Fashion Weak: Letting go of my ideas for my daughter’s style

Photo Header (3)As a self proclaimed fashionista I was sure there was one upside to having a daughter that I didn’t picture with a son, the clothes.  I envisioned matching outfits, playing dress up, and a little girl who loved style just as much as me.   Cut to real life.  The moment she could voice them, my daughter started having very strong opinions about her clothes.  In fact, she spent a year of her life in only Minnie Mouse t-shirts.  Up until very recently, she’s been all about dresses and ‘princess’ skirts.  

On the day to day it can be a little frustrating.  More often than not it’s humorous.  The things she favors get repeatedly worn and stained while others sit in drawers crisp and clean.  I started noticing a rhythm in what she liked and bought new items to fit the bill.  Minnie t-shirts would always get a thumbs up as would shorts with pockets.  Pockets would hold the rocks and acorns she picked up at the park so this move was purely functional.  

When it came time for holidays and important photo opps, I was stubborn.  And it wound up teaching me a huge lesson.  Early November last year I went to Carter’s and picked out two perfect outfits for Violet.  One for Thanksgiving, a long sleeve floral top and cream sparkle skirt and another other to wear for family holiday card photos, a gingham long sleeve top and magenta sparkle leggings.  I also found adorable magenta fringed boots that would match both outfits.  I thought I had worked within the guidelines of what she liked enough to appease her.  Pink, good.  Sparkle, good. ‘Princess’ skirt, good.  No.  Nope.  Nope.  Noppity.  Nope.

Thanksgiving rolled around and it was time to get dressed for lunch.  Lunch was planned for smack in the middle of nap time so she hadn’t slept.  That should have been reason enough for me to take a step back.  But it wasn’t.  Violet said she did not want to wear the outfit I picked out.  I said she had to.  She cried.  I yelled.  I put her in time out.  She wouldn’t budge.  I told her no treats at Thanksgiving.  I yelled more.  And she cried.  And she stood her ground.  Oh did she stand her ground.  I cancelled Thanksgiving and yelled some more. Eventually my husband stepped in.  I left the room to cool down and gain an ounce of composure.  Violet picked a different dress and asked to wear her new pink boots.  We were late to lunch and I was rattled the whole time.  In a more rational head space, I quickly realized how off the rails I’d gone.  

I was embarrassed that I had treated my daughter so poorly over something so trivial.  I now look back on that day and think of it as the day I learned the biggest lesson of my mama life.  I hate how I acted and that for even a moment my daughter was scared of me.  I don’t remember anything from that day except yelling at her.  Those are not the memories I want to keep in my heart.  And certainly not ones I want her to keep in hers.

It also dawned on me that I actually have raised a little fashionista. And with that comes her own opinions of what she wants to wear.  I resolved not to fight her on clothing anymore.  My daughter is fiercely assertive and that is something I should nurture every day because there will be 10,000 times in her life that other people quiet her.  I preach to her that her body is her own.  And that has to mean that I let her choose what she puts on to cover her body.      

Later that weekend, I shared my embarrassment and failure with my closest mom friend.  She reminded me that it’s okay for our kids to see us lose it every once in awhile but that it’s important to apologize afterwards.  It shows them even mommies aren’t perfect and that what matters is how we respond when we do something we regret.  (Thank you mom bff who is working on her psych Ph.D.!)  This helped ease my guilt and reassured me that I didn’t ruin my kid’s life.  At least not yet.  I’m sure I’ll have lots more opportunities for that down the road.

I’m no expert.  But here’s what I’ve learned in dealing with a tiny fashionista:

  1. Include them when you can in buying their own clothes.  Violet was very happy to find a very pretty Minnie Mouse party dress that she wore for Easter and now wears at least once a week to preschool.
  2. If you really want them to wear something, you gotta sell it.  Recently, Violet’s grandma bought her an adorable dress and sandals for a family party.  When I showed them to her I remarked how much they looked like something Moana would wear (sort of, kind of, maybe?)  She loved it and asked if it was time to wear the Moana dress every day leading up to the party.
  3. Understand there is a rationale to their thinking.  V did love the Moana dress and sandals but also thought she might get cold at the party so she wanted to wear tribal print leggings underneath.  Who was I to disagree with that logic?  
  4. Be like Elsa and Let it Go.  It does not matter which dress my daughter wears to Thanksgiving.  She’s adorable in anything and I’d much rather look back on happy memories of time spent together than think of tears shed in my quest for a perfect photo. Let. It. Go. 
  5. Remember that crazy outfits will make the best photos.  I look forward to showing teenage Violet photos that we can laugh at together.

The other day as I got Violet dressed for school, she pointed to her ‘princess’ dress and to my work dress and said, “We match!”  I guess there’s still hope after all.

