Monday, November 24, 2014

A little help with holiday grocery shopping!

Thanksgiving is upon us! Are you ready?

I got all of my Thanksgiving shopping done easy and early this year, and I'm about to tell you how!
I went to the grocery store two Saturdays ago and it was frightening! Did I mention that I went alone with three kids in tow? What was I thinking?
But we are having Thanksgiving at our house this year, so shopping for cartfuls is a necessary evil.

I got all of the above groceries without leaving the comfort of my home.

That's right...no trips to the store. No managing three kids in an urban grocery store. No saying excuse us or pardon me a million times to strangers, but not one person says anything kind to me...they just glare because you have three kids with you and are blocking their view of the seafood because you can't get your cart around the traffic...
Walmart asked me to try their Walmart Grocery To Go service, although we'd already tried it twice before {and liked it}. 
"Plan your Thanksgiving with our help," they said. 
I was like, "Yes, please!"


Placing an order for delivery here in Denver was so easy. 


Just search for your needed items, sort by price or relevency. Add to your cart with a click!


When your order is complete, you select your delivery time. They have plenty of options. You can choose from two-hour-windows or four-hour-windows. This was our third order placed with Walmart Grocery To Go, and so far we've never actually had to pay for delivery. When I go to check out, it always ends up being free for some reason. But you can see the prices for different time slots, and pick one that is the right time AND price for you. I chose the 4-hour slot for Saturday night. It was 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. for $3.00. {Still ended up being free in the end.}


The way I look at it, paying a few bucks for delivery beats wasting gas, time, energy, and  you definitely save money by not being in the store and seeing all those little extra things you need but don't need. 


So I placed my order, and sure enough the next night, around 10 p.m., the delivery truck showed up. 
We'd been up watching Parenthood. I'm a night owl, so choosing the late delivery time is fine by me!


You want to tip them, but the Walmart website specifically says not to. 


So there you have it, without all the hassle of going to the store during the holidays, I had ALL my Thanksgiving shopping done. Just like that. {We got a special brined turkey from TJs, but literally everything else I needed was in these bags!}

As we were unpacking our groceries, we double checked everything on our order to make sure it arrived. We realized there was one thing from our $100 order missing! The cherry tomatoes! They were nowhere to be found. This is why you have to do grocery shopping yourself, I thought to myself, shaking my head. We made plans to call them in the morning and ask for a refund on the tomatoes. Then, my husband spotted them by the door. Sure enough, the tomatoes were there! We must have let them fall from a bag as we were accepting them from the delivery guy. My faith was restored. Walmart has done a good job so far in making sure our To Go orders have been complete and accurate. 

The holidays are stressful and time consuming, especially for moms! While having our groceries delivered won't completely replace all our grocery shopping, it definitely has proven helpful when it comes to large orders during stressful times. I can think of SO MANY times grocery delivery would have been useful. Walmart is making it easier than it ever has been before. Basically, grocery delivery isn't just for shut-ins anymore. 

If you are interested in trying it out for yourself, see here:
Walmart Grocery To Go

Better yet, use my PERSONAL referral link to save $15 from now until 12/31/2014:
Save $15 with Walmart Grocery To Go!

Give yourself a break for the holidays!

***

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Grocery to Go program, I’ve received a personal invite and payment for my time and efforts in creating this post.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Welcome Winter - The Death of a Snowman

