Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chamoy Granola

Breakfast is the hardest meal for me to get behind because I'm not a fan of most breakfast staples, such as eggs, cereal, most yogurt, milk, wet bread, oatmeal, etc. When I add my no-dairy diet on top of that, most of the things I can tolerate for breakfast are out too! No cheese on anything, no butter (though I break that rule), no coffee with creamer, no baked goods with butter or dairy (I brake that one too). So what's a girl to eat? Granola with coconut milk, that's what.

I only call this chamoy granola because chilied mango is an unusual ingredient to add to granola, but it's optional. I like the interest that a bit of chili adds to my breakfast, but regular sweet dried mango is delicious too. I like Trader Joe's bagged fruits and nuts - any combination of the items in that section would be great in this recipe.

I hope you enjoy it!

Time: ~1h 10m

What You'll Need:
Dry Ingredients -
5 cups of rolled oats
5 cups dried fruits and nuts of your choosing, chopped. For this batch, I used coconut strips, sweet shredded coconut, dried cranberries, chili (chamoy) mango, pecans, and cashews
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients -
2 egg whites
3 ripe bananas
8 tbsp of honey, maple syrup, or a combination of the two
6 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a LARGE mixing bowl. (Here's a visual of the dried
chili mango!)

3. Lightly whisk egg whites and set aside.

4. Mix remainder of wet ingredients together, mashing bananas into a paste with the back of a fork.

5. Pour egg whites into wet ingredients, and then add to dry ingredients, mixing gently. It will be kind of "glistening", but not particularly clumpy.

6. Divide between two cookie sheets and bake for 40 minutes (or until golden brown), turning with a wooden spoon at least once.

Friday, October 10, 2014

September 2014

Oh September, you really dragged me through the dirt. It felt like there were a lot of days where I just wanted that day to be over whether it was because Ishmael was being extra testy or we were in the middle of moving. But I think we're coming out on the other side finally, thus my late month-end post.

Heard: I am loving Jessie Ware. I hope the few singles she's released recently mean a new album is on the way. I love that background echo-y(?) guitar.

Read: A great list of business-growing tactics for introverts. I'm in the middle of like 10 actual books (and have been for a long time...), so one of these days I'll have an real book to report on.

Watched: I'm really enjoying the show, "The Mind of a Chef" (PBS) on Netflix. It's been following David Chang of Momofuku as he learns about different fermented foods, introduces people to the many types of ramen, and shares his recipes for gnocchi made from instant ramen (!) and the ssam burrito, which I started making at home and love! I really love how willing to learn Chang is, and in turn how innovative he is. He doesn't have a big head from being such a successful chef. // I also started watching the new show "Forever" with my welsh-crush Ioan Gruffed starring, but it remains to be seen whether it's actually a good show.

Tasted: Other the ssam burrito, I think the only thing of note that I made was this gumbo and my sister-in-law Gina's pasta salad, but you're gonna have to wait for my someday-cookbook for that recipe. ;)

Clouds from space; doesn't get prettier than this.

A subscription goodie box for your period! What a lovely idea.

In other awesome girl news, Rejected Princesses - badass ladies from history who are too edgy to be Disney-famous. Both Boudica and Hypatia were recently featured. If you don't know who those ladies are, educate yourself!

Introverted cat lady forever. Check it. (p.s. I want this bag)

I'm rooting for my beloved HK these days. These are some beautiful vintage photos from my favorite city.


  • My first neice, Bree, was born on the 18th! Love, love, love. 
  • I  took Ira to a Dr.s appointment in LA to get his hernia checked out. Turns out he probably doesn't have one (yah!) so I got to enjoy some time with sister Annelise in LA. We meandered through a Korean market, laughed our butts off about funny habits our fiancee/husbands have, and all around had a great time. Every time I'm in LA, I fall a little more in love. 

Boys: Ishmael got to go to Disneyland with our friends the Youngbloods, and loved it (yah!)! He knows a ton of words (new ones every day) and even asks "what's this" for the ones he doesn't know. He says "go!" when he wants you to get out of his space, but is generally very, very polite. He loves to play "ping pong" with any ball and any two remotely oblong objects (plastic banana, anyone? Or plastic horseshoe, perhaps?) and drums on everything. He spent a lot of time this month testing all boundaries and throwing tantrums (I'm sure the craziness of us moving hasn't helped his little world), but generally he knows who's boss and does a good job listening. // Ira has no hernia (hooray!), says "goo" and smiles his little dimples off any time someone gets close to his face. He's sleeping through the night more often than not now, and half the time cries bitterly when you put him down after holding him. // Links: 1. Definitely feeling some hive-pride about this hilarious tumblr started by a woman in a mom FB group I'm a part of. 2. A beautiful poem about motherhood by Billy Collins. 3. Major cryfest over these pictures of births. 4. I liked these guidelines for talking about sex with your kids. Number 3 seemed particularly novel - don't encourage daughters to hide their crushes or feel ashamed of what is natural by all the "daddy with a shotgun" talk. 5. A great reminder that American parenting isn't as effortless as French parenting can appear to be. Can you believe that the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that doesn't guarantee some kind of maternity leave?! That puts us on par with Swaziland, for God's sake (no offense, Swaziland). I expect this to change ASAP, and I hope I get to be a part of it.

Loved: Brunch with my best friend and a thoughtful gift for Ira from another friend at church. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall-Hating, 5th Ed.

Unfortunately, it is now officially Fall. I don't think anyone who reads this blog or knows me is unaware of my disdain for kale, pumpkin spice, or the season of Fall. This is my 5th annual post about fall-hatred, and this year I'm back to highlighting the few (or simply alternative) things I can muster appreciation for in this foul time of year. I know you've all been waiting with baited breath, so let's do this thing...

But wait. First, I must get a little bit of hatin' off my chest. I found this deplorable "fall bucket list", which only reminded me more of why I hate fall. Even the color scheme is yucky, yucky, yucky. Besides "drink fancy coffee" and "go on two dates" (let's be real here, those things have nothing to do with fall) and perhaps "apple picking" (because: food), everything on this list could be replaced with "slit your wrists" in my book.

Here are some less wrist-slitty things though.

I'm so proud of myself for liking these things. I can only explain my draw to the first image being some combo of old-world and gold. As for the second, nuts and berries are a level of fall that I can handle. {images: 1, 2}

As for these, again, food. But I actually think these are both thoughtful fall color pallets. Don't you agree? And don't they feel so much more fresh and alive than "the Starbucks pallet"? {images: 1, 2}

I'm not in to flower crowns or knits either (humbug!) but I manage to find this first image charming. I think it's the colors. And I do really like flowers. Also, I love me a statement coat, especially in my favorite color. If you're smitten for this color like I am, check out this beautiful lip stain. {images: 1, 2} P.S. In our ongoing pillow-talk questions game, Jonas recently asked me "if you could be the patron saint of anything, what would it be"? One of my answers was the patron saint of black pointy-toe heels. Swoon.

If I'm being honest, one of the things I like least about Fall is the mass hysteria over it. I feel like everyone falls (no pun intended) for what I call "the Starbucks pallet" or cozy warm colors and hot chocolate and pumpkin raviolis and apple pie. Not that those things aren't wonderful - it's just that for some reason, this season in particular seems to be represented by a very narrow set of images and the lack of creativity in it all makes me insane.

