The Key to Happiness in Two Words

Yes_No I got the most amazing piece of advice from a friend's mother. Judy is a mom to four beautiful, strong daughters, she's a grandmother, a community leader and she has a great sense of humor and a deep husky voice. I asked her how she turned out such lovely women and kept her family so close. Her answer?

"I said yes, as often as possible."

That has stayed with me, and it was especially meaningful at a time when I found myself telling the boys "NO" for no real reason. Like, "no I won't play that game with you" or "no, I don't want you doing xyz." And honestly, why not? Why was I so quick to say no?  To begin, now is a time when moments of my undivided attention are critical. I understand this is fleeting, and that their indifference to me will surely break my heart one day. Number two, kids need the freedom to test and create and explore their own ideas. If it's not truly dangerous or totally indulgent (I'm not talking about buying them stuff or letting them eat ice cream for breakfast) then I needed to start saying yes. As much as possible. Yes. This word can be SO powerful for my kids, yet I hoard it at home and let it fly with careless abandon most of the day. I fricking give it away for free at work. At their school. Everywhere it seems, but where it matters most. So I decided to switch gears... and now I pause and say yes to my kids whenever possible, and I think of Judy every time.

Since receiving that advice, I've read two books that speak to the power of our choices: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.

At first run, Tidying Up reads like an SNL sketch—taking decluttering to such an extreme I wondered if Ms. Kondo has been clinically diagnosed with an order disorder. She's disciplined, to say the least. Despite the fact that I won't be unpacking my purse nightly, and taking each sacred item from its bowels, and placing them into velvet lined boxes of perfect measure, her method really does makes sense.

You would think that a lifestyle approach to organization  is about saying no to what you can live without. Big hint here, it's not. My aha moment, was that you don't start by having it all and reduce. You begin with nothing, and re-acquire (say YES) with intention. No to everything, then you keep only the items that truly move you. WHOA.

"Konmari," as this method of reduction is now referred to, is actually about the art of saying YES.

I get how this is common sense for some people. I'd always approached it from the opposite point of view... "well, what can i get rid of?". I felt a heaviness lift when everything was automatically categorized as a "toss" (or give) and I had to work to find a meaningful reason to say yes to something, to label it a "keep".

Essentialism offers a similar philosophy, but for time and people instead of things. From McKeown, "It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’." Once you have established what your priorities are—like having family dinners,  or getting paid to do the things you're best at—then you can more easily make decisions TO DO, or NOT DO, the activities that serve your core values.

What is most important to me? What am I really good at? How do I want to spend my time?

We are constantly fielding requests from others, and it's our responsibility to engage in our response to these demands. While on autopilot, our instinct is often to say YES. Because we don't know how to say no, or we don't want to disappoint others, or perhaps because we simply can't provide (a good enough) reason NOT TO. It's just easier to say yes. At first. In the end, we're stressed, we're spread thin, we're not happy.

The key to happiness? Say NO to something that doesn't have great meaning or impact for you. And say YES to something that speaks to your core values and serves your higher purpose. Have you already mastered this? What's YOUR magic word?

Running With Gratitude

Or, How to Organize Your Own Turkey Trot

Our Turkey Trot, the Mahalo 5k

Over the years, the boys and I have run a few Turkey Trots together... up at the crack of dawn, well over $100 later and sporting ill-fitting, ugly t-shirts we launch ourselves into a crowded sea of strangers for a 3.1 mile run for the homeless/hungry/you-name-the-cause. And we love it. But this year, it just seemed a bit excessive. We can't justify the expense regardless how worthy the cause, and the logistics also seemed less desirable when I factored in Thanksgiving prep and party time.

So we went rogue.

To replace the traditional "Thank You" run, we came up with the Mahalo 5k, a 3.1 mile run loosely organized for our friends and family. It was aptly named by one of my twins, as mahalo means "thank you" in Hawaiian. More than that, it's a sacred word that conveys the essence of gratitude, respect, and esteem. The island spirit has definitely influenced our family-- Kauai is like kin to us and long ago we adopted "mahalo" as our simple mealtime blessing.

