It’s OK, You Can Say It: Kids are Assholes

Parents of the World (but Moms, specifically):

It’s time we all come clean. In the year of our lord 2017, surely we should be able to drop the act and stop lying to ourselves and each other about an important and fundamental truth: kids are assholes.

Yes, children are beautiful little cotton candy clouds made of kisses and sunshine. I’m not a some heartless Cinderella-stepmom type who resents their kids and I certainly don’t want to see them suffer. The people closest to me in life would probably say I’m actually too nice to my kids when I should be stricter. I’m a firm believer (albeit rather reluctantly) that in most cases, it’s the behavior and not the kid who is “bad.” You know, positive redirection rather than negative consequences, taking advantage of “teachable moments,” setting boundaries and offering choices, and various other mumbo jumbo concepts we cling to as parents to evaluate whether our parenting matches up with who we think we are and what we believe in.

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The cutest little jerk you ever did see.

But I’m not going to bore you with a listicle of ways you can be a “good” parent- mainly because I’m also a firm believer that as long as you’re doing your best and actually interested in being a good parent, your version of being a “good” parent will likely look very different than mine, and who am I to judge? This entire post was inspired by a conversation between me and my best friend and our friend, who happens to be a guy and who does NOT have children. The conversation went something like this:

Brutally Honest Bestie: “So I’m standing with the other moms at this little girl’s birthday party and the host mom comes over and says ‘I really can’t stand my daughter right now’ and all the other moms let out a sigh like ‘Oh my god, it’s not just me!?’ It was like we’d all been waiting for one of the other moms to say it so we could talk about how much we don’t like our children sometimes. [Editor’s note: this birthday party was at 9 in the goddamn morning. Yet another example of another woman being a better mom than me, because you’d be able to name your own price for a winged pig on Priceline before I’d attend almost any optional event at 9 in the morning.]

Friend With No Kids: “Really? People really only talk about how their kids are miracles and all that.”

Me: “Oh, yeah. Don’t get me wrong. Being a mom is awesome. I’d definitely choose it all over again if I had to. But kids are total assholes.”

FWNK: “That’s funny, man. I’ve never heard anybody say that, like ever. That’s so good to know.”

And that is exactly why I’m writing this: Kids are assholes and seriously, no one talks about it. They’re tiny little assholes who think the world exists solely for them, yet are also completely and utterly dependent on you for pretty much everything. Mom and dad are idiots who know nothing yet, paradoxically, need to have the answer to any and every question a kid could ever have because, duh. You’re the grown up. (There’s no point being old if you don’t even know how to play Minecraft on expert or fly an airplane, your four year old is just sayin’.)

They stomp around the world without knowledge of basic social norms or manners or obvious facts like the heat coming from the stove means it’s hot- like, really fucking hot– and you shouldn’t touch it with your bare hand. And then you’ve got to answer deep ass, existential decisions on-the-spot like “What does it say about me as a person that I don’t appreciate having to tell this tiny person not to touch the big thing literally radiating heat for a tenth time and am almost certain the skin on the palm of their hand will grow back just fine if I let them get a little singed in the name of learning from experience.”

Omw to be an asshole.

They insist on wearing cowboy boots that are just a hair too small, despite your repeated protests that they’ll make their feet hurt by the end of the school day, and- lo and behold!- the little shit comes running to your car in tears insisting that it’s your fault that they have blisters on their disobedient little pinky toes, leaving you and your bright pink cheeks simmering in shame as the extended day teachers shake their heads disapprovingly at the mom who can’t even be bothered to put her kid in shoes that actually it.

Yeah, kids are dicks. They really are. They can’t help it. The little shits can’t even be bothered to know they shouldn’t be. And to add insult to injury, they don’t think they’re assholes. And I guess that’s where we come in: we’re here to dedicate most of the best years of our lives to ensure that by the time they hit adulthood, we’re not adding to the

I know that my personal ever-evolving parenting philosophy revolves around not unleashing two more assholes into a world filled to the brim with jerks and pricks and douchebags aplenty. That and something about making sure they never doubt that I love them. I, like most (all? I hope all) parents, love my kids so much that I can’t even really fathom the depth of it.

But yeah, kids are dicks. And just in case no one has said it to you, you’re not the only one who thinks so and it doesn’t mean you love them any less.