One craft I saw in Martha Stewart magazine that I did think was adorable are these candy corn on the cobs. My mom used to make popcorn-candy cakes for our birthdays - they're so delicious because it's slightly salty, the perfect amount of chewy, and you can customize what candy you want in it. I never thought to shape them into corn cobs and wrap them in brown paper though, which is probably why I'm not a millionaire yet.

I would slink off in a bad mood to hibernate until December 1st, but the thing is, California doesn't even have a Fall season! Which is awesome for me. And yet... people (ahem, women of facebook) feel the urge to remind everyone that it's fall somewhere in the world. L.A., I'll always love you. So far, global warming is working in my favor making California a bit warmer, but I might have to break up with it (global warming, that is) if it every brings real fall to L.A.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two's A Lot of Company

You know how motivational speakers are always bagging on people for answer inauthentically to the question, "how are you?". Granted, it is kind of lame when people say, "fine", because we all know that usually means "not fine", but seriously, most of us are not up for spilling our emotional guts to every person who asks, "how are you", which happens to be most people you run in to. My go-to answer to that question, in an effort to sound like I'm really responding to the question, but without burdening the person with my real problems is "tired". It's almost always true in one sense, and it's a totally acceptable mom answer. I just may not divulge that "tired" might mean "I'm really, really damn tired of trying to make my toddler eat one bite of regular food" or "I'm tired of being stressed out by working three jobs and still not making enough money to pay my bills" or sometimes just "so physically tired that my eyesockets curse the day they were incorporated into my body. They're so sore from tiredness".

But recently, "tired" isn't even cutting it. Now, I respond with a peppy (inwardly rueful), "surviving"! And that sounds like a generous statement sometimes. Some days, parenting makes the fact that there's still air circulating in your lungs at the end of the day a miracle. It's one of those "I laugh, only to keep from crying" things. Another new favorite response is, "taking it one day at a time," delivered as if that's the most delightful state a person could wish to be in. People usually smile and nod, and back away slowly. I don't blame them, I smell like fermented milk.

The kicker is that both my boys are great kids. It's just that there's two of them.
If one of them is even remotely troublesome, things get cray, 'cause you have to deal with the one, yet there's another one, just waiting in the wings to start crying or choking or sticking their fingers in electric sockets since you clearly don't love them if you're not staring them straight in the eyes.

I've always thought it was sad, maybe even a little lame, when parents act as if two kids is all they can handle and decide not to have more. Ha. Ha. Ha. I'm on my way to do penance at the alter of what-an-ignorant-person-I-was-and-I-owe-all-parents-a-sincere-apology-if-I-ever-made-them-feel-like-they-should-suck-it-up-and-have-more-kids.

I know it's too early to make this decision, but I'm feeling some "all done" vibes. Yet I know that this time will pass and I'll forget how grueling it is, and decide I want more kids, and the whole thing will repeat itself. God was real tricky by making "mom brain" a real thing after you have kids - I think it's a coping mechanism/conspiracy so that we keep the human race alive. If I weren't considerably more scatterbrained and forgetful than I used to be, maybe I would remember the hard moments more vividly and decide that having 4 children (if we decide to try that) will probably kill me. The author of this article in Slate recalls talking to a friend about how difficult her four-month-old was, and the friend responded by telling her that when her child was really giving her a run for her money, she and her husband had a running joke about all the ways they could blow up their genitals so that this would never, ever happen again. Sometimes little kids are the best birth control.

I'm a part of this mom's group on Facebook that I love, not least because it reminds me every single day that other people are also spending a moment here and there ignoring their screaming children in an effort not to strangle themselves with the nearest swaddling wrap. I love the solidarity, but it also makes me wonder, how is it that so many of us are doing this, around the globe, when we all feel like crying and gnashing our teeth over it? I know the answer, but sometimes it's hard to feel it: ultimately, having kids is SO worth it. It just hurts real bad, sometimes.

Another cliche I always rolled my eyes at was that being a stay at home mom was a "real job." Well, I'm here to prostrate myself at the altar of I-used-to-be-a-real-idiot once again, because I'll be darned if being a stay at home mom isn't 30 times harder than any "real job" I've ever had. There is no escaping my maniacal little bosses, and you know that your lunch break is over when someone decides to vomit all over the floor.

I find myself wishing there were tranquilizer darts for children. Not to totally knock them out, because I immediately start missing them when they're not ripping my hair out, but maybe just to take things down a notch, you know? Two problems: totally illegal, and also, it would be so addictive. You'd start out saying, "wow this is most insane they've ever been, probably a good time to reel this in *thwak [that's the sound of a miniature arrow leaving the poison dart gun]", but pretty soon, you'd be telling yourself how every day was the craziest yet (just to get that peace and quiet that came from using the little darts), and you'd either run out of darts and have to readjust to all the crazy, or you'd be able to get some really quality sleep, and we just couldn't let parents be having that sort of thing. It's frightening when you realize that the only difference between you and the crazy people in prison is the grace of God and that last minuscule shred of self restraint that keeps you from acting upon the feelings of occasional rage and utter at-the-end-of-your-rope-ness.

I call this illustration, "LALALA, I can't hear the all-encompassing mayhem that is my life right now!"

I should be so good at this mom thing - my boys think each other are the best (hooray!), for now, and despite a rough first month, Ira has turned out to be a super chill baby. I'll be darned if he's not actually a HAPPY baby. So. much. smiling. (Adorbs). And Ishmael is doing great listening and is so darn tootin' cute and funny. It's just that his energy levels are through the roof. I probably say "no" 100 times a day, and that's when I'm in lazy mode about keeping his limbs from breaking. Just now, I didn't even tell him to stop licking the mirror and then rubbing his fingers in the residual slime. Oh, and now he's licking my feet. He's not even being bad most of the time, he's just being, you know... two years old. I somehow expect him to be this refined miniature adult who would enjoy sitting cross-legged next to me on the couch and sipping cocktails while reading the New Yorker. I don't really begrudge the fact that he'd rather straddle the back of the couch and ask me for juice no less than 72 times, I just don't know why it continues to make me feel inconvenienced. You think I'd be over feeling put out by the requests of my children (I mean, it's so selfish! But I'm being real here), but sometimes I just feel an urge to drink alcohol in the morning. Which must be a cultural reflex, because alcohol doesn't make me feel relaxed or dull to real life or anything like that. Maybe I just realize that it's something I can't share with children, and therefore it sounds like nirvana.

It's not that I don't adore my kids and think they're great. I think it's more that I don't feel like a great parent a lot of the time, and it's a drag to be daily reminded of how human and petty and impatient I am.

Another thing that's difficult about having two kids is that the guilt level goes up. I'm trying to keep them both (and the husband, and the house) in a tolerable state of existence, but I end up feeling like I can't give anything as much attention as it craves or deserves because I'm spread a wee bit thinner than before. If you're the parent of two or more, I think you will find this apology letter to the second child worth a read (it's funny and sweet at the same time). "Dearest second child, I'm sorry I don't know any facts about you..."

