Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

Henry David Thoreau


Please resist the urge to kick me out of the blogosphere, but I have to say it: there is way too much pumpkin this year. (hiss, boo!) It's been steadily rising in popularity for years (I blame Starbucks and their unnaturally orange latte), but for goodness sake.

Trader Joe's has two endcaps and much of the baking section devoted to pumpkin-flavored foods. Pumpkin Trader-O's, four varieties of pumpkin crackers, pumpkin mixes up the wazoo, pumpkin butter, even pumpkin dog biscuits. Then I went to Target and found pumpkin marshmallows, pumpkin frozen treats, even more baking mixes, and pumpkin Pop-Tarts.

I have a mantle covered by an assortment of pumpkins and even more along our front walkway. I love pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin-scented candles. This year I fell in love with a pumpkin latte for the first time. (Thanks to a local coffee shop that makes their own mix. Which contains actual pumpkin. What a novel idea.)

I'm all aboard the pumpkin train. Chooo-choooo!

But this is getting out of control, says me.

The whole novelty of pumpkin flavors in the fall is being watered down by a plethora of shit products just for the sake of cashing in on a trend. (To be fair, not all of them are shit.) I'm getting burned out. Modern consumerism is sucking the joy out of pumpkin for me.   

What happened to the enjoying a stack of pumpkin pancakes; pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving; an occasional latte when the mood strikes; and a nice loaf of pumpkin bread? What happened to making said bread and pie from actual pumpkin rather than just adding water to the contents of a box?

I say we take back pumpkin! Allow it to regain its integrity! Just say no to pumpkin-flavored high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil and bleached white flour.

(Unless you disagree which is fine, too.)

(Stepping off soapbox.)

 
P.S. I'll let you know how the pumpkin Rice Krispies treats turn out. (You would have bought the marshmallows, too.)

P.P.S. Photos taken at a recent visit to the pumpkin patch.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Keeping a fiddle leaf fig (alive).


If you remember, in early September I bought a fiddle leaf fig tree. Me, the girl who has historically managed to kill just about anything green. (With the exception of an airplane plant, which lived but grew barely an inch in 5 years.)

I've come to understand something about myself: I love greenery in my home and yard, but I strongly dislike futzing with plants. Weeding, pruning, and considerable upkeep just don't suit me.

Our last house was north-south facing, and therefore got little direct sunlight, so most plants petered out after a short period. Never mind the 8 month long winters. And so, even the hardiest plants didn't stick around for long.

After we moved, I was craving hominess. I wanted color. I wanted my house to feel like a home; an extension and representation of who we are. I wanted to stop holding back when it came to my dwelling. So I set aside my apprehension and started planting.

Every trip to IKEA involved a new succulent or small houseplant. One fateful day I made the leap to bigger plants and picked up the fiddle leaf fig who would come to be affectionately known as "Marvin". (Kiddo has a knack for naming all living things.) It was beautiful and unique and I was so excited to have a punch of green in the corner of our dining room.

Until I did a little research. I had inadvertently purchased a trendy and oh-so particular plant.

I steeled myself for the inevitable shedding of leaves and drooping stem.

Only, it didn't come. In fact, I am almost two months in to caring for this plant, and it is thriving. Two weeks ago I noticed the first emerging leaf, which has since grown over 16 inches. A couple days ago, two more made an appearance.


So what's the secret? How have I not killed it? It's a plant native to tropical rainforests, and I live in the Pacific Northwest. It's been chilly, rainy and the sun makes few appearances. I'm certainly no expert in the area of tropical plants, but as a reformed black thumb I have a few insights into what works. In fact, my plethora of small to medium size succulents have received similar care and are growing like gangbusters.

