And Then One Happy Day I Signed With a Literary Agent

So, I've been sitting on this news for a while, just to make sure I didn't dream it. Since I've pinched myself black and blue, and Sugar has read the copy of the executed contract and assures me it's real, and I've waited a month to make sure she didn't change her mind, I feel safe in sharing the happy news that I've signed with Denise Little, an agent with The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency.

I have an agent.

I say those words aloud to myself about fifty time a day. Sometimes I tell random strangers. People look at me oddly, but I'm accustomed to that, really. I mean, when you do things like run off with a man's vodka in the grocery store, you grow immune to the look that says, "Poor thing, she's Not Quite Right." Full sanity is highly overrated and, I suspect, boring.

Anyway, this year I have one more thing to be thankful for. (The list is long--I am ridiculously blessed.) Denise is enthusiastic, has been in publishing long enough to know the industry well, and is possibly the hardest working person I've ever come across. I count myself exceedingly fortunate to be her client.

Peace, out...


A case of the Mondays...and some Pajama Time

Some days, while determined to plant my feet, put up my fists, and roll with the punches, I end the day with what feels like two black eyes and a near knock-out.  Today was one of those days.  It was not only Monday, but the Monday following Thanksgiving, a day that called for some recovering from a busy weekend and some reloading for the upcoming week.  This Sunday is Cruz's baptism day and I am starting to get a little to-do list crazy as I plan for our little house to fill up with 18+ peeps.  There is a lot to do, however, sometimes I admit that I have a way of planning beyond the necessary, beyond the reality.  I'm learning, however, and today was the icing on the reality check cake.  Maybe just what I needed...

Today was my six-week doctor's appointment.  Grandma and Grandpa had graciously offered to stay with Cruz, so I planned a morning of a much-needed run to the bank, the grocery store, and the pharmacy following my appointment.  Besides quick trips here and there, I haven't left Cruz; although I knew he was in the best hands, I'm still getting used to being away from my little man.  It's weird.  A part of me looks forward to the few hours of 'me time,' however, once I'm out of the house, alone in my car, I find my foot pressing a little harder on the gas pedal, hurrying my way through errands, speeding past yellow lights, and skipping 'important,' stops in order to get home. 

What I hoped would be a half hour, in-and-out appointment, ended up lasting an hour and a half, an hour of that spent thumbing through a September issue of Better Homes and Gardens, replying to text messages I had neglected for two weeks, and wishing I was home, in pajamas, rocking my baby boy.  The longer I waited, the worse the errands I was planning on running sounded, and by the time I was called for my appointment, my blood pressure was high and I was more than ready to just be home. 

Last night after Beau got home, I attempted to finish a baking spree I had successfully started the night before.  See, I can't just order a cake for Cruz's baptism and call it good.  I need to have a dessert platter of chocolate covered cherries, almond bark pretzels, and fancy cake balls, complete with lollipop sticks and pretty blue ribbon tied around the top (see picture below for inspiration).

I'm fairly confident that I'm a pretty good cook; however, when it comes to baking, especially recipes that call for melting and dipping chocolate, I'm truly one disaster in the making.  Two hours later, with a counter covered in chocolate remains, cake batter, and about every spoon I own, I was nearing the end of my rope.  Don't get me wrong, I can chocoholic with the rest of ya, but there is nothing worse than cleaning leftover melted chocolate from bowls, utensils, and countertops.  By the time I had the dishes cleaned, the countertop cleared, and the dark chocolate dishwater drained, I was exhausted.  With one hand, I took my baking sheet and headed for the fridge.  As I went to place my 30-some cake balls on the bottom shelf of the fridge, I managed to drop a heavy bowl of leftover salsa right in the middle of the sheet, smashing most of my chocolate disaster.  It was one of those tragic moments that leaves you dumbfounded and speechless, sitting on the kitchen floor, covered in nothing but salsa, chocolate, and shame.       

Getting in the car and driving to Hy-Vee for cake mix, dipping chocolate, and lollipop sticks did cross my mind for a split second.  When it comes to cooking and baking, I don't like things going wrong in my kitchen.  But what did I do instead?  I sighed, coughed back a couple of tears, and threw the entire baking sheet, lollipop sticks and all, into the trash.   

I'm not going to lie, it was a liberating experience for me.  The sound of the half-melted cake balls hitting the insides of the trash can sounded like a choir of angels singing 'I Will Survive.'  Yes, it was a disaster with about four hours of wasted time and now, no cake balls to show for it.  But, the show will go on.  Cruz will be baptized on Sunday, cake balls or not, and we will live (probably healthier) without them. 

