Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hot Cocoa...


is not just for drinking anymore, ladies….it's also for smearing on your nails! Take a break from the black and dark plums and lighten it up with a touch of winter class with Essie's fabulous new shade. I fell in love with it checking out at a beauty counter, and it quickly became mine after discovering it was 20-percent off (which is lame as that's what, $1.60 in the nail polish world?! But hey, it justified it for me!) It looks great on any skin tone, goes on bubble-free and lasts for days…perfect for bringing a little pizzazz to the dull winter months. Happy polishing!

Loot!

"Sooo, what was one of your hot ticket items you received this Christmas?" I excitedly asked the girls, catching a glimpse of Nan's new diamond ring as it lit up the room, eyeing Katie's new H&M blouse and admiring Jenny's sassy new boots. Chatting around the circle, they shared stories of their time with families and threw out items such as diamond earrings, a fuzzy fleece, designer jackets and more. When the chatter arrived at me, I mentioned the Kindle as well as some of the fabulous items below, but the real truth is, the gift of five days with my son was the best thing Santa could have ever packed in his bag. Below are highlights of some of our magical moments together, big and small…

Under the tree loot! Kindle not pictured but sure is being used! Wait - does that cookbook mean I really have to start preparing foods now?! And yes, that's a customized iPhone cover. So fun!

Stocking loot! The WTF stamp is my fav...my husband knows me so well. And now my colleagues will too...

Lawson Loot! - aka Time to Really Be a Mom:
1. New vocabulary: mostly that consists of basketball, "Ellie!" (the poor dog is about to lose her mind between the name-calling and hair-pulling; btw the cat's name is apparently "No"), Elmo, Jayhawk, fork, Bye-bye Nana and Papa, Gwanma, tent, banana, cat, elephant, Santa, Ho-ho-ho, movie, potty, Gabriella (his school crush), snack, milk, water, juice and so much more…he even received several report cards that highlighted his talking habits this week. It's amazing!
2. New faces: scrunched up and teeth bared for "stinky!" when whiffing a sock or picking up a diaper (yes, a clean one…we may not be the most stellar parents but we don't let him play with soiled dips…come on now…); wide O-shaped mouth in discovering snowmen and lighting, the most devilish grin one can muster…so much so that I have to turn away when disciplining because it's so damn funny, wide-eyed "I'm about to dance" face, a look of concentration so deep I swear he's Einstein, squishy laugh face to some joke he only gets in his head and more.
3. New abilities: chicken dance, head-shoulders-knees and toes routine, eating with a fork (even corn; hell, I can't even do that), running, darting through small spaces (this includes running away and hiding when he doesn't want to do something), biting and hitting when he doesn't get his way (awesome), stair-climbing like an adult with minimal support, the exact sound of an elephant complete with the trunk (arm) rising up, shooting hoops on his mini basketball hoop and best of all: dance party USA:
video
Hope your holidays were as merry as this little guy feels…and as much as my heart has expanded to make room for all this joy...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Zero Hour


"Ok, yeah…grab one for 25, another for 15 and ok, um, yah…a 50," I said to Mike, afraid of his reaction as it was zero hour and here we were, still checkin' the list twice. All I can say is thank God for chain stores that carry billions of retailers' gift cards. Because honestly, who doesn't love a gift card? A chance to get out of the house and buy stuff you love at a store you adore? Yes please!

So if you're still pondering what to get that special someone (ok, and maybe not so special because let's face it, sometimes there are people we just have to buy for!), here are a few ideas you may be able to pull off in the next 12 hours that are focused on cost savings. Because really, most of us are broke by now:

