Lions and tigers but no bears (oh my!)

One of the perks of living near DC is that there’s always something to do, and a lot of the time there’s always something free to do. Case in point: the National Zoo. It’s part of the Smithsonian, which means it’s open to the public for free year round. Just last week Shannon and I realized that, surprisingly, we hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo yet this year, so when we woke up earlier than usual yesterday morning to an incredibly nice day, we decided to surprise them with a trip downtown.

Yesterday’s trip was the first one where Madden was old enough to “get” it, and it was the first one where a stroller didn’t accompany us. Big things poppin’, people. And best of all, it was the first time I’ve ever been to the National Zoo when all of the “main” animals were out and active — elephants, zebras, pandas, apes/gorillas, lions, and tigers — and the kids loved it. Madden was all about the elephants (and the fact that he got to see one a mere 5 feet away made his life), Emma was obsessed with the tigers (there were 3 and they were incredibly active and playful), and Briseis was happy to see everything.

We arrived early enough to get a killer parking space (one that we actually reserved online beforehand — so cool and so worth it!), avoid all the crowds, and beat the heat that started rolling in around the time we left. I also somehow ended up in the most number of pictures with the kids in a looooOOOoooOOOooong time (thanks, Shannon!). All in all, a perfect way to spend what was quite possibly the last decent Sunday of the season.

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Well, at least one of them was looking, even if that smile is totally fake + forced.

My beauty routine

My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog The title of this post is a little misleading because it kind of makes it sound like my morning “get ready” routine is something remarkable, but it’s not. In fact, I pretty much look the same from the moment I wake up to the moment I walk out the door. It’s because I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but I’m okay with that because makeup isn’t my thing. Never has been. I sweat way too much as it is, and when you factor in how much time I spend working out (which means: sweating even more), wearing a lot of makeup doesn’t make much sense. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog During the week, my daily “beauty” routine starts the night before. I almost always shower the night before because IF — and that’s a big “if” — I want to wear my hair down the following day (for even three and a half seconds), I have to let it dry naturally, which takes forever because it’s so thick. Showering the night before and sleeping with my hair down (or in a very loose bun) helps makes sure that it has time to dry. And after 27 years on this planet I finally learned that sleeping with wet hair also means that it dries WITHOUT FRIZZ. That, and I wake up so fucking early as it is that I don’t really have time to add a shower into my morning routine. Even if my shower time is insanely short. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog Unless Shannon and I shower together, my showers typically stay under 10 minutes; always under 7. Biolage is where it’s at for shampoo + conditioner. It smells So. Damn. Amazing. I workout (see also: sweat + pee-my-pants-while-heavy-lifting-or-double-undering) so much, and Shannon and I have such an…um…extra healthy sex life, that Summer’s Eve is kind of a necessity, even if just for a little mental reassurance. #aintnoshameinmygame. Dove moisture rich body wash and a Venus razor finish things up. Unless it’s a day that I wash my face, and then that Clean & Clear stuff finishes things up.

Washing my face only happens every few showers, and by that I mean: a handful of times a month. I don’t always shower daily because I don’t always have time or I don’t always need to (like if I haven’t worked out, which does happen). Or, let’s be real, I don’t always want to. If I do wash my face it’s never at the sink. It’s ALWAYS in the shower. I use that Clean & Clear stuff pictured above because it’s what I bought the winter I was pregnant with Emma (5 years ago!) and it worked well enough (see also: it didn’t make my skin break out or dry up). The container I have of it now is the first and only replacement I’ve bought since that first one almost 5 years ago; I’ve had it over a year and the only reason that so much of it is gone is because Shannon also uses it when she’s over. I told you: washing my face isn’t in my daily routine.

It’s not that I’m blessed with flawless skin. It’s that I don’t cake a ton of makeup on my face, I don’t shove my face full of crap, and — mostly — I’m blessed with fantastic birth control (“…but wait…she’s dating a girl, why does she needs birth control?”) that keeps my complexion in a perpetual state of enviable flawlessness (“ohhhh…”). My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog From the moment I get out of bed to thirty minutes later when I walk out the front door, here’s everything I have to accomplish:

  • Get myself ready
  • Get my lunch/snacks for the day ready
  • Get Emma ready
  • Get Madden ready

