Thursday, December 18, 2014

5 Things I Would Tell My 5 Year-Old Self

  1. Girls can like the color blue.  Girls can play monster games.  Girls can grow up to be Firefighters and Doctors.  
  2. Your parents love you very very much.  Your parents love you more than you love jumping on a trampoline.  Your parents love you more than you love running through a grass field barefoot.  Your parents love you more than you love ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.  
  3. Different is not bad.  You can have friends who are different from you in all sorts of ways.  
  4. You might sometimes hear your parents fight.  That's OK.  They are communicating with one another.  It doesn't mean they are getting a divorce or that you did anything wrong.  Sometimes, being a grown up is hard.  
  5. If you work hard enough and keep trying, you will get good at whatever you want to be good at.  If your maximum height ends up being 5'2", you probably won't be a professional basketball player, but there's no need to think about that at age 5.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blogging Frequency

My assumption is that no one reads my blog.  I write for myself; It's kind of like my journal.  Maybe my daughter will be interested in reading about what I blogged about at some point.

I enjoy blogging.  It's like my cheap version of therapy.  I should do it more often.  If it matters, here's what's been keeping me from blogging.

  • Family sicknesses.  I think it's all going to be OK, but there's definitely been some health struggles in parts of our family.  I haven't wanted to blog about it, so I've been trying to get through it in other ways.
  • There's been a lot of divorce connected to us in some way.  1 couple in my family, 1 couple in Scott's family, and 2 couples that we're friends with.  Here's what it's made me realize.  Divorce sucks.  Being in a shitty marriage also sucks.  So, while you're in the marriage, try to ensure that the marriage doesn't become shitty.  I think that a lot of it is about momentum.  And, the couple can make things good or can make things bad depending on their actions and words.  
  • Work is challenging these days.  Not my actual work, but our environment and some changes that we're going through.  Again, I think we'll get through it and I don't need to discuss it here, but it's taking a lot of energy.
And, here's an update of what's going on with me these days.
  • Star is an amazing little person.  She's in her last year of preschool.  She's smart, she's social, she's verbal, and she's figuring out how to read and write.  
  • Scott and I are focused on Kindergarten tours and information nights to try and make a good decision about where she should go next year. 
  • I'm proud of my health and weight loss.  I've made some dietary changes and exercise quite a bit and the results have been showing.  I'm happy to be getting more healthy and fit.  I still have a bit to go, but I'm proud.  
Hopefully, now back to some sort of regular blogging schedule.

Camp Mommy 2014

I'm very delinquent in posting about Star's summer vacation.  Here goes...

Over here, you can see a review of Star's 2013 weeks off from preschool.

For 2014, I mixed things up a bit.  I see myself as her camp coordinator.  Kind of like Julie on the Love Boat.  I don't run the Bingo games, but I encourage people to attend the Bingo games.

She had 5 weeks (plus 2 bonus days, but who's counting?) off from preschool.  Here's what we did.

Week 1 - family trip to Portland.  We had a great time.  We stayed in the Pearl District at a fabulously modern hotel.  We took public transportation a lot.  One day, we rented a car and drove about an hour south to visit where I went to Law School.  We saw some of my old professors, and Star picked out my picture out from my class' composite picture.  Then we drove another hour out to the coast, and then up to Tillamoook and spent time at the cheese factory.  It was at that point that Scott remarked that it was now starting to feel like a real family vacation.

Week 2 and 3 - Camp Gan Izzy.  This is a truly amazing camp for those who are Jewish (or not Jewish averse).  They go on adventures.  They do stuff in nature.  They do craft projects.  They cook.  I honestly don't feel like I have as many hours in the day as they do in this camp.

Week 4 - A week of camp at her usual preschool.  This was actually quite badly run.  She was split up from her friends and overall, we were not happy with it.

