Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is there room for a pet in our lives?

I met D because of his adorable rescue pit bull Buster. It was Buster's friendliness and charm that make me strike up a conversation with the man at the tab next to mine. D recalls that the first words I ever said to him was: "Hey, is this your dog?". Well, it was. And getting together with D and becoming a part of his life meant that Buster became a part of mine. Thankfully Buster welcomed me into the pack and it was the three of us for many years.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How much time do you spend thinking about the future?

I recently read that one out of every eight thoughts we have is about the future. I'm not sure how true that is but it actually seems low to me! I think something I struggle with is thinking about the future too much. One of my yoga instructors always tells us to practice being in the moment. The past, she says, is gone and no longer exists. The future has not happened and therefore does not yet exist. What does exist is the present and therefore that is where we should be.

I find it hard. I see the importance of being in the moment and especially as a parent that is where I try to be when I'm with my little one. But I can't discount the importance of the past or the future. I want to be aware of the past. Learning from history is something I put value in. I want to learn from my past mistakes and successes. I want to evolve as a person. And having my past as an integrated part of my life is an important part of that. And when it comes to the future, don't we need to have goals and direction? I want to have an idea of what I want and where I want to be both personally and professionally. Having a picture of my future helps me make decisions in the present. I don't want to give that up entirely.

But I think it's about balance and not getting mired in either. Getting stuck in the past can mean holding onto guilt or resentment. I know I have been known to hold a grudge and I'm working to be better at letting the past go. I want certain people in my life to accept changes I've made or forgive me for wrongs I've done. And I want to do the same for others. I want to be aware of the past but not hindered by it. But the big one for me is not getting caught up my ideas of the future. I can certainly get anxious about things: events coming up, getting someplace on-time, accomplishing something, making sure something else will be ok. In addition to the anxiety that comes with thinking about all of life's logistics, there is also the trap of emotional projection. In some of the relationships in my life that are challenging one thing both sides do it make assumptions. We think we know what will happen, and then have an emotional response based on that projection. This is the biggest thing I try to watch out for because this really is spending time on something that is not real. Even if I feel it is likely to happen, even if I'm sure of it, if it hasn't happened yet I shouldn't spend time getting upset. I'm working on it.

Do you guys have trouble dwelling in the past or worrying about the future?

Image via.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hair color: desiring something "crazy"

I've never been afraid to try different hairstyles. Maybe it's because my hair has always been short and that already is sort of rebellious. But I also think having short hair means each cut is less of a commitment. It's easier to change a short hairstyle because it doesn't take that long for the hair to grow out and reset itself. So I've tried many different styles and different colors over the years. I had a black bob for a while a la Louise Brooks, which I loved at the time but I look back and the black was a little harsh on me. I went very short for awhile and for a portion of that time I was bleaching my hair. That was actually a cool look but I hated going through the bleaching process (it hurts!). But the thing I haven't really done it colored my hair an "unnatural color" like purple, blue or pink. And it's something I so want to do but I'm afraid I missed my window for that sort of thing.

What I mean is that I have a job and crazy looks aren't always acceptable in a professional environment. Some jobs seem to be more open to out-there fashion choices, and of course these are often associated to creative fields. But I work for a technology company. I'm in a leadership role. I am client facing. So I need to present as serious, competent, and capable. Sadly, for most people blue hair doesn't communicate those things. Part of me feels it's not fair! Part of me gets it. I just wish I had the opportunity to try something fun like that again. Maybe I should try that chalk-dying technique one weekend?

The color I really want to try is a light pink color. I fell in love with the idea when I watched Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. That soft subtle pink just looked so romantic and pretty. Do you have a fantasy hair color?

Image via.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Musing on missing

D is in London on business. It's a 10-day trip, the longest we've ever been apart, and we're a little over half way through. His mom came out to stay with me to help me with the Pepper and I'm lucky to have her here; she is being a big help. So we're doing fine without him. Except we really really really miss him!! So much. I'm almost surprised by it. Pleasantly surprised by it.

The Pepper definitely knows that daddy isn't around. We've been able to Skype or Facetime with him which has helped. But if the phone rings or the iPad makes a sound she'll excitedly point at it and say "dada!". She wants to talk to him and to see him. Especially the last few days she's been extra sensitive and clingy and crankier than usual. She is very connected to her daddy. Drew has been a key part of our child-care since I went back to work so they have had a lot of quality time together since she was born. So even though she is still so little, of course she misses him. She likes it when we are all together and she is going to be so happy when he returns.