That’s a whole lot of getting a whole bunch of different people and things ready, and contrary to popular legend, I’m not Super Mom. So what’s my secret weapon? A concentrated dose of caffeine in the form of a deliciously fruit punch-flavored shot. I don’t drink coffee (or tea or juice or soda) — EVER — but I’m not above taking a bit of pre-workout to help me get the day started if I really need it. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog “Putting on my face” takes me roughly 2 minutes. I don’t wear foundation — liquid, powder, whatever — or concealer or blush or eyeshadow or anything else that’s remotely powder-y or liquid-y. I don’t even own any of that stuff. I own an eyelash curler, a tube of mascara, and one eyeliner pencil. Seriously. That’s it. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog After I throw on some moisturizer and deodorant, I put a little brown liner on my lower lids and mascara on my upper lashes. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog In go my gauges and on go my ring + necklace from Shannon. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog My hair usually goes up by default, especially during the hot + humid summers we have here in DC, but sometimes — very rarely — I’ll wear it down. So rarely that every time I do my boss asks me a thousand times if I have an interview that day. Ha. Ha. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blogbeautyroutine9 Weekday breakfasts are split into two parts: My grab-and-go breakfast that I eat after I drop the kids off, while I’m driving to work; and the bowl of cereal or bagel with a side of more fresh fruit once I get to work.  I’ve burnt out on bagels, though, so for the past couple of months it’s been a small bowl of Cheerios or Rice Chex with either another banana or sliced strawberries + grapes. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog And that’s really it. By the end of the day I pretty much look the same, except my eyeliner will be almost gone and I might have dirt + chalk matted to my face with sweat if I worked out that afternoon. For reference, here’s a photo of me later the same day that I took my “getting ready” photos. Not really much of a difference, which I’m not only okay with but which I actually kind of prefer. My beauty routine // Kelsey, Esp. blog

Just my luck

Just my luck // Kelsey, Esp. blog Just my luck // Kelsey, Esp. blogJust my luck // Kelsey, Esp. blog

Confirmation of week-old news of some major car repairs needed (that I can’t afford) on top of some major unexpected bills needing to be paid (that I can’t afford) on top of a shattered iPhone screen needing some major TLC (that I can’t afford). And those are just the few less personal shitty things that happened last Friday that I feel comfortable sharing here.

With the luck I had Friday, it could’ve been dated the 13th instead of the 25th. Fingers crossed this week starts (and finishes) on a better note. CAN I GET AN ‘AMEN’?!

Anniversary Weekend


Two weekends ago Shannon and I celebrated our one year anniversary with a staycation. After the disaster-y-ish Belated Birthday Weekend staycation we had back in June, we decided this time that we wanted to stay at a NOT trendy hotel, and that we wanted to stay just outside of DC. We went with a quaint-ish hotel in Arlington, and couldn’t have been more thrilled with our choice. The hotel itself was SO cheap, had PLENTY of parking and the FRIENDLIEST staff. Plus, it was nestled in a lush + green neighborhood-y environment just off of Fort Myer, which means it was literally a stone’s throw from the District. Perfect price, amazing location, great staff. Those three things made a world of difference this time around and we absolutely will be going back to stay there for all of our future DC staycations.

Early Friday evening we met up with a small group of friends at a bar a few minutes from the hotel (and directly across the street from my work, actually). The bar is actually situated on top of the building’s roof, which is why it’s called Rooftop Bar & Grill (duh), and offers a really fun, kind of cozy (see also: cramped, due to popularity) environment. Happy Hour ended up lasting closer to 5 or 6 hours, but that’s totally fine because it was extra super happy; we were celebrating our one year (which was on Friday) with some of the most rad friends anyone could ask for. PLUS it was perfect weather. And we were on a roof. HOW FUCKING COOL?! I would love to share more about our awesome Happy Hour with y’all but the thing is, it was so awesome that I don’t remember 97% of it. And that means it was also very successful.

So successful in fact, that I woke up Saturday morning feeling like death, which is exactly what I knew would happen even though it was exactly what I didn’t want to happen. What I wanted to happen was I wanted to wake up early and go for a short run into the District with Shannon, head back to the hotel for breakfast and a shower, and then set out for the day. What actually happened was that I woke up still 75% drunk and played the “go back to bed, wake up, repeat” game about 4 different times until I was able to sit up without getting dizzy and falling over. For the record, that wasn’t until around 9:30-ish am. Like I said, Happy Hour the night before was a major success. After I was up and showered and dressed I felt a lot better but I learned throughout the day that in order to stay feeling better I needed to keep moving. And nacho cheese Doritos. I also needed lots of those.


