Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Buy A Love of Reading

Tanya Egan Gibson's debut novel is a bit...challenging at first.  I picked it up because, honestly, how great is that title?  I did end up reading the whole thing, but it took a good two weeks; something about the characters took a while to resonate with me, and the plot is such that I just stopped explaining it to people when they asked what I was reading.  BUT I did finish it, so don't be completely deterred!
The main gist is that Carley's parents have decided that their 16th birthday present to their daughter is a novel commissioned especially for her to foster a love of the written word.  They will be modern-day Medicis, and bring the meta-fiction author Bree McEnroy to live with them for a month while the novel is being completed.  Slowly, throughout the writing process, secrets are uncovered, harsh truths faced, and a world-famous author is brought back to the public eye.
There are a lot of people to keep track of here: Hunter, the alcoholic, pill-popping heartthrob of Fox Glen; Gretchen, Carley's weight-obsessed mother; Suzanne, Hunter's mother who has been carrying on a decades-long affair with Carley's father, Francis; Amber, Carley's best friend and Hunter's sometimes-booty call; the list continues.  The setting, Fox Glen, is like something out of Great Gatsby, which is somewhat paralleled in How to Buy...The parties are grand, and the story becomes less about the crazy lifestyle and more about the people in the second act.
If you are feeling up to engaging in this story, you'll need to just grit your teeth and power through the first section.  It's a challenge, but I did find myself staying up late the last couple of nights to finish this book.  I can't recommend it to everyone, but there are definitely worse ways to spend your evenings!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Abbi's Solo Babymoon Adventure to Florida!

 Last Thursday, I ventured down to south Florida to see my wonderful friends and family down there; it's probably the last time I'll get to travel solo for a while.  After landing, I was whisked to Rocco's Tacos in Jupiter for a look at this cute face!  I love being reunited with her; Haley's my best friend and just an absolutely wonderful person.

I got to spend Friday morning with my very own pool and lunch date with my oldest and dearest friend, Jessilyn!  We don't always get one-on-one time, so it felt incredibly decadent to spend hours catching up while soaking up the rays and some salads.  I love her to pieces!

 On Saturday morning, I was absolutely spoiled with a wonderful shower for the churro (and me).  Layla and I had to spend some time at Haley's while the set-up happened, and my niece was thrilled to be left alone with me.  As you can see.

 The theme of the shower was Ferdinand, the 1936 black-and-white story of a Spanish bull.  Haley and my mom are amazing for coming up with this idea.  Great excuse for some tapas (Aunt Nesi truly outdid herself), sangria, and beautiful, colorful flowers!  We feasted on empanadas, gazpacho, and lots of chorizo.  Thank goodness for stretchy dresses.

 How cute are these mama and baby cows?!

 My sweet cousins: Amber, Laura (honorary cousin), Haley, preggers chick, Megs, and Cleo (who drove down with her mom from Tennessee!).  We're a pretty good-looking bunch.  No big deal.

 Oh my goodness, how adorable is this onesie?  My mom took the gray and yellow theme seriously, and made some personalized tie outfits for her grandson.  It's going to fit him perfectly!  I'll have to share more of our great gifts in an upcoming post; this kid is already spoiled and stylish.

 Aunt Nesi was a consummate hostess, and always willing to open her house for a party.  Thank you!!

 Apparently I cut the cake slices too big.  What can you expect from a 29-week pregnant woman?

 There was an adorable onesie bar, and it was so fun to see everyone's creative take on babywear!  So, so cute.

Haley has set the bar incredibly high for showers and parties: she knows just what sort of  food and drinks to serve (tasty pomegranate juice with sparkling water), and knows me (no games, just cake, tapas, books, and clothing).  I couldn't ask for this baby to have a better aunt.  She's going to be perfect.

We spent Sunday morning at TooJay's and the flea market; so much fun!  Dad and I got a few good pictures in, too, which was worth the trip down the Florida in the first place.  Thanks for my latkes and the excellent company on Friday night!

 Then it was off to the beach for my mama's Mother's Day date: Publix subs, La Crema chardonnay, and the most perfect book for her.  It was a beautiful day, and I couldn't have spent it with two better women.

