Monday, October 5, 2015

September 2015

I'm working on my Fall 2015 post right now, which I know you've all been waiting for with baited breath. ;) Everyone knows now that I've made a "thing" out of not caring for fall, but this year, I'm not altogether hating it! We had a really warm summer and the weather continues to be nice, though we're starting to get a few rain showers here and there which is like GOLD in California. I've been amassing more and more incredible clothing since I've been selling clothing as a [very, very part-time] job this year, and party season will give me an excuse to show some of my favorites off, I hope. It's nice to be able to drink at parties now that I'm not pregnant or nursing as well.

I'm back in school, through October, currently studying Comparative Foreign Policy. It's one of the more difficult classes I've taken so far, but I'm gaining a lot of good insight from the other students, which I really appreciate. Jonas is in school as well, which can be challenging because he's away from home more often, but we got sucked in to the Netflix show Peaky Blinders and spent 12 hours (not all at once) watching it together. Highly recommended! Also, cooler [fall] weather makes cuddling nice. {see end of the post for details on this picture}

Fall also gives me the perfect excuse to crank out the comfort food dishes, and the best new recipes I've tried are thai butternut squash soup and chicken pot pie with tater tots (both super easy!). Here's a soundtrack for you to cook to, been loving this jam.

We had a small combined birthday party for Ishmael turning 3 and Ira turning 1, since September falls in the middle of their birthdays. In hindsight, I don't think it would be any harder to do their birthdays separately because it's not like we put on anything extravagant for the party and we end up doing the birthday routine at home with them on their actual separate birthdays anyway. Still, it was fun to get our family together and hang out at the Goleta Train Museum where they could run around with their cousins and ride the mini train there. We recommend it if you're in the area and have kids. Not many people know it's there, but it shares property with the venue where my sister got married this Summer (also worth walking around those grounds!) and it's free!

In other sons-of-mine news, Ishmael does the best impersonation of a fish I've ever seen (we have been unable to catch it on video thus far), loves to sing songs (and gets most of the words right!), and seems more and more a little/big boy than a toddler. He repeats plenty of things that through me for a loop, like "knock it off!", but also says adorable things like "shall we" do this or that. I've been challenging myself to put my finger on specific aspects of how "children are a blessing" (especially when I'm at the end of my rope with him) and one thing I love is to see his unbridled enthusiasm for Jesus and learning about the Bible, even though he doesn't have very much understanding of God that I know of. It seems so organic in him, which is both astonishing to me and treasured. He also recognizes the letter "S" and knows that it's associated with the words "stop!" (which he yells out every time we see a stop sign, scaring me half to death) and "snake".

Ira also loves to sing, and has started saying words! His first word was "bird", but he also says "ball, up, down, thank you". Though short lived, he also said "NO, NO, NO" a few times which we ignored (especially since it was out of context) and that seems to have solved the problem. Ira has had a lot of classic child behaviors that Ishmael didn't. Ira also loves to swing his arms while walking, and he can go up and down stairs on his own, though it still makes me nervous. He is a pretty fearless little guy, but thankfully seems to have good balance and recover quickly when he does take a tumble.

Lots of new pictures of the boys just posted to Facebook in the album called "The Sweetest Kill" (my albums are usually titled after whatever song I'm listening to when I'm uploading them, ha).

{September is the biggest month of the year for fashion!} 

September really flew by! Jonas' car just about died, so we made a big leap of faith (as educated as possible) and used a lot of our savings to get a 2005 used van. Which has been a DISASTER. Mega sad face. Going on a month, we're still trying to work everything out with the seller and the continuous maintenance issues, but I'm trying to let it go, let it be a good learning experience, and remember that this will all be in the past eventually.

In happier news, Jonas' best man got engaged and the wedding is in Japan, so Jonas is going to be Chris' best man! I'm super excited for Jonas that he will get to go, but I don't get to go this trip which is bumming me out. I'm sending a big shopping list with him, obvs. Our friends Manny and Katya visited from Arizona and we so very much enjoyed their company. As a TCK, I never really expected any childhood (especially online high school!) friends to end up in my adult life (in fact, I was positive that they wouldn't!), but I couldn't be more thrilled. It still feels like such a surprising and surreal blessing.

I've been slowly but steadily building up my shops on Instagram (@retroriot and @retroriotreads), especially focusing on networking. I really enjoy this work and can see myself doing something in this vein for a long time. I didn't expect that when I started, but I'm stoked to have that [possible] security doing something that is fun and profitable. I also spent a large chunk of the last week (first week of October, I'm late writing this up, as usual) volunteering, consigning, and shopping for kid's stuff at our local semi-annual MooLaLa event. Make sure you catch the next one the first weekend of April 2016 - the inventory is impressive and it's very affordable.

September on the Interwebs:

Two of my favorite people on the internet just got awesomer.

Is it bad, given the message, that I really want this to be an Instagram account?

This camera is kinda awesome, but cynical too. The ultimate hipster accessory.

Growing old with the same person you were young with must be the hardest and loveliest thing of all time. The suggested videos on the side look so sad that I can't even click on them.

Has your Pinterest gotten rotten all of a sudden? Here's why, plus a few ways to combat it. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

642 Prompts: The Lazy Son

Prompt: A woman is struggling to get a large package into the trunk of her car. Her son doesn't get out of the car to help her. Write the scene.


The boy is leaning against the door, staring at the unknown through his sunglasses. Or perhaps he's staring straight at his mother, but remains absolutely motionless. It's most likely the hottest day of the year, but all the windows are shut tightly.

Standing in a doorway across the street, shading myself in the shadows and puffing at my cigarette, I wonder - at what point do you call the police on a negligent mother, even if the child is able to care for himself? Or is he the careless one, sitting in there with the AC on, watching her struggle to move each industrial sized tupperware of guts into the car?

I hate to promote stereotypes, but the only explanation I can conjure is that she runs a street food stall selling menudo. Her strong Latina hands can probably put the fear of God into that child if she so pleases.

Another car drives by slowly and I see the passenger stare hard and pull out a phone. Whatever. People are so paranoid and racist these days. Why can't the lady have an equal chance to wear her body down in search of the American Dream? Why can't that little brat enjoy some laziness? I'm not going to spend my time doing someone else's parenting. She slams the trunk and pulls out.

Two nights later, I read in the newspaper about a woman who had been arrested on my block. She had kidnapped a boy and left his dead body in her car, along with vats of pig guts in her trunk. They also found three human livers. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rotten Island

It's been a good long while since I had a parenting vent session. I guess that's good, because it means I've hit my stride in a way, or that the really rough patches are short lived. Or maybe it just means that now that I'm back in school, I will find anything to do or write about other than comparative foreign policy. Not that that's a boring topic, but I'm SUPPOSED to be doing it, so therefore, I'm doing this instead.

You're not going to believe this, but I think we might be buying a van. Don't worry, I can still rock it. And I can say with complete honesty that we're not getting a van because it's the van-phase of our family life, but just that our other cars died and the van is the right price with the right mileage and a reliable brand and we need to replace our car NOW. I was really gunning for a station wagon, but nothing panned out.

