Boot Camp Day Three – A Step In The Dark

I’m on my second week of boot camp, day three.

It’s kind of been a surreal experience because it’s so early. This is what I walk up to at 5:00 a.m.

That big ball of yellow in the upper left hand corner is a big street light….casting a weird haze over the darkness of the side street by the park where we work out.

I like it because I can barely make out the faces of those working out by me, which means they can’t really see me. And that gives me a lot of comfort. Because I’m fairly certain the sight of me working out isn’t that pretty!

Going from lunges into jumping jacks then to push-ups and crunches, basketball jumps, high knees and running sprints….I’m definitely pushing myself in ways that I haven’t in years. And except for the occasional glance up to my friend, Patti, for support or to the trainer for explanation (“you want me to do WHAT?!!)  – I don’t chit chat. It’s not a social thing for me (which is weird because I make everything social).

From 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday I concentrate fully on getting myself back to where I know I can be.

But it’s hard. Being there means and going through the motions is making me face the fact that I have let myself get so out of shape. When we have to run laps, I have to stop and walk to catch my breath. When we do push-ups I can’t finish them all. Even when we do jumping jacks (albeit a lot of them!) I can feel the pain in the arches of my feet.

It’s going to be a long road. I have a journey to take that I know will eventually need to include more than boot camp twice a week.

But this step in the dark is a start.

The beginning of good things to come.

Have you taken a step out of your comfort zone lately? Has it been scary? How do you feel after taking the leap? 


Living The Dream on Your Summer Vacation

My kids get out of school for summer vacation in exactly one week.

That’s seven days.

168 hours.

I always have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I’m so ready to get a break from homework, school projects and extracurricular activities. With the break from early morning routines, carpool duty and PTO meetings comes much needed free-time.

But for a family that’s used to hitting it pretty hard…we don’t always do well with “time-off”. And I’m a work-at-home mom with a job that doesn’t stop when the school year does. So “juggling” activities for the kids with my own schedule can be challenging.

And by “juggling”, I mean:

1. holding the phone up to ear with my shoulder as I purse my lips, grit my teeth and mouth the words “Be quiet NOW!” as I try to conduct a conference call while my kids are watching Sponge Bob at level 10, fighting (because someone looked at someone else “funny”) and letting the dog loose to roam the neighborhood.

2. taking interview notes on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt with my kids running wildly with pizza in one hand and ticket and tokens flying out of the other because a source called me back while I was at Chuck E Cheese.

Plus, I always have the best intentions of doing fun things with the kids like taking them on a leisurely nature hike or a picnic…but I often forget about them or put them off for “tomorrow”.

Then before we know it we’re shopping for school supplies already.

But I’m more optimistic this year because I heard about the The Happy Family Movement and their Summer Bucket List Challenge, a “free , fun for all ages challenge based on a simple premise: time spent together as a family is time well spent.”


It’s like my life list only condensed into a three-month period of time and geared specifically towards spending time together as a family during the summer.

I’m super excited and signed up today. I heard that when you sign up, they’ll give you some resources to help you have fun together as a family including a guide with sample activities.

I can’t wait to get mine! In the mean-time, I’m going to plan a family meeting so we can brainstorm some ideas of our own and put them up in a visible place in the house so we can check them off as we go! (And I’ll be sure to share some of them here with you!)

How are you going to “live the dream” this summer with your kids?


Some Things ARE Shocking – Jane’s Addiction Live

Jane’s Addiction played at the Bayou Music Center in Houston Wednesday night and the show was incredible.

I’m 41 and a lot in attendance were from the same generation…fans of the band when they were in high school/college in the 80’s and 90’s. Personally, I started following them in college when I was a DJ for my campus radio station. I had an alternative rock show and played lots of Jane’s Addiction from their Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual albums.

Loved them back then.

Love them now.

Yup. I’m a wife, mother of two young kids, PTO Board member, girl scout leader, God loving grown-up. And I think Jane’s Addiction is still pretty awesome.

I haven’t been to a lot of concerts lately…too “busy”. But I heard about the show on so even though it was a Wednesday night, my friend Tanya and I escaped swim team practice, dinner and bed-time routine duties and headed to the show.

Bayou Music Center was the perfect venue to see this band. Small and intimate. We scored floor tickets on Groupon! (Coupons for a concert? Times have changed, right?!) I’m pretty sure most of the people who purchased seats came down to the floor anyway. It’s how this band is meant to be enjoyed.

