Harvard, it’s me, Nora

Yesterday Nora wrote her name. By herself. As a reminder, she’s three-years-old.

Last week I was giddy because she wrote part of the word “Halloween” by herself on a card she made for her friends. In that case, I gave her a little direction and she copied some of the letters I wrote for “Happy.”

Happy Halloween

Yesterday, though, she was innocently chalking on the deck while I was playing on my phone instead of paying attention to her like the doting mother that I am. Then she said, “I made an N!” She did, in fact, make an “N.” And then she kept chalking. And before I knew it, she had spelled N-O-R-A. I couldn’t believe it. Now, I’m not submitting it to the Palmer Method, but it’s definitely obvious that the letters spell her name.

N-O-R-A

Clearly, the child is a genius and we should get crackin’ on her Harvard application ASAP. Proud mama right here.

In the spirit of keeping it real, I should also share that just after writing her name, she cut a piece of chalk’s “hair” with a shovel.

So Long, Summer

Lake Austin

While Labor Day weekend constitutes the unofficial end of summer, it’s a little difficult to get on board with that, since, living in Austin, it feels like summer here pretty much through October. But, with Nora being in school and more of a routine during the week, it does feel like the lazy days are done — for now, anyway. Plus, I ache for chilly weather, layers and non-iced coffee, and I feel like if I accept summer’s end, then maybe November will get here sooner and it will stop being hot.

Maybe.

A girl can dream…

We had a fantastic summer. We’ve had a fantastic year, but summer was really good to us. We took time to stop and smell the flowers (and then we planted them on our deck).

Stop and smell the flowers

We kicked off summer with a weekend in Galveston with friends. I hadn’t been in nearly 15 years, although where we went didn’t even feel like Galveston. It could’ve been a beach anywhere, because we stayed on the far west edge of the island, away from the touristy stuff. It was perfect. Condo on the beach with a pool (and more importantly, poolside drink service) — yes, please! The only downside was that our weekend coincided with high levels of bacteria in the water, so save for digging in the sand briefly, we spent our days in the pool.

Galveston

July 4th was a family and friends-filled fête. Our neighborhood organized a parade for kids and dogs and Nora decorated her scooter — and then her tricycle, after deciding she wasn’t interested in scooter-ing herself that far. My sisters and our friends came over for a BBQ and the neighborhood shot off fireworks til all hours. And then they continued to shoot off fireworks the week after the holiday, and the week after that, and… Seriously, our neighborhood loves their fireworks. But being able to watch them from my front or back porch on the 4th of July is quite convenient!

July 4th

Summers are for short hair. At least, that’s what my mom decided when I was a kid. I always hated my ugly boy hair during the summertime. So while I wanted Nora to lose a little length, we opted for her first bob haircut to keep her stylish!

New 'do

It wasn’t exactly the summer of blockbusters, as far as I was concerned, but we checked a milestone off Nora’s list when we took her to see her first movie in a theater, Finding Dory. Her behavior reminded me of going to St. Louis Cardinals baseball games when I was a kid. She was in it for the food just like I used to be! Once her mozzarella sticks were finished, she had to be (repeatedly) reminded why we were there. But she liked it enough and behaved well enough so that we took her to see The Secret Life of Pets a few weeks later.

Finding Dory

We spent a fun, long weekend at Lake Austin with my whole family, thanks to Mom and Dad. I went tubing for the first time in… more years than I’d like to admit! And KP went for the first time ever.

Tubing

We parked, pooled and did yoga.

Nora said goodbye to her preschool and had a brief hiatus before beginning her new one.

Our hearts and tummies were nourished with a trip to Illinois. We spent time in Trenton where Nora helped Grammie make cookies and peach cobbler. KP and I escaped for a Nora-free, food-filled weekend in Chicago.

Nora got a big girl bed! And I breathed a sigh of relief. So many friends’ kiddos had trouble with the transition, but luckily it was easy peasy. She has only once gotten out of her bed and showed up at the foot of ours, and she chose to do that at 4:40 a.m. But just once? I’ll take it.

Big girl bed

A rainier than normal summer resulted in lots of rainbows. Lucky for us, we often see them in our backyard after a nice rain.

Rainbow

KP and I celebrated six years of wedded bliss. We went to dinner at the now defunct Qui and I started the evening with a Cordial Quarrel — the drink, not an argument with KP! But fitting for six years, no?

Cordial Quarrel

Nora started Montessori school. They have a donkey, goat, two cats, bunnies and plenty of other unofficial animals (yes, snakes). She is not allowed to wear any of her TMNT gear (or any other “media” or “characters”) and she has survived three weeks.