I haven't been particularly invested in the process of finding a new car because I hardly ever drive anymore. We have one car between Jonas and I and he's at work or school 7 days a week. I spend an egregious amount of time at home with the boys, which I think contributes to my feeling rather frazzled as a parent right now. We are all pretty bored and don't know how to combat it. It's too hot to play outside. We can't play in the water very much due to the drought. We can't go very far in the suburbs without a car. When we do get out, I feel terrible for spending money. We live in a giant house full of other people's things that are not for babies to touch.

I used to think that my failure as a parent was being too selfish to indulge in the behavior or take the time to do what my kids would consider fun or entertaining all day. I've gotten much better at that, but they have the attention span of gnats, so even when I am able to play with them, they don't want to play for more than 5 minutes, or it degenerates into Ishmael bashing Ira in the head because only he gets to play with mommy. For his part, Ira loves to sit on my lap and be read to, but I've really hit my limit of being hit full on in the face with board books every time he wants to suggest a new title.

I get so frustrated with Ishmael's constant wailing on Ira, no matter how I punish him or how many times I tell him to be gentle or to share. It's hard for me to stay calm when they ruin my stuff, too. I can't always make it there in time before they tear a page, or fall and hurt themselves, for that matter.

I'll be keeping an eye on one of them (obviously, they can never choose to be playing within sight of each other if they can possibly avoid it), and the other takes the opportunity to get into unfathomable mischief. Every single time, I think to myself "there's nothing over there that they could possibly get in to", but they are incredibly talented at defying my wildest imaginings. I would like to, for once, find one of them cleaning up or reading quietly, instead of peeing on chairs or shoving compost in their mouths.

Few things make me die inside more than Ishmael coming out of his room, clearly not having napped, and waking up a sleeping Ira in the process. I can barely fight off the heavy sense of dread as I envision the rest of the sleep-deprived day going downhill, with no chance for me to do homework, or anything else in that sacred nap-time space either, for that matter. It's really, really hard for me not to be furious (or to show him grace despite being so disheartened).

It reminds of me life on Rotten Island, a place where "[monsters] loved their rotten life. They loved hating and hissing at one another, taking revenge, tearing and breaking things, screaming, roaring, caterwauling, venting their hideous feelings." (Story and fantastic illustrations by the one and only William Steig. I want to marry him in a parallel universe.)

Sometimes I just want to GIVE UP. Do whatever you want, boys, tear each other limb from limb if that's what you want so badly. As Jonas puts it, "the boys are taking me on a trip to Nuts. They're driving me there." Incidentally, the boys think Jonas is the BEST and cry for him when I'm being especially strict with them, which is super encouraging, obviously. When he gets home, we all run to him and shake the bars of our day, screaming, "let me out of here!" (aka, "venting our hideous feelings") Get us off Rotten Island!

Having "mastered" the ability to play with my children, should I choose to, was clearly not the answer to all my problems. Perhaps I'm just not very creative with that task, because there's only so much block stacking and airplane drawing we can do before we're all pretty tired of it. They're little Olympians at turning fun stuff into gladiator sports, as I may have mentioned once or twice before. All "fun" eventually comes to a halt with me telling them to stop standing on the back of the couch, or stop kicking each other in the face.

My new parental self-esteem issue is thinking that it's my fault that they can be so unpleasant. If only I were more patient, more carefree, more loving, they wouldn't act so brutish. I think this is actually a lie, but it's mighty hard to shake.

The night doesn't seem long enough to recharge me from the horrible, petty, irritable mess I am by the end of a day of keeping their gnashing teeth away from one another's necks. After a few days in a row, I wake up already upset with Ishmael (maybe because he wakes up in the middle of the night for no good reason most nights, occasionally even waking Ira) and wanting nothing but to escape. I don't like this. I don't want to be in this situation, and I don't like feeling myself unable to reset. Frankly, I feel paralyzed to even ask God for help, and generally abandoned to my own ugly war. I know this is ridiculous and even offensive, but I feel like my day and my attitude are #beyond! Beyond His help, that is, and that if I were to get "spiritual" about motherhood that it would only be a pretty face on top of something that is still incredibly hard and rotten, most days. I fall prey to the idea that if I were a good enough mom or a good enough Christian, Jesus would make my life easy. What a joke. The only truth I know about God and parenting so far is that it is still hellish (perhaps more so when you're trying to guide your children to love the Lord and do what is right), and the only difference is that His mercies are new every morning. My problem is that I have trouble accepting them.

Even my body is aware of my state - bent to the point of pain at standing straight, pain at being on my feet because of bad posture, headaches from coffee or lack of coffee or just emotional exhaustion.

It's very hard for me to see the joys in parenting right now, and there's certainly little to no fun. One of the worst things is that I'm afraid that if I can't have fun, they probably can't have nearly as much fun as they could be having, and that's a shame. As I was cooking dinner today (they were gated in upstairs where it was easier to ignore them yelling at me) I realized that perhaps the crux of my dissatisfaction with my role as a parent right now is that I can't seem to thrive at it. I think most of us would agree that we enjoy doing things that we're good at and find fulfillment in seeing a good thing completed. For me, that has yet to happen with parenting, which seems to be my sole job for the next two decades at least. I know that this is my perspective more than reality, but I have a hard time separating the two.

A lot people are willing to say that parenting at any given moment is typically not the most fun or enjoyable thing, but they always continue with, "but it's so rewarding." In the interest of being honest, I'll throw it out there that thus far, I don't find it very rewarding. I don't see my children becoming incredible creatures that somehow stand above the rest. I don't feel rewarded that everything is a struggle, including my own personhood. Their milestones are cool, but I don't have very much to do with that (I know, me me me again), and while it's amazing in a sense, everyone else hits those milestones too. I like my kids a lot better than I like other people's kids and I still don't find watching them grow to be the pinnacle of my life's joy or achievement. In a Biblical sense, maybe that's okay, but God Almighty is it counter cultural! I love to be counter cultural to a degree, but this is in a realm that just feels completely isolated.

This is a really negative way to look at it, but I wonder to myself sometimes, why do we have children and sacrifice so many other good things in the name of giving them "a good life" only to have them repeat the process? We're raising kids to raise kids to raise kids. I know that we can accomplish other things in life in tandem with raising children, but I feel like a pet store rat on a wheel imagining my kids finally being grown and therefore having "made it" to the goal, only to have them start out with babies right where I'm leaving off with them and feel pulled away from everything we've worked so hard to given them the opportunity to do. Unless the journey IS the goal (see my reservations about that above), we never reach the finish line. I know this sounds so heartless in light of the fact that my children are treasured human beings. I love them, I just don't love this system. Is this the way life was designed to be, for me or them? If so, WHY? And if not, what am I missing?

