teeny weeny little icicles that really weren’t even icicles, but more of freezing dripping water. This is Texas.

*I was featured on Postpartum Progress last week. I wrote about my experience with postpartum anxiety. It was pretty terrifying but also something I was pretty proud of. Coming out with everything I’ve been through in my depression/anxiety journey to the people in my real world is scary. The thought of being judged and looked at differently is not something that anyone wants, least of all someone who’s already paranoid about what people think of what I do or say.

And now it’s a 3 day weekend. HOORAY!

So to all of you who have the long weekend, enjoy it and be safe. We’ll be catching American Sniper, so you’ll probably be able to hear my crying from wherever you are. With my brother being a former Marine, and the fact I cry during movies, I will have all the tears and will be packing Kleenex.

Friday v.1

I’m gonna try this thing where I sum up my week and how my healthy aspirations are going. So here’s Friday v.1. 

So apparently everyone on my Instagram feed is starting the Whole30. I won’t even pretend that I’m jumping on that bandwagon because, have you met me? It’s enough that I’m shooting for not eating out and stocking the house with fresh fruits and veggies.

I’m still browsing Pinterest to see what I see. Am I the only person still on Pinterest? It’s become my nightly relax thing while I watch Friends.

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I didn’t run today. To be fair, I was shooting for January 4, but I did mop the entire downstairs and holy cow, that’s exhausting! I’m calling that my workout.

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Which reminded me that even though I have my shiny new work calendar that’s titled “Zen,” it’s pretty much just for major board meetings and stuff that I need to know for school.

I don’t actually have one that I can record workouts in. Something tangible that isn’t an iPhone that I can flip through and see my progress in beautiful colored ink.

Which made me think, what else could I be doing that I could be recording in this calendar?

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I’ve seen friends doing She Reads Truth. I want to be more engaged with my faith. I really do. We’ve talked about this; I believe in God but I’m just not feeling the church right now. I would like to be more connected and feel great things.

imageUnfortunately we all had the plague while we were in El Paso for Christmas, so I tried to avoid seeing all human people. I was bummed because I would have loved to meet with Diana to catch up, see how huge Bella has gotten, and ask her how she’s grown her faith despite her painful trials the past couple of years. She inspires me. She’s faithful but still raw and honest.

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I think I was moved when I was cleaning out my iPhone pictures and saw this. I took this on our drive to El Paso and I was so close to deleting it after I took it because it just wasn’t Instagram worthy to show the beauty of the mountains. I stopped and really looked at it the night we got home and was in awe.

If you can’t see it, to me, it looks like a cross standing out among the clouds in a blue sky. Pretty amazing if I do say so.

Project Lifestyle. v2015

I’m not one for resolutions. I never have been. I scoff at the people who flood the gyms after January 1, and when I was a member, I used to get annoyed when they would take over my machines and watch as they fell like flies as the weeks passed.

But I do believe in kick starting things whenever you need to, any time of the year.

This week, even though New Years is Thursday, I’m going out with a bang and eating like crap. Aim high, friends. There won’t be any lifestyle changes started on January 1 here.

I like things that are even. Symmetrical. Clean. I like starting fresh. I like a shiny new calendar with perfectly written plans.

So starting Sunday, January 4, 2015, I’ll get real and start Project Eat In and See Jess Run.

We’re a big junk food house and that’s a bad thing, obviously. Going into the new year, I want to get whole again. Fresh foods. Eat out less. Right now I’m on overload and my body is craving it.

So this week I’ll let myself eat what I want. Buy breakfast and lunch at work if I want. Oooooh breakfast tacos. I’ll eat the biscocho cookies my dad’s girlfriend generously sent home and enjoy them with milk. Then I’ll reign it in.

I’m realistic. I’ve never been one for eating salads or going all grilled and all healthy. That’s not me and it’ll never be. I believe in moderation.

A couple years ago, I took the month of January and decided I would not eat out (Project Eat In). I didn’t eat out, not even one meal. Even on weekends. Not sure how I did that, but I did. I’m shooting for that, but if we go out with friends for dinner or eat with the kids at a real restaurant (not Chick Fil A), I’ll enjoy a meal–a modest one.