Sometimes it feels humiliating to be so defeated by such tiny people. Ishmael naps for about an hour in the mornings, and sometimes I spend that whole time calming down from the before-nap period. Most of you have probably heard me grumbling about how infancy is not my favorite stage. I feel kind of guilty, because Ishmael is at an age where I daily have a heart-crushing pang of love for how sweet and funny he is, and I want those moments to never end. I don't get those moments with babies (even the ones I enjoy, I'm okay when they're gone). Except when I feel the exact opposite. Now that Ira is all coos and big smiles, I want more of that and less of Ishmael's telling me he needs to use the toilet AFTER pooping in his pants. We almost made it the other day, but instead, a big ol' poop log landed on the floor in between the diaper and the toilet. And then I stepped in it.

If we don't have more kids, I know I'm going to regret not having more later down the road. But if we do have more kids, well then... we have more kids to deal with. The question becomes, have them all in close succession now and grit through the terrors of it (and probably be completely frazzled and unable to give any one of them enough attention) or wait until the first two are older and then start all over again when we have even less energy than we have now.

When I do open up and tell people how frustrated or exhausted I am with my lack of supermom skills, they say, "why don't you just ask for help?!" Girl, I AM! The other day, I got to the point where I was like, "okay, today, I need help with these kids, it's been a while since I've called in reinforcements." Then I realized it had only been two days since I'd had someone take at least one of them for a large part of the day. Come to think of it, I'm never completely alone with both of them from the moment we wake up to the moment they go to bed. If Jonas isn't home, 80% of the time a friend comes by for a few hours or we go visit the Grandparents, or the Grandparents take one or both kids for the afternoon (or even overnight, as the case was a few weeks ago when Jonas and I were both super sick!). I seriously have a village of support and STILL feel like I'm losing my mind 60% of the time of the 20% of time I spend alone with them. That makes me feel kind of pathetic, and makes me want to do this on my own a little bit more (but oh dear God, not really). Why is it that children always act way better around other people anyway, leading everyone to think you're complaining about parenting the two sweetest angels that were ever deposited on this planet? I'm not lying, people, sometimes they really get wild.

Well, I'm off to continue wrangling my two tiny mammals to the best of my ability. Ishmael just woke up from his nap, and I'll be darned if a little bit of good sleep doesn't cover a multitude of sins. Maybe Zen Mother of my dreams is only a few nights of good sleep away after all... 

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Where once a solitary sphere
Twisted through star-studded storms

There comes a foreign halo

Suddenly, irrevocably
Magnetized to my core

A softly dimpled, barren canvas

In orbit around its aqua emerald mama

You'll dance with me in revolving arcs

Until someday,

A shooting star will pull you out

to sea, to see 

And you'll soar away in the arms

Of a shimmering, glimmering captor

There, meteors will gravitate 

Into the rotation of your new home planet
Precious unidentified objects
Waiting to be known 

Written 4/3/13 & 9/18/14 {image: John Byam Liston Shaw for The Garden of Kama,1914}
I first started writing this when I was nursing Ishmael, and we were constantly tied to each other in a 2 to 3 hour radius. It's both beautiful and exhausting. Especially as the mother of sons, I know (rather, hope and pray) that someday they hear the siren call of the woman of their dreams, and each will leave my orbit as they are pulled in to hers forever (though I can't help qualifying this by saying they'll still always be mine in a sense!). And then they'll have their own children orbiting around them, and I can't wait... 

Fingerprint Words

This article is so interesting! I love it when I read about something that I didn't realize was a "thing" until I read about it, though I had realized it in my own life before, if not as concretely as it is explained here.

Like the author of the article did, I asked my husband what words I say all the time, and it took him less than a second to say, "essentially." Haha! Which is essentially true...
You should try it! Ask your significant other if there's any words that you over use, and let me know what they are, so we can all laugh at each other.

I know I have more than I can think of at the moment, but the other words that came to mind that I use a lot are "seriously" (I try so hard never to use "literally" incorrectly by the original definition) and "incidentally." I know my signature words shift, too, and I always get a kick out of imagining what I'll be unwittingly saying too much a year from now.

I would argue that families can have fingerprint words too. Probably because everyone lives in close proximity, or was heavily imprinted by the conversation in their houses growing up. It's not like we're unaware of this, but I've never heard anyone outside my family use the exclamation "Sam Hill!" Actually, pretty much just my mom says it now, but at one point, more of us were prone to saying it. It's from a scene in To Kill A Mockingbird where Scout is indignant about how much syrup is poured on a stack of pancakes, and she says, "what in sam hill are you doing?!" Does your family have any signature phrases? Made-up stuff doesn't count.

I think it's pretty interesting what the Slate article had to say about adopting other people's words too. We have this friend Jaren who used to say "dog" all the time, as in, "dog, that is so cool!" (kind of like "dude", I guess?). We use to make good-natured fun of him for it all the time, but at some point, I internalized it from saying it so much in jest, and now it's a signature exclamation of mine that people comment on. I don't know if Jaren even uses it anymore.

The same thing happens when I'm engrossed in a book or TV series - I find myself adopting the tone of the writing, and sometimes it totally (that's another word I use all the time, ahhh!) irritates (that one too) me to realize that I'm doing it, but not be able to stop it.

Although not quite the same, most of you will also appreciate that I realize how often I start a sentence with, "I once heard a podcast about...". Right?!

In an entirely different sense of the fingerprint words, how crazy is this condition called dermatographia? The caption to this photo says, "I have dermatographia, a condition in which one’s immune system releases excessive amounts of histamine, causing capillaries to dilate and welts to appear (lasting about thirty minutes) when the hypersensitive skin’s surface is lightly scratched. This allows me to painlessly draw on my skin with just enough time to photograph the results." Kind of scary, kind of totally (there it is again!!!) awesome. 

Do you have a fingerprint word, or words? Please do share! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Brand Matters

After a somewhat trying evening of raising my tiny mammals - one tearing around the house dancing on every possible surface, the other crying inconsolably unless you hold him on your knee and look him directly in the face AT ALL TIMES - I was looking forward to getting on to my laptop to veg out, accompanied by some microwaved popcorn. I'm that classy. 

I certainly didn't grow up with microwave popcorn, but my husband recently introduced me to it, and it's kind of delicious. We quickly ate all the bags he'd bought, so I bought another box when I went grocery shopping, but got the store brand instead of the nicer brand because - duh - it's cheaper. And it's not like microwave popcorn is some gourmet treat that requires expert crafting. Or so I thought... 

The off brand microwave popcorn I bought is SO salty that the corners of my mouth hurt after having eaten the whole bag (I couldn't let it go to waste....). It doesn't have that little bit of sweetness that the nicer brand has, which makes all the difference. Anyway, lesson learned - brand matters when it comes to microwave popcorn! Most of the time, I head straight for the cheapest version of what I need, but there a few things that I get picky about. Here's my list! 

Handwashing soap - I'm not the biggest fan of Bath and Body Works in general, but I must have their foaming hand soaps in my bathroom. I love the way the scent really lingers on your hand, and the foam soaps last so much longer than regular liquid soap, and don't get slimy like bar soap. They're cheap too! B&BW has a sale about every other day, and you can usually snap a bottle of soap for $3, which lasts almost a year in our house (I'm the only one who uses soap, apparently). 

Shampoo and Conditioner - I never used to believe all those commercials about what such-and-such a product did for your hair or how some women swear by one particular brand. But at some point, I switched from Herbal Essence shampoos to Pantene, the ones that come in enormous pump bottles from Costco. I really like the smell and my hair was noticeably silkier after using it. Bonus points that my husband likes it too, so we can share our hair product and keep the bath less cluttered. 

