2013 in favorite posts and photos

Oh hey! Some of you may have gotten this post – or something like it – in your readers already. That’s because I am a true professional and scheduled it before I finished it, as it was the only way I could preview my Instagram embeds. Then…well, life got in the way and I decided to watch a movie instead of finish the post, and it went live only half finished. So, um, here it is in its entirety. Don’t fire me.

And by photos I mean Instagrams because my photos are so scattered between my new computer and my old one (a classic First World Problem, if you ask me), and I pretty much only took phone photos anyway. If anyone has a failsafe and easy way to organize about 1.3 million photos, please bring forth that information, stat.

Here we go!


In January I was gearing up for my new writing gig at AllParenting, and I needed a real, honest to goodness headshot. It was humbling, to say the least. Headshots: A humbling experience.


I was running a LOT in February, gearing up for my half marathon. Seeing these girls running to greet me made the agony of a 10 mile run totally worth it.

Also in February I wrote up a fun little ditty about Activities Not Meant for Introverts. Months later it hit viral-ish status when the Facebook page Introverts are Awesome shared it. I was semi-famous for a day!


I don’t know what the best part of this photo is – the adorable, smiling 3 year old, the sister elbowing her in the face, or the photobomb from the other sister who was currently in between vomiting episodes. Classic Torres life.

March was the month I ran the half marathon I had trained so hard for, and I wrote about each and every exhilarating and painful step. I also look back at those photos and sigh longingly at how thin my face was when I was running 20+ miles a week. ZOOMA Texas Half Marathon recap: Battling my demons to the end.


Pretty door, pretty girls. And wow they look young in this photo. *SOB*

In April I decided to put together some tips from my half marathon experience. It’s one of my most visited and most pinned posts. How to rock your 1st half marathon.

For you non runners, you may enjoy a little story about how I feared that bitchy text I almost sent my husband could very well be my last. Watch your texts!


The epitome of summer, this photo.

May was not entirely blog worthy, but I did write a little about our Mother’s Day experience and how things seem to be getting easier as the kids get older. It’s one of those bittersweet pills life hands you. They’re not little tiny babies anymore, but man is it easier to get out and do stuff. Moms of small children, have hope. Holidays – Mother’s Day especially – is ROUGH with little kids. It gets easier. I see the light: An overindulgent Mother’s Day.


This photo? Goes perfectly with my favorite June post. And then the circus came to town. Alternate title: In which I make you feel better about your life.


We braved Six Flags Fiesta Texas. And we closed that mother DOWN.

By far, one of my most popular posts was One Kid, where I talk about how, although I completely love all of my children and could never choose between them, sometimes I’m sad that I missed out on getting to have them one AT A TIME. It’s very important that the AT A TIME is in there. Some readers missed that when it was syndicated on BlogHer.


I love this photo with all my heart. It’s so my girls. And that bright yellow background? That’s a dumpster. I’m spilling all my photography secrets now!

August was a little lean on the blog, and I love all the posts, but of course it’s all summed up with Some quick thoughts on kindergarten because it’s all I can manage right now.


Yes, September is still sprinkler weather here.

In September I experienced an unexpected reflection when I happened upon a 9/11 memorial I didn’t even know existed.


Zoe and I had lots of adventures while the girls were at school. Here she poses ever so nonchalantly in front of one of Austin’s most iconic spots.

And speaking of which, my favorite post in October was in fact a chronicle of my Insta-muse.


We went to the Chuy’s Parade with the kids and Christian’s mom, and happened to walk right up to where all of the characters were hanging out for photo ops before the parade. Rachel was astounded to met her hero, Spider-Man. She has no clue who that guy with the hammer is.

I talked twins in November, when we started navigating the world of separate birthday party invitations. Bonus post, I announced that I’m part of the production team of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother Austin!


I pick two for December, because it’s my blog, and I do what I want.

And really, how else can you wrap up a year in posts other than reading about that time I almost set my house on fire on Thanksgiving.

Happy New Year!