1. Cookie baking: whip up a few dozen and continue to feed the bellies…no one counts calories at Christmas; or do cookie cutters tied with a cute ribbon accompanied by your favorite recipe
2. Playlist: create a fabulous playlist on iTunes and pass it along or burn it to a CD for someone's car - virtually free and fun! Plus, you can customize: been through a bad breakup? in love? have a baby? feeling forlorn? There's a song for that…
3. Picture drawn by your child: family loves it, plus it frees up some of your file space and occupies their time for about, oh - 8 minutes
4. Love note: let someone know how you really feel this Christmas…er, only if it's nice! What better gift than to know you're loved and why?
5. Anything on Amazon: seriously, they're shipping same day…it's bananas
6. Services: coupons to babysit, dog sit, clean something, run errands or do that chore they hate the most (like a diaper change..ahem)
7. Regift: make it a good one. And be sure it doesn't go to the person who gave it to you or have your name on some kind of hidden tag!
8. Craft items: for those with kiddos, these items are never sold out if you hit up a hobby store. And with the chilly winter months ahead, there will be crafts that will need to be done for survival! Think yarn, glitter, glue, cloth, construction paper, shoe boxes and more.
9. Pre-written and addressed thank yous: for a dear friend who you may have a bunch of addresses for; make her life easier by purchasing cute Christmas thank you, signing her name with the adorable saying inside, then addressing and stamping them, so all she has to do is approve and drop
10. Lottery tickets: because some people just believe…and there is always that one gas station open on Christmas Day
11. Hot chocolate drive-by: surprise them and say you were thinking about them with a spot of warm brew, complete with whipped cream on top
12. Magazines: give them a reason to indulge in some smut or a read they never have time for or would purchase for themselves; after all, they have a few days off to sneak off and catch up on what's new with the Kardashians
13. Shovel: for Kansas Citians - this means you. Get out there tomorrow morning with the winter weather, burn some calories and make someone's day by putting your back into it and grabbing a shovel
14. Post: do a blurb or word of gratitude on your blog, FB, etc. - if they're into the public love kind of thing…it'll make them feel extra special
15. Handprint kit: there are a few left at Hallmark, Paper Source and Hobby Lobby…grandparents are suckers for a look at your kiddo's hand - do an ornament or something more year-round - they'll love it!

Of course there are always gift cards stocked at your local Walgreens, photos lying around your home that need framed and passed on and flowers for those who believe in doing it fresh and real.

But really, this Christmas and all days at zero hour, all they need is love. Sweet, sweet love.

Happy last minute scrounging dear shoppers!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wearin' Red


"His red sweater is soooo cute, we can hardly stand it…" Miss Sarah says to me as I prepared to enter the classroom, pretending that my mascara was acting up as I swiped away a few quick tears. For minutes I had been staring at him through the plexiglass, marveling at his behavior, watching as he swayed his little body back and forth, singing the snack song with a look that can only be described as absolute glee lining his face. I don't know if it was the fact that food was about to be placed in front of him or the joy of the lyrics, but that little man was one happy camper.

Soon, it was circle time, and having arrived early, I gathered him in my arms, holding on to his warm embrace as he took his time warming back up to the classroom, the contrast of having Momma there so vastly different than most afternoons. As the flashcards came out, so too did his little grin and jolly sounds, all in a chorus with his little friends as they repeated what sound a cow makes, jingling keys, cats and more. Daddy joined us, video camera in hand while nicely-wrapped children's books were exchanged. We laughed that his "soul mate" Gabby, dressed in red velour of course, received yet another gift from Lawson…because really, if you saw them together, you'd agree that he's already given her his heart…


And that's when it got good - or so I imagined what Lawson was thinking as he made his way to a chair so small it could only be meant for a 15-month old, it's tiny metal legs holding tight as he climbed up to dine. A plate lined with delicious, parent-delivered treats lay before him and he assumed the position, loading a fork in one hand and using the other as a scoop. And when those two were full, he went full on dog-style, using his mouth to snatch up those few bites that surely could be squeezed into his squirrel pouch cheeks he was sporting. Like the dinosaurs we read about in his books each morning, he seemed to have a gift for foraging through the fruits, vegetables and cheeses and head straight for the red-iced cupcakes:



He enjoyed the red deliciousness so much, that he even took the time to dunk his organic Monkey Bars I spent over an hour preparing that morning into the spread. Good boy! And of course Gabby was in on it too, because after all, she was the one to pass along the amazing trick of how to successfully devour a banana in one bite. What are friends for if not tricks like such?

