Friday, August 29, 2014

Favorites from around the web...

1) Wow. This is an impactful perspective on a horrible disease.

2) I love the idea behind this but also as a fan of mythology I enjoyed reading all the stories around these interesting women.

3) I'm sure the effort needed would not be worth it but I do one day want to make these cookies.

4) These are good reminders, especially the last one.

5) This made me laugh, especially how it concludes. Having worked in an office I can also totally imagine the disruption his caused.

6) I think everyone should read what this man has to say about his experience being a hermit. What stuck me those most was "with no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant." I've been ruminating on it all week.

7) Inspired by these. You go girl!

8) I think this is very true. We are not all so different! We all work hard and are all doing our best.

9) This show looks amazing.

10) These days I'm not good about staying up-to-date on world events and news. So I appreciate when Jon Stewart breaks it down for me and brings the element of reason sometimes lacking form other media outlets.

Image via.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Unusually excited about growing my own herbs

The above picture isn't the prettiest but I wanted to share it because I am unexpectedly excited about my tiny growing basil plants! I've been wanting to grow my own herbs for a long time but in our loft in LA there just wasn't the right place to do it. We didn't have a sunny window sill for pots and I wasn't prepared to get crafty and build some amazing at-home herb tower like some of my friends did. But, now that we are in a new home I have the perfect kitchen window sill. I bought these pots, this soil, and these seeds. I started off slow: I planted some basil and parley seeds and anxiously waited to see if anything woudl happen. Within days I had adorable little basil shoots! The parsely took longer but yesterday I saw my first little parsley plant poke up from the soil. I'm thrilled.

So now I've also planted some mint and some cilantro and I'm obsessively watching to see how tings develop. I've always hated purchasing herbs because I feel I can never buy the portion I actually want or need. Growing my own feels economical, and it was surprisingly easy. If all goes well with these first four I'm going to want to expand my little garden (though I know D will have a problem if pots start taking over his kitchen).

Anyone have any tips for indoor herb growing?

Picture of my little basil plants

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Pepper's current obsession: anything with wheels

Thankfully my little girl is still obsessed with her books but a new obsession recently emerged and I'm excited about it: cars! Actually, all things with wheels. This includes cars, trucks, bikes, and particularity motorcycles. She loves watching cars drive down the rode, she points out trucks or buses, and motorcycles are just fascinating to her. There is a restaurant here in Ojai called the Deer Lodge and it is a popular spot for motorcyclists because it's on a windy lovely road. It's become one of our favorite restaurants because it brings the Pepper so much entertainment. We walk outside and look at all the motorcycles and talk about the different colors and ornamentation. But the real fun is when the motorcyclists come out to leave. We watch them get their gear on and then wave to them as they vroom away. Exciting stuff! And the best part is that the motorcyclists get such a kick out of the Pepper's interest that they are so sweet and friendly and chatty and they play it up for her.

I'm happy about this new interest because I like that it's gender neutral. I guess you could even say it's considered more of a boy thing. But since I don't like to think to much in gender I like that this came into our lives. I've been thinking of gender and toys since we visited some new friends with a 2 year old boy the other week. He had a lot of cool things I wouldn't have thought to get for the Pepper, including some large plastic dinosaurs. And my little girl loved it all. It will help me think a little more "outside the box" when it's time to next upgrade her toys.

I also want to note hat motorcycles scare me. A lot. So while I support the Pepper's interest in them there is something about it that also worries me. My parents gave us a lot of freedom but there was one big thing on the "don't to it" list and that was ride motorcycles (we'd known too many tragedies). Flash forward and I ended up marrying a guy who used to work as a motorcycle courier. D grew up riding motorcycles with his dad so for him it was a normal part of life. This was a hidden side of him until a few years into our relationship. When I met D he didn't have a motorcycle but when he started his PhD he bought one to reduce his commute time and I almost had a heart attack. It seemed like death on wheels. But I had to get used to the idea and while his riding always worried me I got used to it and mostly just decided that I had to trust him to be as safe a driver as possible.

