Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wedding Inspiration: Paradise

I get so excited when I see a wedding that's not run-of-the-mill, but then again, though I wanted my own wedding to be unique, it still ended up with a very classic vibe. It's hard to step out on too lofty a limb on one of the biggest days of your lives! That's why I love moodboards - I can make up infinite wedding themes and ooh and ahh over the pretty pictures, without the stress of actually making it all come together.

I think a destination wedding would majorly stress me out, but a destination elopement with bright colors, great food, turquoise waters, and parrot-colored attire? I'm so there.

I call these colors Papaya, Citron, Paradise Berry, and Bright Teal. 

Image Credits (clockwise L to R): 1., 2., 3., 4., 5

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Try This At Home: Coconut Milk Shrimp Ceviche

Jonas and I love the restaurant Luna Red in SLO for their unique menu choices and lovely atmosphere. On my first visit there, I got hooked on their shrimp ceviche. The menu mentions the main ingredients in the dish, but I decided to try my hand at recreating it at home, and meshed with this other ceviche recipe I found, here's what I came up with.

Time: 30 min prep, 30 min marinade
Servings: appetizer for 6 adults (or adventurous and ravenous toddlers)

What You'll Need:

  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 5 to 8 limes, depending on size and juiciness 
  • 1/2 large cucumber, deseeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro, chopped 
  • 1/2 to 1 (depending on the desired heat) green jalapeno pepper , de-seeded and minced 
  • 2/3 of a 14 oz. can of coconut cream (thicker than coconut milk)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, depending on jalapeno heat)
Home made tortilla chips for serving 
Caviar limes (aka finger limes) for garnish (SB farmer's market has them) 


1. Peel and clean the shrimp first, chopping them into bits about the size of your fingernail. Juice the limes and fully cover the shrimp with lime juice. Let the shrimp sit in the lime juice for 30 minutes in the fridge - the lime will "cure" the shrimp, turning them the pink-and-white opaque of cooked shrimp, super nifty! 

2. Next, chop the cucumbers and salt them in a sieve placed over a bowl - the salt will help the cucumbers release some of their liquid so you won't end up with runny ceviche, as well as salt flavor to the whole dish. The longer you let them sit, the more water they'll release, so get this step out of the way early on so they have time to do their thing. 

3. I threw the jalapeno, red onion, and cilantro in to my manual food processor and chopped them to a small dice in one quick step. 

[if you're making your own tortilla chips, you can use any time left waiting for the shrimp to finish to start on those]

4. When the shrimp is ready, pour off a little more than half of the lime juice (you can just toss it, you're not using it later) and combine with the cucumber (shake off excess liquid that may still be dripping) and minced veggies. Pour the coconut cream over everything and combine. You can use more or less cream depending on the consistency you want.

5. Add cayenne to adjust the heat, if desired. Squeeze caviar limes over individual portions for extra pretty presentation. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Now & Again

This morning, I couldn't even bring myself to tell Ishmael to stop pulling every inch of floss out of the floss container. Resistance is futile, sometimes. He doesn't want to go behind the curtain so I can take a cool picture of him, he only wants a rotten peach (or "apple", as he calls it), NOW. While running around the kitchen after breakfast, he smacked his elbow on a cabinet knob and needs me to pick him up and make it better NOW. When I'm cooking with spattering lava-hot oil, he inevitably wants to be in on the fun NOW - I know because he wedges himself in between my legs and wherever I'm standing, stands on my feet (which has become very painful), and rocks on my legs and looks up with saucer eyes and wide-open mouth saying "up?!" until I pick him up or tell him "no" and move out of the way, resulting in a waterfall of snot and blubbering. You have to see that "up" face to understand why most of the time he gets picked up, no matter how pregnant I am or how far away I have to stand from whatever I'm trying to cook.

If I'm trying to read a book or look at something on my phone, NOW is the time he must sit on my lap and read too. If I'm enjoying my dinner, NOW is the best time to commandeer my lap and challenge my ability to keep my food on the fork in the 3 feet between my plate and my mouth. Everything with toddlers is best done right NOW. I'm not a total pushover nor do I give him everything he wants, exactly when he wants it, but having a little guy teaches you that your time is not always your own, and sometimes what he needs is more important than what I was already doing. No matter how convenient, it is one of the best feelings when your child needs your comfort NOW when he's feeling hurt, vulnerable, scared, or sad.

As for AGAIN, you guys all know about this if you've ever spent time with children. Or my husband. Jonas and I are very different in that he is content to go to the same restaurant (if he finds a good one) for just about every date, where as I rarely want to go to the same place twice, even if I loved it the first time. When time is finite, I want to fit in as much variety as possible. Jonas on the other hand, wants to spend his time enjoying the few things he knows are worth his time. Especially earlier in our relationship, when we were most polarized on this issue, it drove me a little nuts. But I remembered this passage I read ages ago in G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy", and it helps me appreciate Jonas, and now my toddler who wants to play the same game or sing the same song 72 times in a row, or as Chesterton puts it, "until you are nearly dead."
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” 

Isn't that the most beautiful way to look at the endless cycle of "agains"? I love imagining God as giddy as a child, or a child as giddy as God, taking never-ending joy in doing the same wonderful thing over and over and over, until we're truly dead.

I was feeling overwhelmed and short tempered this morning, especially since I have started to feel uncomfortably close to giving birth in the last 2 days and there's still a lot I want to accomplish before that happens. Remarkably to me, however, I am about 2 weeks in to essentially being a stay-at-home mom, and I'm loving it! I was nervous that I'd be bored and soon grow resentful toward Ishmael, but I had an afternoon without him yesterday and it just felt quiet and I almost decided to go to sleep, which I don't usually feel when I'm staying active with him. (here's a photo of what I'm eating as I write this - pizza, tootsie rolls, tums - thanks to my husband for bringing me this special order. Proof of pregnancy, if I know anything)

I think it's harder not to resent my spouse for working outside of the house and then spending leisure time at home when I still see so much work to be done around the house. Thankfully though, Jonas appreciates that I work at home, and that helps me feel less in danger of getting SAHM syndrome where I feel stifled as a person. Like I said, today started out with me feeling a little more frazzled than I have been feeling. After a few hours of me-time during Ishmael's nap that helped me snap out of my funk considerably, I decided to take him across the street to the Discovery Museum, which neither of us had ever been to before.

I can't believe they charge $8 for children (unless they're under 2, lucky us), and I think I would have been considerably underwhelmed if I'd paid $8 for Ishmael's admission, but since he was free and my admission was only $4, it was a well-spent 2 hours of our day. I was quite surprised at how much he enjoyed it, actually! He ran around from station to station, excited about almost everything, and even warming up to play tunnels, which he's sometimes wary of when he can't see the other end. His favorite things were the tractor (complete with a special way to shift gears) and another little car with a wheel he could turn. He was even running up to other kids to watch what they were doing and wait his turn, though the other children helped me recall that I do not like children in general, Sam I Am.

