Book Club Party: Where the Crawdads Sing

I joined a book club!

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It was a happy accident–one of those chain of events where one social engagement leads to another…

And here I am! I had attended one event so far, and I found myself agreeing to host the next one!

First off, let me just say that Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was spectacular! As a work-from-home mom (with a toddler), it is nearly impossible to find time to read! But with a book club you have a (slight) sense of accountability, and between that and some poetically visual writing, I found a way to finish all 368 pages without skimming.

In this day and age, readers are desensitized and bombarded by literary cliches, but Delia Owens did find a way to surprise me with her craft and storyline! The way she weaves expressive words out of air, as if spinning straw into gold, makes my heart full. The lush, marsh/swamp setting out of North Carolina seemingly sprang to life!

Delia made hosting a Where the Crawdads Sing Book Club Party fun!

When it came to hosting my first ever book club event, I made a lot of mistakes, but the best thing my husband said to me (in the midst of a slight freak-out session the night before), was that it “doesn’t have to be perfect.” YOU ARE HUMAN, YOU ARE ALLOWED TO MAKE MISTAKES. Let out a deep breath.

Do you judge other people when everything isn’t perfect at their home? Oh wait, you do? you’re kind of a b****. Haha! Well me, personally, I don’t. I’m relieved when I see someone else who is imperfect, like a flicker of empathetic camaraderie. It reminds me that we’re all human and we can try our best, but that’s pretty much it.

If you are ever crazy enough to volunteer To host something–remember–try your best, but don’t expect perfection. Let minor mishaps go with a shrug. That being said, I learned a lot this time around. And although the worst case scenario happened to me at this party (my main course was ruined)… I came out alive & the whole shebang was still considered “a hit.”

THE MENU:

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I’m a graphic designer & I do this for a living, so don’t expect to be able to design this in fifteen minutes like I did! But I had fun and wanted to share my menu.

What Failed: (1) The Loveless Cafe Biscuits (I didn’t allow enough time to hand-roll biscuits), so I served on-hand Hawaiian rolls instead (2) The Broiled Shrimp (the glass casserole of shrimp exploded on Broil in my oven–do not broil food in a glass or stoneware container–I repeat–DO NOT BROIL FOOD IN A GLASS OR STONEWARE CONTAINER–METAL ONLY). When these two things went wrong, they felt like a disaster to me (the hostess), but no one genuinely cared. The End Game is that your guests have fun. There was alcohol, so we all survived and giggled along the way.

THE EXPERIENCE:

As a hostess, I believe in tantalizing the senses: SIGHT, SMELL, SOUND, TASTE & TOUCH.

I had Creole/Swamp music & swamp sounds playing in addition to a swampy YouTube Playlist, swamp decor & firefly lights twinkling, the aroma of delicious food cooking, and an entire swampy ambience complete with dangling leaves and flickering LED candles.

PREP PHOTOS:

I didn’t get photos of EVERYTHING (hostess mode distracted me), but here is the gist of the menu I used:

Roasted Olive Oil Asparagus

Broiled Cajun Shrimp (BROIL IN METAL, NOT A GLASS OR STONEWARE CASSEROLE DISH)

Slow Cooker Cheese Grits

Vodka Jell-O-Shots

White Peach Sangria

My Friends Brought Over DELICIOUS Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs, Vegan Fried-Green Tomatoes + Pimento Cheese, and Southern Pies + Ice Cream. Yum!

I must say, my new Book Club Friends are awesome, and living in the South is proving to be… not so bad!

 

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Mommy Review: Lucky Ladd Farms, An “Overwhelming” Experience

After we all piled into the Jeep at the end of our first (and perhaps only) visit to Lucky Ladd Farms, my dad said bluntly, “Well… that was overwhelming.”

Let’s rewind.

I love autumn. It’s the best. My favorite. My birthday month. There are pumpkins, yummy food, pumpkin patches, sweets, and colorful leaves crunching under your feet in the chilled air. There is also Halloween, of course!

I absolutely adore this season, and as of September 2018, I have officially been in Tennessee for two whole years.

I have desperately been trying to create some traditions for my growing family, so that our new state can feel like home. It’s been a trying journey. It still doesn’t feel like home to me yet, especially after last weekend.

Last year, during our first autumn in Tennessee with a baby (who was four months old at the time), we went to Walden Pumpkin Farm in Smyrna, Tennessee. It was the peaceful type of pumpkin patch experience you strive for with a little one. The scenery was beautifully autumnal, and it felt like an authentic farm. I really, really wish we had gone back there this year.

But nooooo, we took the advice of the locals. We knew so many people with kids raved about “Lucky Ladds” and how amazing it was.

