Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don't Cut Down My Tree

I am grateful for Birch. Every time he says, "I love you," I'm warm and cozy. When he tells me why he loves me, I believe him. We spend so much time together, but still every morning as he heads out to work I feel a little pain inside as he goes and can't wait to see him again once he's home. Long weekends are too easy to get used to, sitting together in our apartment, playing with Keats, taking Olive for walks, eating together, and laughing at the little silly things that happen throughout a day... so lovely. I'm grateful for who he is and what he has grown to stand for and love. I'm grateful for how much we agree upon across the board. I'm grateful for his concern for my well being and the many steps he takes to bring me back up on a bad day. I'm grateful that nearly every day he comes straight home from work and takes Keats and Olive out for a walk in order to give me some breathing time. I'm grateful for his willingness to be in and stick with a truly challenging career and I'm grateful for how much he loves it (even on those days where he seems to have temporarily forgotten). He loves me so much and makes it very clear. I have never doubted it and I've come to realize that is a great blessing in life. I'm grateful for his obsessive need to make the world a better place and for his boldness in executing that goal. I'm grateful that in an argument, Birch makes it easy to discuss the problem and move on once it's solved. Lingering feelings of bitterness are extremely rare and dealt with quickly. He makes nearly all of my meals and encourages me to be as healthy an eater as possible. He makes things I've been scared of for years absolutely delicious (kale and daikon salad with miso dressing) and my old restaurant favorites into a reason to never eat out again (chow mein, any kind of meat, sauteed mushrooms, anything involving tomatoes, and pasta). Birch is a loving, caring, patient, passionate, relaxed, and strong husband and father. I am so proud to be parenting along with him and so happy that Keats has such a giving father.

Little Joy Machine

Birch wrote a "guest" blog for you all! Take it away, Birch:

i just spent a lot of time reading blog entries, so i've kind of run short on time to write one, but here, rather randomly, are some thoughts: in this season of thankfulness i would like to express how grateful i am for Kristine and Keats. however i don't think i can actually do that, not in words and certainly not in the 5 or so minutes i've given myself to write this, so i'll go with this thought: keats is basically a little joy machine. seeing and hearing him laugh and smile, kissing his little fat cheek, watching him explore the world he is starting to become conscious of- all this brings me insanely deep feelings of happiness. i'm not sure where his language development is at inside his little brain at this point, but from what i understand without the ability to think in words he is constantly in a sort of zen state, always present and experiencing every moment completely, and being with him that "presentness" can't help but rub off on you. i see it on stranger's faces when they see him smile or laugh, and i am so grateful to be able to experience little moments of pure joy every day. so thank you to my son for the feelings he inspires, and thank you to my wife, for everything, but especially for having the little joy machine all revved up and ready to go when i get home everyday.

-birch

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hope for Craftiness and Blogdom

My mother-in-law is coming over this week to watch the wee one while I start/do all my Christmas crafties! Hurrah!

Now to clean the apartment so I'm not completely embarrassed...

By the by, how was your Thanksgiving? Was it as awesome as mine (more on that later)?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pomegranate-Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
2 pomegranate's worth of seeds
2 lbs. fresh cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice

Cut pomegranates and take out the seeds. I expedite this process by submerging the quartered pomegranates under water in a large bowl. The white fleshy stuff floats to the top, separating itself, this way.

Pour washed cranberries into a large pot then sprinkle sugar over them. Shake a bit so the sugar coats the cranberries. Pour orange juice into the mix. Turn on medium heat and stir every once in a while until you hear the cranberries begin to pop. I like the cranberries to remain mostly intact, so I don't cook for much longer, but if you like it a bit more saucy, cook until it becomes your desired consistency. Add the pomegranate seeds once you take the sauce off the heat (or let each person put them in themselves). You can eat it hot or chill it for a few hours (or overnight).

I'm still looking for a solution to the pomegranate seed problem within the jewel... Something to ponder and experiment with this year, I guess. Any suggestions? I may try cutting just the tips (the part containing the actual seed) from the jewels, but we'll see if that pops them or not.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tonight I'm Grateful For...

