Creating My Pinterest-y Christmas Cards

Guys! Guys! Our Christmas cards came in the mail today, and I am so excited!

Since this is my first baby’s first Christmas, I am admittedly going overboard this year. One of the items on my list of Christmas musts (yes, there is actually a list) was a Pinterest-y Christmas card. I think I can confidently cross that item off my list, don’t you think?

tiny prints christmas card

tiny prints christmas card

I wanted the perfect family photo for our card, but I didn’t think of it until just before Thanksgiving, and by then photographers were booked up or charging a premium rate. Psshh, I got this,  I thought. I looked up some tutorials on how to stage my own photography studio and get perfect pictures with a Christmas light bokeh effect. Easy-peasy.

Until I actually dusted off my DSLR and tried to get a 5 month old to cooperate with a photo shoot. First of all, I could not figure out how to get the aperture low enough to get the right effect. Yeah, if I’m being honest, I almost never use my camera in manual mode. Playing around with settings and effects is great, but… not when your 5 month old is cranky and so over this stupid photo shoot business.

My pitiful attempts are so funny that I have to share a few:

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I was testing the lighting here, but as you can see my attempt at lights in the background for a bokeh effect was pretty pathetic.

Harry was fed up with my lack of expertise in camera lenses and subject distances.

Harry was fed up with my lack of expertise in camera lenses and subject distances.

 

Anyway, I gave up on my dream of that perfect photo and just started snapping away using my phone. Harry cheered up when I let him play with some lights, and here are a few shots that I liked:

The winner

The winner

It was hard to choose my favorite, but once I finally did I decided to make my first ever customized Christmas card. I went with Tiny Prints — my Sister-in-Law used them for our baby shower invitations, and I was impressed with how good they came out. It took me awhile to choose the one I liked best (there were soooo many adorable options), but I am happy with my decision. I splurged and got envelopes with our return address printed on them, because the thought of writing our stupid address over and over has actually prevented me from sending cards in the past. If you’re really fancy you can have them print the delivery address– but I’m only somewhat fancy so I only had our address printed.

So! “Pinterest-y Christmas card,”–Check! What else should be on my list for Baby’s first Christmas?

 

Coming Out of Hiding After a Month of Post-Election Blues

I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile now, but I haven’t figured out how exactly to approach it. Ever since the election over a month ago, I’ve had so much to say, but every time I’ve come here to write I can’t find the right words. I’ve wanted to write about how sad and scared it makes me, but then I think about how legitimately scared and sad other people are, and I check my privilege. I’ve wanted to write about policies and appointments and tweets that anger me, but by the time I get a chance to write it’s old news, and the president-elect has tweeted something even more stupid.

So I don’t know how really to address it– all of this (imagine me gesturing broadly at everything)– but I will say that moving forward  I will be using my blog more to voice opinions and shed light on issues that are important to me. There will still be the fun, lighthearted stuff that makes up my life, but you can safely assume that I’ve run out of fucks to give when it comes to voicing my opinions. I do have a lot, and I mean A LOT, of fucks to give about a whole host of issues. When it comes to issues that I give fucks about, it is important to me to get it right. I value research, vetted sources, and established institutions, and this will reflect in the opinions that I share. I can combat the faux news and anti-intellectualism that pervades the internet, but I do have my own web domain and there’s got to be something to that.

Sure, I will probably post “fluffy” stuff too because that’s my life, and while I’m an angry feminist through much of my day, I’m also really excited about Christmas cards and bullet journals. But let’s all stay vigilant and skeptical and woke, yeah?

hat via Zazzle

 

Halloween 2016

I know, I know– now that it’s November 1st, Halloween is so last month, and it’s time to celebrate Christmas for the next 7 weeks. But here’s what Halloween looked like around here:

baby tiger costume dog wonder woman

With C working the entire night and Harry being too young to get much out of trick-or-treating, I thought Halloween would be a dud this year. Surprisingly enough, it ended up being a lot of fun! . Tiger cub Harry conked out too early to see the trick-or-treaters, but only after squealing and giggling at the baby in the mirror wearing an awesome tiger costume. Wonder Woman Khaleesi became he neighborhood darling. With every doorbell ring, she would run out to the front porch to check out costumes and show off hers. And who doesn’t love a gigantic, goofy dog in a super hero costume?