Moms who Rock: Bonnie Lewis

“My entire vision for owning my own business was that single mom or not, this kid deserves a soccer mom.  I want to be at every school function.  I want to pick him up when school ends. I want to be at soccer.  Money was not my motivating factor.  My motivating factor was time.”

When you meet Bonnie Lewis, she looks impossibly chic in the most effortless way.  And then when you compliment her outfit, she tells you she made it.  When you talk to her about sewing she’ll casually slide in that she traveled the world working for Ralph Lauren’s advertising campaigns and fashion shoots for ten years.  And in the less than five minutes it takes to tell you all that, you want to know everything about her.

Bonnie calls herself a ‘gig’ tailor and tells about her adventures traveling on photo shoots all over.  She’s unfazed when she says it and not bragging one bit.  She had been traveling non-stop for ten years when she was blessed with the news that she was pregnant.  At the time she lived in NYC and her boyfriend, and son’s father, lived on an island off the coast of Georgia.  Knowing her professional life would not suit her life as a mom, she made the move to Georgia and little Nicholas made his debut into the world.  When Nicholas was just a year old, Bonnie and Nicholas’ dad decided they were better as friends than partners.  So as a newly single mom, she moved to Orlando to be close to family.  In a new city with limited opportunities to match her professional life, she had big decisions to make.  

She took big uncertainties and turned them into big opportunities, launching one successful business after another.  Along the way she met the man of her dreams and has launched the company she always dreamed of, Common Sewing, which turns beginners into efficient makers. Bonnie is truly the answer to every one of us out there that have ever said, “I wish I knew how to sew.”  Now eight years old, Nichols is still the driving force behind every decision Bonnie makes.

On fitting clothes to the Ralph Lauren Models:

“I fitted the samples or built special samples for the images.  I’m the person that makes you think clothing actually fits models and that something is wrong with you.  Really, there’s not that much difference between them and us except for the team (photoshop, makeup, lighting, etc).”

Bonnie’s brother is a mechanical engineer that builds props for Disney.  She began her Orlando career by building out the soft goods department of his company.  

On what she learned working for her brother:

“It was a lot of hard work but it was a blessing.  It let me see that I could hire people to take a lot of the labor off my hands.  I learned I could serve a client well.  And I could have freedom.”

Eventually she was ready to start her own company, Bonnie B. Tailor.  She had Disney contracts and set up a textile design and fabrication workroom in her church. She went from hiring contract sewers to taking on a full-time team.  Things were growing steadily until in March 2016, she took on an order that was more than she bargained for.  Everything that could go wrong did.  The order was huge and they wouldn’t get paid until they delivered.  With money flowing out to pay for supplies and staff, things began to look bleak.  A look at the books made her realize she needed to do something.  

On Bonnie B. Tailor almost tanking:

“Best thing that ever happened to me.”

Common Sewing had been bubbling in her mind for ten years.  She cites that rough patch for Bonnie B. as the boot kick to her butt that she needed to get it off the ground.  

On what held her back:

“I had the materials, the 12 sewing machines. I had the studio ready.  I was just so scared of the weight of my passion to teach people to sew. I didn’t go in there. I didn’t plan lessons.”

Threatened with losing her business she got moving.  She was quick to action and not about to fail. The first Common Sewing lesson was held in July 2016.  She started by teaching a four class series.  Just one year later, Bonnie is now running Common Sewing full-time.   As for Bonnie B. Tailor?  They did complete that disastrous order and got the business back afloat. Bonnie is now in process of turning over that business to her staff.  

On empowering her staff to become business owners:

“That’s been really fun to watch.  Tailors are not compensated well.  And these are two incredibly talented, focused, hardworking women.  And they’re great people.  They have a hope for a much better quality of life not being my employee.”  

On how Common Sewing works:

“I have many layers of purpose in Common Sewing.  My mission statement is I want to bring sewing back into our lifestyle in a way that’s relevant, sustainable, and easy.  That’s all I do.  I teach very very basic lessons.  The six lessons will teach you all the skills to be a maker or a mender, upcycler, or designer and you get six cute projects.  But I walk you through the lessons with little rhyme schemes and memorization tools about what to do.”  

On why she’s passionate about teaching others to sew:

“We live in textiles.  We are all creative beings.  We all have unique bodies that do not fit into size categories.  And we all want to express ourselves authentically as ourselves.  I want people to know how to change things to fit their bodies or make things to fit their lifestyles.  I have a lot of passion for people and how they live in their textiles.”

On taking responsibility for our consumption:

“Textiles are the most underused of the most reusable resource we have.  Textiles do not need to be thrown away.  They can be reused into millions of things.  We put 15 million tons of textiles in the landfill every single year.  And that doesn’t include what we ship overseas, that’s American landfills.  That’s coming because we are over consuming and treating our clothes as disposable.  We don’t know how to fix our clothes.  We don’t want to take them to the dry cleaner to fix because it would cost more than what we paid for them.”

