Author Archives: seejenread
Forget the dog days of summer, for me it was the music days of summer. Two shows within two weeks. All that live music made me giddy, except for the fact that both shows were outside. In the sweltering heat. In 100% humidity. UGH.
First up, Matt Nathanson. Love, love, love the guy. Have been a Matty fan since the early 00s. There were youngin’s in the audience so it was a very PG show. Honestly, I sometimes like those shows better since it’s more comical to see him correct himself and get very creative with his word choice. I can tell having a child has curbed his swearing. Not nary an F-bomb slip up.
The setlist was mostly LotGP, with some Modern Love tunes and the lone oldie (ha!)…Suspended. My seat, was FAB. I sat 5th row center and although the setting sun probably brought on some minor skin damage to the left side of my face, it was only for a few minutes.
The weather was HOT. Like Africa hot. With all the dancing and moving I sweated through my clothes and so did Matt. He kept describing it like playing in soup. And it was like that. His tweet afterwards showing the aftermath of playing in soup was weak, so I did what any good fan girl would do, tweeted him a TRUE soup photo.
Then he retweeted and posted it on FB. Night? Made.
A couple of weeks later M and I went to the Youngblood Hawk/Walk the Moon show. Hey, wasn’t that the Panic! At the Disco show? Yes, but we didn’t stay for them.
We had so much fun. Again with the dancing. Again with the sweating through clothes. It was worth it though. WtM really know how to put on a show. In the beginning we were a handful of people standing, singing, cheering, and dancing. By the end, everyone was on their feet dancing.
They sang two new songs. One I recorded. The other I didn’t because I was being too much of a spazz and can’t record, dance, and sing at the same time. (call me old fashioned!) All the other songs were the usual suspects from their album, minus the slower introspective songs (Iscariot, I’m looking at you!).
M loved the show. And she loved hanging with her mom, even if I did dance like a freak all night.
No more concerts for me. At least for awhile. I was able to afford these tickets because I bought them in the spring when I had money. Times are tougher now. Hopefully we can score some free tickets to the next big show in town.
I know, I know…you’re probably shaking your heads. Of COURSE there’s nothing better than whiskers on kittens. But indulge me for a moment.
These are a few of my favorite things right now.
Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea — this stuff is downright sinful. Besides the fact it comes in a tin and each teaspoon of whole leaves is lovingly wrapped in an organza sachet, it’s AMAZING! It has all the hot cinnamon flavor of red hot candies, but with a natural sweetness (there’s no sugar in this tea!), to counteract out some of the bitterness from black tea. Of course, to find this link I had to go to their website where I saw about a dozen other teas I must try. Luckily they sell small bags of loose leaves.
Of course, this is my first love when it comes to tea, but it’s EXPENSIVE. The HT stuff is a reasonable facsimile.
Ticonderoga pencils — I only, only use these. No other pencil compares. I typically have 3-5 sharpened and at my desk at any given time.
The Body Shop’s Camomile Cleansing Butter for your face. Comes in a shoe polish container, goes on like vaseline, but once you add a little water, it turns to soap. I can’t explain it the magic of grease-to-soap, but once you wash it away, your skin is super soft, clean, and radiant.
Target $1 socks (ok, technically they’re now $1.50). I have a dozen pairs of these.
My latest musical obsession — Bastille. AMAZING talent and hauntingly beautiful lyrics and melodies. (A British accent and great hair doesn’t hurt either)
When I was a kid I wanted to be a teacher. Then a doctor. Fast forward to high school and the call of journalism was seductive enough that I spent the first three years in university believing I wanted to live like a college student for the rest of my life.
Then, I lost the passion for writing. It bummed me out so much, I dropped out of college.
A few years working full time in the real world and I finally discovered my calling…advertising. I went back to school, learned some new skills (hello graphic design), and yes, wrote. Reluctantly. My ad copy professor was very complimentary of my work. She would hand back assignments with questions like “Are you sure you don’t want to be a copywriter?” Nope. I wanted to be a designer. It was cooler, sexier, and more fun.