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1. The Concept: Invite friends and family of all ages to join us for a 5k run/walk. The course would begin and end at our house, and avoid major intersections. Everyone brings their own water to drink, as well as canned goods for the San Diego Food Bank.

2.The Identity: Because I treat every event I host as an opportunity to play with my graphic design hackery, I had to create an identity for the race. Even if we didn't get t-shirts, I wanted to convey the cheerful spirit of our race, our community and our geography. On request though, I gave the local shirt shop our design and invited participants to print shirts on their own.

3. The Course(s): Since a number of my friends rock the road with their kids in tow I created an alternate Stroller Course that sticks to the sidewalks. For the rest of us, I mapped a mixed terrain course with a tough climb near the end. I printed a copy of each course and slipped them into plastic sleeves for day-of viewing.

3. The Invites: I really dislike Evite and think that emails with PDFs don't get opened as quickly, so I caved in and used Facebook events and invited only a smallish number of close friends. I wanted to keep it manageable, and it worked like a charm.

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4. The Logistics: The race was free, and we just asked that everyone bring donations for the food bank. An RSVP was requested, but I didn't turn down any last minute joiners. We identified key points along the route that may need signage to keep everyone on track and the night before the race I took the boys on a stealth mission with headlamps, flashlights, tape, signage, a bucket of a chalk and a deadblow hammer. We graffitied the sidewalks with arrows and messages like ""Let's Do This" or "I'm thankful for__________" and "Don't Give Up!". That morning we did a quick tour of the course to make sure the signs were still up and visible. My man had the role of race official and gave us the offical countdown to start, followed by some race recon via mountain bike.

BONUS?  Local runners got to see our handiwork and maybe, just maybe, felt an extra spring in their step that morning.

5. The Refreshments: At the last minute I decided to offer some post race fare, so that morning I cut up a bag of oranges into wedges and bananas into halves, and brewed a couple pots of coffee into thermos carafes. We had one big water jug on hand, and our friends ended up bringing bagels, lox, cream cheese and donuts. There was much debate on Facebook as to whether this would defeat the purpose of the run, but I didn't hear anyone complaining...

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6. The Impact: We took a baby step into social activism. I was able to rope my kids into the organizing and planning of the event, and in the process they learned about community, connection, event logistics, and hunger relief. 10 familes with 20 kids and two canines gathered to run/walk 3.1 miles for a healthy, fun start to Thanksgiving weekend. On the run we actually took our own cue and shared a few things we were grateful for--humor, chocolate, stargazing, a sense of smell, ocean views, friends and each other. We gathered bags of groceries for the local food bank and cheered each other on during what turned out to be a scorching, hot day in San Diego. After the race, the boys and I dropped off the donations and discussed all the good things that came from our little 5k.

BIG MAHALO.

Forever Young: The Queen Bee Turns 90

Marcy90_0005The MatriarchLovin’ on my gram isn’t always easy. She’s a feisty red head, at heart, in her youth and now via bottle. Still, Marcella is the Matriarch of our tight knit family and we love her Madly. She has a brood of 4, plus 5 grands and 4 greats. Married to the “Chief” for more than 50 years, our family has a strong foundation and sticks together through it all. The in-laws are IN, and they accept our eccentricities. Through marriage and divorce, sickness and health, we all come together. While the Chief left us a few years back, Marcella Jean (or “Maxy”) turned 90 today, and this is how we celebrated.

Home Movie I know there must be some 8mm clips, recorded somewhere. But I don’t have them, so I created a simple scrapbook-style movie of fave family moments and images from Grandma Marcy’s life. While In the Mood by Glenn Miller nearly me drove me out of my gourd (longest 3:26 of my life), I had some fun with Herb Albert’s Tijuana Taxi, the bubble gum popper I’m into Something Good by The Bird and the Bee, and finally, the heartfelt yet peppy version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. It came in under 15 minutes, which seemed to be the perfect amount of time for everyone to giggle, sigh, and regret some awesome haircuts (did someone say perm? or um, mullet?).