There was one little boy who was probably 7 who was not in the little car when Ishmael ran up, but when Ishmael tried to get in, the boy got in and would have shoved Ishmael to the ground if I hadn't caught him! I think I was too shocked to chew that kid out like I probably should have. Another little boy didn't want Ishmael to ride a little rocking horse that he wasn't riding himself because the horse "needed to be alone in its pen". When the little boy protested when Ishmael started to ride the horse anyway, Ishmael realized that his behavior was making the other boy unhappy and ran out of the pin, hiding his eyes, which he does when he's ashamed or someone he admires tells him "no", like my dad. It completely shatters me when he does that, and I fiercely want to scoop him up and let him know it's okay and that he didn't do anything wrong (in the horse instance, at least).

Other kids, man. They're real jerks.
I'm sure my kids will have some majorly jerkish moments too, but for today, I'm so thankful for my sweet little guy and that I have these few weeks to spend a lot of time with him and all his NOW and AGAINs. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Look With Your Eyes: Geoffroy Amelot

My favorite kind of Lego creation. I'm sure he's not the first to use Legos as color pixels in artwork, but this particular use makes me extra happy.

By the way, this series of artwork I'm posting in between more substantial posts got its name because "look with your eyes" is what my dad used to tell my siblings and me when we'd be at a museum or somewhere else with things to look at, but that we weren't supposed to touch.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Out of the Cul De Sac

My friend Suzanne posted on Facebook today, "What SHOULD a country be? What should its citizens be proud of as a national identity, as national characteristics? What should it not be proud of?", and although my first reaction is that the answer will be different for everyone (for better or worse!), I don't know exactly how I would answer those questions, and that got my wheels turning. 

I love this song. I think it's a beautiful love song, but I also love the tones of exploration, freedom, and perhaps immigration, which I'll touch on later in this blog. 

When I think about my political, or even patriotic leanings, I'm well aware that I'm a product of my environment. It's easy for me to think that my view on the world, which is pretty narrow in some areas, is simply reality, but I appreciate when I can see past that and realize that anyone who considers their own views to be the way everyone sees the world is kidding themselves. When I am in those moments of realization, it helps me reevaluate what I believe and why. That being said, most of the people in my life are pretty conservative, politically, and some are grossly rude in their vocalization of their opinions. I could link to some of the nastier memes I've seen, but I like to think myself above sharing them with any more eyes. I'm aware that I don't have a lot of exposure to the opposite side, though I know it exists, with equally disgusting displays of opinion on the other end of the political spectrum. As it is in my small slice of culture, my disdain for the hypocrisy of a lot of conservatism (particularly when it comes from those who bare the name of Christ and then defile it through their hate speech toward other humans) has led me to be a firm moderate, which reads almost like a radical liberal in my circle. As followers of Christ, should we not be both as wise a serpents, and as gentle as doves? I openly admit my struggle to be both wise and gentle in my response to those that I find both foolish and harmful, and I realize that if can't control myself, I am not in a position to contest anyone else's words.

I wanted to explain that only to give you some background on where I stand politically, and the reasons I'm moving in the direction that I am, even if that reason is often a reaction to others as much as it is my own convictions about particular issues. I say "as much as", because I don't want to downplay that I do think issues through for myself as opposed to simply deciding to resist the larger culture around me. I don't seek to be irritating or rude or hateful when I express my own beliefs, but sometimes I do seek to unsettle people in an attempt to get them to question their beliefs or behavior. I know that not everyone appreciates that, but I do it partially because I appreciate it when someone brings something to my attention that causes me to see an error in my own ways and then I am able to alter my thinking and actions. I think any one of us would be crazy not to want to be righted where we're wrong. Granted, I may not have the skill or the obligation to convince many people of the things I think they're wrong about, but I genuinely feel that I have a calling (pardon how conceited that may sound) to be a challenger, if not a persuader. 

Having grown up in another country, I feel that my perspective on America and being an American is different than a lot of people who grew up here. Although I am, in general, an Obama supporter, I too have questioned and worried about the apparent trend in the dwindling of some rights and freedoms in the past few years, despite the fact that most of the freedoms that are in question (gun ownership, privacy of information) are not things that I feel the need to be completely unhindered in. I assure you, I have felt pangs of anxiety and sadness over what I see happening in this country, BUT, I am far from thinking the country has gone to hell. I firmly believe that history and nations show a repeated cycle of rise and decline, and that America will fit in to that - whether we are truly in decline is up for debate, in my book. Even if we are, that doesn't completely trouble me in the grand scheme of things. I don't believe it's possible to maintain "greatness" forever, nor do I believe America started out as great or as smiled-on-by-God as a lot of people do. While I think my expectations of America started out lower than many, I think my hope for it is greater. [image]

In comparison to all other countries I have ever lived in or visited, I can confidently say that we have been and are still so very privileged and free in this country. Although it would be foolish not to fight for the things that we consider to have made us so privileged and free, I wish there was a greater sense of awe and gratitude for what we do have. A constant doom-and-gloom attitude doesn't contribute to a healthier state, in my opinion. 

Without trying to sound too doom-and-gloom myself, I find my faith in democracy dwindling. Not only from the standpoint of feeling like my voice doesn't affect how the country is run, but whether the model itself is even the best idea. When I see America trying to impose democracy on other struggling nations as if it's a cure-all, I stand back and grimace. Democracy seems more and more like communism to me - an excellent idea, but a system that can't be sustained very well in the long run. As I mentioned above in a slightly different scenario, I find it arrogant to assume that our way of thinking ("democracy is best") can or should be applied to everyone else. I'm not sure that democracy IS best for every country, not only because of any flaws in democracy itself, but because other nations are built on different cultures and principles which may not thrive under democracy.  In the case of many of the countries involved in the Arab spring(s), I think it was noble and necessary for the people to rise up against their corrupt governments, but is democracy then the next step, when the people don't share the same beliefs about what the next form of government should be? I don't know the answer, but I find it embarrassing that we push democracy so hard on other countries, particularly when it seems to be falling apart on our own turf. Democracy has god-like status to many Americans, yet consider that neither we nor our children dream of becoming president when we grow up anymore. 

I'm not sure what that speaks to more - our deep-seated loss of faith in the democracy and the ability of our government to affect change, or a new and better understanding of democracy as we focus on affecting change in one smaller area in our lives that we find important, rather than thinking the only way to have power or influence is to be the president. For better or worse, I think Americans have come to see the position of president in a much more real light - regardless of the person who is president, the position has less power than we thought. As discouraged as I feel at times about my voice or vote mattering at all, I think it would be fundamentally un-American to give up because of that. In the words of Margaret Heffernan, "she had freedom and she [is] ready to use it". Just because my vote may not seem to matter (side note: do we only feel that way when things don't turn out the way we voted for them to turn out?!) doesn't mean I don't have the freedom to speak and act out in other ways - politically and socially. We have almost unparalleled opportunity in this country to say and do what we want in the name of furthering causes that are important to us, even if we have to focus on taking much smaller steps than something like a presidential policy. 

