Saturday, April 28, 2012

Color: To Market

It is easy to come home from travels and unfairly measure our city against all that I love about where I've been. I wish we had street vendors, independent coffee shops on every corner, brownstones with blue front doors and potted flowers on entryway steps. How fantastic it would be to have ships in the harbor, historic monuments, more Greek restaurants and old down town cobblestone streets.

But we have the ocean. And I love the ocean.

And we have all the places to love...right here.

Yesterday, we returned to one of Lainey's favorite places--a fruit and vegetable market just a couple miles away.

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It is an event to her; we have a routine. She picks out everything on her own, bags the fruit herself, remembers to get jalepenos and avacados--Brett's favorites, samples the watermelon, and pays the clerk with the twenty dollar bill I hand her.

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We eat our fruit out front--on the green bench under the big tree, and we end our market experience with a walk to the small nursery that hugs the side of the produce mart. I let the girls loose through rows of jewel toned petunias, potted daisies and a sea of geraniums.

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I remind Lainey every time that the bees aren't out to get her--that calmly shooing them away is a better choice than screaming and running.

We drive by that market almost every day. Lainey never hesitates to announce, "That's our market." To her, it belongs to us.

I love the brilliant colors of the market. I love the things that make our town what it is...ours and a place to love.

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We brought a little color home, too.

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Friday Photo Dump:

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Friday Phone Dump photos are taken on the Instagram iPhone app (free) and dropped into a 12x12 collage using a photo editing software (Photoshop Elements works). I am @etst (enjoying the small things) on Instagram if you want to follow the feed.



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Darlybird $50 giveaway winners:

Comment #546, Kelly Jo: 5 things I'm enjoying: 1. My 9 month old baby boy, 2. Finalizing wedding plans, 3. 70 degree weather in Minnesota, 4. Caribou Coffee, 5. Bloom

and...

Comment #186, Tonya: Enjoying...1. Cool morning breezes, 2. Baby's breath, 3. My daughter's eyelashes, 4. A few minutes to myself, 5. Clean towels

Congratulations, Ladies! Please e-mail your contact info to kellehamptonblog@comcast.net with the subject line DARLYBIRD GIVEAWAY.


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Sharing my love for my new sunglasses after the many jokes I've made about buying cheap sunglasses, losing them, breaking them, leaving $5 stickers on the lenses. Thanks to my friend Patty who hooked me up with her talented sister Kara of KBL Eyewear, I now sport a fabulous pair of Now Now Now Vintage tortoise shells. I'm hooked.

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KBL Eyewear, featured in numerous fashion magazines, is an independent company, offering both Rx and sunglass frames in a wicked selection of styles and colors.

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KBL is offering a generous discount for readers. Use code KELLE20 for 20% off your order. And one comment will be randomly selected from this post to win a free pair of sunglasses, courtesy of KBL Eyewear.

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There's still plenty of weekend to enjoy!

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hallmark: Words Preserved

This post is another Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea--that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.


Upon our arrival from Baltimore Monday evening, we walked in the house to find a (surprisingly) spotless kitchen and a stack of mail on the counter, the bills and coupons and car wash ads of which Brett had thankfully already weeded out. Hidden between a couple packages and my favorite catalogues was an envelope with Lainey’s name printed on it.

“Oh Lainey, it looks like you have mail!” I announced. And just like her mail-loving mama, my girl came running, her shy smile enhanced with a sideways tongue that curls up and around her top lip when she’s extra enthused.

She tore open the envelope herself, shooing away helping hands and pulling the enclosed card to her chest in a moment of sole possession—“It’s mine, not yours” clearly evident from her grip. She pulled it away long enough to notice a photo of her friend Sammy printed on the front of the card. Her smile stretched even further. Without even having to read the card, she knew what it was.

“It’s Sammy’s birthday,” she informed me. “I think I’m invited to her party.” More shy smile. More tongue.

She insisted I call Sammy’s mom right that second and tell her yes, Lainey was coming; Lainey couldn’t wait. And for the rest of the night she carried that card, propping it up within eye contact while she played and transferring it with her when she moved from room to room.

To Lainey, it was personal. Her own mail, a token of friendship she could hold, she could touch, she could pull out whenever she wanted to be reminded that she had good friends and a party on the horizon. If she’s lucky, that card is one of many that will follow over the years.

Tonight Sammy’s birthday invitation is tucked into a Minnetonka shoe box—Lainey’s own little Ark of the Covenant protecting her most precious things. Like sparkly lip gloss, a homemade pipe cleaner necklace, an old Gap credit card and a wrinkled dollar bill.