The small room lined with primary colors, hand-drawn artwork and funny snapshots taken throughout their days lit up with laughter as the teachers described that one was a messy table while the other were the cleaner kids. Parents asked us "does he always eat that much?," marveled at our composure as he began to cover himself deeper and deeper in red dye, waiting for a reaction other than "grab the camera!" or "yay for you honey!," and looked a little perplexed that we'd share nose hugs and actually wash our own child's hands covered in goo, putting our own attire in danger.

And through all this, all we remembered later that evening as we recalled our day and all that we were grateful for is yes, we'll wear red for the holidays. We'll wear yogurt on our shoulders. Boogies on our buttons. Bananas on our kneecaps. Crumbs in our socks. And spaghetti on our shirt sleeves. Because we wear you, day in and day out. In our minds. In our hearts. In the very deep, deep corners of our souls.

So yes, dear son, we'll wear red this holiday just for you, and all the days to follow…even if it is in the form of frosting. Because after all, there just isn't anything sweeter than your smile.

Cheers to your second annual school party, bug! We love you and are so, so proud of you...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gel Yes!


"Shlaque…have you heard of it?" my friend Courtney asks as we both skim our nails, dreaming of a instant mani/pedi as we worked away at our desks. (ok, we were really taking a break to discuss feminine upkeep). "No - tell me more!" I say, listening in as she describes it lasts close to three weeks, doesn't harm your natural nail and is virtually indestructible and inexpensive. Needless to say…I signed up.

And I couldn't be happier with the results!

After a visit to Nail Perfection and asking for a gel manicure, I was delighted to find a broad array of colors to fit your every need, including the desire to have glamourous everyday nails, something darker for a sassy event or want the daily natural look. The process takes about 45 minutes to an hour, is painless and of course you hear some great stories from both the employees and the gals who gather around getting primped and plucked. The experience includes filing and cuticle care of your nails, then several layers of paint, including the gel being the last. Then you place your hands under the blue light to get it all the chemicals to work together, and minutes later, you're leaving with indestructible, beautiful nails. That last for weeks! Perfect for the working Mom on the go, or really anyone who doesn't want to bother with the teensy brush and spills every three days.

What did I choose this week? A berry color of course. And yes, I'd do it again. This coming from the gal who used to be able to virtually destruct a new, expensive pair of acrylics in two days...

Oh - and opt for the "on the spot massage" while you're at it. Because you deserve a break today...

Moms and Megan...Plus 17

We are so blessed to have an extremely full social calendar this December, including several ornament exchanges, our Fourth Annual Ugly Sweater Party, cookie parties, work events, happy hours, family gatherings and so much more. But I gotta admit, I was most excited about hosting "Hangin' for the Holidays" for our informal Mom's Group at our house this past Sunday. Unsure of who was going to be able to make it (Moms have to play it by the moment after all), it was such a joy to welcome 17 kiddos under the age of 2 into our home, plus a three and five year old to boot….

Ok, it was a little like "Kate Plus 8" on steroids, and the house looked like Katrina had come through, but seriously, look at these faces:











For once, the house came alive, and it didn't matter what drinks were on hand, who was sporting the latest accessories, what the latest adult topics were on the agenda or if the food came from Dean and Deluca and were lined with monograms. Instead, it was about discovering the craft corner, finding delight in newfound toys, watching their faces study one another, tummy time, Moms wiping noses and spit up and sharing giggles with their wee ones and swapping stories about milestones and mishaps. It was about telling war stories, getting excited about the celebrations, swapping ornaments, talking traditions, making friends with those who were once strangers and sending Moms upstairs to nurse one by one, not once apologizing for the mess upstairs because really, they get it.

Now THIS is what the holidays are about…

Thank you, dear friends, who continue to support the Mom's Group as we troop through what is surely the most amazing portion of this little thing we call life. May you find comfort and joy in a new face, a new name, but something so familiar it's like family…being a Mom. And may the rest of your time hangin' for the holidays be all the magic you've dreamed of and more...