Storytelling I am big on thought here, short on action. I think it’s fantastic to have recorded stories of our family’s history.  Have I done anything to make this happen? No. StoryCorps does this all over the country, and I love to hear the vignettes on NPR. In the spirit of StoryCorps we had everyone share a memory of the Birthday Girl. I video-recorded each one with my iPhone. It’s a start. My M opened the series with a reading of Invitation, by Shel Silverstein, and B drew her a picture of a bird. Which he promptly left at home. My nieces sang “You Are My Sunshine” with a little help from their Oma. The stories were funny, soulful, and grateful. Meticulously planned and lovingly spontaneous. I saw the origin of (many of) my beliefs and quirks through the eyes of my dad, my aunts, uncles and cousins.

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Ohana Family. It’s in the way we lead that children are cultivated and grown. Relationships nurtured. Parenting is not so much about following rules. The rules are inherent in the WAY we are raised and HOW we guide and inspire our own children. Not in a list of do's and don'ts.  I know not everyone is as lucky to have family near by, or willing to travel the distance for these milestone moments. But making the effort means so much--and teaches the next generation that connecting really does MATTER. Family first.

Watch Less, Do More: Cutting Cable TV

Aardvark Manifesto We cut the cord. I thought it would be much more painful than this. We didn’t so much KILL our TV as WOUND it. Though if you tell friends in certain circles that you are giving up cable, you might as well have said that you’ve lost a limb. “But what about sports?” moaned our guy friends, and “What about the news?” cried others. On the flip side, some of my closest pals met this announcement with detailed questions and nods of approval. Essentially, we want to Watch Less, Do More.

It’s been fun to engage people on the topic.  “Losing sports” is not an issue. We’d like to be participants, instead of just spectators. Our kids are on a constant run from practices to games, soccer to baseball and more, I run and do yoga, we hike, and maybe the Mister and I will take up tennis. Not to mention, top athletes continue to disappoint, far from the role models our culture suggests they portray. Instead, we have he has been taking the boys to games at the local high school, where they can watch real athletes play the sports they love. As for news? I never really watched it. I listen to NPR, and read a variety of news online.

LIVE YOUR LIFE.

The point is to re prioritize our time. With cable I could easily mindmeld into Top Chef, Law and Order, Fashion Police, No Reservations, and a heap of other guilty pleasures. You could flip from soccer to football to vintage basketball, but couldn’t avoid the screaming pundits! Later, when I reflect on how I spent my (life)time, I don’t want this to be the chart of accounts. Everything is more intentional now. If I want my Downtown Abbey, I can pay for it on iTunes or wait for it on Netflix. We make a date to watch The Following together. For now, we forgo the indie faves like Girls and Game of Thrones, while movies are a welcome weekend treat. For everything else? Well, we have Hulu+, Netflix streaming, a DVD player and Apple TV. I told you! We just cut cable. I may make my own granola, but I didn't go TOTAL hippie on this one.

Hopeful Side Effects of Mindful Consumption

  1. Better Health. Early to bed, early to rise. My goal is to get up early to meditate, blog, or workout.
  2. Less mindless munch time. Studies show, this goes hand in hand with watching TV. Boo.
  3. More quality time. To spend with my kids, with the Mister, or alone.
  4. More money. For saving. For debt. For braces. For vacations.

And, yes, until I’ve completely weaned myself from pop culture’s delicious pill, I’ll probably be inviting myself over for the major red carpet moments. Keep some bubbles on ice!

