Thursday, November 27, 2014

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2014



Happy Thanksgiving!

Here is the thing about holidays, it is what you make of them. Each of our holidays look a little different, sometimes we see a lot of family, sometimes we don't, sometimes we do traditional, sometimes we don't. But it's not what we do, it's our attitude about the day that makes it a good one. Sometimes, holidays totally require an attitude check.

This year, my cousin Lois is visiting us for the week and even though we don't get to see the rest of our clan, I'm so grateful that she made the trek up. We started today off with a workout to really get our appetite going, and then cooked together while listening to Christmas music and caught the tail end of the parade before having a Thanksgiving lunch. We are heading down to Va beach to visit with Ken's family tonight and i foresee more food and some shopping in our future. 

Sloane is so glad to have her Aunt Lo visiting and her enthusiasm for seeing family is inspiring. It's the thing that brings her the most joy right now and I pray that it may always be so. Her excitement for all the little things that we may take for granted is wondrous; we are hoping to nurture that that into a constant attitude of gratitude, and remind ourselves of such things as well. 

Another thing that is bringing her joy these days is being allowed to strum away on my ukelele. She picked it up the other day and started strumming and singing at the same time, making up songs as she went. I posted a short video on my Instagram, but here is more of what I took on my camera. You can make out that this particular song has something to do with a basketball, horse and cow- some of the little things I am grateful for because they bring this little girl joy. 



Thursday, November 20, 2014

CHRISTMAS INSPIRATION


I found myself looking forward to Christmas much earlier than usual this year. I think it's because I need some reassurance that living through this cold and darkness is going to be worth it, and what better holiday to cast all sorts of unrealistic expectations on than Christmas! 

The likelihood that I will get to much holiday decorating is slim, but you never know. I'm letting myself get inspired by all sorts of lovely things - spice cake, homemade advent calendars, garlands, gingerbread cookies, simple wreaths!- and regardless of whatever happens, at least I have some inspiration in my heart. 








you can see the sources of these photos and some more pins on my pinterest board here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GUMPTION, DON'T FAIL ME NOW





I'm going to be super honest and just say: I'm in some dark days. 
This has always been the case for me during the colder months. Its much harder to do life, enthusiasm for things ramp down and I am only about 50% myself; where the other 50% goes, I'm not sure. This year feels little harder than the past few years and it is what it is, but seriously, can I just call it in and sleep off the next three months? 

It's not just the cold, it's the darkness. I feel like there are weights upon my head and shoulders and it is exhausting having to go from one thing to another. I don't feel sad, but it's a depression in the specific sense that there is a negative pressure all over me that is heavy. 

If there is a bright side, it's that I'm witnessing tiny miracles everyday. Because everyday, I'm positive that I absolutely cannot do the day. I'm sure I can't possible get to work, but then I find myself. I don't feel like I can make it through the day, but I do. I'm not sure how it is possible to get x, y, and z done after I get home, but somehow it happens. 

I believe in miracles. 




We went up to DC this past weekend and admittedly it was much harder than it usually is. We were deliberating canceling the whole trip altogether, and even after we made it up there I had to give myself lots of pep talks to get to the next thing. But at the end of the weekend, I was proud of myself for having gotten to do the things we had planned, and it was wonderful to have that concentrated time with Ken and Sloane that I don't get enough of during the week. 

While we were there, got to go to the Emporiyum event which was a huge affair where artisanal vendors from all over the country came to display, sample out and sell their goods. We went to Union Market for shopping and food that same afternoon, and then went to a basketball game that night to watch the Wizard's win. The next day we had brunch with my sister, and then I took a ramen class (yes a class about making ramen!), followed by lunch with friends. 

I love being at home with my family (especially so these days), but these adventures together forge bonding experiences that is good for everyone's character and need for exploration. Plus, how lucky we are to get see friends and family while we were there, and that's always worth the extra gumption. 












I'll end here with a photo of my husband (taken while Sloane napped in the stroller nearby) who sees me at my most exhausted and crankiest but is also there to see me trying to be better at life, there to breathe a sigh of relief with when we make it to the end of the day, and has been doing the thing where he asks how he can help, and means it. He is wonderful.