Warm Winter Welcomes
I guess I'm a bit of a hypocrite in that I object to people saying it's summer when it's really just the first week of June but when it comes to winter, well winter starts when the snow starts. So maybe I'm just picky because I was born on the summer solstice and need that to mean something, and also--being a Colorado native--I know that winter is not like summer. Winter is an experience, and summer is a time. Says I. {I mean, not everyone gets snow and cold in December, but everyone has heat in July right? Shush, Inuits. I wasn't asking you.}
Warm Winter WelcomesWarm Winter Welcomes
And so here we are, mid November, enjoying winter. Because snow. Also, it's been mostly around 15° this last week. Sometimes as low as 0°, which has had me fretting over our chickens, but our feathered dinosaur friends are more hardy than they look. {I love my chickens.}
Warm Winter Welcomes
So on Sunday I decided to lure my family in the front yard with vintage sleds, and then I forced them to play along with the building of a snowman with the promise that if they completed this task, I might reward them with hot chocolate.
Warm Winter Welcomes
See, I'd thrifted a snowman dressing set from Goodwill last week and I wanted to get my $2.99 worth. What? It was originally from Restoration Hardware and thus probably cost $59.99 {on sale, in January, of course}, and it was still NIB. {That's new-in-box for those of you who aren't hip on the thrift jive.} Snowman in a box! It's a good idea, really. No one wants to waste a perfectly good real carrot on a snowman. There are starving bunnies in this world.
Warm Winter Welcomes
The problem was, well, there are two types of snow, as all Coloradans know. There is snowman building snow, and then there is worthless, good for nothing snow. Powdery fluff that doesn't stick to itself. Because its' so cold even the snow doesn't work.
Warm Winter Welcomes
My beloveds came up with this pathetic excuse for a snowman. Warm Winter WelcomesNaturally, I had to get involved and work my magic with my creative, artistic hands to help them out a bit. No, no, no, I said. This head is NOT big enough! And with that, I reached out to help with more snow...and I shattered the top two mounds. His head and bust just--POOF!--gone. My husband, my oldest, the baby, and a ginger all looked at me with contempt. Their bellies were grumbling for hot chocolate, and here I'd just killed their snowman.
Warm Winter Welcomes
With that, Winter 2014 was ruined. I decided to go with the bottom mound and dressed the snowman anyway. While I was laughing at the thought of our neighbors driving past and seeing our failed attempt at a snowman, turned snowbutthead, Eisley was crying. {She's sensitive like that. But it escalated and Justin had to take her inside to lay the smack down about pouting over mommy killing their first snowman. Look, I'm just glad I'm not always the bad cop parent.}
Warm Winter Welcomes
The Ginger Child liked it.
Warm Winter Welcomes
Paxton, meanwhile, decided he hates cold weather and had a break in the trunk. One-year-olds, see, don't do well in snowsuits and snow boots. Here they just learned how to walk, and then you up the ante by bundling them up, throwing them out in the cold, and expect them to just roll with it. They can't even use fingered mittens at this age. Life is harsh.
Warm Winter Welcomes
Typical aftermath: boots, coats, and snow pants discarded at the door. {Which, by the way, I thrifted almost all of for $30 this year. The snow gear, that is, our door came with the house.} This was about when I realized that in dragging my family outside in an effort to get them out of the house and having fun, I really just only created more mess for myself inside.
Warm Winter Welcomes
But you know what makes me an awesome mom? I made them hot chocolate using whole milk, that's what. Topped with Campfire marshmallows. Boom. Clap. {I'm so not an awesome mom, in truth.}
Warm Winter Welcomes
I might have ruined their snow man, but I made up for it with giant marshmallows.
Warm Winter WelcomesWarm Winter Welcomes
Sort of.
Warm Winter Welcomes
I declare Winter 2014 to be alive and well after all.
Warm Winter Welcomes
Welcome, Winter.Warm Winter Welcomes
You and your warm winter naps.


Cheers,
heather

***

P.S. I did post the blog about Justin's return to ListenUp {SO. HAPPY.} but I didn't go around advertising it because I actually got sick of all the couples-version navel gazing I'd been doing lately. You can go read that, the previous post, if you like. We've been so busy lately!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

There and Back Again: A Husband's Tale

Two weeks and two days into his new job, I called Justin to ugly cry at him. "I feel like a single mother!" I wept and I was angry. I was angry because it had been two weeks and two days of him leaving before the rest of us were awake, and two weeks and two days since we'd seen him home before 7 or 8 p.m.. Also, two weeks and two days of him passing out on the couch the moment the kids were in bed. It's not that I can't take two weeks of that, it's that I felt hopelessly like this is our life now, forever.

He talked to his new boss, who was apparently all concerned and understanding, and they decided together that Justin's days had to be planned around this: he must be home to his family by 5 p.m. They were supposed to be 50 hour work weeks, not 70 hours. Even then, 50 hour work weeks felt like a gargantuan new weight after spending the last five years at LU, working only 34-40 hour weeks. It turns out, his new job paid more steadily (no more commission variables), but less per hour.

I've never been the at-it-alone type of mom. I could never be a military wife, and I didn't sign up for that. Justin is my best friend. He doesn't hang out with the guys and I don't go out with the girls. I schedule the baby's doctor appointments on his days off, and yes, we all pile into the small exam room, all five of us. We don't do the smart thing most couples do and send one off to the store while the other stays home with the kids. No, all five of us go on most major shopping trips together. It's harder, but we like being together. Call us codependent if you want, all I know is: it works for us.

This is partly why his new job was putting such a strain on things at home. He was never here, and when he was here, "I don't like the person I am around the kids anymore." One of Sander's biggest fears: being a disconnected workaholic father.