Week 5 - Head Over Heels gymnastics camp.  Overall, we had a good experience at HOH.  The only problem is that the potties are too high for my vertically challenged daughter.  She'd run to the bathroom, get to the stall, realize that she couldn't get onto the potty, go back to the sink area, get a step stool and drag it back to the potty by which time she's had a complete potty accident.  One day, I packed 3 changes of clothes for her which turned out not to be enough.

She then had 2 bonus days where she did a mix of playdates and time at home.

Next summer, she'll be 5 years old and the summer camp options keep getting better as she get older!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fake Cheesecake Yummy Yums

In the old days (2 years ago?) I would print out recipes and use cookbooks.  Then, I would make notes on my recipes so I'd know what I wanted to do differently next time.

Now, I do almost all of my cooking from Pinterest.  And, I haven't figured out a way to make notes on pinterest recipes.  So, my solution is to write a blog post and then pin this post.  If anyone has a better technological solution, I'd be happy to hear it!

The recipe below is borrowed almost entirely from here with a few of my modifications.  The original recipe called this a cheesecake, but I think that's a bit of a stretch.  They are good, but not like cheesecake.  
Vegan (or almost vegan), Gluten Free, No-Bake
Serves: 12
  • Crust:
  • 1 cup pitted dates (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes then drained)
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds in some combination
  • Filling:
  • 1.5 cups raw cashews, soaked in water 4-6 hours then drained
  • 1 large lemon, juiced (scant 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted.  (I think the combination of the coconut milk and the coconut oil made the flavor too cocunut-like, so I think I would eliminate the coconut oil next time.)
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup honey or agave nectar (Scott feels like honey is healthier than agave nectar.)
  • Optional Flavor Add-Ins:
  • 2 Tbsp salted natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Any other berry
  1. Start this recipe the night before you want to eat it.  The cashews need to soak for 4+ hours.  And, once it is all assembled, the yummy yums need to sit in the freezer for 6+ hours.  
  2. Put crust ingrediants in a food processor and blend until a dough forms - it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. If it's too dry, add a few more dates. If too wet, add more almond or walnut meal. Add a pinch of salt.
  3. Scoop the crust into the muffin cups in heaping 1 Tbsp amounts and press in firmly with fingers. Set in freezer.
  4. Add all filling ingredients to a blender or food processor and mix until very smooth. I did half a recipe at a time.  In the first half, I did the peanut butter add-in and in the 2nd half, I did frozen blueberries.  
  5. Add your add-ins.
  6. Divide filling evenly among the muffin tins. Freeze until hard - about 6+ hours.  Do not skimp on time.  After 4 hours, my peanut putter version was not completely set, but my blueberry version was.  The following morning, they were both fabulously set.  
  7. Once set, get them out by loosening them with a butter knife. 
  8. Transfer the uneaten treats to a pyrex and keep that in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

crib / toddler bed, mattress, mattress cover and sheet set

Our daughter has used this for the past 3 years.  She first used it as a crib with the mattress in the high position, then with the mattress in the low position.  And, then we took the front panel off so it was a toddler bed.

She's now moved on to a big girl loft bed, so we're selling her much loved crib/toddler bed.

Included is:

  • Ikea Gulliver crib -
  • An Ikea mattress
  • 2 mattress covers
  • Custom sheet set from an etsy seller - 2 small pillow cases, 2 fitted sheets and a quilt.  We no longer have the bumper, but you could order one from the same etsy seller.  She's fabulous.
  • 2 small pillows 
The crib is currently disassembled.  It's not in perfect condition.  And, my daughter has added a few stickers which you can probably take off with some effort (Or, you could move the panel that used to be in the front to the back.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Daddy's Boxers Quilt

I love my husband's underwear.  He wears super cute, colorful boxers.  Love love love.

A few years ago, some of his boxers got old and ripped.  He asked me if I wanted them for some craft project.  Yes, I did.

