35 Things About Me

In honor of my birthday week (and completion of my 35th year on earth!), thirty-five things you might not know about me...

1. I have a late October birthday, which means I started kindergarten at age four. Of course kindergarten was much easier back then (now it's basically what first grade used to be).

2. Starting kinder at four meant I left for college at age seventeen. I always felt I was just a little ahead of the game and I loved it.

3. I began playing the saxophone in 5th grade, and started marching in band in 7th. I was the shortest and tiniest of the wind instruments so I marched in the front right spot and got to sport the school's competition number on my shoulder. I always used my dad's saxophone from when he marched back in the day! I still have it in our guest room upstairs. 

4. Real books are my jam. I just cannot do E-readers - I need the paper and the weight of a real book, being able to sense where I am physically in the story, and yes, I even enjoy the smell of those paper pages!

5. I was named "Best Personality" of my graduating high school class 😊

6. I was five when my youngest sister was born, and I desperately wanted my parents to name her Jem (after Jem and the Holograms, obvi).

7. I scooped ice cream at the local Baskin Robbins all throughout high school. I'd like to say this is where my ice cream addiction came from, but I think it's actually the opposite and I sought out the scooper job because of my love for ice cream. I started the job when I was just fifteen and would bike to work. My high school besties called me "Sugar" (and still do) because of the job. 

8. I've been scuba diving with sharks - the big, legit scary ones! Scuba diving might be my favorite thing ever. I'm twelve kinds of grateful to my husband for introducing me to the sport.

9. I'm obsessed with almond extract. Once I purchased a container of it while I was out just so I could smell it. Give me all the almond croissants, please. 

10. I have a sixteen year-old jean jacket that I still wear

11. For my sophomore and junior years of college I lived in a three bedroom, two bathroom apartment I shared with six other girls. It was falling apart, and definitely sported black mold on the bathroom ceiling (which our landlord just cut out one day, exposing all the beams in the ceiling) but it was right on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific and we thought it was just the best thing ever. Once a squirrel entered through an open window and came into the living room of said apartment, hopped up on the coffee table and began eating from the bowl of green M&Ms placed there. The green M&Ms were an error - my mom had ordered a small package of pink M&Ms to be sent to me, but I was accidently shipped a ginormous box of green M&Ms. We had green M&Ms in that apartment forever. 

12. Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday: chocolate, pink, flowers, hearts... everything I love rolled into one celebration!

13. While pregnant with Parker, I didn't paint my nails or so much as take a Tylenol, and I delivered drug-free with no epidural. It was my California hippie shining through :)

14. Speaking of California, no matter what state we live in, I will always root for my California teams (even if they don't televise the games where we are).

15. Speaking of T.V., we don't have one. When Parker was born we kept the television off during his waking hours (as per recommendation of the AAP) and then when we moved to Alabama, Max and I agreed we wanted to keep our mostly screen-free policy with him, so we just never set up the T.V. I still sneak and stream shows on my computer when Parker's asleep - laundry plus The Real Housewives is my favorite combination!

16. I'm a total rule follower, and it bothers me much more than it should when other people do not follow the rules.

17. My resting heart rate is in the 40s. I recently found out it's due to a congenital heart abnormality - it's nothing to worry about, it just explains why I'm a bit slow 😉 (Unfortunately I also recently discovered that I have Mitral Valve Prolapse, meaning one of the valves in my heart isn't closing like it should. It's working good enough for now and let's hope it stays that way!)

18. I finished my masters degree at age 22. This and the ability to drink milkshakes in record time are the only things I'm fast at. 

19. I've taught three different grade levels at four different schools in two different states, but first grade will always have my heart!

20. I keep renewing my California and Arizona teaching credentials. You know, just in case

21. I was a vegetarian for nine years. I started in seventh grade and called it a New Year's Resolution, but really I was just a bit grossed out by fatty and grisly parts of meat. 

22. I'm still "weird" about meat to this day. Just a few weeks ago I quite literally spat out my piece of Wagyu beef nigiri because I couldn't get past the texture. Bleh.