Eating in changes your diet. You save money, which is awesome, but you eat less crap because you obviously don’t pack a cheeseburger and fries for lunch. Facebook friends have helped me choose Tupperware and silicone cupcake liners–and I’ll be packing lunch. Nothing fancy (think protein boxes), but stuff to fill the void when there’s not enough leftovers from the night before.

Cooking more means we all eat better. Less crap for everyone. Hooray! I’m aspiring to make less boxed stuff, despite the fact my kids actually prefer it. 21 days for a habit, right?

I’m also hoping and planning for this to kickstart my running. A year ago I was gearing up for the Walt Disney World marathon. 26.2 miles. I did that. I DID THAT. I will do that again.

But for now, I just want to get back into race shape–even if it’s just 10k. I want to say “I’m a runner” and feel like I deserve to say it and not be embarrassed when people ask me how my running is going.

I’ll start small. I’ll pack my bag and make plans to run at lunch. No excuses, no interruptions to my time at home.

It’s time to See Jess run.

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2015.

Lifestyle.

Not resolution.

Life.

Jess.

The Sign

I was never really a person to believe in signs. I’m still not. I think I try to pull for straws though when it comes to signs and my mom.

I pick up pennies whenever I see them and call them “pennies from heaven” and consider them my mom’s way to say hi. Usually I see them when I’m rushing or when I somehow seem to need them.

This morning I had my Sunday school class Christmas party. Still funny thinking that I’m the teacher in charge of 11 little kindergarteners. We had a fun little craft while listening to iTunes Radio Kids Christmas. We talked about the real meaning of Christmas, Jesus’s birthday. Also we talked about giving–not getting presents. I was a proud mama hen when they all told me their ideas. One of my favorites was my kiddo who said, “it’s like when you get socks and you don’t really want them but you say thank you anyway.” Sometimes they’re pretty funny.

IMG_0915.JPGWe talked about giving without buying because Christmas is about showing how much you care for others, even without spending a dime.

Then we sang “happy birthday” to Jesus before I gave them each a little book and a cross necklace. I’m a book girl. It was a little thing but I somehow felt full, like my mom was there. It seemed like something she would’ve done for her kids.

Tonight, after a long exhausting week of travel, after school stuff and fun weekend activities, I started picking up Allie’s room while she played in the tub. Let’s listen to some fun kids’ Christmas music. “Dominic the Donkey” came on. Alright then.

Then this came on. Far, far from a Christmas song. Far, far from a kids’ artist. But there it was: “Be Not Afraid.” The song that I always associate with my mom. Absolutely no reason for it to be on iTunes Kids’ Christmas radio.

I used to hate her music growing up. My brother and I used to protest listening to it in the car. But as she got older and after she was gone, I appreciated it. It was the comfort of her being there.

Christmas isn’t my favorite time of year. I don’t like the commercialism. I miss my mom.

But then there are signs like this to remind me she’s here and how much she loved the season for what it stands for, So I allow myself the tears as I sing along and for a minute after, and I’m thankful that I had my mom while I did–because there’s no one like your mom.

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Nine. And why the Internet is awesome.

Nine years ago I was in law school. Finishing up my last semester and getting ready to graduate. I had never really thought about having kids, I was never one of those girls who romanticized the idea of being a mom and having kids. But something hit me and I knew. After three years of being married, it was time to add a third to to our home.

When I got pregnant, I was graduating and getting ready for the bar exam. I remember going home for Mother’s Day (appropriately) and surprising our parents with the news. I still remember the squeal from my mom when she found out, and how she knew Ava was a girl. Little did I know Ava would be the safety blanket and comfort I needed through the sickness and loss of my mom.

When I was looking for baby names, I found a cool little online forum (message board) where women could go to talk about all things pregnancy, names, and babies. It was there I met a group of ladies and we were all having kids in December. That’s where the December Mommies was born.

That board was a lifesaver since we all figured out the whole pregnancy thing as first time moms together. I didn’t have other friends around who were pregnant, so being able to ask random questions about common and crazy things helped out. I think it helped us all.