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2013: 86 photos in 30 seconds

At the end of each year I do a year in review in favorite posts and photos. This year I came across this really cool montage from Flipagram, which allows you to select however many photos you want and make them into short videos set to music. It’s a far cry from the slideshows I used to put together when my girls were 6 months and a year old, painstakingly selecting just the right photos, then agonizing over the perfect song to set it to. Using the Flipagram app was effortless. I did most of it standing in my kitchen while my kids ate lunch. (This isn’t even a sponsored post. It just really was that easy.)

I think I still will do the year in review post, but for now, enjoy my favorite 86 photos in 30 seconds, set to the National’s Don’t Swallow the Cap. And you want to follow me on Instagram I’m over there as latorres78.

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post Christmas limbo blahs

twins christmas lights

Current happenings: I haven’t blogged in a bajillion years. We haven’t turned the tree lights on since Christmas morning. My floor is littered with broken candy canes and the usual post-gift-opening trash: random twist ties, plastic wrappers, and scraps of paper. A few forgotten gifts lay strewn about the room, giving me the impression that we gave too much. There’s a smushed gift bow under the TV stand, but I give absolutely no damns about any of it right now. I’m still catching up on all of the laundry and did nothing today but entertain two of my children while caring for one sick one and a sick husband. We stayed in our jammies all day, and I only put on a bra to go jump on the trampoline with the kids. You’re welcome, neighbors!

Post Christmas time is here. The still lit Christmas lights aren’t cheery, they’re just a reminder of good times gone by. There’s no more Christmas carols, no more sleigh bells, no more baking (thank GOD). The cold weather isn’t not fun anymore, because it no longer signifies the holidays, just dreary, upcoming January, the most boring month of the year. Let’s start new beginnings with gray skies and lifeless vegetation! Who’s excited? I’m excited!

You know what else is exciting? One more week of winter break. I kid, but then again I don’t. I love not having to get up early or be anywhere. Everyone is sleeping later, and then getting a little tablet time in so I can avoid getting out of bed for just a little longer. It’s glorious. But having the children home with me is giving me that oh so familiar feeling of wading through quicksand, only instead of quicksand it’s more like LEGOs and toys and stacks and stacks of drawings of minions, princesses, and Ninja Turtles. I’m constantly taking one step forward and two steps back. I say, “I’m gonna clean the kitchen!” and Life says, “Ha! We’re gonna go unshelve all the books and knock over your poor, miserable mini tree for the 37th time! And here’s some bonus cat vomit!” And I’m all, “We NEED to go find something to do.”

Cue sickness. You win this round, Life.

So I may not be able to organize the new toys or clean up the Christmas crap just yet or keep up with the “I heard it but I don’t see it” cat pukes. But we’re doing lots of trampoline jumping. Reading all of our new books (like Claire is READING to me). Playing Angry Birds Pirate Pig Attack and Hungry Hungry Hippos. Building with LEGOs and Tinker Toys and Goldie Blox. Watching lots and lots of movies.  If we get well enough, we’ll go ride our new scooters. And snuggling. Lots and lots of snuggling.

Merry Post Christmas dreary time!

(Also I’m typing this from my new MacBook Pro! Isn’t it fancy? Pretend you can tell a difference.)

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coffee table books

Oh, I love a good coffee table book. I could sit flipping through pages for hours…back when we weren’t spending all of our spare time flipping through iPhones.

Also back when I had a coffee table that wasn’t originally a train table slash LEGO table slash tea party table.

I dream of having a sleek, mid century modern coffee table, or maybe a rustic trunk style number, or a Friends-esque apothecary table that may or may not be vintage. My last coffee table was handed down to me from my college roommates, who stole it from one of the dorms at UT. It was oak and heavy and horrible, with 80s rounded edges and screamed “DORM FURNITURE!” I tried to mask its ugliness with a little stain in our early married days, but it gave minimal improvement. We put it in the garage when the girls started climbing, then out on the curb for bulk trash collection so that we would be forced to buy a grown up coffee table when the time came.

It was gone within minutes.