Even so, I definitely feel that pull to give up on failing social systems. I used to be staunchly against getting federal aid of any kind that I may qualify for, but don't really need. Low income housing, WIC food, money taken off our PG&E bill based on how much we make - I didn't want to be a freeloader and further break down systems that have, in part, been ravaged by people taking advantage of them and/or thinking they deserve what is actually a gift. But the further along I go, the more discouraged I feel about maintaining ideals like that. It's hard to get by when everyone else uses what's available to them to get ahead, and in the end, I ask myself what the point is of resisting free help. I already paid for it all in taxes anyway (though somehow the government gives us more money back than we paid in taxes? Not that I'm complaining, but they wonder why this country is broke). Giving in to that cycle is kind of what gives me a soul ache. 

I love this country, and I think my fellow Americans do too. Sometimes love drives us to do stupid things out of fear, when we feel that our treasure is threatened. Yet, what does love mean, if not that "the odds are irrelevant - do whatever the hell you can, the odds be damned." A "hopeless problem" does not deter you from doing any and everything you can. Those are sentiments of Lawrence Lessig in his talk about how .05% of money givers to campaigns control the outcome, or have what we call "influence". But, he points out, imagine you have a child with brain cancer and what you would do to save that child. We would not consider any odds, no matter how tipped against us, to be irrelevant. For the love of America, all is not lost! 

If I could heal one American wound, it would be our immigration system. You know who I think are some of the most patriotic people of all? New immigrants! They appreciate the United States in a way that many of us don't. I'm grateful to have a small
taste of that having spent over a decade living outside the United States and then moving back, even if I didn't have to struggle to be accepted legally. 

Sometimes I feel left out of some deeper level of patriotism because my 9/11 experience, which I think defines patriotism for my generation in some ways, wasn't on US soil. Other than stories about kids being hurt, 9/11 stories are the surest to make me tear up, and that makes me feel intrinsically American. In the end though (and the road there is a different story), I'm so grateful that my experience of living through 9/11 has given me the foundation for that little bit of change that I am seeking to affect in the US, and it has everything to do with protection of immigrants and asylum seekers, especially when they're coming from countries that aren't on good terms with the US. Isn't that what America is about? Don't we have a big lady hanging out at the entry way to this place tattooed with the words, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me." Why don't we focus on THAT when we talk about the values this country was built on that we're losing? [image]

I get completely disgusted when people go on about how our nation was founded on Christian principles, and we've now turned away from being a God-fearing nation. Bull shit. There's no such thing as a Christian or God-fearing nation, and we sure as hell never were one. God isn't obligated to bless America, and why should he? We aren't and never have been set apart from the rest of the world in his eyes, and the creation of America as we know it wasn't his pet project. Oh, and P.S., our forefathers weren't pillars of the Christian faith or infallible in any way. They were politicians (granted, with many wise and commendable ideas and traits) just like we have today. Why do we insist on clinging to their ways so blindly? Nations, times, and people change - it's okay for us to amend laws and practices created over 200 years ago when the founders had absolutely no way of knowing what their fledgling nation would be like centuries later. We think people who haven't adapted to the last 200 years of life are cooky, so why do we think that sticking to a national code that's 200 years old is always the right thing to do? 

This country was founded on greed and hostility, as well as a need for a place of asylum. Why do we gloss over the greed and hostility, and get rid of the asylum, one actually great part about our beginnings? Furthemore, if we're so worried that our country is losing ground on the world stage, wouldn't the diversity and fresh pair of eyes and new talent brought by immigrants and asylum seekers only aid in making us more relevant and competitive as a nation? Immigration is the issue closest to my heart because I think it is very closely tied to the future and health of our nation. I think there is nothing more hurtful or disgusting than American citizens forgetting that they're only where they are at now because America once let their forefathers in as immigrants. 

Let's get out of our suburbs and our cul de sacs and use the freedoms we have to ensure that our kids have a great, if different, America to live in 50 and 100 years from now. Did you know that the term cul de sac is a French term meaning "bottom, or ass, of the bag". "The cul-de-sac especially, with its uterine shape and having the word 'sac' in it, gave me the feeling that I spent my early years coddled and sheltered in an asphalt womb" (source). Remaining sheltered and blind to our role in a world that is increasingly interconnected is folly. 

As frustrated as I get in the face of bigotry toward immigrants, I love this quote used by Jeff Speck in his excellent TED Talk: "Americans can be counted on to do the right thing after they've exhausted the alternatives." I have hope for this country and I believe in it, even when it's a big pain in my ass. We fight for what we love, right? Or in Biblical terms, where your treasure lies, there also is your heart. As Sarah Vowell put it, "when I think about my relationship with America, I feel like a battered wife. Yeah, he knocks me around a lot, but boy, he sure can dance." Sometimes America and Americans really hurt me, especially when I see how I contribute to the parts that make my soul ache, but I think there is still great potential here. 

So back to Suzanne's question,"What SHOULD a country be? What should its citizens be proud of as a national identity, as national characteristics? What should it not be proud of?" To me, at this point in my life, I think my country should be a safe place, a mother with arms wide open to embrace those who need her. I am proud of my fellow citizens who work diligently to give others the opportunities that we have has American citizens, and I'm proud of my fellow citizens who utilize their freedom to make some small mark on this planet, even if they'll never have the chance to give the president a piece of their mind, change his mind, or be the president themselves. We should never be proud of being exclusive about what we've been given. This independence day, let's remember those who want nothing more to be in on this dream, and think about about how we can make that dream a reality for as many people as possible.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June 2014

I went on maternity leave on the 26th, and I am LOVING IT! Chilling with Ishmael before his world is turned upside down, extra time to cook, catching up on writing projects, staying up later than usual to watch shows, being free to make day trips, even doing some cleaning - it's a sweet time before a different kind of sweet (and exhausting) time with a new baby. Plus, it's summer time. :) I can't get enough. [image]

Watched: I saw that Bram Stoker's Dracula was available on Hulu the night it was going to expire, so I stayed up late and watched it by myself. I'd never really sought it out before, despite my love of Dracula, because, well, it was the 90s, but I thought it was pretty good! Although some key story elements were different (such as Meena being in love with Dracula), I was delighted at how closely the movie followed the book for the most part. I was surprised at how demonic and sexual parts of the movie were, though. Still, pretty impressive! // Jonas and I started watching the new show Crossbones about Blackbeard. It's decent and still has my interest, so that's something! We also watched season two of Orange is the New Black, which started out weak, I thought, but by the end of the season, it was back in all it's incredibly-written and acted glory. We're 2/3 of the way through season 3 of Sherlock (so yummy), and I've just started watching Anthony Bordain's Parts Unknown, which is better than I expected. It's a pretty amazing look into some places in the world that aren't known well in the West, or perhaps known for only one [often violent] thing, such as Columbia for drugs or Libya for Qaddafi and Benghazi. Although Bordain strikes me as somewhat of a d-bag (sorry, mom), he's game for just about anything and is good about being culturally sensitive, which not all travel show hosts are. His crew filmed a camel being butchered, which I managed to never see during my time in China, and was kind of shocking. The show is a little less food-centric than I expected, but I don't really mind.

Heard: Although not totally fitting with the summer mood in general, I've been listening to King Creosote and Jon Hopkins' album "Diamond Mine" every chance I get.