He was losing weight, I was gaining weight. He was despondent every Sunday evening, realizing he had to go back to that job again the next morning. At the crack of dawn. I was sleep deprived, because I am an easily-spooked worryer and so when he left every morning at 6ish, I never really went back to sleep until the kids woke up. No, I was laying in bed, totally aware of the murdered trying to break in. {It was usually the dog getting into the trash or something.} Also, can I just say that I've never been one to get pimples--like, ever--but the last 5 months my face has been peppered with stress acne?

You thought the last two posts were complaint ridden, didn't you?!

I'm not trying to be a complainer, because the truth is he had a job whereas so many people in this world don't. However, what we thought would just be a rough adjustment getting used to earlier mornings and longer work weeks {but worth it for more regular pay!} turned out to be the period of life which I will henceforth refer to as: The Tribulation.

Things got better for me at home, with the promise met that he'd be home by 5:30 every night. They didn't get much better for him though. Sander did his job well and he learned a great deal. He had to write up an employee his second week, he helped hired two great new employees, and he felt like he got a "crash course in management".

Without roasting a company online, I'll just say this: it was chaos. It was an a small company that worked well as a small company, but had recently become a large company {workload wise} and a lot of the chaos trickled down the pipes right to Justin's position, which is why he got about a million phone calls a day and was always off fixing everyone's problems instead of managing from the office like he'd planned to do from the start. Whew. Got that?

Then there was the culture difference. For all the hard work, the rewards were few. He went from a company full of passionate audiophiles and professionals to a company that struggled to keep up with model home business. There is little passion for audio when it comes to Mr. and Mrs. Joneses picking out their security system and speakers for their tract home. I'm not trying to be a snob, I'm just saying that LU was ripe with exciting clients who had money to spend and invited creativity, people who shop at places like that are fun to work with. The culture of LU had been so great.

Then CEDIA came. {The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association convention.} Justin used to go with LU, now he was going with his new company. It also meant that morning that he didn't have to leave the house so early.

Oh the sweet joy! My husband, the easy and early riser, woke up with the kids and made them breakfast and got them dressed. Meanwhile I, the night owl and morning zombie, #whathappenedtoournewpetdragon #ithinkyoujustdreamedthathoney, slept in some, woke up {a process that takes the night-owl-morning-zombie at least an hour}, put my face on and did my hair. I was feeling quite selfish, and realized I'd always been selfish to take my husband for granted in the mornings.

"I've missed this," I confessed. Thinking he was probably going to say, "I bet you did." Instead he surprised me, "So have I."

"Really?" Because being a zombie in the morning and having to face three energetic children is like, my living nightmare. I forget, yet again, my husband is not like me.

"Yes, I've missed seeing and being with the kids in the morning. I miss having this time."

I could have burst into tears. See?! We ALL miss it! Even the kids, I could tell. They are miserable being alone with me in the morning. LU had always afforded us that: time together in the morning, and a more prepared, sane mommy to deal with throughout the rest of the day.

Justin got home from CEDIA and I was confused to see him so depressed. I thought a day away from the usual chaos at the office the four corners of Colorado would do his spirits some good. But no, CEDIA had only offered him a glimpse of the culture and professionalism he left behind to chase a what-if.

Look, up until that evening I'd been trying to be the supportive wife and kept saying cliché things like, "It will get better! Remember every job is an adjustment. Think of the dependable paychecks!" That evening, I finally said it, "Do you want to go back to LU?"

He didn't skip a beat, "Yes."

"Have they hired anyone to replace you yet?" I asked.

"I heard they just recently started looking."

"Contact them." I said. "Now."

Call me bossy, but it's a good thing I urged him not to wait a second, because they'd already started interviewing and had someone in mind. Talk about last minute.

While Justin had heard here and there through the grapevine when he'd left that the door would be left open for him, the reality is that the grapevine can't always be trusted {remember that game Telephone?} and you can't always just expect to waltz back into a company you left and be offered your job back.

My mind tried to make me regret Justin ever leaving LU, but my heart knew that wasn't an option. Did he want his job back? YES. Did I want his job back? YES. Was it a mistake to ever leave in the first place?

No. I don't believe it was. This was a journey of learning, friends. The other man's grass is greener, true, but not really. During the last 5 months, I've seen real changes in my husband. He wasn't late a single day, he was uber responsible and turned out to be a really good manager for his first try. It was as if he had something to prove, now that someone had entrusted him with all that management responsibility.

