summer vegetable chicken sausage pasta

It’s funny how so many good things in life start out as accidents. Funny how making the best of a situation can sometimes turn out to be literally the best.

In New York, I made the best of a lot of things. I made the best of tiny apartments, struggling to turn a cramped 500 square feet into a home for my family. Today, I make the best of busy schedules, working to prioritize the things that matter, the things that I truly believe will bring my family happiness. Sometimes that means giving up leisurely mornings in favor of spending more time focusing on spiritual pursuits, and sometimes that means overlooking the dishes or laundry for an hour spent in the backyard picking petals and pushing a wiggly toddler in the swing.

But in all of those cases, what I end up with, be it a safe, comfortable home, the satisfaction of giving my best to God, or the joy of watching my adventurous little baby become a brave, thriving person, is just about always the best thing I could imagine.

You know what else I like making the best of? Dinner.

What? A deep blog post can’t also left-field into a tasty recipe?

Recently, I was running low on provisions and whipped up this pasta dish on the fly. It has since become a steady part of my dinner rotation.

I was going to call it “What I Have in the Crisper That’s About to Spoil Recipe,” but turns out that sucks for SEO, so instead…

Summer Vegetable and Chicken Sausage Pasta

3 cups pasta of your choice
4 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium to large zucchini, cut into quarters
Two fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 package garlic chicken sausage, cut into rounds
1 T fresh oregano, minced
1 T fresh basil, minced
2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup mozzarella cut into quarter-inch chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium. Once hot, add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about two minutes.
2. Add zucchini and cook until starts to golden brown, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Boil pot of water and cook pasta following instructions on the box. Drain.
4. While pasta cooks, add tomatoes to skillet. Season with herbs and salt and pepper.
5. In a separate small skillet, brown sausage rounds. Once cooked, remove from heat and add to zucchini mixture.
6. Add pasta to skillet with mozzarella chunks. Stir to combine ingredients.

Enjoy!

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Kicking off the second post of BEAUTY WEEK, I’m sharing a tutorial that I use every week: how to create messy waves.

This look is similar to my Disney Princess Curls. but the big difference is that, while the princess curls are all about perfection, the messy curls are, well, messier. The idea is to strive for a touchable, imperfect look that almost looks like it’s just how your hair naturally falls.

I’ve embedded the video below, but here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. DO start with clean, dry hair. I recommend air-drying before styling so you can take advantage of any natural wave your hair already has.
  2. DON’T curl the ends. If you’re a perfectionist like me, this will be a challenge, but trust me, this is key.
  3. DO play around with it. I curl all of my hair the same direction (away from my face), but feel free to mix it up. And literally play with it too–mess up the curls with your hands throughout the day to keep the volume.
  4. DON’T use a heavy hand with products. I use three main products to create/hold this style, but only a little bit of each one to prevent the look from getting weighed down.

That’s it! Enjoy the tutorial (sorry for my awkward faces), and feel free to leave questions in a comment below!

And, obvious side note: I am SO not a videographer (or even a video blogger!), so don’t mock my terrible video quality/editing. It is what it is, folks.

lipsense

Since moving, I won’t lie to you, I’ve been struggling to get a more official “schedule” worked out. Part of the problem has been that our schedule hasn’t been real until this week—Joey just wrapped up training at work, so now he begins his four-days-a-week routine. Part of it has just been that moving is time-consuming, but now we’re also pretty much done getting settled and can stop making Lowes runs every other day.

Anyway, as you can tell, it has squashed any extra brain power I have for creative outlets. Like, I don’t know, writing for fun. AKA, updating this sad little blog ever.

But, despite what my publishing log would tell you, I still like writing, so I’m going to do my darndest to get back into the swing of things.

So, I thought to myself, what would be a fun way to kick things off?

A THEME WEEK!

Specifically, a theme week around that queen of frivolity, beauty. For today’s inaugural post, how about a little review/experiment?

If you have any friends on Facebook, odds are one of them has probably tried to talk to you about Lipsense at some point. I knew a few of my gal pals were working for the company selling this lipstick that claims to stick around for up to 18 hours (!!), but I had honestly shied away from trying it because, well, it felt kind of gimmicky and it was hard to believe that there wasn’t anything dangerous or super chemically in the mix. (I mean, EIGHTEEN HOURS? What is IN this stuff?)