Tasted: This months hits were this shrimp and dill pasta saladsweet potato fries with sriracha mayo, and green gazpacho (Jonas loved it, I wasn't blown away). I also made ebelskivers and dutch babies which were pretty yummy, but no special recipes. This seven-layer lasagna was also not too shabby, but it took SO long to make (days), that I question whether it's really worth it. It left me thinking I'd let other people who make killer lasagna make it and go to them when I want some, and stick with things I love to cook that are amazing and less frustrating. Similarly, I made this chocolate and candied kumquat tart, which was very time consuming. I get it in my head to make these things, despite not having much of a sweet tooth! It wasn't thrilling at first, but I left it at my parents after I'd made it and when I went back a few days later, the chocolate part had really set and chilled properly, and it was kind of amazing. // Right next to a place I love to shop for Thai ingredients in North Hollywood (Seafood City), we found this incredible noodle shop that recently changed its name or Ras Noodle. It is the real deal, and you should definitely go get their noodle soups, which you won't commonly find at other Thai restaurants. // We spent the day at Avila with our dear friends the Gees, and stopped at Avila Barn for lunch. I was really impressed with what their little deli/ice cream shop had to offer - it seems bulked up from previous seasons. I didn't get anything (except tastes of Irish Cream and Swiss Orange Chocolate ice creams, both delicious - I was quite impressed with their whole ice cream selection, and I am a great critic of most ice cream menus), but I eyed the Banh Mi sandwhich on their menu, the Ollaleberry Cake shake, and the Peaches N' Cream dessert (your choice of ice cream topped with fresh peaches, whipped cream, and pecan crumble). Yeah, they haven't seen the last of me....

  • Did you know Google has a patent search function?
  • This photo essay is a really interesting look in to how beauty is defined the world over. One woman sent her photo to photoshop artists in different countries and asked them to make her look beautiful. The results vary wildly (some are kind of hilarious to me). 
  • This list of the crazy things we find ourselves doing as parents had me guffawing on my bed. I haven't yet let someone pull my eyelashes out in order to keep them quiet on a plane, but I DO understand a situation in which that scenario could arise. 
  • A fun blog post about a mama who decided to say "yes" all day to her kids instead of no on top of no, as usual. "Yes you can ride a roller coaster that will probably make you vomit. In fact, you can ride it twice." 
  • On the banks of a river in Thailand, fireflies light up en masse, in sync. It looks both gorgeous and alien.
  • My brother Jonathan graduated from high school, one of the only members of his class to have held a 4.0 GPA or higher for all 4 years! Proud of him, and I'm really going to miss him when he moves to San Diego for school. 
  • We spent a few days in North Hollywood with extended family to celebrate the life of my great grandma Peggy and help sort through her things. It was great to see family, and a very interesting time in general. 
  • Ishmael and I got to go to our little friend Birdie's 3rd birthday, which was incredible because her mom Kenna is a professional party planner. Ishmael went straight for the adult desserts (macaroons) and loved riding all the trikes, wagons, and scooters in the driveway. 
Check out my instagram to see some personal photos from the month.

Boys: Ishmael is not a kid short on personality. He likes to beat box (who taught him that?!), dance with his hips, look at people out of the corner of his eyes, make animals noises, and drum with bamboo sticks on everything. He loves when we pray before meals and always throws his hands up and says "hooray!" (or his equivalent) at the end of the prayer, which is a habit I'm loving adopting. He hates to have his sleeves rolled up and he is inexplicably quite agitated if anyone tried to clean their toenails around him. He loves to start the dishwasher for us, and congratulates himself about all things well done ("good boy!").  He also says "thank you" for everything, but in a kind of flippant way (it's strange and eye opening to have your own voice parroted back to you), like a teacher might say to a kid who did something that was required, regardless of how the child handled it, "thank you!" (with an uptick in tone on the "you"). We went through a rough patch with discipline this month, where he wouldn't listen about anything, but we seem to have gotten over that for the time being, and everyone is happier. He also seems very clingy and wimpery (but in a fakey, "please cuddle me" way), which the doctor confirmed is him reacting to the pheromones I'm putting out as I gear up to have another baby, even though Ishmael has no idea what that all means! Our bodies are crazy and amazing. We've had a few instances of poop smearing after waking up from a nap this month, but hoping that will right itself once we wrap up potty training with real undies and access to the toilet from his new big-boy bed, which he stays in overnight (and for naps!) like a total champ. There's no way our next kid is going to be this easy. Ishmael fell off the kitchen counter this month, which was pretty scary for everyone, but seems completely fine. // Baby #2 is kicking me hard enough to cause pain, but it's all good, I'm still looking forward to meeting him. He's projected to be another big boy (at least 8lbs) and apparently it's likely that I'll have to be induced again, but only time will tell. We're still waffling about his second middle name, so hopefully we can nail that down soon. I've been thinking a lot about different styles of childbirth, and though I respect some aspects of the ultra-natural childbirth movement, I found this article refreshing.

Loved: Being close to my due date and still feeling great (and my favorite Instagrammer liking some of my #maternitystyle photos), and an excellent, powerful, and moving sermon about divorce at our church. // In case you're not up on my favorite color of the moment, it's been pink, hard-core, lately. [image]

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Right Turn Only: Memories of my Great Grandma Peggy

My great grandma Peggy passed away last month at the age of 90, and I've wanted to jot down some memories and impressions of her. This is the first time in my life where I've been a part of going through someone's belongings after their death, and I've found it fascinating and curious how much more of her I suddenly know after spending time with extended family and literally going through the drawers of her life.

Something I definitely did know of her in life was her pride and poise as a proper lady. She was the definition of class, in a way that most woman don't even strive for nowadays. In a story I recount below, I found myself typing, "everything she did was beautiful and neat", and that is probably my most lasting impression of her. This song by Jeff Buckley is actually kind of sad and compares his more ordinary woman to that "other woman" who wears french perfume, manicures her nails, and always has fresh cut flowers. To me, Grandma Peggy was a class of woman who took time for all of those things, but she was no "other woman." Even if I, or my generation, will never manage to have everything quite so together (nor perhaps place such a priority on doing so), it makes me smile deep down to have known a woman who carried out her life in that way with the utmost sincerity.

Grandma Peggy seems to have thrown very little out in the past several decades, but all in all, seeing so many of her things - both treasures and trash - made me wish that I had known her better when she was alive. She was something of a character. There were many things I saw that made me wish I'd had the opportunity to ask her about them, because now there is a little bit of knowledge and history, wrapped up in her person, that's lost forever. Only our constructs of what's left will live on, and it's strange to realize that we'll almost certainly remember some things differently than she would have wanted, or simply just remember things wrongly!