PS: If you want in on the email list and invites to monthly events, just holler! You know where to find me...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Turned on to Sabon


It arrived today - the package of luxurious deliciousness that I fell head over heels for when I was a poor graduate on a Boston trip, seemingly never to be seen again. Rediscovered in Chicago on a recent business trip, I made the excuse that a full-time job (ok, two of them because being a Mom totally counts for at least one career) to splurge a little and bring these products into my home. And I could not be more thrilled that I did!

If you haven't heard of it already, stick it on your Christmas list: Sabon. For you. For your hubby. Your Momma. Your girlfriends. Did I already mention you???

The products in this line are uhmmazing, made from natural oils, healing, preventative and you can pronounce and identify all the items listed that line the insides of the jar. Plus, the peeps that work there are ridiculously helpful, don't pressure you into anything and help you identify what is reasonable for your budget. There aren't many around, but they are of course willing to ship to you at any time, and with their reasonable prices, it's just not all that bad. In fact, it's good. Really, really good.

If you wander in, they'll seduce you with their sugar scrubs - scents so spa-like and lively that you'll feel the weight of your thoughts slipping away as you massage your hands in their stone sinks. Even my Mom fell for you it, and well, you know how she is. The woman has been wearing the same lotion for more than 30 years and wastes no time, energy or resources on the beautification process. Now, the jasmine scrub is all hers - and she's thrilled. Meanwhile, I was seduced by the eye cream (La Mer clients are quickly converting according to stats and ps, they are saving a boatload of cash!), the night serum(because I'm shocked at how much older I look each day when I wake and peer in the mirror), the foot cream, the daily soap cut fresh from a bar and of course, the body scrub. And before I forget, I grabbed an aftershave salve for the hubby. It smells all manly and is ridiculously healing - perfect for the dude who has to attack his face twice per day.

So with this arrival I told my better half I will start to look like a new woman….

Ok, so that may not be entirely true, but I'll sure smell like one. And be delighted like one.

And that is worth it's weight in products…

This ad not brought to you by Sabon, but rather through a shopaholic, only spends ten minutes getting ready but likes to sass it up and look the part, Mom of one, friend to many, full-time working, help me I'm aging gal just trying to make it in this world. With authenticity. Grace. And really great skin...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Drive Through


Tonight I hit the McDonald's drive thru, passing through the two lanes where the voice shouts at you from a speaker, choices lined in bright neon colors with tempting pictures promising to erase all the emotion of the day. I watched as the face of the gal with the headset buzzed by, her face contorting into confusion as I pulled the 4Runner into those little spots where you sometimes have to wait for the poor soul that has to walk your food out to you when it isn't quite prepared. And here, in this spot…I wept.

Yep, I wept.

Because sometimes, I've found, as a mother, you have to climb into your car, see where it takes you, and just…weep.

It isn't important why you're crying - in fact, most of the time you don't understand it at all. And of course you'll feel guilty about doing it, but that's just another party of Mommydom one chooses to accept as a badge of honor. But what is important is that you let yourself do it. Lock yourself in the bathroom, go on a girls' weekend, crawl under the covers, close your office door and just…weep.

Then, pick yourself up and do it all again. And cherish every moment. Because, like the drive thru, these experiences are quick, delightful and made to order just for your destiny. And you don't get them back. Not the good ones or the tough ones. So when you placed this order to have a kiddo - they all count. And you relish every bit of parentdom. Because, unlike the convenience of the actual fast food industry, I don't want to drive through life without genuinely experiencing each magical moment.

Because there is nothing like it. Not even the McDonald's hot fries dipped in a delicious chocolate shake.

Though they come very, very close...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Makin' a List


And believe me, my friend, I've checked it twice. Twice a week, most likely. Because I totally have issues and love things. I can't help it. I, Megan Choate, love things. And I know exactly what those things are.

Which is why no one ever deviates from the list.