 

Earlier in the day, I taught Harry how to carve a pumpkin. He found it fascinating for about 15 minutes.

 

Our cat Lula was pleased with my pumpkin carving skills, and even she got into the Halloween spirit.

black cat

By 8:30 the neighborhood quieted down, and Harry snuggled with my mother and I to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I’ve got to say, this year turned out to be one of the best Halloweens in recent memory. I hope that you enjoyed yours too!

Oh Hi There.

So, I recently received an email notifying me that it’s time to renew the domain for this site. Truth be told, I did think about ignoring it and writing off blogging as just a thing I used to do. I know that I come back here every few months or so to promise that I’ll write more, but this time I can’t make any promises.

The thing is, I’m a different person now. I’m a mother to the most amazing baby boy, Harry.

3 month old baby pumpkin patch

I have different priorities now.

I often think about writing about those priorities and this new lifestyle that I’m settling in to, but then I find myself and my writing not fitting in to what blogging has become. I don’t want to lug around my DSLR to stage the most Pinsterest-worthy Instagram photo to drive traffic to my blog. I don’t want to turn my posts into click-bait lists. I don’t want to create webinars. I just want to write. And connect.

So why haven’t I? I dunno. I guess if I’m being honest, it’s that nagging feeling of inadequacy. I see other blogs that I used to follow that have become big and successful and make lots of money, and then I’m sitting here covered in spit up and worrying that if I open up WordPress and hit publish, I’ll only embarrass myself. I cringe at some old blog posts I’ve written (and deleted) where I was trying so hard to get people to like and follow my blog, when I was trying so hard to be someone I’m not. So far, the easiest way to avoid that has been to just walk away from the blog.

But I’m back. For now. Maybe next week too, maybe not. But I do promise to be authentic and real and me.

Let’s Have a Heart-to-Heart

So, I know that it seems like every month is “[Fill in the blank] Awareness Month,” including a certain day where you’re supposed to wear a certain color to show your support of that cause. To me, those are always annoying, even if it’s a cause that I do care about. I’m’a wear whatever color I want to, okay? So I’m not going to do that, but I am going to bring attention to the fact that February has been decided as American Heart Month, and while you could  wear red on Friday the 5th, you really don’t have to as far as I am concerned.

What I  do want to see is heart health become a cause that people show as much passion for as breast cancer awareness. We all know that in October you buy pink spatulas to raise money for research and that you’re supposed to feel up your boobs for abnormal lumps.Because breast cancer awareness became such a thing, early detection is on the rise, and the survival rate for stages 1-3 is incredibly high. That’s amazing! So now my wish is for us as a society to focus on what’s beneath those boobies, because that is where the news is not so good  awful.

Heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women in America. That makes it the number one killer of women, more than all cancers combined.

I want to use my blog as a platform to talk about this because this means that it is very likely that at least a few women you know will die from heart disease or stroke. I’m sorry if that’s a little morbid, but it’s a reality we cannot ignore. It hits very close to home for me, because I have several risk factors, including chronic hypertension (high blood pressure) and a father who died young of a massive heart attack. I take medication to manage my blood pressure, but I know that I could be doing more to keep my heart healthy.

I can’t exactly be preachy here, because I need to get my ass off the couch just as badly as the next person. And since I’m pregnant, now is not exactly the time to begin some intense work out routine. What I AM doing is making a focused effort to include more short walks in my day. My fitbit helps to remind me that I need more steps, and so sometimes at work I will take an extra walk around campus to just get some fresh air and get some extra steps. And really, it’s the little things — taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing jumping jacks and squats during the commercials of your favorite show–  the little things that add up in your day. And when I think about how making these activities a habit can add years to my life, well, it’s a no-brainer to me. I want to be around to see as much as possible of my soon-to-be son.