Although I was not blood related to her (she was my mom's step-father's mother), we were always considered her family, and I feel I have more in common with her and am more proud to have been "related" to her than many people probably feel about some of their extended family. She loved fashion and fine things, sat on the boards of Los Angeles art museums, ate and drank well, entertained in style, knew her way on public transport to events like Celine Dion concerts (are you sure we don't share the same blood?!), gave extremely generous gifts (everything was from department stores - she gave me Kate Spade plates, which is pretty jaw-dropping for a family who shops at thrift stores), and was never short on stubbornness or eccentricities. She really enjoyed life, and she was an interesting person, and those are two things I greatly admire in a woman. [the photo above is my absolute favorite that I found of her! It was taken the summer after she graduated from high school, 1942, and the guy on the ground is her first husband, before they were married]

For example, she was famous for never making a left turn when driving. She was also famous for her sherry cake, but absolutely refused to share the full recipe. She would give you most of the recipe, but told people there were "a few tablespoons" of sherry in the cake, when there was really 2/3 of a cup, and she never divulged that there was butter flavored extract in the cake at all. I only know now because my aunt spent an hour and a half going through every single one of her recipe cards until she found the recipe. That's saying something too, because she had at least 100 cookbooks in her house. Although I'm never sure I tasted her sherry cake, I love that story about her, even if it seems totally unnecessary to guard recipes like that.

She would give me her old copies of Vogue magazine (in spite of my mother), and when I got married, she gave me a beautiful silk kimono, the only piece of lingerie I received that I've kept. She was so excited to see my ring when I got engaged [photo below from 2011], and she later told my mother that she not only approved of my wedding, but was impressed, which means a lot to me because she was a very proper and stylish lady in many regards (and because I abhorred planning my wedding and was so stressed out about the details the whole time). After she passed away, I was able to keep the beautifully beaded peacock shawl that she wore when she attended my wedding, which I'm very happy to have.

She lived in Studio City, California for almost her entire life, with the drummer(?) of the Foo Fighters as a neighbor on one side, and Jack Osbourne on the next block. She loved to take us to the Cheesecake Factory or California Pizza Kitchen, or the Italian restaurant Vitello's, where the actor Robert Blake allegedly murdered his wife. When her health started to decline (only within the last year, remarkably) and she went out a little less, she requested that my mom make her a batch of gazpacho from a family recipe. Neither my mom nor I had ever had gazpacho before (nor really cared to try, honestly), but I'll be darned if this recipe isn't in the top 5 best things I've ever made. I'm happy to have it to remember her by.

In going through her things, I found a handwritten cookbook by grandma Peggy's aunt, who owned a Chinchilla farm, and once leaped across a table to scare hiccups from my mother. Unfortunately, it seemed to have worked, because my mother did that to me and my siblings growing up. It didn't work as well on us. Grandma Peggy also kept the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, and knowing how much I love both fashion magazines and vintage fashion, my mom brought it home for me last week. Jonas and I were laughing at all the old ads and advice on how to tell a person's character from their facial structure, when we stumbled upon the real reason for having kept just that one particular issue - the first male nude centerfold (the link shows the photo, but the main "subject matter" is covered, just a heads up) in a popular woman's magazine. We were both shocked and highly amused at the photo and that grandma Peggy kept it.

I also took home the few now-vintage dresses she had kept, mainly from the 70s, which I adore. It was a bit difficult given my stage of pregnancy, but I made an effort to look as fashionable as possible at her memorial, to honor her impeccable style. Years ago, she gave me the orange dress she's wearing in this photo, which was her second wedding dress. I love the [candy?] garter she's wearing in the picture. Along with costume jewelry, nick nacks, most of the contents of her liquour cabinet, and a giant stack of cookbooks I inherited, there was a bottle of  Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia perfume, which I have declared my love of before, but pretty much never dreamed I'd own. It's both strange and wonderful to have so many of her things (a cast iron skillet, some glassware, bras, packets of gravy mix, eye liner, etc. etc.) suddenly part of my daily life for a while.

When people pass away, they seem immediately immortalized and almost larger than life to me, and yet, when you have objects from their every day life surrounding you, it reminds you that they were very much human, and led a very present life only recently. I will miss her comments on Facebook (she was better at using Facebook than many I know who were decades younger than her), and the way she used to sign her name when she left a comment. Everything she did was beautiful and neat. Once, we had Easter brunch at her home and she made these macaroon nests, with little speckled chocolate eggs in them, wrapped in clear bags with ribbon. My family was on the way to a camping trip in Yosemite after we left her house. I forgot the macaroon at the bottom of my backpack, and in the middle of the night in Yosemite, I was awakened by my dad who seemed somewhat on edge, which is unusual for him. I looked over to see a raccoon sitting on my sleeping sisters' head, inches from my face. The raccoons had unzipped two doorways in to our tent, taken out all my clothes and books from the backpack, and retrieved the macaroon. They were entirely unperturbed by my dad hissing at them and shining a flashlight in their faces. I can't remember how we got them out without total chaos ensuing, but apparently we did, since I only remember the first part of that incident.

One of my other distinct memories of her is probably from a decade ago, now, when she spent Christmas with us at the beach in Oxnard. In our family, stockings are fair game as soon as you wake up (ahem, 4am??), but everyone must be present to open gifts. I can't imagine grandma Peggy slept in past 9am, but to us, it felt like she was going to stay in her room until lunch!

Once again, I'm almost positive I have a companion photo for this one, but it's not on Facebook and it could take me quite some time to track it down! I will add it here if and when I come across it later. Anyway, in this photo, Grandma Peggy is second from the right, my real grandma Nita ("Mana") is in the middle, and my mom is on the left, holding me. If I'm not mistaken, the more recent version is of Grandma Peggy, Mana, my mom, myself, and Ishmael. I'm really glad Grandma Peggy got to meet her great, great grandson before she died. At her funeral, the pastor of her church said that she couldn't wait to place a red rose on the alter in honor of her new descendant when he was born, which warmed my heart.

Sometimes I roll my eyes at memorials when every person who has anything to say about their loved on says "they were the best person I knew" or something of that caliber, because we can't ALL be the best people, right:? I've heard that Grandma Peggy could be very stubborn, perhaps beyond what was reasonable or necessary at times, but to me, she was always a lady. I admire her independence, even if it did make things difficult for others at times. Plus, she had a pink bedroom. I love her for it.

We'll miss you, Grandma Peggy, and I'll do my best to carry on your vivaciousness. And manicure my nails from time to time, and keep fresh cut flowers when I can. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Childhood in Brothels

I will update this post with real photos from the home and courtyard I wrote about when I find them. I swear they were on my external hard drive last month, but I can find no trace of them now, which makes me very sad and nervous. I will try and track them down on my parent's computer! 

I'm worried that the older I get, the more I'm forgetting details of my missionary kid days, because those days are becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of my whole life. Plus, I'm one of those people with virtually no memories before age 7 (for no apparent reason - nothing particularly traumatic happened), which was definitely one of the most interesting times in my life. On top of that, it's hard to track down pictures of specific memories, even though my mom was stellar at taking them because it was a time before people documented every moment. So basically, what we have to work with is a patchy memory and a flare for dramatic storytelling in place of visual representations. (Click here to read the first installment from my series on memories of growing up in China).

Some of the things I remember take new shape as I reflect on them now, as an adult. For example, I spent a lot of time around prostitutes, and it was pretty perfectly normal to me then. I didn't really know what a prostitute was as a younger kid anyway, which probably helped. As you probably know, "my childhood in a brothel" does not refer to me having been a prostitute or pimp or otherwise involved in prostitution itself. I did, however, essentially live in a brothel.