Internship, graduation, and a string of retail and corporate jobs led me to the mid-life crisis crossroads: What do I want to be when I grow up?
I come from a family of small business owners. Entrepreneurship is in my blood. So, own a business, right? Maybe.
Owning a business is the most grown-up of grown-up things you can do outside of retirement planning, drafting a will, and scheduling annual checks for heart disease. I’m almost 40 and
sometimes often I don’t feel like a grown-up.
Then something came out of my mouth one afternoon after fist-pumping and high-fiving myself on an awesome presentation to a client. I want to open my own ad agency.
I was actually speaking phrases like, “five-year plan” and “leasing office space”. I knew I had it bad when I took the kids to the dentist and saw this cute, empty office space nearby. I started mentally painting walls and arranging furniture.
The best part of all this (besides having the coolest job in the world!), Ed is totally on board. In fact, he’ll need to quit his job to make this business work (he’s a writer and designer too).
Sicotte Creative is 4-5 years away, but we’re constantly dreaming and planning it. There are a few of you out there (you know who you are) that I want on my team. So get ready. Because we’re coming.
I get roughly 12 magazines a month in the mail. I barely have time to read half of them (luckily they are all free subscriptions), but manage to flip through them at least once.
My latest subscription is for Family Fun magazine. We’ve been on-off subscribers for years; I love the magazine, it’s just so expensive lately. So when I found a free 2 year subscription, I jumped on it. First issue came about a week ago.
We usually get mail right before lunch, so I flipped through while I was eating. Oh the ideas. Oh the amazingly, awesome ideas. Crafty goodness, and games and recipes, oh my! Now, I’m creative, but I will never be Family Fun creative. So I really inhale all the ideas and tips. And the readers typically come up with some good stuff too.
I stopped on an article full of familiar subject matter: The junk drawer. Yes, someone got paid to write an entire page article on the genius of creating a junk drawer. Although theirs was dedicated solely to game pieces and puzzles and the like. Oh want a wonderous, innovative idea. A junk drawer.
Really. Someone got paid for writing about putting stuff in a junk drawer. Not the kind of creative, unheard of content I’m used to reading, Family Fun.
And no, I’m not bitter because someone else beat me to the punch. I was just hoping for more from a magazine I hold in such high esteem. Moreover (I love saying that word), what kind of house do these people live in where the concept of the junk drawer is completely new? Because, I’d like to live in that house-slash-hire their maid service.
If junk drawers are revolutionary to the Family Fun crowd, I can’t wait to see what’s on tap for next issue. Buying in bulk saves money? I saved my oldest child’s clothes so my younger one could wear them? We turn off the water while we’re brushing our teeth to save resources?
Bring it on, FF.
Just for the record, Gwyneth Paltrow and I have never met. In fact, I’m not even a really big fan of hers. I’ve read her blog/website a few times and thought, “Sure, mega rich, Academy-award winning actress. YOU’VE got problems.” I read this article and thought, “Sounds legit.”
I was reading Self magazine last week and there was an article about good ol’ GP. I wanted to skip it, roll my eyes and keep looking at the latest butt exercise and this season’s nail polish trends.
The images of the food reeled me in. It looked so yummy. And not at all elimination-y as that mommy blogger was saying. It looked like normal food. Sure there were some notable ingredient swap-outs, but overall, I would cook that. So, I read the article. And guess what, y’all? GP, she’s just like you and me. But mostly like me.
GP had a health scare moment — she felt like she was having a stroke. (Me too, back last fall). Found out it was a panic attack brought on my stress. (Me too!) Went to the doctor and discovered that her thyroid was out of whack (same here), she was anemic (borderline), vitamin D deficient (yep), and her liver was congested (my insurance doesn’t cover that, but I’m going to say yes on this one too). She was also tested for food sensitivities and that’s when she discovered that she needed to eliminate certain foods from her diet. More importantly, if she wanted to feel better, she needed to start eating better.