So we decided to try something new this year, and lived to regret it.

When we first arrived, I was stunned by how crowded the entrance was. I immediately felt like I had walked into Chuck E. Cheese. After waiting in line a bit (which surprisingly wasn’t too bad), the place was put on “lockdown” just as we were getting our tickets. No one was allowed to leave or enter the premises.

An announcement came on the overhead speakers, “We have a lost girl, six years old. Her name is Cari.”

The place was so crowded, children were getting lost?

Luckily, they found her after fifteen minutes (probably the scariest fifteen minutes of her mother’s life), but it was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

We proceeded to the corn maze, which was the only part of the trip I thoroughly enjoyed. My son perched on my husband’s shoulders while we wandered through the corn fields with grandpa. The deeper we got into the maze, the more peaceful it became. You could hear bugs and crickets in the abandoned areas, and I genuinely felt I was at a farm in the country. That part was nice.

Then my dad went to go get a soda (which took a half hour, because they don’t take bulk orders and then process them at the food stands — they take each individual order and complete it before moving on to the next one — super inefficient and slow — cultural things like this make me miss California). It was at this point that we lost grandpa in the crowd, and none of us had cell service out there so we couldn’t find him until way later after we saw all the animals.

When we did find grandpa, we went to the corn pit, which is exactly how it sounds — a giant bin of dried corn kernels for kids to play in, which I shall endearingly call a “hillbilly ball pit.” It is a genius invention, and all the young kids seemed to love rolling around in corn as if it were snow. There were trucks and toys for the kids to shovel corn around, and my one-year-old seemed to enjoy playing in the corn.

After a while, I noticed an unsupervised toddler in the corner shoveling kernels into his mouth and spitting them out, which seemed like a choking hazard. Then a very rambunctious and large girl (who looked a little old to be in the pit) nearly trampled over my son while she stomped around. It was at this point I removed my son from the pit, as it was starting to get a little rowdy.

My husband went to grab food (another brutally slow experience) while my dad and I took my son to Toddler Town. He did enjoy the baby swings for a bit, and we were able to hide and eat our food on a batch of benches tucked away by the trees. Of course, as soon as we discovered the hiding spot, more people started flocking to the benches.

By the time we made it to the giant Connect 4 games (my son was also intrigued by this — he found some entertainment in moving the giant plastic game pieces from one peg to another)… we were getting pretty fried. The crowds and chaos had taken their toll on our mental (and physical energy).

My husband decided to take our son on the giant slide that involves sitting on a burlap bag and sliding down to the ground. I was excited to perch at the bottom of the hill and film them going down. I found the perfect little spot and set my phone to record. My husband waved and I was excited to capture them on film.

Just as I was filming, a rude girl with an excessive amount of makeup for a pumpkin patch trip and an SLR camera shoved her way in front of me and took a bunch of photos of her own stupid family members. In my cell phone video, you can actually hear me groan as she obstructed my view.

It was by that point I was done.

I didn’t move out of Orange County, CA, so that I could feel like I was at Disneyland without the cool rides.

I tried to get a last photo of our son by a pumpkin, but he wasn’t having it. He was tired, cranky, and exhausted. We all shared the sentiment so we headed for the car.

Maybe it wasn’t always this way. Maybe the same thing is happening to Nashville that was happening to all of California: it became too popular too quickly… like your favorite little corner bar you used to love that got overrun by hordes of hipsters… Great for business, bad peace and quiet.

I’m not sure, all I know is… I need more than a year before I will be ready for an experience like that again. Maybe when my son is older, it won’t be so draining. Maybe I give it another shot down the road.

But not next year. Next year I’m going back to Walden Pumpkin Farm.

Fun at the Farm

Autumn is my favorite!

The best thing about autumn this year is that it’s Baby’s first autumn… so all of those fun seasonal things that make the fall so great — crisp air, falling leaves, pumpkin spice flavored everything, cozy comfy clothes, hay rides, treats, and everything else I love — I get to experience with the baby for the first time.

He’s still a little young to make memories, but I imagine these fun experiences are shaping his personality. Exploration is good for little ones so that they can start learning about the big wide world out there.

This weekend we visited a place in Middle Tennessee called Walden Farm, and we had so much fun! It is a wonderful place for families and I can’t wait to go back next year and make it an autumn tradition.

 

Featured photo captured by Twinkle Light Studios.

 

My First Big Outing Alone with Baby and I’m the One Who Wanted to Cry and Pee Myself

The other day I did something very brave. 