We road tripped to Dallas for the Coldplay concert and explored the Dallas World Aquarium en route. Oh, and we got our Pappasito’s fix!

Dallas World Aquarium

See, it was a fantastic summer! We hosted a BBQ on Labor Day (because, what better way to honor America’s work force) and the fact that Tuesday was like Monday threw me off all week.  Another good summer in the books! You can get here any day now, fall.

You can get here any day now, fall.

Grandma Turns 100

Grandma

October 10th marked my grandma’s 100th birthday. I always think of her on this date — and lots of other less significant dates. I often think of her when I’m cooking or baking; she was a superstar cook and baker with years in professional kitchens. I think of her at the holidays; she always made dozens and dozens of cookies and I vividly remember them cooling on paper-thin dish towels on her little kitchen table. I think of her when I see old ladies who remind me of her, and sadly, whenever I see, hear or read something about Alzheimer’s disease. My grandma died in 2003 after suffering from that horrific, debilitating disease. I think of her in her last years much less often than I think of all of the happy, fun memories of her when she was herself.

100 years is a long time. I decided we needed to celebrate 100 years, even if she couldn’t be here to do it with us. That, and as you know by now, I can always find an excuse to throw a party, cook, eat and drink! Conveniently, my two local sisters were already planning to visit that weekend. We were going to informally christen our new patio. But when I realized what the date was, I convinced my mom to come, too. We celebrated Gram exactly how we would have if she was still here — by making and eating lots of yummy food, hanging out and just being together.

Let me tell you about my amazing grandmother’s cooking. She spent years cooking at the Missouri Athletic Club and Stix, Baer & Fuller’s restaurant, so she knew a thing or two! Her list of specialties (all from scratch, of course) is endless, but the dishes that first come to mind are chicken and dumplings, bread and butter pickles, grape jelly, coffee cake, chocolate pie, rhubarb pie and cookies, cookies galore — chocolate chip (which were about the size of a half-dollar, if that), Mexican wedding cookies, iced sugar cookies in holiday shapes and colors and the cookies that everyone still longs for — peanut blossoms. I volunteered my sister Joan to bake these cookies for our gathering (and they were gone by Sunday night).

Grandma's peanut butter blossoms
Nora got her first taste of Grandma’s peanut blossoms

You could say Gram was the executive chef of the family. She most often planned and prepared the hors d’oeuvres for family parties or the main feast.  One of the things that Gram made for every family party was platters of deli meat rolled fancy with cream cheese and a pickle in some varieties, with intricate roses made out of tomatoes in the center of the tray. While we made our best attempt to recreate this snack, I think Gram would’ve given us an E for effort.

Salami roll-ups

I’m thankful that my sister Jennifer volunteered to make the quintessential Gram dish: chicken and dumplings. And I’m thankful that Nora didn’t like it so there was more for the rest of us!

Chicken & dumplings

We had a fun day remembering Gram and bringing up old memories. One of my funniest memories of her is something I totally remember happening, but at the time I didn’t understand why it was so funny because I was really young — four, maybe five years old? Gram used to babysit me a lot and I was at her apartment one day, wanting to help. I was at that age where I wanted to help with little chores, which is exactly what Nora does these days. I was going to help her dust her living room furniture, which I used to do frequently. She gave me a little dust rag and I insisted on furniture polish, so she gave me an aerosol can and I went on my merry little way, polishing her whole living room suite. I was a pretty quick kid (my apple didn’t fall far from the tree); after I finished my task I looked at the can and asked my grandma what “O-F-F” spelled. No, she hadn’t given me bug spray — nor furniture polish. She gave me Easy-OFF oven cleaner by mistake! I vaguely remember her muttering words I probably wasn’t supposed to hear and scurrying to clean it off the furniture!

One of my sisters posted the photo of Grandma and Grandpa (above) on her Facebook page on Gram’s birthday, and a family friend commented, “She was the perfect example of a grandma anyone could wish for.” That, she was.

Grandma’s Peanut Blossom Cookies

1/2 c shortening
3/4 c peanut butter
1/3 c sugar, plus extra for rolling dough
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Brach’s stars (sub Hershey’s Kisses, which are much easier to find!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until blended. Add sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Immediately place chocolate pieces on top of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Grandma’s Chicken and Dumplings

1 1/2 c flour
1 tbsp parsley, chopped (1 tsp dried)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine flour, parsley, baking powder and salt. Combine milk, vegetable oil and egg and combine with the dry blend. Stir enough to moisten the mixture but don’t over-beat.