So what I ask of you, you who may be reading this blog, is to look for something that you can incorporate into your daily life to help keep your heart healthy. Taking your dog for a longer walk, riding your bike somewhere, doing lunges while watching tv, dancing around your house while you clean, shoveling snow, hell, even having sex are all good for you. Don’t be afraid to check your blood pressure– remember, data is better than being in the dark. Maybe what I am asking of you is not as sexy at groping our boobs to prevent breast cancer, but remember that there is so much that we can do to change the rate at which heart disease kills women.

 

I Eat Sushi While Pregnant.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: sushi is fucking delicious.

sushi

It’s also full of protein, which I am struggling to add enough of to my diet, and full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are also important for my little guy’s brain development. One night I was craving the shit out of it, so we went to a sushi bar in Seal Beach, and it was one of the best meals I have had since I was pregnant.

But for many people, watching a woman with a baby bump shovel in raw sashimi is a capital offense and a sure sign that she is unfit to be a mother. But why? What is it about sushi, deli meats, soft cheeses, and coffee that are so dangerous for pregnant women that strangers clutch their pearls if they see a pregnant woman in a Starbucks or Subway?

I had to look into this, not because I wanted to justify eating sushi, but because I like to have all of the facts, even the unpleasant ones, so that I can make an informed decision. If you’re like me, there’s an interesting book called Expecting Better that you might enjoy. I don’t agree with her all of the time, but I appreciate her overall approach.

So why is it conventional wisdom that sushi is off-limits for pregnant women? My guess is that it dates back to when sushi was an exotic and weird treat– raw fish???— and the fears of food poisoning from eating raw foods was enough to scare people. This is a little bit legit: food poisoning is no joke, and raw foods can become contaminated with bacteria. Why put yourself at risk of food poisoning?

62ddfe0d9790102baba2a31466859cfe

Well no, not quite.

The thing is, in my opinion, and I stress, in my opinion, food poisoning from quality fish at a reputable restaurant almost never happens. What has happened recently is that Chipotle restaurants, bagged lettuce, and raw cashews have made people very sick. Is that to say that pregnant women should not be allowed to eat salads or burritos? Of course not. It means pay attention and take proper precautions (like washing your lettuce before eating it and paying attention to food recalls). When it comes to raw fish, to me proper precaution means eating at a clean and reputable sushi restaurant. Of course I’m not about to grab some week-old tuna rolls from 7-11. I think pregnant women are smart enough to know the difference between the two.

Sushi isn’t my only sin though. I eat soft cheeses. Gasp! But here’s the thing: I buy cheeses made from pasteurized milk, and even the most alarmist of websites mention that pasteurized cheeses are okay. Where do I buy such magical, pasteurized cheeses? From just about any store that sells cheese. This is fucking America; of course most of the cheese sold is pasteurized. It will say so right on the label; you usually don’t even have to read the ingredients. Now, am I going into that new-agey artisan cheese shop in Silverlake where the hipster employee is offering me a sample of their fresh bleu cheese? Probably not. But that cheese from Trader Joe’s? The one that says “Pasteurized” right in the middle of the label? Hells yes!

I want to pause a moment and remind you that I am (obviously) not a doctor, and that these are just my personal opinions. Every pregnant woman needs to make her own decisions carefully in consultation with her physician. And no, the person selling you essential oils does not count. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician about the rationale behind pregnancy guidelines so that you understand what is at stake.

What may be surprising after all of that is that on some dietary decisions, I can be a little bit conservative. For instance, my doctor told me that he doesn’t care how much caffeine I drink. However, my blood pressure is a major concern right now, and so most days I do limit myself to one cup of coffee a day. That has honestly been the hardest part of pregnancy for me, going through life under-caffeinated. I take it as a guideline though, and remember that guidelines are flexible. Right now I am drinking my second cup of the day because it is Sunday, I’m relaxing, and this is my little treat to myself.  Since there have been no conclusive studies that show negative or positive results of caffeine in humans in pregnancy, I’m going to enjoy that second cup today and not feel guilty.

Now, it seems like these days everyone knows someone who confesses to having a glass of wine here and there during pregnancy. I know plenty of women who did and have healthy, smart babies. It’s just not for me though. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I love me some wine. However, since I became pregnant, it just doesn’t smell good to me. All wine, even good wine, smells like it’s oxidized now. Weird, right? But even when a glass across the room looks appetizing on first glance, on second glance it looks to me like heart burn in a glass. During the holidays I was constantly teased with glasses of champagne, and while I know that one small glass would be okay, I’m honest enough to admit that I don’t want one glass. I want three. And that’s too much. But for women with more self-control than me who want a glass of wine after work: I ain’t judging. Enjoy it.