  • First and foremost: use good potting soil. I chose Nature's Care by Miracle-Gro. This particular soil is organic, meant for container plants, and helps prevent over- and under-watering. Is it possible my fig could have thrived with plain old potting soil? Perhaps. But I take help where I can get it.
  • Get the right size pot. I mentioned the fiasco I went through after first buying the plant, which required a return visit to the store to buy a pricey ceramic pot, a dolly, and a water tray. In the end I'm glad I didn't try to jam it into the small original pot. I realize that, for at least the first couple years, I'll have to upgrade to progressively larger pots. I suppose that's just the nature of the beast.
  • Be "consciously neglectful". I have only watered the plant twice since I've had it; approximately once a month. I don't move it around a lot or fuss over it. I make sure it isn't directly over a vent when the heat or air conditioning are on, and ensure it gets plenty of direct sunlight. Some articles I've read said they don't like to be rotated, but that hasn't been true for me. 
  • Watering: if the soil feels dry (I insert a finger an inch into the potting soil to check), I take note and wait a couple more days. With the help of one of the boys (it's awkward and heavy), I take it onto the back patio and water it thoroughly with a plain old garden hose until it begins to drain underneath. Then I leave it outside for a bit so it's not dripping when we bring it back into the house. 
  • Fertilizing: on the days I watered (two, so far), I mix up some all-purpose plant food (1/2 tsp of food dissolved in one gallon of tap water) and fertilize all my houseplants. Whatever is left, usually about a quart, goes in the fiddle leaf fig.
  • Dust the leaves. I'm going to admit, I was super resistant to this at first. It felt high-maintenance, and well, you know how I feel about that. But the truth is, I'm pretty fond of this plant. I'm also trying to amend my ways. So twice now, I've wiped down the leaves with a damp microfiber cloth. It takes about 5-10 minutes and I think of it like dusting any surface in my home. 

There you have it. Despite all the fear-mongering about fiddle leaf figs, mine has proven itself to be pretty hardy. No diva-like behavior here. (Though winter is approaching.)

I'm pleased as punch to have it in my house. Marvin is fun, pretty, and makes me happy. If someone asked my opinion on owning a fiddle leaf fig tree, I'd say go for it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

This + That

Fact: Portland has very pretty rain.
The acquisition of new basket hardly calls for its own blog post. (And implies a certain level of self-indulgence.) But! When you have a new basket + a date with your husband + soup, well, that's a legit post. (Says I, the self-indulgent one.)

A post that will likely bore my lovely readers to death, but nevertheless a post. And so.


Last Friday Kiddo had a cross country meet just south of Portland. We didn't realize going in that it wasn't just the usual 2-4 teams competing, but an invitational with almost 2000 kids. We watched his race, showered him with praise, and got ready to leave. He wanted to take the bus back so he could stick around and cheer on his teammates, and we found ourselves with a few hours of child-free time. The traffic was brutal, as it often can be, so we headed into the city and bebopped around. On a friend's suggestion, we visited Kelley Point Park, a lovely place along the Columbia River. We also stopped for a drink and some snacks at a very cool pub. (The blackberry cider is a rather religious experience.)

As Kiddo gets older, more and more of these child-free opportunities present themselves. Although I miss his little guts when he's gone, it's nice to feel like an adult. No whining from the backseat, or choosing a restaurant based on the wants of a picky-eater; the ability to linger in the places of my choosing... it's nice. And freeing in a way I'd forgotten.


After ordering a big bowl of Tom Kha Gai from a local Thai restaurant last week, my deep-seeded love for this soup was reignited. I've been trying to nail a homemade version for years, but things like kaffir lime leaves and galangal are non-existent in rural New England. This week I got my hands on all the ingredients, and set about finding the best version. After hybridizing several recipes, and making two batches in as many days, I think I've nailed it. Check plus for Sarah.


Next up: figuring out how to make this hibiscus tea. (Just call me Martha.)


We have some seriously good friends. The kind that remember how much I lusted after the Ghana baskets at the farmers market. Friends who drive all the way down to said farmers market and brave heinous traffic just so I have a lovely vessel for carrying around my purple carrots on Saturday mornings. I came home from an all-day CPR class last weekend to find this beauty on my kitchen table. Great friends, indeed.


I wish I could be Vista for a week. It seems like a nice life.