 I mean, seriously, look at this model woman.

 Here's to good women!  May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

 Quick churro update.  He's definitely going to be a big one!

I'll leave you with this shot of the cutest hat ever to grace the planet: a pumpkin hat for our little pumpkinhead.  Thanks, Grandma in North Carolina; it has successfully surpassed all other cute things in life.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Being Active During Pregnancy

When JP and I decided to stop not trying to have a baby (over churros in Spain, hence the nickname), I knew I wanted to be in great shape so I would have a good chance of delivering naturally.  This takes a ton of energy from what I've read and watched, and I started looking for ways to ensure that my body would be able to take it.  As you read about back in September, I trained for and ran my first half-marathon, which was an absolutely great experience to prep and know what I could physically handle.  Obviously, running and laboring are not the same things, but a lot of articles I've read have compared childbirth to running a marathon: you learn to focus inward and on your breathing, know your limits and how far your can realistically push yourself, and are confident in your body's ability to heal.
So when we found out in late November that this kid was a reality, I didn't want to just let myself go but also wanted to be able to take it easy when my body told me to.  I kept up with my running pretty steadily, even doing a 7-mile jog at week 11!  It's amazing what a run, even a 2-miler, can do for my mood and energy level, so I feel incredibly lucky to already have a great foundation for being active this far along with the churro.

I am a devotee of the app Nike Training Club, which is a free download with a ton of circuit workouts you can do at home.  It's awesome.  It's also way more intense than I could manage after the first trimester, so I've had to cut back on my squats, lunges, and mountain climbers.  Now, on days when I'm not running, I do an easy circuit of exercises, 3 times each: 'girl' pushups, some bicep/tricep reps with an 8-lb medicine ball, lunges, and wide squats.  Everyone says that your arms will be exhausted after the first week of constantly holding a baby, and my mom really thinks this kid is going to be a chubby baby (the cutest kind!).  It can't hurt to have a little upper body strength to start off with!
I also do prenatal yoga once a week at a studio here in Roswell, which has been so restorative and a great way to connect with this body that isn't getting any smaller.  I love getting together with other moms-to-be for 75 minutes and feel like this belly is normal; it's good for my psyche!
JP and I have also been doing some great 2-3 mile hikes around Roswell, and it gives us an opportunity to catch up outside of the house, be active together, and also explore our new area.  All in all, I'm active at least 5 days a week, if not every day!

When I signed up for the Mini-I Challenge (5k on Friday, 10k on Saturday morning) in Urbana, it was great to have something concrete to work toward during the wintery weather.  I knew there was a good chance that I would need to walk some of it, but knew that it was important for my own sense of accomplishment that I at least try to run both.  And I did!  It's vain, but wonderful to know that this pregnancy isn't holding me back.  With the move, a pregnancy, a break from work for a while, and working on this new house, being able to connect with my body through running, yoga, and just sweating in general has been a huge source of comfort and familiarity over the past 5 months.  I know these runs will soon become walks, which will get shorter and shorter, and that's ok.

Friday, May 3, 2013

April 2013 Illinois Trip, by Haley

Let me start out by saying that I had a fabulous time in Illinois with the girls!  We had such fun exercising, and eating, and sight-seeing, and resting, and chatting--we are really blessed to have such a close family that can get along on a five-day trip.  

Nesi, Amber, and I got to Illinois about an hour before Abbi did, and we made good use of our time while we waited for her, as you can see.  

Us young'uns got squished in the back of the car on the way home, but we didn't mind. 

Black Dog!  This is a fabulous barbecue place in Urbana, with great drinks and food to die for.  We waited an hour, outside in the cold, just to get in--we were devoted!

The lovely 5k-ers picking up their race packets...Abbi's got all the good pics of the race, so I will just fast-forward to afterwards...

When we went to the Japan house to see the cherry blossoms!  It was so peaceful and beautiful, and it was windy, so all the white petals kept blowing off like snow around us.  There was a sort of meditation garden, where I suggested that we all sit and contemplate our emotions about the day.  What did Mommi want to contemplate?  Her new Eddie Bauer jacket.  Well.