And it got me thinking, we’ve all acquired letters and cards we’ve saved over the years--things we couldn’t throw away because maybe they made us feel so good when we first read them that we knew we’d want to repeat that emotional swell. Or maybe we were hanging on to a time we knew was fleeting—like first birthday cards that preserve our babies’ memorable celebrations or handwritten notes from grandmas whose legacies strengthen once they are gone. Either way, the gift of written word is both permanent and renewable. The cards and notes and e-mails I’ve saved over the years are hardly one hit wonders. They are timeless—some reread on occasion when I need a hit of confidence or motivation, and some saved simply to become relics in the Family Hall of Fame. I envision a night not so far away when I pull out the old boxes of pictures and cards and letters on worn paper. I’ll spread them out on my bed and invite my girls to come sit while I tell them about why I saved each one. It will be one of those Marmee-and-her-Little-Women moments I look forward to except the 2020 version when things are delightfully more imperfect. Like maybe I won't be wearing a petticoat.

So, what’s in my box?

Today I pulled out a few old boxes--one of which, I’m sorry to say, is titled “Box ‘o Love,” its contents ranging from pictures of the early days of dating to love letters and anniversary cards Brett and I have traded over the years. I’m even more sorry to say there are embarrassing quotes scribbled all over its surface—including both Elizabeth Barrett Browning and---Oh God, cringe, here it comes…Olivia Newton John.

I had forgotten all that I had saved. I’ve never been so proud to be a hoarder.

Lainey's First Birthday Card

Her very first card. It came a week before her birthday when our friends and neighbors, Matt and Dede, were so excited to give her her new rocking horse that they brought it over a week before the big day to watch her open it. It came with the perfect card--because Dede always finds the perfect cards--and I remember making note that it was the very first birthday card my girl had ever received and should be saved.

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Student Teaching Card
A young girl named Abby gave me a card my last day of student teaching. I cried reading it because Abby wasn't one to speak up about feelings, and I had underestimated the impact a short teaching experience could make in one child's life. It reminds me to be aware of my potential to positively affect others.

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Letters for the Future
I started writing these when Lainey was about four months old. They are sealed in envelopes printed with different occassions with which they will be presented. The seal is not to be broken until it's read by my daughter. I figure some day when she's really mad at me, a different perspective might help iron out our problems--the perspective, of say, a mama smitten with her baby, telling the future girl inside that mamas make mistakes sometimes.

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Nella's Wishes
I couldn't read them for a while after she was born. There's a whole stack of them--wishes and love to our sweet girl, all written by friends who attended my baby shower when Nella was still somersaulting behind the tight skin of my middle. On the back of each card is a different photo of my pregnant belly--and scribbled on the front are cherished words from friends who awaited her arrival. I can't wait to read them to her someday--to tell her just how much she was anticipated; how much she was loved before she even made her big debut.

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My Index Card
Brett is a man of very few words when it comes to cards which nicely balances my need to fully express. He relies on Hallmark writers, marking a very special occassion when he adds more than one line to the pre-printed sentiments of holiday cards. So it was indeed something special when, after one year of marriage and a baby, I found an index card--nothing fancy--lying on my night stand one morning, with several sentences--all of them heartfelt, none of them forgotten. I love that card. I love that it is simple. I love that it is now bent at the corners and worn in the middle--I've read it many times. There's no photo of it because it's ours and it is precious, and some things Marmee likes to keep for just her little women.

There are many more words I've preserved in places where I can read them again--e-mails and quotes that are filed away in folders for bad days and needed confidence boosts. As many times as I've enjoyed them and refueled, I am reminded I too have the ability to make someone's day--to send an e-mail or a card that just might be read again. That might be saved in a moccassin box next to lipgloss and a wrinkled dollar bill.

Do you have any letters or cards you've saved? What correspondence from your past still motivates and reassures you today? Hallmark and I would love to hear your stories. In your comment, please share how others' words have helped make your life a special occasion.

To see other Hallmark posts on this blog, click HERE.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Enjoying the Small Things

I had a post of substance planned, compiled from a string of good thinking. But I pulled it out of my mind oven tonight, stuck a toothpick in it, and it came up gooey and unfinished. So it's going back in to bake a bit more.  Thankfully, the freezer is always full of Enjoying the Small Things for back-up plans. (p.s.: analogies are my oxygen)

Dinner is served: Enjoying the Small Things.