I'm the weirdo that wants to steal all the apothecary jars full of depressors and swabs from the doctor's office. I'm also the weirdo that opts for a photograph instead, for fear of getting billed for the stolen jars. (I'm pretty sure they charge my insurance like fifty bucks per long Q-tip. Also, did they have to write "tongue depressors" on the jar? Shouldn't a doctor be able to suss that out for himself? Kiddo and I also had a debate about ear curettes. You're not even supposed to shove a normal size Q-tip in your ear let alone something you could make kebobs on. See? I'm a weirdo.) Thank goodness I've been called to work in healthcare.

My friend Natalie reminded me about the Meyer & Briggs personality test. I took it several years ago for a psychology class, but hadn't thought about it since. I'm so glad she reminded me. I took it and, per usual, it totally pegged me. (I'm a INFJ.) According to them, my career goals are perfectly suited to my personality type. This personality test also summed me up with amazing accuracy.

P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit I wrote this post late last week. In the land of blogs, this stuff is old news. But this lazy bag of bones hasn't written any new material. My mind has been elsewhere and I fell into a quiet, rainy, introspective week where nary a word was written.Thoughts are currently being organized and re-thunk, so next week should yield something profound. Maybe. (I like a good buildup.)

And so.


Friday, October 17, 2014

High Five for Friday: Giving Thanks

Don't let the title confuse you: this is not a Thanksgiving post. (Is it November? What day is it again?)

It was one of those weeks, with a Friday morning that was the icing on the proverbial cake. The universe is just trying to keep me humble. I get it.

And you know what? Those hard parenting weeks make the less eventful ones seem easy peasy. (Also, a note to all the internet advice-givers: when someone googles nosebleed + mattress + how to, they aren't looking for "You should have used a mattress pad!" It's even less appreciated at 5:30a.)

No, it's simply one of those times when I feel the need to take stock; to review all the little things that make life good. The things you look forward to after Kiddo goes to bed. The first-cup-of-coffee-in-the-morning kind of things. Because they add up.

Commence glass half full thinking.


I found a new hair stylist! If you recall, I got overwhelmed by all the salons on Yelp, couldn't decide, and went about cutting my own hair. It turned out quite alright in the end, but when you need a big change, you go to a professional. (You have to draw the line somewhere, I suppose. Also, you probably shouldn't use fabric scissors to chop your locks. But hey.) And so I'm several inches lighter and feeling much more fancy free. She made the cut (see what I did there), so next up: a dye job. Let's do this right.

http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/pretty-little-liars

I am obsessed with Pretty Little Liars. When it premiered a few years ago, I remember thinking I should watch it. Last Sunday, feeling a little bored, I decided to give it a go. And in what can only be described as a bout of binge-watching, I nearly made it through the first season. As soon as Kiddo is tucked in for the night, I try and sneak in a couple more episodes. Bedtime be damned! A small part of me wonders if I'm a 14-year old masquerading as an adult, while the remaining 95% thinks this fanaticism is totally legit. 

Netflix is, like, totes ma goats earning its keep this month. (Slap me.)


Thank goodness joggers came into my life this month. It took a while to find the right fit for me (returns by mail = gah!), but I got there. Styling them, however, has proved trickier. The other day, while out and about running errands, I passed a store mirror and realized I looked like I had set out for the day still wearing my pajamas. Not cute and a little embarrassing. I'm working on it. This jogger styling tutorial was timely. [In case you were wondering, I bought the zip-pocket track pants and colorblock track pants, both from Gap. Size down!]


I was so bummed to find that a couple of my records skipped badly, including the one with our wedding song. (Which took over a year to find. That's what you get when you choose a lesser known Van Morrison song from an obscure 1989 album that is out of print. But I digress.) Mario, aka The World's Best Husband, bought me a new record player for my birthday. It turns out my old junk store player was to blame in all but one case. (Thank goodness!)


The first hour of the Today is kind of nice. No frills or commercial breaks every 90 seconds, just the news. In a casual way. More than anything, I was up and functional before dawn which made me feel like a member of some exclusive club. I enjoyed the ritual of it more than anything. I don't know if a tiger can change her stripes, but when it come to being a morning person, but I'm sure trying.

Also, TGIF. For reals.

{Linking up with Lauren}

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thoughts on letting go (of the small stuff).