I've read of a few chapters of Jennifer Senior's "All Joy and No Fun" (buy it right meow) and she goes into a bit of the history of the economic value of children. Right around the industrial revolution, people got up in arms against child labor (which I think we can generally agree was a rotten thing) and in her words, children suddenly became "economically worthless and emotionally priceless". I'm not arguing that children aught to exist to make me happy instead of working, but why is my existence now expected to make them happy? It's not, and I don't try to make it be. Which is not to say that I don't want to see them happy, but again, not bending over backward to mold your child's life just so goes against the grain of middle-class American schools of thought today, and even though I don't buy in to it, I still feel guilt for not living up to a standard I don't believe in.

You know what the real joke of focusing solely on your children's lives is? No matter what we do as parents, they will never turn out exactly as we envision them or want them to, and a lot of people get caught up in their own supposed "failure" over that, or worse, blame their children for not being who the parent dreamt they would be.

It's not a lot of fun to slog through each day trying to teach them life lessons rather than gratify every demon possessed desire that grips them, and probably only slightly less miserable than giving them everything they want and letting them run the world. Maybe we just haven't come out on the other side yet, to the magical land where character building has made fun more rewarding than it can ever be for children or parents who are enslaved to one another.

The 2-3 year old age range is infamous. Ishmael will ask for something to eat, and I will give it to him. Then he won't eat it and will ask for something else. All day, every day. This might not sound like a big deal, but I don't allow him to waste food, so multiple time a day, this scenario turns in to him whining to get down, me saying no and having to prompt him 7 times to eat his lunch. He won't, so eventually he gets down with the understanding that he won't be eating anything else until he finishes the original food that he asked for. Then he will ask me for other food about 15 times through out the rest of the day, and I will say, "no, eat what I already gave you". If this (or any similar situation, such as "clean up this toy before you get that one out") goes on, it's not unlikely that he will get frustrated and melt down eventually. When he asks for other food or anything else for that matter, he will say it many times over with no breaths in between until you acknowledge him. Sometimes you can't even acknowledge him because he's taking up all the air and noise in the room asking you. If you do acknowledge him and give him an answer, he'll ask you a bunch more times or say "why not?" if it's not the answer he was hoping for, or if it was the answer he wanted and you're not making it happen quickly enough, he'll ask you 10 more times for good measure. It's exhausting just to write it out, and probably to read it too.

If he sounds like a brat, I worry that he is. I can only focus on so many life lessons at once, and not interrupting hasn't made it to the top of the list yet. Even when I do everything "right" parenting him, he still chooses to be pestulant much of the time. Perhaps it tickles his insides more than being obedient does.  God knows why, since the look of sheer pleasure and adoration on my face, accompanied by rewards and praise when he does the right thing are probably enough to keep him from sinning again for the rest of his life.

Part of me thinks that one day, they'll GET IT, and just be the lovely cherubs they could be if they just listened to my advice. On the other hand, every single person I know who has ever had more than one boy says that they battle with one another constantly, so I'm not holding out hope that they'll give up their Rotten Island ways for at least 15 more years.

I cropped the rest of this tabloid story out because it's too child-neglectish to be very funny, but I've always [ruefully] grinned at this headline about taking a break from your toddler, like you might with a particularly difficult relationship with an adult in your life. {link}

Sometimes I imagine myself doing yoga instead of actually doing yoga (children just sit on your face) and at least in my imagination, some of the worries melt away. For their part, children are like uncrushable little balls of optimism, ready to try another day, no matter how bad the previous one was.

I think I suffer from never having truly been a child at heart, but at the end of the day, there is some little seed of motherhood in me that I can't drown, no matter how intensely I fight against mom-hood sometimes. I think all women get this magical substance when they see their child for the first time, and it's like their hearts get an injection of fluid elastic so they can be beat and prodden and torn in every direction and still have room for that kid in there. I got it too, except they were almost out at the hospital, so I only got a drop. Even so, it melts me even in the worst of times (or soon thereafter) and makes me want to give my sons another chance and it makes me smile back when they grin at me, even in the midst of their devilry, and makes me reach for them when they reach for me. I can't resist it when they crawl into my lap with a book.

Sometimes it prompts me to call out across the sea of broken toys and shattered agendas that "I love you!". It feels like one good thing against a mountain of things I don't like at all, but somehow it always wins, and not just because I don't have a choice. These kids somehow still love me, even when I'm fed up with them and myself, and when I see that in their beady little eyes, I scoop them up against my better judgement and try again to make sense of all of this. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

August 2015

I turned 24 this month, and Ira turned 1! As much as I love summer, it's almost nice that it's over because being back to school means I don't have to anticipate going back to school and it not being summer any more. I'm a glass-half-full kind of person like that.

I've always thought of myself as a "summer baby", but my birthday is usually the first day of school for people, and I think this is the first year that I realized that my birthday is basically the very beginning of fall and there's nothing left to look forward to. UGH. Oh well. I'm already gearing up for my infamous yearly "fall-hating" post, it's gonna be a good one this year!

Speaking of school, Jonas is in his final (?) semester at Hancock, so it will be interesting to see where we go from here. We are actually looking into becoming "urban missionaries" (of all things!), which is exciting and kind of strange for me, but I'll definitely talk more about that later as it unfolds. Suffice to say that it seems to be a piece of the bridge we're trying to build to get us from where we are now to wherever we end up. {image}

Early in the month, I took what turned out to be a mini-vacay to LA with my brothers to hang out with Annelise and Andrew for a weekend. It was tons of fun. We went thrift shopping, street art browsing, ate tons of good, cheap, food, and went to 626 Night Market, which was kind of insane, but made me happy because it felt like a very "us" thing to do with my siblings. Mid-month, Jonathan went back to San Diego for school, which was sad for me. I really enjoyed hanging out with him when he was home this summer. Distance seems to have strengthened my relationships with my siblings, and I really treasure the time we get to spend together now. I also went to visit my friend Genna in Thousand Oaks and we hit up the Oaks Mall where we had many mini adventures, and she graciously let me drag her around while my two offspring hung from her neck.

For my birthday, my parents made Persian food and bought me some sheets I'd had my eye on. Jonas took me on a date where we watched otters in Moro Bay, hit a few thrift shops, and hat dinner at one of our favorite places (which turned out to be pretty disappointing compared to our first visit, so sad!). There were other little treats sprinkled here and there over a week or two, which is such a nice way to experience a birthday.

We pretty much just stuck a candle in a smoothie (Ira's favorite) for Ira's birthday because we will be doing a small party for him AND Ishmael in September. Ishmael LOVES birthdays and candles, so it's always my favorite to watch him be excited about other people's birthdays. Ira didn't really realize it was his birthday, obviously. He got some stuffed animals from his Grandma Tucker and Tia Gina which he enjoyed snuggling. He also took 2 baby steps in August! (It's early September as I write this, and he's practically galloping now)

Ishmael goes through phases, but recently he's been pretty frustrating to try and parent. He's always sneaking off and doing exactly the most destructive thing he can think of. He only wants to seat from plastic utensils, and complains that his clothes are "tipping" if they're not laying perfectly flat, especially in the carseat. When my mom told him that he needed to obey her about something or other, he said, "interesting....". His new favorite book is the Jolly Pocket Postman.