There is also a lot of conflicting information on the Internet as to the safety, with a lot of people citing weird reactions, from intense tingling or burning after applying to serious dryness and flaking days after wearing it.

But, then again, there are also thousands of people out there saying it’s the greatest thing ever, never smudges off, and makes staying put-together all day a breeze.

So when a pal who sells it reached out to me about writing a review, I’ll admit I was more curious than anything. Here’s what I thought:

How it works:

First things first, you can’t apply Lipsense like any liquid lipstick. The directions recommend exfoliating your lips first and then cleaning them with a swipe of rubbing alcohol. (Confession: I skipped the alcohol step.) Then you brush the color on (only one direction, not back and forth) in three thin layers, allowing the color to dry ten seconds between layers. It feels weird (the color itself is SUPER sticky until you apply the gloss) and tingles a bit, but I didn’t experience any of the painful burning that some people described online. The smell is pretty chemically if you pay attention, but I must have been pretty caught up in the application because I really didn’t notice it. And once you apply the gloss, it feels totally normal and all stickiness/smell goes away.

Note: Apply sparingly until you get the hang of it. Not surprisingly, it’s pretty difficult to remove, so fixing smudges can be a little challenging.

After I applied, I proceeded to wear it for the rest of the day. Seriously. No smudges, hardly any fading. I didn’t even apply the gloss all that often (though it’s recommended that you do, especially before and after eating, for best results). By the very end of the day, I probably could have used a reapply, but I was home so it was like, eh?

The trickiest part for me came when I actually wanted to take the stuff off. It’s seriously difficult, even using the remover. Ultimately, I had to use a bit of skin oil and exfoliate again to get it all off.

Post-use, some people online say they had a lot of flaking and dryness on their lips, but I didn’t have any negative experiences. Like most products, I suspect that some things agree with some people’s skin chemistry, and other things don’t. (I’m not a scientist, though, so don’t hold me to that.)

What’s in it?

As far as ingredients, the product itself is vegan and cruelty-free (bonus), but there is some back and forth on the internet about whether or not the ingredients are really “safe”. You can get a full ingredient list here.

As far as my layman’s opinion, while I couldn’t see wearing it every single day (though maybe if I had a lighter, more natural color — I’m just not a daily lipstick kind of gal), I would definitely break this out for a wedding or other special occasion where I wanted to go the whole day without worrying about my makeup. Or, you know, for wearing bright red. Because you want that stuff to stay put.

Want to learn more about Lipsense or try it yourself? My friend Jennifer has a Facebook group you can join to ask questions or shop — plus, she’s super nice and willing to help!

Has anyone else tried Lipsense? What was your experience? Is there another long-wearing lipstick you liked better?

*Lipsense products provided to me for review. Opinions my own.

Technically, I’m not sure if it’s a true regression or just remnants of a toddler not fully adjusted since our move. Moves throw off routine and structure (two of toddlers’ favorite things, despite what they’ll tell you), and sleep is usually one of the first things to suffer.

But the point is, while Vivi started going to bed like normal just two days after we moved, she has progressively been waking up about ten minutes earlier every day.

Today, it came to a head when she started calling me at 5:44 a.m.

It was clear: We needed a sleep training refresher.

If you’ve spent more than four seconds talking parenthood with me, you know I’m a huge proponent of sleep training. It has worked wonders for us since Vivi was about two-and-a-half months old, and I’ve never looked back.

There have been times like this in the past (real sleep regressions as a result of development), so I know we can get back on a good schedule, but I also know the re-“training” only gets harder as Vivi gets older.

And dang if she doesn’t know how to work it.

Because, here’s the thing: It’s really hard to make the informed, adult decision at 5:44 a.m.

You’re asking a progressively sleep-deprived brain to choose “lie awake and listen to angry baby” instead of “get baby and doze in my bed together.” I imagine my brain as a dumb ogre swatting away rational thought and just reaching for the easiest option that ends in more sleep.

Not to mention the fact that listening to your kid cry just sucks. And makes time seem to stand still. You’ll close your eyes for what feels like ten minutes of screaming and then look st the clock to realize it has been 45 seconds. Awesome.