The Duke Spirits, a London Band, opened for them at 8:30 p.m. and Dave Navarro and Perry Ferrell hit the stage (decorated with a naked women statue – ish backdrop) at about 9:45 p.m. While they played a few songs from their new album, they stuck mostly to music from the early days which made the crowd very happy.

Stop. Classic Girl. Mountain Song. Been Caught Stealing.

But we lost our collective minds when they started playing Jane Says. Since the audience pretty much sang this one and gave front man Perry a break, acoustically it wasn’t the best song of the night. But nobody cared.

It was old school Jane’s Addiction and most of us felt like we were back in the early 90’s as we danced literally hip to hip on the beer sloshed floor. One guy next to me screamed out, “I’m 17 again!” as he banged his head and more than one brave sole attempted a stage dive.

Good times and overall a pretty tame crowd that seemed to play nice and enjoy the show together.

Shirtless Dave and Perry (who hung on to and drank from a bottle of red vino for awhile on stage) were completely engaged with concert goers, accepting cigerettes, etc. from the audience. Racy stage adornments including two very pretty scantly clad female dancers (was one of the dancers Perry’s wife?), two screens with videos playing and other stage side-show acts left little to the imagination.

These songs aren’t about popsicles and puppies, ya’ll.

And then mid-show Tanya yelled, “where the hell did that bear come from?!” Maybe he was up there the entire time, but a life-sized stuffed bear seemed to appear from no where and just sat there the rest of the show.

Ok, then.

Only one encore – but great show.  Good job, Juanes Addicion!



Happy Cinco de Mayo!

From my family to yours, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

What are you going to do to celebrate? Looking for things to do in Houston? Check out what’s going on around town on Looking for something to cook? All has lots of yummy dishes to make any get together a fiesta.



Valentine’s Day Decorations.

So it’s almost February 14th and I’m so excited because I’ve actually made a couple of decorations this year. I’m not entirely finished but I wanted to share some of the goodies so far.

1. Decorated Dollar store glass jar with candy inside for teacher’s gifts.

Easy-peasy goodness with just a dab of glitter on a chipboard letter for the teacher’s initial, doilie heart…

…and ribbon on the handle. Ta-Da!

2. Spruced up “Follow Your Heart” and “Be Mine” signs.

Hello Target, I love you.

I spent just $1.00 for the Follow Your Heart Sign and then I added a paper flower I made at Spark in October. Cuteness

For $2.50, the Be Mine sign became mine and I threw on two bits of scrap ribbon. Done and done!

3. Hugs and Kisses Garland

Die Cut x’s and o’s…

….attached to some twine with mini clothespins. Umm, yes – please!!!

And finally – LollyPops in three sizes.

Paper cut in squares then folded accordian-style and hot glued to a stick.

Decorated with a little bit o’ this and that. Inspired by Margie Romney-Aslett. Sigh. Love.

I’m getting ready to take an online class with Christy Tomlinson and The Gilded Girls on February 13th called A Gilded Valentines. I can’t wait to see what I learn! Want to join me? Have you started decorating for Valentine’s Day, yet? If not, I hope I’ve inspired you. Hugs and kisses!


Aquatica is Coming to San Antonio in May…Hooray!

I’m working at my computer in my home office (dining room table) in Houston listening to the rain fall right now. Days like these make me happy. I’ve been really productive today.

Until I got distracted by a facebook posting from Sea World about their new water park, Aquatica, coming in May 2012 to San Antonio. Then I was off to youtube to see the promotional video and now my thoughts are back to September, 2011, when me, the hubby and kids went to Orlando to check out Aquatica for ourselves.

Now I’m digging through pictures and thinking about how much fun it was and wishing the weather was better and that I could jump in the car and go there now. But I can’t. Because it’s not open yet. And also because I’m working. Sort of.

So I thought I’d share with you some photos from our trip…particularly of the sting ray encounter which was super cool even though you have to wear a wet suit and I’m going to be honest….tight synthetic rubber just doesn’t look good on me.

Sting Ray encounter

Kids are actually feeding the sting rays shrimp!

At Aquatica's cabanas by the wave pool

How brave am I posting a photo of me in my bathing suit?!

More to share later about my trip (when I find all the photos!) If you want to learn more about Aquatica – check out this video here.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at Aquatica in Florida last year but was not asked to write this post nor was I compensated for it. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


We Can’t Wait to See The Secret World of Arrietty

My kids and I are really looking forward to seeing Disney’s The Secret World of Arrietty which comes to theatres February 17, 2012. Based on the book, The Borrowers, the animated  film is about little people who live undetected beneath the floorboards. The movie is from the legendary Studio Ghibli which brought us “Spirited Away” and “Ponyo” (a family favorite). Check out the trailer and enjoy some coloring sheets!