I started "cooking" poke bowls, which are a big hit with the fam-bam, and I've been jamming to Lianne La Havas' new album, as well as this band called James Davis. I don't get a lot of leisurely listening time in these days (if music is on, it's usually Sesame Street or Veggie Tales - I've completely given in to children's music), but I do occasionally add tracks to my main Spotify playlist if I find something nifty.

A few things I found helpful or interesting this month include the website, where you can pin images from instagram (really, it puts my spirit at ease, haha) like these amazing soap grapes from @orient499, this article about introversion being more nuanced than we generally think of it (in fact, there are 4 kinds, and you can take a quiz! I can't remember mine anymore), and a list of common mistakes travelers make in Japan (I didn't know about the sushi, though it makes total sense. Also, China shares the customs of using two hands to accept things, the use of business cards, no feet on the ground, and no chopsticks sticking up - it's like incense.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

642 Prompts: Heaven is F'real.

Prompt: Describe Heaven.


Heaven is like New Orleans on acid. I've never been to NOLA or done acid, but by it's very nature, Heaven must be something you imagine but haven't experienced. Heaven is suffocated by magnolia blossom trees and tropical fruit. Heaven is a place where we all work, some of us as street sweepers, but we all take immense joy in our work. In Heaven we have every toy for our collection, and the high never wears off. In Heaven we're constantly giddy about our lovers, while enjoying that warmth of a lifetime of the mundane. We can be in love with many people at once without it being a conflict or a dishonor. Heaven is a commune housed in candy-colored painted lady homes, where everyone eats Turkish food with their fingers and no one ever gets drunk. You never get too old to stop enjoying your birthday. Heaven is constant synesthesia, but never overwhelming. Heaven is a library that never closes. In Heaven, all the water is warm and clear and you can breath beneath the surface and float without effort. God Almighty is an incredibly baker, and you never have to stand in line to sit next to It, on a velvet couch playing Cards For Humanity, Eternity expansion. Heaven is new every morning, but familiar forever. In Heaven, everything is as free as the smile of your son, and that never cheapens its quality. Everyone wears saris. Most sidewalks are paved with wallpaper in fantastical prints, and the weeds that grow along the edges are excellent in stew. In Heaven, I only cry because I want to.

It's crazy. As I was searching for a visual to put with this post, I decided that it needed to be something that moved and settled on the video above (runner ups here and here), and totally forgot that the still image I'd chosen before deciding this called for a video was this!: 

Monday, August 17, 2015

642 Prompts: Nearly Drowning

Prompt: Describe nearly drowning.


[fiction] painting by Paul Lee

Before you witness drowning, you imagine chaos, thrashing, gurgling screams. In fact, all available air goes to your blood and you're unable to make noise. Each millisecond above water is an inhale, not a sound.

Once I found a brand new sparrow, crippled in the water of our pool. His escaping life force was mute and bulging, a terrible Calm tightening its clutches more fiercely than any panic. I scooped him out and put him on a lawn chair to dry out.

I walked away without waiting to see if he'd recover, because all I could feel in that moment was my own heart going under the waves in a sea of choked back tears.

Friday, August 14, 2015

642 Prompts: The Ex's Wedding

I came upon this book, 642 Things to Write About at a thrift store the other day. Naturally, I bought it, because I have nothing else to do in my life. Also ignore the fact that I already have 131 drafts of posts that I could work on instead. 

My good friend Taylor recently shared some prose with me that he wrote as part of an exercise, simply to push himself as a writer. Um, why am I not doing this? I have aspirations of writing all kinds of books, eventually. A memoir, a cookbook, a collection of poetry, a novel (???), among other ideas. These prompt responses aren't a huge time commitment, and I would love to hone my skills as a writer, so I'm planning to post my responses to the prompts here on the blog now and again. 

I hand-wrote this scene in the book and used up all the space, which explains why it is so short. I could use some training in brevity. 

Here's the first prompt: You are looking down through the skylight as chefs prepare dinner for your ex-fiance's wedding. 


I was glad to see that there was a tray of of pigs in a blanket. Pigs in a blanket? What is this? Third grade home room? "Costco Deluxe Events"? I couldn't believe that someone who was once in love with me could now be in love with someone who serves pigs in a blanket at a party that's supposed to express the flavor of one's romance.

I was glad to see this because I felt less certain that Anthony really belonged with me if he was marrying a Pig in a Blanket. I wish I could say I was a leather-clad vixen burglar, and that's what I was doing on this roof top, but I'm more of a pathetic drunk with an ungodly ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I looked down again at the mini weenie fest unfolding below, only to see the last one disappearing into the mouth of the sous chef's daughter. I had missed her before, sitting under the 5th industrial sink, coloring with crayons. The other thing I missed that night was the fact that a room away, Anthony was pledging his life away to two men.

Nothing is ever as it seems. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Permanent Grocery List

I can not emphasize enough how much I love summer, but at the risk of betraying my entire image, I must tell you that I almost, ALMOST, don't hate the idea of fall coming, because everyone ELSE gets excited and I enjoy that atmosphere. Also, food. Now that New Year's resolutions are completely obliterated and all the grilling and salads and light eating of summer is going to begin winding down, there will be a shift toward richer, warmer foods. Helloooo, butter! 

I'm not a die-hard seasonal eater, but I have noticed that there are certain items that I'm always reaching for based on the recipes I'm drawn to in warm weather or cooler weather. I don't know exactly what to call my style of cooking, but it is fun and interesting to notice patterns in the things that sound good (and to read about other people's!). There's this blog called Camille Styles that does a feature from time to time called "What's on Hand", where a food-personality is interviewed about some of the items that they always have in their pantry. The one I identified most with was Courtney McBroom's

Unfortunately, I don't have a cute watercolor of my kitchen and the items in it to go with this list, but I'm not a Pinterest wizard for nothing. (1, 2, 3)

During the summer, I love pasta salads, Mediterranean food, and Asian fusion. Here are the items that will find their way into multiple meals: 
  • Plain yogurt - I use this for cucumber salad to pair with meat or falafel and pita or as a side. It also goes in smoothies, and other savory sauces. It even makes an appearance in dessert from time to time. 
  • Fresh Herbs -  Basil, mint, parsley, cilantro, dill. These get chopped up and thrown into sauces, salads, cocktails, pickles, and sandwiches. I try and grow them in our yard during the summer because it's crazy to try and anticipate how much of each I'm going to need, and how often, for various recipes. 
  • Limes and lemons - Limes garnish most Thai and Mexican dishes and I love lemons in desserts. 
  • Orzo - I'm a pasta girl year round, but I like orzo in the summer because small pasta works well in salads and summer soups. 
  • Green onions - Again, super easy to grow, and a topping for everything. They're used heavily in most Asian cuisines as well. I use a lot of red onion in the summer too because it's the most mild when eaten raw. 
  • Vanilla ice cream - Now that I'm not pregnant, I crave ice cream less than I did last summer, but still, there are so many ways to jazz up vanilla ice cream instead of buying a bunch of more expensive specialty flavors. When I have a big tub of it in the freezer, I even use ice cream in my coffee or pancakes (though it makes them extremely dense!) if I run out of milk or cream. 

