Category: Golden Birthday Challenge

Golden Birthday Challenge: Days 26-30

Day 26: A new wine

Lewis was out of town. Moira went to bed at 7:15. Why not? I’m trying to become literate in wine. Okay, white wine, because I get red wine headaches. Okay, South American white wine, because a woman only has so much brain room for literacy.

This was a Sauvignon Gris. Not sure what my wine-expert friends would think of that, but there you go.

It was lovely when paired with a bath and a good book.


Day 27: Preparing and eating rutabaga.

Confession: I got the idea for this one from Moira’s favorite baby food. Ella’s Kitchen Apple, Spinach, Rutabaga is our best bet for getting nutrients into her when whatever solid food we’ve tried that mealtime is flat out fail.

As odd as it sounds, this was not a spur of the moment “oh-gosh-I-need-a-new-thing.” I’d been trying to get to this for weeks. Rutabaga is harder to come by than you would think.

Rutabaga as a vegetable, I found after trying a few different approaches, is, like most vegetables, best when covered in melted cheese.


Day 28: Something.

I’m not going to tell the new thing I did this day. But it involved the courage to speak my mind in an intimidating situation in which I’ve been pretty passive. Well, not any more.

Day 29: Letting Moira have “quiet time” instead of nap time

She simply wasn’t sleepy enough to fall asleep on her own. Instead of growing desperate to the point of nursing her to sleep, I left Moira in her crib for an hour. She sat quietly and played with her doll (and the curtains…and the poorly placed iPod that she could reach…) for an hour. Aside from going in to rescue the iPod, I let her do it.

When I came in at the end of the hour, she was leaning back against her womb-sounds bear, holding her doll, one knee up, elbow resting on that knee, pacifier in mouth, looking at me like, “I’ve got your nap right here.”

The rest of the day…just fine. God is teaching me that he, not my daughter’s sleep schedule is my help and my strength.

Day 30: Posting an honest response to a blog entry that moved me. 

I’m not a big commenter on blogs. And by that I mean I just don’t do it. Maybe it’s because I feel like a groupie. Maybe it’s because I see the sort of things that people usually comment and think, “Dear Lord, don’t ever let that be me.”

But Sarah Bessey’s latest post about love at 2:07am hit home, and I just had to let her know.

Golden Birthday Challenge: Days 17-25

Day 17: New everything.

This was a biggie. Lewis and our friend Liz James successfully surprised me more thoroughly than I have ever been surprised. I opened the door to find Liz bearing gifts and baked goods, completely out of the blue (she lives in Oregon). We then all went to a new restaurant, Lewis bought me a new jacket, and we saw a new exhibit at SAMA. I also tried mead for the first time.



Day 18: Day off

I needed a day off after all that new stuff!

Day 19: Attend the MLK March

I have lived on the East Side for 5 MLK days, and this was my first one to attend. To be fair, I was covering it for The Rivard Report, and I didn’t actually march, but I did get to feel the buzz of progress alongside national outcries for justice. And I biked further onto the east side than I have ever biked before.


Day 20: Gave an interview on the nightly news

This was not planned. I took Moira to a public meeting for the Lone Star Rail District. I’ve gotten to be quite a pro at community meetings, and it is usually appropriate to show up with my shoeless baby and my hair in a messy bun…shoulda worn a coat and tie to this one. Or at least not a frazzly bun and no makeup. I think the new chose to interview me because I looked like the kind of person who usually protests such things.

Watch the video here.

Day 21: New machine at the gym

I used the machine that looks like a recumbent bike. That is the most luxurious workout my quads have ever gotten. Ample seat padding, comfortable recline. Didn’t have to change my position to change the channel on the machine’s cable tv. I felt like I should be sipping a protein shake with a little umbrella in it and wearing head-to-toe Lululemon.

Day 22: Assembled brand new dining room chairs

My final birthday present was an upgrade to our dining room chairs, which were being slowly de-caned by Moira. We chose the most comfortable coffee shop chairs we knew of, which happened to be lovely, mid-century Eames organic replicas. Fancy that.

The chairs arrive...
The chairs arrive…
The chairs in place.