Instead of moping in the middle of my kitchen disaster and wallowing in my Monday-Blues, I picked up my little, wrapped him in a blankie, and escaped to his room for some storytime.  We read Pajama Time, and I rocked him to sleep with the tree lit and Christmas music on.  Drowned out the weary world around us and focused on his sweet little face.  As he laid across my chest, resting his head on my left arm, I had the perfect view of his face.  I watched his eyes get heavy and fall shut, revealing the little eyelashes beginning to grow.  He fights it, the slits of his eyes continuing to study my every move as I mouth the words, hop into bed, turn out the light, you can have a party in your dreams tonight.  His mouth and cheeks are the last to give in, continuing to take little sucks of his pacifier that make the sweetest little squeak.  His hand is weaved around the chain of my necklace, and rests under the collar of my shirt.  As he sleeps, he continues to make little noises, a combination of little baby breaths, grunts, and squeaks, creating the perfect harmony with the music in the background.

This little moment outweighed the four hours of kitchen disaster I had just experienced.  It was as if Cruz knew we needed that quiet little moment together.  The reality check I needed to forget all that are cake balls. 

All these moments...the big, the small, the silly, the mundane, the disasters, the adventures, are what life is all about.

Lamy Safari + Noodler's La Couleur Royale

While the focus of this blog is economical selections, one must remember that value comes with getting the most out of your purchases. This is the Lamy Safari fountain pen fitted with a Lamy 1.1mm calligraphy nib, available on Jetpens. The main thing to keep in mind when spending $26 for a pen and $10 for a replacement nib is the value over time. Lamy guarantees their pens for the life of the pen, and they have been around for spell, so they know how to make a quality product. The pen itself is made of ABS plastic, and there is little concern for dropping it or carrying it with you in your pocket. This pen will last you, and there are dozens of reviews out there if you want to learn more about this pen. I chose the color charcoal, which is like a matte black, and the nib that came with it was an extra fine. If you want to dip your toes in the world of fountain pens, I'd say this is a good place to start. If you want to do it even cheaper, you could try a Platinum Preppy, which will be a later review.

The ink shown above is Noodler's La Couleur Royale - a rich, vibrant, deep purple - which has some bluish tones to it. The ink flows extremely well, and there is no feathering to speak of. Some credit must be given to the paper - my Rhodia Reverse Book, with 80 gsm graph paper. Some people do not like the grips on the Lamy Safari because of the triangular shape, which is meant to help position your fingers for a more ergonomic writing form, but I do not mind it. If you like trying new inks, or if you are a purple fan, then this Noodler's ink is a great buy. You will need to get a converter or learn to fill your empty cartridges if you want to try this ink in a Lamy Safari, but another option for you would be to get a pen that has a built-in ink system, such as a piston filler. Some pens, such as the Platinum Preppy, will allow you to convert them to an eyedropper, and there are many tutorial out there to do this, such as this article on Jetpens. But if you have any questions, please let me know, and I will be glad to help. 

TUL .5 mm needle point + Rhodia Reverse Book

This combination is excellent, but my camera phone may not do it justice. What we have here is the .5mm Needle Point Gel from TUL, the OfficeMax house brand of gel pens. They also make rollerballs, ballpoints, mechanical pencils, highlighters, and dry-erase markers. I have tried the rollerball, which wasn't too bad, but the ballpoint was nothing to write home about (or with). In terms of performance, this needle point is one of the best:
-The grip is comfortable and is nice and grippy, which it should be given the name.
-The needle point tip feels sturdy and has no flex.
-The ink is super black and I have yet to experience issues with smearing due to the drying time, which is not quite as bad as the Pilot G2 .7mm. The ink is also very smooth, and I have not experienced skipping at all.
-This pen is retractable, which may be good or bad depending on your preference.
-The value? You get a 4-pack of really great gel pens for about $6 U.S., which is a lot more than I can say for some of the other brands with this level of performance. 

Of course there is the paper which, in this case, is the Rhodia Reverse Book. The paper is incredible, and it is known for being able to handle wet fountain pens and sign pens with ease. The paper is 80 GSM and the Reverse Book includes 80 sheets. The paper is buttery smooth, thick, and is in graph, which is excellent for most of my purposes. One interesting aspect of this paper is the purple lines, which helps many inks show quite well with the contrast of purple and whatever other color that you're using. The one thing that suffers in this review is my camera, which is 5 mega-pixels, but the lighting situation needs improvement; I will work on this going forward. 