During the colder months (ahem, 50s and 60s in California), I imagine myself as a hibernating bear. I SHOULD be sleeping through all the gloom until next summer, but since I'm a human, I make due with being cozy, aka eat all the comfort foods. Here's what I cook with constantly: 

  • Parmesan - Sometimes as a topping, but often just with butter on noodles for a quick meal. Again, it goes in many soups and pastas, but I find the flavor interesting enough to spice up something that may be bland, without it being too funky. 
  • Heavy cream - Trying to explain all the things I use heavy cream for is overwhelming. It makes everything hearty and rich. I don't drink milk, and when I buy it I make sure it's whole milk so that it's the most flavor-boosting in recipes, but cream does that even better! Soups and pastas and coffee probably see the most of each carton. 
  • Bacon - I rarely cook bacon to be eaten on its own (if I do, I want it floppy, with lots of fat), but I use it chopped up all the time and added to other meat, pasta, soup, roasted vegetables, and side dishes. Honestly, I'm not one to add bacon just for the hell of it, but it often ends up being in the recipes that look good to me, even if you can't see any in the photo, so I keep some in the freezer. I buy thick cuts or end pieces at Grocery Outlet, which are best for cutting up anyway. 
  • Fettuccine - My go-to winter pasta, it's just so good swimming in cream and butter sauces. Somehow more satisfying than spaghetti, to me. 
  • Onions - In the winter, I use brown, white, and yellow onions more. More often than not, caramelized (or at least sauteed) onions are the base of a hearty recipe. 
  • Dark chocolate for cooking - Trader Joe's has 1lb bricks of it that I whittle down little by little for ganaches, dipping candied fruit, truffles, and many other holiday desserts. Even some cozy savory foods like a long-simmered mole call for some chocolate. 
  • Chicken broth - Soups are ridiculously easy to make, so versatile, and what I constantly want to eat in the winter. I will slap you if you make soup with plain water. I also cook pasta in broth for extra flavor sometimes. 
The longer I think about this, the more items I realize I'm forgetting. Coconut cream, eggnog, frozen peas, fresh tomatoes, a baguette, chicken breasts.... 

The point is to always have your basic ingredients on hand so that you can improvise around them, or have a lot of options without buying too many more ingredients. I like to explain it in terms of Italian food - if you have garlic, basil, sausage, wine, pasta, you're half way there to most of the recipes in the Italian arsenal. The same goes for most other cuisines, or for your own blend of favorites. 

So now, the real question: what do YOU always have on hand? (And can I come over and eat it?) 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

July 2015

I wish it was summertime all the time. I never tire of it.

I think I watched some movies, but apparently they weren't amazing enough to stick in my memory. I've been plugging through Mad Men, and started watching The Astronauts Wive's Club too. I kept playing this cover in July, it fascinates me.

We spent the 4th of July with the Cragoe and Studley families (childhood friends) in Thousand Oaks, swimming and watching fireworks and eating zucchini pancakes. We also took a weekend trip to LA to see Actice Child in concert and visit our siblings. The music was incredible, though the crowd was obnoxious. The band Low Roar opened for them and they were spectacular live, but I can barely stand to listen to their recordings - strange. As ever, we had a hilarious time playing games late into the night with our brothers and sisters. Some of my favorite times! {image}

My favorite recipe from July was this pasta salad, and Jonas and I ate at Industrial Eats in Beullton for the first time. We will definitely be going back!

Ishmael has lots of funny phrases that he uses totally seriously, such as, "um yeah, sure", "hey, dude!", "hi you!", and "what YOU doing?" He wants cinnamon sugar on EVERYTHING, including his ham and cheese sandwiches, which are his favorite breakfast. We've been reading a lot together, but his favorite books remain the First Discovery series. He continues having a hard time controlling his emotions, especially when it comes to Ira, but I'm encouraged to hear a lot of people say that's very normal for a 2-year-old. He does encourage Ira into laughing feedback-loops though, which is pretty adorable.

Ira loves to strum on the ukulele, stand up and rock on rocking chairs (oy vey!), brush my teeth, and pretend to talk on the phone. He seemed like a baby at 10 months, and at 12 months now, he seems like a toddler. How does that happen?! He says, "gentle","ball", "hi", and "uh-oh". He climbs on everything and puts everything in his mouth, neither of which Ishmael did, though I know it's age appropriate. He can climb the stairs by himself (often going up by throwing both arms up in the air and slamming them down on the next step) and will take every imaginable opportunity to get his hands in the toilet. He seems to like all the foods that Ishmael doesn't like (raisins, blueberries) and not like the foods that Ishmael loves (avocado, eggs). Both of them eat very little, which stresses me out. Ira's favorite books are the Touch and Feel Baby Animal series, though he thinks all the animals make the same grunting noise (except horses and monkeys, he has those sounds down).

Things that caught my interest this month:
  • Ah, adulthood friendships. Still trying to master this, and some of these types made me think hard about how I related to people.
  • Detroit is calling my name ever louder. Check out these amazingly edited photos

  • This case for saddness (or maybe just a good hard look at rarity of happiness). Here's an excerpt: 
"Here in my writing, I am tempted to clarify something. I’m tempted to add, “But I’m a pretty happy person overall.” Why am I tempted to write this? Why do I feel I must be clear, publicly, that I am generally happy? I think this impulse comes from a sense that happiness is success and that to fail to be happy is to fail to be successful. And in our American cultural narrative, this failure is usually your own fault. Maybe you’re not trying hard enough. Maybe you’re pursuing the “wrong” ends. Maybe you’re just lazy. (Or maybe you’re poor because you’re lazy, right?) Maybe you’ve got a chemical imbalance that needs to be fixed. Anything for the goal, which is the finale of the American credo. We could say it together—life, liberty, and, well, you know the rest…"
I also loved the history lesson on the word happiness (linked to "happenstance", suggesting it's rare and fleeting). 
  • Classes for dads to learn to braid their daughter's hair. 
Things that made me laugh this month:
  • Every time you go to this website, you're redirected to a different useless website. Mesmerizing. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

For Poorer

I'm stealing the title of this post from a great piece of the same name. You should read it, especially if you're poor-ish, with young kids, and a freelancer (or would-be freelancer). It's a rough combo. There's no earth shattering resolution, just a feeling that you're not alone in this situation.

"Lord you know that I am ready, ready for my Sugar Daddy"... this song! 

I've been thinking about what it means to be poor in America for a long time. In high school, which I attended online, we used to have these things called "resumes", which was a misleading term for what was essentially a blank canvas that popped up when you clicked on a student's name and where the owner of that name could create any impression of themselves that they wanted in that space. For the longest time, I had this quote up there by John Locke from his Second Treatise of Government (I know, I was pretty edgy), "money has but fantastical, imaginary value."