So I grabbed her cookbook at the library this weekend. Read through it all. Her co-author is a chef and tells her story–a tale I can definitely relate to as well. She was an emotional eater, overweight. Changing her diet, changed her life, health and figure.
Ten pages in this book and I am sold. It could be recipes on eating the grass off my front lawn and I’d be all in. These women are me. I have these same issues. I need help.
I am very food savvy. I read labels (and know how to — thanks food packaging job!). I shun HFCS. I eat whole grains. Cook from scratch. Eat dark, leafy veggies. Drink water, water, water. I was a vegetarian for many years. I’ve changed my habits before and lost lots of weight.
I get it. I know what I need to do and how to do it. I don’t need to count carbs or points or fat grams. I know HOW to do it. Doing it…that’s another story entirely. I am an emotional eater. Stress is my biggest catalyst. And I’ve been living in stressville for many, many months.
Not only was the stress getting to me, but eating more bad stuff than good made me feel tired, run down, like I was in a fog. Plus, it made my pants tighter. Not that I wear real pants on a regular basis (stay-at-home mom/freelance writer FTW!), but when I did, I hated them.
So back to the book…
I read cookbooks like it’s my job. I carry home armfuls each week from the library. Never have I ever found a cookbook where I would eat everything inside (except for the King Arthur Flour Cookbook). Or that I could make everything inside and please the entire family.
THIS. This book is my dream cookbook. There isn’t one recipe that I said ew, or the kids will not eat that. Everything sounds yummy and, here’s the kicker, is made from regular ingredients. I didn’t have to buy 12 special flours or spend hundreds on revamping my pantry. These ingredients are basic — whole grains, veggies, olive oil, fish, chicken, lots of herbs and spices. And yes, there’s no dairy or gluten in any of the recipes. But here’s where the mommy blogger was wrong…there’s meat. There’s sweeteners (no refined sugar). There’s eggs (lots of eggs). And there’s a whole chapter devoted to kid’s recipes. Real food that any kid would eat. Just made smarter and cleaner.
Like I said before, I’m all in (and will have to purchase this book soon!).
Step one is the 21 day “detox”. I put detox in quotes because this isn’t like the crazy-ass detoxes you’ve read about where you only get liquids for 7 days, etc. Sure, I will be drinking my greens every morning, but the rest of the day (including snacks!) is filled with yummy food — chicken breast, fish, quinoa, brown rice, green veggies, fruits, beets, almond butter, etc.
Best thing…the kids will be eating detox dinners this week, and it’s all food they love. No cooking separate meals. No turning away dinner. They’ll eat better too.
I’m not all rainbows and puppies about this. I have to give up caffeine. (Which is srs bsnss for me. I LIVE on coffee. I don’t even know if I can write without it.) Also, no chocolate. Bread, cheese, cereal…bye-bye. Popcorn? Not for three weeks. BUT…I hope to feel so much better that in three weeks time, I won’t even miss those things.
Yesterday. *sigh* By 4:00 pm I was cooked.
1. The baby decided that a 30 minute nap was enough – thankyouverymuch. What, you’re not happy with 10 minutes in the car on the way to Target and 20 minutes in the high chair after lunch?
2. My budding mini Kat VonD decided to try out her new markers (damn you Target Dollar Spot!) on her legs, arms, face and stomach.
3. ADHD meds wore off too early causing SEVERE homework drama
4. 13-year-olds. Enough said.
5. Dishes and laundry and smelly bathroom, oh my!
6. It was 85 degrees and our AC is broken.
I needed a mommy time out. But where would I go? I really needed two things: wine and silence. I don’t know a single place that offers both. So I ditched the wine idea and walked Joann’s for 45 minutes.