Yogurt - I am very picky about my yogurt. I don't like it lumpy, I don't like it watery, I don't like it tart. What I do like is Yoplait - it's irresistibly smooth and sweet. I also love the brand El Mexicano, which is a line of drinkable yogurts. Those are the only two I will eat, unless it's plain yogurt for cooking with, in which case I go with the cheapest option. 

Diapers - Those Luvs commercials are kind of funny, but they also make me a little bit mad because I think Luvs is the worst brand I have ever used. I can't remember what I didn't like about them, I've blocked it from memory. Instead, I use Parent's Choice from Walmart, which are the cheapest available diapers that I know of, but they happen to be better than Luvs, in my opinion. I did notice that a box of Target diapers I got as a gift worked better than Parent's Choice, but in general, I'm perfectly happy with Parent's Choice. 

Gum - This is a matter of preference, but my favorite gum is Eclipse Polar Ice. I love the icy spicyness of it. It makes your mouth feel truly cold for a bit. (and pink grapefruit tic tacs, none can compare!)

Sippy Cups - Most of them are bogus, and leak everywhere. But not these ones. I'm indebted to their inventor forever.

Toothpaste - Again, matter of taste, but I finally found one I really like, and Jonas likes it too, so it's here to stay. Crest Regular Paste, opaque light blue paste with some sort of minty flavor. It may mean I'm becoming set in my ways, but you know you're making it when you settle on the perfect toothpaste in life.  

Mascara - I imagine there's something fancier and nicer than what I use, but for now, I always get Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies in blackest black, not waterproof. The waterproof works well, but a little too well for someone who doesn't take their make up off other than by showering (so then I end up with constantly stiff eyelashes that tend to break off more when I rub my eyes). A new bottle can go on a bit wet, so I try not to sneeze or blink too much, but it soon thickens to a nice consistency to apply, and it makes a noticeable difference on my eyelashes. 

Liquid Eyeliner - Kat Von D's Ink Liner (black) all the way! You ladies know there are a million ways to do a cat eye, and none of them are easy (for me, at least). I like this brand because it is liquid, which gives the line a sharper look, but the tip is a very firm brush (not felt and not an easily flexable brush). My one complaint is that if you make a mistake and try and go back over the line once it has dried, the new coat will remove the first layer and you have to start all over. It also needs to be reapplied every few hours, though I am not one to avoid touching my eyes when I have make-up on. 

Cake Mix - Most of them are decent, but Duncan Heinz (especially the Devil's Food Cake) can't be beat. I don't know why, because it's been too long since I tried any other brand. However, I do know that DH mixes are dairy free, which is doubly awesome if you have to be off lactose when you're nursing or for some other reason. 

Dishwasher soap and toilet paper - I don't have a favorite brand for either item, but I steer clear of the cheapest option; you may as well hand wash all your dishes and wipe your bum with tissue paper. 

Perfume - I don't know if it's the actual quality of Escada, or just the way it chemically reacts with my skin, but most of their perfumes stick to me and remain fragrant (and revitalized when exposed to heat) significantly longer than any other perfume I've ever used. You know what I'm talking about if you've found your signature scent. 

Swaddling blankets - You can not beat the softness, flexibility, and size of Aiden and Anais blankets. They're almost a cheesecloth fabric, which makes them breath well and double as nursing cover ups and car seat drapes. They're finally coming out with cuter patterns too. 

As I get older, I end up with more opportunities to try truly nice things, even if they're hand me downs. Sometimes it's truly amazing to see how much better the best quality products are, especially when it comes to clothing, shoes, and make-up (thus far in my experience). I can't afford to buy the best of everything right now, nor is it a priority of mine to save up for them at this point, but I now know that if I someday have the means to buy great quality products, there are some things that really are worth what you pay for them. 

What products do you buy a very specific brand of, and why? 

And P.S., the better brand of microwave popcorn is Act II, in case you were wondering. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

August 2014

So much amazing stuff happened this month, but it's also been a hard month as we adjust to life with an infant again, gear up for returning to school and work, and start packing for a move. This month has flown by, and yet I'm still looking forward to a time when I'm not exhausted or trying to hold tears of frustration in. It's kind of a cruel dichotomy to not love the challenges of having an infant, yet know that once this time is gone, I will miss the good parts and never be able to relive them. // I have so many links to share this month, I'm going to add them to the end of each category instead of all in one category.

Heard: Crushing hard on Paul Simon's rendition of "Surfer Girl", perfect for the end of summer. Also loving Imogen Heap's new album (duh), particularly "Entanglement" and "Telemiscommunications" (previously released).

Tasted: Not as much as I wanted due to my dairy-free diet. SAD FACE. But there were still good times - we tried Raku Ramen in SLO which was worth going back to, especially for the curry gyoza. We had a mediocre brunch at Marisol at the Cliffs (though I always thing their salmon is great) and I decided I'd rather just have orange juice than a mimosa, haha. We also had decent (if overpriced) sandwiches at Woodstone Marketplace in Avila, which we didn't even know existed previously - they had some fun cheeses and ice creams that I wanted to try. We got to have dinner with the Gees twice this month, including an amazing spread that Michelle made for my birthday. // How to pick a watermelon by smell. // Finally, the internet is working on helping restaurants and stores waste less food, and dumpster divers take fewer showers. // Kale sucks. "Kale tastes like scorned exes feel and ya'll be making green smoothies with it. NO MA’AMS AND SIRS! Keep your radioactive juice. I’m on to you."

I missed Burning Man once again, and these photos are only making me want to go more.

The Phantom of the Opera is only partly fictional, say whaaat?!

16 of the world's most beautiful trees, which is your favorite?

Beautiful remains of "old Shanghai".

Psychedelic planetary soap bubbles.

And this cool website let's you choose which stores you like and then emails you promo codes for them. The only one I tried so far (Forever 21) didn't work (I tried in store and the coupon was for online), but the site and concept seem legit and I'm willing to try a few more times.

Experienced: SO MUCH went down this month.
  • I got to attend the wedding of my sweet friend Amber, which I'm so grateful for. Wishing her and her new husband John many years of joy and growth together. 
  • On the same day, my sister Annelise got engaged to my future-brother Andrew, and I couldn't be happier for them. I'm really excited for their life together, and that I get to be in on the wedding planning. 
  • Two days later, I had my second son, no big deal. He's a very smiley baby, which is so sweet. 
  • My mama threw me a baby shower with many of my dear gal-pals in attendance, a boba tea bar, and a private sushi chef (who taught me some skills) - I loved it! 
  • My husband started back to school after 3 years off, to finish his AA in art so he can move on to finishing his BA. Very, very proud of him! 
  • I got to celebrate with my friend Bri at her lemon-themed bridal shower, can't wait for her wedding in October! 
  • My youngest brother Jonathan moved away to San Diego to start his studies in Kinesiology at SD State. Proud of him, but we really miss him around here. 
  • And last but not least, I turned 23 years old. And drank some booze, CAUSE I'M FINALLY NOT PREGNANT! 
Boys: Ishmael got his first big-boy haircut, and manages to be even cuter (and less annoying?!?) than before. He's figured out how to unscrew lids and lock doors (oh my stars...) and likes to give "squeezies", which are extra tight hugs. He loves to play catch, especially if he can do it laying on his back in bed. His vocabularly continues to sky rocket, but I've noticed that his articulation is quite sloppy recently. Hopefully just a phase... // Ira was born, so that's good! Many of my recent posts have been about him, so I'll sum things up here by saying I still feel like I barely know him, but he's generally a good (often smiley!) baby, though he seems to have a sensitive tummy which makes him grunt a lot, and I'm attempting not to eat dairy to keep him from vomiting so much. He's a sweet little guy, and my biggest challenge, really, is just adjusting to having 2 kids instead of 1. // I love this day-in-life in pictures of an actress I like, Jemima Kirke, especially her thoughts on not being part of a mommy group (cause it's how I feel too!). // I also like this mom's ideas on not patrolling her kids' activity online, though I imagine it will be really hard for me (extra points for her blog name)! // The Huffington Post collects their favorite tweets from parents each week, some of which are pure gold. One of my favorites, "I'm such a badass dad that I just glare at the crust on bread and it comes off by itself and gets in the trash."