Hopefully the Pepper will grow up just appreciating the more dangerous hobbies from afar. Fingers crossed...

Image of the Pepper from this weekend. She loves this hand-me-down little car.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Do you take vacations?

Did you see this article about how bad American's are at taking vacations? It's kind of upsetting, and in my opinion true. Recently I've realized how burnt out I am. I haven't taken a real vacation in almost a year, and the last time I took time off was Christmas. So that's over 9 months without time off from work. And I can feel the toll it's taking on me. I hate to admit it but I'm not being as productive or efficient at work these days because my mind is a little overloaded. It needs time to decompress, reset, and process all the information it's been taking in. And I haven't taken the time. This is partly because we like to take vacations after the summer rush as it does make things more affordable. But there are other cultural factors that create this situation.

My company works with resources all over the world. I have hired people in Switzerland, Canada, and Ukraine. The biggest difference I see when working with people from other countries is their relationship to and their expectations around time off of work. First off, they expect more of it. When hiring a resource in Switzerland I knew I had to give them the 20 paid days off of work a year required by Swiss law. But, this person actually expected 25 days off a year as this is what most Swiss companies provide. I felt bad giving him "only" 20 days off but I explained that this was already twice as much as his US colleagues received. I'm so jealous that many other countries provide more paid time off. Part of the reason we can only take one vacation a year is that if you only have 10 days off a year you can't plan a lot of trips. That's one week-long vacation and then some days off in case you get sick, need a personal day, or to celebrate the holidays. But a year is a long time to wait to get way a from work and really have a break.

The other thing I've noticed is that when my international resources do take time off they really take time off. In my experience here in the US we're always working. For example, one of my US employees emailed something over Thanksgiving, and I responded! We both told each other to go back to enjoying our holiday but there we were emailing on our work accounts. As a comparison, if one of our Ukrainian employees gets sick, they are out of  contact for a week. It gets challenging at times when someone disappears but if they are sick shouldn't they be resting and focusing on getting better? Aren't they entitled to that? And we are always able to make it work without them somehow and continue (though we are thrilled when they return). We always survive. And they take the time they need to be healthy and return to work at their best.

What I appreciate about my international team is that they don't feel guilty for expecting time off or taking time off. They see it as a necessary part of life. If they are happy and healthy in their life they will be better workers and they will produce better results. They will have energy to be creative. They can respond quicker to needs. They can be focused and efficient.

I hope this country can move towards a company culture that is more accepting of time off. I think we do worry what others will think; that we will be deemed "less" for not working. But it's important to take the time and to feel ok about it. I know that when my vacation comes up in a few weeks I'm really going to try to enjoy it and disconnect because I know it will allow me to come back to work refreshed and better than ever.

Do you feel you take enough time off of work?

Image from our vacation last September. The Pepper was a chubby 6 months old!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

To "French" or not to "French"

I'm not referring to kissing but to parenting. One of the books recommended to me the most when I was pregnant was "Bringing up Bebe": an American mom's account of what she learned from raising her kids in France. The book focuses mostly on what the author feels American parents can learn from the French: how to have a well behaved child. This involves things like getting them on a schedule young so they sleep well, not snacking in between meals, teaching them independence, and teaching them manners. I decided not to read a lot of parenting books knowing that too much information would actually overwhelm me. But based on the recommendations and some research I decided that the books I wanted to read were "Bringing Up Bebe" and a great companion book called "French Kids Eat Everything".  And now they are the books I recommend too! They really aligned with what D and I had wanted to place value on when we discussed parenting and they helped us formulate our approach. And 17 months later I think we've had great results. The Pepper is a pretty good sleeper, a very good eater, and a fairly well-behaved toddler (so far anyway!) Partly I think we just got lucky, but I also have to credit some of our parenting choices that were helped along with the info we learned in these French parenting books.