But if I did have a coffee table right now, these are the books I’d want stacked on it. Note that these are affiliate links, meaning if you buy anything through these links (and I do mean anything, so don’t be shy) I get a teeny tiny, eensy weensy percentage which will either go towards paying my hosting fees or buying coffee. Depends on how responsible I am.

Austin Then and Now. I love then and now type books. Seeing the city you live in through the eyes of history is such a cool experience.

humans of new york

Humans of New York. I have followed the HONY Facebook page for a while now and preordered the book as a birthday present to myself on October. I’m still trying to soak it all in.

the art book

The Art Book: New Edition. Everyone needs an art book.

the best of norman rockwell

Best of Norman Rockwell. My mom had a very similar version of this book that sat and collected dust in our living room. Except for the times that I would quietly sneak away and pour over page after page. Rockwell’s illustrations fascinated me, and still do.

dear photograph

Dear Photograph. I’ve seen these types of images online, and they are so hauntingly beautiful.

gaudi master architect


Antonio Gaudi: Master Architect. I have had a Gaudi book for years, and I still flip through it from time to time. Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, is a marvel.


What’s on your coffee table? Books? Those fancy wicker balls? A banana peel?

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In which I freeze and sweat at the same time

It has been a chilly weekend here in Austin. Laugh all you want, my northern friends, but we Texans just aren’t built for this. Give us below freezing temps and a little precipitation, and the whole city practically shuts down. School started 2 hours later than usual on Friday, and Zoe’s school was cancelled altogether.

Thanks to that, my planned run on Friday was moved back to Saturday. But then it barely got above freezing and I barely got out from under my blankie, so I pushed it to Sunday.

Sunday gave me the choice between running in the late morning with temps in the 30s or in the afternoon, which was expected to be sunny and 10 degrees warmer. I chose the morning – more on that in a bit.

I haven’t written about running in forever. Mainly because I haven’t been running consistently. I haven’t signed up for any races, so I’ve slacked off. And strange coincidence, I’ve also put on a few pounds.

I’ve been trying to get back in the saddle, but without an upcoming race, it’s hard. I had to pass on being a ZOOMA ambassador again this year because of a date conflict, and so instead of getting to run a free race, I opted to pay an outlandish amount of money for a writers’ conference. So I may be creating one hell of an indentation on this couch, but hey – I’m going to have some mighty fine words to show for it.

But race or no race, I’m desperately trying to turn over a new lettuce leaf and get my ass back out on the road.

I headed out on Sunday in compression capris, a long sleeved tech tee with a short sleeved tech tee over it, a fleece headband, and cheap gloves.

Yeah that’s right. I opted for no jacket. Because I am a bad ass. Also because I’m still looking for the perfect technical running jacket that doesn’t cost like a million dollars. And I’ve run in the cold enough to know that I would get way too hot in my fleece jacket.

And then I was off. I was shooting for at least 3 miles, but if I’d go further if I could.

1 mile in and my body was warm, but still sluggish.

1.5 miles in and I was completely warmed up.

2 miles in I stripped off my gloves and my sweaty hands practically cried hallelujah at the fresh air. Since I didn’t have pockets, I…stuffed them in my bra. For about a block, I was looking extra busty, but alas, there was too much jostling, so I opted to just hold onto them. Hell, I ran a half marathon while carrying two packages of Gu. NDB.

2.5 miles in I developed back AND stomach cramps. A back cramp is usually indicative of poor form or breathing, both easy to do in the cold air. But a stomach cramp is no joke. It could be dehydration, lack of fuel, too much Gu. Sometimes it can mean MUST FIND BATHROOM OR NEAREST BUSH ASAP. Since I didn’t feel like I was going to vomit or you know, I chalked it up to poor breathing and swallowing lots of air. Still mighty unpleasant though.

3 miles in I was yanking up the sleeves of my undershirt. My fleece headband was soaked in sweat.