I left the house…with Baby…and went DOWNTOWN. I knew it was ambitious. I knew it would be stressful…but I needed an excuse to get out of the freaking house, so I RSVP’d to a puppet show at the Nashville Public Library.

I’m not gonna lie, it was not a leisurely outing.* 

My day went something like this:

7:25AM

My eyes bolt open. I feel refreshed. I slept a whole 3 hours in a row! Incredible! And Baby didn’t even wake me up! I’m up first! Maybe I can actually shower and do my makeup today!

7:28AM:

Nevermind, Baby is awake and hungry

8:00AM:

Somehow I have managed to breastfeed Baby, change Baby 2x (because he cries when there’s the slightest drop of pee in his diaper), run a brush through my hair and get dressed.

8:30AM:

I’ve taken my vitamins and downed a Diet Pepsi. Diaper bag is now packed with extra diapers, extra baby outfit, formula, bottles…did I miss anything? Baby is still hungry, he needs formula now.

8:45AM:

Baby is fed and I am ready to go! I was aiming to leave at 9AM, maybe I’ll actually get out the door early! Nevermind, forgot about the dog…

9:07AM:

Dog has been fed, watered, and let out to poo. Baby also pooed so I had to change another diaper.
Baby is now strapped into his car seat, and we are off!

9:40AM:

Finally found the parking garage in downtown Nashville. Wait, this isn’t even the official library parking garage is it? Do they validate here? Screw it, I am not driving downtown in circles. I just hope this garage doesn’t end up costing me like thirty bucks.

9:45AM:

Spot secured on 5th floor. Baby is asleep. My new portable baby carrier goes over my head and I drop the sleeping baby in, facing me. I struggle with the straps for what seems an eternity.

10:00AM:

I’m out on the street and I haven’t found the library yet. Did I walk the wrong way? It’s so hot and humid! Is Baby too hot? I hope not, he’s asleep though. I think I’ve walked about three blocks out of the way. I’m feeling overwhelmed and almost tear up, thinking this has been a bad idea. 
I take a breath and look up walking directions on the maps app in my phone.

10:15AM:

I’m in the library! I follow the sounds of children up the grand staircase.

10:17AM:

I’ve made it to the puppet theater with time to spare! There are little kids running around everywhere. I swear I’ve never seen so many babies and toddlers in my life.

10:30AM:

The show begins! I barely pay attention. I can only see half of the stage. I’m sitting in the way back off to the side in case I need to make a quick exit. The show is about half an hour and by the end, the children in the audience have gotten so restless and loud that I can’t even hear the puppeteers.

11:00AM:

I exit the theater in a herd of children. I socialize with some moms in the play area. They are distracted and seem as though they’ve been tired for years. It’s way too hot. I’m worried Baby is overheated strapped to me.

11:45AM:

I’ve given Baby a bottle while walking around the library, away from all the bodies where it’s cooler. Baby slept through the show but he is awake and getting squirmy. 
I realize I have to pee but I have no idea how to accomplish that right now. I might as well just hold it.

12:00PM:

I’m outside and there is a sudden downpour. I’ve never seen a Nashville summer before and am not prepared. Rain drops are falling on Baby as he looks up at me crankily. I’m shielding him with my hand.
I’m terrified between being too hot and then getting rained on that Baby will get sick. I wonder if I’m a bad parent for even bringing him out.

12:11PM:

We’ve made it to the car before Baby starts to cry. I tell him I’m so proud of him for being so good today, and I thank him for waiting to get upset until after we’re at the car.
I really have to pee.

12:25PM:

Baby has been fed and changed in the car. He’s in his car seat and ready to go. Let’s get the $%@# outta here!
I navigate to home in my phone. I never closed my maps app! My phone is running dangerously low on battery. I still don’t know Tennessee very well. Im terrified my phone will die and we’ll get lost. I start to memorize the directions from my phone, reciting them over and over to myself.
I really, really have to pee.
I exit the parking garage and have to pay $14. Oh well, at least it’s not $30.

1:00PM:

I’m almost home! I’m gonna make it alive! Someone is tailgating me on a windy narrow farm road. I slow down even more. I have a newborn in the car and it’s pouring rain, back off moron! I make the slowest right turn in the history of time into my neighborhood. Intimidation does not work on me when it comes to Baby’s safety.
I really, really, really have to pee.

1:05PM:

I pull into my driveway. My phone didn’t die! It’s down to 1%.
Baby looks funny, so I take this photo:
Phone dies.

1:07PM:

I’m home, I’m in the door, four hours down to the minute after I left.
I haven’t been this exhausted since giving birth.
*I made a lot of mistakes on my first lone outing with Baby. I plan to write a future post with tips for outings with a newborn.