Aloha.  With three weeks to go (I kind of just realized that), Lainey finally chose her fifth birthday party theme.  Spa Night and Puppy Vet were also in the running, but she was digging the hibiscus, so she went with a luau--or as she calls it, "a hula party."  And today we learned Sister has mad hula skills.  There were snakey arm movements.  Shakira hip action.  Little fingers waving to the steel drum beat. Brett was stunned. "Where the hell did she learn that?" he asked.

I said "Dora" because she seemed like a good answer.

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I am back in party mode, and, well--that just makes me happy.

Cold Surprise.  Our April nights have been worthy of open doors and sweatshirts and socks on the babies' feet at night. We hold tight these rare crisp evenings and enjoy them while they linger as they will soon be gone.  A hat in late April in South Florida--not too many times we've been able to pull that off.


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Caught in the Act.   Sister's favorite little "naughty." 

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She Runs. So fast, I have to run to catch her sometimes.  For the most part, she knows that when she hits the sidewalk line in our driveway, she has to turn and that walking toward the street is danger.  If she pushes the limits, Brett says, "Nella, do you want to go inside?"  And that's the worst consequence possible to a free-spirited, side-walk conquering sister.  So she turns around and listens.

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Sometimes running fast makes her blow out a sandal and she falls.  That happens to her mom on occassion too.

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Tree Climbing.  Without any help now, she can make it to the second tier branches on the tree in our front yard.  She's very proud of this fact.

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The Golden Hour.  Nella wakes up first every morning, announcing her welcoming of the day with laughter from her crib, a few side railing shakes and, if all else fails, the uttering of random words--anything that comes to mind.  Sometimes it's appropriate, like "Hi" or "Mama."  Sometimes it's hilarious, like "Walk" or "Ho Cow" (holy cow).

That hour is ours.  Sacred and sweet and quiet.  There's coffee for me, cereal for her. 

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She is so happy learning new things.

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And I am so happy witnessing both my girls practice the balance of testing limits, crossing lines, exploring what's beyond the boundary and yet still wanting to stay close, be protected, get a hug.

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I'd like to add that this post took twice as long as usual because of Blogger's new post layout and the fisticuff I just had with HTML.

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With that said, guess who's back? My true love, sponsor Darlybird--delivering happiness to the world in the form of must-have products for home, wardrobe, baby, mama, party, etc. Or, as they put it, "Darlybird is all about gotta-have non-essentials...We specialize in a definite hodge-podge of the hard-to-find, one-of-a-kind and well-designed: jewelry, baby and kid products, gifts, entertaining essentials, and stuff that makes life both easier and more visually stimulating." Did I mention Darlybird is impressively affordable? My new favorites:

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Left: Flower Vignette Earrings; Right: Pacific Opal Filagree Earrings

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Left on Nella: Vintage Be Brave Bow

And I am in love with my new Owl Fabric Wall Hanging.  Dude, it's only $18.

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Left: Vintage Embroidered Trim (only $2 a yard!) , Right: I Never Forget a Face Matching Game (a fantastic game that introduces diversity; plus the cards are thick and durable)

Use Code BLOOM and you get two things: 10% discount off your purchase PLUS Darlybird will match that 10% and donate it to Nella's Rockstars for the NDSS

In addition, TWO comments from this post will be randomly selected to win a $50 gift certificate, courtesy of Darlybird.  Tell me five things you are enjoying right now.

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BLOOM updates:  Thank you for continuing to share the book.  We've made NYT Best Seller List three weeks in a row now, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the e-mails and stories (and pictures of you and your books) you've shared about how Bloom has mirrored your own challenges and triumphs in life.  We all face the unexpected at times.  We all have opportunities to make something good of it. 

I will be in Michigan for book signings in Macomb Twp and Monroe the weekend of June 8-10.  I will continue to update any events here on the blog and through Facebook.

I'll be back on Thursday evening for a Hallmark post.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Home

I write from the kitchen tonight--a make-shift office erected at the island counter where I can feel the unseasonably cool air seep in from the back doors and I can hear the rhythm of crickets that has replaced Pandora for the moment. It is late and the rest of the house sleeps--the girls finally tucked into familiar beds, though they adapted quite well to the temporary ones we enjoyed for the last four nights.
I hesitated on deciding the participants for this last trip, almost making it a quick solo trip, but so grateful it ended up involving both girls.
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They acted as experienced travelers today, contentedly entertained with puke-bags-turned-puppets and pretzel snack refills.

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Thanks to the lovely Perlin family, we did Baltimore the way it's supposed to be done. All the way.

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Our favorites this weekend:

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The White House Garden Tour.

More specifically...

The many combinations of White House photos possible during the garden tour: White House blurred out to the right, White House in the foreground, White House in the background, child flying next to the White House, family in front of the White House, couple with one child in front of the White House, couple with two children in front of the White House...you get it.  Hey, we weren't the only ones.