Hot tea. Hazelnut milk. Orange blossom honey. Thin slice of lemon. Combined atop my tongue, down my throat, and mingling in my belly to create that glorious feeling of complete safety and warmth and the sweet, hopeful promise of full health.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Catching Up...

1. I'm grateful for cold, blustery nights cuddled up on the couch with my man while the baby sleeps soundly in his crib, watching silly movies, sipping a cup of mulled apple cider then diving into an intriguing book for the first time in ages!

2. I'm grateful for Olive's learning curve. When I put in the effort to help her to learn something, she learns it really fast. She is becoming so good and patient with Keats and plays with him more and more. She even allows him to pat her while they're together on the couch (she used to run away to the bedroom if he even showed the slightest bit of interest in her). Sometimes she hands Keats her stuffless fox toy and they play at handing it back and forth to each other. It's adorable and I watch very closely, cueing Olive when she needs to be extra careful. She listens really well, too! She gauges Keats' new abilities quickly and seems to know the exact safe distance from his grasping/pinching hands. She checks up on him when he falls and sometimes gives him a loving nudge or lick on the cheek. It's really very sweet and I'm so glad that my son is growing up with such a caring doggy friend.

3. I'm grateful for impromptu family time. I got to hang out with my sister Rachel today all day long and it was great! Chatting and laughing together as our children played together was so fun!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Once It Hits Your Lips...

Keats is absolutely flying through our stash of baby food. Mango, avocado, rice, apricots, lentils, banana, peach, broccoli, raspberries, sweet potato, apples, and freeze dried yogurt. Eating solid food is way messier than breastfeeding, though, so I've come up with a list of goodies that make our lives easier and just a tad cleaner. 

Bibs. In a crunch, I'm not against tying some stretchy baby pants around Keats' neck (only under my supervision, obviously), but the more flashy, fashionable side of myself loves snazzy bibs. And, you guessed it, Etsy is where I go to find those:

Bib in Orange and Blue Wood Print with Spoon Pocket, Funky and Cute, Classic Baby Gift
Bib by Bobaloo.

Race cars hand dyed bright orange bib
Race Cars Bib by Laundry Monster.
Burp Cloths. We seriously have about fifteen or twenty of these bad boys and all exclusively from Laundry Monster. I sometimes feel like I should branch out but I just love her designs so much and she hand dyes the cloth herself! Not only are they fabulous for eating and cleaning up nastiness with a bit of flair, my fabric-obsessed son is absolutely enthralled by them. He loves playing with them and even sleeps with them on occasion.

Tiny zoo animals on lilac hand dyed burp cloth
Tiny Zoo Animals Burp Cloth by Laundry Monster.
Keats sleeping with his burp cloth. (Age: 3 months).

Entertainment Center/High Chair. We've got a small entertainment center thing for Keats since we don't eat at a table yet. (It's in the works, I promise.) It should really be called a "containment center." Keats is so excited about food. He jumps all over the place in this thing, "waiting" for the next spoonful of pureed deliciousness to reach his mouth. "It's so good. Once it hits your lips, it's so good!" (Name that reference and I'll give you a gold star.)

Keats in his Baby Trend Walker (age: 7 months).
Once we're eating at a table, we want either a Svan High Chair or a Stokke Tripp Trapp. These babies transition from infancy to adulthood (just like real babies)! Both are made from sustainable wood and don't create an eyesore amongst all your other nice things! The price is serious for both, especially having to buy cushions separately, etc., but the fact that they'll last so long is pretty encouraging.

Stokke Tripp Trapp in black.
Svan High Chair in cherry.

Which one would you get?

Spoon. Obviously. (Although I have on several occasions just used my finger when I couldn't find any spoons. Hmm... I'm feeling more and more disorganized as I write this...) We snagged some spoons on the fly from Whole Foods. They're made by Green Spouts and though I do like them and their small size is quite nice for little baby mouths, they don't exactly dazzle in the excitement department. They're this pale, dull green. And yes, I realized it's silly to want snazzy spoons, but it's fun! Anyone with me on this one? So, I'm on the look out for new utensils for our little boy. 