So I was surprised when I read this article discrediting a lot of what the book purported. To be fair, the article I think is more about what the author expected to happen vs the reality of moving to a new city with small children. But it reminded me of a conversation I had at a BBQ when the Pepper was about 4 months old. An expecting couple asked me and another mom what books we recommended and I of course mentioned the above. But immediately the other mother chimed in saying that the French don't really raise their kids that was and the book was a lie. And that's a fair topic for discussion but it was said in a way that was meant to dismiss my recommendation. It was something I didn't appreciate. And it missed the point.

The point was that these books were helpful to us. Whether they are accurate or not to how the majority of French parents run their families doesn't really mater to me. The ideas and suggestions within helped D and I be what we considered to be better parents. I didn't think the books would solve all our problems. I didn't think they would create a perfect kid. And I knew that they couldn't make parenting easy. But they talked about parenting in a way that made a lot of sense to D and I and therefore the books allowed us to have conversations (and continue to have conversations) about how we want to handle various aspects of parenting. And in this way they did make parenting easier for us: by providing us a "parenting philosophy" we could get behind and use as a guide.

An example of something we took from the books: getting our baby on an eating schedule. The book claims that French kids eat at regular times  (8am, 12pm, 4pm, 8pm). And this applies to babies. The idea being that they learn to go longer without food and this helps them sleep. Once they get older the lack of snacking means that they eat well during meals (which tend to have a more robust nutritional options) and can participate in mealtime as a member of the family. This worked great for us. By about 4 or 5 months old the Pepper was eating 4 times a day and she still does to this day. This means that she was also pretty much sleeping through the night by that time as well. Had D and I not read "Bebe" we wouldn't have thought of this on our own but it really brought sanity to our household during that chaotic first year as parents. And if you want additional info on how to get your kid on a schedule I can also recommend "Twelve Hours' Sleep By Twelve Weeks Old". I know some people thought we were nuts to be so "rigid" with our kid but it meant we were all happier (and more well rested!).

So, I still recommend these books to people who want to read out parenting. Even if you don't want to get your kid on a schedule maybe you'll like their approach to saying "no", or manners, or meal planning. I can't speak to it's ability to turn your kids into perfect French children, but it has some good tips for people who want to take a balanced approach to parenting.

Did you guys read the books? Anything you took from them?

Image via.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Recipes: current favorites

I realized that I haven't written about any favorite recipes recently and then I realized why: when we moved we had to give up our wonderful CSA. Without the deliveries of new and surprising fruits and veggies I haven't had to seek out and try new recipes. But the flip-side is that our produce deliveries have been replaced by trips to the local Farmer's Market. Ojai is an agricultural valley so you can imagine that the farmer's market here is pretty excellent. We love our new Sunday morning tradition of going to the farmer's market as a family. The Pepper is the sample queen and I even had her wear a bib around this last Sunday to sop up the berry juice she always has running down her chin as we walk around the stalls. And once we get the fruit home we seem to be enjoying it in it's pure form. I've been eating a lot more fruit just as is, and chopping up my veggies for a simple quick salad. This has meant I've been cooking fewer "recipes".

But, we did recently have some friends come visit us for the weekend and I wanted to cook everyone a nice dinner. There were two new things I did that were a huge hit:

Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpeas with Mustard and Parsley: This was all gone by the end of the meal. It's a great vegetarian side dish and my friend left with the recipe so she could make it at home.

Roasted Artichokes with Lemon & Garlic: This was the best artichoke I've ever made. I've boiled them before but never found them to be special or worth remaking. But the artichokes at the farmer's market looked so good I had to buy one. Turns out the secret is actually roasting them! I served it with some metled butter for dipping and even the 6 year old liked it.

Once we've settled in to our new routine more I want to get a bit more organized with my weekly meal planning and not rely so much on the usual quick throw-together dinners. But for now I'm just happy we have access to great produce and we're all enjoying the bounty that this valley has to offer.

Image of the Roasted Artichoke via.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Favorites from around the web...

1) This is great perspective on something most people dread. I look forward to my own eventual unstructured life.

2) This confirmed something I have long suspected. Nothing wrong with some good campy entertainment as long as people know that's what they are watching.

3) I like that the media paying more attention these days to the range of sexuality out there. This was an enlightening article on a type of sexuality I think is easy to dismiss if you aren't informed.