Unless you're a professional (core group of girlfriends, and most of the time, Mom). And no, not my husband…

So here's what it's looking like this year so far:

1. Black sparkly TOMS
2. La Plates monogrammed handbag in camel (based on Style Scout's recommendation)
3. Sebon face and body products (because I'm just starting to look and feel old and these are delicious)
4. Money toward swimming lessons or Kindermusik for the little guy
5. Anything from Nordstrom
6. Anything made with sentiment or love or focused on Mommydom
7. New iPhone cover (because I've finally tired of pink)
8. "Take a Break" care - massage, mani, pedi, facial, etc.
9. Jewels (I admit I caved to the Borsheims sales gal, who in turn emailed my husband a ridiculously expensive image that he scoffed at - but hey, ya gotta think big)
10. Dishwasher

And to be completely transparent, we've already scored the new Apple desktop. It's heavenly. And yes, we are completely spoiled inside and out. And no, this isn't at all what the holidays are about. But this post is, so let's just leave as indulgent for now, shall we?

And do share: what's on your list this year?

Santa Baby


Anyone that has a toddler knows that 98% of the time, things generally do not go as planned. In this case, the little guy had been sick for several days, while Mommy caught the brunt of it last night and this morning. Not to mention he's totally off his schedule, teething and is nearing the green stage of a recovering black eye. But none of this kept us from visiting Santa. Ok, that and we all know my affinity (read: obsession) with planning and the need to leave the house daily. So off to the North Pole it was for us.

I'm pretty sure Santa forgave the shiner, granted Lawson all of his well wishes for the world (because he's so not asking for toys, I just know it. Ok - maybe 150 books because the boy is obsessed.) All in all, it was a fine time with jolly ol' Saint Nick. The very same one that at just three months old, the babe slept through and almost slipped through Santa's slippery white gloves. Yeah - I go back to that whole don't plan on things going as you anticipate thing to recover from these things…

And bonus: I witnessed a darling little girl dressed to the nines greet Santa in a way similar to Cindy Lou in the Grinch. Precious. And she called Lawson "pretty cute" and turned beet red. I love her already.

So yeah, despite any minor setbacks, this Santa visit was a success. A+, Santa. A+....

Download image here (because I don't have the patience to work with their zip files!) - this was our fav of three images. Enjoy!

Inspired


"Soooo - let me see that sparkler!" I shout between squeals, welcoming my soon to be sister-in-law into the warmth of our home, overwhelmed with joy that she would soon become even more a part of our family than she already is. Minutes later we are flipping through iPhone photos, giggling and chatting about all the amazing details (none of which I will reveal here as a bridesmaid never tells before the big day, which, by the way is October 15 in beautiful Atlanta, Georgia). But, what I will tell you is that it is going to be….

Amazing. Customized. One-of-a-kind. Created with love. Intriguing. Meaningful. Gorgeous. So them. Fabulous. Timeless. And oh so much fun. She makes me want to do it all over again. With Mike, of course!

And our little family is honored to be a part of it all - Mike as Best Man, Lawson as ring bearer and me as a bridesmaid. All bets are off if the little man actually makes it down the aisle, but we sure are excited to see him in his special get up for the day!

And speaking of special - I cannot be more excited to welcome Miss Erica into our family (officially!) As we celebrated their engagement at Jasper's on 103rd, I gave a little toast that celebrated the planning period and touted how they should enjoy it and have fun. What I SHOULD of said was how delighted I am to have someone like her in my life, so full of grace, love, sincerity, kindness, wisdom and peace. I could talk for hours about how I appreciate her accepting me for me, for loving my little brother for who he is and for always being there, whether it's a handbag decision or a true rough patch I'm enduring in life. How I admire her style, her heart of gold, her love for family and how I think she makes the six that sit close to my heart even better just by having her around. She's the sister every girl dreams of, and I gotta admit, it's especially fun during all this wedding planning! With her impeccable taste, willingness to involve others and the authenticity by which she lives her life. I picture us years from now, inseparable and having the type of sisterhood that can only be created in these types of bonds.

So where does this creative thing get her inspiration? All over - but if I had to peg, it would be www.greenweddingshoes.com. She's doing most of the handy work on her own, imitating that Anthropologie type feel, infused with the love she and my bro share. You'll just have to wait and see, but trust me when I say it's going to be an event worthy of a magazine spread. Even their engagement photos schedule for January are one of a kind - think runways, trains and vintage cars, all cast with their characters adorned in timeless wear. Wow!