At the time, I took this to mean, "who needs money, all you need is love, joy, peace, [insert whatever]". As I've gotten older and had to start paying for things, I've come to realize that he was probably commenting on the fact that money is only valuable because we all agree that it is and we all subscribe to a system in which we accept money in return for goods or favors. The money itself is meaningless, merely paper or metal that we believe to be worth something.

[my new motto is going to have to be some version of Moss's quote: "At least I have a lot of love in my life. Love is all I've got. That, and my sweet style."]

This realization has been somewhat of a letdown. As an adult, and especially as a parent, I am now keenly aware of the value of money in my life. I used to scoff at the American definition of poverty. There are so many people around the globe who have so much less than I have, and even so much less than the truly destitute and homeless people in the United States. I'm not saying that in an "eat your vegetables, there are children starving in Africa" sort of way, I saw a lot of genuinely life-threatening poverty growing up in China.

Here in California, where the good weather brings a lot of permanently homeless people, there is usually free food and shelter provided for those who seek it out, and if they really want it, there are often opportunities to learn a skill at a community center, or something of that nature. In other parts of the world, people sometimes sell a child to feed their other children, or watch their children die of starvation. That is an understanding of poverty that most Americans are shielded from, and that is a blessing.

However, I've also learned as I've grown in to an adult that suffering is not so easily defined as we sometimes think it is. It is difficult, dangerous, and feels hopeless to be poor, no matter the circumstances. Suffering, stress, and strife are universal, and even if some have experienced more disasters in life than others, the emotions are familiar.

I have been one to scowl (inwardly) at panhandlers in the U.S. and think to myself, "get yourself off drugs and get a life." "Stop milking the system and abusing my tax payments". "Only they are responsible for the position they're in, why should I help bail them out when they'll likely go get drunk off my hard earned money?"

And then I found myself with very little money, relying on other people to get by. I've always prided myself on being thrifty and good with my money. I've never been in debt, I don't spend excessively, I almost never pay full price for things, etc. But either I'm not as good with money as I thought, or there just isn't enough of it for what I considered a modest lifestyle. You've got to make it work with what you're given, right? Yet, what I'm given is paltry (and yet so good, compared to some!), and the cost of living only increases. I don't say this out of anger at employers or the job market or something, just that we don't make a lot of money (for a variety of reasons) and we have plenty of expenses.

In the United States, the official poverty line as defined for a family of 4 in 2015 is $24,250 a year. If Jonas worked full time (40 hours/week) for every week in the year at $13/hour, he would make $24,960 before taxes. For now, I'm contributing $200 a month, at most. We also end up getting more money back from the government than we pay in taxes, which is great for us, and probably why our government is in extreme debt, but that's a whole other topic. As you can see, we're just about at the poverty line as defined by the U.S. government. We rarely have more than $8000 in the bank between the two of us, and we often have a lot less than that. More often than not, $10 feels like a lot of money to me.

For the sake of this post, I took a preliminary screening test to see if our family is eligible for food stamps. We aren't, primarily (I would guess) because my parents let us live with them for free, minus the cost of utilities. Obviously, this is a HUGE blessing and opportunity and life saver for us. It keeps us from eating solely rice and beans, but I totally resell things that people give to me as hand-me-downs. #brokeasajoke. Our goal is to save enough money that we are able to go back out on our own again, and use the time that we're here to make headway in school so that we can get better paying jobs. 

I am not prone to being ashamed of myself, but it's difficult to look at these numbers and not feel embarrassed. I'm not sure that we did anything wrong that put us so far "behind" the middle-class dream-life, but sometimes it feels like we did.  Of course I wonder where we'd be if we had finished school before having [unexpected] children, but since we did, I try and find strength in the fact that we've always had everything we need from day to day, and that we are rich in family, if not in money. 

Regardless, being poor is stressful. I tell people that "we're in a time of limbo" and I might even say, "we just have to trust that God will take care of us" (which is true), but that makes it sound like I'm a lot more zen with the whole thing than I am. True, I don't constantly dwell on it, but that's mainly because I can't control it for now (God knows I try, and try, and try) and when I do dwell on (like I have been while writing this post), I get so down in the dumps that I need to go shopping. KIDDING. A little bit. At least my retail therapy happens at the thrift store. 

Really though, we're planning to move to LA, which I am excited about on many levels, but it's unhappy to think that I won't be able to afford taking advantage of much of what it great about LA. Then again, I pay $80 a month for my phone. I know that's a level of "poverty" that is pretty bearable in the grand scheme of things. I make this "quality of life" argument to myself about how it's okay to spend money on fun stuff sometimes because poverty is soul-crushing otherwise. Yet, spending money at all is pretty soul-crushing when I look at the numbers (which I often avoid because it's so painful - I know, I deserve many lectures for that), and spending money now means that we may just stay poor forever, and that would probably be even less fun.

Things like vacation or family photos that are GOOD things usually don't win out in our budget, and it's difficult to see people around me having those things. Not merely out of jealousy (though there is that at times), but because we don't act as poor as we are, and that creates some social tension. Our friends want to go out to eat or go to a show and I often have to tell them we can't afford it. It's hard to feel as brave as I make myself look when divulging that fact. I don't want to take their money (they often offer to pay for us), and God forbid I start a gofundme campaign to support my middle-class lifestyle habits (I know that's scathing, but HATH MY GENERATION NO SHAME?! I'm not going to pay for your plane tickets!).

It is difficult for me to accept monetary help from people. I don't even like taking advantage of government programs that we're eligible for, because I'm paranoid of being a whiner. I'm not sure if I grew up poor or not - my parents were supported missionaries who were very careful with their money. We had everything we needed, but both of my parents are very thrifty. They felt strongly that they shouldn't abuse the funds given to them, and so I spent a year sleeping on the floor of an office in our family apartment while my friends lived in 3 story mansions. I remember not being able to go out to eat with my friends, or even as a family, because my parents didn't have enough money. I heard my parents talk about money shortages (if only due to the lengthy transfer times between international banks) and it made me a little jumpy. I'm not trying to sound bitter, but I guess I assumed I would never let myself be in that same uncomfortable position.

So why am I poor? I'm not afraid of work. In fact, I really enjoy working. But I also value being present when my boys are very young, not to mention that we couldn't afford daycare. Being poor feels like a trap in a lot of ways. To put it bluntly, I'm not a stay at home mom because I like doing it. I'm not very good at it. I do it because I think that I should and because I can't afford not to. Seriously, I wouldn't make enough money working outside the home to pay for the cost of caring for my kids when I'm at work. As described in this article:
 "These women described their shift to stay-at-home motherhood as a choice, but a choice implies options. Work flexible hours while your child is in the care of loving, trusted caretakers—ideally in onsite daycare—or stay home with your baby and don’t work. That is a choice. No, the women I wrote about had been given what was clearly a false choice, even though the culture at large and even the women themselves often insist on believing otherwise. What kind of choice is it when your career as an attorney or investment banker demands that you stay at the office 60 hours a week or opt out of the workforce altogether? When a husband’s significant income gives a woman the “luxury” to stay home with her children, she’ll often feel compelled to choose that option."
My goal isn't to turn this in to a rant about inequality in the workforce or society forcing me into a kind of motherhood with unfair standards (even if there is some truth to that). I would be more troubled to never see my kids than I am at seeing them 24/7. But this "luxury" of staying home feels less luxurious when there's no viable alternative.