And that leads me to my last and most important point: quit judging pregnant women for what they put in their mouths, assholes. I’m going to be the etiquette police here for a second and say that it’s never okay to approach a stranger and tell her that she should not be eating something. Unless you witnessed someone tamper with her food and she is about to unknowingly ingest something, it’s none of your business. If  (for some reason) you truly feel compelled to say something, be armed with citations of respected medical studies. Sorry, but homeopathic blogs do not count. Pregnant women have enough that is unpleasant to deal with, and public condemnation from uninformed, self-righteous jerks need not be one of them. Enjoy that sashimi or rare steak, girl. You deserve it.

 

Ch-ch-changes

Wow, so it’s been a while. 3 months to be exact– long enough for me to completely forget my login information for this blog when just tonight I got the itch to post something. I’m not even sure if anyone reads blogs anymore, which honestly makes blogging sound appealing to me once again.

Anyway, my life has changed a lot since I last posted. In fact, just a few days after my last post, this happened:

positive pregnancy test

This happened to me once before with a sad and painful outcome, so this time I spent my first trimester worried sick and actually sick, avoiding social situations as best I could.

But now, as I type this, I am 16 weeks along with a pregnancy that seems to be going well. Just before Christmas we got to see our little guy bouncing around and sucking his thumb! Every few days I look at my stomach in the mirror and play “baby or burritos?” This week I feel confident that the answer is “baby.”

It’s all still very surreal to me, and I’m still trying to tune out all of the what ifs that race through my mind constantly. But don’t you worry, I plan to enjoy this time as much as I possibly can (especially now that I have switched from regular pants to maternity jeans– holy shit, why did no one tell me how amazing they are?!).

Before Remodeling Your Home, You Should Know…

There are a lot of things that happen when you remodel your home that can be frustrating–especially if you are living in said home during the remodel. You will constantly be covered in dust. Completion will take 2 months longer than projected. The costs will continue to climb as you discover things like defects in plumbing, or that you need a new front door since your current one won’t fit with the new floors you put in.  I could go on and on (don’t worry, I won’t), but if you are to remodel your own home, there is one that I need to warn you about:

home remodel cost

Our bedroom and bathroom, with a glass of rose to ease the frustration.

Friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and even minor acquaintances will all have opinions and recommendations on what else you should do to your home. To be sure, they’re all lovely people who just want to help. And it turns out that these people have expensive taste.

So, you’re going to put a Jacuzzi in your backyard then, right?

What about new countertops, when are you doing that?

What you really need to do is replace this with a double oven. Oh and then upgrade all of your other appliances to match.

You’re getting a custom closet system, right? Oh, you’re not?..well I mean, you really should.

I’ve got an idea! What if you knocked out this wall and made this a big open space?

I would expect those suggestions from a contractor, but nope–he’s been very understanding about costs. All of the suggestions are good ones, but it’s what follows that is the most frustrating.

Me: Wellll, maybe, later on. We’re kind of over budget right now.

Them: [shaking head or wincing] I mean, I guess. You really should just splurge for that though. You’re going to regret it. I know so-and-so …[ and what follows is a story of how some person did or bought that expensive thing and loves it, or how some person has fill in the blank and it looks so awful; they should have just spent the money and got fill in the blank.]

For some reason, spending a ridiculous amount of money on your home gives people license to pretty much call you cheap to your face. I cannot tell you how many times the above conversation has continued with me explaining a couple more times that we just cannot afford what they are suggesting, only for them to suggest that we should afford it. (?)

So yes, yes I am going to get those cheaper mirrors from Ikea and no, I’m not buying my dining room table from Restoration Hardware. And if you remodel your own home, remember that it’s you who will live there (and is probably paying for it), and if others don’t like it, they can send you a check.

So Some Things Have Happened.