It had me thinking…there are tons of women and moms like me. Women who want to get away for an hour, relax, have a glass of their favorite beverage, then go home refreshed and ready to tackle the next mommy-crisis.
But what place offers you that? Bars or restaurants are great if there’s a group of friends there together. Me going to a bar alone = sad and let’s face it, a little skeevy.
Shopping is OK. It’s not really relaxing…all that walking around and pressure to spend money when all you want to do is browse and use the loo.
So the old “Sot n’ Sew” idea came up again.
For those who don’t remember, Sot n’ Sew is my fictional crafting/bar. Women (I guess *some* men too) come in with their craft gear, order their favorite beverage, make something pretty and relax while doing it all. No pressure. No loud music. No kids, job, significant other. Just the company of other women, wine or beer, and your favorite paper/fabric/yarn project.
Sure, you could drink without doing crafts, but most moms start to twitch and go through withdrawals if they stop multitasking. And me, I think crafting is relaxing.
Most of all, you can go into a bar alone without feeling weird or that some skeevy guy is going to hit on you.
Sot n’ Sew will also have a quiet room. A soundproof room where the only noise are sighs of contentment and the tap of fingertips hitting a smartphone/tablet. It’s like your bathroom but without all the nasty and mess and kids reaching under the door begging for more juice.
So…Sot n’ Sew…I’d love to make it a reality. Anyone have $100k to loan?
I am a classic overachiever. Worse, I’m a fiercely independent overachiever.
I (think) I can do it all without any assistance. I’ve always supported my husband and kids. Never needed much help. Never ask for much from anyone.
Now I find myself in a position where I can’t do everything and I do need help. It’s been such a blow to my ego. I’ve cried every day because of it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
The easiest thing? Saying ‘thank you’. And this week, I’ve said it at least a hundred times.
I hate talking about finances. Just hate it. It’s ugly. It’s personal. It’s the weight on my back nearly everyday.
Last Sunday’s homily was just what I needed. I’ve been so stressed about our finances and Christmas and just the general ickiness of it all (money, not Christmas). I did exactly what Father Sal said…I made Jesus my financial advisor. (OK…he totally didn’t tell us to do that, but told us to give over your problems to Jesus — finances = our problem)
Jesus is my financial advisor. Has a nice ring. Could make great bumper stickers. But in all seriousness, this is what I did.
I can’t tell you what peace I felt after that.
Things were looking up. I cashed in some points from my CC for some gift cards (gifts!!). I was happy. I was at peace. Then, last week hit. Our refrigerator died and I totally lost it. I spent 2 days crying and worrying.
You know what…Jesus showed me up.
Now I’m crying for a whole different reason…I’m overwhelmed by generosity.
In four days our friends and family have: given us a fridge, offered to give us a fridge, offered to subsidize a new fridge, given us money, given us food (for our new fridge), given us a laptop, given us clothes, given us furniture. We had friends give us a great Christmas present for the kids a couple of weeks ago too.
We literally hit the jackpot on generosity.
And you know what…I will never doubt Jesus again.
Ed and I have always made a good living, for ourselves and our kids. 18 months ago I made a leap of faith, quit my job and became a stay-at-home-mom. I planned on freelancing a few projects or hours a month for some extra spending cash and all would be well. Then came along the fourth little Sicotte and totally busted our budget (in the best way possible!). So life’s been tougher than we anticipated.
Taking care of a family of six on one income is quite a challenge. And this girl is ALWAYS up for a challenge. Living on a shoestring has taught us to be mindful, thankful and frugal (and prayerful!).
Luckily my kids aren’t the kind to care what kind of clothes they wear or having the newest this-or-that. Ed and I have always been the drivers of that behavior. So we needed to re-prioritize our way of thinking to make this all work. And we’ve done a pretty good job. The kids understand that toys are bought on birthdays and Christmas. New clothes are purchased if they grow out of their old ones. Going out for dinner or lunch is a special treat that happens a few times a year.