At the time, my family lived in a very small town in-the-middle-of-nowhere, China, and the one thing beside an incredibly high number of brothels in town was an army base. They kind of went hand in hand. In fact, one of the reasons that my family ended up moving away eventually was because the police chief in town required my dad to engage with prostitutes in order to stay in his good graces. Kind of a deal breaker for missionaries. Rumor had it that when that police chief eventually moved on, his "parting gift" to the town/base was a 100 new women.

My family made a home in the old post office in town, which had been turned into a motel/brothel/rental space. The living situation was set up similar to a traditional Chinese home, with buildings on three sides and a large gate on the fourth side of an open courtyard. The gate faced the street. If you turned to your right upon entry, there was a wing of motel rooms, several of which were converted into bedrooms for my siblings and I. Straight ahead from the gate, across the courtyard, were two large living rooms in a second wing. One room was the entire home of a Chinese family with three daughters, the other was the living space for my family, including our kitchen in the hallway. Sometimes we'd have to leave for several months in the winter when the water pipes froze solid.

Once, when we were watching a movie, we heard a blood curdling scream, and ran out in to the shared hall to find our neighbors skinning a dog alive to eat (you don't want to kill it too early before eating or drain all the blood, because blood in the meat tastes better). Another time, my dad found a man who had hung himself in the alleyway behind those rooms. In the corner between the motel wing and the living room wing, there was a dirt lot that was the communal outhouse for most of the time we lived there. There were three make-shift walls of linoleum for some privacy (no roof), but one of the guys in the compound would take his radio out with him so that you knew the outhouse was occupied. That outhouse - rather, hole in the ground - gave a whole new meaning to not wanting to get out of bed to pee in the night, especially in the winter. Furthermore, that corner of the lot was in perfect view of a guard shack on base up on a hill across the road. Sometimes the guard shack blew over in the wind, and one time, we got a gun pointed in our faces when we were playing in an abandoned house near the base and stuck our heads over the wall. Eventually, my dad turned the outhouse corner in to a greenhouse where just about nothing grew.

Behind the living room wing was a mysterious abandoned factory full of gold colored dust that we frequently broke in to and marveled at. There were also a lot of dog and cow carcasses and a 5-foot high tunnel that stretched a third of the way under our block - we never could figure out what it was for. It was a great town to explore as kids. But anyway, back to prostitution....

The left hand and final wing was the brothel where the landlord occasionally stayed and where the ladies lived. I can't remember being particularly sternly warned away from them, but we definitely got the vibes that we weren't welcome to just chill over there, not least because they weren't particularly friendly. Even from across the courtyard, I could tell that their rooms were very sparse, basically just a bed in each.

As I recall, there were about 3 women who were there regularly. They did a lot of laundry and their clothing was fancy and scanty in a town with nothing to do and nowhere to go. They "slept" a lot during the day and seemed generally grumpy and miserable, perhaps because their lives must have been incredibly monotonous. Looking back, it's strange that I never thought to ask more questions about them.

When we moved on from that house, we did a walk through of another brothel that was becoming an available space. This one was a second story to a shop on the street. As I recall, there was a very large wood-floored central room with several smaller rooms branching off of it. Someone in our family - probably me, given my general nosiness - tried to explore one of the off-shoot rooms and was quickly shooed away as it was "in use". It was embarrassing and strange. Once again, I didn't totally get all the logistics of how sex work operated, but I understood that what was going on was kind of hush-hush and not altogether upstanding. I just couldn't figure out what all the sleeping during the day was about.

We ended up finding another place that hadn't been used as a brothel, to my knowledge, but some aspects of the lifestyle remained in my life. Wet hair, for example. As I mentioned before, sometimes the pipes would freeze or we wouldn't have running or hot water at home for some other reason, so we'd go to a public shower house, which could easily have been mistaken for a dungeon and which had slime of every imaginable kind lurking in the corners. It still gives me the heeby jeebies to recall. No one used hair dryers, but my mom always wanted us to cover our heads on the way home, and I hated wearing head scarves, which was unfortunate in a predominantly Muslim area.

Again, no one really spelled it out in so many words at the time, but it turned out that wet hair was associated with prostitutes because they were the only ones who bathed so regularly as to often have wet hair. In China, people don't shower daily, and when they do, it's at night, which is a habit that I continue to hold as an adult in the U.S. Another thing about hair and prostitutes in China - hair salons are the most common cover up for brothels. Often, the store front is a sham of a barber shop, and behind a curtain or in a back room is where the real business takes place. I always wondered how one was supposed to know where to go if you wanted an actual hair cut?

To me, there's still a strange sweetness in the whole hair thing, though. I distinctly remember being about 8 years old and admiring the long, straight, black hair that all the Chinese women had in the women's dorm that my family lived in on a Chinese college campus. I remember thinking to myself that when I grew up, I was going to have hair like that. I'm not sure I realized you couldn't just grow the hair you wanted, but either way, those long black locks have remained one of the few childhood style ideals I've carried into adulthood. I continue to find the hair of Chinese women exceptionally lovely and I like my hair black the best. [image]

Another thing that stuck with me was all the pink florescent lighting. In english, we do call areas with a high concentration of sex work "pink/red light districts", but I don't know if that's as universal or prevalent in the rest of the world as it is in China. But why all the pink bulbs in bedrooms? Ambiance? Some hidden meaning I've never heard of? Some sort of feature disguise? I'm not sure, but they used the heck out of pink lights and the glow still makes me uncomfortable, even if it's out of context.

Fast forward a few years to my other deepest ties to prostitution in China.
I went on a summer missions trip in eastern and southern China, led by a dear friend. I was the only short-termer on the team coming from a different part of China instead of the States, and my Chinese language skills therefore differed from the rest of the group, so I had private tutoring sessions (including some spiritual vocabulary), and separate homework assignments.

I should get out of the way that I don't blame my experiences in this story on the leaders of the trip - they remain close and respected friends of mine. However, looking back, I wish I'd just put my foot down about something I felt strongly against, or had approached it in a way that was more in keeping with my views on missions. As it was, this turned out to be pretty much my worst experience as a missionary, which is saying a lot because I didn't consider myself a missionary for almost any of the time I lived in China. It was clear to me that I was there with my parents, who felt called to missions in China, where as I did not.

So anyway, on this trip we were supposed to get out in the neighborhood and practice our new vocabulary and whether real or perceived, I felt like I was supposed to be evangelizing too. There were two shops that I visited - one sold earrings, which I still have two pair of. The other was a hair salon with a few chairs in front and a brothel behind a curtain. I managed to make myself a fixture in the front room in the most awkward way possible. It was clear that they didn't really want to hang out with me and/or figured I didn't get what the whole establishment was about.