Oh hi there. Remember me? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Actually, looking back at my blog it looks like I pop in every 3 months or so, so apparently I’m right on schedule to chime in to basically say I’m still here! Pay attention to me and give me all of the comments and likes! (Not really but okay kind of.)

A lot has happened since I walked away from this blog. Many times I’ve wanted to sit down and write about it, to really throw myself back in to blogging. But then I scroll through my Bloglovin’ feed and realize that it’s the same ol’ shit on most blogs–but at least they’re shilling Charmin toilet paper while they’re at it!– and I get bored and discouraged. You can read a more detailed explanation of my feelings on it here.

But then I start itching to write. I start missing the creative outlet that blogging has given me, and I miss the push that blogging gave me to actually be creative, and I think maybe I can go back, and at least make my own blog not as shitty. But tomorrow. I’ll get to it tomorrow, and I’ll write something epic. But tomorrow.

So whatever, it’s now tomorrow 200 times over, and maybe this (probably) won’t be epic, but it will be something.

So yeah, a lot has happened since I stopped blogging, and maybe I’ll write about some of them, maybe I won’t.

I grew a garden. Some of the flowers kicked ass, some didn’t. I grew a lot of vegetables, but only ate about half of them. My dog ate almost all of my tomatoes.

2015-05-02 13.21.32I learned that you can take your dog wine tasting, at least in Paso Robles (my favorite CA wine region). This is obviously a game changer.

We went to Italy by way of Turkey, and it was an amazing trip.

Evidence that I was, indeed, in Venice.

I meant to work out more, but instead I gained probably 10 pounds since this time last year.

We gave up on DIY-ing our home remodel and called in a contractor. It was the best decision, but it’s been the most stressful, frustrating process.

We decided to start a family, I got pregnant, and then I miscarried a few weeks later.

C’s cousin and her dog moved in with us (temporarily).

I started taking Spanish courses at the local community college, pero no le hablo bien. 

And hmm, I felt like there was more than that, but maybe not.

So I can’t guarantee that I will blog every day, week, or even regularly, though I hope to. I really want to share the progress with our home, especially as I decorate. I want to dig into a lot of the topics that I have opinions on. But most importantly, I want to make sure that my blog doesn’t suck. I promise I will not be shilling toilet paper or tampons to make a quick buck.

 

 

In Line at the Grocery Store

Today I was standing in line at the grocery store, staring at the racks of aspirational magazines. This was at Sprouts, so instead of People and US with their tales of celebrity divorces, they have OC Living, Sunset, and Epicurean to make you feel better about yourself for shopping at Sprouts, while reminding you that your neighbors are probably living better than you are.

While I stared at the images of chicly landscaped back yards and scanned over headlines that promised to let you in on the secrets of living better than everyone else, I couldn’t help but feel like I was doing life wrong, just in general. There was an old man in line in front of me, hunched over his shopping cart, wearing a neatly ironed button-down stars and stripes shirt and a red cap. He turned to me, smiled, and broke me out of my haze by asking with a wink, “Boy is there some kind of holiday happening this weekend or something?”

“That’s what I hear, but I’m not sure I believe it,” I replied, winking back.

He leaned in and said, “You know, this will be my 83rd Fourth of July.”

“Wow, nicely done!”

“But what’s even better,” he added, nodding toward his wife who was now at the cashier stand, “We just celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary!”

“Oh wow, congratulations, that’s great!”

“Yeah, she keeps me alive,” he continued grinning.

“Well she deserves a medal for that, doesn’t she.” I winked; he laughed.

He went on to tell me about how they’ve lived in the same home since 1955 when they bought a half acre of land for $12,000. The city had even offered to buy them out, but their children and grandchildren have urged them to keep the home.

“Smart move,” I said, and meant it. A half acre of land in Huntington Beach is worth a lot of money, but even more, you could hear the pride in his voice as he brought up the family and home that he obviously loves very much.

His wife finished paying for their groceries. “It was nice talking to you; have a good weekend!” He said.

“And you have a happy Fourth of July, ” I answered. From his smile I am certain  that he will.

It was then that I realized that the truly aspirational lifestyle couldn’t be found on the magazine covers; it had been standing right in front of me.

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