We spent Saturday exploring museums in the city that are off the beaten path, so to speak. So like, none of the museums on the Mall. We actually avoided the touristy area of DC the entire weekend and stuck with exploring a couple of neighborhoods north of downtown. We stopped by the National Museum of Health and Medicine which might be the coolest place I’ve ever been in my entire life.


It’s a tiny establishment but even still it took us nearly two hours to navigate because the sheer amount of stuff they have, and the sheer intrigue the stuff they have has (did you follow that?). Nearly everything in the museum is real, meaning the bone fragments and the skulls and the full skeletons and brains and other organs, as well as full size babies that died in utero or during/after birth, are all actual bones and organs and people that were actually alive (or in someone who was once alive) at some point. However, because I know that this stuff can seem insensitive to some people I’ve only opted to share a few of the lesser “obscene” or emotional photos here.


The museum also housed a wide assortment of medical tools from different historical periods, 500 bullet and shrapnel fragments from the Civil War, and even the bullet that killed Lincoln, along with fragments of his skull and tufts of his hair from around the wound entry point. Like I said, super fucking cool place.


We also visited the O Street Mansion on Saturday, which is supposedly a “living” museum dedicated to the creative process. In reality, it’s a huge collection of…junk spread between 5 interconnected row houses in Dupont. It’s rad in theory but only kind of cool in person. The experience was certainly interesting, and I’m glad that we went, but it’s something I never need to do again in my life. If that makes sense?


The rest of Saturday we spent walking around Dupont, through Adams Morgan, and over to Shaw/U Street, and then back down to Dupont. Along the way we browsed a music + book sidewalk sale, stopped for ice cream, posed for some ironic photos, popped into a fun little hole-in-the-wall “adult” store, and walked through some really fun neighborhoods as we made up pretend lives for ourselves as we went.

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We got our run into the city in on Sunday morning. We ran from our hotel in Arlington across the bridge into DC, over to the Lincoln, up the steps, posed for some photos, then ran back to the base of Arlington National Cemetery where we posed for another photo at the Carillon. The first photo below is a view of Virginia from the top of the back of the Lincoln.


We spent the rest of the day exploring DC, starting with the Farmers Market in Dupont. From there we Metro’d to Chinatown, then walked to Capitol Hill to hit up the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill Farmers Market and flea market. We spent allllll afternoon out and about and had a really, really fun time just being together and seeing and trying new things.


We ended Sunday by touring the L. Ron Hubbard House, which is where the Church of Scientology was founded (SUPER EFFING INTERESTING, even though I think the “church” itself is kind of nutty) and by watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. After that we hopped in Shannon’s truck and headed back home for a night on the couch with pizza and a whoooooole lot of DVR’d shows.

Such an amazing weekend you guys. I can’t wait to share a little bit more of it — and a new perspective of it — once I’m finished putting together our Anniversary Weekend Mini Book! WOOT!


Shannon’s birthday + anniversary mini book

A few things before we get started:

01 | I took all of these photos on the same day from the same position (and consecutively, with no breaks in between) so I have NO IDEA why the lighting is SO FUCKED. Sorry. I’m also really confused as to why everything looks super sharp in Photoshop but then ends up looking blurry and smudged after it’s uploaded online. ANYONE?!

02 | This is my first-ever attempt at doing anything like this. It didn’t turn out quite like I hoped but I don’t hate it, either.

03 | I love y’all and don’t really have an issue sharing my life online, but this album holds part of Shannon’s life, too, so you’re only getting a peek at selected pages.

Okay. Let’s get into it.


I tend to be really passionate when it comes to gift-giving for people I hold near to me. Like, I plan out different options months in advance and once I’ve chosen “the one”, I dedicate massive amounts of time, attention, and thought to it.

Shannon’s birthday was toward the end of June, which means I’m super late posting this but that’s not really anything new. Anywayz. She was insistent that she didn’t want anything for her birthday; that she didn’t even want to acknowledge it, let alone celebrate it. I’m not big on holidays, so I get it. Except yeah-fucking-right if I’m not going to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday. Especially when it was the first birthday of hers that we had an opportunity to celebrate together because it was the first birthday of hers since we became “us”. But I still wanted to respect her wish of keeping things low-key (and I wanted to respect my already stretched-so-thin-it’s-basically-broken bank account), so I decided to make her a mini book with supplies that, for the most part, I already had on hand.