We welcomed all of our babies with sweet Ella, came a bit early, in late November. The babies then came all through December until just after Christmas.

My Ava was born on December the 9th and we welcomed her with love. J and I were in awe and I suddenly couldn’t imagine how life was before her. I was lucky enough to be home with her and not have to work to she was older and I soaked up all the time I had with her as I watched that amazing little creature grow.

The years have come and gone, and we’ve grown apart as life sometimes happens, but thanks to technology and Facebook, we’re able to watch the kids grow up and turn nine together. We’ve been together as we’ve lost my mom and my dear friend Maribel’s mom to cancer. We’ve been together for the births of more babies. No matter what, we are here.

We’re an amazing group of women and I’m incredibly grateful to say that I’ve made friendships that have stood the test of time– nearly 10 years and counting. Through my tough times I’ve had support from these ladies cheering me on. Today, I’ve got one of the best friends in the world that I’ve yet to meet in person. She’s with me through the blahs and the happy and we text about it all along the way. Someday, I’ll hug her. Someday I will.

I have all of these friendships because this beautiful baby girl came into our lives and changed my world forever. She makes me better. She inspires me everyday.

She’s got the biggest heart and is incredibly smart–and that’s not just a biased mama talking. She’s witty, she’s well spoken, she’s creative and well read. Ava is one of the kindest souls you will ever know. She’s got an intuitiveness about her that seeks out anyone that is in need of caring and offers all that she has.

How I was so lucky to end up with such an amazing child is beyond me. But I’m thankful everyday for how special and wonderful she is and that she’s ours.

And now she is 9.
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New Music Wednesday

Ok it’s been a while since I told you about new music. I’ve not had much going on since I told you about how awesome Mary Lambert was and how I loved Colbie Caillat’s song “Try.”

So I’ve got 2 new albums for you and a couple of singles.

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Ok so let’s start with The Voice. Yes, the show.  So there’s this one singer named Taylor John Williams.  I’ve never really watched the show before this season so I’m a newbie to the process of how it works, but anyway he did a great remake of the song “Royals” by Lorde. Buy it. Get it. You won’t be sorry.

Then there’s Damien (also from the Voice).  He did a killer remake of “Someone Like You,” by Adele. He’s amazing live because he has such an emotional connection to music and watching him makes you really feel the music.  I’m a live music nerd, so maybe it’s just me.

Both of those are on the iTunes charts, that’s how awesome they are! Pretty impressive from dudes on a singing show, if you ask me.

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I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

Idina Menzel. The queen of the world. Well, her alter ego, Elsa is anyway. She’s got a Christmas album, Holiday Wishes, out and it’s pretty good. We listened to it during the baking binge while getting ready for Friendsgiving. It’s not quite the holiday season unless you’re listening to Christmas music.

I was really looking forward to this one because, duh, it’s Elsa! I still love her second “For the First Time in Forever” song that she sings with Anna when she’s in the ice castle. Oh wait, squirrel! Ok. So anyway, I’d seen her remake of “Baby it’s cold outside,” with Michael Buble and it was really good. The video was odd because it was made with kids and not adults, but the song was great.

Being a lover of all things Disney, I loved “When you wish upon a Star.” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “December Prayer,” and “River,” are my favorites. Pretty much all of them except “All I Want for Christmas is You” because that belongs to Mariah Carey. And Justin Bieber (don’t ask)–so no one can really remake that one in my eyes.

The album was beautiful. It’s one of those relaxing sit by the fire and listen on repeat type of albums.

If you want a sneak peek of the songs on the album, check out this trailer. It’s pretty awesome and you won’t be disappointed. She’s really great. And I challenge you to try to not picture Elsa in some of them.

This is an album that I’d have happily bought and added to my Christmas collection. You should too!

* iTunes : http://bit.ly/IMHolidayWishes
* Amazon:  http://bit.ly/IDINAHOLIDAY

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 I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own. 