I began envisioning a quilt called Daddy's Boxers Quilt.  I could picture our daughter bringing the quilt with her to college.  But, first I had to make it.

I test-sewed through many designs before I landed on the one that I wanted to execute.  I knew I wanted to incorporate a star motif somehow.  I tried some English paper piecing, but the rigidity of the paper piecing didn't work with the well worn fabrics.

Eventually, I came up with a crazy quilt design with a few stars thrown in.

The back of the quilt has a few more stars that didn't fit with the theme of the front, and it has a fabric that was passed down to me - probably from my great Aunt Ruth.

As for the quilting, I mainly did zig zags on the crazy quilt part with some decorative stitches.  On the orange accents, I did a swirly free motion design.  And, on the stars, I stitched in the ditch, and then echoed that to emphasize the star shape.  

My daughter, Star, loves it.   She loves snuggling under it, touching the fabrics and tracing her finger over my quilted designs.  I still can picture her bringing it to college with her in about 14 years. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm not usually one to complain...

...but it has been quite a bad few weeks.
  • My workplace is struggling.  A lot.  It's a hard environment right now.
  • My dad is sick.  In the hospital.  Long story.
  • There's a bump on the back of my neck that needs to be cut out and sent to pathology.
  • Star and I both had lice.  We had a lice checker come to the house last night to remove the lice from our heads and put a non-toxic spray thing in our hair.
Bring it on, universe.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stitch Fix #2

I updated my post about my first attempt at Stitch Fix so you can see the picture of what they sent me.  I wasn't excited to try them again, but Jenni sounded like she understood me, and she said nice things about my Pinterest board, so I gave them another shot. 

My second box from them was definitely better than the first, but I didn't like anything enough to add any of the pieces to my closet.  Here's what I got.

A black maxi skirt (which is one of the things T+P sent me too!)

A green cardi.  Cute sweater.  I almost kept this, but it was a bit boring and didn't add anything to my existing wardrobe.

A pink(ish) fake leather jacket.  This was kind of awesome, I have to admit.  If I lived a different kind of lifestyle or had a different kind of budget, I would have totally rocked it.  But, I couldn't justify its addition into my life.

A red patterned fake wrap dress.  Again, this was a good try.  But, the slit up the front was so high, I think people could see parts of me which are not work appropriate to show. 

A tribal looking dress.  Cute shape, but I didn't like the tribal pattern.

So, overall, box #2 was way better than box #1, but it still seemed like a waste of time for all of us.  I'm not sure I'll try again. 


Thursday, February 6, 2014

My weight loss journey / Rachel of the Biggest Loser

I'm having success with my weight loss.  I've lost 16 pounds since the middle of October which is about a pound a week.  I think I have about 26 pounds to go; so, if I keep up the pound a week pace, I should be at my healthy weight by Scott's birthday.  

The bad news here is that I've officially become too small to use Gwynnie Bee.  Sad.  (I found a replacement service which I'll talk more about at some point.)

Here's the other bad news.  I hate the fact that I am focusing on my weight right now when I live in a country that is obsessed with weight in an unhealthy way.

As The Biggest Loser likes to say, "obesity is an epidemic in America."  To that, I would add that the opposite of obesity is also an epidemic.

For the past few months, I've been watching Season 15, and have loved seeing the contestants' healthy transformations both with their emotional issues and with their diet and exercise issues.  I was solidly in team Rachel.  She was fit and athletic with a kind heart.  Here's a picture of Rachel when she started on the show at 260 pounds and at makeover week when she weighed 150 pounds.  She's 5'4".  At 150 pounds, I thought she looked beautiful.  I thought that maybe she could lose another 10 pounds or so, but I didn't think that she would be able to win the finale because her competition had so much more weight to lose than she did.

Imagine my surprise when a strikingly gaunt Rachel appeared on stage at the Finale.  She looked unhealthy.  When she weighed in, it was revealed that she weighed 105 pounds.