Three Years Too Late: A Totally Unintentional Defense of Kim Kardashian and *That* Picture of Her Next to a Killer Whale

[This was written in late 2013.]

I am heavier now than I was before I gave birth. That’s a pretty common sense statement to make less than two months after giving birth, right? Don’t judge my hyper-awareness. Kim Kardashian had a baby two weeks ago and is already talking about losing 30 pounds in 30 days. I am not making this up. Not that Kim Kardashian is a role model of mine or anything (not by a long shot), but the fact remains that there’s a lot of pressure to lose baby weight in a ridiculously short, unhealthy amount of time. I’m tempted to say that it’s worse the younger you are, but I don’t have anything to back up that statement. I also feel like maybe there’s a little more pressure on me now because this was my second baby and people are so quick to tell you that the weight falls off after a first baby, but the second child is the one that forever alters your body for the worst, irreversibly and unforgivingly

I do, of course, want to get my body back in shape, but I’m also lucky enough to have a partner who doesn’t mind the extra weight on my frame. (He actually seems to like it quite a bit, which still baffles me.) I feel a bit of pressure because I am twenty-four, so by all accounts, this is the time in my life when I’m going to be in the best shape I’ll ever be in. I have to make every day super hot and sexy because if I don’t know, I may never have the chance to ever again. And yet.. There’s this thing about me that I just can’t help: I love food. Like, I love food.I don’t know if it’s a byproduct of growing up in New Orleans, but I have a serious passion for cooking and eating and trying new dishes and new cuisines. This, of course, is a serious hindrance to losing baby weight.

To be completely honest, I’m not focusing much on trying to lose any weight. I’m really not even all that bothered by the number I see when I step on the scale. I just need to tighten everything back up, naturally. It almost seems silly to talk about weight so soon after giving birth, but I think it’s a real issue these days. To use Kim Kardashian as an example again (Don’t fault me. She was the highest profile pregnancy in quite a while and she beat Princess Kate to the punch), she was mocked so much during her pregnancy because she gained weight like you’re supposed to do when you’re sustaining a human life inside your body. Granted, she made some terrible sartorial choices throughout her pregnancy, but still. I think it’s shameful to call negative attention to a woman’s body when she’s pregnant. Kim Kardashian got famous by having sex on camera. She has maintained fame by letting America play voyeur with the most personal aspects of her life. We know her waxing habits down there and witnessed her laughable, surely-for-profit marriage that lasted all of 72 days. I’ve never even watched the show and even I know what her infamous crying face looks life. It seems, and this is purely my judgmental opinion here, that the cornerstone of her “brand” is staying relevant, and her strategy for achieving that is by using sex appeal, so of course she’s wearing skintight, high waisted leather skirts. I believe it’s something she genuinely enjoys, but I also wholeheartedly believe that it’s a shrewd business decision. I’m sure that doesn’t make it sting any less when she sees these ugly things about her at, arguably, one of her most vulnerable times.

funny, unless you've been there.

I suppose it’s funny, unless you’ve been there.

It all plays into the bigger argument about women, though. Women’s rights issues have gotten a lot of media coverage lately, thanks in part to all of the people who want to tell women what they can and can’t do in the work place, the home, and with their bodies. The media’s treatment of Kim Kardashian is just one more way that women are being force-fed a bunch of crap that shames them into being some weird, unrealistic idea of what a woman should be. A magazine cover blasting her weight gain isn’t just anti-woman, it’s dangerous. It’s cruel on a personal level and just plain shitty in the grand scheme of things.

When I was pregnant, John treated me like a goddess. I was creating a life and every pound that I gained was a reflection of that. That’s how it should be. It takes two people to make a baby, but only one of those two people can carry that baby. To do anything to detract from the beauty of that process is just sickening.

And yet, here I am. I don’t like the way my tummy rolls when I sit down. I miss my flat little stomach and long for the days when my biceps were taut and my thighs didn’t jiggle so much. I may be aware of the ridiculousness of people’s expectations when it comes to women’s bodies, before and after pregnancy, but it doesn’t change the fact that I want to have a nice, firm body. At twenty-four, I don’t want to look like I’m a mother of two when I put on a swimsuit. This is what society has done to us. I don’t want to look like a mother of two, which I am, because I’ve been inundated with “perfect post-baby body” slideshows and triumphant tales of celebrities devoting two straight months of their lives to working out for hours a day with trainers who make more money than I probably ever will, while eating restrictive diets prepared by professional chefs working closely with dietitians to restrict the caloric count as much as possible without causing said celebrity to die of malnutrition. The absurdity of it all isn’t lost on me.