Yes, please:
Yellow and Orange set by notNeutral.

What are your favorite go-to items for making mealtime fun for everyone?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Duh...

I'm grateful that Birch took the day off today!

Sick Mama Says What?

"What?"

So, Keats has been knocked down by a cold all week and that weasly little troop of germs tromped their way right into my system, too. I haven't had a cold in years and this one has really tested my ability to stay vertical. Yesterday (Thursday) was the worst day and since I woke up this morning at about five with a slight fever, Birch jetted to work to set up a sub plan for his classes then came back home for a day off to help me take care of sick boy. So, yeah, he is awesome. I'm just glad this is all happening this week instead of next week (Thanksgiving). THANKSGIVING! I'm just slightly excited for that.

Being sick has meant less brain power which has translated into a break in the "Grateful" posts, but I'll catch up soon, I promise. Perhaps even tonight!

Annoyingly enough, I have fallen prey to my usual procrastination with the holiday crafting and hereby swear that I will have Thanksgiving decorations done by next year. Based on my lag time, I think I need to start seasonal crafts two seasons prior. Spring crafts done in fall, summer ones in winter, fall in spring, and yep, you guessed it, winter crafts in summer.

Before I do this gloriousness, though, we need to actually have a dining table... (Another dual-purpose version here.)

All that being said, though, I am not backing down on my Christmas decorations this year. They will get done. They will.

Breeding Creativity

Exactly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner: Testing Recipes

We've got the turkey, stuffing, rolls, and candied yams down to an art form (thanks, Mom!) and now Birch and I are exploring our own culinary embellishments to one of the most wondrous meals of the year: Thanksgiving Dinner.

Garlic and Cheese Crostini
Roasted Hazelnuts with Thyme
Green Chili Corn Bread 
Brussels Sprouts with White Beans and Pecorino
Roasted Root Vegetables a la Mario Batali
Yukon Gold Potato and Wild Mushroom Gratin
Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips with Caramelized Onions (sans the Bleu cheese because I can't stand it)
Cranberry-Pomegranate Sauce a la an idea I had while living in VA
Sweet Potato Pie
Pecan Pie
Cranberry and Vanilla Bean Sorbet
Cafe Au Lait Pudding

Okay, so obviously we aren't making all of these this year, but seriously, once you start looking for recipes, especially before dinner, it's pretty hard to stop yourself from dreaming that yes, you have the time to make all of it, and yes, your stomach can fit it all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Momma Said...



I'm grateful for my mother. She is an absolute blessing in my life. She is extremely generous, beyond helpful, very loving, a wonderful listener, and as a friend once described it, "an undercover funny." She makes me laugh so much, it's ridiculous. She has always been such an amazing support to me despite my many flaws and mistakes. When I left home, I realized how rare that actually is and though I'd always been grateful, a new kind of respect for that particular trait in her came upon me. She is a true mother: unceasingly caring and full of love.

She has survived so much and shown me how to be strong in my own life. She lives to be a grandma and throughout her life has had an incredible gift of soothing upset babies. She was there for me during labor (both times) and I can't even begin to tell you how much her presence helped to ease my fears. She has always been that. When I was a toddler, she swooped me up out of the waves, saving me from an incoming piece of driftwood that would most certainly have injured me if not killed me. She still has the scar on her shin. After giving up my first child for adoption, she took me away for a month to help me to escape myself and then spent many years helping me to find myself again, doing anything she could to support me and show me that she still loved and cared for me. She survived breast cancer and has been in remission for many years and she did it with a smile on her face (most days). It was incredible to see such strength in one's own mother. We were all terrified, she as well, of course, but after the first flush of shock at being diagnosed, she hardly showed that fear and was purely determined to live and make it through. I love her so much for that. I feel so guilty for my selfish behavior during those years, but despite that she loved me and showed me everyday how much.