With a tablespoon, form the dumplings and drop them in boiling chicken broth*. Cover tightly and cook for 12 – 15 minutes or until done. No peeking! Serve immediately.

* Depending on how many you plan to serve, you can boil a whole chicken or just chicken breasts along with carrots and celery, well seasoned with salt and pepper. Reserve the broth for cooking the dumplings.

Lessons My First Job Taught Me

With the new school year upon us and especially with my nephew starting his first year of college,  those days — and the ones spent job hunting thereafter — are top of mind. So it felt really timely when The Ladders recently approached me to share some anecdotes about my first job and lessons learned.

I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, particularly if I count babysitting as a teen, gigs at various retailers in the mall and several roles in ecommerce, which is what I consider my background as that’s what I’ve done since I graduated college too many years ago to mention. Currently, I have the hardest but most rewarding job I’ve ever had — staying home with our two-year-old daughter, which I’ve been doing for about a year and a half. Recently, I became a part-time Stylist for Stitch Fix, too. One thing that I can say about every single job I’ve ever had is that it’s taught me something. If you’re not learning anymore, and/or you’re not being challenged, it’s probably time to move on to the next. Luckily for me, I don’t think our daughter is ever going to stop challenging me! Job security.

When I think about the job that best prepared me for my career, it was a summer internship for the U.S. government, which I started the summer after I graduated high school. To be fair, the job sort of fell into my lap; I didn’t search for it nor did I really have to interview. My sister works for the federal government, and two of my other sisters also had this type of job in the past, so I was lucky in that I just knew about it from them. So what does a summer intern for the government do? I worked at an Air Force base and I did a lot of general office tasks, my least favorite of which was filing and my most favorite of which was helping to coordinate travel for Air Force personnel in our office. It certainly wasn’t anything glamorous, and to be honest, the context of the job was totally irrelevant to me. But I liked the job. I worked there every single summer and some winter breaks until I graduated college.

It wasn’t the specific tasks I did that taught me any memorable lessons, but it was the environment that I worked in and the people whom I worked with who left an impression on me. My immediate supervisor was the administrative assistant, and the office ticked because of her. By working alongside her and others in the office, I learned basics that not everyone learns before they enter the work force — little things like how to carry yourself, how to communicate effectively, the importance of meeting deadlines and the like. Some of these things can’t be taught from a book, but learned by immersion and observing the behavior of others. There were also plenty of people in the office who opened my eyes in terms of how not to behave professionally.

My job as a summer intern set me up for success after college. I was comfortable and ready to step into the working world. I’m very proud of my career path and I don’t know that I would’ve gotten where I did without having that experience from the start.

The Globetrotting Gal’s New Look

A while back, I mentioned that The Globetrotting Gal was changing a bit. If you’ve followed the blog since then, you’ve already been reading the changes. I’ve been posting about things other than travel, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing.

But I’m most excited about today’s changes. You might’ve noticed that The Globetrotting Gal has a slightly new look, with an official logo! I’ve been wanting to add a logo for some time but didn’t do it until now for a number of reasons. Luckily, I have a super talented friend, Elaine, who designed this beautiful logo for me.

While it was difficult to choose from the handful of logos that Elaine designed, I narrowed it down to three… and then to this one that you see above. It’s clean yet striking. And I love how “globetrotting” stands out. When Elaine explained her intent with the design, I knew it was the right fit.

“Combine a typewriter font with a computer font in a fresh way — a nod to writing in general.”

That’s exactly what this blog is all about — my writing. It fits perfectly. And I am so, so thankful to have such a talented friend.

(If you want to know more about Elaine and her innovative business — which is not designing blog logos — you can do so here.)

Help Refresh My Running Playlist

Running

My running playlist is in need of some new jams. Even on shuffle, I get tired of hearing the same 100+ songs over and over again. Do you have a running playlist? A workout playlist? What’s on it?

While I tend to listen to what I suppose is labeled “modern rock,” everything’s fair game when it comes to my running mix. I actually like a lot of pop, hip hop and even some rap. I like poppy, upbeat music when I run.

Please, please, take a look at the songs on my current playlist and help me add some more! I’m open to podcasts or books, too.