 


 

I never finished this post, but just came across it in my drafts and decided to post it now.

 

Dear Black Men,

Despite what you see playing out before your eyes, despite the utter lack of compassion for your life or your humanity, despite the wanton death— relentless, unjustifiable murder— that looms over your head, you are precious and irreplaceable. You are human beings, full of strength and promise, life and hope, beauty and majesty. You are everything.

You comprise a lineage so mighty that in the face of insurmountable odds and enduring effort to suppress and oppress, you not only endure— you flourish. Your very existence is an act of rebellion so profound and impenetrable that it incites terror in the hearts of fragile men. After centuries of calculated attempts to extinguish your light, the only way to keep you down now is to kill you. You are that formidable.

You will never deserve the inhumane treatment the world is (and has been) foisting upon you. Your entirety can never be summed up by a “rap sheet,” nor will you be defined by your final moments. They don’t get to define you. You are not perfect— no one is— but you are as deserving of individuality, opportunity, and life as any one else. Your lives matter. Your deaths matter.

Please don’t let the fear and ignorance of others become a cage for you to beat your head against in rage or fear or defeat. I am scared for each and every one of you— not just my father who is grandfather to my children, brother, grandfather, uncles, cousins, friends, lovers— men and boys alike. I’m terrified of not the if, but the when of another of our brothers being taken from us too soon. My heart is heavy with weight of all the names of men gone too soon, TAKEN too soon.

I wish I knew how to make the world give you the respect you deserve, to see you as I do. I don’t know how to end this senseless depravity, but I do promise you this: I will love you. I will see you. I will celebrate you. I will exalt you. And I will never stop. Unconditionally, radically, and ceaselessly. Because you matter now and always will.

A few of my favorite things: Autumn Edition

Autumn is here and if that doesn’t excite you, you might be the literal worst. Autumn is, hands down, my favorite time of year. Having grown up in the subtropical clime of New Orleans and making my home now in the almost-equally subtropical metropolis of Houston, I can assure you it isn’t because of the prismatic hues of the leaves changing colors, the pumpkin-spiced anything, or even the gentle fall breezes. We don’t get much of that down here.

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Ya girl can dream of leaves changing.

Sheepishly, I have to admit that it’s for a number of reasons that are all pretty egocentric. First, my birthday is October 20th. Prime autumn territory and yet, my entire life I’ve had the option of comfortably hosting a pool party if it tickled my fancy. The last time my birthday was a genuinely exciting affair was when I turned 13. My birthday fell on a Saturday, my parents let me sleep in (which was totally normal, actually… but still worth noting), and when I did get up, my pop gave me $130 and took me shopping at the mall. When I got home, my mom had a custom-made cake for me (with yellow and red icing, for some reason). My pop had created a birthday card for me on the computer and printed it out; I remember it had a car on the front and on the inside it said something along the lines of “Chill out, you’re only 13.” It was a pretty good day. (Honorable mention goes to my boyfriend when we celebrated my birthday for the first time together and he totally surprised me with an iPad, complete with AppleCare and everything.) I’ve spent two birthdays in the past five years pregnant, which was kind of cool, but definitely not conducive to the level of inebriation I’m fond of now. Fast-forward almost 14 years and here I am, a mere 11 days away from my 27th. Every year, I just hope that I’ll get another simple, but heartfelt birthday celebration tailor-made for ya girl.