Menu Planning in 4 Easy Steps

menuplan-1 One thing I love about Saturdays is Menu Planning. It's a household chore, sure. But I get to sit down and pour over cookbooks, cruise my favorite cooking sites, sip a strong cuppa java, and plan out the next week of meals. Running an efficient household while raising two boys, staying (happily) married and working full-time is no small task. This single strategic step makes everything flow just a little bit easier...here's how:

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1. SUPPLIES

Get organized. One side of our fridge is still magnet friendly, so that's our information hub. Create a spot like this in your kitchen's high traffic zone. Make it PUBLIC so your family (ahem, in my case, the Mister) can add to the shopping list, as well as read up on the week's menu. This avoids the whole "well I already had fish tacos for lunch" issue.

Basics: Paper, Pencil, magnet or tape Advanced: MENU worksheet with grocery list, pencil, magnetic list pad, clipboard, highlighters, Spot-On! Magnetic Hook

2. PREP WORK

A. Maintain a Shopping List. Track your household needs on an as-you-go basis. Out of oats? Write it down. Low on canola oil? Jot that note as SOON as you realize it. It's a total pain in the boot to take pantry inventory or waste time conjuring up the "oh-yeah-I-used-up-the-last-of-the-fill-in-the-blank"  from the past week.

B. Keep a Family Calendar. In this stage of planning I review the coming week...Are we home every night? Anyone out-of-town? Does the Mister have plans? Do I have a work event? Who has what sports and how late? I want to make sure I don't plan to roast a chicken on a night when I'm working late, or have soccer pick up. I need this plan to WORK for me. Not be a source of frustration. If there is a night I have to work late, I map out something the Mister can easily execute, like Corn Dogs + applesauce + steamed broccoli. (My healthy fast version of Corn Dogs =  hot dogs wrapped in corn tortillas).

3. INSPIRATION

Before you get too excited, consider the following:

1. How much time will I need/have? By reviewing your calendar in advance you should be able to set realistic expectations. Clue #1? Save the intermediate level recipes or the "baste-every-hour" roasts for a weekend day. Duh! 2. What new ingredients will this require? Are you willing to source out the ingredients required in that new Indian dish? If so, awesome! Make it an adventure. If not, don't commit to it, and therefore set yourself up for failure or disappointment. 3. Are there any special requests from the family? Make sure to give your kids/hubs a voice, if they would like to contribute.

There are PLENTY of recipe resources out there, but I recommend selecting a few "go-to's" each week (fave cookbooks, mags or websites), and one or two newbies so that you don't get stuck in the inspiration stage. Remember, you still have to implement. Your goal at this point is to have an idea of the kind of

Ask  friends for their  favorites, look at family recipes, mull over magazines. I love looking through cookbooks. Now that I plan my menus, it's much easier to justify the expense of glossy new food porn. Gorge. I always throw a few tried-and-trues into the line up, as I'm not trying to run a test kitchen. That said, I like to pick (at least) one new recipe each week, depending on the busy factor.

My Current Go-To's: Supernatural Everyday (101 Cookbooks Blog) Dinner: A Love Story (Blog) Bon Appetit has a great website. So does Food & Wine and America's Test Kitchen (Heads up: some content is only for paid subscribers). I'm also liking Vegetarian Times, Whole Living...oh! and Cooking Light has made such nice design leaps since I was a newlywed subscriber, that I recommend picking up a hard copy every now and then. Finally, check out Mark Bittman's site, and fittingly, the New York Times Dining & Wine section.

Weekly Menu

4. IMPLEMENTATION

Yay! It's time to map it all out. I made myself a Menu Plan Worksheet that divides the paper into two major sections...Left side, MENU items, Right side, GROCERY LIST. Do it however works best for you. Or download mine here: Weekly Menu.

A. Before you start filling it in, there are some key considerations: Is it well Balanced? Omnivores at heart, we are focused on creating more meatless meals. Got Fish? Let's hear it for lean protein and omega 3s! Special Events? Am I on the hook to bring a dessert to Bunco? School Snacks? Are we low on granola bars?