My momma understands me in ways I've just begun to understand about myself. We have regular discussions about development and the different ways in which brains work and it is so refreshing to speak with someone so intimately about the problems I have with learning certain things such as math and foreign language. She doesn't toss my struggling away as laziness or unwillingness to learn, she encourages me to try and to just get it done (because that's what the school wants from me), but not to worry so much about what this struggle means about me. She helps me to know that I'm not a failure. In a family where literally everyone except me speaks at least a second language, my complete failure at learning just one has proven embarrassing to say the least. For many, it is what my family is known for and I am constantly asked, "So, what languages do you speak?" The answer invariably has to come back, "Only English." These little failures in life don't seem to mean much to my mother and she is always quick to point out my strengths in life, especially those that seem so second nature to me, the ones that I never realized were specific to me.

My mother is beautiful. She smiles without hesitation. She is fresh and natural. Her sense of humor is dry and witty, every once in a while accompanied by bite. She loves my son. She loves my husband. She loves family more than anything in the world. She is strong in her beliefs and sticks to them in any situation. She is absolutely lovely and she is my momma.

I love you, Mom.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's Back!

I'm grateful for:

Prepped for the Holiday Season

During my daily blog hunt, I came across this loveliness on graciousness during the holidays. I need to work hard on my own "guest skills," not to mention keeping our own place ready for family and friends coming over to our place. We're always stoked to have people over, but it feels like a race to clean the place up each time. So... here's to getting organized, getting up, and getting a little something for those people who invite us into their homes (which is extra sweet considering our squealing baby and ridiculously shy dog)!

To-Do List for the Holidays:
Make a little something for hosts
Goodwill trip
Spruce up common space in the apartment so that we're ready for guests!

Come on over!

For Monday: Seafood Watch

 



I'm grateful for the ocean and the sea. Cheesy perhaps, but they carry such incredible mystery and strange beauty. I'm grateful for those places that bring it to us land dwellers. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one such place and what a glorious place it is. If you're in the area, check it out. It's definitely worth the price.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

65 mph

I'm grateful for drivers who:
  • drive within the close vicinity of the speed limit
  • don't weave in and out of lanes
  • honk sparingly
  • signal
  • let you in when you signal
  • are sober.

What do I think when drivers aren't this way? You're telling me that you arriving ten minutes earlier, etc., is worth more to you than my entire family's lives. Way to be an a**hole.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tickle Me Color

I'm grateful for color and for being able to see it. Do you realize that Birch is colorblind? Oooph. Rough stuff, says me. I love color. Bright, bold, faded, subtle, mixed, matching, muted, contrasting color!

Color Swatch Knob from Anthropologie

Friday, November 12, 2010

Whistle While I Work

I'm grateful for a clean, bright, and colorful home. (Mostly because it's decidedly not clean today.)

Home

For Thursday, November 11th

I'm grateful for days that are so busy you don't have any time to write a blog!

Birch had Veteran's Day off, so we took full advantage:
  1. Date night sans baby the night before at Vino Locale in downtown Palo Alto. We were going to go ice skating, too, but left too late and the rink was only going to be open for another half hour. Oh, well. Next time. By the way, Birch has NEVER ice skated. Crazy, right?
  2. Beach trip Thursday morning with Miriam and two-thirds of her crew (Sofie and Kegel, no Ben) and Liana (longtime friend from high school visiting from NOLA) and the crazy lab Illapa. 
  3. Quick dive home to drop off Olive and change clothes, then...
  4. ... Up to the city for a gallery show at the Public Barber Salon with Cindy Loughridge, Seth Restaino, Dottie L. Guy, Jeremy Brooks, Pei Ketron, Patrick Power, Chris Connolly, and Allen Passalaqua. Remember me wishing for another show about a week ago? Yeah, crazy timely timing, right? Awesome. The photos will be up until January 2nd, so go check 'em out. They're for sale! Oh, and you can get a hair cut, too. I'm sure Birch would like me to add that he's grateful for the salt baked crab he had last night at Kim Tranh just down the block from the salon. With baby in tow it made for quite an interesting restaurant experience and though Birch's breath was downright nasty afterward, he was in heaven throughout (oh, and they gave him this nifty finger bath bowl that magically made his hands not smell like garlic, green onions, and crab. He thought it was perhaps tea with lemon?).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Talkies

I'm grateful for girl talk. You know, intimate conversation seriously drenched in idle gossip. Every once in a while, I think every girl needs a few hours of serious gossip time. I got mine today over cheesecake (and later over ramen). Have you had yours this month?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is For Lovers.