The amount I miss him I didn't expect. I knew I'd miss him but I guess I thought the demands of life would distract me. Even when Drew is around it is hard to find time for our relationship. As working parents our days get filled with all the things it takes to keep our life going. Cooking, cleaning, working, corresponding, parenting. We try to be aware of the need for quality relationship time and we make efforts to connect each day. But there are still a lot of days where by the time it is just him and I, we are both so tired all we can do is zone out to some TV and go to bed. Not very romantic but it's reality sometimes. With D away, I figured it would be much of the same. Life would keep me busy and then I'd be exhausted at the end of the day and pass out. I'd be too busy to miss him. But I'm not! I really feel him being gone and it's actually sort of encouraging. It makes me happy that I notice his absence because it means that the efforts we make to stay connected are working! Even when we are busy and it feels like we are two ships passing in the night, he is a part of my life. An important part! So much so that when he's gone things just don't feel right.

Come home D! Your ladies are waiting for you.

Image via.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Favorites from around the web...

1) I've always been amazed by these guys. So impressive.

2) I want these in my kitchen.

3) This is both funny and sort of sad. I love it though. It's an important issue to address and this forces yo to think about it.

4) I never imagined mushrooms could be so beautiful.

5) This study made me breath a sigh of relief. There is so much competition to get into college and the cost is getting high. It's nice to know that maybe we can all relax about it a little.

6) I wish I had one of these!

7) This seems to me to be great advice for writers.

8) This speaks truth. Valuable truth.

9) I want to go to Chicago and visit this! I bet it's exhilarating.

10) These spurious correlations are fascinating. Sort of creepy too.

Image via.

We're going to do it!

I've mentioned it before but D and I have been thinking about the best place for us as our family grows. We love downtown and it's been a wonderful place to become parents. But we're growing out of our loft. I need a better space to work. D and I would like a bedroom all our own. And it would be nice to have more outdoor space for the Pepper to run around in.

So we're going to try something! This summer we're are going to move to Ojai. Yup, we're going to make a change. But we know it's a big enough change that it's worth us doing a little test run. We're going rent out our place and rent a place up there and see how the first year goes. The biggest challenge with the move will be that D will need to do the 2-hour drive to LA a few times a week. Not ideal. But we also don't know how often he will need to do it. And we're hoping the benefits of living in a beautiful nature-oriented place will be worth it.

Right now the most exciting thing to me is the Ojai daycare we've chosen for the little one. It has so much wonderful outdoor space. And with that space they are able to have a little garden where they grow vegetables. Plus they have animals there! They have goats, chickens, rabbits, tortoises, and a baby mini-pig and the kids get to play and help take care of the animals. So wonderful. And there is no wait-list! Such a change from Los Angeles.

I'm anxious about the move. The logistics will be a lot to deal with though luckily D has offered to take point with a lot of that stuff. I also know I am going to miss a lot of things about our life right now. I will miss the loft that we worked so hard to get just right. I will miss being able to walk everywhere. I will really miss being located so close to a lot of our friends. 

But, it's on to a new adventure! Fingers crossed that it all works out.

Image from my Instagram of our last trip to Ojai.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sia's "Chandelier" music video

Have you seen the music video for Sia's Chandelier choreographed by fabulous LA resident Ryan Heffington? I think it's amazing. I didn't know much about Sia or her work before seeing this video. She's a singer-songwriter and apparently it's the first single she has put out in four years. Both the song and the music video feel very personal to me: like she's exposing herself, even without physically appearing the music video. Sia has been public about her experience with drug and alcohol abuse, and the lyrics speak to a woman struggling with fame and spiraling out of control. The young dancer in the video sports a blond wig that closely resembles Sia's signature style. To me, this all means that this video is a representation of mental instability and addiction. The dancer is manic, at time frantic, always moving, often bizarre, sometimes beautiful, alluring, disturbing. The small and dilapidated apartment further conveys a sense of sickness and despondency. Is the apartment supposed to represent the narrator's mind? I personally choose not to take it so literally, but I could believe it.

I've heard some questioning of whether it was appropriate to use a young girl as a dancer within the context of a very adult subject matter. I think it works very well here. The dancer isn't doing anything inappropriate for a child. And I think it adds something to the emotions being conveyed. The innocence juxtaposes with the sense of danger to make you worried for her, a valid feeling when watching someone emotionally implode. And it just adds to the other-worldly, impressionistic feel of the video which again works well for something that really is like performance art. Well done everyone involved! This video has stuck with me for days now and I don't think I'll be able to shake it anytime soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What's your favorite home remedy?