3.5 miles in I passed a couple walking their dogs. They were bundled up like Eskimos, while I was dying to shed more of my clothing. They gave me that look that people often give runners that says either “I feel sheepish walking by you,” or “WTF are you insane, woman? It’s freezing out here!” Whatever, lazy asses. (I’m kidding; she was like 9.5 months pregnant at least.)

3.78 miles in I passed my house. That is some mental torture right there, but I figured I’d come this far, what was another 0.22 miles?

At 3.9 miles I seriously questioned the validity of my Garmin.

And finally at 4 miles I hit stop and started the cool down walk back to my house. It was a slow 4 miles, much slower than my normal pace. But like I said, I haven’t been consistent, and this is the price I pay.


Why didn’t I wait until the afternoon, when it would be slightly warmer and sunny? Two reasons: One, running in the sunshine is overrated. Give me overcast any day. Two (and the main reason), I know myself way too well to think I would actually go in the afternoon. If I waited until later in the day, I would have blown it off entirely. And I needed to run.

Cold weather running isn’t terrible; it’s actually enjoyable once you get going. The hardest step is the one you take out the door. Or the one stepping out of your warm, cozy flannel PJs in exchange for your cold, thin compression capris. Or the one where you stick your foot out from under your cushy down comforter and feel an icy blast run up your leg. But the good thing is you get over it. You have to keep your ass moving to stay warm.

(Then I got caught up in “mom stuff,” and an hour later I was freezing again so I took the hottest shower known to man. It’s not too hot until your skin is peeling off, amirite?)


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Some Stuff

Yes, this IS our Christmas card photo.

Some stuff

Tickets are still available for MomCom in January 2014. You can rub elbows with Glennon Melton of Momastery, Karen Walrond from Chookooloonks, Meredith Walker from Amy Pohler’s Smart Girls, and many more amazing speakers. And me.

Two ladies I’m proud to call friends were named in the Babble Top 100 bloggers of 2013: Wendi Aarons in humor and Kristin Shaw in love & relationships. Both very well deserved, and now I feel famous by proxy!


Some links

Traditional cards or photo cards? I had a good conversation with some blog friends about this. I’ve done photo cards, but I’m traditional at heart. That being said, I know how much thought goes into photo cards, and I adore them. I just love cards.

This could be the not-so-distant future.

One sentence movie reviews.

31 Days of Cookies! It’s a free download!

Me, elsewhere:

On AllParenting, I talk about how families can survive the holidays when they have a little one in the NICU.

On a similar topic, I also give tips on how friends and family can ease holiday stress for those who have a baby in the hospital.

Looking for ways to give this holiday season?


MomCom link is an affiliate.

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Another year, another Advent calendar failure

Every year at the beginning of December, I lament the fact that we don’t have an Advent calendar. When I was a kid, my grandmother always had an Advent calendar for us, a cute, hanging fabric thingy with numbered pockets and candy. Or maybe it was more the punch-out-the-chocolate variety, and probably only one year. Honestly, I can’t remember the pesky details. But I have fond memories of standing in her front hall, filled with afternoon sunlight and excitement, or maybe that was the sugar high, and being so excited to tear open the next day’s treat.

Even though I can’t really recall WHAT it was we actually had, I NEED MY KIDS TO HAVE PRECIOUS CHRISTMAS MEMORIES, DAMMIT.

And so thanks to this desire, I bookmarked a crap load of pretty Advent calendars for inspiration (because this was BP: Before Pinterest), and got myself to the nearest Jo-Ann’s. The year was 2009. I bought about 5 pounds of red felt, all the white embroidery thread, and probably a ton of other red and green paraphernalia that I didn’t need. It was easy: make little felt pockets, whip stitch them together and embroider 1-25 on each. If I was feeling fancy, I would even add a little button for an enclosure, and maybe a decorative bell. They sky was the limit! I was filled with inspiration and Christmas spirit!

I was also starting this project a tad late. The problem about December 1st is that it has a pesky habit of coming after November 30th. Every. Damn. Year.

So the Advent calendar project was tabled for that year, and now I had a whole 12 months to finish it! And then I remembered it again in late November 2010, looked at the bag of felt and thread (still in the garage next to the rest of the red and green “supplies” of projects long forgotten) and said, “Next year. 2011 will be your YEAR.”

