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. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wedding Season Gift Guide

We're about to hit major wedding season, people! I'm going to 4 or 5 in the coming months, I'm starting to loose count. There are worse problems to have, though.

I'm torn about what kind of wedding gifts to give - at our wedding (which was quite small, so not a ton of gifts), I wished that people would get stuff from our registry because I'm very particular when it comes to style choices. On the other hand, with both marriage and babies, sometimes people who are older and wiser know what you really need more than you do! I definitely asked for some kitchen tools and baby paraphernalia that I didn't end up using at all.

In the end, I almost always buy gifts for other people that I picked out, because I generally think I'm smarter than they are. ;) But seriously, aren't hand-picked gifts the BEST, when they're something you love? I think they're more personal, and in the event that your friend doesn't end up liking it, they can always return it, re-gift it, or sell it (which I shamelessly do when I receive gifts I won't use and have no space to store).

Here are some ideas for unique wedding gifts that I wish I'd gotten and/or love to give to my friends. They're mostly food related, because I really love food. And I think everyone else should love food too.

Magazine subscriptions. Bon Appetit (image) is my favorite for newlyweds - it has a great mix of beginner and more difficult recipes, each with interesting twists to take your dinners to the next level. You can't beat the beautiful photography, and at $12 for a year's worth of magazines, it's really hard to beat price wise or in terms of relevance. It keeps on being exciting for a whole year.

Cork holders. Wine is not my thing, therefore saving corks is not something I have to deal with, but some people really enjoy it, and I think these cork display cases are more sophisticated than the others I've seen.

Spice Starter Kit. At one of my bridal showers, guests each brought a spice that began with the first letter of their own name. It helped enormously in getting my spice collection off to a good start, and it wasn't outrageously expensive for any one person when everyone pitched in one bottle. If the bride/groom-to-be in your life isn't fortunate enough to take advantage of a set up like that, you could put together a handful of basic (or exotic, if they already have the basics) spices in a little basket and it would make a wonderful gift that they won't get from anyone else.

Board or Card Games. Another somewhat unconventional gift for newlyweds to help them start a collection that probably don't have yet is boxed games. Plus, giving this gift makes you "those fun people from the wedding", and that's always a good thing. Some of Jonas and my favorites are Bananagrams (image), Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity (or both, to be mixed!), Sorry! (trust me, way more fun with adults), Balderdash, Blokus, Set (card game), and Gang of Four.

Local Food Specialties. Here on the Central Coast, we have oodles of great local wines, but I think local olive oil and vinegar sets are more fun! There's a shop in SLO called We Olive that will make customized gift sets for you, and you can go in and taste the oils and vinegars before buying, too. We really like the basil olive oil and the white peach balsamic.

Pampered Chef Products. Full disclosure, I sell the Pampered Chef (feel free to buy stuff from me ;)), but in all honesty, I think a lot of their products are priceless in a new couple's kitchen. I didn't know much about the Pampered Chef before some friends threw a surprise wedding shower for Jonas and I and helped me pick out some PC basics for our kitchen. It was one of the best gifts we got! Some of my favorites to give at weddings (that are reasonably priced for youngsters such as myself) are the micro cooker (I find myself making veggies much more when I have this on hand!) and the salad dressing maker, which includes dressing recipes right on the side - all you have to do is put in each ingredient up to the fill line that's already on the bottle.

Coffee Table Books. These make every living room look a little more grown up, and there are so many available that you can easily customize your gift based on the bride and groom's interests. We used the Lonely Planet's "The Travel Book" as a guest sign-in at our wedding (photo below), and now we have it as a beautiful keepsake in our home with notes on many pages from guests who've traveled to many countries. We also have Treehouses of the World (we honeymooned in a treehouse), the gorgeous Noma cookbook, and Coffin: The Art of Vampire Hunter D (not as cheesy as it sounds) to name a few favorites.