As I crept along with this project page by page I started to realize that the things I was including in the mini book — favorite photos of us and ephemera from our first year together (movie ticket stubs, concert ticket stubs, coasters from restaurants we frequent, menus, hotel room keys from Belated Birthday Weekend staycation) — were more suited for an anniversary gift.


And when you consider that her birthday was just two weeks before our one year anniversary and the traditional gift for a first anniversary is “paper”, it made all the more sense to combine the two. Even though combining occasions into a single gift is kind of shitty (Christmas babies, you feel me?). Oh well. I fused the two ideas/gifts together into one hybrid birthday + anniversary gift. Cheap? Nah. Innovative and resourceful. Euphemisms people. And semantics. USE ‘EM.


I cut down a 12×12 piece of hearts paper that looked more like lace (and that I’ve had on hand for years) and used it as a kind of cover page over kraft card stock, to which I affixed the “24 & 1″ wood veneers you see above. The “24” for her birthday and the “1” for our first year together. Not really original but hey, it works. Also, can we talk about how perfect that ampersand is?

The first few pages of the book feature cutesy and cheesy love-y dove-y things: A lucky penny that we picked up in Dupont during Belated Birthday Weekend; a days of the week 6×4 that came in a previous Studio Calico PL kit along with days of the week washi tape from SC, and lyrics to that old school “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (I Love You)” song written on it; a super cheesy quote better suited for a nursery than a mini book for an adult; a nother quote that I first saw around the time Shannon and I began dating (printed on vellum); a gold letterpress Kal Barteski 3×4 that I’d been waiting forever to use.


After all the cheesy quotes in the beginning I started filling the pages with favorite photos of us and of things from our first year together. Champagne bottle labels, movie ticket stubs, a card from trivia night at a local pizza joint we frequent, concert ticket stubs, hotel room keys, coasters, menus, blahblahblah.


My favorite technique for this particular project was printing directly onto vellum. I just really love the frosted see-through look it provides. I printed a few quotes/phrases onto vellum, as well as an image of a map of where we had our first date (and behind it I included a photo of the inside of the bar) and a few photos that are NSFW and not for your eyes, and used a “magic” vellum 6×4 that came in a past Studio Calico PL kit add-on.


One of my favorite things in the mini album is a fold-out $100,000 bill (obviously VERY real) that Shannon picked up for me when she took a lunchtime field trip to the Treasury with a few coworkers earlier in the year.   I wrote a short note about how she always makes me feel like a million bucks and tucked it into the book. Cheesy, yes. But I knew she’d love it. Behind it is one of those NSFW photos printed directly onto vellum. I actually affixed it on top of a piece of sized-down 12×12 scrapbook paper that had a script “i love you” phrase repeated on it and LOVE the way it turned out.


Keeping in mind that this was primarily meant to be a birthday gift (NOT a paper themed one year anniversary gift), I added a few handwritten “24…” lists to celebrate her 24th birthday. I tried to stay away from the cliché “24 reasons I love you” thing and did my best to be at least somewhat creative with these lists. I included serious and less serious things, as well as some tongue-in-cheek responses and inside jokes.


Well. That’s basically it, guys. I ended the mini book with a 6×4 from a previous Studio Calico PL kit (and added a handwritten note) and a sized-down piece of paper made from a linen-y material and that had gold and silver flecks in it for the final page. And on that final page I affixed a heart-shaped patch that I picked up at Joann’s (the type of patch they sell for kids’ projects) to a couple pieces of heart-shaped pieces I cut out of scrapbook paper. I wrote a phrase that I say to Shannon All. The. Time. around the heart and called it good.


It’s super random hodgepodge of…stuff…and things, but I think that’s what mini albums are supposed to be. Right? Please say “yes” because otherwise I did this all wrong. And that would be tragic, people. TRAGIC.

It didn’t turn out quite like I was hoping but I don’t totally hate it and Shannon LOVES it (it MAY have gotten a few tears and an emphatic “best gift EVER” label, or maybe not. TAKE YOUR GUESS, but I’m letting you know right now if you guess the latter option, YOU’RE WRONG…). And since it’s her gift, that’s all that really matters.

As for me? I’m looking forward at trying my hand at another mini book documenting Anniversary Weekend.

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