Day 23: Go to South Padre Island

In all my years in Texas, including the 18 month actually living ON Padre Island, I had never visited South Padre. So, when the opportunity arose to celebrate the end of the Disappearing Rio Grande Expedition, I jumped on it. And took my mom and Moira with me. Because what’s an adventure without three generations of intrepid women.

South Padre was like a newer, shinier version of the central Texas Gulf Coast, or a grittier, cheaper version of the Florida Gulf Coast. Whichever paints a more accurate picture for you. Concrete sharks, yummy seafood dives, tons of tower hotels and condos, 1990’s era shopping centers, and…authentic Mediterranean food.


Day 24: Take my mom and Moira birding

In addition to putting my daughter’s hands in the Texas Gulf for the first time (which I’m not terribly nostalgic about, as I have said some pretty awful things about the Gulf, most of which does not apply to lovely South Padre), I also took my mom and Moira to the World Birding Center for two hours of coastal birding along a mile of boardwalk. My mom looked for the resident alligator the whole time, and kept portending that it would show up any moment to gobble up whatever Great Blue Heron we were watching.

Moira slept the entire time, until it was time to leave. She woke up for the visit to the gift shop. And my mom bought her half the inventory.

My mom looking for alligators. Moira sleeping.

Day 25: Desert first

This is one of those things that people always talk about. I’ve never tried it. Until today.

Moira and I had been in the car all day. So when we got home, Lewis immediately sent me out on a 7-miler, and afterwards we all feasted on ice cream and vegetarian food, picnic style at the Pearl amphitheater. We got our ice cream first, from Lick, the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had. We even let Moira try our ice cream.

She then later accepted our offer of falafel in good faith and was gravely disappointed.

A big first. And last, for a while.
A big first. And last, for a while.

Golden Birthday Challenge: Days 10-16

Day 10: A new scent 

Two years ago we stayed at Hotel St. Cecilia in Austin, and I have been in love with Le Labo products ever since. Liz Lambert knows how to choose her products. I’ve toyed with the idea of switching to one of their frangrances, because I feel like they are more “me” than the straight up frou-frou I’ve been wearing for a while. Of course, before I could commit to the scent I knew I liked, Santal 33. I had to sample some others. They arrived on Day 10, and I began the trial process.


Ylang 49 – this one smells like a classy woman over 50. I intend to be one of those some day. But I am not yet.

Fleur d’Oranger 27- yep, smells like orange blossoms. Which reminds me of Greece in the spring. Being that I’m trying to move away from the sweet stuff, I’ll probably wear the sample, but not advance this smell to the finals.

Patchouli- this is the one I decided to trial wear first. Remember when guys used to say, “If a girl wore perfume that smelled like a campfire, I’d marry her,” (and we all knew that wasn’t true, because they kept marrying girls who smelled like candy and pop songs)? Well, this comes pretty darn close. I think it is a degree too woodsy for me, but it is really really inviting. So its in the running.

Day 11: Breakfast and a movie

This actually began as not a new thing. It was dinner and a movie (The Interview on Amazon Instant video), on the night before. But, this being a pretty ordinary  idea, we were not the only ones streaming from Amazon that night, and thus the stream had to reload every 2-3 minutes. It was annoying, so we decided to try an hour when fewer people were likely to be watching movies.

9am on Sunday morning. If you aren’t at church, you’re sleeping or golfing. Perfecto. Great time to watch movies. For the first hour Moira ran around the house in her walker, and then she took a nap. We had breakfast take out and enjoyed us some satire.

So while we did get to watch the movie, Amazon still took note of the compromised viewing and refunded the rental. Which, if Big Brother is going to monitor your movie watching, it’s nice that he has the power to refund for poor quality.

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Day 12:  A new yoga pose (or two)

I tried astavakra. It was a dismal failure. So I mastered “legs up a wall.” For years instructors have been recommending this pose to counter act running. I never did it for some reason. Until Day 12. New pose. Mastered.

That green plane is the wall.
That green plane is the wall.

Day 13: Making my own BBQ sauce

Not much to say about this. It’s pretty easy and pretty fun. My recipe involved ketchup (the large bottle we inherited when a friend moved away), soy sauce, balsamic vinegar (also inherited, though we do usually keep some on hand…just not in such large quantities), Meyer lemon, raw sugar, Tabasco (just a dash), and garlic. It was delicious.