 Last night, as I was doing those last few things to close up shop before bed, I thought Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday. We all have those weeks when we wonder how Friday didn't come two days ago. As was the case for me.

Mario is in San Francisco this week, attending a conference for work. That lucky duck is getting inspiration from the likes of Tony Robbins and Will.i.am. Oh, and never mind the Bruno Mars concert. Sometimes I wonder if we live in the same universe.

In the meantime, I've been holding down the fort here on planet Earth. It's been a melancholy week weather-wise; I'm getting a feel for the typical Pacific Northwest climate. Not too cold and a little rainy (but seldom a downpour) with periods of sunshine. Last night I slipped on wool socks for the first time, but the heat remains off... for now.

About a week ago, Kiddo took a tumble during an after school activity and hit the back of his head. After becoming quite ill on Tuesday, we learned he likely has post-concussion syndrome. The symptoms should subside in the next week or so, but it meant a whole day devoted to finding out what was wrong while working to get him better. For those moms with school-age kiddos, you understand how having one home sick can throw off the whole week. Most importantly, though, he's okay.

Since taking a step back, and making the choice to stop sweating the small stuff, life has felt a lot calmer. The transition from perpetually fretful to zen hasn't been as easy as making a declaration to do so. It takes effort and involves frequent, but much shorter, relapses.

Have all the boxes been checked and the question marks converted to periods? Not even close. But I'm making the conscious decision to go with the flow. Though zen isn't synonymous with leaving things to chance. Far from it. But I spend a lot less time trying to force things, which usually backfired in the productivity department anyway.

Am I still going to finalize my post-collegiate resume? Absolutely! Am I going to apply for the jobs I want, even if scoring them may be a bit of a stretch? Yes! I fully intend to put myself out there. But I'm not going to ruminate and stress over the fact that I didn't get my resume finished this week. Or that I didn't apply for a single position.

Taking care of a sick kiddo is far more important; there's simply no contest. And I feel quite accomplished in my ability to be there for him when he needed me. In the fact that I single-parented a sick kiddo.

I can see the silver lining rather than the laundry list of things that didn't get done. (I think there's still carpet sunder all that dog fur.)

Baby steps.



Monday, October 13, 2014

An attitude adjustment is in order.


After getting real with myself last week, I've come to a place of quiet calm. In talking with Husband, he make me realize something: getting to stay home while I figure out what's next is a luxury few are afforded. I don't have to toil away at an in-between job while I take care of Kiddo, rewrite my resume, search for work, build a grad school application, and study for the GREs.

I have a husband who regularly tells me to do whatever it is that makes me happy. And he means it. I can go back to CrossFit or try pilates. I can take a photography or pottery class and explore my creative side. I can start a new blog about the trials and tribulations of getting into grad school. Just the other day he told me we could move again so I can pursue a graduate degree in Marine Biology. I can do whatever it is I choose to do without the constraints placed on so many moms.

I am fortunate, and I try not to let that fact slip by unnoticed. To let it get lost in the minutia of the day-to-day. But I do anyway. The world is my oyster and I've no right complaining. Which I have been doing a lot of the past few years.

On Saturday I attended an all-day CPR class for health professionals. It's required for my grad school application, and a must-have for the healthcare jobs I am searching for. It made sense to be proactive, forgo a Saturday, and get it out of the way.

As I sat there, chatting with my classmates during breaks, I came to realize just how many options I have to consider where others do not. There was a young single mom who settled for a short tech program because she needed a decent paying job fast. And a 20-year veteran dental assistant who was bored in her current position and looking for more. More education and more mental stimulation. Then there was the lady who was unable to bend over far enough to administer rescue breathing and couldn't continue. She was there as a condition of employment and I've wondered ever since if it cost her a job she wanted and needed. (Not to mention the embarrassment of being asked to leave in the middle of class.)

I have a million potential directions to go and it's not too late to try any of them. It's just a matter of deciding which fork in the road to take when I reach it.

I never thought I'd be that mopey person who sees daily existence as her lot in life; something that holds me back rather than frees me to be anyone I want to be. (The latter being the truth.) I've become quite miserable over the past few years, and I'm actively working to change that.