I am not a nutritionist.  I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a financial planner.  Maybe she did this in a completely healthy way and there's nothing to worry about.  Maybe her methods weren't entirely healthy, but she wanted to win $250,000, so it was worth it to go a bit overboard. 

But, oh my goodness people, what message are we sending?  This does not appear to be healthy.  This should not be viewed as success. 

It seems to me that she traded one disorder for another.  At 260 pounds, she used food for comfort and didn't exercise at all.  Now, at 105, she uses her control over food for comfort, and exercises obsessively.  Her behaviors are still problematic.  They are just differently problematic.  I hope her journey is not yet done.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter Camps

Y'all know how passionate I got about arranging Star's 4 weeks off in August.  So, it would make sense that I would get equally passionate about her 2 week winter break.

But, no.  For some reason, I didn't put near the same amount of passion into figuring out her December time off as I did her summer time off.

Week 1 - I had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off for "the winter holidays", but let's be honest - it was for Christmas.  If they wanted to give me time of for Hanukkah they would have done it a month earlier!  Political/religious rant aside, Star and I had some fun adventures together.  On Wednesday, Scott also took the day off and we had family adventures.  We drove down to Burlingame to check out a playground which came highly recommended that we hadn't been to before.  And, the playground lived up to the hype.  There was a really long slide which both Star and I were too scared to go on, but Scott did it.  There were various climbing things and bouncy things.

After the playground, we played bocce and Star rode her bike around.  A park ranger was driving around, hopefully getting paid extra for working instead of being with her own family.  She called out to us, "Merry Christmas!"  "You too!!", my husband and I called back enthusiastically.  Then, she said to Star, "Did Santa bring you good stuff?"  Star looked at her like she was crazy.  In that situation, I'm never sure what to do.  I don't want to make the person asking feel bad, she was only trying to be nice.  But, I also don't want to be dishonest.  So, as nicely as I could, I said, "Santa doesn't come to our house."  She then made a friendly comment about the weather and drove off.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Star was with my parents, and Scott and I worked.  Saturday afternoon, I picked her up, and then we actually had a babysitter come over so Scott and I could go to a housewarming party.  We hadn't been to a party together without Star in a while!

Sunday and Monday, cousins visited.  They have a daughter who is 6 months younger than Star.  Star and she get along wonderfully well and look similar!  We visited them in LA a while back.  We went to the Steam Trains and had a nice time together.  

Week 2 - This was the week that could have been a disaster but turned out not to be.  I had planned for Star to be with one of her classmates at a nanny share.  But, I misunderstood the whole plan, and Star was going to be taking the place of her classmate's younger brother in the nanny share while the family went out of town.  So, Star was stuck there with a super young kid for 1 day.  It was awful for her.  I left work early to pick her up.

She was supposed to be with the nanny share for 2 more days, but Scott and I weren't going to put her through that.  So, we signed her up for Camp Gan Izzy at the last minute and Star loved it.  It's run through our local Chabad and they definitely have some motives about exposing kids to Orthodox Judaism, but that's fine with us!  They went on super fun adventures (Marine Mammal Museum, Jelly Belly Factory).  At the end, they presented the kids with a framed photograph of their whole group together.  This was for a 3 day camp.  It was really amazing.  Star loved it. 

Tog and Porter #1

At the same time I was trying Stitch Fix and Gwynnie Bee, I also signed up with Tog and Porter (T&P).  T&P is similar to Stitch Fix with 2 main differences: (1) you don't have to pay them any money unless you keep something they send you, and (2) in addition to filling out an online style profile, you also have a skype conversation with your personal style fairy.

I found the skype convo to be quite awkward.  My stylist looked all cute and professional sitting at her desk where I looked shlumpy and exhausted on my bed.  It didn't feel like I was chatting with a long lost friend.  It felt like I was wasting time.  I'm not sure I told her anything by skype that I couldn't have said by email or in some other online way.