When Bonnie talks about preserving our planet, she’s looking out for her son.  And for my children.  And for future generations after that.  She wants to gift people with the ability to steward what we create.  And to be good stewards to our Earth.  

On what’s next for Common Sewing:

“It’s designed to reach the nation. I’m building out a program that equips and enables teachers to start their own businesses.  I want it to be available and bless more people.  Help a single mother learn how to sew and start a business out of her home.  I’m teaching them to be a teacher.  Training up teachers to bless the people in their community.”

In addition, she’s developing the program and documentation so it’s accessible nationwide.  She’s experimenting with webinars and working on a subscription nationwide for the Common Box.  Each box has one lesson that you can do at your kitchen table.  It has a variety of methods to reach each type of learner: PDFs, videos, and tutorials running live you can log in to do with a teacher via web.

Now a family of three, Nicholas, Brian, and Bonnie are very involved in their church and Nicholas’ school activities.  Nicholas loves playing sports, especially soccer.  Every night they have dinner as a family.  And on the weekends they head outdoors for bike riding, paddle boarding, and camping.  They love spending time with family and keep an eye out for local events to enjoy together.

On co-parenting in a blended family:

“Our family life is pretty wonderful for a blended family.  I married the man of my dreams.  His dad and I are great friends.  We have so much love and respect for each other.  He married the woman of his dreams.  I love his wife.  He loves my husband.  And Nicholas calls all of us his parents.  And we support and celebrate that.  So we have a really unique family life.  I won’t say it got there without effort.  We were blessed with four people who function more on goodwill.  And we love Nicholas like crazy.  But it did take work.”

P.S.  Nicholas spends the summer with his dad in Georgia. When Bonnie and I met for the interview he was heading up to Martha’s Vineyard (can I be Nicholas, please?)

On dating as a single mom:

“Internet. Advanced search. I don’t have time to ‘date date’. No time for meetups. I did not flirt in the grocery store.  I am not going to cruise my church.  It’s just not who I am.  I had a vision that I didn’t want my son to grow up in a single parent home and I was willing to do the work.  I didn’t go into internet dating blind, I read every book on the market.  Even ones I laughed at in college. My purpose was to find the man of my dreams, fall in love organically, and use the technology at hand that would let me date while Nicholas was in bed.”

On meeting her husband for their first date:

“He walked around the corner and I recognized him from his picture and it was like to me, the quality of light on the street changed.  It was like there was a shift in the atmosphere and all of the sudden where it was sunset there was a strange glow over the street.  And I was just a puddle.  All of my cool was gone.  I was just a droopy puddle waiting to have a drink with my future husband.”

On the biggest thing she does different than she thought she would:

“I thought my son would eat all organic.  I really did.  Because I love holistic nutrition and I’m very nutrition conscious.  Heck no, it’s like chicken fingers and french fries every day.  We cook dinner at home.  But he’s not going to eat [the healthy stuff.] I’m sure there are moms out there that would say otherwise and that it’s a cop out.  But he eats very differently than I thought when pregnant.”  

On how she builds in time for herself:

“I run every day.  And it’s just 30 minutes, I don’t run far or fast.  It is absolutely a stress release and it’s absolutely a meditation.  My husband and I work with each other to give each other alone time.”

On how she sets boundaries for her work schedule:

“I don’t work past 4pm.  Work one workshop at night when Brian and Nicholas are at Trail Life (like Boy Scouts).  I hire other teachers to teach the workshops because I’m very convicted that it’s not worth it.  Common Sewing is not worth more than my family.  I work in the daytime because I’ve got a purpose.  I am pushing into it.”  

On how her family is evolving:

“We became a family two years ago.  And we really enjoy doing everything together.  Now we’re giving each other grace, like my husband is an avid reader and since becoming a dad he hasn’t read a book.  Brian needs to check every now and again to just read.  So I’ll make a plan with Nicholas.  It’s new for our family to give each other alone time.  But we’re finding a lot of pleasure in that too.”

What have you always wanted to do that you’ve been too scared to act on?  What big risk have you taken that paid off in spades.  Tell us in the comments!

Bonnie’s list of must-do’s:
Food: The Sanctum Cafe, Downtown Credo, Bulla Gastrobar, Rusteak, The Dinner Party Project  
Entertainment: Timucua White House, Paddleboarding on Lake Ivanhoe and Wekiva, Blizzard Beach
Camping: Westgate River Ranch, Amelia Island
Newest out of town getaway: Boca Grande, she calls it an outdoor wonderland that’s a tiny island, half fancy resort and half nature preserve.  
Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know!

#MOMlibs

I bet you know a mom who could use some encouragement.  Because the mom life is so hard.  And even when we look like we’ve got it all together, we don’t.  So print this out, fill it out, and let a mama know she’s not alone.