They get it. I’m the one that has a hard time accepting it. Sometimes. Like when Christmas rolls around.
I admit it. I love giving. I love spoiling my kids with fun gadgets and toys. I love the look on their faces Christmas morning. I love the wrapping paper chaos, littered all over the floor. And shopping during Christmas is so much fun…the colors, the sights, the music, the lights. Marketers know what they’re doing because it gets me in the mood to spend money.
Which brings me back to this year…very little money = bah humbug Jenny.
I started thinking and praying long before Thanksgiving rolled around. What can I do to give my kids a great Christmas that’s not gift-centered? What can I do that would bring us all joy? How can I make memories that aren’t about “remember the year we got [this gift]?”
Answer: Bring Christmas back to where it all started…make Christmas about Jesus, about giving, sharing and being a good person. Make Christmas an experience and not about bows and paper. Be present and not be about presents. Teach my children that Christmas is about sharing and not getting.
So…I present our Low-Budget Christmas.
We’re focusing on crafts, homemade gifts, family, baking, generosity, laughs and yes, Jesus.
This week’s crafts were an advent “wreath” and ornaments.
I saved up a week’s worth of baby food jars and we modge-podged pink and purple tissue on the outside, placed a tea light inside and…ta-da…advent candles. Of course my smarty-pants, overachiever notified me that we didn’t make a white jar (he’s paying attention in CCD, at least!). So, we’ll add that for next week’s candle lighting.
We painted some wooden ornaments I bought two or three years ago. They had fun with that project too. Later that evening we watched a Christmas movie. Cost: $1 for the tissue, $3 for the movie rental (we splurged with this!) = $4 for Christmas fun!!
Speaking of CCD, my daughter got this advent calendar in class. We’re definitely going to do these things. Feel free to follow along.
Next weekend we’re boarding the Sicotte Polar Express. Prepare for ultimate fun!
Just a note: This blog is not a Sally-Struthers appeal for generosity (although a couple of friends have generously helped us in that aspect – thanks ladies!!), I hope this serves as an inspiration to everyone that you can make Christmas memories that cost little to nothing if you really put your mind to it.
I’ll let you math geeks figure this one out. But for me that little piece of algebra was a connection to a man that I loved dearly – my uncle Wayne.
Wayne passed away November 17 from a battle with cancer. Like many I knew afflicted with the disease, cancer was the contributing factor to his untimely death, it was a stroke that did him in.
Now I wasn’t incredibly close with him, especially over the last few years. Much my own fault as was his. The one common power that connected us together – my mom – passed away (also from cancer). I think it hurt both of us to see each other knowing that most conversations would be about her; something neither of us could handle.
He was a great man. And it was reflected in all the lives he touched over the years. From coworkers, to friends, to family everyone had a Wayne story to tell at his funeral yesterday. And I think I laughed more than I cried. Just goes to show what an impact he made on everyone.
Mine has to do with that math-y thing up above. The quadratic equation. Yes I was a smart kid. Too smart sometimes. Leave it to my equally smart uncle to teach me algebra when I was only 7. He’d grab his yellow legal pad and mechanical pencil and start scribbling out the letters and numbers. And EVERY TIME I would come to visit he would pull out the legal pad and have me work out the equation over and over.
So yeah, I knew how to derive the quadratic equation when I was 7. Too bad those lessons would be lost over the years (I’m looking at you College Algebra!).
