Monday, July 27, 2009

My New Mazda 5

Yippee, I got a new car! And I have been very happy with it. And while it may have sliding doors, it does NOT feel like a minivan. Just makes life a whole lot easier for me with two car seats as compared to life with a Volkswagen Jetta.

Today's "mini" vans are monstrous. And expensive. And guzzle gas like you would not believe, making them more expensive to drive. We were looking for a vehicle that had sliding doors so that garage damage would be minimized. Our garage is quite deep, but on the narrow side, and getting the baby's car seat out of the car meant pushing the side door against the wall of the garage. Once my son is old enough to get himself in and out, he would have been hitting daddy's car with his door.

So as much as everyone likes to give people a hard time about driving a minivan, the Mazda 5 is really different. Check out the specs. It sits up high enough that I feel like I am not driving a car, but is still small enough that I don't feel like my carbon footprint is a size 14 when I drive it. And while it is rated up to 28mpg, I have heard that straight highway driving can get up toward 30mpg. Which is virtually what I got in the Jetta. Now I just have more room! We had looked at the Routan, the Caravan, and a few other things and they just seemed too big. And I was adamant that we would NOT have a tv/dvd player in the vehicle. Some of those other vans have them standard with certain packages, and if you don't want the dvd player, you can't get that package. But regardless, they all just cost so much more and I don't need to cart around that much stuff or that many kids at this point.

The Mazda 5, like other vans, has second row captains chairs and then a third row seat. Not like full-grown adults would really be comfortable back there, but hey, not many of those SUV third rows are really useful anyway. But it gives me the option of being able to take a couple of extra people along with both the car seats installed, unlike my old car. I have to admit, I have only had the 5 just under two weeks, but I can honestly say that I am quite pleased with it. And it is kind of fun to have in-dash bluetooth connectivity. It isn't exactly the fastest car on the road, but it has enough pickup that it doesn't get left in the dust. We'll see how it handles in the lovely winter weather in Chicago later in the year (much later, I hope). But for now, I am enjoying the zoom-zoom of my new Mazda.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Living Close to Family

So, this idea may not be considered a favorite "thing" but it is definitely a favorite part of my life. We are lucky enough to live within easy walking distance of my sister and her husband, and my aunt and uncle (and whichever of my cousins might be at home). It is a bit longer walk to my brother and his family, but definitely walkable, and while it would be a stretch to walk to my parent's house or my in-laws, they are but a ten to fifteen minute drive down the road.

Aside from the convenient child care that this arrangement involves (thank you, thank you, thank you), here's a quick example of how much fun this can be. After an early dinner tonight, my son wanted to go to the playground. Well, my sister happens to live across the street from one of the four parks in walking distance from our house. But it looked like rain was on the way, so we cheated and drove. Honestly, we usually walk, I swear! Anyway, we head over to the park, give them a call, and lo and behold, while the kids are on the swings, aunt and uncle come walking around the corner.

Quite a nice way to end the day, if you ask me - pushing your kids on the swings, hanging out with friends that you just happen to be related to, and all on the spur of the moment. I hate to admit it, but sometimes too many weeks go by when we don't see our extended family members. We are so lucky to be this close to each other, but sometimes life gets too busy, things get in the way, and we don't make the effort to keep closer in touch. This weekend, we are looking forward to a big family get together to celebrate some birthdays and have a send-off for my youngest cousin as she heads off to play volleyball at Ole Miss this fall. And even though someone might get a cold from someone else, a new recipe one of us tried might be a flop, or one of the kids happens to knock over a glass of red wine (hopefully not on my mom's white dining room carpet!), we'll have a blast. Right up until the last kid is dragged kicking and screaming off to the car to go home to bed :)


So for anyone out there reading this who does not know me personally, one of my multiple jobs is training horses. Specifically for dressage, but we won't get into all of that right now. All I want to talk about right now is Cavalia. The greatest show under a big top, currently stabled in Chicago.

I saw Cavalia a few years ago in Scottsdale, Arizona and absolutely loved it. I was lucky enough to have been treated to that event by my mom, and it was so good that I went and paid to see it again this weekend here in Chicago. I could go on and on about what I liked, what I loved, and what I wish I could be a part of. But I would hate to give everything away for those who have not had the opportunity to see it.

For the non-horsey crowd, I think anyone would appreciate the beauty and artistry of the show, and of the horses. It is a beautiful blend of equine grace, equestrian skill, acrobatic strength and musical inspiration. From the opening of the show where yearling (one-year-old) horses are literally playing together loose on the stage, to the older stallions working at liberty with their trainer, to the trick riding and quadrille demonstrations, this show is amazing.

For those of us into horses, it is an inspiration to behold. The relationship between the riders/trainers and the horses is one of love and play, never forced or contrived. I left with renewed inspiration to ride for the love of horses, and to teach my students to develop a more harmonious relationship with their horse. This is why we love horses. Go see the show. Whether you ride horses or not, it is worth every penny.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Best Bakery in the Burbs

WARNING - if you are hungry, stop reading right now or you will end up eating more junk food than you ever should after reading this. Are you sure you are not hungry? Not craving a taste of something sweet? Okay then, we shall begin.

Oh, the joy of a Busy Bee Sprinkle Doughnut. And that Doughnut deserves the capital "D" for sure. I have to say, I am a fan of round baked goods with holes in the middle. Except for angel food cake. Then again, are doughnuts even technically considered baked goods if they are actually fried? But I digress. These Doughnuts are the best I have ever had. If you think Dunkin Donuts are good, please wake up and smell the proverbial coffee (which is pretty darn good at that store) and try a treat from a local bakery. If you are anywhere near Downers Grove, Illinois, you must go to Busy Bee Bakery on Main Street. But beware - although Doughnuts are a favorite Sunday treat, Busy Bee is CLOSED on Sundays (and Mondays)! So we must purchase extra treats on Saturdays, and they still taste lovely on Sunday.

I must admit, we currently in our house at this very moment have a lovely little chocolate layer cake from this very bakery in our fridge, half eaten. Yesterday was out 8th wedding anniversary, and as a present to us I picked up a Busy Bee cake. Now, since my husband was of course going to be eating this, I got one that is just chocolate cake with a bit of fudge filling and whipped cream frosting as he prefers no fruit in his cake. But this cake is so incredibly moist yet with just the right amount of crumb that it is hard to call it "just" a chocolate cake. Oh so yum. And it has no nutritional information on the package so I interpret that to mean it has no calories. Perhaps that is the only way to justify eating a piece at 10pm! Did I really just admit to that? Oops...

My most favorite of cakes from Busy Bee is, however, much more exciting than just chocolate. The atomic cake is so fantastic it is hard to believe you can really stop after one piece. But that is a testament to how good it is - you can eat one piece of this and feel so amazingly sweetly satisfied that there is no need to (quite literally) weigh yourself down by going back for more. Here's the dish on it: The atomic cake begins with a bottom layer of banana cake, topped with a layer of banana custard filling (yes, they make it fresh). Top that with a layer of chocolate cake. Then strawberry filling. Then yellow cake. Then surround the entire thing with the most luscious whipped cream frosting (that is so much better than buttercream, I think) and to be honest, there might be some fudge in there somewhere too.

And I have not even started on the cookies, coffee cakes, assorted pastries, breads, and everything else they make. This wonderful round loaf of cinnamon bread that makes divine french toast and is equally good toasted with a dab of butter. The cherry (or apricot, or blueberry) bread that is an absolute treat. Oh, and I can't leave out the pumpkin spice doughnut holes available in the fall only!

As you can imagine, I could go on and on. I think, in fact, I just did. And after I sign off of the computer I have to walk past the kitchen that has a refrigerator with cake inside. I shall not turn on the light. I shall not even think about opening the fridge again. So I will conclude with a plea to you all, should you ever be within the vicinity of Main Street in downtown Downers Grove, please stop in at Busy Bee Bakery. Just make sure you are there early, as when things are gone for the day, they are gone. My sprinkle Doughnuts are usually gone by 10am on Saturdays. Gives a person a whole new reason to get up early on the weekend!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Best Body Lotion Ever!

Contrary to what you may think after reading my posts this week, I am not the kind of girl that has a regimen of products that I use every day. At least not once I get out of the shower. I don't use eye creams or moisturizers or anti-wrinkle anything. I try to remember to put on sunblock at least if I plan to be outside all day. So I am not one who slathers on body lotion immediately after a shower, or every night before bed, or anything like that.

But I have one exception. I absolutely am in love with Deserving Thyme's Nourishing Hand & Body Cream. This stuff is the most wonderful, emmolient, non-greasy body lotion I have ever used. And, as I just discovered while locating the link to cut and paste here, they are having a sale right now!

Honestly, for me, $15 for a tube of body lotion is a major splurge. But of course I blow way more than that in a month on stupid coffee drinks, so I guess maybe I just need to prioritize. And go place an order. I haven't even tried the foot cream, and the hand & body cream I use works wonders on sore feet. I can only imagine how much more my feet would love their own aromatherapy treatment designed just for them!

So in addition to being the most wonderful lotion I have ever felt on my skin, it also has a lovely scent of lavender, lemon and geranium. And for those of you turned off by lavender, you would never even know that's what is in there as the citrus is really the prominent note in the perfume. But it is lovely. And they have an entire line of this aromatherapy stuff, even with sample packs.

I am currently using up my birthday gift supply of lotion and I think I am going to have to cut this post short as I need to go to the Deserving Thyme website and order myself some treats...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Face Wash/Scrub

Here's another new favorite of mine, one that actually inspired me to start this blog to share this info with the rest of you out there - Neutrogena's new pink grapefruit foaming scrub. Here's the link.

My skin tends to be slightly oily but never dry, and has never been particularly sensitive. I know there are plenty of people who would not want to use a scrub every day, but maybe you might want to try this for occassional exfoliation. The scent is so bright and refreshing, and the scrub is not terribly rough on the skin but leaves your face feeling nicely polished.

My former favorite was a Freeman scrub that was apricot and black cherry. Loved it. So then they stopped making it. Still have an apricot scrub, but not the same. So I have tried at least half a dozen different face washes and scrubs over the past year, and while some of them have been okay, nothing really hit the spot until I tried the grapefruit stuff. Give it a try, or see what you think of their grapefruit face wash. Same great scent, no exfoliation. I just bought a back-up bottle on sale yesterday so I am good to go when this one runs out!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shower Cleaner

Now I know you may not get quite as excited about this as I am, but I have to tell you, the Arm & Hammer Clean Shower spray, in my opinion, absolutely wipes out the competition. I will admit, no one has ever (not even in my wildest dreams) called me a clean freak. But this stuff actually works so that I don't have to!

I think that original Tilex stuff came out when I was in college. And as a typical college student (living in a dorm), I had no desire to actually scrub a shower. So we bought the stuff and sprayed it on whenever we remembered. But that shower had a curtain, so whenever the liner got gross we just pitched it and bought a new one.

Our current house has a master bath with glass shower doors, and let me tell you, they get grungy fast. I kept using the Tilex brand, since it was the original and I figured it was better than having to scrub the shower doors all the time (not that I really ever did!). I then decided I might as well try the store knock-off brands of shower cleaner, and boy was I surprised. Now I usually spray the walls and door of the shower before I get dried off and get out. The store brands I have tried were so full of chemicals I honestly could hardly breathe when I sprayed them standing in the shower. That just can't be good.

As you may have guessed, one day, I tried the Arm & Hammer stuff since it was, imagine that, on sale! And I can't believe the difference. Not only does it smell good (I think mine is some Mountain Rain scent or something like that) but it absolutely without a doubt works better than the store brands and even better than Tilex. Crazy. Now I just have to get my husband to remember to spray it when he showers...

Monday, July 6, 2009


Since I started this week with a favorite bath/body product, I thought I would continue that as a theme for the week. Plus, I guess since the time I have in the shower is perhaps some of the only time I can actually think clearly during the day, I decided to share another shower favorite - my new favorite bar soap. Don't get too excited!

Now maybe I am old-fashioned, but I am not a body wash kind of girl. Perhaps it was because my loofahs always got pinkish with mildew, and I would rather not have to deal with damp washcloths hanging all over the shower, but I just have to stick to good old bar soap. Plus, isn't it cheaper? Not that I have done the math comparing how many uses one might get out of a bottle of body wash versus a bar of soap, but it just seems to me like it must be cheaper. And the cardboard packaging is recyclable and takes up much less space than big plastic bottles.

So I used to be a Lever 2000 girl. Honestly, for years and years I think that is almost all I would buy. Usually in large quantities at Sam's Club. And I loved the original white bar, but the other scents are fine with me too. For all of my 2000 parts! Of course, I have tried other brands when they were on sale for too good of a price to pass up. But Coast actually started to dry my skin (which is hard to do) and Dial seemed to get used up really fast. I think I used Zest once in college and just hated it. I hate the scent of Caress. And I need something that my husband would tolerate as well. Most of the time I would just fall back to Lever 2000.

My favorite hotel soap by far has been the lemongrass citrus body bar from the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Fabulous scent, great smooth feel and nice lather. But you can only snag so many bars in a two night trip, and I sincerely doubt I'll be back there anytime soon! Maybe my parents will be back there someday...but that won't keep me clean for long. I did also splurge once and get a fabulous Lemon Verbena soap from L'Occitane, and while I loved the scent and everything else, the bar was actually so big that it was almost unwieldy when it was new. I have fairly large hands, being a tall woman, and I dropped that soap so much it was annoying. I can't imagine how awkward that would be for someone with average hands.

So a few weeks ago I happened on a little package on clearance at Target, and my shower is a much happier place. My new favorite soap is the "go fresh Energize" soap from Dove. Check it out here.
Wonderful citrusy scent to begin your day, but not too strong to be overpowering. And while the exfoliating beads "took a bit of getting used to" according to my husband, I quickly grew to love them. I think my skin is looking healthier and never really feels dry (but perhaps we'll still chat about body lotion later this week). Now I just have to hope they have it in big boxes at the good old big box store or I might have to recalculate my budget to accommodate my need to have this soap in my shower at all times. I have one bar left before I need to find a good deal somewhere. If anyone finds this stuff on sale out there let me know! And if you have a favorite you would like to share - that's what this is all about :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009


So I totally fell on this one by accident, but I have to tell you, my absolute favorite shampoo/conditioner 2-in-1 right now is actually Head and Shoulders! Yes, I am admitting to it - but have you tried the Sensitive Care formula? It's fantastic!

I totally fell into using H&S because my husband did, and I was sick of having so many bottles of junk in the shower making such a mess. So I started using his plain old H&S 2-in-1 and thought that it was fine. Really, it was nothing more than that. But they have totally revamped the line and have so many different choices now, I started trying the different formulas. I loved the scent of the Citrus Breeze, and the Ocean Lift smells great too. And the smooth and silky formula really did make my hair feel smooth and silky.

I will admit, I hate to buy anything these days if it isn't on sale, and that is how I ended up trying the Sensitive Care formula. It was, for some obscure reason, cheaper than the other ones I had already tried, so I gave it a chance, and now I am hooked. I even tried to go back to another shampoo and conditioner combo for a while (since the H&S had not been on sale and I had no coupons left) and was so disappointed that I went and paid full price for my last bottle. But it was full price at Wal-Mart, so it didn't break the bank.

I have to say that this stuff makes my hair feel so fabulous that if in the course of my crazy life I don't have time to wash and dry my hair one day, you would never be able to tell. And while I have never had dandruff, my scalp used to get itchy and that never happens anymore, unless, of course, I run out and use something else. So next time you're out of shampoo, don't be afraid to try a bottle and see what you think. If you hate to use a 2-in-1 they do have separate shampoos and conditioners now as well. Let me know what you think!

Welcome to my random favorites!

So the other day, I was thinking I just had to tell my sister about this new face wash I had tried. A few weeks ago I was telling my mom about my favorite shampoo. I am always telling friends about a great new book, or baby product, or dessert recipe. It suddenly occurred to me that I should share these random favorites with more people. So here I am, a mother of two with two part time jobs, suddenly starting a blog. Why not?

I hope that some of these favorite things of mine might become favorite things of yours as well, but feel I should warn you that I have very eclectic tastes and some of the things I write about may be of absolutely no interest to you whatsoever. But I invite you to stop by and check in to see what new (or old) things I might be excited about. And don't forget to tell your friends!