(Right click and save to your desktop.)

Dadlando: A playlist for our life.

Do you have a box of memories from your childhood just taking up space in your storage?  Maybe you are lucky enough to have some VHS tapes of childhood memories or family vacations. Even better, maybe you’ve converted them to a DVD or a memory stick. These are great to have, but do you ever actually dig them out to watch them?  And if you do, can you stand to sit through the entire thing?  Last summer on  vacation, my mother-in-law tried to convince me to watch my wife’s entire high school homecoming parade.  No thanks.

As a dad, I have always tried my best to find some way to keep memories alive for my children – but what’s the best way?  I realized the solution was in my hand.

By the time Violet turned one, I had taken countless pictures and videos with my phone of times I thought were special.  I decided to string those together in a simple video app on my phone to share all these memories with family.  After playing around with the video a bit, I realized that by adding music, I was making a music video of a certain chapter of our lives.  I soon understood I wasn’t just making videos of the kids for my family to see, but for my kids themselves.

This gave me a whole new perspective on what I was doing.  Now, I spend more time deciding on a song to use in the video than actually creating the video itself.  I mean, I want the kids to like good music!

Every few months I catalog our adventures on the latest family music video.  Looking at pictures and watching videos of herself is already one of my daughter’s favorite activities.  I know when he gets older, my son will love it too.  I want to create a long playlist for us to enjoy and as a gift I can give them through the years.

Moms who Rock: Kristen Manieri

Kristen Manieri, photo by Roberto Gonzalez

“There’s a lot to be said about how we can bring a level of intention and creation on how we’re being, how we’re showing up and how we’re consciously generating relationships in our life.”

Have you ever googled date night ideas to avoid the monotonous dinner and a movie?  If you did that in Orlando you probably stumbled upon Orlando Date Night Guide, a tremendous resource of ideas and suggestions.  Kristen Manieri, the site’s founder, sat down with me to chat about all things date night, mom life, and local Orlando.  I walked away inspired by the amount of intention and thoughtfulness Kristen puts into every facet of her life.  After you read this, I guarantee you will also be thinking of ways to add purpose to everything you do.

After her move to Orlando from Toronto in 2006, she was waiting on resident status and unable to work.  Kristen had a PR/event planning background and thrived while busy so she began freelance writing (unpaid) to fill her days.  Around the same time, she wrote Great Dates Orlando which became a newsletter and then blog.  Admittedly a little backwards from the norm!  

Along the way Kristen gained her residency status and began a paid freelance writing career.  All the while she kept up with Orlando Date Night Guide and noticed her following was growing.  In 2014 she took a leap to make it her full time job and has never looked back.  In 2016 she launched the Date Night Discovery Club, a monthly subscription service that delivers date ideas to your door.  And in 2017, she announced that Date Night Guide will expand on a national scale.  She’s committed to creating a community of bloggers that lift each other up.  

She and her husband Marc have been together for 15 years.  They have two daughters, Elizabeth (turning 9) and Aly (7).  She runs down the list of non-negotiables in their house: weekly date nights, quarterly getaways, and family time including date nights with their kids.  They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.

On why she started Great Dates Orlando:

“We were new to the city, I love exploring and new adventures.  We didn’t have kids yet and were looking for fun things to do.  And especially fun things to do on a budget since that was 2007 and things were starting to go down the sewer.  We needed to get creative on how we spent our money.”

On women supporting other women:

“Figuring out a way to do what I love and on a schedule I love is really the holy grail for any mom. I don’t think most moms want to give up working.  I love working. But I don’t want to work 60 hours a week I want to pick them up at school every day.  I’ve found an almost near balance of work, home, kids, and my husband.  I’m very inspired to teach people that wherever they live, here’s how I did it and you can too.”  

On the biggest lesson she’s learned running her business:

“I’m great at starting new things.  When it gets hard I start thinking I shouldn’t have done it, it isn’t meant to be.  Forcing myself to stick with it past that uncomfortable stage, that’s been incredibly eye opening to me.”

On what’s next:

“I have a lot to say about the value of tending to your relationship (friends, spouse, family).  The intentionality that you can bring to upgrading any relationship through quality time, daily doses of affection.  Those haven’t been talked about on Date Night Guide and is the next genesis of where to head.”

On favorite Orlando dates right now:

“I love all the main streets that have popped up Audobon Park, Thorton Park, College Park, and Downtown South.  It used to just be Park Avenue but now there’s all these little pockets.  You really can just park the car and explore.”

On their most recent date night:

“We spent the night downtown at Lake Eola this past weekend.  Went for dinner at the Stubborn Mule and then walking around the lake.  We love the Farmer’s Market on Sunday and like to do yoga.  But not when it’s this hot.”