The bottom line is that either of this products would be a great choice, and if you haven't heard of either, then you're in for a treat.  

Dowdyism @ The Pen Addict also has a review of this TUL pen, which is what led me to purchase these pens in the first place. 
For more information on Rhodia, go check out Biffy Beans' blog
Biffy Beans also has an excellent blog called Spiritual Evolution of the Bean, which has a ton of great reviews, especially if you like to see fountain pen inks used to create great art. 


What a Thanksgiving it was.  I've always dreamed of our first holiday season with a baby, and at various parts throughout this wonderfully long five days, I felt as though I was living in the middle of a Hallmark card.  Of course it was filled with our usual learn-as-you-go parenting moments, complete with packing and un-packing baby bags, warming up cars, 'self-soothing' in the parking lot of Kwik Star, and a monstrous poo that filled the leg of a sleeper instead of the diaper itself, leading us to cut Cruz's onesie off instead of pulling it over his head.  But weaved within these little moments of madness were the moments I've lived for.  Those can't-catch-your-breath moments that leave you wishing life would always stay this way.  And together, those moments of madness and moments of peace create the perfect quilt of life to wrap up in with a big mug of something steamy.   

I think the long Thanksgiving weekend is one of my favorites of the entire year.  Unlike the chaos that permeates around Christmastime, Thanksgiving is the perfect mix of traveling and hibernating.  It's the thrills of the first holiday moments, decorating the tree, bundling up in my favorite boots and mittens, and wrapping that first present.  It's the continuation of traditions we started as two, and the beginning of new now that we are three.  Most of all, it's the feeling that comes with long weekends, where time seems to slow down a little, giving us the opportunity to breathe, relax, and enjoy all that is life.

...Enjoying the lights of the Christmas tree as we anxiously await for Beau to get home from work Wednesday night.  Cruz is fascinated by the hundreds of lights that fill our living room right now.  I'm starting to think this year-round Christmas tree is a good idea.  He is enthralled with it and especially loves the way the lights dance on the glass of the window as we rock back and forth.  We spend a lot of time swaying in front of the picture window....

...Enjoying a Wednesday night walk through the mall and an impromptu family dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings.  Bottles, bibs, and chicken wings.  A baby who loved the commotion and sat wide eyed as his parents started their five-day food binge.  We squeezed orange slices into bottles of Blue Moon, passed Cruz back and forth across the table, and stashed all the individually-wrapped wet wipes in our diaper bag.

...Relaxing by our very first crackling fire of the season.  Some baby bath time and a pair of cozy pajamas.  Blankets piled in the middle of the living room floor.  Some family time under the tree, too good for even our apprehensive cat to resist, and a movie I only half paid attention to while snapping picture after picture of a baby smiling at the Christmas tree.

...Enjoying a Thanksgiving Thursday of lots of family and lots of food.  Puppy hats and heated seats, cappuchino, chocolate donuts, and dreams of seeing Macy's parade in person.  Sneaking away for some quiet time to feed Cruz while the aromas of cranberry stuffing, butternut squash, and a roasted chicken make their way upstairs.  Eating our first Thanksgiving dinner as a baby talks to us from the other room.  Two great-grandparents, perfectly content holding their babies while the rest of their family eats first.  Diapers changed on the living room floor, turkey pajamas crawling down the hall, and a 'Thanksgiving' present from Grandma.  And finally, wrapping sleepy babies in snuggly car seats, kisses goodbye, and long car rides home.

...Enjoying Black Friday shopping that started a bit later than past years.  Half-priced jeans, a few Christmas steals, and sacks that make their way to the hiding place upstairs as Beau taunts me with his usual threats.  A radio station that plays Christmas music from Cruz's room and a Balsam Fir Wallflower that fills the entire house with the scents of real Christmas trees.  A happy baby in an adorably stiff, over-sized snowsuit, a happy mama in a new pair of suede boots, and a spotlight that helps guide our way to Main Street for the Second Annual Holiday Hoopla.  Watching the excitement of Santa's arrival from the windows of Soho, listening to the boom of fireworks as we sip martinis, dip sushi rolls in soy sauce, and rock babies to sleep.  Getting a taste of raising toddlers as we watch Dash and Jersee dip their chocolate chip cookies in ranch dressing, lick salt from the palms of their hands, and race Hot Wheel cars through perfectly placed fake snow on the window sill of the restaurant.  Laughing at their cuteness and realizing that the peace we feel with one is only temporary...