There's been some buzz about LA city and county hiking their minimum wage to $15/h over the next several years. You all know by now that I lean liberal, but maybe that's because I'm poor, not because I'm idealistic. Generally, I oppose citing sources from websites like "Republicans" or "you're an idiot if you want to take guns away from" because you're not going to get level headed information from those sources. When was the last time you were convinced of something because your Facebook friend posted about how stupid your political leanings are? That said, I read this little poster recently and well, reality bites...

First of all, I KNEW I belonged in the 70s!
Like I said, this information did come from the Occupy movement, and they really have it in for rich people. I don't have a problem with rich people, although it sounds like a nice thing to be. Forget the part about CEOs making supposedly 937% more than they used to, and just think about the cost of school, food, and housing right now. I know these numbers aren't too far off because the older people in my life tell me how much of their paycheck went toward those things when they were my age, and it was a lot less than what it is now.

Not that I hear a lot of people howling about this anymore, but machines aren't smarter than us. They're just more durable. They can do the same tasks over and over, so the jobs that are left are the ones for the creative thinkers and doers and innovators - the jobs that aren't skilled are steadily disappearing, and that leaves some of us unemployed. I can say with confidence that I am a skilled person, but I don't have any paperwork to prove it, and the cost of that paperwork is incredible. Not only in dollar amount, but in time and energy that is taken away from putting food on the table and keeping my children from scratching each others eyeballs out. We have more access to knowledge than ever before, but it feels harder than ever to use it to our advantage.

Additionally, the benefits of the those good jobs increasingly help the most well off - poor people can't afford the best toys and tools, or enter politics or the other channels we consider to be able to affect change. I saw a headline that posited that successful entrepreneurs come from families with money. Starting something new (aka "hard work") is costly, and often a failure. Sure, there are people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and build something lasting and incredible, but there are also people like me. I have dreams, I have drive, but I also have responsibilities that prevent me from focusing solely on becoming not-poor. 

For now, that leaves me and my family sharing a home with other people, going to school at night at a very slow pace, and sometimes wanting to give up because it doesn't seem like anything will ever come of this struggle. We'll never save enough money that we won't have to worry about money ever again. It's hard to think about, hard to say. Truthfully, most people I know will probably never have so much money that they never have to worry about money again - that's not my aim in life. However, I would really like to step back from the brink of total destitution at some future point.

In the midst of what so often looks like such a grim state, I have no choice but to focus on the fact that we have everything that we NEED this very day, and even some things that we don't need. I would love to have my own home. I would love to have a car that I wasn't worried about shutting down in the middle of an intersection with two kids in the back. I would love to have a car at all. I would love to not worry about money, but even if I managed all those things eventually, I know that that's not what "making it" means.

I'm taking one step at a time, reminding myself that many adults in my life who are "making it" had less than I do now at some point in their life. I know a good amount of people who have lived in a car at some point in their life. Frankly, they're the best kind of people, because they know they can make it on next to nothing and as long as you have hope, that's very powerful knowledge to have under your belt.

I probably don't need to tell you, if you've ever been even close to being poor, that it can be hard on a marriage. When you say your wedding vows, you assume that your life will mostly be for better, for richer, and in health, but it doesn't always turn out that way. I guess I should have seen that coming, marrying a 22 year old art student (insert laughing-crying emoji). But you know what? Poor in America could be worse. I am rich in immediate family, rich in church family, rich in good friends, richer than a lot of people in the world, and maybe Love really is all you need [while you wait for a few more pennies, and the opportunity to make a few more pennies]. That, and a sweet style.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Virtual Vacation: Las Vegas

When I tell people I want to hang out in Las Vegas, they often cringe. And I get that - the general Las Vegas vibe and the pictures and stories that come back from Vegas most of the time are not the kinds of experiences I'm after. But, Las Vegas is a pretty doable vacation in terms of price and proximity for those of us on the Central Coast, so here's my [proposed] way of doing Vegas... 

(Can you believe I've never been? I was at the Greyhound bus stop in LV once as a kid, and we walked down a sidewalk where there was a man swaying around with a chair on his head, so I think it's time I go back and re-experience this city.) 


In short, skip the strip, and head downtown. I will not lose a penny to regular gambling, though a street artist occasionally gets the best of me. My money will not be spent getting sloshed, but rather on some of America's finest Thai food. 

A round trip flight for two from the Santa Maria airport (3 minutes from our house) is $274 - not bad. But, I calculated the cost to drive if we assume gas is $3.40/gallon (it's currently cheaper) and it would only be $90 in gas, round trip! It's 12 hours of driving, but... podcasts. 

I'd imagine the public transport is pretty good since this city's livelihood is built around tourism, but if you drove, at least you'd have your own car to shuttle out to the best eats in Chinatown, or track down the best shopping. 

I'm packing all the sequins I never have a reason to wear in Santa Maria! I steer clear of "slinky", but I definitely own flashy. Also, all the high heels I can't wear with children hanging on me. And sparkly jewelry. But when it comes to what to wear during the day, I'm thinking heat-resistant, and a nod to retro, like high waisted shorts and my Elvis tee. Mmm? Don't forget a water bottle and cash (for vintage shops, not gambling, duh!). Oh, and maybe I'll even have a moment to read by the pool, so a book! 

Typically, I'm all about Air BNB to save money, but you can get REALLY CHEAP accommodations at hotels in LV. The Rumor Boutique Hotel looks fun and fancy enough to be special, but has very cool rooms for $45-65! Apparently there might be a resort fee (?), but there are also deals for buying in advance, and discounts on their website. It's Vegas-y without being TOO Vegas-y or seedy. You can find stuff a lot cheaper, but I haven't found anything else that looks this cool for a price I can afford. 

Las Vegas has some of the coolest musuems! I'd want to stop at The Mob Museum (tickets are $20, but it's worth flashing a student ID if you have one) - home of Bonnie and Clyde's shot-up car! -, the Burlesque Hall of Fame (free), and most of all, the Neon Boneyard {image}, because what kind of hipster-blogger-vintage-shop-owner would I be if I passed that up?! There's a pinball hall of fame, if that's up your alley (ehhh, see what I did there? ;)), too. Tickets to the neon boneyard are $18 and BE SURE to reserve your tour spot in advance, because they sell out. The website mentions that you can buy a combo ticket for the Neon and Mob museums, so hopefully that would be a good deal. I'm thinking the night tour over the day tour? I'm really going to have trouble deciding. 

I've also never been to a Cirque du Soleil show, and Vegas seems like the place to do it! This would be a splurge, but I've heard it's pretty spectacular. Tickets are around $70. I can't decide between the shows, Ka, O {image}, and Mystere. 