On being a proud Orlandoan:

“We are just getting Orlando people to fall in love with the city themselves.  Never had to sell Orlando as a destination to people who don’t live here.  But now there’s a sense of I want to live here, I’m choosing to live here. We have a lot and a lot of people who are creating really amazing things.”

The longer we talk the more I admire what she’s doing.  She’s authentic to her mission.  She just wants everyone (including herself) to have the best relationship possible with their spouse.  In ten years of blogging that concept has only become clearer to her.  She’s spreading a gospel of connecting with your loved one and committing to coming back to one another.  And she does it without sounding remotely preachy.

Kristen believes in rituals and little moments to add depth and sweetness. She tells a beautiful story of a ritual she has with her girls, squeezing their hands three times for I love you.  And she glows when she tells me about the other day when her daughter squeezed her hand ten times and said, “I just said I love you so much I can’t even stand it.”  

On her favorite things to do as a family:

“The girls are great at restaurants. We love going out to eat with them.  We also love hiking at Lake Lotus park.  It’s all boardwalks through the park and great to go exploring.”

Kristen’s tips for a successful restaurant visit include bringing a workbook to keep the kids occupied and drawing a hard line against phones or tablets to distract them. As a mom with a toddler and infant I was both stunned and instantly hopeful hearing this that one day I’d be able to look forward to taking my kids out to eat!  

On raising little foodies:

“We’ve slowly eliminated the kids menu from their lives.  They want an elevated meal too.  That’s what we’re eating.  We tend to buy whole entrees and share. Eating out with them is a real joy since they like real food.”

On the most surprising thing about being a mom:

“How much self care is critical.  Honestly when you’re doing the birthing classes that’s what they should be teaching.  Someone should take you aside and tell you how important it is to nap or spend a day by yourself once a month.  If you’re not taking care of yourself you’re not taking care of anybody.  A resentful overwhelmed teetering on the brink of insanity mother isn’t great.  We’re already going to beat ourselves up.  Those moments are less and less when we practice self care.”

On how she makes time for self-care:

“I’m up at 5 am (yes she goes to bed early – by 9:30pm) and have two hours to meditate, journal, and exercise.  Once I have those two hours to myself, I can give myself away the whole rest of the day.  I’ve done my part.  That’s mandatory.”

On simple steps to starting your self-care routine:

“Make a list of 10 things you can do to nourish yourself when you have a break or kids are sleeping.  I could do five sun salutations, write ten things in my gratitude journal, meditate, drink a glass of water, or just take a few deep breaths.  And then keep that list handy to avoid mindlessly checking Facebook and missing your window.”

On when you stray the course from your routine:

“I’m only ever 80% on course on how to nourish myself.  Checking in, being able to do a body scan, see how you’re doing and take a break ensures you come back to your habits.  You have to stay the course long enough to relish the benefits of it so when you go off course you don’t want to be there.  On course shouldn’t feel like work.  On course is so in alignment, your best version of yourself that it’s off course that is uncomfortable.”

On how she handles mom guilt:

“I’ve gotten really good at taking stock in the quality of our time as a family.  We are not wired for happiness, our brains are built for survival.  A happy memory doesn’t serve us.  You have to wire your children for happiness.  When you’re having a happy day saying ‘I’m having such a happy day.  Aren’t you having a happy day?’ and even giving them the words, joy, euphoria, wistful.  So many ways to describe a happy day. When [mom guilt] happens I take stock and know we’ve had these quality moments.  I can quickly access that in my mind.  If it’s not there then we need to add more quality time.”

What can you do to take care of yourself today?  How can you add depth to your relationships?  Tell us in the comments how you’re elevating the quality of your life.

 

Throughout our talk Kristen mentioned several podcast and book suggestions.  I’ve listed below as resources:
On following your creative passion: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast
On creativity and the realization that obstacles abound for us all: Linda Siversten’s Beautiful Writers Podcast
On when to quit and when to stick:  The Dip a book by Seth Godin
On raising children wired for happiness: Raising Happiness a book by Christine Carter Ph.D
Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know in the comments below!

Orlando is everyone’s favorite punchline. And I love it.

I think I’ve mentioned that I love Orlando?  And even though there’s a zillion cool reasons to love this town we’re always sort of a joke in the cultural zeitgeist.  And I don’t mean just because we’re in Florida.  I started noticing how often we’re the punchline in my favorite shows and movies.  I could be offended but really I love a good ol’ shoutout to my city.  So here are my top favorite pop culture Orlando references. 

Pretty Woman  

I watch Pretty Woman every time I see it on TV.  Every. Single. Time.  But as with most movies I catch on on cable, I never actually watch it start to finish.  A couple years back I met up with a few girlfriends at the Enzian for their Cult Classics night when they were playing Pretty Woman.  And would you believe that right in the intro there’s an Orlando shout out?  As the movie opens cops are on scene at the homicide of a dead hooker.  Two tacky tourists look on to take pictures.  Can you guess where they’re from?  Orlando!  (You’ll hear it at 5:50 in) The audience roared with laughter and applause. 