I'm grateful for the state of Virginia. I moved there in 2006 for school and lived there for only two years, but I loved it more than I ever thought I would and definitely more than I'd be able to express in one measly blog entry.

I moved there at a critical point in my emotional life. I needed a break from what had been and moving across the country seemed like the right medicine. I've said it before and I'll say it again, moving is never a bad idea. The people I met there changed my life dramatically and still influence me to this day, despite having not seen a single one of them since I moved back to California to be married. The people and the places. Oh, the places! Little did I know how green the world could be. Summer was deep green, Autumn was yellow and orange and red, Winter was icy white, and Spring was redbuds. I went for walks and hikes every day. I took my camera every where I went. Friends came and went from my house. I fed them, stayed up late with them, watched movies with them, laughed with them, chased them, and cried with them. Wait. Chased them? Yep, chased them. I sorted out the mess that was my life while I was in Virginia. I became at ease with myself and confident in my convictions and my loves. I knew who I was. Virginia changed me into me.

How perfect that Birch should meet me not the countless times we've figured we could have met each other, but while I was living in Virginia. The land of my internal peace. Birch and I lived in Santa Cruz at the same time, he worked with a friend of mine for years before meeting me, I used to work about fifteen blocks from his family home, and we grew up only twenty minutes from each other. We met when I was living three thousand miles away and was the happiest I'd ever been up to that point.

I not only love the people that surrounded me during that time. I have a deep and abiding respect for them. They are themselves without apology and full of love and generosity of spirit that I have striven to emulate. I keep in contact with some of them and wonder what has become of the rest, but with all I smile whenever I think of them.

Birch and I have given serious thought to moving back there if, when it comes down to it, we cannot afford land here in California. What an absolutely beautiful place it is. The rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley, the crisp in winter and warm in summer rivers that swerve through pastures and cut through rock. And the trees! Oh, the trees that are constantly changing on you. So much so that you can never quite decide when they are at their loveliest. I miss the seasons there. The real, true seasons with rain, humidity, deep cold, snow, icy roads, autumn splendor everywhere!

I love who I was there. I must admit that I change according to environment and I was a slightly different me than the me I am now. I was courageous and bold... independent. Someday I will find my way back to that place within myself, but for now I must refer to it as: Virginia.






Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Go Ahead. Inspire Me.

It was hard to think of something to write about today. NOT because I couldn't think of anything I was grateful for, but because I wanted to write about something that was particularly inspiring to me each day, and today I just wasn't feeling inspired. So...

I'm grateful for inspiration. It's not reliable. It's not consistent. It's fleeting. It floats around without a care in the world and seems to have absolutely no regard for what I actually need to get done that day, but when it hits, it really hits, and if I don't act on it then I regret it for the rest of the day and in some special cases, the rest of the week. Perhaps it's writing up a story, designing a playhouse, sketching, or sewing a new stuffed animal or a pair of pants. It could be that sudden, unquenchable need to fill a vase with a bouquet of flowers handpicked by yours truly. It could be to jump into my boots and scatter seeds into the rainy garden. It could be to finally take down the twinkle lights that went out last month (after six years of near-daily use).
Vacuuming, baking a cheesecake, calling a friend, walking to the park, roasting squash, sweeping the front step, emailing Birch "I love you," cleaning the fish tank, clipping back the plants, scrubbing and drying the dishes, mopping the floor, organizing Keats' toys, taking out the trash, reading old journal entries, writing another poem, doing the laundry, applying makeup.