But because I really don’t want to be woken up tomorrow (and every day for the next year) and 5:30 a.m. or 4:00 a.m., I tell myself to be strong and write a blog post to distract myself.

Because she’s not waking up because she’s fully rested. (I’m literally writing this while she yells, “Dada!! Take nap!!!!”, which means she wants him to come get her so they can go take a nap. Insanity.) She wakes up tired and angry she’s still tired, and she needs to re-learn to go back to sleep when she feels that way.

But that doesn’t mean the learning process doesn’t suck a lot.

Any other sleep regression trenches stories out there people want to share?

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I really thought moving would give me a lot more to talk about on this little blog. And, well, it probably has. But I’ve also found that I’ve become so busy with getting settled (on top of my already packed schedule of mom-ing, pioneering, working, et al., I rarely have time to sit and work my thoughts into something coherent.

But this morning, Vivi woke up extra early (yayyyyy…) so I was able to knock out breakfast, a workout, and cleaning the kitchen to settle in for our daily viewing of Zootopia and work on a post from my phone. I’m also waiting for a box spring to be delivered, so it’s not like I can run any errands anyway.

Captive blogger syndrome! Great for creativity! Who knew?!

Anyway.

I realized I had been I intentionally cagey about our recent move when a few people remarked to me that they were so curious where we had ended up.

So today, I’m throwing back the curtain: We’re officially Virginia residents. We live in a small town about an hour and a half outside D.C.

And when I say “small,” I mean it.

I’ve lived in smaller cities before. I’ve even lived in small suburbs outside smaller cities. But this is the smallest town I’ve ever lived in.

For the record, I love it almost all the time. I was mentally prepared and oh-so-ready to leave the big city and relax in a slower-paced lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean small town living doesn’t come with its share of challenges.

Con #1: They’re serious about that slower pace thing.

In NYC, you could decide you wanted to redecorate your bathroom and have a contractor over within 24 hours and your new towels shipping from Jet.com that afternoon. Here, I’ve spent three weeks trying to find a handyman willing to make the 20-minute trip to come paint my staircase. And if he wakes up the morning of our appointment not feeling 100 percent? He’s not coming after all. Sorry not sorry.

Pro #1: But people are so. nice.

The checkout ladies chit chat, the town hall clerk calls me “hon,” and the guy delivering my dining table compliments our floors about four times. In short, people move a little slower, it they also use that time to treat you like an actual person.

Con #2: Not everything is quite so convenient.

We’re currently in the market for a second car because very little is walkable around here. My friend lives less than a mile away, and the only way to walk to her is to skirt a major road without any sidewalks. If I want to go to Target, Lowes, or a major grocery chain, I’m looking at a 20- to 30-minute car ride. I can still get most of what I can’t drive to delivered, but I have noticed it typically takes about a day longer than it used to. To switch our water bill into our name, I had to GO to the town water building in person and I couldn’t pay the deposit with a debit card. So I had to walk a block to a nearby bank, but the only ATM was outside in the drive-through. So I had to wait in line with a car, in the 90-degree heat, and then walk back to the town building to get my hand-written receipt. So, yeah.

Pro #2: Convenience is relative.

Life in NY is “convenient.” Meanings, yes, a million things are geographically nearby, but getting to them (let alone enjoying them) is a never-ending struggle. I couldn’t do laundry without strapping a baby on my back and lugging my dirty clothes a block away in a cart. I couldn’t get my hair done without a 30-minute train ride and walking half a mile. If we drove anywhere, we had to factor in up to an hour of time to find parking. Here, I may have to go farther, but there’s rarely traffic and there’s always parking.

Pro #3: More SPACE.

We’re renting the sweetest little townhouse, and I’m totally in love with it. Besides the natural light and extra bedroom for guests, we also have three bathrooms, a basement for storage, and a laundry closet. Basically I feel like a princess. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our two glorious parking spots right outside.

Con #3: …actually, I’m tapped out.

Okay, okay, I know it’s not actually perfect here. But I was so burnt out on city life, it’s hard not to get a little *heart eyes* when I look around the gorgeous landscape I live in now. Because, yeah, there’s actually a landscape here. And it’s pretty stunning.