The Book of Mormon

I really hadn’t researched much into The Book of Mormon before we went to Bob Carr to see it.  It was one of those shows I thought we had to go see because there was so much hype.  Also I have very fond memories of watching Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Baseketball when I was a kid (South Park too lest I be outcasted!)

In The Book of Mormon, LDS missionaries prepare to be sent on their missions across the globe.  I am so glad I had no idea what was coming because the full effect of the punchline for Elder Price revealing he hopes he’s placed in Orlando with an epic Orlando banner unfurling on stage was everything.  I couldn’t find video of it, but here’s the song!

The Minions Movie

This is a mommy blog after all so I had to include my favorite yellow blobs, the minions.  I didn’t get their appeal before I saw this movie but after close to one hundred viewings, I’m sold.  In The Minions Movie, Bob, Stewart, and Kevin in search of a supervillian leader head to Villiancon, the largest gathering of criminals anywhere.  And where else would it be but Orlando?  It’s set before Disney so they arrive to a one-road swamp town.  And don’t worry they do find a supervillain to follow, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock).  The lady-power supervillian with a sidekick husband (John Hamm, yes please!) really set my love into overdrive.

Hotwives of Orlando

A general rule my friends know when conversing with me is that 9 out of 10 times I will relate everything back to the Real Housewives.  Imagine my delight when a parody premiered called The Hotwives of Orlando!  The show happens to hit on every amazing Housewives cliche and reminds you that telling people to ‘calm down’ can lead to a full-scale catfight that lasts a whole season.

Fresh off the Boat

Based off Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh off the Boat is a family comedy on ABC that documents his Taiwanese family’s move from Chinatown in D.C. to Orlando.  It’s set in the mid-90’s and such a great show about family and culture-clash.  As I went down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole reading up on Huang for this blog post I became obsessed.  I’m now sure I need to read his books, follow him on twitter, and set up a google alert with his name so I can keep tabs on his many controversies.

Orange is the New Black

I fully jumped on the OITNB bandwagon the second it premiered.  My book club read the novel.  And back in the pre-kiddo days I’m sure we even binge watched the season in a day.  On the show the guards often play just as integral parts of the stories as the inmates.  One guard, CO Bennett gets very involved with an inmate and we learn that he has a fake leg.  Flashbacks show us that CO Bennett is an army vet, so it’s easy to connect the dots that he lost his leg in Afghanistan in combat.  Not so, good friends.  It’s later revealed that he lost it because of an infection that he got in a hot tub.  In Orlando.

Identity Thief

Melissa McCarthy steals Jason Bateman’s identity and he goes to find her and get it back.  The movie turns into a road trip buddy comedy after he finds her, in Winter Park.   It’s painfully obvious the movie wasn’t filmed in Winter Park.  But did they even google it?  There’s a scene with a salon that is borderline offensive because the Florida cliche tacky salon is incredibly anti-Winter Park.  #howdareyou

Sisters

I thought Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s Sisters movie was adorable and funny.  The two polar opposite sisters head back to Orlando to help sell their family home.  They decide to have one epic party before it sells. Just like every other Orlando moment on this list, I do not think one second of this was filmed in Central Florida.  They do hit up a Big Lots at one point and that made it easy to pretend they were here.  Once again, my research for this list led me fully down an internet rabbit hole.  This movie is based on real Orlandoan sisters Paula Pell and Patty DeLaCruz.  Pell is a writer for SNL and wrote the screenplay.  So cool right?  

I know there are so many more Orlando moments in pop culture that I’m missing.  What should I add to the next round-up for this list?  

 

My bestie reports on our Vegas trip!

This weekend my bestie (Hanny) and I traveled to Vegas.  The much needed girls weekend was planned so we could see the Backstreet Boys residency at Planet Hollywood.  In our 15 year friendship we have seen them every time they tour so this was a no-brainer and a great excuse to get away.  Before leaving I wrote about my nerves  and thought a post-trip interview with Hanny would be fun!

Did you read my letter to you blog post?

Duh! It made me tear up and I’m so happy I’m the first person I went on your trip with after babies.

Were you nervous to travel with me as a mom?

Honestly no. I knew it would be hard for you the first day and then you’d ease into it.  But I knew you were really excited and needed the break so it would be great.

How’d I do?

Amazing.

Did I sleep too much or talk about the babies too much?

Definitely didn’t sleep too much I slept more than you (Note from momlando – this is true. I was usually up at least an hour before her which gave me amazing alone time and I even took a bath one morning in our giant tub!)  Didn’t talk about the babies too much at all.  I welcomed it when you did.  I love talking about them with you.

What’s your best memory from the weekend?