Loved: Fresh flowers, summer fruits, the worship at church recently, and summer . Summer, you are my favorite, and I'll be missing you until next year. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dairy-Free Queen

I was imaging what my super hero name would be (like ya do), if I had one, and I thought "Dairy Queen" would be pretty fitting, if it weren't already trademarked. My weapon of choice would be a stick of butter. But right now, my little heart made of butter is melting into a pile of butter tears that I can't even spread on a bagel. Good analogy, huh? I know, that's why you all love me. [an illustration of me, in costume]

This is the deal: Ira had been vomiting violently during and after eating, and it was becoming noticeably painful for him. If it was just spit up, no big deal. Even if it was a bit more than spit up, I wouldn't diet - I mean, kids throw up, right? It's just a kid thing. But after a few days, it was no longer spit up or fresh milk throw up, but curdled vomit, which is kind of a problem.

After talking with Mrs. Sears (future-brother-in-law's mother), I decided to try a dairy-free diet, as lactose intolerance is the #1 reason that an infant might be vomiting. As I write this, it's been about a week that I've been used to this news, and I'm finally to the point where I don't get kind of weepy about the entire concept of being dairy-free. I can't think of anything less drastic than my offspring being in pain that would cause me to go on a diet. And yet, I think I might be dying. Yes. Yes, I am definitely having withdrawals leading to a miserable death. When I'm gone, please, just fill my casket with alfredo sauce.

I've been trying to put my finger on why this is so hard for me, but it turns out that I needed all ten fingers, because I hate it on so many levels. First of all (and this is by far the most selfless reason), it's rough to see your baby in discomfort, and sad to think that you - or a habit of yours - could be the cause of their pain. In conjunction with not wanting to believe that I was hurting my own son, I've always struggled believing people who go on about how what they eat affects them physically in any remotely drastic way.

Although I believe that it's probably true in some cases, I've always scoffed at the idea of "eating this makes my body do this". Plus, I'm really bad at making correlations in general, so it never occurs to me that some discomfort in my body could be related to an eating pattern, and I tend to roll my eyes when other people say things like that. I think a lot of people go on special diets because it makes their brains feel better - they think that being gluten free will help, and so they're happier being gluten free (and b*tching about how terrible their gluten-free life is), even if there's no scientific change in their body. Now all of a sudden, I'm that irritating person constantly whining about how much I wish I could eat dairy, but I can't.

I'm a picky eater in that there are a fair amount of things I don't like the taste of, but God forbid I be one of THOSE people with a trendy dietary restriction. Yet here I am, THAT person in the grocery store, asking the lady if the breaded chicken has any milk in it. Nooooooooooo!

I have never dieted in my life, except going sugar free for a Lent one year. I don't know if that even counts, because my parents decided we were doing that as a family, and I didn't really get a say. I thought it was going to be a breeze, since I definitely didn't have a sweet tooth at the time, but it was actually harder than I thought it would be. Going dairy-free is about 10 times harder. You would not believe how common dairy is in a regular diet - and I don't even drink milk!

It enrages me. It sounds so ridiculous, but this truly feels like one of the hardest parenting experiences I have yet to face. I take food very, very seriously. Crying over spilled milk? Pleaseeee. Try NO MILK PRODUCTS, EVER! That'll give you something to cry about. Apart from missing actual dairy products, this whole experience just messes with my groove. I hate that I'm confronted with "can't", rather than "want". Of course, I spend all my spare time torturing myself with the names and photos of all the things that are off limits to me right now. I obsess over how much whipped cream I'm going to eat in one sitting when I am eventually off this diet. I will stare at ice cream coming out of the machine and say in a soft whisper, "hello, lover...".

I'm not very good at being on a diet. I'm beginning to understand how people eat themselves into enormous proportions. I've developed a "don't ask, don't tell" policy with food I suspect might have butter or a trace of cheese or cream in it (ahem, molasses cookies. It's impossible for something so good not to have butter in it, I assume), because as long as I don't know they're off limits, I can't be accused of straying from the diet, right? It's like I'm a closet drunk, except, I'm a closet dairy queen...

Part of the reason that I find this so hard is because I'n surrounded by the opportunity to eat dairy products. I'll see a picture or read a recipe that sounds fantastic, and then there's this wretched realization 3 seconds later that it contains something that's forbidden. It's such a cruel cycle, and it plays out many times during the day. Like when I just oogled this photo in my Pinterest feed, only to realize this is the real meaning of "food porn." I can't look away, and sometimes I can't even resist taking a small taste. Today at lunch, Ishmael had macaroni and cheese. I love macaroni and cheese. I had a macaroni and cheese festival on my calendar, and I have a whole board on Pinterest that's just mac n cheese recipes. I think I ordered Ishmael's lunch for him because it sounded good to ME. He ended up not eating very much of it, so I finished it for him, telling myself it wasn't a very large amount, and it would be a test to see how it affected Ira. I realize my willingness to potentially cause my child discomfort make me a miserable person. Ira hasn't throw up yet, but he did seem a little extra fussy, I think?? But I'll tell ya, that macaroni and cheese was so good.

I'm kind of terrified that my own body will react to dairy when I stop breastfeeding if I don't keep little bits of it in my own diet here and there. So I have to cheat on my diet occasionally, right? And occasionally means like every other day, right?! In fact, in order to keep enough calcium in my diet, I'm supposed to eat dark greens (yah.........), almonds, and sardines. Hm. How ironic would it be if I lost so much body fat on this diet that I couldn't produce enough milk for Ira?! I would be livid...

I know I'm going about this all wrong, but just think of all the things that you couldn't eat if you couldn't have dairy products! If I were seriously hard-core about absolutely no dairy of any kind, it would be incredibly hard. This list freaked me out, and when I started reading a few labels (a first for me!) at Trader Joe's earlier this week, I was mortified at what things unexpectedly contained whey and other dairy products. Even healthy things, like yogurt in savory foods (one of my favorite cooking go-tos, recently) are now a no-no.

Just have an In-N-Out double-double without the cheese, you say? The cheese is the best part, dammit! In the spirit of actually trying to help myself not be tempted by dairy, I leave the room when Jonas is eating yogurt or has cheese on something, but inevitably, I still see the empty packages in the trash and it makes me shrivel up inside. I know I'm being really dramatic about this whole thing, but I think I'm genuinely mourning this little loss in my life.

At least when I have all this extra time not being taken up by eating dairy products, I have time to look this fabulous while nursing.