Thursday, November 13, 2014

SLOW AND STEADY




The other night, the grownups were talking and we looked over to find these two with their faces turned towards each other mid-air. Os was offering a forehead kiss and a Sloane was awaiting one, expectantly. Os' response to our inquiries  of what he was doing was just as adorable as their little cherub faces.  



It is hard to describe what it's like to be a parent to a new explorer, even though I am always trying. One fundamental aspect of parenting is that there a magical moments and there are really hard moments. That is just the nature of it, and it holds a microscope to the ups and downs that are formative of a hearty and deep soul. Meaning, it's necessary that it be that way. 

One morning, everyone was running late, and it came down to 15 minutes before we had to get out the door.  Sloane was eating her breakfast, and having a meltdown about everything. She had been under the weather, she was cranky, and she needed things to go slow. I was frustrated and stressed about getting out the door on time, but I quickly saw how this was making things worse. A pause, and I could see that she needed me to sit down with her and respond with my full attention. So a few songs, several conversations, some snuggles, a finished breakfast and 45 minutes later, we were able to head out the door. I knew I was late to work, but in the car, she made me laugh with her funny observations and she gave me the biggest hug and kiss when I dropped her off. 

And that's another layer of it that makes it hard. It made me sad, that as a working mom, that this part of the battle too: Often having to choose what wins out between my time as a mother and my time as a office worker. Most of the time she is fine, and she loves her daycare, but it always feels a little painful to not be able to take extra time with her when I know she needs it. And this is an issue not because I want to be an all-star at work, but just so that I can be a reliable employee who can keep her job and help pay our bills. And this can come into play even between mothering time and personal time. Not because a mother is selfish, but because she needs personal time in order to remain whole, healthy and be a good mother and wife. 

Again, some days are harder than others, not necessarily always because of the baby, but because of all the other factors of life that I must balance. 

Balance, wisdom, reflection: I'm clinging to these things. 


There is a old song by Caedmon's Call that resonates with me, and I'll share some of the lyrics here. The song is called, 'Sacred':

My cup runneth over 
And I worry about the stain
Teach me to run to you 
Like they run to me for every little thing 

When I forget to drink from you 
I can feel the banks harden
Lord, make me like a steam
To feed the garden 

Wake up, little sleeper
The Lord, God Almighty 
made your mama keeper 
So rise and shine, rise and shine
Rise and shine, cause 

Everything is sacred
And all this time 
Everything I've ever dreamed of
Has been right before my eyes. 








Wednesday, November 12, 2014

APPLE CRISP BAKED BRIE


After my friend introduced me to the food blog, Half Baked Harvest, I was hooked. The site is run by Tieghan and she is doing things right. Her photos are beautiful, her food combinations are genius and basically, I want to try every recipe on that site. I've made her Thai Peanut Chicken and Pumpkin Curry with Pomegranate Rice twice now, and this Apple Crisp Baked Brie recipe is the second one I've tried. Definitely not my last.

Yes, that's right. In the middle of an apple crisp situation, it's a melted brie. Trust me, it works.

It's one of those dishes that once you found it at a party, you would just park yourself next to it with steady supply of cracker in hand, and just go to town.

Bonus that it is simple to put together.



I mean.  Look at that. That's buttery pecan, soft apple, crunch brown sugar oats and creamy brie on a cracker.

That's it! 



Well, and a few more things:


It's Thursday so catch up on the most recent episode of Serial.

And check out Damien Rice doing his thing, because it's good.

More sleep studies.

And something I need to invest in ASAP: fleece lined tights.


My sister sent me this to help put your weeks into perspective.





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENTS



It is more difficult than usual to get through these days.  I frequently find myself in the middle of a deep sigh, a big grumble or a frustrated tone and I have to remind myself to take a second and adjust my attitude. Because I am a believer in this: that I am not held victim to my circumstances and that there are things I can do to make a difference in my day to day, namely, to change up my attitude. So without further ado, the ways I've been navigating through darker days:

1. Before I go to bed, I'm all wound up from the day. If I don't take a few minutes to relax, even going to sleep can feel like one more thing to check off my to-do list. My friend recently gave me some chamomile oil, and I've been putting a couple of drops on my wrist and massaging some into my neck while I'm getting ready to go to bed. It's calming and helps me adjust my attitude to one of relaxation and calm. Accordingly, due to the same friend and because I'm willing to try any and all things, I'm taking Vitamin D supplements and using magnesium oil. 