So many!   The show was amazing.  I love seeing the Backstreet Boys with you but this was next level.  The after party was great, I loved dancing the night away with you.  I’ll never forget sneaking our way into their VIP section to the point where we were sitting on a couch with Nick Carter! 

Would you travel with me again?  Where should we go next?

Charleston?  Anywhere we go is amazing and we have the best time.

What’s changed about our friendship since I had kids?

I don’t see you as much but I don’t think our actual relationship has changed.  If anything our friendship is even better now because I love your kids. I get to see you in a different light seeing how they love you. Violet has warmed up to me so much recently.  She loves me and that’s an amazing feeling.  Last week when you told me she thought she looked like me, even though she’s obviously your clone, it made my whole day!  

What do you miss of pre-mommy Dana?

We don’t get to spontaneously do things that often.  We have to plan in advance now.

What surprised you most about me as a mom?

This is a hard one.  I don’t think anything has really surprised me.  I always knew you’d be a really good mom.  You were born to be a mom. 

How amazing is my bff?  We had a great trip and she was a huge support to me the whole weekend.  My mind is already buzzing ready to plan our next adventure.  Stay tuned for more on our Vegas trip and a wrap-up of all the fun things we did!

 

Monthly Mix Recap: June

Check out the first part of the series (click here) to see what I set out to see, do, eat, and make this month!

Must Try:  Our cold brew pitcher is a delight and has kept me caffeinated all month long.  We tried a few different things including cocoa powder, sugar, and agave syrup.  The agave is definitely where it’s at.  Just mix with water before putting into the pitcher and it adds the perfect amount of sweetness.

Must Eat:   On the Saturday evening just before Father’s Day we jumped in the car and headed to New Smyrna Beach.  We stopped at Cafe Heavenly where the lobster roll was as good as I remember.  The place was packed because there was a monthly Wine Walk which looked so fun!  I want to keep an eye on that schedule so I can plan a date night and head back without the kiddos.  After we ate at 

Lobster roll at Cafe Heavenly

With the Kids:  While I love the idea of painting the fence with Violet – it’s 100 billion degrees out!  I need to plan my wild ideas a bit more accordingly.  

Wild Card:  I always wanted to attend Orlando Museum of Art’s First Thursday and finally did!  My BFFs and I had a great time strolling through the galleries and catching up on our lives.  A point of note, the $10 fee gets you in the museum but food and drinks cost extra. Also, don’t take your drinks into the formal galleries or a docent will come yell at you.  

BFFs at First Thursday

How did you mix it up this month?  July is just around the corner with a whole new mix!

Image Sources: Coffee Lobster

A Letter to my BFF before our vacation.

Next week marks my first real trip away from my kids since becoming a mom. I have only left my daughter for two overnights total. And one of those nights I was at the hospital delivering her brother. Hardly a vacation. But it’s here now, my first real mommy vacation. I’m excited! And terrified! And thrilled! And terrified! And can’t wait one more second for it to be here! And terrified! Luckily I’m going to Vegas for an amazing weekend with my bestie who I know will be patient with me the whole way through it. So BFF, here’s a letter to you before we go.

Dear BFF,

I can’t believe it, it’s finally here! We have been planning our trip for almost a year. Funny story about that, most of the time we were planning, I was pregnant with a baby. And he’s here now! And I haven’t left him yet. And I’m so scared. Scared he’ll notice I’m gone. Even more scared that he won’t notice. Scared he won’t remember me when I get home. I’m worried he’ll get sick and I won’t be there. Or maybe waste the one or two good nights of sleep he gives us a month while I’m away (Just kidding kind husband who will be alone with the kids for three days.) I’m worried Violet will cry at night because I’m not there to sing her the goodnight song or read her one more book or put her blankets on or take her potty at 3 am. I’m also so excited to not worry about any of those things.

I am really excited for our plane ride. Can you believe it? Someone interested in being on a plane. A plane ride alone sounds like a vacation in itself! So I apologize in advance if I’m overly giddy about it, make plans to talk to you the whole time, and then immediately pass out for a blissful snooze.

We’ve planned out so many things to do and see. I can’t wait to get started. I hope I don’t miss too much glancing at my phone every two minutes to see if there’s a kiddo update. And I hope you don’t get annoyed when everything I see somehow reminds me of something funny Violet said a few days before. I hope you don’t get annoyed when I question you about if you need to use the bathroom before we go to our next stop. Please slap me if I actually refer to it as potty.

Forgive me if on Friday night I fall asleep way too early. My bedtime is much earlier than it used to be. And also I just can’t wait for some uninterrupted sleep. I’ll do my best not to wake you when I jump out of bed in the middle of the night because I think I hear the baby cry. And I’ll apologize the second time it happens. And the third.

I packed a cute romper for the pool to go over my mommy one-piece. I’m a little bit squishier than I hoped I would be. Can you remind me when we’re surrounded by beautiful stick thin people that I look great?