I remember their tired smiles and quiet scoffs - who was I? It was obvious to everyone, including myself, that I was in no place to question their lifestyle of desperation. I can't even articulate how awful that whole scene was and the tangible joke of it. For many prostitutes in China, they choose their jobs because it's by far the most money they can earn and they have children far away whom they send support to. I'm ashamed that I attempted to make them explain to me why they were there. I didn't pose it quite like that, but I certainly went in with a missionary agenda, and I hate  that style of missions. I detest that model of thinking that I know better than them and that somehow I'm going to love them out of their situation, when really, I wasn't loving them at all. We were all enduring a terrible hour at a time for the sake of some idea I felt compelled to live up to, or at least try. In reality, they didn't deserve to be treated as my guinea pigs, and I had no way of comprehending anything about their situations, especially at 15. It was one of the most ridiculous, naive, and conceited things I've ever done. I don't know how to describe further what those several visits were like, or why I feel so negatively about them.

I believe Jesus can work through idiots and the culturally insensitive, but I also know that Jesus would not have tried to jam two unfitting puzzle pieces together for 15 minutes and then check it off his list. A part of me is repelled by the logistics of the trade of prostitution, but a lot of me is just sickeningly sad remembering the vacancy and callousness of the woman I met caught up in it. It makes me think of that Nirvana song, "Jesus doesn't want me for a sunbeam", when in reality, I know that Jesus wants every one of those ladies as his sunbeams, and wants me for a sunbeam too, even when I abuse his name and what he truly stands for. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Have you ever been watching a post-apocalyptic movie and wondered how the writers came up with such and such a terrifying detail? Sometimes I have, but if you're ever been unable to escape from the screaming of grumpy, sick, or downright disobedient children, you need no longer wonder. Or on the flip side, your child being seriously hurt can make your life feel as dark as the apocalypse. [image]

We've been going through a rough patch in the last few days with Ishmael. He is generally such a sweet kid, but all of a sudden, he has decided that listening is for babies, and he's no baby. One of my greater parenting struggles is being a consistent disciplinarian, but there comes a point where I'm fed up enough to enforce the law of the land. He thinks that's cute. In fact, he really doesn't find spankings to be much of a deterrent, and I didn't expect him to pull that one on me.

Equally distressing is my first experience feeling like I'm powerless to protect him from the world. On Saturday morning, we noticed strange marks on his arms and torso and I've been worrying myself sick unable to figure out what happened and whether his excessive crying and tantruming is because of some mysterious pain that I can't fix or understand. Coupled with the fact that he was (at the time I was first writing this) having many meltdowns and crying excessively over absolutely nothing that we could tell, it was very difficult to watch and wonder if it was the new tooth coming through, or something much more serious. I'm not one to get weepy when he falls and scrapes himself, but the fear of the unknown reduces me to a puddle. 

This morning as I was feeding Ishmael breakfast and wimpering inwardly out of fear and sadness and trying not to fly off the handle in reaction to his incessant and grating meltdowns, an old worship song that my dad used to play popped in to my head. It's by a band called Enter the Worship circle, and the first few lines are, "since I am so sick, since I am in need, since I have no healing within me....", a reference to Psalm 30. The part about "no healing within me" is particularly painful today because I feel helpless to take care of my son, but they are also a good reminder to me that I am not alone as a parent nor can I ever hope to be everything that Ishmael needs. 

The one island of goodness in these harder days is that I get to be the comforter. It's so touching to have another human fling themselves at you and cry out that they need you and love you and come to you for protection and to be rejuvenated. The fact that I get to be that safe place where Ishmael can recharge his strength and courage and then go back out and face the fears and trials of his miniature world is something I'll never tire of in all my days.

Since I started writing this post, I was able to get Ishmael in to see a doctor, who hardly batted an eye before diagnosing him with phytophotodermatitis which sounds gnarly, but isn't really that big of a deal. Basically, there's a chemical in limes, mangoes, celery, some sunscreens, and many other every day products that when it gets on some people's skin and is then exposed to sunlight, creates marks that look very much like severe bruising or chemical burns. Very often, the marks are shaped like finger marks and placed where hands would have held him, leaving this skin condition (which isn't painful, and will fade within a week) commonly misdiagnosed as signs of child abuse.

I don't think I've ever been so worried as a parent as I was this past weekend. And it was an experience that raised so many questions and feelings that I never imagined having to face as a parent. We were so blessed to have friends and family supporting and comforting us, and most of all, we're thankful that we have a loving God to run to when when we have no healing within us. It was so difficult to live with the possibility that someone could have hurt my sweet, sweet son, yet be baffled as to how that could have happened. The whole experience has made Jonas and I take a hard look at our lifestyle (a lot of working away from our kids), making sure we're taking care of our sons the best that we can with our time and our money, and what exactly that looks like, despite the fact that it turned out that this very scary incident was no ones fault nor a result of negligence on anyone's part.

What's the scariest thing that you've encountered as a parent? What brings you comfort when you're faced with the fact that you can't protect your babies from everything? In case you're facing a Toddlerzilla, a fearful unknown, or perhaps just some limes right now, I must say, Psalm 30 is a keeper.

P.S. Isn't it crazy what sort of medical things you become a mini-expert on when you're forced to confront them in your life? Pregnancy and childbirth are great examples! 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 2014

Heard: I didn't think that Lily Allen's newest album, "Sheezus", was quite as good as some of her previous work, but I'm glad she's back on the scene and I've always appreciated her rawness. I'm guessing the song "Take My Place" is about losing her first son, which breaks my heart. I love that many of the songs on the album are about her family, even if it's not as edgy as her previous work. My favorite songs on the album are actually bonus tracks, "Who Do You Love?" and "Miserable Without Your Love". I also liked a few tracks off of Little Dragon's new album, particularly "Cat Rider" (not least because that's such an awesome song name). Though the full album doesn't come out until June 2nd, I'm already gaga for Gabriel Kahane's "the Ambassador". I really like concept albums, and each song on this record correlates with a particular address in LA. I'm a fan of the cover art as well. This particular single has some Simon & Garfunkle vibes, don't you think?

Read: I've long loved listening to David Sedaris read excerpts from his books on NPR, but I finally read one of his books, "Me Talk Pretty Some Day", cover to cover, and I was the crazy person on the plane laughing out loud every few minutes to herself. In this particular book, I love his take on living in France and never seeing all the sights because the only reason most people do that is because someone told them "they had to see such and such" (that's how I like to travel too!). Isn't it great when you read something and think, "No way! Someone else feels like that too?" I identified with his tendancy to assume everyone is just like him, particularly worrying that everyone else is going to observe and remember everything you do because you are sure as the dickens going to go home and write about the ridiculous or otherwise noteworthy thing they just did.

Tasted: I was a big fan of this healthy Thai-inspired summer salad with herbs, grains, and nuts. I was also pleased with this chicken katsu recipe, which was very similar to a dish we used to get in China. Duck prosciutto cured in espresso with pickled mustard seeds was the highlight of dinner at Luna Red (the cilantro grapefruit fiz soda was also yummy and unusual!), and I ate lunch at Hardy's new Moxie Cafe here in Santa Maria for the first time, and quite enjoyed my grilled cheese with tomato and bacon and the mashed potatoes. Neither tasted healthy at all, totally my favorite. I made a pretty killer summer minestrone from the latest issue of Bon Appetit, which I will add to my Tried & True Pinterest board when the recipe becomes available online. Finally, we've been loving combining softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, and any jam on hand for a scrumptious crepe filling. // Btw, isn't this a lovely dining room?