23. My feet shrank while I was pregnant.

24. My family lived in the Bay Area during the big Loma Prieta earthquake of '89. I remember distinctly being at the kitchen table and doing my homework when everything started shaking, and my whole family had to run outside. We were far enough away from the epicenter that it wasn't massively impactive for us, but we did all sleep in the living room together that night as the aftershocks kept coming in. Oddly enough, I skipped all California earthquakes for over twenty-five years after that (being in the car driving during them so I couldn't feel them, or out of town when they occurred) and it wasn't until this past Christmas when were were at my parents' house for the holiday when I finally experienced another one! Still not fun.

25. Every single day there is a Tiffany ad on the top right page inside the New York Times. I love checking what it will be - earrings, a necklace, a key chain. If my mom comes across a paper before I do, she'll text a photo of the cover so I can guess what it is, then she'll send a picture of the ad. 

26. This "game" started with my roommates back in college when I had to get a subscription to the New York Times for a Globalization class, and I realized there was a Tiffany ad in the same spot in every single paper. 

27. I had four different jobs over the course of my college years: Teaching Assistant at the Children's Center (the preschool for children of faculty and students), coffee cart worker on campus, Orientation Advisor (assisting the incoming students with registration), and Nanny (caring for an elementary school student and driving him home from school and to after school activities). 

28. My coffee cart days were short lived since it was a second job and I preferred working with children. I also could never ever bring myself to charge full price to anyone and always offered some kind of discount. 

29. If I could open any business it would most definitely be a flower shop, though I know I'd lose all my money (see #28 above). 

30. I adore pink Gerber daisies with lime green middles. Max internet stalked me when we were first dating, found out this fact, and gave me a bunch of them on our fourth date.

31. I used to be a runner! The longest race I ran was a half marathon. Alas, I'm apparently a running snob, because if I can't run along the Pacific Ocean or through the trees of California, I don't want to do it.

32. I've always loved "doing school" so my high school GPA was consistently 4.0 or above (thanks to weighted AP classes), and I finished my bachelors degree with Honors (literally a hundredth of a point away from High Honors, gah!). I still have nightmares about being halfway through a semester and realizing I've missed every lecture and every assignment for a certain class 🙈

33. I have a phenomenal autonomic response. If my body senses danger, it sends all my blood to my legs so I can run away (you know, fight or flight). Unfortunately, I sense danger at inconvenient times like while getting my eyes dilated or when my blood is being drawn. Since I'm not running away, and all my blood has rushed to my legs, my blood pressure drops to nothing and I instead pass out. Great in stone-age times when the tiger chasing me thinks I'm dead and diseased, not so great in 2017. My cardiologist says it's an extra healthy quality 😂

34. I road tripped with a friend across the country the summer I was twenty-three. This was pre-navigation, people! No google maps, no iPhones, just paper and getting lost. And it was amazing. We drove ocean to ocean (California to Massachusetts), and made a ton of stops along the way: Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, the Chicago bean, Yankee stadium, Fenway Park and so much more. It's the best way to see America!

35. Every year for my birthday, I order my favorite Baskin Robbins ice cream cake (the one with all the mini cones on top). Max lights the candles, Parker blows them out, and I just couldn't be happier! 

*Spooky* Friday the 13th Favorites

Happy Friday the 13th! In honor of this spooky day, here are some Halloween inspired favorites...

I just finished The Kind Worth Killing and I'm telling you - if you enjoy a psychological thriller (like me) stop everything right now and order this book! 

The book starts with two strangers meeting at Heathrow airport and sharing their secrets on the flight back to the U.S. The twists and turns that ensue make it such the spooky page turner! 

I ordered these Halloween Cookie Cutters to be used with my favorite sugar cookie recipe. You can find the recipe here where I also blogged about my sugar cookie secrets. A new "secret" is that I now roll the dough in between parchment paper to keep things tidy and then refrigerate the rolled out dough before using the cutters. This keeps it firm and easy to work with when making the shapes (I'm just a bit particular when doing these, haha!). 

We had our dear Nashville friends in town last weekend and the kids had fun decorating a bunch, but  I just couldn't stop myself from doing my own as well!