More than anything I want you to know how excited I am to spend three days on an adventure with you. I promise to be present and live in the moment as much as possible. We’re nearing two decades of friendship and no matter where life has taken us we’ve always found a way to laugh through it all. Next week, life is taking us to Vegas. And it’s going to be a blast.

Love, Your BFF

P.S. Let’s both promise to not post any sort of Facebook status that says, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Because we’re way too cool for that.

My Orlando Love Story

This June marks fifteen years for me in Central Florida. My favorite memories through the years are wrapped up in good food, great friends, and lots of love.  I’ve grown so much and right by my side this city has too. 

It’s 2002 and I’m visiting for freshman orientation at UCF. We have dinner at Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ before dad drops me off at the dorm to spend the night. I discover new friends and the freedom of being on my own.  And I discover Tijuana Flats.  Life is never the same.

It’s 2003 and I have found my footing and great friends.  The Student Union smells like Subway sandwich bread.  We eat sweet chicken teriyaki subs on the deck quickly before the squirrels attack.  We spend birthdays at the Olive Garden and Kobe Steakhouse.

It’s 2004 and I’m a server at Pebbles Winter Park.  I toss nutty cheesy salads tableside to the well to dos of Orlando who serve as the board of directors for the nonprofits I’ll work for later.  On Sundays I work doubles and when there’s a lull we sneak over to Aloma Bowl and bowl a few frames.

It’s 2005 and I meet friends for dinner at Dexter’s and Chili’s.  I graduate from UCF and celebrate with friends and family at P.F. Changs.

It’s 2006 and I work at Second Harvest Food Bank by day and as a waitress at Don Pepe’s Habana Grill in Altamonte at night. I want to eat Cuban food every meal for the rest of my life.  

It’s 2007 and I spend my nights at Crummer Business School at Rollins College. I pick up quick dinners at Tropical Smoothie and the Rollins cafeteria.  

It’s 2008 and I’m working at Kids House in Sanford.  I spend lunch breaks at Yabi Sushi and That Deli!  On Halloween, after a failed attempt to go downtown, my BFF and I find Bobby G’s a dive bar in Altamonte. We spend many Friday nights there over the next few years.  Years later someone points out to me that it’s a Steelers bar.  I don’t do sports so I never noticed.

It’s 2009 and I start dating a very cute MBA classmate.  We spend a beach day in Cocoa and chow down at Slow and Low BBQ. We do dinner before a movie at Café Murano in Altamonte.  We spend an hour chatting in line outside Boston’s Fish House.  

It’s 2010 and time for graduation.  I celebrate with family at Hot Olives and then we meet up with friends at Stardust Lounge for dancing and lots of drinks.  We take day trips to the West Coast to eat at the Old Salty Dog  and the Dali Museum.

It’s 2011 and together with my cute boyfriend we start the short-lived food blog, Danie & Reidy Bon Appetity.  We cover Hawkers, Winter Park Fish Co., Hamburger Mary’s, and Junior Colombian Burger before we quit (food blogging, not eating – of course).  

It’s 2012 and we visit the Maitland Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings for crepes before we spend a leisurely afternoon at the Mall at Millenia or take in a movie.  We meet friends for dinner at Prato and the Pharmacy.  Life is effortless and the city is ours to explore.  

It’s 2013 and we run away to Key Largo and elope.  We celebrate the next night at home with our best friends at Luma on Park Avenue.

It’s 2014 and our daughter is born.  We stop at Donuts To Go on the way home for a treat.  We celebrate Violet later in the year with family and friends at Hamilton’s Kitchen and photos on the lawn of the Alfond Inn.

It’s 2015 and I’m offered a job at Orlando Shakes.  Proximity to Pig Floyd’s makes it a no brainer.  The sweetness turns one and we celebrate with a party at home catered by Tijuana Flats.

It’s 2016 and we’ve traded brunches for breakfasts.  We spend afternoons at the park and then go to Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream for a treat.  We have dinner at Zona Fresca where they don’t side eye us for the mountain of rice our two year old gets on the floor.

It’s 2017 and I’m nine months pregnant in January.  A week before our little boy arrives, friends come over to celebrate my birthday and we binge on Banana Dream cake from TooJay’s Deli, assorted goodies from Buttermilk Bakery, and the best cookies of all time from Gideon’s Bakehouse.  Simon arrives and our world is turned upside down in the best chaos.  We pick up Foxtail Coffee before taking our toddler to Disney.  We have quick lunch dates at Hunger Street Tacos.  On Sunday mornings we still go to the Farmer’s Market but spend most of the time pushing Violet on the swings.  We take a break to eat popsicles and walk around the lake.  We are flourishing.  Orlando is flourishing.  We’re just starting to scratch the surface.  

Note:  Any restaurants without links are no longer open (Sad).