Anyway, I again described my style as Boho.  She asked if that was a style that I wanted to keep.  When I said yes, she sounded somewhat disappointed.  I then told her that I love all colors - orange, pink, greens...  She squealed with excitement and said, "oh, this is going to be fun!" 

While my T&P style fairy was picking clothes for me, Stitch Fix box #1 came and was horrible, so I wrote an email to my T&P style fairy with comments about the pieces I got in the hopes that my comments would help her put together a better box.  She said that my comments were super helpful and she expressed excitement that she was going to be the one to turn this around for me!

I felt hopeful.

My T&P box came and it was horrible.  I was supposed to get 5 or more items, and I only got 4.  Strike #1.  I got:
  • Khaki pants.  Boring color.  Not boho.  
  • A grey t-shirt dress.  Boring.  Not work appropriate.  Not playground appropriate.  I don't have any other occasions.
  • A black maxi skirt.  Boring.  And, I really don't need another black skirt in my closet.
  • A blue sweater which looked like a bathrobe on me and which shed sneeze producing angora.  
I sent an email to my T&P style fairy which felt like a break up letter.  After a few days of not hearing from her, I followed up with another email because I didn't want to keep these clothes too long or I would be charged for them!  She said that we should have another skype convo where I could try on all the items in front of her and we could discuss each of them.  I told her that I wasn't interested in that.  She wanted to stay true to the integrity of the process and have a skype convo.  I again said no.

In the end, we didn't have a skype convo, I sent everything back, and I told her that I may try T&P again down the road.

Meanwhile, back in my closet, I really need some new clothes!  I resorted to my tried and true consignment stores around the bay area. 

Stitch Fix #1

Stitch Fix is a different kind of service than Gwynnie Bee.  You fill out a style profile where you tell them your height, weight, sizes; you see pictures of clothes and you tell them if you like them or not; you can link to your social networks; and you can write up a brief narrative.

I basically told them that I love the boho style and colors (not tan, black...)

Then you schedule a "fix" (which costs $20) and some style fairy goes out into the world and collects things for you.

My first fix from them totally sucked.  I hated every piece. I didn't take pictures of me in the pieces because it really wasn't worth it.  I got:
  • A preppy swingy skirt in navy polka dots.  I love polka dots, but it was a preppy nautical style which isn't my thing.  And, the huge skirt was not at all flattering.  Note to self: get straight or slight a-line skirts. 
  • A dress which buttoned all the way down.  I specifically told them that things that button all the way down are not flattering on me, and unfortunately, this dress proved me right.
  • 3 tops all in boring neutrals.  2 with super wide dolman sleeves which made me feel like flapping my wings.
Horrible horrible horrible.  I sent everything back with detailed comments about why each piece didn't work for me.

I didn't hear anything back.

So, I followed up with an email, and then I received a nice response from Jenni (one of the style fairies) who offered to credit my $20 towards my next fix and she would be my next stylist.  I took her up on her offer. 

Stay tuned for Stitch Fix #2...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gwynnie Bee

As soon as I heard about personal shopping/subscription box services a few months ago, I was instantly all in.  I generally hate shopping and if someone can do it well for me, I'll totally pay them!

So far, I've tried 3 of these kinds of services.  I'm joining the chorus of bloggy reviews of subscription boxes.  Here are my thoughts about Gwynnie Bee (GB).

GB targets size 10 and up.  The bad news is that because of my weight loss, I'm almost too small for their service.  Hooray for weight loss, but boo because I might be losing GB.

Overall, I love GB.  They operate like the classic Netflix model.  You choose a plan (1 garment at a time, 2 garments at a time...); you select specific garments that you want sent to you, and then you start getting garments (but not necessarily in the order that they appear in your list.)  When you send a garment back to GB after wearing it many times or no times, another garment gets sent to you. 

Before they send your next garment to you, you get an email letting you know what is on its way.  This eliminates any element of surprise which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective.