23rd birthday cake

The guest of honor at my 23rd birthday

Second on my list of reasons autumn is the absolute best: Halloween is, by far, the best holiday in the entire world. Halloween is the perfect holiday and it totally gets the purpose of being a holiday in the first place. Halloween makes no grandiose excuses for its existence; there’s no deity to honor or supernatural occurrence worth venerating (see: Christmas & every other Christian holiday). It’s family-friendly without being too saccharine to genuinely appeal to adults (see: Easter). Halloween is there to get down to the business of having fun, but its existence hasn’t lost all meaning beyond wanton inebriation (see: St. Patrick’s Day). While costumes can veer into pretty offensive territory (I’m looking at you, Native American headdress-wearers and every person in blackface, ever), the holiday itself doesn’t barge in and Deebo another ethnic group’s significant dates in history while having absolutely no concern for actually learning about said group (see: Cinco de Mayo). It doesn’t hype itself up all year and consistently disappoint because of rampant commercialization and impossibly lofty expectations (see: New Year’s Eve). It isn’t an obvious ploy by the Hallmark card conglomeration disguised as an important day of the year that actually wreaks havoc on otherwise decent relationships and untitled romantic affiliations (see: Valentine’s Day). Its origins as a holiday, if you want to get all historical about it, were rooted in warding off spirits and venerating saints and other good people. It is, in short, the perfect holiday.

Decorations. Candy. Literally running the streets. Cute kids. The rightful acceptance and appreciation owed to the horror genre. Puns. Skulls everywhere. Costumes ranging from funny, clever, topical, or smart to sexy, scary, realistic, or downright lazy (be grateful you got into the party, sheet ghost). It’s totally acceptable to stay in if you’re not the “going out” type. Halloween gives you the opportunity to make a statement about yourself, if you want. You get to flex your creative muscle in ways no other holiday facilitates. You inadvertently keep the Tooth Fairy myth alive, which is probably my favorite lie to tell my children because it’s harmless fun for all. It’s a win for everyone. Yep, Halloween is straight up the actual best. But enough about my love for the spookiest day of the year.

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Doesn’t everyone cut their actual hair for a Halloween costume?

Third, autumn is the most temperate time of year. Even when I lived in New York, the fall season afforded the opportunity to get outside and enjoy it without any caveats. Even up North, summer can get uncomfortably warm. Even more than that, winters are prohibitively cold. Autumn was that sweet spot in the year where you could wear shorts with a chunky knit sweater and hit the streets for frolicking and whatnot. Here in the South (western-ish South? what is Houston considered anyway?), autumn is pretty much the one time of year (other than the month of March, which is pretty much the entirely of spring for us) when it’s cool enough to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the region. I mean, honestly, what’s the point of all the green space and rivers and hills and stuff if you can’t slide down them on a cardboard box without sweating profusely?

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Look at all of this beautiful space I don’t visit 9 months out of the year.

Fourth, my daughter’s birthday is November 19th, right on the cusp of the transition to winter (which, in the South means little to nothing until you’re well into January). We’re able to have her party coinciding with Thanksgiving, when family members can travel into town and I can play hostess for a nice, big dinner party at my house. It’s a great time.

Ellie's 1st birthday & my first ever attempt at a custom cake

Ellie’s 1st birthday & my first ever attempt at a custom cake

Fifth, and this may be my favorite reason of all, autumn fashion is totally my favorite clothing-related thing in the world. Luxurious knits, chunky sweaters, comically large scarves, boots of all height and heel, saturated colors in neutral and darker tones (a.k.a. my year-round color palette), floppy hats and slouchy beanies, jackets, and LEATHER- everything about fall fashion is the best.  I cannot wait to break out my fall clothes and, of course, buy more.

Lenny Kravitz is autumn incarnate

Lenny Kravitz is autumn incarnate

Those are the things I love about the fall season. Did I miss anything?

(note: photos that aren’t mine can be clicked on for original source)

All About That Bass, No Trouble: The Bigger Picture Behind My 4 Year Old’s Bothersome Taste in Music

I’m not exactly sure how, but at some point recently, my 4 year old daughter, Elliott, learned some of the words to “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. While I’d be lying if I said I haven’t listened to the song a few times (darn you, catchy doo-wop melodies!), I don’t make it a habit to listen to a lot of “my music” around my kids. In the car, we listen to a special Spotify playlist called “Tiny Turn Up: Elliott’s Jamz” with music that I find acceptable for the kids. (It’s mainly the Despicable Me, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Frozen soundtracks with some Raffi staples and a dash of the “Cupid Shuffle” because we went to Chuck E. Cheese’s one time and apparently, the poor teenager whose job it is to schlep around in the giant rat costume for what I can only assume is minimum wage also has to spend a few minutes every hour or two performing a line dance with the kids to a Chuck E. remix of various “popular” (meaning: at least five to ten years old), vaguely hip hop-esque songs, before throwing handfuls of tickets into the air and running in the opposite direction as quickly as possible while a mob of six-to-eight year-old boys trample the toddlers and smaller kids who don’t know enough to care about the tickets.)