I'm having bad allergies right now. Or maybe it's a cold, I can't tell. There has been a heat wave in Los Angeles which has made the air really dry. Plus we've had some serious winds. Mix these two things together and you get a lot of bad stuff whooshing through the air and into my nostrils. I get allergies occasionally so that's what I assumed it was. But all the anti-histamine medication I've taken hasn't done a thing and my head is sooooo stuffy it's hard to think. Therefore sadly, I think this may actually be a cold. Damn.

For no particular reason I resist taking medication when I am sick. My husband is always trying to get me to take something and more often than not these days I give-in. And then of course I feel better and wonder why I was so resistant in the first place. But there is one home remedy I also rely on: a nice hot toddy. This is my mom's recipe and something she made for me as a teenager when I was sick or had cramps. You squeeze the juice of one lemon into a mug, add a tablespoon of honey, and about a tablespoon of brandy or whiskey. Then fill the mug with boiling water. Enjoy hot. Apparently the citrus gives you vitamin C, the heat helps loosen up all the yucky stuff in your sinuses and throat, and the alcohol is enough to make you feel a bit better without being so much that it messes with your immune system. I highly recommend it for when you have a cold, especially as a drink to enjoy before going to bed. And for a non-alcoholic version, just skip the alcohol! It's still really yummy with just the lemon and honey.

Any favorite home recipes? Do you have an alternate toddy recipe you recommend I try?

Image via. Their recipe calls for a tea bag but I've never found I needed to add tea.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Trashy entertainment: yes or no?

I have a confession: I love to watch trashy entertainment. And what I mean by trashy is cheesy, silly, low-substance tv or film, often reality-based. I consider myself an educated and cultured woman. And I enjoy high-brow activities including opera, museums, lectures, etc. But I also think there is a time and a place to enjoy the low-brow and give our minds a rest! I work hard during the day to add value at my job, and then I work hard in the evenings to be present with my little one. So when I have time to relax I often really just want to relax in full capacity which for me means turning off my mind and consuming something that doesn't require a lot of me.

My husband is not this way. He very rarely craves this kind of zoning-out. Our weekend evenings are often spent debating if we're going to watch the comedy or action-adventure I want to watch, or the drama or documentary he wants to watch. The last time I really saw him enjoying something silly was a few years ago after his PhD exams. He was so wholly whipped out I suggested he watch this gem of a film and enjoy a scotch. It was nice to hear him laughing throughout :)

Right now, my current favorite indulgence is The Only Way is Essex, a British reality-tv show I watch through Hulu Plus. It's about young and fabulous people experiencing the drama of living in a small community in Essex. There is lots of who-is-sleeping-with-who and it's perfectly mindless.

Do you like trashy entertainment? Any favorites you'd be willing to share? I was shocked when a good friend of mine admitted that she had become addicted to Jersey Shore so I almost feel like I should give that one a try.

Image via.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Pepper Report

Celebrating Mother's Day yesterday has me thinking about my little one. Seemed time to do another update on my beautiful, funny, strong-willed little girl:
  • A couple days before your first birthday you started walking, and I feel like you haven't stopped. As one friend of mine noted: right now it's all about walking around and touching stuff. That's how you like to spend your days. I think you've even achieved a run a few times when excitedly being chased by your daddy. It's great that you are so much more independent now. But it also means we need to be on our game.
  • You still put everything in your mouth! I had hoped we would have passed this stage by now. Especially now that you are so mobile my biggest concern is you finding things and sticking them in your mouth. And it happens all the time. And then I need to fight with you to get them out of your mouth. And then you get upset. It's not the best dynamic. Hopefully you'll move on from this fascination soon.
  • You really want to communicate with us. You are paying so much attention to what we say and how we say it. You try to mimic us. And I can just see that you have things you want us to understand. Right now your most used word is probably "ball" but you also just learned "more" and while I'm proud of you it's a double-edged sword. Because you of course always want more of everything :)
  • Speaking of balls, they are your favorite toy. You like carrying them around, throwing them, chasing them, giving them to other people, collecting them. I think I need to diversify your ball collection though so I'm probably going to get you one of these.
  • You love a good party. This last Saturday we attended a pool party with probably 30-40 attendees and you were so in your element. You worked the room and charmed everyone. You were happy to hang out with with the ladies in the jacuzzi or swim around the pool with the other kids. There was even some fire spinning at the end of the night to entertain you. I'm sorry not every day can be like for you but I'm glad they at least happen every so often!
  • You are ravenous. The amount you eat astounds me. We have to order a full third meal now when we go out. I love that you no longer eat any kind of baby food and just feed yourself small pieces of whatever we eat. But it also means I can very easily on any given night watch you consume a full quesadilla. I guess it's all the calories you are burning from walking. And I want you to have the energy you need to keep growing! I'm just in awe of your appetite. Unfortunately you have also become pickier in your food choices now that you feed yourself and it's a bit harder to get you to eat your veggies. Luckily apple sauce still serves as a way to sneak veggies in.
  • You are doing well when it comes to sleeping. You generally sleep through the night (9pm-7am). Sometimes you wake up if you've lost your pacifier and can't find it on your own. It makes me want to wean you off your pacifier which you only use at night now anyway. I keep talking about doing this, but I am intimidated by what I know will be some rough nights as we go through the transition. I just have to be brave and pick a weekend and go for it.
Tomorrow the Pepper will be 14 months old. Sometimes I want her to stop growing and just stay the size she is now forever. But I'm also excited to get to know her as she gets older! It's a fun exciting age right now. I hope the fun continues.