One thing to note is that GB seems to frequently take garments out of circulation.  So, suddenly some items may disappear from your list.  I think it's good that GB gets rid of stuff that has been worn too much or has had complaints about it, but it's somewhat frustrating if I was excited about getting an item and then it completely disappears from my list.

Another negative for me is that they are really targeting the plus size market.  They have some items in size 10, but nothing smaller than 10, and some of their garments start at size 0x or larger.  I should be thankful that this is my problem, right?

One thing I love about GB is that there is an active group of GB subscribers who write honest reviews about the garments they've received.  This makes is much easier to get a full perspective of the garment and its true size/color/fit instead of just relying on how the pretty model looks in it. 

If you have a GB item at home, you can choose to buy it.  One of the GB items I have right now is a black sweater/jacket thing which I've worn once; I'll wait a few weeks before wearing it again and then send it back.  This sweater/jacket retails for $238; the one I have at home has been worn a bunch and they'll sell it to me for $120.92.  I'll pass on buying it, but it's nice to wear a few times!

So far, I've received 7 GB items.  Three I returned right away without wearing them.  One of those was a short sleeved spring time dress which I received in the middle of winter.  It was my fault because I should have put it on my "on hold" list which is good for seasonal items you want to receive in a different season.  One was a shimmery t-shirt which would have been appropriate for New Year's, but I received after New Year's.  And, one of them the cut made me look like I was wearing a huge tent.  The others, I've worn a few times before sending back.

I love GB.  It's a great service to make my closet seem deeper than it is without investing too much money. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Household Helpers

The title of this post feels so ostentatious somehow.  But, truthfully, I could not live my life without the help we pay for.

(1) We have a cleaning service that comes every other week.  The do deep cleaning, sweep, mop, dust, clean the kitchen, toilet, and shower.  They don't do dishes.  If I unintentionally leave anything dirty in the sink, they will intentionally ignore it.  The only straightening they do around the house is that they make Star's bed and line up all her little stuffed animals.  They seem to love that.

(2) My husband and/or I cook dinner only a few nights a week.  The other nights, we use SpoonRocket, OneLessThing, or Munchery.  I enjoy cooking - I really do - but with the time pressure of getting it on the table at a certain time so we can all eat as a family and let our daughter get to bed by 7pm, cooking from scratch is not going to happen most days of the week. 

(3) We pay people to finish getting Star ready in the morning and walk her to school 4 days a week.  Generally I have two people doing this job - each of them takes 2 days a week.  Having two people in this role gives me security; if one of them is busy or sick (or quits!), then the other one can hopefully step up a bit.  The people in this position gets to our house at 7:30 in the morning.  When they drop her off at school, the helper signs her in, and sends us a text (ideally with a picture) saying that everything went fine.  This is probably the most crucial job for our family right now.  Star's school starts at 8:30am, and not a minute earlier.  So, if I take her to school, I generally am not "free" until 8:45 after I check her in, say hi to her teachers and the other parents.  Then, I wait for the bus, then BART and get to work by 10am.  That's too late.  I like my workday to start by 8:30am, so I can end the day on the earlier side and spend evening time with my family.  We are currently interviewing for this position.  We loved 1 of our morning people last semester and she was going to stay with us this semester, but she changed her school schedule at the last minute and now we're scrambling to get these roles filled again. 

(4) Nannies and Babysitters.  I rarely pay for a babysitter.  We are really lucky because my parents live close by and they willingly spend a lot of time with Star, and we are in a babysitting coop.  But, I'll happily pay for a babysitter if neither of those usual options are available.  When I do hire someone, I'll use one of our morning helpers, or a nanny that we used in the past. 

Having all of these services lined up lets my husband and I both work full time, and frees up some of our non-work hours to spend with each other (when we're not grocery shopping, paying bills, arranging playdates, exercising, and seeing our own friends!)