We pumpkin patched hard last weekend, going to a real pick-your-own patch. There's nothing spookier than a dirt on a pumpkin, ha! This guy is just itching to carve his!

And I think I'll paint mine 😉

I'm officially Southern! Ever since we moved to Alabama, I've been seeing yard signs advertising anything and everything: the days of the local Farmer's Market, college bound kids (like "On My Way to Ole Miss!"). Most recently it's been signs for the annual Ghost Walk at the Cemetery and the neighborhood school's fall festival. I think these signs are just a fun Southern thing? I've really never seen a neighborhood so into them! So, I felt like we were fitting right in when my happy helper and I put up our sign advertising the Witches Ride that I'll be participating in later this month. I'm all kinds of excited for it!

Last but not least, Room on the Broom (a favorite from last year) is still on our bedtime story/nap time story rotation this year, as well! The rhyming story is fun to read (even for the 10,000th time 😂) and makes a great gift for any little one in your life!

Stay spooky, y'all!

5 Tips for Pure Barre Empower

I've professed my love for Pure Barre many times over. I need a workout that holds me accountable, so exercising with an entire group (plus a teacher to lead, correct and modify) is just perfect in my book. Add to that all the other perks of barre - low impact, effective, fun - and it's pretty much a perfect workout. I also like that Pure Barre has hundreds of locations, so friends from all over the country can join in the fun - chances are, there's one near you! 

Pure Barre recently rolled out their new Empower class, and I fell in love all over again. While regular PB is all about creating long, lean, muscle via small, isolated movements, Empower is more about the cardio. You're still doing the barre moves and working on muscles (and in fact are wearing wrist and ankle weights), but keeping your heart rate up is at the forefront.

The class starts with some stretching, then rolls into intense bursts of pushups, mountain climbers, squats and barre positions, often utilizing the platform. There is a general structure, but each class is different, so you really never know what you're going to get! Below is my Apple watch fitness tracker from an Empower class - even though they are only 45 minutes verses 55 for a traditional barre class, I burn more calories in Empower (and my average heart rate is way up, too - anywhere from 108-118 bpm instead of 80-90ish bpm).

Here are my top five tips for PB Empower...

1. Dress for Success

Leave the cotton at home. You are going to be sweating. Profusely. And that cotton will just soak the moisture all up and you'll walk out looking like a literal hot sweaty mess. Opt for moisture wicking fabrics and at least your clothing will look fine - really most "workout" apparel should work. My favorites are Zella leggings and tops - the leggings just hold everything in nicely, and the tops are roomy without being too loose to get in the way. And don't forget those sticky socks!

2. Hydrate
Drink up before, drink up after, and (most importantly) bring a tumbler with a straw to get a drink during class. Literally, the class is so fast paced you can't be bothered to open up a water bottle. I'm not even kidding.  The whole point is to keep your heart rate up, so there are no breaks, no stopping (just surreptitious sipping). If you thought regular PB transitions were fast, Empower is even faster, so a tumbler with a straw is key. Something like this one works perfectly (bonus, filling up your own water bottle is less expensive and better for the environment!). Keep that tumbler to the left of your platform (your instructors will probably tell you that your extra items are most out of the way there).

3. Invest in a Microfiber Handtowel

When the sweat is literally dripping off (I'm talking hot yoga levels of perspiration here, people) the towel will be a lifesaver. I also use mine to cover the platform as padding if we're doing mountain climbers or pushups off it (it saves my hands!).

4. Get to Know Those Hand and Ankle Weights

So, Empower introduces these wraparound weights that make all the classic moves just a bit more difficult. It's kind of genius because you put them on, forget about them, and yet you're working that much harder! They are a bit tricky to get on, though - so take those few minutes before class begins to practice putting them on and off. Some gals swear by using the platform as a little table when wrapping them on your wrist to get them nice and tight. You'll have to switch them from wrists to ankles during class, so go ahead and practice that too (though wrapping the ankles is much easier than doing the wrists).