I'm grateful that I feel it. I'm grateful that I recognize it. I'm grateful when I act on it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Cleaning

I'm grateful for Saturday mornings where Birch and I listen to NPR on the radio, wash the dishes, vacuum the carpet, clear up all the toys into the toy box, mop the linoleum, take out the trash, wipe down the bathroom, dust the piano, take out the corner cobwebs, brush Olive, clear off the various surfaces in the living room, clean out the fridge, and spend the rest of the day in a clean apartment squealing and rolling about with Keats and Olive, playing with toys and spreading them throughout the room once more.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vaccines

I'm grateful for the vaccinations we have against disease. For my generation, it's hard to picture the very real threat of diseases that once devastated communities and that is something to be grateful for, not complacent about. Our pediatrician was very clear that he thought it best for Keats to be vaccinated, but seemed to feel the need to convince us of this fact. We whole-heartedly agreed with him, so questioned this need to convince us. He said that many new parents weren't having their children vaccinated because they felt it was an unnecessary medical procedure that subjected their children to dangerous illness. I understand the logic here, but I think we've forgotten what the "real" diseases do to our children. Polio, measles, Diphtheria, Rubella, etc., are really scary viruses/diseases that are far worse than any reactionary illness a child may have in response to receiving the vaccine (not including an allergy to the vaccine/something in the vaccine). Birch and I take Keats' health so seriously in the other aspects of his life, it seems backwards to not protect him in such a simple manner, especially since it's covered by our insurance!

I highly recommend reading the chapter on vaccines in Baby 411. In it, Dr. Brown discusses the facts and misconceptions surrounding the vaccine debate.

I don't remember the momentary pain of the actual shots as I received them, but I do remember having a very healthy childhood (still going strong). Yes, I had chicken pox and had to quit ballet after only one day (still slightly bitter about that. Darn you chicken pox!) I'm grateful that I'm living now and not just one hundred years ago when these vaccines didn't exist and hundreds of thousands died because of it.

Hint: The first time we took Keats to get his shots, the nurse gave him the sweet, liquid vaccine in doses between injections. This greatly calmed him down, taking his mind off the pain. The second time, we had someone else and she didn't do this. We now ask the nurse to give the liquid between injections. Distraction is a great tool... so is a little sweetness.

Schedule of Vaccines from Birth to Age Six
Vaccinatiohns/Healthcare for the Uninsured (in the Bay Area)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Turning In My Ballot

I'm grateful for my ability to vote for what I believe in. I'm not a very patriotic person, at least not in the waving-the-flag, singing-the-national-anthem, reciting-the-pledge-of-allegiance kind of way, but I have some serious convictions about the very real value in our right to vote.

Sometimes it feels like we're voting for the lesser of two evils and it's hard to find the truth and the excitement behind that little black line between two rectangles. Sometimes there is a very clear choice and every ounce of political energy is poured into that issue, so much so that the opposing side makes me cry just thinking about their position on the matter. So often politics is two-faced and wildly hypocritical, disgusting and down-right scandalous, but every so often, someone has a good idea, a way to carry us all through to a better reality, to an easier life, to an accepting and understanding community. However, no matter what the issue, no matter what the cause, my vote is my signature on my beliefs. It is my own declaration of independence. It gives me the right to hope for the best and complain about the worst. It spurs me to make changes in my own life and to lovingly discuss those ideals with those around me.

There is so much panic and anger in our politics lately, it's hard to feel truly grateful for all the opposing ideals, but as Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." She wrote this describing Voltaire's politics, his passion for freedom of speech. Sometimes, elections don't turn out the way we want them to and sometimes devastatingly so, but we have to have faith that the world will keep on turning and time will keep moving forward, and as it does, what we hope for will come to pass.

I've made several personal choices in my life that have been devastating to me, but they were each made in the hope of a better life. More accurately, they were made in the hopes that I would become myself--the best version of myself. The choice to give up my own child for adoption when I was seventeen and my choice to leave the religion I grew up in because I could no longer reconcile my personal beliefs with their religious ones stand out to me as the two major decisions of my life, both heartbreaking in a way I cannot express in words, though I've tried often. Some seem to shrug off the second as my desire to not "live the standards" set forward by the religion, but it was much more difficult than that. I thought about it carefully and for a very long time. I wanted there to be an easier solution, one that would be less damaging to both me and my family, especially my parents who I felt like I was betraying. But I was miserable and ashamed living amongst something I no longer felt right, so I had no other choice. It was the vote of my life.