There was more to him than just math lessons. He was the world’s most easy going guy. His catch phrase, “Well, that’s all right.” He was generous, sometimes too generous; he doled out $20 bills like candy. He was an amazing sketch artist. He loved Salvador Dali. He was a computer geek and taught me how to use one. He had gephyrophobia (fear of bridges) so he never came to my side of town. He was a psychiatric nurse and told the best stories (no names of course). Pajamas were his uniform. He was a terrible house keeper (I cleaned his house for a few months…it was GROSS). He had two cats named Boy Cat and Girl Cat. He used to make me sauteed mushrooms in lots of butter. He would get off his shift at 7 am and come over my house to have coffee with my mom. He slept with a sleeping mask and black curtains (he worked the night shift). He was the last person in America to use a garbage compactor. He had black plates and a lime green dining set and had me set placesettings for 4 despite the fact he never ate off the plates or at the table (also when I cleaned his house). He could quote any passage in the Bible. He loved sour cream and put it on almost everything. He sat crosslegged on the couch.
Hopefully I’ll see him again some day and I, he and mom can play Monopoly just like old times.
We have the worst track record when it comes to getting out of the house to go ANYWHERE.
We barely make it to Mass on time.
School? Saved by the Bell (and not the Slater kind).
Zoo? Museum? Beach? Park? It takes us longer to get ready than the actual time we spend there.
Roadtrips? It takes us 2 extra hours.
The real kicker is that Ed and I HATE being late for anything. Yet…
The most comical of all get-the-family-out-of-the-house events happened this weekend. I say comical because NOW we can laugh about it. But in the actual moment, it was the most unfunny thing.
This weekend our friend’s son celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and invited us to his shindig/open mike night party. Invite deets: Be there at 8:00; wear something sparkly.
We started getting dressed at 6:00, planning one and a half hours for getting everyone cleaned, dressed and packed in the car.
Ed owns suits. I have a few dressy Ross bargains. Maeve has some great hand-me-downs. The rest…let’s just say this weekend was a eye opener to how badly these kids need clothes other than jeans, leggings and tshirts. I started ransacking closets at 5:00. Luckily, I was able to cobble together some decent looking dressy clothes. Sure, Max’s button down *might* have been a little short and Violet’s shoes a little tight, but they looked nice.
Oh dear baby Grey…She’s only been on this planet for 8 months so she doesn’t have seasons of clothes packed in corners. She has what she has (spoiler alert: about 15 onesies and 3 pairs of leggings). I did purchase a really nice dress at Target on clearance. I was saving it for Christmas, but this was a dress clothes emergency.
I’m really proud of us. We got out of the house at 7:30, leaving us 30 minutes to get a card at Walgreens (yes we are THOSE kind of people) and get to the party.
(Driveway back out #1)
At Walgreens, I walked the aisles looking for anything remotely Bar Mitzvah related. I can’t even believe I would entertain the thought that a Walgreens on the Westside has that type of card. I must be delusional.
Back in the car, it’s a melee and Ed’s fed up. He starts the car and rounds the parking lot when I hear the baby gagging. He stops, I jump out and finger-sweep a huge wad of soggy paper out of her mouth (for the non-moms who think this is gross, believe me you WILL do this one day without hesitation). Then she proceeds to puke up 8 ounces of formula all over the Christmas dress.
Ed’s immediately pissed that the kids were having a paper fight in the car and now the baby’s choking and OMG, now she’s soaked and reeks and we have to go back home and change her.
Back home we go to change the baby into I-don’t-know-what.
I run in with the baby, ditch my heels at the door and peel the nasty dress off her. I just happened to find a summery dress that will work so I put that on her. I slip on my crocs because now *I’m* driving and I can’t drive in heels. Grab the baby, lock the door and get in the car.
(Driveway backout #2)
We get about half a mile down the road when I start laughing. I freakin left my heels at the door. Back home we go. Ed grabs my heels and we’re off to the races…er…party.
(Driveway backout #3)
We get to the hotel at 8:10 (damnit!), but we have to drive by it to get a card (still?!). Two stores and 20 minutes later and we have a card in hand.
So we ended up getting there at 8:35, right as he was entering the ballroom and right before dinner (perfect timing if you ask me).
My point in all this rambly story goodness…we will NEVER be on time. Something unforeseen will always happen. So roll with it. Embrace our fashionably lateness. Goodness knows, we will.