Day 14: Essential Oils for sleeping

In my never ending attempt to avoid letting Moira cry it out, I tried lavendar oil mixed in with her lotion before bed. Not bad. The next night I would end up rubbing on the soles of her feet. I’m not really sure if its effective, but it delayed the draconian sleep measures by another few days, at least.

Day 15: Not taking on the anxiety of others

I like for everyone to feel valued and heard. I like to end each day with a happy team and network. It’s not always possible, and that is not always my fault. Nor can I do anything about it. Usually, that doesn’t stop me from worrying about the role I could have played in the events that led to hurt feelings or frustration. Today I had three work-related opportunities to allow myself to be sucked into the angst of others. Three interactions in which I was tangentially involved. And three times, I made the conscious choice to say, “They are going to have to work through this using their own emotional reserves. I don’t have enough for all of us.”

Day 16: Learning more about alcohol

I took a Pisco class at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. It was me and bunch of professional mixologists and bartenders. You know how I know they were pros? I downed all 4 of my pre-lunch pisco based cocktails. It was not until I looked around and realized that they had each had a sip or two of theirs that I was in for a doozie of an afternoon. Fortunately, Pisco clears pretty quick.

I drank all that.
I drank all that.


Golden Birthday Challenge: Days 5-9

It’s been a week, and we are on a roll with new things!

Day Five: Taking Moira to play at the Pearl Amphitheater 

We tacked this on to the end of a walk with a friend, and it was a great success. The rock seats are the perfect height for cruising, which is our favorite activity these days. And the dead grass was a perfect for eating. I was fishing leaves and debris out of her mouth all night.


Day Six: Not picking apart my body in our family photos

In early December, we had the special treat of a family photo session with Rachel Chaney. Rachel has photographed me seven times now in the last seven years. Sometimes they were photography jam sessions, where she was learning and experimenting. Other times they were life milestones, like my wedding. All of her work is fantastic and I love it. She’s technically on hiatus, but she graciously agreed to photograph our family in a lifestyle shoot.

We got the proof gallery on Tuesday, day six. The photos are everything I’d hoped they would be, largely thanks to my obliging and adorable daughter, and particularly photogenic husband.

If you read this blog at all, you know that the baby weight adventure has been a thing for me. I am ALWAYS hard on myself in photographs (no matter how good Rachel manages to make me look) and now there is simply more of me to be critical of.

But I tried something new. I decided to give thanks for my body, that carried and birthed a heathy baby and will one day be fitter and firmer, because I am running, cutting down on wheat and sugar, etc. But no matter how well I do, I know I’ll still pick myself apart. So on Day Six, I did not. I gave thanks instead for each beautiful image of our happy, smiling family who loves each other so much.

And you know what…the pictures got even more beautiful, and I enjoyed them more than any before.

Day Seven: Monitoring our energy usage and solar array production

We installed our solar panels just in time for a massive cold front and cloudy skies. So we’re not seeing the really cool potential of these things like we will in the sunny times, and when the heat doesn’t run all night.

But just watching how the wattage in your house spikes when the heater comes on is enough to make you layer up and cut the heater down to 65. Maybe that’s the true secret to how solar energy is going to cut carbon emissions.

I feel like I’m gaining points when I see the green part of the graph (meaning the sun peaked through the clouds and the heater wasn’t on).  Actually though, we’re gaining MONEY. How great is that. It’s a computer game where the earth wins.

This screen shot is from our monitoring of what happens when Lewis turns on the Vitamix. The big spikes, though, are the heater. The panels had been operational since 1pm that afternoon.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 8.22.55 PM

Day Eight: Eating at a Fruteria/Botanero

I’ve never eaten at Johnny Hernandez’s fruit infused snack bar. I liked it a lot. Fruit infusion lends itself to some killer cocktails. Also, guacamole with grapes. Who knew?

It’s a great spot for a date night too. Lewis, who has been several times, tells me it’s more whimsical by day. But by night, it’s pretty atmospheric.

Day Nine: Art-to-go at Landa Library (or, seeing if Moira is ready for crayons)

Our favorite branch of the San Antonio Library was not as crowded as usual, due to the freezing temperatures. So, Moira and I had all the attention, and allowed ourselves to be talked into an art project. Landa Library will sometimes set up a huge craft table with a simple, fun craft for kids to do at their leisure.