I also learned a great deal. I learned that when my car is available 24/7, thanks to his company car, that I leave the house less and spend less money. Just because it was always there...I didn't "need" it as much. We both learned together that the up and downs with the paydays had been crazy, but God had always provided for us. While month-to-month could be crazy, when it came time to file taxes we'd see his W-2 proved we'd be alright. The challenge, the steady pay, the company car...none of it was really worth leaving a company where we were happy.

Now, they were set to hire someone else and we both desperately wanted back. I remember the day he went in to announce his departure, I had knots in my stomach because I knew it just wasn't right--leaving a company that had been so good to us. Still, we regret nothing, because if he hadn't taken this journey off-road, we'd never have known and would have always wondered.

Justin spoke with his old manager at LU, and really put him in a predicament because it sounded like he'd made up his mind as to who Justin's replacement would be. It took almost two weeks to hear anything. A very tense two weeks, though again through the grapevine it sounded like his co-workers would welcome him back, especially his ability to fix the Control4 system.

I wrote this post weeks ago and am just now updating because we've just been so busy! Long story short, Justin went back to his old position at LU {I've withheld the full name of the business just because I don't want someone Googling home theatres in Denver to end up at this silly post}. We're SO HAPPY that he's back! Even the first couple days back, it was just like being home again, for all of us. The old routine, the one that worked so well for us, and all that stress just...gone. They even gave him his earned vacation hours back and decided to treat his brief departure as a sabbatical. See why I've always said it is such a great company?

We don't regret The Tribulation because it makes us even more grateful and appreciative of what we do have with LU. In hindsight, it's actually just all been one big blessing in disguise.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Untangled

When I worked as a hairstylist, I'd joke to my clients about how power cords end up being the archenemy of every stylist. You're constantly battling tangled blow dryer cords, flat iron cords, and five different sizes of Marcel curling iron cords. You have to learn how to wrap the clippers cord around your arm so as not to get in the way of a buzz cut. They're always in the way! It's enough to make a hairstylist raise prices, believe me. #tipsarewelldeserved

I've never been okay with power cords. Sometimes I think they're trying to kill me.
Then my husband comes along, who has spent the past ten years in the audio/visual industry {15, if you count his high school job at Best Buy}. He is the cord whisperer. He has this trick with cords! I've tried to replicate, but I'm too right-brained to get it right. 

All that work with high-end electronics and fancy entertainment racks, complicated home automation systems...

It cracks me up how I've nit picked about the toilet seat for a decade, but his CORDS stay tidy! It's also an absolute delight to pull the immersion blender out of the cupboard all nicely tied up. Or to find that the quirky a/c unit built into the wall of our 1950s master bedroom is perfectly wound for winter. It's like his little area of OCD. To me, it's cute and wonderful. 

The power cords in our house, I tell you, just another testimony to how God matched us well. #codependent

Cheers,
Heather

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chapter 1 - A Grand Day Out: Featuring egg travel and speakeasies

If you and your spouse should find yourselves without your three children {who headed out to the grandparent's farm} after church on a given Sunday, you will decide to hit up The Bagel Deli {that hole-in-the-wall joint featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network, yeah, that place}. 
 Because you've always been interested in trying it. The atmosphere inside is a little intimidating. This is a legit Jewish deli, and you feel as if you just stepped off a Denver sidewalk an into a New York City restaurant. 
 You split the Reuben and decide that it's definitely worth the $12 you paid because the meat is stacked a mile high and it falls apart as you eat it, but it's worth it. You'll eye the TV as the Broncos lose the game {just barely, though, #omaha} and agree with your Soulmate that you'll have to return for that breakfast deal advertised on the wall. #baklava
 #sauerkraut

If you make it out of the Bagel Deli because the Broncos are losing and there's no hope left, your spouse will drive you to a random Denver street and ask you to get in this egg of a car with him. Why? You will ask. We're going downtown. He'll say. 
 Whatever. In this EGG?! Alright. Whatever.
{I mean, it really does look like something one of my chickens could pass.}
You'll reminisce about how your Soulmate once drove these Car2Go cars to work sometimes, back when he worked at that one company you loved so much, back when we were happier, back when you were a one-car family. #itwasworthit #nocardebt

Your spouse will show off his skills with the "game", wherein you attempt to drive as economically savvy as possible. That's clever of them, you think. 

While the freeway will be too scary to take pictures--what, going 60mph in a giant fishbowl, albeit a surprisingly roomy fishbowl--but then you'll see the downtown skyline and know that everything is right in your world right now. Broncos game = low downtown traffic. Parking is free and easy with Car2Go, because you don't have to pay the meters and they even have reserved spaces just for their cars. 