So thank you, sis to be, for your inspiration not only found in our friendship, but in this fun wedding ahead! It's going to be simply.amazing.

And for once, I won't have to laugh at the line in "27 Dresses" where she says "so true" to wearing the attire again…because with you, it's true!

Looking forward to many more months of creative planning and late night phone calls. After all, what are sisters for?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mommy May I?

As many of you shopaholics know, adding a baby into your own family or a close friends provides the perfect outlet to expand your habits beyond shoes, handbags and jewels to shop for the wee ones. And this opens a whole new door, including toys, teensy outfits, itty bitty shoes, gear, food, decor and so much more. And it gives our addictive nature the false sense you're doing it for someone else. So really, it's the perfect marriage!

In addition, another door opens (it's more like a bright, glaring window) that allows you (or in some of our cases "forces us") to venture into shopping for Mommy. Here's what's on my Mommy hot list right now:

1. The "Stinky Bum" bag from Momma Coutoure: a diaper wristlet of just the perfect size, it's available in the hot colors of bronze and gun metal and easily attaches to any of your gear or can be tossed in your tote. In addition, in tiny letters, it says "Stinky Bum" and "Momma Coutoure" on either side, complete with pleats and washable, Kate Spade like fabric. It's so London. So chic. And mildly inappropriate. Love. I snatched one up in silver for myself from the "Kooky" boutique in Chicago and plan to wrap it under the tree just for me. We'll see if it makes it. It's perfect for Moms who's kids are getting just a wee bit older and are outgrowing the large diaper bag stage.

2. "Mom's One Line a Day" Journal: for Mom's on the go that want to cherish every minute! A five-year memory book that includes five lines for each day to write down the precious moments, like a quote, milestone, thought, or special event. Plus, it's pink for Mom! So great because so many resources diminish for memory capturing after their first year, and that's only getting started on all the magic they provide, day after day!

3. Sophie's friend: made by the French company Vulli, it's the perfect addition or replacement for Sophie the giraffe…or it lets you be just a little bit different as Sophie is becoming main stream. Made of the same material, it looks like a little smiley, alien-like critter with all the right teething components.

4. Storytelling flash cards: though it's made for ages 3 and up, it never hurts to get your little one's imagination flowing by holding up a colorful image and working together to create story around it. Affordable, unique and innovative, plus works on their development? Yes, please!

5. Snack Happened Reusable Snack Bags: zips, water-resistant, washable, green and award winning - a darling way to tote around those snacks. Comes in all sorts of patterns and are a great size to toss in your diaper clutch or purse. My Mommy friends can probably bank on one being under their tree this year!

6. Toddler Bistro Box: because it's just hard to feed a kid. Especially when you don't like to cook or know what eggplant really looks like at the store. Quick flashcards with easy-to-prepare recipes that include all the right nutritional components and a diverse taste for their ever-growing palate.

7. Pregnancy and New Baby Journal: because we, as Moms, never get tired of asking the question: "is my child 'normal'?" or curious about where we stand with milestones or whether we're doing anything right. A day by day look at your child's development by age - perfect for newly pregnant and new Moms.

8. The pirate tooth box: for the little boy in your life…a tooth box you can create a whole story around as it's captured in a black pirate chest, marked as such and tied with chains. A unique take on the concept and so boy!

9. Thinsulate's Bear Paws mittens: roasty toasty mittens shaped like bear paws so your kiddos will love how their fingers feel and look, while keeping them protected from snow and ice. Plus, you don't have to try and put their little fingers in the holes - an impossible task!

10. Any item of clothing from GAP Kids or Old Navy: affordable, timeless, a little trendy and makes your son look like a little man, and your daughter the most darling on the street. Can't go wrong here!

Every time I hit the stores or online, there's something new. And I heart it all.

After all, don't our little ones deserve all the best?

Ok, ok - as the Beatles said, all they need is love. But it sure is fun to shop for them a little on the side too...