And see you at the movies next month!



Things I Learned At Spark

Don’t you just love it when someone you know goes somewhere great or has this unbelievable experience and you get to hear all about the awesomeness and even though part of you is happy for that person another part of you is like, “I want something awesome to happen to me, too”.

When it’s a celebrity or the rich and famous  – I’m so far removed that I don’t feel so bad. But when it’s a friend or a colleague or another blogger or someone I’m connected to through my love of all things creative – I get jealous if the account of all the awesomeness makes me feel like I just missed the best thing since sliced bread.

Oh sisters, I’m not gonna lie to you – Spark 3 was sliced bread.

And if you weren’t at Spark then you missed an unbelievable experience and many, many creative sandwhiches made with said bread. You are my friend so I can’t help but share with you when something great happens to me BUT I want you to reward from it too. I want to share the Spark I was given. It’s how it was meant to be.

So instead of just giving you the low-down of what I experienced over the three days in Utah last month…I’m going to give you some things I learned there. I’ll probably refer back to people and things that I met and learned in many posts in the future….it’s just too much for me to share all at once. Although many of my fellow Spark Sisters have done it beautifully and you can find some great posts here.

So here’s the skinny…

If you want to meet amazing people, create amazing projects, listen to amazing music, get away to a beautiful location…then join me at Spark next year. Save your pennies in a jar next to your dresser and don’t let you husband dig for quarters in it so he can buy diet coke at the office. Come with me so we can talk about the experience together.

If you can’t attend next year or can’t wait until then to start the Spark – then read on, sister (or brother).

1. Buy music from Mindy Gledhill or Sarah Sample or both.

Me and Mindy Gledhill

Me and Sarah Sample

They were at Spark and performed. I truly believe that listening to a singer in a small venue for the first time is the absolutely BEST thing in the world….An organic experience where you can form a connection to the music and the performer – making the music all that much sweeter. I’m convinced that’s one of the reasons why I want to be either of these women when I grow up BUT I know that I would love their music even if I didn’t meet them or hear them play/sing up close. They are very talented and I’ve been humming and singing their tunes as I write ever since I came back home. I think you will like them, too and you should go check them out on itunes at the very least. Music inspires me in ways I cannot explain and I’m not gonna lie – I had an emotional response to several of these songs. When you gotta cry, you gotta cry and music has a way of bringing that out. But it brings out the joy, too and I’m just all the more creative (with writing AND art) when I listen to music that inspires me. I’m working hard to make sure that I can hear both of these ladies play again in person sometime in my future. (And singing in a band is on my life list – so maybe even someday one of these gals will let me take the stage for a song where I’m singing so far back-up that no one else but me could even tell!
2. Get a copy of the book, The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron.
This book was talked about by many people at Spark…even Mindy Gledhill herself. I got a copy when I got home at Half-price books for $7.99 and I heard that another Spark Sister got one on ebay for even less. (I love finding a good book that’s been around for awhile like this!) It’s a work book to help you unleash your creativity for artists (writers, painters, etc.) as well as those who just want to be more open and creative in general.
3. Take a class online.

Donna Downey

Many of the teachers at Spark offer their art classes online. In fact, Emily Falconbridge, who taught me wool felting at Spark, is teaching a wool felting class on RIGHT NOW. Donna Downey and Christy Tomlinson also offer classes online and I think Christy’s She Art class at Spark is on her website.
4. Buy yourself something that makes you feel pretty. There was a market at Spark where you could purchase hand-made items from local artists. I got a sequined headband for $15 and when I wear it I feel like a ballerina or a princess and I love it. There were tons of things I could have bought that I loved (and spent a lot of money) but sometimes it’s a little thing that makes the difference. Click here to find a list of all the vendors that were at Spark with links to their websites to see all the goodness and to get a prezzie for yourself!
5. Make your meal look pretty.

At dinner on Saturday night during Spark they had these cupcakes that looked like flowers and had icing about four inches deep and given my addiction to all things buttercream I was hooked. But guess what? I didn’t eat one! It was too pretty and so extremely decadent that I just couldn’t! But food presented in a beautiful way is art, too. And the feast at Spark was presented to us (those that attended) as if we were royalty. So next time you have a meal, put a little garnish on your plate, use your good china, buy a bouquet of flowers to put on the table. You don’t have to be at Spark to make your table shine!

6. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and lift you up.

Sometimes these people are close friends, other times they are strangers in a place (like – hello! an art class) that brings people together because of a shared interest. It’s hard to feel bad about yourself when someone else nearby says “YOU are AWESOME!” Try to be that person that lifts someone up, too. At Spark – whenever someone said something to me that felt good I tried to send it back out there to someone else. And that felt good, too.

Writing is a lonely endeavor and even though I’ve been doing this for years (freelance writing) every time I turn in an article or script or copy of some sort something inside me tells me  –

“you stink, jennifer. they aren’t going to like it. this will be your last writing job. they are going to find you out and tell everyone else that you stink, too. and that book that you want to write? nope. you won’t ever write it because you aren’t good enough.”

I don’t like that voice! But it’s always there somewhere.

Sometimes I finish something that I actually think is awesome and then my editor doesn’t use it or the client rips it to shreds. I get upset and hurt because when I write I put myself out there.

And the voice says – “see?! i told you so!”

But the reality is that sometimes my editor doesn’t have room to run a story or sometimes a client just had another vision (or maybe no vision?!) and yes – sometimes maybe I write something that isn’t the best thing since sliced bread. And I have to find a place where I’m ok with that.

Spark helped.

Thanks Margie.

Spark organizer...Margie Romney-Aslett






Project Declutter: Annie’s Room

We had a small family get together last night to celebrate Jackson’s 10th birthday. While the grown-ups visited downstairs Annie and a couple of other “5 years and under” kids played in her room. This is what it looked like when they left.

I blame the cake.

And also – my lack of organization in the kids rooms.

But mostly, the cake.

Now before you get all “judgey” I want to tell you a couple things:

1. The first step is to admit you have a problem and I think posting this picture on my blog is pretty darn courageous of me. BTW – I think I also have a pretty unhealthy relationship with candy corn. But that’s another revelation and blog post entirely.

2. Glass houses, you guys. I know there’s a least one of you out there that doesn’t have their kids rooms under control!

So we are going on a pretty cool long weekend trip tomorrow (which I will tell you all about soon) so I’m not going to be able to get organized until after I get back BUT I want to formulate my plan now. I just wish Annie was into Hot Wheels cars like me son was. They have that cool, system where you can organize cars on the wall and I clearly have run out of floor space for all her “little” stuff. Doll clothes, play food, stickers, books…it all needs a place – BUT WHERE?

  1. Some of it just needs to go. I know that. It’s hard for me, though. I didn’t have a lot growing up and I remember hanging on to what we had even though I didn’t need or play with it “just in case”. I need to get over the attachment to things and teach my children the same thing. So step one: get rid of what we don’t need.
  2. Sort like items. It’s hard to play with Barbies when Barbie stuff is in five different places. I need to get things that go together, physically together so they can find a home…..together!
  3. Get clear bins. I think the reason Annie doesn’t play with some of her things is that she can’t see them. Outta sight, outta mind. I’m going to get clear bins in similar sizes for each group of items like dress up clothes, jewelry, kitchen food, Barbie stuff, etc.
  4. Label it! Then I’m going to write what it is on the bin AND put a photo of the item so EVERYONE knows where everything goes.
  5. Get the kids involved. I’m guilty of waiting until the kids’ rooms get really bad and then just cleaning them myself. I need to get them to
  6. Make cleaning a habit. I’m going to start using the chore chart that is prominently posted by my calendar in the kitchen but never gets used. Part of the new daily duties will include a five minute room straighten-up so they can keep on top of things before their rooms get really bad.
  7. Reward the kids for giving away unwanted items to other. A friend of mine assigns a dollar amount to toys and when her daughter donates an item she gives her money to go into a savings bank so she can get something she really wants.
  8. Throw away “junk” before it piles up. Can you say kids meals toys? Yeah. They need to go in the recycle bin before they get a chance to nest in the toy box! Local preschools love these type of small toys to use as good behavior prizes. I’m going to start taking them directly there!
  9. Accumulate less overall. I’m going to encourage family members to give “experience” gifts this year instead of toys. There are certain toys they want and love – but beyond that…instead of giving a bunch of little things they don’t really want…I’m going to suggest that grandma gives a zoo outing or tickets to the aquarium as a gift instead.
  10. Invest in toys/activities that the entire family can enjoy. In an effort to spend more time together…I want to find fun things to do (like board games) together.
Does that sound like a plan? What do you think? I’d love to hear about any decluttering/cleaning tricks to help me so jump on in and leave comments about what works for you!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hot Wheels® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show Comes to Houston

Me and the Houston Blogging Chicks with Event-Planner Extraordinaire Tara Wilson and Hints from Heloise

Inspired by the  Metro cooking show at Reliant Center yesterday, I’m simmering cinnamon sticks on the stovetop after our brief, but welcome, rainstorm this morning….while planning my 10-year-old’s birthday party.