Our choices and beliefs make a difference in this world. No matter how much the media tries to twist our votes into their biased meaning, we are the only ones that truly know what our vote meant, what we were declaring by making it. My hope is that we take this right seriously and research our options carefully. There isn't always something on the ballot that we naturally care about, but someone out there does (otherwise there's no way it would be there) and we owe it to their fervor to take it seriously. I love to vote. I love the quest for Right behind it. I don't always love the result of the nation's choosing, but I put in my say and that is everything to me and my own feeling of worth in our society.

I'm grateful for my right to vote.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ready, Get Set, Jump!

The obligatory JUMP photo! Photo by Cindy Loughridge.
I'm grateful for our wedding photographers: Cindy Loughridge, Seth Restaino, and Diyosa Carter. Not only did they do an amazing job at our engagement shoot and our wedding, they agreed to do a maternity shoot with us (for free!) and did a marvelous job there, too! Birch and I went to a gallery show of their work up in San Francisco last year and absolutely adored the whole experience. Not only are they fantastic photographers they are truly pleasant to be around and quite funny to boot. We have received so many compliments on the photos they took that are up in our house and I can't tell you how it feels to have photos of myself (taken by someone other than myself) that I actually like! Anyone else have this problem? Cindy has even been getting at me to do a shoot with Keats (yes, please!) and I'm giving serious consideration to hiring them for Keats' first birthday party. They inspire me so much as artists. I look at photos nearly everyday and wish so much that I had the time and free hands to be so diligent with the betterment of my own photography. Thank you so much, Cindy, Seth, and Diyosa! You guys are too fun!

They even got me to destress before the wedding enough to be a bit sassy! Photo by Cindy Loughridge.

Me with Cindy, herself! Couldn't have been happier to have her and her "crew" shooting us that day. Photo by Seth Restaino.

Sensei Jeremy giving Birch a real massage before the wedding. Photo by Seth Restaino.

Eight months pregnant with Keats and feeling beautiful with Cindy and Seth at the helm. Photo by Cindy Loughridge.

Please, please, please! Check them out. You won't regret it. They each possess style, subtlety, and humor in their photography and have a serious way with color and light that I just adore (and strive to learn). Their photography is also available to view on Flickr.com, so go look 'em up! Love you guys! Oh, and when's your next gallery show? We wanna come...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lists Make My World Go 'Round

I am grateful for grocery lists, grid paper, and budget spreadsheets. I used to be a real impulse buyer, and yes, I still let the occasional spontaneous inspiration strike me, but ever since I was pregnant and became crazy forgetful about everything, lists became my best friend. We're like this: ____.

Oh, wait, you can't actually see me. Right. Well, anyway, now I research all big furniture purchases like crazy and plan everything out on grid paper before I buy. I consult my handy-dandy Excel budget spreadsheet and figure out how much we can afford that month and if we'll need to stow some away into savings for next month to make the purchase then. This may seem very stuff-oriented, but it has actually greatly diminished our acquisition of stuff. It's great! We tend to spend a bit more on each item due to its better quality which translates into having nicer and less stuff = perfect for clutter-loving people that now have a crawling baby. That's not necessarily true. We don't really love clutter, but we have a real hard time at saying goodbye to things, especially little knick knacks. Sometimes we think we'd like to rent a storage unit, but as my wise eldest brother said once, "By the time you've paid a year's worth of storage unit rent, you could have bought everything in that unit four times over." That is especially true with our crap, because it really is purely of sentimental value. Which leads me to the wonderful To-Do List.