 You browse the Tattered Cover, remembering how the owner was your husband's client, back at his past job...back when things were happier. 
 You admire the shelves of Denver's favorite bookstore, you might find some chicken and beekeeping books while your spouse calls the grandma to ask if the children are behaving. 
 You stumble upon a printing press...you're impressed. 
 If you end up at the Tattered cover, you'll hop across the street to visit the newly renovated, redesigned Union Station once again. 

 You've stepped back in time! No, it's modern, yet they've kept the 1880s charm this station was built with. It's half hotel, half shops and restaurants. You think you could move in. You remember you have chickens. #nocigar
 It's so beautiful. You are proud of your city for turning this dead, nearly-vacated train station into something so lovely, buzzing with life, yet again.
 You browse the small shops...
 ...you find that the Tattered Cover has a mini-bookstore. So charming, you think.
 You take more pictures...
 Soulmate and yourself will agree, next anniversary we should stay at this hotel. 
 You take a photo to help you remember to come back here, once again, without the children. 
 Wandering over through the restaurants, you're planning your January anniversary in your head. 
 You think this might be a nice place for an anniversary dinner. You wonder what is in those burlap-capped jars? 
 You leave Union Station and wander back toward a Car2Go egg because your Soulmate suddenly has an idea. You walk past the Oxford, where you spent a previous anniversary, and think, Oh, Denver, how I love you.
 Soulmate will locate an egg on his smartphone, and suddenly you're Highland bound. {You know Highland(s), Denver's neighborhood with the highest concentration of hipsters. Also, Little Man Ice Cream.} You remember fondly how your Soulmate's famous band member clients lived in Victorian mansions and art deco homes in the Highland neighborhood. You wonder why people call it "The Highlands" when it's just Highland, meanwhile people made fun of you in college for calling Washington's I-5, "The Five"? #lamehipsters
 Williams & Graham will be the surprise destination, in "LoHi", which is apparently a really old bookstore that has been around since the turn of the century. Or is it
Soulmate's friend/previous co-worker from happier times had told him about this place, describing it as "an experience". Together, you & he decide to experience it. 

"This appears to be a turn of the century bookstore, Soulmate," you say. 
"It's a speakeasy," says he. 
"I don't really want to go in there, then."
"Why not?" he asks.
"Am I going to have to recite teenage angst hipster poetry while people snap their fingers and someone in the background taps a drum?"
"You idiot. That's not what a speakeasy is."
"Oh. Right."

 You will find that he is right. What appears to be a tiny bookstore is actually a "speakeasy". I mean, not a real one, that is, because--duh--prohibition ended long, long ago. You hand over your ID to a hipster man in a vest and a bow tie--topped appropriately with a bowler hat--and wait for a "discreet" red light in the bookcase to turn green. What's this?! You don't say?! This place is no bookstore, you realize as the bookcase swings open to reveal...
Pitch blackness. 
Until your eyes start to adjust and you find yourself seated at an old fashioned bar and handed a menu full of $12 cocktails. A friendly hipster bartender kindly teases you when you ask if he can recommend anything with St. Germain in it. {Because this anniversary dinner taught you how amazing St. Germain--and sweetbreads?!--can be when in the hands of a skilled bartender.} Well fine, I'll go more hardcore then. 
"What's the 'Blackberry Bourbon Sage', then?"
"It's good, but, it's a little boozy," he says and you realize he's pegged you as someone who can't hold her liquor all because you happen to like expensive elderflower liqueur that is maybe too dainty for his hispter taste. Whatever, hipster man. 
"I'll have that then."

 One boozy-but-good drink later, and after some amazing balsamic herbed french fries with aioli dip, you are shown out the back door--for once, not because you've been kicked out--of the speakeasy and you will regret leaving the 1920s so quickly. 

Later, you will read that this bar has been named one of the 50 Best Bars...IN THE WORLD. Wow. The entry was a little Disneyland, but I can see how it made that list. I think the only reason we were able to beat the usual 2-3 hour wait was because we happened to show up at 5 p.m. like only alcoholics or sleep-deprived parents will small children would: right when they opened. If you want to see one of the 50 Best Bars...IN THE WORLD, for yourself then I advise a reservation.

But you know what? Props to me. Because I have pretty much never been to a BAR except when I've been waiting to be seated at a restaurant. My first bar just happens to be one of the best in the world. ::admires fingernails::

Cheers,
Heather

What's that you say? I've been super whiny about Justin's new job lately? ...have I?
Hmm...