Just kidding. I have to tell people that come to the door to wait while I put some cloth on my body.
Honestly, it's pretty hard to find an upside to this whole thing. Except that Ira isn't vomiting. And supposedly all the baby weight will come off me faster. But I'd take dairy over that (losing weight) any day.

In an effort to rally myself, though, I'm trying to see this period of time as a challenge - almost like a game. Believe it or not, I used to hate cooking, but once I saw it as a sort of art project, with the plate as my canvas and an infinite amount of creativity wrapped up in combinations of ingredients, I began to enjoy it. If I can see a dairy-free diet as an excuse to make the BEST dairy-free food possible, I may just be able to bare it.

Although I believe in my Aunt Cathy's advice to not bother with substitutes too much, as they will only disappoint me, I have found a few things so far that may help me cope with a lack of butter or milk. For example, Duncan Heinz cake mixes (which happen to be my favorite anyway) are reportedly all dairy-free. Coconut cream, coconut milk, and coconut oil, as well as Trader Joe's dark chocoloate, mayonaise, avacado, ghee, sorbets, and most Asian foods are my friends. For the less-intense dieter, some aged cheeses are apparently lactose-free, though not free of the protein in milk that can be a stomach irritant. You can be sure that I used that as an excuse to put a few shavings of parmesan on top of my cauliflower the other night. (Here's my Pinterest board of dairy-free recipes to try)

Some substitutes I've been encouraged to try are Tofutti cream "cheeses", Miracle Tarts, Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss ice cream, and coconut yogurt from New Frontiers in SLO. Have you ever had any of these? Did you like them?

I still struggle with being selfless, even after having two kids. People say, "being a parent forces you to focus on people other than yourself," which is true to an extent, but I guess I thought I would literally be unable to be selfish once I had kids (hahaha). Instead, I'm fighting an urge to grill Ira about why he has chosen to punish me in this way. Doesn't he realize that if his mama is so strongly against dieting, that he should be too? Doesn't he trust me that dairy products are THE BEST? Then again, I'm pretty sure I've heard other parents say that if I am passionate about something, at least one of my children is bound to put all their energy into being completely different than me.

The things we do for love, right? As much energy as I've put into complaining about this, sacrificing my comfort is actually worth it to give my son comfort. But don't get me wrong, when this phase is over, you can find me on the floor in the corner of the kitchen, eating whipped cream out of a huge bowl with my bare hands.

P.S. In case you wanted to have this entire post summed up in a 4 minute video, this... You're welcome. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ira's Birth Story

With everything going on in our lives right now, and just the fact that we already have a son, I feel like Ira doesn't get as much undivided attention as Ishmael got as an infant. I imagine this will be a theme in his life (though Ishmael won't get much undivided attention anymore either), and since it's all he'll ever know, I doubt it will bother him, but it makes me a little bit sad, and I want to be careful to carve out special Ira moments and memories that are as much about just him as possible.

The story of his birth is not nearly as dramatic as Ishmael's, which is probably a good thing, but means I don't have quite the saga to share. As smoothly as his birth went, Ira has had some minor health issues in the first few weeks of life (infected tear duct, hernia, vomiting), so I guess that's where he's stealing the lime-light, and helping me toward my dream silver-fox head of hair.

Once again, I went quite a bit overdue with Ira. This time, I was induced 12 days over, compared to Ishmael's 10. I was going to be induced 10 days over, but there was a wedding I really wanted to attend that weekend, so I asked to wait a few more days! Incidentally, my sister Annelise ended up getting engaged that Saturday as well, and I was really glad I wasn't too busy pushing a baby out to inspect the ring, and what not. ;) On Sunday, I walked 5+ miles on the beach, and all I got was tired. We went to INO for dinner after the beach with my family and the Sears family (my brother-in-law to be, and yes, this is THE Sears family of pediatric fame; I get to call them directly with baby questions) and got the call to come in to the hospital right after we'd finished "the last supper". We went to the hospital at midnight that night (end of 8/3, beginning of 8/4).

It was not as hard to go overdue this time. I wasn't in a hurry to have Ira arrive at all before his due date, and then only the 2 days after the due date (especially since I wasn't making any progress dilating) were kind of rough to wait. Though it was discouraging not to go in to labor naturally (I really wanted to avoid the drastic drug reaction from Ishmael's birth), once I realized that I would probably be induced again, the waiting game wasn't as hard. Thankfully, there was a lot else going on in our family to keep me occupied! This time around, in fact, my greatest fear (other than how Ishmael would adjust to having a brother) was going in to labor naturally. I was so worried that I wouldn't realize that I was in labor (I didn't realize I was having contractions at all until my OB told me I was having one during the exam), or that it would be extremely painful, and I actually took comfort in being able to settle in and prepare myself a little bit in the hospital when I was induced with Ishmael. Even so, this song made me think of waiting for him.

The most remarkable part of Ira's birth was how many people were in attendance! Although it wasn't exactly planned this way, we ended up having my parents, my sister and her fiancee, my best friend and her husband, both my brothers and my youngest sister, 2 surgeons, 2 nurses, and 2 other specialists present (compared to 1 surgeon and 1 nurse with Ishmael - I wonder if they had more this time because of the complications with Ishmael's birth?). Including Jonas and I, that's 17 people in the room - 18, if you count Ira! A lot of people have been shocked by that, but it was remarkably chill. I wasn't embarrassed or claustrophobic, and I was happy to give some people the opportunity to see a live birth, if they wanted to (I'd love to be given the same chance someday). In fact, it felt kind of celebratory (there were trays of Costco food, haha!) and I felt loved and supported by the sense of community. It's also a great feeling when I'm able to let people take care of me (that's part of why I love having my babies in the hospital, as opposed to at home).

I think I was one of the more relaxed people in the room - two people, including my husband, almost passed out (lolz), and several people have since expressed that it was difficult to watch someone else be in so much pain, but I felt kind of honored that they were all that concerned for me. I would never have been comfortable with so many guests when I had my first baby (too many other "unknowns" to deal with with a first baby), and Ishmael's labor was so difficult for so long, that I am still shocked at how easy and quickly over the difficult part of Ira's was. In fact, I wasn't expecting to have a baby so soon after I started pushing, which is probably why I kept inviting people in to the room as they stopped by to say hi (so much of the labor was just sitting around waiting), and then all of a sudden, they were all witnessing a birth. Like I said, I don't think many people are going to opt for a similar experience as I had for this birth, but I will say that if you have guests, consider laying down some rules about who can talk - while I was encouraged by the presence of supporters, not everyone's comments to a woman in labor are helpful to her, though honestly, birthing mothers can't really focus on much besides getting the baby out anyway.

The rest of the birth was pretty uneventful. The whole labor was 17 hours (compared to Ishmael's 22), but I was induced with pitocin this time, instead of cervadil, and my body responded much better. Or rather, responded much less drastically, which was awesome. They started me out on a 0.5ml/h drip at about 2 in the morning on August 3rd, and I didn't feel pain until about 2 pm in the afternoon on August 4th. As with Ishmael's birth, I never progressed past 3 cm naturally, and even by 2 pm on the 4th, I was only at about 5 cm with 8ml/h of pitocin. The turning point was when the doctor broke my water, and then the contractions became almost immediately painful.