Some shiver just at the thought of a To-Do List which I completely understand, especially in light of my status as one suffering from panic and anxiety disorders. But I figured out a way to make it a less-stress, if not no-stress, kind of list. I list things as they come to mind and for the most part, do them as I'm inspired to tackle them. Some things lose their priority as others pop up and more often than not, things simply disappear off the list entirely which is glorious in its own way. I include both dream-type to-do's as well as absolutely necessary to-do's. What is a dream-type to-do? Oh, like "research organic farmland available for sale in California," "make every present by hand this year," and "go to Thailand for a year." They are not necessarily the type of thing you merely cross off a list. Oh, and I love crossing things off the list. Sometimes I'll add things to the list after I've done them just so I can cross them off and feel like I accomplished more during my day. Example: "Change Keats' diapers." I would actually love to start a project where I use a chalkboard for the daily to-do's and take a picture of it everyday for a year. THAT would be interesting... to me.

I wish I could say that the monthly budget is a lifesaver, but we struggle to keep to it. Right now we're in the process of re-examining what we spend our money on and how much. We've made it a priority to spend at least half of our income (after rent and bills) to our food. Obviously, this makes the purchasing of anything else during the month a major purchase and we've decided that though it can feel tight, etc., we enjoy the feeling of eating local, sustainable, better food each day. I know for a fact that it has seriously contributed to my general health, especially while breastfeeding. Going about our budget in this way also opens up some serious communication between Birch and I that I wouldn't trade for anything. We don't just talk about how much we want to spend on what but why we want to spend our money on that thing. Each month it changes and sometimes we even trade off access to the truly extra money each month. In September, we had the great enjoyment of hanging around with my sister and her family while they visited in England (and still managed to buy Birch several new pieces of clothing for work). In October, I got to go to a Cat Power concert and a girls' night out with Miriam and Leslie (so fun!), I bought a new hand knit scarf (so obsessed), Birch went to a bar with our neighbors to watch some UFC fights he was particularly interested in, and I got to procure the necessary ingredients for a Human Cannonball costume for Keats. This month: a chair for Keats, Thanksgiving dinner ingredients, and Christmas presents!

So, here's to making lists, making life easier, making plans, making dreams come true, and making time for the things we enjoy most!

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Have a Confession: I've Been Thinking About Christmas Since August...

From Anthropologie (I love their ornaments each year):





 From Pottery Barn:



I love looking through catalogs and getting ideas for what to make myself for this year's holiday season. So many things could easily be made yourself with just a little "empty" time. I'm the first to admit that I also love purchasing a few (I'll most likely grab those stocking holders). Despite myself, sometimes buying things really does make me feel a bit better, or perhaps just a bit easier. It helps me to feel like I'm not constantly thinking about money, about scrimping and saving.

Plus, I absolutely LOVE decorating for the holidays. I'm actually somewhat ashamed at myself for completely letting Halloween go by unnoticed in our home. I'm not really into the spooky decor you see in the shops, though, so I'll have to think of something fitting for next year. Perhaps just a plethora of black cat cut-outs doing different things among a bunch of jack-o-lanterns? We'll see. Here's to planning (most decidedly another favorite thing)!

So, for the next two months, I know what I'll be doing! Searching, planning, and crafting my way to the holidays. If I spot anything super sweet, I'll let you know. Maybe I'll even get in a tutorial or something fancy like that. I'll ask now.. any favorite shops, recipes, activities you especially love during the holidays? Let me know!

p.s. - Believe me, I'm all over Etsy on this one, but didn't have time to pick my favorites for this blog. Plus, Etsy totally deserves its own blog, for sure. :)

Chow Mein from a Pan

I am thankful for homemade chow mein. Birch makes this treat of a dinner almost every week because I love it so. I was absolutely obsessed with noodles while I was pregnant and my taste for these in particular is not waning. He gets the noodles fresh from a place in San Jose (they sell them at the market here), boils them, then stir fries them with carrots, greens, onions, ginger, spicy peppers, mushrooms, and all kinds of different sauces that I am afraid to use. Sometimes he even fries up tofu slices and that just throws this already amazing dish over the edge! With the addition of Thai basil fresh from our garden, there's very little in the culinary world that makes me happier.