Then there’s Mary J. Blige’s new album, The London Sessions. She’s looking pretty damn good. The woman doesn’t age. But the album…unfortunately, I really have nothing to say about it other than it was highly disappointing. It just wasn’t what I was expecting from her. NOTHING like her album, The Breakthrough, which was great.

“Doubt” which is an anthem about believing in yourself starts off the album so I had high hopes, even though it doesn’t actually sound that great, it has a good message. There’s a song called “Not Loving You,” where she basically says that if you’re not loving yourself, there’s only so much she can do. Ummm, ok.

 

This is clearly an album by a woman coming out of a relationship and finding herself. Rock on. That’s awesome. ”Therapy” is one of those songs that is an example of that. Check it out. This is one of the catchier songs on the album and I like the beat.

I listened song by song and I really wanted to like the album. I did, that’s why I signed up for the review because I was excited about new music from Mary J., but I just didn’t love it.

This wasn’t my style but maybe it’s yours. If it is, you can find it on iTunes and Amazon:

 * iTunes : http://bit.ly/MJBLondon 
* Amazon: 
 http://bit.ly/MJBLS

Yes, Ava, There is A Santa Claus

Ava will be 9 in just 2 weeks. I’m not even sure how, but she will.

I’m fighting an uphill battle to ensure she still believes in Santa. She’s already put me on notice that lots of kids at her school do not believe in Santa. We discussed it on the way home one day. My stomach did a lurch and I asked her what she thought.  They just don’t know, but “I believe,” she said, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

It’s not about what you see or what people say, I told her.

It’s about what you truly believe in your heart.

And I believe in his magic of giving.

She does too.

This is my hardest Christmas yet because I know it’ll probably be my last where they both believe. Luckily, she’s the most amazing big sister and she’ll keep Allie believing for years to come.

I don’t even remember how old I was when I stopped believing, but I do remember the one Christmas we were all ecstatic when Santa came while we were at church. SURELY it couldn’t have been my parents. That was probably one of the last years that I believed–but it worked.

So how am I doing it?

cards*~Ava gets a yearly card from Santa. He talks to her about things only she would know–like references from her Christmas card or things like her report card. It has a picture of him, and this year, her card even had a picture of his reindeer. That look of excitement there? That is real. Sheer awe and not staged even a little. I was so happy.

Ava got her first card too.  She colored all over it, in true Allie style, but that’s what she does and that’s ok, too.

*~Gingerbread, our Elf on the Shelf, got here early last night. Normally she comes the morning after Thanksgiving. Last night, she was waiting for us when we got back from Friendsgiving. She was in the tiny bed Ava had set out for her and was fast asleep. Surely no one could have touched her or set her out (not that I think she thinks we move her, or at least I’m not sure she does), so this was extra magical.

*~Then there’s the texts to Santa. Oh my Santa. It’s awesome having awesome friends with awesome husbands that you obviously don’t text often. Except when you change their names to Santa Claus and narc on your kid for bad behavior. And then they respond with the most perfectly perfect response and your heart grows 10 sizes because you’re so grateful that amazing people like that are in your life.

*~I’ve gotta admit. I took a sneak peek at Ava’s list to Santa before I “sent it out.” She put a tall order in there and I made sure it happened. There were a few things on there and they were very specific.  Who knows if she’ll even remember what they were when Christmas morning comes, but I will.

*~We’ll be seeing the big man on Sunday for pictures. Of course not the REAL Santa. Because, obviously. That would be impossible. He can’t be at every mall in the world because he’s busy and has things to do and can’t be in 100000 places at once. These are visitor Santas and that’s ok too. Cute pictures to come, I’m sure.

I know Christmas is about CHRIST. I’m the first person to tell you that. That’s how I was brought up. You’ll never find me writing or typing X-mas. I hate that. I still don’t love all the pressure of gifts, but I do enjoy it when people truly appreciate and enjoy the gifts that you give them. And I love the excitement of my girls’ faces on Christmas morning. I also love that my girls both know that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday–that’s why we celebrate.  He is the Reason for the Season.

So we’ve got a big job ahead of us. But we’re ready for the task.

She’ll believe.