B. MAKE YOUR PLAN I usually write in the main dish and the side(s) so I don't have to think about it. Write down any special ingredients you'll need onto the grocery list section.

C. Transfer any current "to buy" items from your ongoing fridge list to the grocery list (menu planner sheet).

D. Go shopping and make great food!

CONGRATULATIONS! You've just made the coming week SO MUCH easier. And true confessions...this stuff changes, you know? So if you get invited over to your neighbor's house for brats, you go with it. And ax the plan for that night, or sub it for another night. It's way easier to have too much scheduled than nothing at all.

Mahalo!

Let's Do This! Running to Race, Racing to Run

32170426_PeFmt7fb_c AS MUCH AS IT PAINS ME to expose my personal/physical goals, I know that making such public statements enhances their probability of success. I came close to calling this "A Quarterly Commitment to Mark Miles + Drop Pounds" but just couldn't do it. Yuck. Yawn. Bleh.

What I want to know is...how do you prioritize exercise? We're all BUSY. Working Moms? MotherRunners? What INSPIRES you? What MOVES you? Also...What are your biggest challenges in fitness? in food?

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Since training for a marathon (which I did to the letter, solo) I've kind of lost my discipline.  Mainly because I can "cheat". While the 26.2 had me scared serious, now I could run a 15k without much training. I'm getting lazy. But in 2013 I'm stepping it up (without the 26.2 sacrifices--friends, family, toenails). This year I'm committed to a program of four half marathons with a healthy sampling of 5, 10 and 15ks. I signed up for the La Jolla Half Marathon, April 28, #2 in the Triple Crown Series (Carlsbad Half Marathon, La Jolla Half Marathon, America's Finest City(AFC)). I've already completed Carlsbad, in August it's AFC, and in November it's Silver Strand.

I'm inspired by other athletes, and I like to be a role model for my kids. I'm at my best when I get up early to run, and I feel like a total badass when I swing a kettlebell and do box rock jumps in my backyard. I use Runkeeper to track my workouts, and honestly I love seeing the numbers add up. On the flip side, I'm using LoseIt! to track food. Yes, I like data. Numbers. Stats. And while I'm strong and athletic-ish, I can only imagine the impact when I focus on BOTH goals at the same time. Yes! Let's DO this!

A Vote of Confidence (Or Shut Up, I Think You Are Gorgeous)

ShutUp One of the things that makes us all human is the need for approval, reassurance, respect, perhaps even a little adoration. The craving for this can ebb and flow, dependent upon our own ego-boosting magic and our susceptibility to the critics (both real and imaginary).

HEY, YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY Today I ate lunch at my desk, plowed through some documents and took off for a run mid-work day to ease off leftover leg cramps from Sunday's half marathon. I only half baked this idea, since I was too lazy to get up at 6 and do it before work, which means I didn't really pack a full change of clothes (read: underwear) and there is NO way to shower. And I still had an important meeting to attend. Gross. I know. Anywhoooo...after a quick change and a perfume spritz I made a pit stop at the coffee cart to fuel up pre-summit. And guess how I was greeted? "Hey pretty lady! What would you like?" Okay, I do see these guys a few days a week. Do they always greet me like this? No. Actually, never. But today it came at the right time. Right place. I felt GOOD. It made me happy. It gave me a little boost. And who couldn't use a boost?

On the flip side, I've seen some slouching shoulders and heavy heads lately...kids and grown ups alike. It can be a few missed goals on the soccer field, a condescending colleague, a warped work culture. I've seen some (sick) people thrive on tapping this vulnerability in others. Hell, we sometimes perpetuate it ourselves. Seeing this happen so close to home really touches a nerve, and I'm committed to being more conscious of it. Try these on...

CONFIDENCE BOOSTERS (ie. Be the change you want to see in the world.)

• Each day give out one to two (genuine) compliments. Make one be to a complete stranger (those really carry a heavy weight!).