2. I am a low maintenance kind of gal, which probably contributes largely to why I consider the colder months such a pain- there is more work to do in the upkeep and maintenance of warmth and sanity. For instance, moisturizing my lips and body and especially my hands, is something that I don't want to have to be doing all the time. So I don't, then get dry and chapped and uncomfortable and then get cranky about it. My attitude really needs a overhaul here and I just need to be in the mindset of having lotion and balm around to apply constantly. 

3. My job. All I can say about this right now is that I am struggling to adjust all my dials to 'grateful', daily.  Things that help me check my attitude include listening to Handel's Messiah, going outside if the sun is out, sitting in my car with the heat blasting for a few minutes, or get a cup of hot tea. 

4. My daughter. She is SUCH a delight. I marvel and wonder at her and feel so privileged to be her mom. But I also have all sorts of feelings about whether I spend enough time with her as a working mom, and it's funny because just earlier this year I was going to write a post about how I have come to terms about liking being a working mom. Which just goes to show how fickle this trying-to-have-it-all-journey can get. These days I fantasize about all the things I could be doing with her at home if I wasn't at work. But I remind myself, she loves the daycare she is at, they do all sorts of activities there and she is learning so much. Plus, I get the most joyous of greetings when I pick her up at the end of the day; it makes so many things worthwhile. This also means I savor the moments I do have with her, and if I find myself exhausted at the end of the day and short of patience, I know I need an attitude check. 

5. The difference that I feel when I change out of my work clothes when I get home is significant. In order to avoid the cranky I need to get out of those work clothes and into some baggy pants ASAP. 

6. Socks. I hate wearing socks when I'm in the house. And instead of accepting the fate that is winter and putting on my socks in order to stay warm, I feel extremely contrary and insist on keeping my socks off most of the time and then feeling upset about how it is cold.  I'm in serious need of an adjustment here, in the form of: suck it up! I finally found my house slippers the other day and I feel less suffocated by these, so I'm on my way to a better attitude and warmer feet.

7. Eating well. There is something about this weather that makes me want to spiral out of control and sit on the couch eating an entire pie, or overreat that curry that makes me feel like I am getting a hug from the inside. I am cold all the time these days so my cold bones is telling me that I need to fatten up, but I have a feeling this might make me feel worse. I need to be aware of slipping into my 'eh whatever' attitude and stay in tune with my body- being aware of what my body needs is usually what makes me feel the best. 

8. Exercise. Speaking of what my body needs, there are two parts of me at odds when it comes to working out- one part knows I should to work out, and the other part wants to get under the covers and lay perfectly still. This has always been the case for me; it's so much harder to get exercise in the winter, but not getting those bursts of endorphins is not helping the dark moods. The other day, seized by the desire to jump start this attitude, I did a quick work out (as many rounds of 30 jump ropes and 10 burpees as possible in 20 minutes) as soon as I got home. It was rough, but it got me sweating, I was warm from the inside out, and I noticed a shift in mood. 

9. Cooking. I'm not one of those people who think cooking and baking is a de-stressor. There are moments where I am in the zone, chopping vegetables with The Voice on as background, and I'm like 'oh this is nice'. More often than not, cooking can be stressful when it is squeezed into a busy day, and I find myself wondering 'wait why am I doing this? Because I do A LOT of cooking and baking. But I realized the other day, it's because it just feels so damn good to actually make something. After a long day of processing forms, responding to emails and working with spreadsheets, there is some part of me that gets satisfied with the process of creating something and then seeing the results. My adjustment on this has to be to see things not as a chore, but as a creation process. Hey and what about taking joy in the fact that I am helping my family consume real and healthy foods?