Of COURSE, I'll be thrifting my heart out for costumes and memorabilia of bygone eras and generally trying to uncover "old Vegas". A quick[ish] search of vintage LV shops has me wanting to visit: The Attic, Amberjoy's Vintage Closet, Vintage Vegas Antiques, and Glam Factory Vintage. Other recommended shops are Patina, Electric Lemonade Shop, and Retro Vegas. However, as any thrifter knows, the best deals and steals are probably still at thrift stores, where people don't realize what they're selling for pennies. 

Mostly for my own reference, here is a list of places to check out if you want to feel like you're in retro LV. None of them look amazing, basically the advice is "go Downtown" or go to Palm Springs if you want to see mid century life preserved, which I do want to do sometime for sure. 

It's no secret that I like to eat. A lot. As in, I like it very much, and I like to eat great quantities. Vegas seems like my kind of place in that regard. I mean, I'm not above a buffet, people. Especially something like Wicked Spoon. $22 for elegant all-you-can-eat brunch tapas? I'm there, no shame. Trust me, I get my money's worth from buffets (you should see me in the cafeteria at Biola when I visit my sister! :')) 

Raku Grill is on all the must-go-to lists, and was endorsed by Bon Appetite for their home made tofu (though I'll be skipping that, thankyouverymuch). The Splendid Table said to stop at Manta Ramen next store as well. I can squeeze both places in to one meal, right? {image}

Now, about that Thai food I mentioned. If you know anything about the foodie scene in LV, you've heard of Lotus of Siam. It's been on cooking contest shows, Anthony Bourdain raves about it, you get the picture... Other than being Thai, the thing I'm excited about is that I can totally afford it. But I'll hunt you down if you order Pad Thai. Northern Thai food is their specialty, and apparently their beef jerky is incredible. 

Then there's this guy, Jose Andres. His eight-seat restaurant é by josé andrés is a "gastromolecular adventure" (sounds fun and so mysterious!) but probably too pricey for us. Perhaps more affordable (?) is his place Jaleo, which supposedly has "massive pans of wood fired paella". Um, yum. Best of all, given my tastes, would be his restaurant China Poblan where one critic recommended the tacos - "the Viva China - soft beef tendon, Kumamoto oysters and scallions in Sichuan peppercorn sauce is the single best item I ate in 2012". Not bad. 

Other recommended bites (probably only worth it if I happened to be right there on my way to somewhere else, because these aren't full meals) from my internet searching...

I'm not really a breakfast-loving gal, but I think I could make an exception for Cannoli from Buddy V's, as endorsed by Bon Appetit, and I pretty much believe everything they say. Don't even worry that it's actually on the dessert menu.

Highlights from this list:
Ceviche and gazpacho at Julian Serrano.
Whatever punch they're ladling out at The Velveteen Rabbit.

In the mean time... 
There's not a lot to put in this category, since this trip is close to our home and pretty likely to actually happen. I'll just keep saving coins and stashing sequins. 

These posts take a lot of time to put together, but they're some of my very favorite to make! Check out my virtual guides to Japan and Curacao

Monday, July 6, 2015

June 2015

What a crazy and exciting month! Both my sister Annelise and my childhood bff Danielle got married, and I was honored to be in both weddings. Annelise's bachelorette party was covered in May's month-end post, but for Danielle, we spent a special weekend at the Silverstrand beach house and I added another worth-visiting-again bar to my list (who am I?!), the Tavern in Ventura. I finished my 5th class at APUS toward the end of the month, my sister Julia graduated from 8th grade, and my car officially died for good. That's been an adjustment, but I hope that managing with 1 will help us save more money.

In noteworthy media: I finally watched Fruitvale Station, and even though it's an older incident, it felt even more powerful and poignant in light of the police brutality and massacres hanging heavy over our nation right now. I also started watching the Astronaut's Wives Club, which is good, but not amazing, and might appeal to fans of Mad Men. Musically, Melody Gardot caught my attention (sorry I'm getting so boring in my musical tastes). At this point, I listen to a lot of Sesame Street, and other music just ends up being background noise. I like the collage artwork of Xochi Solis, above.

I renamed my Facebook business page since I'm no longer selling the Pampered Chef. It is now "The Black Ram Snack Emporium", and while I'm still working on turning it in to something more than a name, the page is currently a place for me to share recipes I'm trying, general cooking tips, etc. I was especially pleased with a batch of Mango-Lemongrass ice cream I made, and my family loved this eggplant parmesan. I'm also officially a coffee drinker, because children. I have yet to be snobby about what kind of coffee I drink or how it's made, just put lots of cream in it, please.

Some favorite links from June included...

63 things taken from my son's mouth.

The "two kinds of people" tumblr. I didn't even know some people ate their pizza crust down?!

Kids failing painfully adorably. Uncontrollable laughter at some of these.

How sweet are the effects of love?! I sucked the eyes off a stuffed turtle out of love as a child.

A potentially safer way for children to report abuse.

{summer sandals}

Ishmael's favorite phrases in June were, "are you kiddin' me??" and "don't kill me!" (don't ask me why, we never threaten him like that). He was pretty difficult this month, getting in to trouble every time I turn my back. I think it's especially difficult for him when there are people living here for the summer who have stashes of exciting things that aren't toddler-proofed. As it would with any toddler I suppose, our crazy and unusual schedule this month has thrown him for a loop, I think. He has suddenly become a very picky eater (which I hope is just a phase), though he really likes tomatoes and cucumbers.

Ira can say "bow", "dada", and "mama". It's so strange and wonderful how their babbling becomes intelligible all of a sudden, though it can be hard to tell when he's simply imitating and when he understands the meaning of what he's saying. When we say "no" (don't hug the oven, don't put your fingers in the electrical sockets) he thinks it's freakin' hilarious, gives you a giant grin, and does whatever thing 10 times more enthusiastically. He is quite a force to keep up with. Some of his recent nicknames are "thugbert" and "Putin" (he looks remarkably like Putin with his shirt off), which sometimes morphs into "Putey". He now has 8 BIG  (Welch) teeth, which are impossibly cute, especially given all his dimples. He seems sturdier than Ishmael in his build. He makes a ton of funny scrunchy faces and enjoys neighing like a horse (Ishmael's first animal noise was a wolf). He was born in the year of the Horse, so it seems fitting. He can stand up with no support, but isn't walking yet. He loves to dance, and I think he is my true book lover! He will sit all by himself for a long time, flipping pages, where as Ishmael wasn't interested in sitting through a story until he was about 2 and a half, and he never seemed interested in looking at them on his own.

All my friends are traveling without me this summer in Hong Kong, Italy, Greece, France, and all across the US. Lame. At least they bring me back stuff. ;) It has me pondering though, do I go on a mini vacation because I'd really like to go on vacation before the next several years go by, or save up for a big one? For now, I'm staying home with my very colorful walls, even if they aren't as soaring as these ones. ;) What are your strategies to pay for vacation?

I'm SO HAPPY it's summer time. :D
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