Restaurant Registry gift cards, or other experience-oriented gifts. I'd never heard of a restaurant registry before reading this blog post, but I would have LOVED to get gift certificates to restaurants Jonas and I had chosen before getting married. This is especially great for couples who live in foodie towns - you'd have to go to Santa Barbara of SLO in our area to get quality date meals, I think. Some of my local favorites are Luna Red (SLO), the Black Cat Bistro (Cambria), Marisol at the Cliffs (Pismo), Blush (SB), and Noodle City (Goleta). For my birthday last summer, my parents gave us vouchers for a walking food tour of SLO which I absolutely loved.

Lastly, I found someone else's list of non run-of-the-mill gift ideas, including Vintage Plates, an Ice Cream Subscription (!!!) and 7 other ideas.

What were some of the best things you got at your own wedding, and what are your go-to (off-registry) gifts when you attend a wedding?

Friday, May 2, 2014

April 2014

I got crazy busy again in the second half of April, and I'm finally feeling pregnant (aka EXHAUSTED) at around 28 weeks, but I've just been marveling lately at the fact that I am a truly happy person. What a blessing, especially given how I felt my life would turn out in high school (majorly dark, ha). 

Heard: Nothing stand-out. Wye Oak's new album Shriek is not bad, though there wasn't any song on it that I really fell for. As does everyone, I found myself very bouncy in the car whenever Pharrell Williams' "Happy" comes on the radio, and I've had a bunch of worship songs and hymns stuck in my head which is kinda awesome and not typical for me. 

Watched: I finished up the second season of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (not strong on plot, but mega-amazing on costumes) and didn't have anything I felt particularly compelled to watch, so I started this BBC show "Call the Midwife" that Netflix said I'd like, really thinking that I wouldn't be in to it. HAHA! I'm completely enthralled and think everyone should watch it - it's far superior to Downton Abbey in my opinion, and I was an early adopter (in the US) of Downton Abbey, just sayin'. I also saw "Draft Day" with some friends who wanted to go. It's not something I would ever have paid for (they paid for me) - I literally don't even know if there is a real draft day in sports - but as with most sports movies, the personal stories depicted were just endearing enough to make it interesting and enjoyable (even suspenseful!) in spite of the subject. 

Tasted: Ugh, I can't even keep up with myself when it comes to cooking in the summer! Check out my Pinterest board of approved-by-me recipes to see all my recent faves, but the stand outs were this classic Thai cucumber salad and Caprese garlic bread. When I was in Chicago, I didn't end up making it to Urban Belly or Fat Rice which were on my list, but went somewhat hesitantly for Serbian food at the Beograd Cafe and loved it! The hamburger I got was the largest patty I have seen in my life, served with an entire loaf of bread and sour cream on the side (never would have thought of that, but totally incorporating it into my food-life from now on!). In general I don't love feta cheese, but the cucumber salad with feta was amazing too. // In other food news, I'm excited to be "that millennial" doing social media for the new Moxie Cafe here in Santa Maria (facebook, yelp) - stop by and write an honest review! I also backed this awesome project on Kickstarter, a new PRINT magazine called "the Cleaver Quarterly" about real Chinese food. The world so needs this. 

My new favorite store on the interwebs is Orient 499, from which I will probably never buy anything because it's in Beirut and it's pricey. But you should definitely visit and feast your eyeballs. I love their Instagram too. I want it all (clothing and home goods)! 

The artist Robert Jahns makes stunning mash-up photos that give you an idea of what Venice would look like frozen, for example. 

The equally creative Nastya Ptichek takes famous paintings and updates them with a splash of 2014. 

Discouraged by not getting that gig you really wanted? Check out some rejection letters sent to some of the history's most succesful people. I'm not a huge Tim Burton fan, but I love this bit of a letter he got, "Considering that you suffer from a lack of the proper tools and materials, the art is very good."

And one more artist, Bing Wright, has a beautiful series of sunsets in broken mirrors. 