Recently, though, I had to add “All About That Bass” to the playlist because Elliott refused to stop screaming during our car rides until she heard it. Her knowledge of the lyrics only go as far as “All about that bass, bout that bass, no trouble (NOT treble),” but it’s still a strange feeling to hear my child singing a song about “bringing booty back.”

While I agree with the surface message of the song, the self-love and body appreciation seemingly-girl power tone of it all, I also find it a bit grating. True body acceptance doesn’t require telling “them skinny bitches” anything or bashing “stick figure silicone Barbie dolls,” and as a self-declared feminist, I can’t help but wince when I hear the misguided attempt at countering the media’s obsession with skinny white girls. I suppose it could be a lot worse, as far as songs on the radio for a four year old girl to sing along to go, and she doesn’t have a clue what the song is about. And sometimes, it’s a welcome respite from “Let it go, let it goooo.” But still, it gives me feelings.

When I reflect back on my own childhood, I have no memory of “children’s songs” outside of my kindergarten class singing the Raffi classic “Apples and Bananas” (which is on the Tiny Turn Up playlist, bee-tee-dubs). I remember mumbling my way through “Hotel California” by the Eagles at a very young age. I recall knowing every single word to 1997’s smash hit “Too Close” by the one hit wonder R&B group Next at age 8 or 9, and having absolutely no cognizance of what any of it meant. “Baby, when we’re grindin’ I get so excited. Ooh, you know what I like..” 

I think about the future, relative to my kids, fairly often. I look at my younger sisters, ages nine and 20, and the way pop culture has influenced their upbringing versus my own. Seventeen years is a very significant age difference and, while 20 and 26 may not be so different, 11 and 17 were light years apart. I see the effects of the hypersexualization of pop culture and the media in the past 30 years or so (thanks, Madonna) on me and on them and it makes me downright terrified about how it’s going to be 11 years from now when Elliott is 15. But, upon reflection, I wouldn’t say that it’s a simple issue of the music and movies that we see these days being vastly more sexual than stuff was in say, my parents’ heyday of the 80s. Back then, rock ‘n roll was all about sex. Post-“Deep Throat” era movies incorporated their fair share of sex. Art was all about sex. BUT- back then, it was more difficult for children to gain access to that stuff, and that’s where the real issue lies- access.

The problem isn’t Beyoncé singing “Surfbordt” while gyrating on the beach or Rihanna in her panties shrieking about chains and whips. It isn’t 50 Shades of Grey or the shirtless Twilight werewolf boy or Fitz talking dirty to Olivia Pope on Scandal. It’s the 24/7 switched on-ness of our world. It’s the access. I have not seen an episode of Scandal in its entirety since watching the first three episodes of season one on Netflix to determine its bingeability (it failed the test), for example, but even I’ve seen a clip of the “If there’s any hope, come prove it to me” moment. Access.

It’s the fact that my four year old owns her own iPad mini and, while the parental controls have very tight parameters that she hasn’t figured out how to outsmart (yet), there are people who make pornographic dubs to clips of Snow White and rate them PG on YouTube so they can be stumbled upon by children with tight parental controls set on their devices. That’s how my four year old knows the opening bars of “All About That Bass,” even if she substitutes trouble for treble, without me knowing how it happened. Access.

So, as modern parents heading into the impending sexpocalypse of the pop culture-saturated future, what do we do? How do we prevent the sexual awakening of increasingly younger children? How do we keep our precious babies precious and babies for as long as possible? How do we teach our little girls that it’s okay to have bass but no treble? Or treble but no bass? Or neither or both? Because it’s not important. How do we raise healthy children who appreciate their bodies and have an age-appropriate knowledge (or lack thereof) of sex?

It’s all such a big mystery because there is no blanket answer.