Moira is far too young for the painter’s tape/negative space project they had, but I was curious about having her color.

She is not ready for crayons. She just chewed on them while I made this:


Golden Birthday Challenge: Day 2-4

Day 2: Nail decals

I set the bar (no pun intended) pretty high on day one with the importance of the “new things” I am trying to experience every day until I turn 31. So today, I decided to adjust expectations. Lest anyone think that I have 31 truly significant ambitions in life, today I did my nails.

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Obviously, I have done my nails before, but this time, I used the sticker nail decals that my sister in law introduced me to about a year ago. I’ve been meaning to try them out, and today, for the first time ever in my life, I have fancy decal nails.

The process should have been simpler, but I used my complete ignorance of all things cosmetelogical to make it slightly more fumbling and awkward.

In the end…I have bold Golden Birthday Challenge nails.

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Day Three: Watch “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with Lewis

Over time, I’ve seen pieces and parts of all the Indiana Jones movies. If you’ve ever killed time in a hotel room with basic cable, so have you. But I’d never seen 95% of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and when I confessed this to Lewis, he seemed genuinely wounded.

I’ve never seen a lot of classics. None of the Monty Pythons, the Exorcist, Robin Hood Men in Tights. I spent the 80s as a preschooler and the 90s begging to be allowed to watch Rugrats (occasionally) and Ren and Stimpy (never).  By then, everyone had already seen all the classics, and I was on to “serious” movies. I did manage to piece together the original Star Wars trilogy and Animal House. It was like finding the Rosetta Stone of my family’s pop cultural heritage.

But, I married a movie buff. And Indiana Jones was a big deal to him at a formative time. So, we pulled out my MacBook Air, rented the movie from Amazon, and after only 30 minutes of reloading, updating, and hand-wringing, (“Have we been reduced to this?!?” (me) followed by a monotone, “Yes,” (Lewis)) we watched the great adventure classic in miniature.

Tiny or not, what a fun movie!

The fact that the final battle escalates into claymation is, quite simply, amazing. It made me wish CGI had never been invented.

Day Four: Go to a new grocery store to buy the week’s groceries

I think the success in this challenge is going to be not just finding extraordinary things to do, but doing my normal things in new ways. And few things are as alien and mind-blowing as an unfamiliar grocery store.

Years ago, my friend Rachel was trying to talk me into going to Sprouts, one of the few non-HEB grocery stores in San Antonio. Sprouts calls itself a farmer’s market, and it’s supposed to be a mysterious combination of fresh, organic, local food and low prices.


It’s a little far from my house, but so are all the decent HEB’s, so I went for it.

It was small, friendly, and had every single thing I needed. And I found a box of cereal that I can usually only find at Whole Foods for $5.99. The Sprouts price: $2.59 (it was on sale…but still).

It was packing up my Sprouts groceries that made me think that this Golden Birthday Challenge might lead to some more permanent life improvements.

Golden Birthday Challenge: Day 1

This year is my golden birthday. I’ll be 31 on January 31. My friend Cacc challenged me to make something of it by doing something new (to me) every day of January. So I will have done 31 new things by the time I turn 31 on the 31st.

Being that I have a 9 month old and every day is totally unpredictable, I’m staying away from weighty things, and I may have to blog a few at a time. If I make it to the 31st blogging every day then I’m buying myself a pony. I swear. That’s how certain I am that it’s not going to happen. But I’ll try, because who doesn’t want a pony on their 31st birthday.

So, here goes.

New thing for Jan 1: Watch a swearing in ceremony for a local judge…who happens to be related to me.

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I am very proud of Tommy Stolhandske. He’s the most fair person I know, which is a pretty great quality in a judge. He’s had a huge year, adding a daughter, who herself is a force of determination, and winning his seat on the bench shortly thereafter.

Voting for a Republican is a big deal in our house…but we could do so with no reservations, knowing that he brings a commitment to the law and its practical, wise dispensation.

The swearing-in was a family affair, with the generations of Stolhandske politicians, attorneys, and campaigners all playing a role. It’s always an adventure to go to the courthouse, and this time, there was cake and gifted gavels.

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