...Breathing in the smells of another late-night fire, a single glass of wine, and an episode or two of Mad Men.  The sights of the last piece of garland lit in the living room, a smoldering fire, and a simple prayer of thanks before bed. 

...Enjoying Saturday mornings in pajamas after yet another FULL NIGHT'S sleep, the (four) of us crowded in our bed, drinking bottomless cups of coffee and tea, and competing to see who can make Cruz smile more.  Mornings of laundry and groceries, as Beau reunites with his XBox and Cruz sleeps on his chest in the man cave downstairs. 

...Enjoying a tree trimming tradition on Saturday night, complete with potato soup and potato skins, pico de gallo and a Baby's First Christmas ornament.  Tiny mittens hung and popcorn strung, Frank Sinatra's serenade, and Elf in Espanol.  

...Relaxing in church with a baby who just feels like cuddling.  A batch of chocolate covered cherries, a clean fridge, and a Bears win. 

Cruz loved Thanksgiving.  He was awake most of the day Thursday, slept pretty much all of Friday, smiled all morning Saturday, and was lazy lazy on Sunday.  He had lots to say to his family members, especially his Grandpa Ray, and found his first fire to be one of the coolest things ever.  He chilled out under the Christmas tree, wore his snowsuit for the first time, and helped me string popcorn for his very own Christmas tree.  As the weekend winds down and I begin to look ahead to a busy week of preparing for Cruz's baptism on Sunday, I am overwhelmed with 'thanks.'  Thanks for a few more weeks at home before heading back to school, thanks for this little boy that seems to get more fun every day, and thanks for this new chapter of our lives that makes the holidays so special.  


This is clearly my first post. I have never had a blog before, so I need to get acclimated to all of the nifty tools, and then I will be more consistent in my blog postings. This blog will feature my perspective on a variety of office supplies, focusing on affordable pens. Obviously there are many blogs out there that cover this material, but there are never enough reviews to read, right? If you are like me, you have quite a few office supply blogs that you follow to satisfy your need to read more about everything related to office supplies - and those who are addicted to them.  I look forward to your feedback, so feel free to comment. Thank you for taking the time to stop by!

Our Baby Girl's Name and Shopping for Clothes

Hey everyone, we sure have had a fun week this past week now that we know we're having a little baby girl! Here's one of our favorite pics from the ultrasound last week. She's got her hands up by her nose...boy do we love her already! By the way, you may have seen or heard me mention her name in last week's post or on the video from the reveal's going to be Avery! My brother Austin told me about it last year and I have loved it ever since! As I mentioned in this post, I have seen it everywhere since then..we're talking in magazines, newspapers, online, in movies, on TV, and even at craft stores! Every time I saw it, it stood out to me and gave me a special little feeling inside, like it was a sign from the universe or something!!! So now that we know we are having a little girl, we are officially going to name her Avery!

I spent the first day after the reveal party with my mom shopping for some fun girl stuff! We didn't have much luck in the first couple of stores we went to until I found this: a cute little organic onesie with little peas on it that says, "Go Green!" Clearly, I had to buy it! I have been kind of disappointed with the organic baby clothes market though, mainly because there's not much selection out there (that's not online) and what is there is pretty boring and plain. Which, I think is fine in moderation, but I have a feeling Avery will have some spunk in her so it just doesn't seem right to have all of her clothes be muted colors. So, even though I'm pretty green most of the time, I've let go of the fact that not all her clothes will be organic...gasp-life goes on right?!

After that we had some more luck at Target and then Brandon and I went out later that night and found a few more cute things. Here's my top 5 favorite things/styles of baby clothes:
1- Black and these two colors together!

2- Polka Dots...this outfit to the left (which says, "Daddy loves me.") Hits one of my second favorite types of clothing designs...polka dots! I don't wear many dots myself, but there will be several items with polka dots in her room and apparently I now love baby clothes with polka dots! He he!

3-Brown and pink! Love these two colors together as well (as seen in these adorable fleece pants!) and we will incorporating a lot of these two colors into her room.

4- Baby Jeans- Wow, could these things get any cuter? I found this cute little fleece jacket to go with it as well, love it! Brandon has some skateboarding shirts in mind that he'd like to pair with the jeans as well!