10. Speaking of being creative, whenever I'm feeling a little off, it usually means I need to check myself to see if I'm doing anything creative. I find myself doing projects where I work with my hands (like those confetti poppers I made this past weekend for a freelance type job), but since this is not what I do on a day-to-day, I need to make sure I get some form of it in daily doses.  No matter how busy and practical a day is, I must find time to read or write. This is a must and I need to adjust my priorities to always include this. Whether it be reading 10 minutes of a book I like during my break at work, or typing furiously with my fingers into my little note pad app on my phone whenever I have a thought (like I'm doing right now), I need to engage with this part of myself and make it an important part of each day.

Ten things!!

And there are even more things, can you believe it, but I think ten is a nice number to wrap up on.  The first step towards change is acknowledging the problems, right? There are moments where I am irrevocably, 'hear me roar and let me just sit here like a lump until it passes', but this me, trying to be proactive about it.  

I really believe the extent to which I can enjoy my life has to do with my attitude about it.


And hey! even after a bad/hard day, at least I get a chance to start over again the next morning, right? 


Hup. hup. 




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

FRENCH APPLE TART


First of all, to the people who have been commenting here and there, HI! and thanks for checking in. I want to figure out how to do that thing where you can respond directly to a particular comment, but until then, we roll on, with an occasional hello and know that I feel a warm glow and have pleasant feelings when I hear from so and so. 

Speaking of warm glow and pleasant feelings, they have been a scarcity around here this week.  Work days have been sucking the life right out of me (yes, even more than usual!) and it is dark when I get home. (Although yesterday, after such a day, I came home to a wonderful dinner made by my mother-in-law who was visiting, and then later that night, Ken and I got lots of laughs watching Sloane do this thing where she would run as fast as she could towards her bed and then face plant...over and over again. So.)

Remember how I was all let's brainstorm ways to survive the cold? Well, this week's coping mechanism has been random snacks right before I go to sleep, probably just as much a comfort thing as it is a warming thing.  For example, two nights ago, I cooked up some oatmeal, mixed chocolate hazelnut spread into the oatmeal and topped it with some sliced bananas.  Last night, I mixed chocolate hazelnut spread into some greek yogurt, and spread that on top of a cracker. Earlier this week I made a double batch of Half Baked Harvest's amazing Thai Peanut Chicken and Pumpkin Curry with Pomegranate Sticky Rice, ate it for two days and I'm craving more, days later.  Coming up this weekend, I'm going to try A Beautiful Mess' Broccoli & Cheddar Bake (thanks Astrid!).  




And since I've brought us to the topic of food, on to this french apple tart I want to tell you about!  You know a recipe is good, easy and reliable if I make it FOUR times in two weeks. That's right, four. It's recipe for french apple tart from Ina Garten that has become my favorite baked apple thing this fall.



After you make the pie crust, slice your apples while your dough is chilling in the fridge. 


Roll out your dough to a rectangle and place it on your baking sheet (I lined with alumnium foil). 


Top with sliced apples, sugar and butter. 




Place in the oven for 40-45 minutes (keep your eye on it towards the end so that the edges don't burn). 

Once out of the oven, glaze the top with apricot mixture. 


Sloane loved helping me and took her job very seriously. 



And there we have it! This isn't the greatest picture, you get the idea. (Another picture of tart in action here).





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

FALL UNIFORM




Just popping in to say....Sloane and I love these black sweatshirts and plan on wearing them all the time this fall and winter. 




*Sloane's sweatshirt is from Jolly Good Apparel, mine is from Madewell. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL



I finally finished reading, 'Not that Kind of Girl", by Lena Dunham. I thought I was going to tear through this one at lightening speed, but through both the nature of busy weeks and the feeling that I kept getting that I was disserving the whole experience by reading it on the Kindle rather than the tactile version, it took me much longer than expected. In the weeks that it took me to finish, apparently everyone else (bloggers) was reading it too and also taking photos like the one above, announcing their participation. 

The book is broken out into five sections according to theme - love and sex, body, friendship, work, and big picture, and not having the physical book to be able to refer to for the division of sections was surprisingly annoying. It did the unfortunate thing of making the individual vignettes feel disjointed, (especially because I was reading small sections as a time, rather than in big chunks) and ocassionally I got the feeling of being tossed from one memory to the next. I couldn't easily look back a few pages to remember that oh right this is the section about work, which is why this chapter entitled 'emails I would send if I were one ounce crazier/angrier/braver' is right after one entitled '17 things I learned from my father' which follows, 'little leather gloves, the joy of wasting time.' There is one section where it is just pages of her food diary, and at first, I was intrigued, then exasperated, then wondering why the editor let all that stay in, and then I skipped it. 