  1. “Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes
  2. “Dearly Departed” by Shakey Graves
  3. “Things Happen” by Dawes
  4. “Love Like This” by Kodaline
  5. “Jackie and Wilson” by Hozier
  6. “Steal My Girl” by One Direction
  7. “Kiss You” by One Direction
  8. “Best Song Ever” by One Direction
  9. “Tear In My Heart” by Twenty One Pilots
  10. “Dreaming” by Smallpools
  11. “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay
  12. “Ink” by Coldplay
  13. “Don’t” by Ed Sheeran
  14. “Sing” by Ed Sheeran
  15. “Man In the Mirror” by James Morrison
  16. “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon
  17. “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen
  18. “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift
  19. “I Lived” by OneRepublic
  20. “Magic” by Coldplay
  21. “If I Lose Myself” by OneRepublic & Alesso
  22. “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
  23. “Rock and Roll All Nite” by Kiss
  24. “Talk Dirty To Me” by Poison
  25. “Roar” by Katy Perry
  26. “Freedom” by George Michael
  27. “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
  28. “Story of My Life” by One Direction
  29. “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction
  30. “One Thing” by One Direction
  31. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles
  32. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
  33. “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea
  34. “Bonfire Heart” by James Blunt
  35. “Bruises” by Train
  36. “Invisible” by U2
  37. “Catch My Breath” by Kelly Clarkson
  38. “It’s Time by Imagine Dragons
  39. “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons
  40. “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey
  41. “Under Pressure” by Queen & David Bowie
  42. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift
  43. “The Whole of the Moon” by The Waterboys
  44. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
  45. “We Are the Tide” by Twenty One Pilots
  46. “Whistle” by Flo Rida
  47. “Payphone” by Maroon 5 feat. Wiz Khalifa
  48. “Stereo Hearts” by Gym Class Hereos feat. Adam Levine
  49. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys
  50. “No One” by Alicia Keys
  51. “We Found Love” by Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
  52. “Not Over You” by Gavin DeGraw
  53. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You” by Kelly Clarkson
  54. “Rumour Has It” by Adele
  55. “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People
  56. “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida
  57. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” by Beyoncé
  58. “Forever” by Chris Brown
  59. “Hey Mama” by Mat Kearney
  60. “Good Life” by OneRepublic
  61. “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + The Machine
  62. “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Coldplay
  63. “Hello” by Martin Solveig & Dragonette
  64. “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne
  65. “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin'” by Scissor Sisters
  66. “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga
  67. “Umbrella” by Rihanna feat. Jay-Z
  68. “Starlight” by Muse
  69. “Innocent” by Our Lady Peace
  70. “The Anthem” by Good Charlotte
  71. “A Little Respect” by Erasure
  72. “Kung Fu Fighting” by The Crystal Method
  73. “Champion” by Kanye West
  74. “Murray” by Pete Yorn
  75. “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)” by Pras
  76. “Stronger” by Kanye West
  77. “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay
  78. “Lost!” by Coldplay
  79. “Lovers In Japan/Reign of Love” by Coldplay
  80. “4 Minutes” by Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake and Timbaland
  81. “World At Your Feet” by Embrace
  82. “Beat Goes On” by Madonna feat. Kanye West
  83. “Disturbia” by Rihanna
  84. “Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol
  85. “She’s So Lovely” by Scouting for Girls
  86. “Heartbeat” by Scouting for Girls
  87. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John & Kiki Dee
  88. “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5
  89. “Rainy Day” by Coldplay
  90. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
  91. “Live Your Life” by T.I. feat. Rihanna
  92. “American Boy” by Estelle feat. Kanye West
  93. “Gives  You Hell” by The All-American Rejects
  94. “Ragoo” by Kings of Leon
  95. “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga
  96. “Paper Planes” by M.I.A.
  97. “Still Not a Player” by Big Pun feat. Joe
  98. “Gold Digger” by Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx
  99. “Hey Mama” by Kanye West
  100. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson
  101. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” by Michael Jackson
  102. “Scream” by Michael Jackson
  103. “Love and Memories” by O.A.R.
  104. “Little Secrets” by Passion Pit
  105. “California On My Mind” by Wild Light
  106. “Kids” by MGMT
  107. “Daylight” by Matt & Kim
  108. “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train
  109. “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas
  110. “Show Me What I’m Looking For” by Carolina Liar
  111. “Shattered (Turn the Car Around” by O.A.R.
  112. “Get Down Tonight” by KC & The Sunshine Band
  113. “Say Hey (I Love You” by Michael Franti & Spearhead feat. Cherine Anderson
  114. “OMG” by Usher feat. will.i.am
  115. “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga
  116. “Ditty” by Paperboy
  117. “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child
  118. “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
  119. “All For You” by Janet Jackson
  120. “California Gurls” by Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg
  121. “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry
  122. “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz
  123. “Club Can’t Handle Me” by Flo Rida feat David Guetta
  124. “Break Your Heart” by Taio Cruz & Ludacris
  125. “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars
  126. “Firework” by Katy Perry