5- Baby hats. I'm pretty much addicted to these things on Etsy! My favorite are the kind with the little bear ears and bows on them, like this one that's pictured to the right. My other favorite is one's with a flower on them, like this one it! It's safe to say that Avery will have lots of cute hats like these waiting for her when she's born!
So that's about it for the first round of shopping. Brandon and I also started a registry at Babies "R" Us since I am planning on having an early baby shower at the end of December for my close family and relatives. I will still have a baby shower in the spring with my friends and colleagues from work, but I thought it would be fun to have one early so all my relatives from out of town could be a part of it. So with that in mind, we knew we had to get a jump on the registry! I've had a baby registry on since I found out I was pregnant, but that was just kind of a fun way to mark random products I came across. Now it was time get serious and think about what we really need for this little girl (other than cute clothes like the outfit to the right)! My mind got overwhelmed real fast with the thought of strollers, diapers, baby monitors, sheets, and bottles just to name a few! Luckily Brandon tagged along with me and instead of me over-analyzing every item (like I tend to do), we would briefly chat about it, make our decision and then move onto the next item. I would have been there for hours if it was just me! Later on, I was also able to figure out how to add items from Etsy to my baby registry, since there are so many amazing and unique products on there! The only hard part is waiting 4 more months for her to be born and for us to put to use all the fun products we registered for! ( :
This week my mom and I have been getting ready to paint the cherry blossom tree I mentioned in this post, and we have a few of the final furniture pieces coming in so I will have some fun nursery pics to show you next week.
Do you have any registry advice for me? I would love to hear what items you have found to be "must-haves" or "just a waste of money"! There are a lot of products out there and it's a bit overwhelming for us first time parents, so post any thoughts or advice you have below!

My 'Bear' Bottom Boy...

Cruz has officially graduated from newborn sizes to 0-3!  Hello, cute Baby Gap pants!   

I love getting Cruz dressed in the morning.  Sometimes, while he's hanging out with Beau or sleeping in his crib, I'll sneak in his room and look through his closet and drawers, putting outfits together and rearranging his sizes.  His closet is chock-full of clothes and as quick as he grows out of it, I have to make sure he gets wear out of all of it.  The other day, I packed his newborn sizes into a storage box...that hurt a little to say the least.  As much cute 0-3 clothes as he has, I'm hoping he stays in this size for awhile! 


When I was a little girl, I would decorate my room for Christmas with a paper chain. Every year, I would tape piece after piece of red and green construction paper together to create my very own decoration that would help me count down the days of Christmas. I’d hang it from my window and every night, I’d tear off a single link and read a different Christmas book to my little brother. I remember pulling the books from the shelves, stacking them under my bed, and spending hours putting them in just the right order. I remember crawling into Taylor's bed, pulling the covers up to our chins, and reading to him as the outside Christmas lights reflected through the frosty window. I don’t know if Taylor remembers this little ritual I made him be a part of, but it was special to me.

This morning, I made another paper chain to hang in Cruz's window. We plopped in the middle of the living room floor amidst the remains of Christmas decorations I haven’t found a place for and taped piece after piece of construction paper together to create his very first decoration. We listened to Christmas music together and the twinkly lights of the tree put Cruz in a happy baby trance. 

As I watch him lay so peacefully next to the Christmas tree, working on his voice as if trying to sing along to the Christmas music, I am reminded how special this season is for our family. Before he’ll remember Santa and stockings, presents and wrappings, this Christmas is about enjoying the simple magic of this season. It’s about enjoying the blessings that overflow in abundance…

What’s in my cup this morning?

...Being home with Cruz. These are the days I will never get back, the days I will never forget.
...Watching Cruz discover his first glimpses of Christmas. I watched his eyes follow a string of Christmas lights as I strung them on the tree the other day. He was totally mesmerized.

...Nursing at four o'clock in the morning in front of the Christmas tree. The only thing that could make this better is snow falling out the window.
...Sushi and half-priced martinis with the girls last night. A husband that looks forward to his ‘guy’s night’ with Cruz and the twenty pictures he texted me throughout the night to ‘remind’ me of how cute they are.
...The look on Cruz’s face as he struggles to wake up in the mornings. His nursery seems as though it’s ten degrees warmer than the rest of the house and he always looks so snuggly in his crib.
...A full night’s sleep! Cruz slept through the night last night – 10-7:30! Sleeping through the night or late-night feedings in front of the Christmas tree?!?! It’s a gamble!

Thursday is Thanksgiving and I’m so excited for it. Cozy car rides home, and family time around the table. Snowsuits, stuffing, and tree decorating. Scouring the Target ads, wrapping the first present, and hanging a paper chain in our baby's room. And, most of all, sharing all that is Thanksgiving with a new little Cruz.

I’ve dreamed about this holiday season for a very long time.