It’s become a cliché, but children are seriously like friggin snowflakes- they’re all different. They’re all molded by whatever genes stuck when mommy and daddy’s genetic material was flung against the wall (so to speak) and by their parents (whether they’re mommies and daddies, mommies and mommies, daddies and daddies, just mommies, just daddies, grandparents, legal guardians, or any of the beautiful iterations that families come in), their teachers and coaches and pastors and family friends and strangers who drop knowledge bombs in line at the grocery store, and all of the other people that come and go throughout a child’s life, leaving little tiny ripples on the surface of their ocean that you may not even realize are there. Every single person is an amalgamation of their genetic predispositions and their experiences and the things they experience tangentially through awareness of the people they encounter in life. So, rather than trying to develop a one-size-fits-all method of moving into the future with your kiddos in tow, we have to tailor our own knowledge and insight to the child we’re dealing with.

Rather than refuse to let my little girl spend all of maybe 40 seconds singing the parts she knows of “All About That Bass,” I chose to add the song to the playlist and made a mental note to pay attention to my child and try to be aware that, although she’s four, the seeds are being sown that will affect her self-esteem and acceptance of her body for the rest of her life. Today isn’t the day to sit her down for a conversation about the politics of being a female, but it CAN be the day for hugging her and letting her pick out whatever outfit (no matter how badly the colors clash or whether motorcycle boots are weather-appropriate now that it’s 82 degrees during the day here in Houston). Today’s the day to lay a small piece of the foundation that will help shape her experiences and perspectives for the rest of her life, for her to be taught through example that everyone is awesome (an awesome snowflake, if you wanna go there) in their own way, regardless of their EQ levels. (See what I did there?). For now, we’ll leave the lessons for another day and just enjoy being “all about that bass, no trouble.” For now.

As for teaching her the importance of the difference between good music and the crap that comes on the radio… well, that’s a lesson that can never start too soon. Feel free to look me up on Spotify because, plentiful guilty pleasures aside, I have pretty awesome taste in music.

For your listening pleasure, Tiny Turn Up: Elliott’s Jamz:
(I apologize to your brain in advance for any damage caused by “Surfin’ Bird.”)

A K.I.S.S. from Four Names Each

Back when I was in high school, it was popular to leave acronyms when you signed people’s yearbooks. Everyone tried to come up with their own clever little acronyms:

“Have a great summer! B.I.T.C.H. (Being In Touch Can’t Hurt) Love ya!”

But by far, the one that stuck with me (and that I’ve heard many times in many different contexts) was K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Here at FNE, (see what I did there with the acronym?), a new theme was desperately needed for the blog and when choosing a new format, I decided to K.I.S.S. or, keep it simple (stupid).

I hope you like the new, simple + clean layout. Eventually, we’ll switch to a fancy paid layout and I’ll actually have someone do some design-y stuff, but for now, I think this works out just fine.

Beg, Borrow, or Steal: DIYing someone else’s DIY

As an avid DIYer, coming up with new ways to give old objects new life is the best, whether it’s painting an antique secretary desk tomato red (which you’d totally do if your life partner would just stop saying no) or framing some old prints that were floating around your garage and arranging a gallery wall. Sometimes, I buy items knowing that I’m going to change them up, as in the case of the once-silver light fixture I got from Ikea for 30 bucks (!!!) that is now a lovely shade of rose gold and hanging from the ceiling of my emerald teal dining room (photos to come soon!). Sometimes I buy supplies and create DIY projects from scratch, such as the hand-stretched canvases, framed prints, and painted initials that hang in clusters on the wall above my daughter’s bed.

Occasionally, though, I come across a DIY project on one of the many amazing blogs I follow and I love it so much that I don’t even want to tweak it and make it my own. I want it just the way it is. This was the case with the floral canvases hanging in my living room entry way.

I was perusing A Beautiful Mess (which I’m sure most DIYers are very familiar with because sisters Elsie and Emma do an amazing job of sharing inspiring spaces and projects; seriously, this is one of the best design/DIY blogs on the web, IMO) a long time ago (like two years ago) and I came across this wall art “Nesting” project:

When I saw the black canvas with the goldenrod floral pattern, it was love at first sight, but I wrestled with a tiny bit of guilt about recreating something, essentially paint-by-numbers style, without even the slightest bit of originality. Part of what I love about my DIY projects, aside from saving TONS of money, is that I end up with something that may not be perfect, but is totally my own. I’m a sucker for self-expression and “authenticity.” (Which, admittedly, may just be left over from my days as a New York hipster.)