5. Listen Up 
All the instructions come at you super fast, so listen up for those changes but also listen up for motivation! The instructors are awesome at keeping you motivated, whether they're telling you to use the music, offering that you are thirty seconds out from a hard move, or letting you know it's the last ten reps and to give it your all. There's nothing better than giving it your very best and being able to walk out of class so satisfied. Empower is only 45 minutes and while the cardio bursts are intense, just remember they're short lived 😉

Why I like it - it's fast paced, goes by quickly, it's fun and it keeps me challenged, engaged, and on my toes (quite literally sometimes!). Give it a try - you won't be disappointed!


Yee Haw, Dallas!

Max was born and raised in Dallas proper, and every time I visit I remember just how BIG of a city it is... after all, #everythingsbiggerintexas. Max randomly had a conference in downtown Dallas the week after his sister's wedding, so Parker and I stayed as well to get our Texas on!

Parker was all smiles getting loved on by his Mimi and official Uncle Ian - the new Mr. and Mrs.!

Lunching at Jack's Burger House - I'm pretty sure I've been to Jack's on each and every trip out to Dallas. Max and his sister grew up going there, Max was even surprised with his car there after he turned sixteen! Plus, they serve the tastiest cheeseburgers on the planet.

The kick-off event for Max's conference was at Gilley's, a ginormous venue that provided live music, mechanical bull riding, BBQ and armadillo races. The jury is still out on those armadillos - they're so ugly they're cute. Almost.

I talked Max into the photo booth area - he's such a good sport 😊

We got a jump start on Halloween over at Nana and Papa's house (our house was decorated for Halloween at the beginning of September, so this was so speaking my language!).

Parker got a kick out of the trick-or-treaters and was stoked he was the tallest! Ha!

All the serious faces for Legos!

We did a fancy dinner out at Reunion Tower - Max and Parker's first time there! The restaurant revolves once an hour so you get 360° views of Dallas. The nighttime skyline (and iconic green Bank of America building!) was my favorite! Fun fact - both Max and his dad worked at the BofA building back when Max was in high school! Max's dad had a traditional corner office, while Max literally monkeyed around on the roof of the seventy-two story building doing RF magic. 

Max set me up with a pass to his conference so I hit the floor one day, totally out of my element and with super low expectations (Max warned me it would be like a shopping trip to Fry's electronics). Turns out, security conferences are more like Disney Land! There was popcorn, lasers, wine and cheese boards and crazy interesting booths (actually, all I really needed was the popcorn and I would have been a happy camper, haha!).

Seriously, such a #proudwifey over here! Max has always been super motivated, and of course he's the most intelligent person I know!

While Daddy was conferencing, P and I got to enjoy autumn in Dallas!

The many faces of Parker - with Gigi!

The conference's big social event was held at Cowboy's stadium and they went all out.

We ate on the field, got to tour the locker rooms, and watched the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders perform! So much fun!

Parker was sad to miss out on Cowboy's stadium (the event was adults-only) but he had plenty of fun to make up for it!

Our favorite dinner from the week was at the newish Town Hearth. These chandeliers are what my dreams are made of!

The ambiance was super unique and eclectic, and I tried my first dry aged steak! All sorts of amazing!

And, even though I've been with my Texan of a husband for almost ten years, we've never made it to the Texas State Fair until now!

Seeing the famous Big Tex for the first time! Parker imitated his "Howdy folks!" for days afterward!

We checked out the livestock first thing, and saw llamas being shown!! Like, jumping through hoops and walking up stairs! I'm alpaca obsessed so I thought this was the neatest thing! 

Max was all about taking Parker on the rides he remembered from his childhood. Parker barely made the height requirement for this one, and though he doesn't seem too keen on it on the photo, he got off and said he had a blast.

Max even got me on the Texas Star, their ginormous ferris wheel! The views were spectacular!

My goals were all food related. Corn dog, funnel cake, pass on the chicken fried bacon.

Fair food FTW.

 Did we leave with an entire carry-on bag of fair goodies and prizes? Why yes, yes we did.

We headed directly from the fairgrounds to DFW. Little Man is an expert flyer, the flight home being number fifty-something for him (we've really lost count). Mama and Dada feel pretty good about our system too, though luggage + carseat + rental car shuttle is the hardest part. 

Texas, we love you! 

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