The lovely Maynard girls on our way to Chicago!  We had such a good train ride; Mommi and Nesi had packed us delicious lunches, we did crosswords, read magazines, and someone took a nap.  

The bean!

Two hours later: the fog!  

Our flight home was delayed, so we had good time to people-watch and have lunch; I leave you with this picture of a little dog waiting in line for the water fountain at the airport!  

April 2013 Illinois Trip

Last summer, my mom invited all of our female family members to visit her in Illinois this April.  A number of us are into being walking and/or running, and the last weekend of April is the Illinois Marathon.  No, no, we did not run the marathon (although Aunt Nesi did try to convince the passengers of our airport shuttle that we had), but we did compete in the Mini-I Challenge (a 5K on Friday night, followed by a 10K on Saturday morning).  Finally, the trip was here and five of us girls were together in Urbana!  
I debated whether or not I should attend after figuring out I'd be 6 months pregnant at the time, but finally decided that a. I owe it to myself to try and b. I could always finish the races by walking.  

We all arrived in Urbana on Thursday night, and hit up a frozen custard place for dessert.  Soo tasty!  I just love spending time with these girls: Amber on my left, Haley on my right.  We had a great time!

On Friday afternoon, we picked up our race packets, and listened to Katherine Switzer talk about running and changing the world.  She was the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon back in 1967, and actually entered the race using her initials because females were not allowed to race (you know, because our uteruses might fall out).  Not only did she bring me to tears, but really reminded me why it's important to do the things that make us happy and feel accomplished, even when others might think we shouldn't.  I'm getting emotional just thinking about it.  You can find out more about her here.

On Friday night, Amber, Mom and I finished the 5K!  Oh man, there was some sweat going on.

The churro's first race!  We ran the whole thing, and didn't even finish too far below my regular running time.  Which is either great or disappointing; I choose to think it's great.

Saturday morning, we all competed in the 10K, with Mom, Amber and I running it, and Aunt Nesi and Haley speed-walking.  We have our medals to prove it!
I'd like to send a little thanks to Amber, who motivated me to jog the whole race.  Without her, I would've been out after mile 4.  So nice to cross that finish line with you, Amber!

Yes, Haley, it's real.

After the race, there was free beer!  I didn't partake, but you'll notice that Amber stepped up to the plate for me.

On Sunday morning, we hitched a train up to Chicago to spend a few days in the big city.  Our first stop was the Bean, where Haley and I posed for a couple of photos before I met up with a college friend for coffee and baby talk.  So nice to catch up, Chelsea!

We did an architectural boat tour on Monday morning.  How beautiful is that skyline?!  It was a great tour, and I would highly recommend it next time you're in the city.

We hit up the Adler Planetarium for lunch.  Yes, this is a terrible picture, but look at Mom's glow-in-the-dark shoelaces!

The Field Museum is a must.  Here are Mom and Haley with Sue the T.Rex!

Thanks to my cute new matching robot ring, Mom and I won't forget our weekend.
What a wonderful trip!  I hope we can all do it again next year!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

Oooh, man.  These suckers are good!  I found this recipe while searching for a quick, easy recipe for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, after returning from our Illinois trip to a practically empty pantry, and I can't imagine anything much more simple.  You just toss the thighs in the spices, broil them, brush them with a honey-vinegar mix, and POW!!  Easy dinner, super-tasty, compliments from Matt, added to my permanent rotation.

You just mix up 2 teaspoons each of garlic powder and chili powder, 1 teaspoon each of salt, ground cumin, and paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground red pepper.  

Toss the chicken thighs in all that spicy goodness.

Lay out the chicken thighs in a greased pan, and broil them on each side for 6 minutes.

Whisk together 6 tablespoons of honey with 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar (or, follow the original directions and use 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar).  

Brush the chicken thighs with the honey-vinegar mixture, then broil for 1 minute.  Repeat for the other side.

To reiterate: some spices (which you could easily switch up), cooking time of 18 minutes, and a quick bath in honey and vinegar.  I defy you to find an easier, tastier, and quicker meaty dish! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Pregnant Husband

It's not totally at this point yet, but poor John Paul.  He's been a saint so far. 

We've made it home from Illinois in one piece, and more updates as the week goes on!