To be remembered: 
  • My 90-year-old great grandma Peggy passed away on the 31st. I will write a separate post more about my memories of her, but she will be missed. 
  • I can't get enough of being a mom on mother's day. My boys made it extra special for me with a hand painted flower pot, help with getting our little garden going, and home made meals with our families. I love being a mama so much, and it's extra special to be able to celebrate with my mom and my mother in law now, too. 
  • We got to go to Disneyland for free with In-N-Out, but Ishmael couldn't have cared less, and I kind of hated it. I'm preparing a whole separate post just about that trip. The Tiki Room, baby ducklings, and free food were the highlights, transport to and from Disneyland were miserable low points. 

Boys: Baby #2 (now nicknamed "Taco") really started taking a toll this month. I've hit a wall in terms of fatigue, and I've had a few Braxton Hicks contractions as well as increasing back pain. My ankles have disappeared and it's painful to have Ishmael constantly jabbing my stomach and chest as he does his usual scampering around. He's been a pretty happy little guy, and is learning SO fast (particularly words and potty training), but we're also struggling with being a good listener and not falling to pieces over the smallest things.

Since this post is lacking in pictures, here's a pin I especially fancied. Lotuses are one of my favorite flowers.

Loved: "Loved" might be a strong word for my recent self-reflections, but this month has been good for me as I examine some things about myself - trying to learn to be a better listener, contemplating whether I focus too much on myself in general (um, yes), fighting insecurities about my pregnant body, and thinking about how to be a good friend rather than someone who is disappointed when my needs aren't met by others. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Retroactive Prayer

Have you ever prayed that something would happen retroactively?

Sometimes I struggle with the concept of prayer in general - if I believe that my God is all knowing, why do I tell him things or ask him for things? I have my own answers to that question, but it is mind bending for me to try and sync my ideas of God with my human interactions with him.

For example, I believe that God is omnipresent, which includes time and space. He can be everywhere, at all times, at any time, and his time is not linear like the way we see time. If he is all powerful, he can be in the past and future right now, and if he has always been and always will be, is there such thing as past, present, and future for him?

When I connect his omnipresence and his omnipotence together, I wonder, can I pray for things that have already happened in my life? Not necessarily that the past would be changed. Usually, this situation comes up when I said I would pray for someone else concerning something that had a deadline (a trip, an illness, an important appointment, etc.), but I forgot to do it before that appointed time arrived. Although I don't believe that God needs my individual prayers in order to care for that person, I still want to keep my promise to pray for them and intercede for their needs before Christ.

So what do you think? Is it pointless to ask God to affect something that happened in earthly past, but may not be "in the past" in his realm at all? If he is all powerful, it couldn't hurt, right? I don't know, maybe it's a crazy idea - maybe it's better to just pray for those in my life or about a particular situation after it's happened in earthly time and rely on the power of Christ to resolve the situation if it's still something that is troubling after the "prayer deadline" has passed.

On a somewhat different subject, do you make an effort to be extra reverent when you pray? Do you clean up your language and grammar when you talk to God? Do you consider it irreverent to pray on the toilet, for example?

I take care not to say things that I think would hurt or offend God, but in general, I talk to him (when I pray alone) the way I would talk to my husband - honestly, openly, sometimes angrily, sometimes in the midst doing very human things.

I am curious to know if any of you have particular prayer habits or beliefs? Perhaps those that you question the sanity or effectiveness of? Tell me about them!

[image credit]

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Instagrammys 5/18

I'm reaching that precarious point where I'm about to be following more people on Instagram than are following me. RUH-ROH! But it's okay, my ego can take it, for a little while... but since you're here, you should probably go ahead and follow me too. Trust me, my TBTs are pretty impressive.

I've rounded up some of my favorite Instagram peeps that I follow to share with you guys because I think you'll love them too, and I never get tired of beautiful and inspirational images filling up my feed. Who do you follow that is consistently inspiring, both personal friends and professionals?

Here are 10 of my favorite Instagrammers, with blurbs on why I love them so much. The links on the photos are live, in case you want to explore their feeds further.

1. Justina Blakeney is hands down my favorite instragrammer. She is an interior designer and photographer, but her feed is full of so many wonderful, colorful, boho things besides interiors and sneak peaks at her forthcoming book. Her #bloomsonblack and #facethefoliage series of incredible plants and flowers are favorites of mine, and photos of her sweet daughter Ida (not too much older than Ishmael) will knock you out too. I love her cheerfulness, her spin on LA life, and her fabulous selfies.

2. Alex Strohl travels the world taking jaw-dropping scenes of nature. The British Columbia photos are some of my favorites with the turquoise lakes surrounded by white winter.

3. You probably know by now, I can't shut up about Bon Appetit magazine. Their instagram feed is a sneak peak into what their editors are up to from day to day - what they eat, where they travel, how to cook this or that. They also have great videos illustrating what various cooking terms look like in action and some slo-mo videos of "food porn" for Valentine's day which made me happy/giggly way down deep.

4. Bri Emery of Design Love Fest is proof that blondes have more fun. She describes her work as "where type and images totally make out", which is pretty much perfect. Her instagram is full of her personal style, her work teaching blogging classes, her life around LA, and her frequent travels. Light, airy, fun, whimsical... all good things. I want most of her clothes.

5. Humans of NY is a blog and book as well, but I like getting daily bites in my instagram feed. Each photo is of a person in New York and something they said to the photographer in answer to unknown prompts. The words are sometimes raw and painful, sometimes inspiring, sometimes sweet, sometimes silly, and always worth your time. The caption to the photo below said, "I have a neck injury so I had to tone it down this year."

6. Jamie Beck of Ann Street Studio is a woman who has it all. It's truly hard not to be jealous of her. She and her photo-partner-turned-husband developed a special kind of digital photo that has a particular part that is in motion while the rest remains a still, and it rocketed them to fame and fortune. Jamie's personal style is impeccably classic and chic, she travels all over the world to exotic and dreamy places, frequently photographs celebrities at their parties and on the red carpet, works with some of the world's top fashion designers on the runway and in their studios... the list goes on. I especially adore the videos she and her husband put together to showcase various shows during fashion weeks.

7. Julie's Kitchen is shot after beautiful shot of food, plus incredibly fun food patterns such as the photo below.

8. I mentioned Orient 499 recently as a favorite online retailer I discovered, but their instagram is especially wonderful because it contains photos that you can't find elsewhere. I want just about everything they post.

 9. Poketo is the name of a store in LA run by a husband and wife duo from Korea. I love their colorful and modern wares, as well as all the photos of their life as Asians in LA. I keep a list of the places they talk about so I can visit when I'm in LA myself. I still haven't made it to their brick and mortar store, and I can't wait for when I finally get to go.

10. Tiny PMS Match makes me majorly geek out. I love Pantone swatches, I organize everything by color in my life, and I like tiny stuff. And I completely appreciate brilliant design and creativity in my core. The matches made in these images between found objects and PMS swatches is so spot-on. The photo below is a swatch of my current favorite color, plus I really love fruit gummies. 
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