Image from the pool party this last weekend.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Favorites from around the web...

1. I like to try to reduce waste so I love these tips. I now have scraps saved in my freezer right now for vegetable broth.

2. Another reminder that Los Angeles isn't so bad :)

3. Really honest account of one woman's experience.

4. This is beautiful and romantic.

5. I had no idea about this tradition until now. I'm fascinated by the idea. Is it sweet? Is it creepy? Both?

6. This guy is doing a wonderful thing. He's combining compassion and smart design in order to help other people.

7. This is a great idea! We don't have any family photos together right now and I'd love to change that.

8. Loving this fun look at various cultures through language. "Ilunga" may be my favorite.

9. This is such a smart idea of a wedding registry.

10. I've so far visited only one of monuments shown here. I'd love to visit them all.

Image via.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Favorite quick lunch

Even though I grew up in California I only recently discovered a taste for avocados. Since my dad is from the East Coast and my mom is from Africa, they just weren't part of our family diet. But I'm so glad avocados have come into my life. Not only are they super healthy, they help me put together quick meals. Working at home it is crucial for me to be able to throw something easy together in the middle of my busy work days. And one of my favorite quick lunches is toast topped with avocado.

But I have a trick (that I stole from these guys) to make avocado toast even tastier: coconut oil. Spread some coconut oil on the toast underneath the avocado. It's a subtle addition but it matches the avocado so nicely and gives it some depth. Top the avocado with a pinch of salt and you've got a great lunch!

Image from my instagram.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Knowing your value

Have you read Mika Brzezinski's book "Knowing Your Value"? If you are a working women I highly recommend it. It was something D bought for me when I was thinking about how to best move forward in my career and it really helped me put things in perspective.

Mika's story is that she discovered that she was making significantly less than her co-worker, for doing the same job. Instead of blaming the company she decided to look at how she had found herself in that situation. In both her self-exploration and her research into woman in the workforce there seemed to be a common thread of women under-valuing themselves. Of course this isn't true for everyone, but women tend to not ask for competitive salaries. They don't ask for raises. They don't feel comfortable negotiating. They have trouble standing up for themselves. And I certainly fall in this category. Asking for a raise is something I dread doing. But it's so important.

Even though I read Mika's book years ago now, there are things she said that have really stayed with me. One is that managers are looking to get their employees for as little money as possible. Helping the company make better profits is part of a manager's job. So, if a manager can get you for a lower salary, they will. Therefore you need to be your own advocate when it comes to your compensation. The other thing she noted is that if, as a woman, you are the breadwinner of the family, then what you make directly impacts your family's quality of life. If you don't ensure you are making a fair wage, then your family's finances are not as strong. As the current breadwinner of my family I think of this a every time I think about my career path. Mika also touches on tricks for negotiating which I have used myself. 

I think this book is a must read for any women, even those that aren't working. It touches on some of the key differences between men and women and how that can effect our social interactions. Valuable stuff to keep in mind!

Image via.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Being away

I'm traveling for work right now, something I need to do periodically. My company is based in Cleveland and I had to fly in for a management meeting. It's always really great to be in the office. Having the team together feels so productive and collaborative. It strengthens our existence as a team working toward a common goal and shared success. I feel energized and excited about my work after spending time with my colleagues in our office.