I labored through the painful contractions for about an hour (they were painful enough that I was crying through them, 8 out of 10 on the pain scale, people) before asking for an epidural. Once again, I had this mental struggle about getting one, feeling like I should be able to have a baby without drugs, but ultimately, I couldn't think of a good reason to endure severe pain when I didn't really have to (can I get an "amen!"?!). What I hadn't realized with Ishmael was that drug-induced contractions can be significantly more painful than natural contractions, and I endured them for a long time, thinking that was what everyone before me had survived. In the end, that almost cost me my life. I think it's totally fine to take pain meds regardless, but especially if your pain is drug induced, why not have drug induced relief? And holy Moses, I had managed to forget just how much I love epidurals. They happen to work really well on me (they don't work well, or at all, on some women), and it's totally blissful, despite that it makes my whole body tingle a little bit.

After 2 or 3 more hours of escalating contractions (that I wasn't feeling through the epidural, booya!) I was at 10 cm, and started to feel "pressure" through the general numbness, which might be the equivalent of "the urge to push" when you can't feel your legs? Anyway, this was the part that kind of caught me by surprise. I started pushing whenever I felt pressure, and after about 15 minutes, it was starting to be pretty painful, but I was still surprised that Dr. Dillon came in and everything just wrapped up so quickly! The difficult pushing was probably only about 10 minutes long, and this time I distinctly felt (or at least, remembered) Ira's head come out on one push, and then the rest of his body with the next push. I was still crying pretty hard because of the pain, but I remain shocked at how easy it was in comparison to Ishmael's delivery.

Ira Alamar Rhys was born at 7:07 PM on Monday, August 4th, 2014. He weighed 8lbs, 1oz. and measured 21" long.

[Thanks to my brother-in-law Skylan for all the pictures in this post!]

When you push, they make you do what are essentially stomach crunches, as you hold on to your thighs. I was getting so exhausted doing this before the nurses and my dad started coaching me not to tighten my stomach muscles as much as focus on pushing in the pelvic region. About a week after Ira was born, I was having pain in my abdomen and it took me a few days to realize that it was from those gnarly crunches. That's how in shape I am.

I did get a second-degree tear this time, but not nearly as bad as with Ishmael, and no hemorrhaging. Because both Ira and I were doing well, I got to hold him right away and watch the staff do all the tests and cleaning and what not right next to my bed, which was really cool for me. Actually, they put him on my chest right after he came out and told me to rub him with a towel, but I was so shaky from the adrenaline and I could barely even process what people were saying around me, so apparently I wasn't rubbing him well enough because they took him away for a second as they said, "he's not making enough noise!" Which totally put me at ease, eye roll! Everything was fine though, and they gave him back a moment later.  In fact, one of the nurses told me that she heard Dr. Dillon say, "what a nice delivery!" to some of the staff when he left the room. That made me kind of proud.

The next thing that happened was that Jonas' parents brought Ishmael to meet his new brother! Honestly, the promise of getting a cute little person at the end of laboring wasn't much of an incentive for me during either birth, but I was surprised at how much I missed Ishmael when I was in the hospital, and I did have his face in my mind as a sort of goal to work toward through the discomfort of having a baby. It was an uncharacteristically sentimental mom moment for me, which took me by surprise. Anyway, I asked that Ishmael not be brought in until I had pulled myself together a little bit and all the stitching was done. When he came around the curtain in to the room and saw so many people he loves there, he let out a bit yelp of happiness which was super sweet. Then, Jonas picked him up and brought him over to Ira and I, and he gave me a flower (mega adorable). I'm not sure how much he understood about Ira being a new part of our family and everything, but he got very quiet and grave and didn't want to get very close to Ira. I think he was a little bit phased by all the people watching to see how he'd react, too.

I was a little worried at first, especially since Ishmael's reaction to Ira was the thing I was most anxious about prior to Ira's arrival. Thank goodness I saw or read somewhere to buy some gifts for Ishmael to present to him as being "from Ira" - lego candy and mechanical grabber arm smoothed out all fears, and Ishmael warmed up to the whole room. By the end of the evening, he was giving Ira kisses, though in general he didn't pay any attention to him. In the three weeks since, Ishmael still just does his own thing for the most part, but when he does interact with Ira, he is very sweet and gentle, and Ira smiles more for Ishmael than anyone else (melt!!!).

Even the hospital stay was easier this time around. We were discharged on the afternoon of the 6th, which amounts to 3 nights spent in the hospital for me (Jonas spent the 3rd night at home with Ishmael). We slept better than we did with Ishmael, and worried less. Once again, my mom was wonderful and stayed with me to help with Ira. It's funny to see how much more relaxed we are with our second (and I thought we were relaxed with our first!) - I'm pretty much doing demand feeding instead of scheduled feeding this time, and even a tiny bit of co-sleeping because everyone sleeps better, though I still can't figure out how people nurse lying down. Good Lord... if you'd told me this 2 years ago, I'd have laughed in your face. We also adjusted our hospital packing list considerably - no custom music playlist (like you can even pay attention when you're having a baby!), and LOTS of snacks. A robe to cover the open back of the hospital gown, and no tennis balls for massaging - last time I'd have killed someone for touching my back in any way, and though I only had about 50% back labor this time, a massage still didn't sound appealing.

With Ishmael, Hurricane Sandy was happening on the East Coast and hospitals had to be evacuated. I remember thinking how scary it must have been to have a baby in those conditions. We also watched Iron Chef and the Walking Dead on TV 2 years ago. This time, we watched the Regular Show (Jonas is now hooked), and news about the Israel-Gaza conflict. Especially with my body feeling like it had been torn open (it kinda had), it was sobering to imagine being a mom in Palestine or Israel right now and trying to protect your kids, or having just had a baby and having to run - it would probably make you feel like dying. I'm very grateful for the excellent care I received here from my hospital, doctor, nurses, friends, and family. Even if the hospital food was completely unimpressive this time.

As for Ira himself... he's so little! Eight pounds felt tiny compared to Ishmael (almost 10 lbs) - so little that it was kind of scary to pick him up because it felt like he wouldn't even fill your hands and so there was nothing to hold on to. Similarly to Ishmael, he had a gagging episode a few hours after he was born, which was pretty scary, but his lungs turned out to be fine, and we just make sure his bed mattress is angled up to cut down on him choking on anything that's in his throat.

It looked like he barely had eyelashes when he was first born, and it's been sweet to watch them unfurl. He has hair on his head, but not as much as Ishmael had, and it's lighter. The way his hair lays on his head reminds me of strands of kelp floating on water. Now that he's a few weeks old, his hair is a little fuzzy and definitely has some red in it. Still hard to say on eye color! Ira has remarkably long toes (the second toe is longer than the big toe!), and a lot of people have commented that he has big hands. One of my favorite details about him is that he has cheek dimples! About half the people who meet him say he looks more like me or a Welch in general, so my genes may just have expressed themselves this time! People also say he looks like Ishmael or my brother Jonathan.

He doesn't cry very often, but he does grunt a lot, and he prefers to sleep on his tummy. He has a super intense frown face that he uses frequently, but he also smiles a lot more than I recall Ishmael smiling so early on. In general, his little face looks very adult. I feel like I know him hardly at all, though. I'm looking forward to falling in love as I do get to know him.