4) I feel fairly apathetic about Kim Kardashian, but I know that her celebrity is a statement about our current pop culture. And this article gives good insight into why.

5) Oh how I wish I lived in New York so I could see this!

6) My goodness this is complicated. So many questions are raised by international surrogacy.

7) This is adorable.

8) Wow, mind blown. How did I not know this!

9) The way this article starts is horrifying. But it's another example of insight into a small portion of the population that struggle because they are different. And I appreciate those that try to manage their dark sides in an honest way.

10) And I definitely will be trying this.

Image via.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

The news of Robin Williams death yesterday has really hit me. Most celebrity deaths are shocking, especially when suicide is confirmed. And there is sadness at the loss of the talent. But this celebrity passing really hurts. I'm grieving.

The reasons for my emotional reaction to this I'm not entirely clear on, but I have some ideas. For one, I think he really was a genius. He didn't always pick the best roles, but he committed to every one he did and always made them something enjoyable to watch. And he tried new things. He was a campy villain, a serial killer, a side kick, a leading man, a supporting actor, a dad, a family mane, a loner, etc. And in all these roles he always moved me. He always made me feel something. And he also usually always found a way in each role he did to break my heart a little. And I think that was because underneath his manic comedy routine or his excellent acting was a man that was truly sensitive and in a way innocent. It's fitting he played a grown-up Peter Pan in "Hook" because that's what I think he was. He was someone who emotionally and physiologically had a nativity and wonder to him that when you saw him disappointed or hurt your heart broke. Or when he showed love and warmth your heart melted.

Another reason for my response that I can't ignore is that Robin Williams always reminded me of my dad. They were similar in look and stature and that makes the comparison obvious. But it's their emotional nature that always felt similar to me. Emotionally aware and deep men who used comedy and wit to protect themselves and shield themselves from the harshness of the world. My dad is a strong man and someone I am so proud of. But I know he has that inner world that he has to I guess protect in a way.

I think Robin Williams was someone who was so sensitive he had a hard time navigating this world. I'm so sad that it became too much for him. It breaks my heart.

And who can forget this. Sigh. So good.

Image via.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are you watching "Outlander"?

D and I recently caught up on Season 2 of "Orange is the New Black" which was amazing and I completely recommend. But in one scene two of the ladies discuss the book "Outlander", which was the first time I'd heard of it. But I took a mental note they way it was being discussed made it sounds like something I had somehow missed out on. Well, Outlander must be having a moment because within two weeks suddenly I'm hearing all about the new Starz TV series based on the book that just aired. And it sounds pretty good!

The story at the center of Outlander is that of a nurse at the end of World War II. She just reunites with her husband after the war to suddenly time travel back to 18th century Scotland where she deals with the cultural differences, tries to figure out what this means for her life, and of course develops romantic feeling for a handsome Scotsman. So there is the time travel aspects that are always interesting, and then the love-triangle nature of the main character being pulled between the commitment to her husband and the reality of the man she's physically in contact with. And apparently, things get steamy. The good has racy sex scenes, and the tv-series maintains that tradition. That would usually not interest me much (I couldn't get into "50 Shades of Grey") but this show seems to be offering more. It's been getting credit for having a femist edge in the way the show centers on the main character's experience which is that of a strong independent woman navigating a challenging situation but not by giving over to a man. And the fact that the show is written by Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame is a huge draw. I thought Battlestar was a wonderful show that used the sci-fi elements to tell great stories with complex characters and rich themes.

So, anyone watching it? Do you recommend it? I going to try to convince D to give it a try with me one night soon.

Image via.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The scary transition to daycare

One of the big changes we've been dealing with because of our move has been the transition to daycare for the Pepper. We had planned to get her into daycare in Los Angeles ages ago, but we were at the mercy of a long wait list. This ended up being wonderful in a lot of ways because it meant she had more time with our wonderful nanny. And I'm grateful we found a way to make that happen for as long as we did. But it also meant the Drew had to do more childcare during the day than was ideal and we consequently didn't have as much time as a family together. Plus, especially over the last few months we've all felt that the little one could use a little more stimulation. So we were excited to have her start daycare once we made the move. We did research and selected a great daycare with farm animals and a garden and wonderful outdoor space. It seemed to be a nurturing and exciting place and we felt good about it. Until we actually had to send our daughter there.