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Will I tire of small town living? I really don’t know. For now, though, I’m soaking up the smallness.

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Not surprisingly, motherhood is packed with an assortment of learning experiences. You learn that you can function on roughly twenty minutes of sleep. You learn that actually, no, four diapers is not enough to pack for your first long outing with an infant.

You learn enough about this tiny new human in your life to fill several books.

But you learn a lot about yourself, too. Sometimes it’s great. (“Hey! I am pretty good at X!”) Sometimes it’s not.

Recently, I learned that I am incredibly uncomfortable with failure.

I don’t feel like that sentence adequately describes the emotional turmoil I experienced when I had this revelation. Let me back up.

A couple of weeks ago, we attempted potty training. Yes, I heard from all the people that this was probably crazy. Yes, I realized that I was also packing for an out-of-state move, so, in hindsight, I should probably have predicted a few bumps.

But Vivi is so smart! She was already exhibiting all the traits of a toddler ready to potty train! She had even successfully peed in the potty a few times! And I had read a book! (Because I have always read a book.) I was so prepared to power through a week of intense training and emerge proud, victorious, and diaper-less.

And then real life set in.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but the essential details of this training method say your kid needs to be naked until they start to get the concept of going in the potty. Obviously, this leads to quite a few accidents. Meaning I was cleaning up a lot of pee. And, yeah, some poo. To be fair, Vivi was actually making really good progress. She went from being totally clueless about what her body was doing to being able to tell me about a second before it happened that she needed to potty. But a week after we started, I hit a breaking point.

For one, I was out of time. I had blocked out one week, and I simply couldn’t dedicate the rest of the month to this project because of the aforementioned move.

For another, my nerves were shot. It’s almost embarrassing how frazzled needing to catch Vivi peeing left me. But every night when I could finally put a diaper on her to go to sleep, I felt like it was the first time I exhaled all day.

One night, every time I would start to drift off, I would fall into a dream where I would be looking at Vivi just as she started to pee on the floor. I would wake up literally lunging to grab her, adrenaline pumping through my already exhausted body.

In short, I was a wreck.

It probably didn’t help that my life was completely turned upside down. We still didn’t know where we were living post-move, I had so. much. packing. to do, and we were beaten out on a house that we wanted to buy. Plus, I hadn’t really left the apartment for five days. Nothing felt like it was going right, and every time I would have to get on my knees to wipe up a puddle of urine, it felt like a personal insult.

That night I kept having the horrible lunging dream, I finally got out of bed around 3 a.m. to read the part of my book about troubleshooting. In short, it said that if your child is 18-20 months, they are capable of being trained, but they are most likely going to need more time. Time I didn’t have.

So, at 3:32 a.m., I made a deal with myself: I would give it two more days, and if Vivi didn’t show serious signs of picking it up, we would put it off until we were settled in our new place. A bunch of people had also warned me that moves can cause even well trained toddlers to regress, and the thought of taking steps backward was literally bringing me to tears.

Two days later, Vivi had improved, but not to the point where I felt like I could comfortably leave her unattended or even leave the house with her diaper-less. So I called it. The diaper went back on, and life continued as it was. (Except that now Vivi tells me whenever she’s peeing in her diaper.)

It was then that I had to face the music: I had failed.

Granted, no one likes to fail. But I realized that it embarrasses me on a deep, dark level. And, having realized, this, I felt embarrassed that I was so embarrassed. Because this wasn’t really failure, right? It’s a set-back. It’s bad timing. Why do I care so much? But I found myself in a position that, no matter how much I tried or focused on the problem, I had to admit defeat.

Defeat is really not my forte.

But, in happier news, this experience has also taught me how to let myself off the hook. Yes, things didn’t go according to my (arbitrary) plan. But we’ll try again, and Vivi will probably pick it up quicker with this experience under her belt (and once she’s in an environment where everything isn’t topsy-turvy). Vivi doesn’t hold it against me (or maybe she does? Guess we’ll have to wait for her memoir to know for sure…), so I can let it go too.

Parent readers, tell me about your own parenting “failures.” Did you beat yourself up as much as I do?