A lot of people are confused with Ira's name, mostly because not many people around here have heard it before, I think. Most of the time, people ask me to repeat it, and even when I do, they're often unsure whether he's a boy or a girl. His pre-birth nick name of "Taco" doesn't fit him at all - instead, we call him Squidward (because his binky looks like a squid mouth), Tiny Mammal, or Meerkat (when he lays on your chest, he lifts his head way up to look around) if we don't say Ira (which we usually do, because it's easy, AND Ishmael can say it, double win).

That's the jist of things, so far! Before Ishmael was born, I wrote a list of things I wished for his life, so I decided to do that again for Ira. The only thing I had in mind already for Ira was that he know what it's like to have truly great friends in life, and when I went back to find the list to fill in from Ishmael's life-wish blog post, I realized I'd wished a very similar thing for him, too.

Wishes for Ira:

I hope that you know true friendship in life.
I hope that you find a woman who you can't describe with mortal words.
I hope you aren't afraid to challenge the status quot
I hope you love life intensely
I hope you get the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of others. 
I hope you laugh often with your brother. 
I hope you never forget how precious you are to me as YOURSELF, apart from any comparison to your siblings. 
I hope you ignore the tyranny of the majority. 
I hope you become a man people go to knowing you will do whatever you can to help them. 
I hope you respect that their are some things in this life we can't control. 
I hope you grow deeper in love with your Savior every day. 

Love, your Mama.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Food Fight

I've imagined myself as a participant on a reality TV show before, but there's a new show out that has me blogging on this topic yet again. "Food Fight" pits home chefs against professional chefs in a series of 5 rounds - the home chef picks their 5 best recipes, and can stratagise about which recipe to use to compete against which professional chef. The professional chef for each round must make their own version of the home chef's recipe, and a panel of every-day (not professional) foodies judges whose version they prefer in a blind tasting. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the home chef can win up to $100,000 by beating the professional chefs. Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

I think this premise is delightful, though the actual show can be monotonous to watch. I would not want to be put upon to be so peppy as the home chefs appear to have been coached to be, and the host (Adam Richman of Man vs. Food) irritates me with his facial expressions and talking dumb. Of course I wouldn't actually do this, but I feel like I would want to tell him to get out of my face and space when he came in to talk to me about what I was cooking while I was trying to cook. I would be angry to waste any brain power answering his questions if I only had 15 minutes to cook a dish! The time constraints for some of the courses would clearly be a huge hurdle, though it looks like their allowed to have a lot of their ingredients pre-prepped.

I may or may not be able to beat any of the chefs at the level at which I can currently cook, but I like to think that I am working up to being able to! As some of you know, I've been selling products by the Pampered Chef for the past 6 months. I have a love-hate relationship with this job, but one thing I love is cooking for people, and helping other people get excited about cooking. I mentioned before that I'd like to move in the direction of becoming a private chef and/or teach some specialty cooking classes. As for being a personal chef, the Pampered Chef is the first  my job I've had with an aspect of customer service or sales, and that part is hard for me - sometimes people are difficult and don't know what's best for them (no, I will not cook kale for you!!!), and that's the part that I imagine would be frustrating about being a personal chef, too. My one experience with a personal chef was in Beijing, when some family friends invited my mom and I to their house where a private chef prepared dinner for a small party - if I recall correctly, the meal wasn't especially creative (some kind of beef steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, etc.), but it was especially delicious, and having a personal chef, even if it's just for a very special occasion, is such a luxurious and fun experience. [image]

I was telling my mama about the show "Food Fight" and asked her what recipes she'd choose to compete with. The two she said right away were her famous overnight bread (people, it will blow your minds) and her Indian samosa with chutney. She could whoop the best of the best with those recipes, I'm darn sure.

As far as what I'd cook, I'm still building my repertoire. As I thought about it, I realized how difficult the time constraint would be. Making dough from scratch, letting things marinate, letting things chill - many of my favorite recipes require time that I wouldn't have on the show. I'd also need to learn to use tools like a stand mixer, emulsion blender, vacuum chamber, etc., though those should help with the time constraints. I'm also not good at cooking from memory or without a recipe to at least reference, which could put me at a disadvantage. But, at least I could practice my bum off at home first. Can you tell I've seriously considered being on this show? I like to think I could stand up under the pressure, though. Have I mentioned that my parents threw a shower for Jonas and I before we got married based around the cooking competition show "Chopped"? Our team lost, but it was a really fun shower, and I also got my new-wife-kitchen launched with a bunch of Pampered Chef products as a result of that shower - the BEST! [this picture was an inspiration for my whole wedding design, before I called off the wedding and decided to get married at the courthouse, haha.]

So far (time constraints not accounted for), the recipes I'd consider competing with on Food Fighters might be my great grandma's gazpacho, my prawn and coconut milk ceviche, my dad's xinjiang pilao, this killer ancient mac-n-cheese (a truly amazing mac-n-cheese is rarer than you'd think), and guava-lemon mousse (which is so simple, and incredibly good, but only an accomplished dessert chef would know what to do, I think!). I have some other incredible recipes, like eggnog pancakes, a cheesy chicken pot pie, and a chicken salad in lettuce cups, but many of them are standard enough that I think a professional chef could make an impressive version of their own to rival mine. Although it's in it's extremely fledgling phase, I'm hoping to compile a cookbook of my best recipes in the next few years - it will give me a chance to test and perfect all the "keeper" recipes I've made in the past few years, and as a finished product, what a cool keepsake and easy and personal gift to give, right?!

What reality or competition shows do you think you would have a chance at competing on? And the REAL question, what recipes do you have that no one, not even the best, could beat? Do tell! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Silver Lining

Do you think you have a natural age? What age is it? By "natural age", I mean an age which you will always feel you are, or ought to be. Some people refer to themselves as perpetual 4-year-olds (though that sounds absolutely dreadful to me), but very few woman would refer to themselves as a perpetual 13-year-old. Some men take pride in acting like they're forever in the 10-15 range, which is only even remotely charming in small doses. Still other people, notably Iris Apfel, really seem to come in to their own as older adults (60+). 

For the longest time, my mom was 36 and my dad was 38 in my mind, even as they were both nearing 50. Those just seemed like the right ages for my parents to be (despite that they're 3 years apart in age, haha). People say my mom was born 30 years old - she's always been serious and future-oriented, and she admits that she needs to be reminded to have fun. I think I inherited some of that from her, as I ferociously pined to be older than I was for my entire childhood. I've always wanted to be independent and I'd spent most of my life wanting to be married, both of which happened when I was 20 years old. I didn't exactly want time to slow down once I turned 20, but I finally really enjoyed where I was in life. 

Still, I hope 20 isn't my natural age. I always want to be growing, and I don't want to be going downhill when I pass my "natural age". In fact, I'm not sure having a natural age is real or good. But I do think it's interesting to think about. The way I see it, ideally we'd all achieve balance between being young at heart and making mature life decisions. That makes me excited to grow older, knowing I will [hopefully] grow in wisdom. At the same time, I hope that age doesn't solidify my nature so much that I stop being able to adapt or change my mind about things at some point. I will be delighted if/when I get a head of silver hair, and I'm on my way already with my first silver hair appearing in the last month (#motheroftwo, much?!). 

Maybe all of this is easy to say while I'm still young, but I am determined to embrace growing older, and eventually just plain old. I know there will be more pain, but I choose to believe that the joy will be deeper too.

Do you believe in having a natural age? If so, what do you think yours might be, and why? 

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