So there I was, deciding to *shudder* copy someone else’s DIY project. I soothed my guilt by telling myself things like “hey, I have a black upright piano, too, but I’m not going to do it exactly like this. I’m going to make it a pair. That’s different enough to make it somewhat original, right?” In all honesty… no. It isn’t. I just copied their work twice and displayed it a little differently. It was still their idea, their design, their project. But hey, if I’d bought this canvas at Target, I wouldn’t be feeling guilty, would I? No. So, copy-two-times-and-display-it-a-little-differently I did.

20131003-175901.jpg

The canvases are actually in a completely different place now, and I’ve since painted a third to make it a triptych. There’s one canvas with only yellow flowers, a middle with yellow and terra cotta red, and the third is only terra cotta, kind of giving the triptych (as a whole) an ombré effect. (Actually, nothing in that photo in the same place or even grouped together anymore.)

triptych of DIY floral canvases

a blurry photo of Ellie from Halloween; the triptych of  floral canvases is in the background

Am I the only one who feels guilt about copying DIY projects from other sites or is that the purpose of posting your projects in the first place? Is there a line between inspiration and imitation? Whatever the answer, I love the wall art in my entryway, so… *kanye shrug*

Four Names Eats: Tex Mex Baked Chicken Wraps

I am a big fan of quick meals, but I  am not a fan of sacrificing the healthfulness of the food I feed my family. When I go grocery shopping, I make a list and try to plan out my meals, but inevitably, one of us ends up eating the broccoli for the broccoli rice casserole as a snack or I Elliott refuses to eat anything but cucumbers for three days straight, so I don’t have any left on the night I planned to soak them in homemade vinaigrette. I try to make a point of not bringing (too much) junk into the house so it’s easier to resist temptation, but that can limit my ability to roll with the punched sometimes. So, inevitably, I spend a lot of time making stuff up as I go along. This meal was one of those.

We don’t eat a ton of meat usually, but we’re definitely omnivores in this house. With that said, as a family, we eat a fraction of what most people would consider a single serving or two when it comes to meat. I like to buy free range, antibiotic-free, vegetable grain-fed, air chilled chicken breasts in the family packs when they go on sale at Central Market. That’s a lot of adjectives for one pack of chicken, but you can truly taste a difference. At least I can! Anyway..

30 Minute Meal: Tex Mex-style Baked Chicken Wraps
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For four servings, I use one to two breasts (depending on size), fully butterflied. Bake the breast filets in foil packets at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Quick, easy, and no pan to clean later!

While the chicken is baking, start your pot of black beans. I use the Central Market Organics canned black beans, drained and rinsed. Add a wedge of sliced onion and a piece of bacon for flavoring (if you want).

While the chicken continues baking and your black beans start to boil, dice your veggies. I used sweet Vidalia onions, red bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, avocados, and canned green chiles (all organic). I take out what I need for my guacamole and put the rest on a plate, which will be used as the fillings for everyone to make their own wrap at the table.

Wash and chop your lettuce of choice (I use romaine most frequently) and whole leaf cilantro. I buy the romaine hearts in a 3 pack, usually no more than $2 for organic. Can’t beat it. Toss the romaine in your favorite dressing. I usually make a homemade citrus white balsamic vinaigrette, but that’s a post for another time.

Shred your cheese of choice. This time, I used Tillamook habanero jack. I always shred my own cheese because the pre-shredded stuff has cellulose (a.k.a. the compound that gives wood its strength and is commonly added to food as an anti-caking agent). Even the organic cheeses shredded in the store at Central Market contain cellulose if you read the ingredients. I’ll take 2 or 3 minutes out of my cook time to shred my own cheese.

Using a fork, mash your diced avocados, finely chopped cilantro, red onion, diced tomatoes, and fresh squeezed lime juice in a bowl until your guacamole is as chunky or smooth as you like. Hint: the longer you smash and stir, the less chunky it’ll be. More avocado= thicker, more lime juice= creamier.

Cut limes into wedges for drizzling over your finished wraps.

When the chicken is done, cube it and add it to your plate of fillings. Grab your wraps (I used Mission brand Tomato Basil tortilla wraps) and get started filling. The black beans can be tossed in the wraps or served as a side dish along with the guacamole and chips. I buy Garden of Eatin’ chia seed tortilla chips.

Squeeze a wedge of lime over everything and enjoy!