• At the dinner table, instead of highs and lows take turns saying one thing you really admire about the person next to you.

• "Surprise text" a friend or loved one when you think of something special/cool/amazing that REMINDS you of them. Confidence by association!

• Let your kids wear clothes that make them feel good. Even if the combination horrifies you, and you are truly embarrassed by this expression of poor taste, they need to learn for themselves what is accepted or unaccepted by peers, then decide if they want to conform. I said, IF they want to conform.

• Being acknowledged for your appearance may feel FANtastic when you've just celebrated a post-40 birthday. But do young girls (or boys) need this kind of weary praise? Let's give kudos for kindness, or applause for acumen instead.

The other day I was in a building I rarely visit and in the ladies room there was a framed sign that read: "You look particularly great today." And damned if it didn't make me stand a little taller, and think to myself, 'Yes, yes you do.'

The Impact of Parenthood

IMG_2752 All week I've been in a funk. Blame it on the full moon, lunar eclipse, post-holiday blues, WHATever. It's a funk, and I don't mean in a good 70's James Brown sort of way. When asked by the hubs what my problem was, I listed the following: I'm working just to get a paycheck, I haven't exercised all week, I'm not doing anything creative, and I'm tired. His reply? "That's called Parenthood."

The whole reason I re-started my blog was to be explore and appreciate life's daily drill, and to remind myself that really, THIS is enough. But is it? I got teary at Thanksgiving when the Mister gave thanks for our two boys. Yeah, humble brag, I think they are awesome, and smart, and athletic and (mostly polite) if not a little quirky. I actually LOVE being a parent. I feel totally devoted to being a parent to these two little charmers, and together we have made this our top priority. But with some sacrifices too. We both work 9-5s (with flexibility) and we carefully juggle all of the school and sport responsibilities like so many other families out there. But are all you parents fulfilled by this? If you work outside the home, do you LOVE your job as much as you LOVE being a parent? If not, then what? How do you MAKE the time for the other parts of your life that need to be nourished? It's hella hard, and I'm taking it one day at a time.

Wish List

One of my favorite keepsakes each year is the completed Wish List from each of my boys. First, they needed to be old enough to write. Now they are of the age where they like to "research" products online.  I especially like such request as "pillow," "shirts" and "pears and apples," as it lends credibility that at times my children appear as Dickensian orphans: shirtless, bedheaded, hungry. Let us take special note of the detail in "Candy Canes (10)" or the vagueness, in a wish for a "surprise."  Either way, such lists represent a time capsule of our lives, their dreams, this moment.

This year, I created a printable PDF for you to download. Click here for your own WishListTemplate.

Apple of My Eye

On genetics and sportsmanship...

I swear there is a genetic trait for competitiveness. I've not been able to confirm this, and only if my twins had been separated at birth and raised by monkeys would I actually be able to prove this on my own. So, I'm going on instinct. Hear me out.

Case in Point

APPLE:

Beck competes with his twin brother Max (and 100+ other 3d grade boys) at their first cross country track meet. M places 7th, B places 10th. B cries his little eyeballs out after making it through the chute. Why? Not because his brother beat him, but because he placed LAST in the top 10. Really? Yes, really. It took about an hour to convince him that it was indeed a stellar performance and yes, there is always room for improvement. Next year he can strive to do better.  Where did such high expectations come from? We were just thrilled that he finished.

TREE:

Running has been a sporadic exercise outlet in my adult life, and I've run an array of races over the past 20 years. That said, I've probably never run the same one twice, and I couldn't tell you what time I finished a 10k in at age 25. NOW, I seem to be obsessed by my data, stats and figures, totally nerding out on the details of my workouts. Last weekend I ran a half marathon for the second year in a row. And I had a GOAL. I wanted to beat my time from last year (2:09). I ran my ass off, and tracked it via Runkeeper on my iPhone. The whole time I was averaging a 9:30ish pace, so upon reading the results that I came in at 2:07 (instead of 2:06) I had a FIT. Like a tantrum fit. My dad and hubs were like, "it's only a 1% difference! what's the big deal?" and then--uh oh, "what is your problem? you're acting like Beck".