  • Volunteered, consigned and shopped at the semiannual Moo La La boutique, an event at the SM fairgrounds that I LOVE for stocking up on kid stuff at great prices and recycling baby stuff I'm not using anymore. 
  • Bartended (aka, handed out beer and poured wine) my first wedding with my friend Jessa. Newb mistake - mixed too red wines in one glass in an effort to be economical and totally got called out. Oops. 
  • Jonas and Ishmael spent a week in Iowa visiting extended family. I missed them sorely, but enjoyed some time to myself, and Ishmael got to experience snow for the first time! He loved it until he fell in it. My brother-in-law Sky took some great pictures of him on the trip that you can see on my personal Facebook.
  • I attended a wedding for Lissa (a coworker of Jonas') by myself when the boys were gone in Iowa. It was sad to be one of like 3 adults with no date for the couples dance, haha, but I'm glad I got to go, and the bride had the SWEETEST mother-son dance with her young son. 
  • We celebrated Easter with my extended family, good food, and an Easter egg hunt (which was very funny, and I detailed it below in the section about Ishmael). 
  • I traveled to Chicago for a long weekend to visit my friend Emily and her fiancee Gabe, since I won't be able to be in their wedding (5 days prior to my due date). I had a GREAT time with them. Chicago is a beautiful (clean!!!) city with enough cathedrals to keep me in a happy coma for days. I was so proud of traveling from Santa Maria to Chicago and back all by myself (including long-term parking in LA and a bus ride to the airport) but will never fly Spirit airlines again. Funny things I noticed in Chicago that I didn't realize were regional: NO TOILET SEAT COVERS anywhere, but very clean bathrooms, the sticks of butter are shaped differently (longer and thinner), and the drivers are way crazier than in LA but people honk at each other much less. An hour outside the city in Indiana I bought "souvenirs" of spices at an Indian market and $1 kids clothes at Once Upon A Child (why can't there be one near me?). Can't wait to visit again some day. 
  • My brother-in-law Jason and his wife Danielle picked up their son James in Thailand after 2 years of paperwork and waiting. So excited to meet my first nephew soon! 
Ishmael: He is such a pleasure at this age. I spent quite a few days apart from him with all our traveling this month, and it's so sweet that he misses me when I'm gone and is excited to see me when I get home. The first thing he did when he saw me the morning after he and Jonas got home from Iowa was stick out his tongue with me, knowing that I'm the only person who will touch tongues with him. He's a pretty independent little guy, but uses some of that independence to willingly cuddle and interact with us in sweet ways. God forbid you try and force affection on him, though. He walks around on his tip toes frequently, absolutely adores mangoes, and has this adorable "cute act" that he does when he's trying to butter me up to let him play with my phone. I sometimes fall for it. He's getting to the stage where he asks me to read the same book 10 times in a row and I seriously have to find ways to subtly distract him with some other activity after singing "pat-a-cake" over and over and over. He likes to help his dad feed the koi in the yard and they love to get muddy together in the yard too. At Easter, he loved egg hunting with his older second cousins, but as soon as he realized that his eggs had cheerios in them and the other kids had candy, he was not shy about raiding other people's baskets if left unattended. A huge milestone this month is that he's basically potty training himself! I can't figure out how to express how crazy this is to me - he seems to completely "get it" on a level that I was not prepared to give him credit for. I wasn't even attempting to potty train him, really, but he is very interested and is making my lame attempts at remembering to give him the opportunity to use the potty chair into magical moments! There are marshmallow rewards and massive amounts of clapping, so he has figured out (like his good ol' mom, back in the day) how to pee in stages for the maximum marshmallow payout. Baby #2 didn't move much at all while I was traveling, but is back to kicking hard enough to see through my clothes. He challenges my bladder far more than Ishmael did. 

Loved: Having time to work on a painting, HOT weather, my gardenia plant blooming, getting excited about the Bible, meeting my goal for the month with the Pampered Chef (it was down to the wire), getting both a manicure (navy blue) and a professional massage (sorry if this is TMI, but if you've never had your butt massaged, your are missing out) for FREE, and driving cars with no imminent problems (even if it did cost an arm and a leg to get to that point). 
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