I attended the show yesterday but it’s also going on today, Sunday, September 18, 2011 – so if you’re ready this post this morning…get out there ya’ll!

Hundreds of vendors and several presentations are included in the general admission ticket but headliner Paula Deen takes the stage at 1:00 p.m. today (her 11:00 a.m. luncheon and photo op today is sold out).

Checking in with some of my Houston Blogger friends....already tweeting about the event!

I saw Paula’s presentation yesterday and it was very entertaining. On the stage with her was her husband and while he sorta put together a chicken and mac and cheese dish (they didn’t really talk much about it or tell us what was going into it) Paula told us about her family (she has two new grandchildren) and her new book (it’s coming out soon and she’s going to be hitting the road to promote it next month.

Paula Deen's sold out crowd

So far Tyler, Austin and Dallas are on her Texas tour calendar). She literally pulled out her hair (she has extensions, ya’ll!) and sympathized with our record-breaking heat in Houston by telling us that fat girls don’t look cute sweatin’. The back of the bleachers butted up against the expo floor so it was hard to hear at times – but I laughed the entire time. She really is so funny and down-to-earth and boy do the ladies in Texas love them their Paula. Three friends sported “We Love Paula” shirts and even little girls tried to get in a hug from the side of the stage. I was disappointed that we didn’t walk away with a recipe card because I was dying to know what they marinated that bacon wrapped chicken in, but I’m sure she covers a hundred good chicken recipes in her book. The chance to see her in-person was a great experience.

Tara showing us how to make an inspiration board for a party. LOVE THIS!

The real highlight of the Metro Show for me was the opportunity to meet and hear Dallas-based entertaining guru, Tara Wilson @savvysoutherner. This gal is fantabulous and has oodles of great ideas to put on your next party from a kids birthday in the backyard to a intimate gathering of your closest friends, family and local politicians and celebrities (because we all have stars and politicos over for dinner, right?!)

Tara's showing me how to dress up an ordinary envelope. Look how hard I'm working!

Seriously though – Tara is the cutest thing and I can tell why she’s considered a go-to expert for party planning of all kinds. She loves finding things around the house, yard and garage sales to make parties unique (think fall foliage in an ol’ school plaid thermos for a centerpiece).



I seriously want to be her when I grow up. Look at me up on stage with her! She asked for a volunteer and my hand shot up like a bullet. I made an customized envelope liner with her. How cute is that?!!!

Since Jackson turns 10 in two weeks and I’VE DONE NOTHING to get ready for his big day. I’m sitting here with a pad of paper in hand all Tara-like (sans the big ol’ beautiful turquoise bead necklace that she on yesterday BUT I’m going to find out where she got it – you know you want to know, too!) trying to think of a cute but inexpensive way to pull off the party of the year.

I think I’m going to have a nerf-gun party at the park and put the invites INSIDE nerf gun darts with a message that says something like “you’ve been targeted to attend Jackson’s party” or something like that. Cute?!

I also met Heloise, you know – the Hints from Heloise, Heloise?! She’s actually the first Heloise’s daughter and she speaks today at 11:00 a.m. so get out of your jammies and go up to Reliant Center. You can hear her speak for free with your admission ticket and she’s always got something funny to say (and it rarely has anything to do with getting stains out!)

I’m not gonna lie, sisters. The expo floor was PACKED and almost too close for comfort crowds around tables for free tastes of fudge and tortilla chips made the experience a little heated. When the show comes back to town next year, September 16 and 17, 2012, I hope they’ll open up the space to allow for more walking room.

But I’ll be there no matter what. The show is great and besides by then Tara and I will be Besties and she’ll call me up and be all like, “Jenn, I’m coming to Houston for the Metro Show this weekend, can we get together and can you help me with my presentation?”

And I’ll be all like, “Of course, Tara!” Because I’m a super-cool friend like that!

Still Living the Dream, ya’ll!