Unfortunately, my little apple does not fall far from this tree. As much as we try to model an ideal set of behaviors, and communicate realistic expectations we simply cannot expect our children to do as we say and not as we do. I recognize that these patterns lie deep within us, carried from one generation to the next. Can they be changed? As gentle as we treated Beck that day, expressing our great love and support, perhaps I need to do the same for myself. Oh, and for the record...I read the results wrong. I DID finish in 2:06.

Milestones

WooHoo! Not since the twins' first birthday have I had such a true sense of relief, accomplishment and happiness. WE MADE IT NINE YEARS! We've been celebrating for about five solid days now, and I can honestly say I've probably had more joy and thrill for this one, than my new nine-year olds have.It's been our tradition to throw theme bashes each year, excepting one in which we hit up Legoland to fulfill the fantasy of two six-year old boys. From Hoe Downs to Luaus, Fiestas to  Pirate Parties, we have enjoyed sharing this celebration with more than the half pints.

After all, it really DOES take a village to raise these knuckleheads and other parents I know have surely helped us along the way. Not to mention, it slyly increases the ratio of parents to kids in a way that makes everything a bit smoother. To lure them in, I always make sure to have plenty of cold beer, delicious nosh, and a signature cocktail to lure in the grown ups. I don't have any shame in sharing the glory. And don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to steal the show. I just love marking the milestones with a handful of friends, and a nice cold beverage. I've been on a run of experiments with beer cocktails, and this is the latest crowd pleaser, The Shandy. Cheers!

Sarah's Summer Shandy

one part sparkling lemonade one part low brow lager (PBR me ASAP) one glass of ice

<<< Entertaining a smaller crowd? Up the ante with one part homemade lemonade, one part seltzer, two parts micro brew pale ale, and a skinny slice of lemon over ice >>>

Motherhood Manifesto

For tomorrow night's Collective meeting I'm facilitating the topic of Motherhood, with my lovely co-host Sierra. One of the exercises we came up with was to create our own motherhood manifesto...or mantra, or vision statement. My content is original and personal, but in no way can I claim the design--I'm unabashedly inspired by the work of Aardvark on Sea, found via this blog post from Alphamom. I look forward to creating a family manifesto as well, with the help of Max, Beck and the Mister.

Soundtrack for a Broken Heart

I tend to really like songs about heartbreak. And not because I'm consistently heartbroken, it's just they are SO compelling. There are two right now that I'm SUPER into, which deal with a lot more than a broken heart...Kiss With a Fist by Florence + The Machine, Love the Way You Lie by Eminem featuring Rihanna. Okay, Florence is AWESOME! I would rock her outfit, her fire, her 'tude. Love it.

On the serious note of "more than a broken heart," check out  Eve Ensler's "Global movement to end violence against women and girls" VDAY and V Girls ...

Here are some of my choice selections, in no particular order: Heartbreak Warfare, John Mayer Love The Way You Lie, Eminem (feat. Rihanna) Irreplaceable, Beyonce Kiss With a Fist, Florence + The Machine (see above) The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance, Sinead O'Connor Already Gone, Kelly Clarkson Breakin' Up, Riley Kiley Sun Comes up It's Tuesday Morning, The Cowboy Junkies (Really, an optimistic one...) Bleeding Love, Leona Lewis Good Year For The Roses, Elvis Costello Need You Now, Lady Antebellum Every Rose Has It's Thorn, Poison With or Without You, U2

SIDEBAR Love The Way You Lie features  a fine F-Bomb dropped by Eminem, early in the song. This was picked up quite clearly by Beck, as we worked on an art project in my office. Someone was up for testing me...