We knew we wanted to make it as smooth of a transition for her as possible. She's such an open and trusting little girl we didn't want to scare her to the point where she would loose any of that. Luckily our nanny came up with us for a few days and actually went to the daycare with her for the first day and then slowly spent less and less time there. I think this really helped the Pepper get comfortable with the environment and the new schedule. By the end of the week were were so happy because it had gone better than expected! The nanny didn't have to spend any time there at all the last day and there was no crying or anything. It felt like a huge success. And a lot of it I credit to the primary daycare worker Ms. Barbara. The Pepper connected with her instantly and was even talking about her in the evenings. She seemed excited to see her new friends in the morning. We were feeling relieved.

One thing that surprised me was how I emotionally felt about the change. I wasn't expecting to feel so sensitive about it. But the first day that my husband went to drop her off she grabbed her lunchbox and her sunglasses, blew me a kiss, and confidently walked out the front door. Oh my goodness. My baby was gone. She didn't need us anymore. She was a big girl now. Such a milestone. So proud of her but man I feel the loss of the end of the baby era. And I miss having her around during the day. But, the only constant as a parent is change and I'm starting to get used to the new routine.

We felt so good after the first week but the second week was a bit harder. They warned us that kids have a honeymoon period where the newness is enough to keep them engaged and excited. But the second or third week they realize that this is the new routine and they may have some feelings about that. I think that definitely happened last week. She was feeling more clingy and sensitive than usual. She would cry when her dad dropped her off at daycare in the morning. He was attentive to it and often stayed with her for a bit to help her make the transition, and he always hid and watched from afar for a a bit after he "left" to make sure she was ok after he left. She apparently always stopped crying after a couple minutes which tells me she was just trying to tell us she didn't want daddy to go and that she was actually ok and wasn't really scared or anything. And when I picked her up in the afternoons she seemed happy to see me but not upset and it seemed like she'd had a great day. Even though we know things were ok and that she was doing well, it was hard to see her upset last week and struggling with the transition. Not the easiest week. We definitely had moments of doubt.

We are now on the third week and it's night and day to last week. Yesterday was her first day back after the weekend and she was ready to go in the morning. She was talking about Ms. Barbara after breakfast. She was pointing at the door. She was ready. And my husband dropped her off with no tears or whining. Today was much the same. So I'm hoping we're over the hump. Daycare is a good thing for her I think. She is very social, she likes stimulation, she enjoys engagement, and she gets all that at her daycare. And thank goodness for Ms. Barbara. Thank goodness.

Image via.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Life hack: adult bean bags

Moving into a house from a loft meant we had rooms for the first time, which meant we needed to get some new furniture. We have a family challenge though: D is allergic to dust (well technically dust mites) which means we need to avoid having items in our home that would collect dusk. So we don't have rugs for example and our couch is in leather. And it works out ok but having some softer items around would be nice. We were at a friend's house awhile ago and the Pepper was having such a good time rolling aorund on their dog beds. I realized it was because she didn't have a lot of soft squishy things to play on at home! Poor girl.

This got me thinking: at our new place we need bean bags! And they would be better for Drew's allergies than items filled with cotton or down! Brilliant! D then found this great company that makes nice looking bean bag couches and huge pillows. Feeling excited we bought three items for our new place: the love seat (pictured above) to put in the Pepper's room for reading books at night before bed, and two pillows for the new den area for lounging around. They arrived yesterday and we already love them so much. My younger brother was visiting for the evening and I was worried he was going to steal the love seat in the middle of the night. D is even talking about wanting to get the 7-foot couch so he can really spread out.

These were such a great purchase for us and totally worth the money. If you want some nice looking lounge-y furniture I highly recommend them!