Look at the title of this post and ask me how that went. Go ahead.

Okay, so maybe making an Advent calendar wasn’t my thing. If having three kids has taught me anything, it’s that making your own stuff is way overrated. Buying shit that someone else has already made is way easier.

We were at IKEA a few weeks ago, and in the food section they had boxes and boxes of chocolate Advent calendars that again brought back fond memories of my grandmother’s sunlight-filled hallway and sugar rushes. Only I didn’t buy any because why the hell do they put those at the end? I’ll be damned if I’m going through that checkout line again. Could I have bought it at the food counter, maybe throw in a $1 cinnamon roll? I guess we’ll never know.

So while my mother in law was here for Thanksgiving, we made a special trip to IKEA just for Advent calendars. She lives in Iowa and can’t get to one without a 4 hour layover, and I have the fortune of having one a mere 20 minutes into suburbia. It’s glorious.

Two hours and $57 later, we left IKEA with some $2 candles, frames, a lantern, a Christmas table runner, and…


It’s just not meant to be. Although if I go get one now, I get days 1-5 all to myself….

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Leigh Ann vs. the paper bag

We hosted Thanksgiving this year for a couple of reasons.

a) My mother in law is visiting from Iowa.

b) Instead of making hotel reservations in Dallas for November, Christian made them for December.

So really there is only one reason I hosted Thanksgiving. Naturally this led to a story because things just don’t go smoothly around here. And really, did you expect anything else? It’s just not meant to be.


I don’t know how to cook a turkey. Correction: I didn’t know how to cook a turkey. I had the sides covered. Sweet potatoes, check. Green beans, check. Stuffing, check. Hash brown potato casserole that my side of the family serves at every holiday, check. But I’ve never had a reason to cook a turkey, and honestly, I haven’t been really looking for one.

I knew my mother in law could cook a turkey. On the one hand, I didn’t want to shove all of the turkey cooking responsibilities on her. But on the other hand, I totally wanted to shove all the turkey cooking responsibilities on her.

She was happy to do it. It was all very Laura Ingalls, showing her son’s little wifey how to make her way around the kitchen. She’s old school. Hard core. She makes gravy from the broth. By eyeballing it. No fancy brining or marinating or sauteeing or whatever the hell it is you do with an 11 pound turkey. No, we covered it in pats of butter, threw some salt on it, and slid it into a paper bag. Target, if you must know. I have a shitton of them thanks to the Austin plastic bag ban. Just sitting up on the shelf above my dryer, waiting for turkeys.

Into the oven it went. Kind of. Thanks to the massive roasting pan Christian and I picked up from the store for $10 (because remember, we’ve never cooked a turkey?), the over door wouldn’t close. I opened it back up to see what the holdup was, and that’s when I saw FIRE! FUEGO! FEU! The paper bag had come in contact with the top burner in the oven, which was hanging down dangerously low and had been for the past oh, EIGHT YEARS we’ve lived here. We’ve just never fixed it because a) I never notice it until I go to stick something in the oven and see it glowing red and hanging all helter skelter; b) you know how we are with home projects; and c) it’s not really a danger to such gourmet dishes as frozen pizzas and cinnamon rolls – pretty much all I use my oven for.

The last time my oven caught fire (because you KNOW this has happened before), it was a loaf of garlic bread, or rather the paper bag that encased the garlic bread. Honestly you’d think it would occur to me to stop putting paper products in my oven, but the garlic bread incident was forever ago. I’d forgotten all about it until I saw the flames licking my beautiful 11 pound bird. I started beating it various kitchen textiles at no avail. I stopped, dropped, and rolled, but my turkey’s right thigh was still on the fast track to crispness. So we did the logical next thing.

We called for Christian, who valiantly swooped in with cups of tap water to quench the flames. I totally would have done it, but I would have lost precious seconds trying to squeeze through the open oven door/kitchen island combo and removing my oven mitt. It was just easier to call someone else.