B: "Hey, he said some bad words" PAUSE "He said fu#kin'." Me: "Yes, he did, so we'll skip to the next song." LONGER PAUSE B: "Because he said 'fu#kin' ?" Me: "Yep."

The Brother Grim

Last night Beck shared with me a story he is working on at school: SCENE At the dinner table, discussing our respective days...in the most cheerful, one fish two fish wide eyed tone he described the storyline as follows without breath or punctuation:

"So it's a story about two dogs and they are running and running in a race that is taking like two days and they get so so hungry after running and running that the one dog eats the other one."

(Big grin)

The End.

The Moustache Bash

 
Signage & Decor
I tried to keep the costs in check, so I made all the signage from old cardboard and splurged on cool ribbon from Michaels. I painted moustaches and 'sevens' on some old canvas I had lying around, and popped them into quilter's hoops that we bought at the thrift stores.
Mad Props
Upon entering the party, each guest was treated to a "Stylish Mustache". I bought these through Amazon. Unfortunately, the sweaty youngsters wore out the adhesive, so we resorted to an impromptu moustache painting station. It actually worked out even better (Salvador Dali!), though the fuzzy ones did look pretty awesome for a bit (Tom Selleck at age 7! Doesn't get much better.). To create the Moustaches on Sticks we bought brown and black felt and dowels (Michaels) and cut out cool 'staches for props...displayed in a cylinder of black beans. I also made but forgot to photograph some chocolate moustaches with  candy molds I bought online. I'd say less than half survived my candy making (wrong type of chocolate? Uggh!) but those that did, went out the door as party favors. They were each on a lolli stick and wrapped in cellophane with black and white ribbon.
 
Next up, was the Photo Booth! Great for memory making, and fun to do. I took the boys thrift shopping a week or two before to pick out some special props to add to our own dress up stash. We found awesome finds in the early Halloween displays--top hats, bowlers, supersize sunglasses, vintage tennis racquets, and more. Super fun for all, and just wish I could have hung out here the whole time taking pics. I'm still in the process of printing some keepers, and sending out with thank you notes. Another easy activity was the Graffiti Wall--I had the boys help comb through magazines and find pictures of faces (big, full ad type) so that we could add our own moustaches, and whatever else...set out a Jar-o-Sharpies and they had a gas deconstructing the glossy images.
Games
I took images of the boys (used for the invitations) to Costco and blew them up for a little game of "Stick the Moustache on Max & Beck". My cousin Morgan cut out some pretty rad 'staches (note the fumanchu!) to use for this game.  Next we played "Hot Potato Sac" which is a game I found online. It's essentially a pillow case stuffed with dress up clothes, and while kids sit in a big circle, music plays, the sac is fired off from kid to kid. The music stops, and wherever it lands, the kid sticks a hand in and pulls out something to wear. At the end, the kids vote on the silliest dressed player. They had so much fun, they asked to play again. Easy answer? Just let them rock the dress up stuff the rest of the party. For a little more free play we left out a pile of pipe cleaners, a bowl of bubble solution, and some bold chalk for the patio. This was a nice option for some of the younger party peeps. And the girls.
The Party Favor bags featured our moustache potato prints. Each guest got the boys' favorite Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, some type of quirky alien or monster or reptile item (boys), or bubbles or a notebook (girls).

Unfortunately I was so rushed for the party beginning, that this is the only shot I have of the giant chocolate chip cookie. The kids devoured the single cookies from moment one, and frankly there were just crumbs remaining of the giant confection after the last of our neighbors headed out later that night. The most awesome recipe for this? The one with loads of real butter that I followed by heart and did not substitute wheat flour or applesauce, or add flax or yogurt to? A New York Times feature recipe adapted from Jacques Torres. Secret to this? Make the dough. Refrigerate. Let the ingredients soak each other up. Holy Cuss. Delicious. Crazy good. Happy Birthday Boys!

XOXO
Mommy

The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Jacques Torres Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar 
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
 Sea salt.
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes.
Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.