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There was this not-really-a-Secret-Service-agent-but-wants-to-be-one-someday chick directing everyone to PLEASE KEEP WALKING because the hold-up to take pictures was causing some major traffic jams. In one particular area where everyone was clogging up pedestrian lanes, she promised that if we'd just keep walking, there was a much better place to take pictures ahead where--and I quote--"the White House will look much more centered in your photos." We laughed and concluded she was totally lying and certainly just saying that to clear us out. So we kept taking pictures like true rule-breaking badasses. A little further down the path, a beautiful clearing with breath-taking White House views opened up. I hate when not-really-Secret-Service-agents are right.

The "new clearing" photo:

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I will also tell you--just for added information--that there are little grass guards separating the visitor paved path from the White House lawn. Do not cross your foot onto the grass.  Do not make jokes about crossing your foot onto the grass.  Do not accidentally fall onto the grass.  Just stay away from the grass.

More things we love about Baltimore/D.C.:

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Street Carts, Food Trucks, Ice Cream Stands

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Washington Monument

One of my favorite parts of the trip.  We slipped our shoes off, unleashed our kids, and I had the pleasure of watching my girls reunite with northern dandelions.  Nella knew to blow their wispy seeds.  It's instinctive, I guess.

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Mrs. Napkin Head at a "fancy restaurant" in D.C.

(so fancy in fact that when we asked if they had grilled cheese, the fancy waiter said "Oh, it's very fancy." And upon invitation to elaborate what's in the grilled cheese, he simply reiterated, "but it's very fancy. It's a fancy grilled cheese.")

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Well I'm a fancy Napkin Head.  There was also a fancy plastic toothpick grilled into my burger, so it was free. Fancy and free.

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Rainy Baltimore Sunday

I have decided one day of far-away adventure should include rain.  It gives you an excuse to relax, to explore less touristy destinations, to discover the coziness any given city offers.

We escaped into the theater to watch Chimpanzee with the kids on a rainy Sunday afternoon. 
A: I liked it.  B: I want a baby chimp.  C:  If you are the theater employee who cleaned the fifth row back in Theater 9...I'm so sorry. 

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Baltimore Crab Dinner

I actually thought I had a one-up on Baltimore here. I mean, I live in Seafoodville. But you ain't had crab until you've had Baltimore crab. Drenched in delicious Old Bay seasoning, Baltimore crab is an experience. It's dumped onto paper-covered tables and soon overtaken by the ones who know the game which, I learned, is enhanced with cold beer, a wooden mallot and plenty of Wet Wipes.

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Two crabs in, and I was a pro, sucking sticky Old Bay off my fingers and making my way through the shell to the best meat.

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I've been sworn in, the event made official by the nicest Bawlmers whose company made our dinner a lively and enjoyable occasion.

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I am so thrilled with opportunities to introduce more of the world to my girls and happy to return home where we belong. 

Thank you to the Perlins and to all the wonderful people in Baltimore who welcomed us and showed love to my girls.  What character your city holds! 

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Last week's Friday Photo Dump:

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Friday Phone Dump photos are taken on the Instagram iPhone app (free) and dropped into a 12x12 collage using a photo editing software (Photoshop Elements works). I am @etst (enjoying the small things) on Instagram if you want to follow the feed.

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Last week's Giveaway Winner for the $75 Melody Joy Shop Gift Certificate is Comment #386, Ali: 

I am halfway done with Bloom :).... and if it werent for the laundry and my sweet newborn that wants to eat every 20 min, I would be finished! I also want new jammies now. Thank you for reminding me that the mom I am now to my girls, will be resembled in the teenage years. I forget the reflection I create. It was a simple, but forgotten thought. Thank you. Ali


Congratulations, Ali! Please send your contact info to kellehamptonblog@comcast.net with MELODY JOY GIVEAWAY in the subject line--perfect timing for some birds nest jewelry Mother's Day gifts.

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Nella Designs is returning to sponsor this month, expanding their collection of beautiful silhouette wall prints and stationery to include custom jewelry.  Our wall prints have been transformed into a unique pendant of my girls. Another hit on Instagram--I promised I'd share details. 

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Check out Nella Designs' many perfect Mother's Day gifts, and maybe conveniently leave your computer screen up to drop some hints. Silhouette pendants can be made from photos of couples, kids, families, pets and more.

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Chevron Silver Cuff Bracelet

Use Code SPRING for 10% off your Nella Designs order.

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We are happy to be home!

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