Also let it be known that in the Great Garlic Bread Fire of many years ago, my first instinct was to grab some water, but he snuffed it out with a towel. So I was really just doing what was modeled for me in previous instances.

That’s pretty much the climax of this story. We rebagged, resalted, and rebuttered the turkey, and had to bend the hell out of one end of the roasting pan to get it to fit in the oven. And it came out beautifully. I was well equipped with dishrags and water at the ready, but none of my side dishes caught fire. How ordinary.

And of course the next day I spied smaller, disposable roasting pans for $1, which would have been much more well suited for this side dish loving woman who has no intention of ever cooking a turkey again.


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Thanksgiving preparations of mediocrity

I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year, and even though my mother in law is only one extra person, I’m following my usual routine of overwhelm, which means I’m sitting comfortably in the land of CANNOT COMPUTE/MUST SHUT DOWN/SEE YOU AFTER ALL THE EXCITEMENT IS OVER. It’s what happens when I’m expected to do more than surf the web and throw crackers at the children.

Some people are do-ers. Some people are followers. I’m an in-betweener, middle management all the way, baby. I rise to the occasion JUST enough give people the idea that I know what I’m doing. Put me in charge of a project and watch it go from complete nonexistence to an object of perfect mediocrity.

So here’s what I will be serving on my table this Thursday. It’s dangerously bland and horribly traditional, and will be complimented by the merest of table decor (a badass pinecone turkey that Zoe crafted in preschool). I’m terrible at decorating, and I’m a sucker for tradition.


Slow cooker stuffing

Green bean casserole (does anyone even LIKE GBC? I think not. Maybe I’ll just put out a bowl of French fried onions. If you don’t like those, we cannot be friends.)

Sweet potato medallions

Hash brown potato casserole (a family tradition)

Good old fashioned crescent rolls from that tube that scares the shit out of me every time it pops open.

Gluten free pumpkin cake

An entire mini keg of New Castle Brown Ale


I know. You fell asleep didn’t you? I did too. It’s so boring, but Thanksgiving is all about being boring, right?

Tell me what’s on your table. Maybe leave me a recipe and make my table less boring.

Pretty sure this will be the Thanksgiving centerpiece.

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The Domain’s Lighting of the Great Tree & Holiday Activities

Hey! This is a sponsored post through Orange Wall Collective. I know! Two in one week. I hardly ever do sponsored posts, and this was a mere coincidence. But it’s thanks to things like this that this blog stays up and running, so thank you for supporting those that support Genie in a Blog.

One of the things I love about Austin is that there is always something to do. Races, concerts, festivals…we practically have festivals for our festivals, there are so many. That also means that each time a major holiday rolls around, there are approximately 127 activities around town to choose from.

The Domain Tree-1

One of those holiday events is right up here in north Austin. On Saturday, November 23, 2013, the Domain hosts the 7th Annual Lighting of the Great Tree. The shopping center will be full of fun activities for the whole family, live music, and of course, Santa Claus himself. I’ve never been to the Domain tree lighting, but with all of the activities they have planned, we may have to give it a shot this year.

The event kicks off at noon with free, family friendly holiday fun, including face painting, caricature drawings, balloon artists, and holiday crafts near iPic Theaters. Local musicians will keep the kids entertained with holiday songs on the stage near Starbucks and on the plaza near iPic Theaters, while carolers stroll the shopping center throughout the day. I am a sucker for strolling carolers! Then pop into the many stores to find some special in-store events and offers and maybe get a head start on your Christmas shopping. I like jewelry. Just saying.

Evening festivities begin at 6 p.m., featuring a performance by acclaimed singer/songwriter Phil Vassar. Santa Claus will be on hand to light the 40 foot tree, with more than 400 ornaments and 6000 lights, and of course have a chat with his many fans about what they want most this Christmas.  The whole evening will end with a magnificent fireworks show.

No matter what time of day you attend, The Domain’s Lighting of the Great Tree should be great fun. I’m already trying to think of what kind of balloon animal I want. For my kids, of course.


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