Admitting that I have a bad attitude is hard. Humbling. Embarrassing. And while I don't walk around with a frown on my face, I am often one spilled glass of oj or stubbed toe away from being a sourpuss. Weeks can go by and I feel happy. Optimistic. Chill. But simmering under the surface is a nugget of resentment, frustration, and annoyance just waiting to rear its ugly head. I keep score more often than I'd like to admit.

And while I know that much of our outlook and personality is determined in our first few months of life, I also know that the way I've been acting is not indicative of the true me. Being mopey is contrary to who I am as a person. It doesn't feel normal to be a curmudgeon. When I'm light and happy and let the little things roll off my back... that feels like I'm wearing the right skin.

I probably can't make myself an extrovert. Or Type B. Or anxiety-free. Fundamentally, that's who I am. But the attitude that things are perpetually hard? That can be changed. It's time to act the way I want to feel. To see the opportunity that is all around me as opposed to closed doors.

I think back to a time when, logically, things were harder. I was balancing a lot, my personal finances were highly unstable, I lived in a tiny apartment, and I had zero idea who I was or what I wanted out of life. And you know what? I used to wake up to the flutter of excitement in my belly every morning. I loved my (entry-level) job. I would wake up at 6a on a Saturday and go grocery shopping because I liked the ritual of shopping in a quiet store with a latte in hand. I exercised almost every day after an 8+ hour shift and was happy with my body as a result. I worked with people I liked and had a well-balanced and fulfilling life.  

How is that possible? I often wonder. I had almost nothing compared to what I have now, and yet I was happier. Why? Because I was grateful for what I had and saw the potential in almost everything.

I'd like to find that girl again. Because she's still in there.

And because I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in all of this, I'm starting a new blog series based on this desire to be happier and more fulfilled where I am now. I'll be talking about the aspects of building a better life. I am obviously no expert on the matter, but I'm positive I share many of the same concerns as other moms, wives and employees. I'm also sure I can learn from you and you can learn from me.

I'll make mistakes and have mopey days along the way, but the end goal is to unveil a better version of myself. To see the silver lining more often than not. To hold myself accountable to this new mindset.

First order of business: think of a name. Finding Fulfillment, Living in the Now, Look on the Bright Side, and Project Silver Lining are contenders. (I'm terrible at naming things.)


[Linking up with Kimberlee, Leeann, and Christina]

Friday, October 10, 2014

High Five for Friday: Birthday Edition

 

Today is my birthday! I have a more thought-provoking post about turning a year older waiting in the wings, but today I intend to focus on the rainbows, butterflies and fifteen million Facebook birthday wishes. (Does anyone else forget they have more than five FB "friends" until they all start showering you with messages one day a year?)

I don't tend to make a big thing of my birthday. There are no "birth month" celebrations or fancy parties. This morning I took Kiddo to school, had pancakes with a stellar man named Mario, and got my official Washington driver's license. I also inquired about a haircut to touch up my diy chop job. Later, later!, we have an out-of-town cross-country meet and a couple of errands. I clearly know how to party.

Some of my favorite days, my most memorable days, are those normal-ish ones spent with the boys. Days where I ignore the dog hair tumbleweeds rolling across the kitchen floor and order pancakes and a mocha without a single pause to consider their calorie content. Where I buy a pair of boxers Husband doesn't need because they have robots on them or a book just because I like the cover, even though they are destined to land on the bottom of a drawer or at the end of my rather large literature queue. A day where I buy the superfluous bottle of lotion just because it smells like cupcakes.

I have a feeling today is going to be one of those days.


Last weekend I let Husband drag me into the Apple Store in downtown Portland. I was all My phone is fine! and he was like It's archaic! Upgrade already! I don't swap out my electronics very often, clinging to them well into their geriatric years. I'm quite fond of my 6-year old laptop and was still smitten with my 4-year old iPhone 4. (The salesman, upon laying eyes on it, actually exclaimed Oooh myyy!) But, well, an iPhone 6 made its way into my hand and the rest is history. It turns out it shouldn't take four minutes to transfer a photo from VSCO to Instagram. