Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Baby, Two Parents, Eight Hours in A Gold Minivan

About a week and a half ago, we packed up and headed out to good ole' Nebraska for our yearly Thanksgiving trip. You are thinking, Colleen is so flighty, she doesn't even realize Thanksgiving hasn't happened yet.  But no, I do know.  This year we decided to go to Nebraska early because we were putting our house on the market and we did NOT want to be there. I would rather live out of a suitcase for a week than live in my own house while it is being shown.   Not that going to Nebraska is ever bad.  If cozying up in one of my favorite houses ever, having all our meals taken care of and getting to see family and dear friends is wrong then I don't want to be right.

But I also really didn't want to be here during the showings. That way our house could be perfect and STAY perfect.  And it worked. I'll blog more about that later because there are exciting and stressful things happening!

But back to the drive - eight hours in the car with an 18 month old - what did that look like exactly?

 It actually went GREAT, which was the opposite of what I was expecting.

 We left at 5:25am, exactly 25 minutes later than when we wanted to leave. Our goal - always - when we drive to Nebraska is to get as much "dark driving" in as possible.  It's great to "miss" the towns of Ft. Morgan and Sterling and just start your day at the awesome Julesberg rest stop.  We figured if we could log two hours in the dark before LittleM got up, that we would be good to go. *Laughs* Oh, idealistic parents. That means getting up at 4am, showering, packing, loading the dogs, feeding the dogs, then waking up baby, changing his diaper, giving him milk, loading him into the car and then leaving in an hour.  Like I said, we took 25 extra minutes, but it could have been worse.

The dawn was pretty. So pretty is made me want to throw up and never see it again.

Too bad our morning planning was all for naught:  LittleM was WIDE AWAKE at 5:25am and like "Hey guys, this is weird, what's going on?" The sun rose while he was awake. I fed him a banana and a cereal bar from the front seat as he chatted happily with himself.  Around 9am, he fell asleep and we gunned it.  Our driving with a baby theory is this - when he is out, no stopping. Log as much time as you can when he is unconscious. That's two less hours in the car that he has to deal with, and two less hours that you would potentially have to put up with crying from the back.  The problem with this theory is that sometimes I have to pee.

And every time we stopped the car, guess who popped up like a daisy?

Ryan and I took turns driving, riding in the passenger seat and then sitting in the back next to LittleM, reading him books and playing with toys.  Honestly, he's a pretty cute travel companion and was just snug as a bug in those pjs. Footy pjs are the BEST.

We stopped the Julesberg reststop just before he passed out and let him crawl around the informative library area, which was full of sweet old ladies who kept trying to give us used books and fawned over LittleM. "He's so cute - is he yours?"  It was asked so nicely it was enough to keep me from being snarky and saying "Nope, we totally just kidnapped him from a McDonalds. Do you think it's okay?"  Instead, I just nod proudly. "Yup! All ours!"  We changed him into some light cotton clothes for the ride (I myself was rocking some serious leggings for my own comfort) and changed diapers, and took the doggies out - they were just grateful that we didn't leave them at home.  *Sigh* It's so sad how their status has dropped since LittleM came along.

After he had stretched his legs and had a snack (those applesauce pouches are seriously the bomb, ya'll), we made it all the way to Gothamburg before we stopped for lunch.  Since we are in Nebraska, we HAVE to eat at Runza, otherwise my husband will have a cheese and cabbage related meltdown.   What is a Runza, you may ask? It's a delicious looking roll stuffed with cabbage and cheese and meat. I say looking because I ALWAYS ask Ryan for a bite of his and he always gives me one and I ALWAYS am like, "Oh yuck, that's right. I don't like these."

 (Runzas are also notorious for giving you the Runs-zas, a joke that never stops being funny.)

They do have great hamburgers and fries though. Look at LittleM rocking his red Nebraska shirt AND eating part of Daddy's Runza. He totally loved it, truly his father's child through and through.

After Runza, we sort of gunned it through the middle part of the state, decided AGAIN that we will stop at the Kearney arch the next time we drive through. (This is like the 8th time we have decided that.)  We stopped at another rest-stop, this time letting LittleM run around a grassy patch that gave me visions of snakes rising out of it's neutral shades and went on our way.  Marriage confession: on our car trips, music is always an issue. Ryan likes to listen to his back-logged list of podcasts, which detail anything from role-playing games to x-box strategies, Ted Talks to a story about some old guy from some old war in some weird country doing something special. (Seriously, it's like all of them.)

I, on the other hand, really want to SING when I drive, and I really like to sing through entire musicals since it makes the time pass. Chess? Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat? Don't mind if I do - just wait until you hear my amazing vocal take on Pharaoh. Les Miserables? No problem,  I'll be Javert, you be Jean Valjean, okay? Nevermind, I'll be both, it's going to be Tony-worthy. 

This is as tortuous to Ryan as a podcast about lancing a fictional elf-dragon are to me. This is why we have invested in earbuds.  We talk for most of the drive, but it's okay to love each other enough to not listen to our choice of music or podcasts for an hour or two while the baby sleeps. Also, I bet my voice sounds AWESOME with my headphones in. I could be in someone else's STOOORRRYYY....

Our last stop was a Dairy Queen in Lincoln Nebraska, where we laughed at their interesting take on a twist cone:

Yeah. We laughed for like ten minutes.  It's so sad in so many ways. The concept is there, but the execution...

Then, a half hour later, we were at my in-laws house and LittleM got to run around their huge backyard to his hearts content.  As you can see by the picture, he was absolutely thrilled to be out of the car.

"I'm smelling the flower. Aren't you happy people?"

But then again, isn't that how we all look when we have been in the car for eight hours?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Late Halloween Tidings from a Very Cute Yoda-Turtle

It's a little late, but Happy Halloween!  Too late? Okay. I'll take it anyway.  This Halloween completely snuck up on us.  I had just gotten back from NYC, felt like a took a deep breath, and then it was Halloween Eve, and I was like "Oh. We have a costume, right?"  It was the plan for my sister to buy LittleM's costume this year, but since she was in Europe most of the month I felt like that was too much, not to mention - costumes are expensive! I was looking at some adorable ones on Pinterest and when I followed the link, I would be dismayed to see that they were 80.00 and up.   I was like, "Uhhh, no, that's for ONE DAY." and then I realized that I had just uttered my least favorite sentence of all time when I was a wedding florist.

Luckily, our wonderful church family provided, just like they always do.  We were given not one but two costumes for Halloween, and with a few minutes to spare after work one day, I wrestled LittleM into his first costume of Halloween Day and we were off to Trunk-or-Treat at Gethsemane Lutheran School, where Sarah is Principal.  The shoes did not make it.

It was super fun, and our little Turtle - who busted the zipper on his costume like a koopa boss - had such a good time looking in all the trunks. I couldn't believe how much he had changed in a year.

Last year:

This year:

Oh, I'm not getting teary eyed or anything over here. Nope, that would be lame. *Sniffle*  I would also like to point out that he was wearing a turtle shirt under his turtle costume so he is pretty much going to be President someday.

The good news is that the candy tax is still at a very high 100% at this point, but at least this year LittleM got some delicious puppy chow AND a Kashi bar. That is a pretty big get for him!  (Mommy and Daddy very much enjoyed his Reese's Pieces and Almond Joys. When people would be like "Does he like Nerds?" Errr..sure!)

We visited our flamingo friend and her garden gnome. Their costumes were awesome. I voted for them for best trunk, but I'm a little biased.

After our Trunk Or Treating adventure, we rushed home to get all changed for our Halloween Party at Katie and Dave's house.  I wasn't sure what to be, since my previous best laid plans had been half-hearted at most and then I was faced that morning with "Oh, I better get a cartoon costume together." I was thinking "what is my favorite cartoon character that isn't an animal OR the kind of costume that will make other people cringe?" (I saw plenty of those earlier in the day.)   After awhile, I finally remembered one of my favorite cartoon heroines of all time: Coraline!

I dashed onto Instagram and five minutes later I was good. I got some blue hair chalk and a ripped yellow child's poncho and I was good to go!  We took a group picture as we headed out the door and when I looked at it I was like "My hair doesn't even LOOK blue!" 

Argh, hair chalk money wasted and also the bathroom looked like a smurf threw up all over the place. #neveragain

Only, no one knew what I was. "Are you a...."  Homeless doll?  Wet zombie girl? Goth mannequin heading out in the rain?   It was sort of a costume fail, but at least I was something I loved. Besides, I could never compare to the amazing costumes at the party, most of them homemade by Katie because she's ridiculous. 

LittleM and Daddy got into the cartoon costume mode and went as the world's cutest Yoda and Annakin Skywalker, before the mask, I think?  Ryan was vague on the details as he asked me to draw a scar on his eye, but like who can be bothered with the who's who in the Star Wars world. I know who Yoda is. I'm good, and I laugh at Ryan's terrible awesome jokes like when LittleM was crawling away from us at the party and I asked "Is anyone going with him?" and Ryan shrugs and says "He was alone on Dagoba. He'll be fine."

These guys are my life.

The party was wonderful - such good food (Katie always goes above and beyond with party food) and good conversation and I about lost my cool when Katie's son made his way into a very challenging position with a chair.  Our party had such cool creative costumes: my friend Amanda went an incredible reindeer from Frozen, there was a magician, a hipster Ariel, a tutu-d Batman and a perfect Daphne from Scooby-Doo.

Look at that awesome Frozen crew!

Also, can't forget the strange doll-faced hobo wearing a yellow poncho in the corner.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Fairytale Giveaway and a Chance to Join the Author Street Team!

Hi friends!
Did you know that I do giveaways all the time for my amazing Author Street Team?  All you have to do is sign up and you are good to go!
 I've given away a Kindle, an Alice in Wonderland mug, two necklaces, gourmet strawberries, signed books and a chance for a readers name to be in the final Elly book.  If you want to sign up, you can either enter your information here under the "Sign up for the newsletter" button, or you can tweet, comment, Facebook or email me and request to be signed up! It's that easy.

With that introduction, I'll go ahead and introduce the
awesome contest for you this month! I am giving away the best of the YA fairytale and mythology category, six books in all - and six chances to win. These are stories and authors that I admire, truly the gems of my genre.

The books I'm giving away are:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Unenchanted by Chanda Hahn
Towering by Alex Flinn
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I know what you are thinking - how do I get my hands on these fantastic books? I'll tell you! There are six ways to get six entries in:

- Post on Facebook about The Wonder: a review, a picture of your cat sitting on the book, a status update about the book with a link to the Amazon page, a smiley face with an arrow pointing the Book, a picture of you making "Queen-y" face - basically, whatever you would like to say or show about the book, do it!
- Post a review on Amazon or Goodreads
 ( or
  - Tweet about the book or become a Twitter follower (
- Become a blog follower of The Ranunculus Adventures (
- Post a Tumblr Pic, Blog Review or any sort of social media blast
- "Like" any reviews for Queen that fit your fancy on either Goodreads or Amazon!
Once you do these things, simply send me a link via ANY social media and the number of entries (this goes on the honor system), and you'll be entered to win the books!

 Six books means six winners, and I'll ship the books directly to your house!

Thank you so much for being a part of my career and my dreams. I'm endlessly thankful.

(And thanks to longtime blog readers for putting up with my sometimes weird straddling of writing career and home-life. It's much appreciated.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A NYC Day: Rockefeller, Aladdin, Magnolia and Grand Central

Bam! The next morning we walked around the corner to a delicious little bodega called Cafe Nova for a NYC bagel breakfast. By the time we came back to the hotel, Sarah was there, fresh off her red-eye flight and soon we were all ready to head out for the city. Our girls trip was complete!


Sarah encouraged us to get a MetroCard so that we could hop on and off the subway at will. It worked perfectly, and after about 20 rides, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it.  Sarah would tell us which train to get on and then I would follow them. The subway is not my favorite thing - I kept begging for taxis and was promptly refused. I just find it so icky and claustrophobic and weird. Some subways were nicer than others, something Liz confirmed ("You rode the 1??".)  Even if I just wanted to claw my way to the surface, with it's clean-ish air and sky, it's good to have friends that shove you through a turnsile lovingly encourage you to do the things that are outside of your comfort zone, even if you do have to do them again and again.

To be honest we did so many things that day that remembering all of them is almost impossible. Everywhere we turned, there was something to see.  Upper East Side to Downtown, there is no place in the city that doesn't have a staggering view of what truly may be the center of the universe.

First we started out waiting for a cupcake walking tour that we had bought over Groupon that ended up being cancelled and no one told us. So that was stupid. Luckily, there was a pretty farmers market going on in Union Square, so we took that in and moved on, after cursing our lost cupcake tour and buying some stuff at Forever21, which we totally have in Colorado.

  From there we decided from there to head over to Rockefeller Center, which has the world's largest subway entrance, approximately the size of a Colorado mall. I love 30Rock, both the location and the show.  I was crossing my fingers that I would run into Liz Lemon and we would become forever best friends, but it didn't happen.   I could have watched the ice skaters falling down all day, but from there we had another destination - St. Patrick's Cathedral, right across the street. 

Unfortunately, it's under construction, so a lot of it's magnificent beauty was covered by scaffolding. Still, the awe and size of it wasn't lost on us, and I lit a candle in the sanctuary to thank God for all our incredible blessings this year, mostly for one little guy who I was already missing. There were hymns being played on the gigantic organ and we all hummed right along.  

A little bit of spirit, right there in the city. I loved it.

After that we had a sad, expensive lunch at a depressing restaurant that was across the street from the Carnegie Deli, which had a tremendous line. Silly Midwest girls fell right into that trap and paid the price for it - 20 bucks for a miserable turkey sandwich.  After that, we headed to Grand Central Station, which is always guarnteed to take your breath away and unlike our lunch, didn't disappoint. 

The statue on top of Grand Central is my favorite. It's so iconic.

 Inside of Grand Central, we found the famous Magnolia Bakery, which was one of the stops on our cancelled cupcake tour, so we went ahead and had one. Sadly, Liz was right. It was totally overrated and actually not very good at all! And it's a cupcake, for crying out loud!   I'll take Katie's or my sisters cupcakes over those ones any day.

Also, I may have dropped it on my sleeve, so it didn't look very appealing for the picture. Bleh.

From there, it was on to the NYC Public Library, one my favorite places in NYC, complete with a Guttenberg Bible! (Ryan would have lost his mind.)

The ceiling there is divine - books and biblical art, all in one place? I'll stay forever. 

Outside of Grand Central - did I mention we did A LOT?

After the library, we decided to head back downtown to get ready for our Broadway show, which was Aladdin.  We put on our NYC dresses and headed out: mine was a thrift store find for five bucks, a first for me. Katie did my hair in a cute up-do and we headed out for our girls night on the town.

 (This picture was taken in our hotel elevator, which was cotton candy pink, constantly pumping with house music and smelled like a Victoria's Secret exploded.)

    I've now seen three Disney Broadway musicals and I can say that they rank in this order: The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and then the Lion King. They were all spectacular.  Aladdin was exactly like the movie: big, cheesy, beautiful and exploding with color and sparkles. I can't even convey the sparkle factor of this musical. It's like a Swarovski crystal threw up on the stage for every single costume and musical number. "A Whole New World" was absolutely dazzling, with a magic carpet ride against a sea of stars and a big white moon. I didn't take this picture, but shows you how beautiful the scenery was. Every scene in the palace had these gorgeous lattice backgrounds that just took my breath away.

The man who played the genie was incredible, and his insatiable energy took the show to new heights. On the other hand, when he was gone from the stage, the show seemed to deflate a bit.  Jasmine on the other hand, well, at least she was pretty. After the show, we headed out into Times Square which was bursting at the seams with tourists. This, more than anything other than Ground Zero, had changed the most since I had seen it last.  It's bigger, it's brighter and it's actually cleaner than I remembered it. It was also totally nuts.

I took this picture of Katie taking it all in - her face conveys the wonder and the insanity of it all.  However, the best part of this picture, unnoticed by me until Karen pointed it out is the TOTALLY RANDOM MARIO in the background.  

Why is he there? What is he doing? I love that he's just chilling.  

That sums up Times Square pretty well.

We ended the night at Junior's, known for the best cheesecake in New York (as I am reading this, I see that a lot of this blog has been pastry related. Lest you judge, may I tell you that we walked like 20 miles a day and that should even things out. Hopefully.). The sign didn't lie. I'm not a cheesecake person and even I could taste that it was the BEST EVER.

And that wrapped up our New York night. I've never been happier to fall into a bed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NYC: Chicken&Waffles&Serendipity

New York City!

Let's jump right to it then!. I haven't been back to NYC for about 8 years, not since our vicarage in Connecticut. When Katie floated the idea of taking a girls trip to NYC (after a proposed couples trip, to which our husbands responded "meh"), I jumped at the chance. I would love to see NYC again! It was the glory of my college youthful days: darting about the city (by taxi), taking pictures on a disposal camera, seeing every Broadway show under the sun, being amazed at the endless labyrinth of streets and stone.

I was ready to do all that again, minus the camera and this time with a bit more cash and less desperation.  We took a morning flight out, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for adventure.

(I wish I took a picture of us on the way back - we did not look like this.)

The flight was bumpy but quick (thank you Xanax!) and afterwards we were met at the airport with impeccable timing by Liz, who was SO AMAZING on this trip.  We threw our bags into her car and we were off for a "Liz-Tour" of NYC, which started with Harlem. Liz is very familiar with Harlem having worked there for years as a teacher. You know those inspirational but cheesy movies where teachers fight the system and the school is the worst and at the end you are drowning in tears and your own complete uselessness when compared to these amazing teachers who are making a difference in the world? Yeah, that's Liz.

 She took us first to Melba's, which was a beautiful little corner restaurant, not too big, but bursting with life and easy elegance on a late Thursday night. She took us there to eat, because their food is...well, it's probably one of the top ten meals of my entire life. I had chicken and waffles, which I've never had before and I'm so glad I waited for the RIGHT chicken and waffles to come along before diving in because they were exquisite. It was worth the wait. If I could wear a ring to signify my devotion to this chicken and waffles, I would.

 I also ordered a side of mac and cheese off Liz's recommendation and if the meal could be a sound it would be mmrrpppphhh...that's me, drowning in goodness. Also, we were starving, having just eaten breakfast that day and by the time we ate it was like 8:30pm, so it all tasted like heaven itself.

After Melba's, we took a short walk around the neighborhood, with Liz pointing out her school and running into a teacher that she knew - here's the thing about Liz, it doesn't matter where you are, you will run into someone she knows. If you were on the moon, you would run into someone she knows. It's a fact, it will happen.  It was a lovely fall evening, and as Katie put it "My body was craving cool weather"  It's been unseasonably warm here, and it was so fun to break out the scarves and boots and have them be out for an actual reason. Leaves blew around us, I saw a rat.

After our little Harlem tour, Liz drove us over to Serendipity, THAT Serendipity (ugh, typing this word repeatedly is the WORST) and along the way provided some fantastic tour guide commentary about Bloomberg, NYC education, charter schools and parking problems.

We found a parking space not far from the famous Serendipity and headed that way.  Liz ran into another person that she knew and screamed like she was being murdered. Katie was alarmed. I was like, "She's fine."  We were seated right away (I'm told this never happens) at an adorable table in the whimsical world that is Serendipity.

 We ordered our Frozen Hot Chocolates and Liz ordered something delicious looking with caramel and apples that made us all salivate. The Frozen Hot Chocolate was divine, especially the real whipped cream on the top.

  It was pretty spectacular. Great conversation, great people - a great New York night all around.

After that, she dropped us at the W Downtown hotel, complete with dazzling lobby and snotty receptionist.  The hotel was both impressive and dizzying and we collapsed into our beds with utter joy.

I don't remember sleeping, but when I woke up, I did feel like I had slept a long, long time.  It was a good, solid sleep. Waking up to the city was pretty great and that morning we had our first NYC bagel.

The trip was just beginning and then Sarah arrived. Things moved fast after that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Fall Explosion of Happy Pumpkin-ness

Not to copy directly from Erika's post at Something Beautiful, but I was so inspired by her blog about visiting a pumpkin patch that I practically salivated Pumpkin Spice Latte and warm leather boots.  I immediately started Googling pumpkin patches.  Apparently, the universe was also telling me to go to a pumpkin patch: that same day, two people at work (oh yes, I have a very part-time job at a spa now!) told me about an awesome pumpkin patch nearby called Anderson Farms.  I talked my Dad and stepmom into joining us and early Saturday morning we were off! They love spending time with their grandson.

I tried to coordinate outfits until Ryan gave me "the look", the look that means "We aren't doing that" and so we didn't match completely, but I would be lying if I said that this picture of three of us didn't bother me in the slightest because I am wearing a red scarf, while my two guys are dressed in blues.  I'll still frame it though. :)

We arrived at Anderson Farms, greeted by an absolutely gigantic pumpkin atop a large silo. The pumpkin looked real, I mean, of course it wasn't - right?  Right? I definitely kept looking at it, even though I knew it couldn't be real. Of course not. That would be silly.  

Immediately inside the farm were approximately 1,000 cute places to take pictures of your children. All around us were parents snapping away adorable shots of their little ones by mums, by pumpkins, by corn and fall leaves.  They were so lame, those parents, but we are nothing if not lame parents, overly excited by everything about parenting and so we jumped in with both feet and promptly put our little one on top of a wagon bursting with pumpkins.

  He was understandably thrilled and I took a shot of all three parental units all manuerving for the one perfect shot, which we didn't get, because LittleM decided he hated the whole thing.

"You see this pumpkin?  It's mine. All these are mine.  Now get the heck out."

After that fiasco, we decided to do the tractor pull, which was sort of like a hayride, but only lower. LittleM loved it and when we got off, he definitely cried. More and more I am reminded that he is edging right into toddler without our express permission.  It's amazing, it's wonderful, it's sad. It's all those things.   After the little hayride, we headed over for the disgusting really interesting farm animals.  I really wish I could like goats, but I just don't. As you may have guessed, farming is not the life for me.  LittleM loved them, and we fed them their stinky pellets for what seemed like hours. I petted a llama, but then it raised it's lip at me like it wanted to kill me and so that was that. No more llamas, unless they are pretty alpacas and wandering in a field of wildflowers and not hovering over me while some nasty goat slobbers on my kid.


After we all scrubbed our hands, we headed over to the corn maze. Confession: I have never been in a corn maze. Ever.  Ryan and I went to a corn maze over in a weird part of town a few years ago, and I was so turned off by the whole place that we didn't even try.  This corn maze was everything I thought a corn maze should be: tall, lush and sort of like a portal to another dimension.  I kept thinking of the movie Signs, which is such a great film because it scares the crap out of me without terrifying me, and Joaquim Phoenix is pretty much perfection in it.

I don't know what LittleM thought of the corn maze (he was very into his Apple Pear Sweet Potato Puree Pouch), but his stroller thought it was VERY STUPID.

 Turns out strollers are not made for corn mazes with muddy holes. We took turns navigating it over the many bumps and grooves in the corn and he giggled as we went, no doubt thinking "Ah, these stupid people and their outings. Gotta love them."   There was a little tower in the corn maze that looked down onto the maze and I couldn't believe how far out the corn went. It was like being in Nebraska!

It was pretty much a perfect sort of morning. I can't believe how big my little baby is getting. He so longs to be one of the big kids, and I want to wrap him up in a time capsule to preserve these precious days where he is still sort of a baby.

It was fun to be all together, although we did miss my sister, who is gallivanting around Europe taking ridiculous pictures of rainbows and magic cattle.

We debated eating BBQ ribs on a stick, but in interest of time and our stomachs, we decided against it and had soup at home instead.  I am so glad that we left (and arrived) when we did: the line to get in when we left was about a quarter mile long.

At night, Anderson Farms turns into a horror festival, where you can run around the corn field being chased by chainsaw wielding psychos and shoot zombies with paintball guns from a hayride.  Yeah, I'll pass on screaming for my life in a corn maze. That sounded fun, um, never.

*All I had to say was paintball and zombies and Ryan's eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas. He might go back.*

We headed home to enjoy some homemade apple crisp and an epic-record setting nap for LittleM.

All in all, a pretty perfect pumpkin-themed day. 

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