But it's hard to be away. I've taken a few trips since the Pepper's birth, usually work related, and this one has been the hardest. When she was younger being away didn't feel as crucial. She was less aware, and she slept so much of the time I didn't feel I was missing too much. I was able to feel ok about being gone from her. But this trip feels different. She's changed so much in the last few months. She's so much more engaged with us. She knows what's going on. Plus, she's in her separation anxiety stage. So I miss her! I miss playing with her and reading to her. And I feel like I'm missing out on her discovery of her world and herself. And I worry she misses me.

I know it's illogical to worry. I know she'll be fine. I know it's ok for me to be away (just 2 days!) and I know she won't be emotionally scared. I know these things. But it's hard to feel them sometimes.

Image via.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Changes to routine

So far, being a parent feels like it's all about adapting to change. We'll be going along and we'll have things in order. We'll have plans and a clear idea of how things go. We'll have steps we take and we'll know what to expect. Then suddenly, we need to learn a whole new system.

The last month has felt like a huge shift. Maybe it's because the Pepper reached that year mark and this is normal. But it's taking me time to catch-up. For the last several months the little one has taken a morning nap and then played with the nanny until I'm done with work around 3:30pm (I work East Coast hours). Then I give her a snack and read to her until she goes down for her second nap. During her second nap I can fold laundry, catch up on more work, or sometimes even nap myself! I would often get jealous that the nanny gets the play time and I get the nap time. But I had worked this routine into my expectations for my days. Then one day the other week the Pepper decided she didn't need two naps a day anymore. Suddenly, one afternoon nap was the new norm. I'm thrilled to have more awake hours with her, but it's also thrown off my days. I no longer have an hour or so to myself in the afternoons. Now it goes from work right to mothering until bedtime. I feel less productive, but also more fatigued at the end of the day. I'm hoping it's just an adjustment period.

Another big change that seemed to happen all of a sudden: bed time. Especially since I went back to work so soon after her birth I took her bedtime as quality cuddle time. When it was time for sleep I would hold her and rock her and sing to her until she closed her eyes. And then I'd often hold her several more minutes just to enjoy the closeness. It seemed to be something we both enjoyed, until the Pepper changed her mind. One night she started wriggling during our cuddle to the point where I just had to put her down in her crib where she eventually went to sleep by herself. I know this is a good thing. Even while I enjoyed our old routine and the physical intimacy of it I knew it couldn't last. I knew she would eventually get too big and I worried about how to transition to putting her in the crib to go to sleep. I was worried about upsetting her with the change. So I feel lucky she instigated this change on her own! Now I'm the one adjusting: I miss our bedtime snuggles.

Some change will sadly still need to be imposed. Breaking the Pepper of her pacifier habit intimidates me. She looooves that thing. But I feel like getting rid of it would help her sleep better at night. Weaning her off of it is going to be painful...

Photo from a few days ago. The pepper was showing off her tongue to some neighbors :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kitchen helpers

Seeing Jordan's great pantry renovation made me think of the things we've done to improve out kitchen. We don't have a big space so we haven't done anything major, but we've made some small additions that have helped us navigate our kitchen.

Once we had the Pepper we started eating at home much more, and it made me realize our kitchen was not very efficient. The first thing we did was along the lines of what Jordan did in her pantry: got nice jars to use for dry food storage. Before, we had a bunch of bags stored in other zip lock bags piled on top of each other and it was hard to find anything. Now that we've implemented the jars things are more visible and therefore easy to find. I added simple white labels on the lids too since our pantry is long and dark and I can't always see the contents of the jars. It has also helped me know what I have so I don't keep buying whole walnuts.

Another item that has helped our kitchen efficiency: a salad spinner. I can't believe we went so long without having one. Especially now that we often get lettuce in our CSA it's been essential to be able to throw together a quick salad. And eating salads is something that should have no barriers.

But, the best thing we did to making cooking easier was get a Spice Organizer. I had dreams of cool and creative ways to store spices. I imagined having a great looking metal wall with all the spices in magnetic containers lined up neatly. But the reality was that we just couldn't do any big overhaul so I bought this straightforward version that would fit into one of our cupboards, and it's amazing. I can actually see what spices I have and I can find them easily. I use it every day and every day I am thankful for it.

Any other suggestions on small changes to make kitchen's and pantries more efficient?

Image via. I love these hanging baskets but not sure they would work in our current place.