But the joy of Lena Dunham is that she has a voice and she has a certain way of saying things, and I find that appealing. I was probably going to read this book no matter what, because I like Lena Dunham, I admire her candor, her willingness to be vulnerable for her art and her humor. It's interesting to me that she is so confident with her words and her vision. It's true that I also can't help but be intrigued with what it must have been like to grow up as a child of artists in New York City, but that sort of thing mattered less than how she was saying all of it. Much of her upbringing is so far removed from my own, and there a plenty of things that got me eye rolling and dramatic sighing, but that's not a bad reason to read a memoir in of itself: that fascination with someone who thinks and operates so differently from you, but can say and carry out things with such confidence and zeal. But then again, you probably only read memoirs of people you like or are fascinated with in the first place, right? So, there's that, but all of this could be a whole other conversation about our culture's obsession with celebrity. 

All that being said, I read this memoir like a lesson in vulnerability and voice. I studied the content wondering about the things she chose to share, observed the sentence structure, making notes of the twists and turns it takes. I like how there are surprises in her sentences. I like the attention to detail, albeit selective detail. I wondered how much of her recollections were true and how much of it were exaggerated (I can't help wonder this during most memoirs I read). 

As unique as her life experiences are, the strength of her book is that it reminded me of what is appealing about a Judy Blume book - a mid-twenties version- which heralds the message of 'hey you are not alone!' The subsections are broad and general, topics that all twenty-somethings have to experience, and this is her take on it. She makes that clear from the beginning:

"No I am not a expert, a psychologist or a dietician. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the front lines of that struggle "

* Mygod, isn't that all of us? If written well, I would probably read anything that was some woman's struggle to have it all. And all the lessons in between.
** In regards to a recommendation, I say, read this book if you like Lena Dunham. Otherwise, it's too easy to hate this book. Many times, it feels like you are reading her diary, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what camp you are in. 
*** This is just me jotting down some thoughts about my reaction to a book. I wish it were more organized and that I had more time to flesh out my thoughts, but jumbled assortments is better than nothing to a brain that needs to write like a sedentary person needs to exercise. 
**** Speaking of writing essays about finding yourself in New York City, two really good ones that I do highly recommend: 

Joan Didion: 


And this more recent one by Zadie Smith, that writes about something that is age old at this point, but the skill in which it is written has me hanging on to every word and loving the ride. 




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A COSTUME PUMPKIN PARTY FOR THE KIDDOS


Last Sunday, a mama bear, spiderman, two swans, the tooth fairy, batman, a teenage mutant ninja turtle, and skeleton Indians riding dinos and horses descended upon our house for a pumpkin party. 

You guys, there are SO many pictures, and they are mostly all of costume-clad children, so if that's not what you're into, you are welcome to move along. But if you need some joy in your heart today, these might do the trick. 

Sloane loves all the animals, but one of her favorites is the sheep (she even picked out a sheep birthday cake), so she got to dress up as one. The delight that registered on her face when she saw herself in the mirror dressed like a sheep was.... magic. And the look on the kids faces when they saw each other in their respective outfits was worth whatever effort it took to get them into it in the first place. 

Also, I made a teepee! 




I have plans to drink hot apple cider in here while reading books to each other. 



These two birds were the first to show up and we about lost our minds with how dang adorable they were waddling around and stuffing cookies in their mouths. 






Seriously?! 




TaDa! Talk about making a statement.



Handsome little Isaac! 











Meticulous teamwork for a masterful Big Bird pumpkin. 


So at one point during the party, things got REAL crazy and the dinosaur and horse started getting passed around. 



So this is the group picture I got.  The two birds are rolling around in the back. 


Remember how much Sloane enjoyed riding that pony? Well. 



These photos remind me of Where The Wild Things Are. 




<3 p="">


And the lovely pumpkins that the big kids carved!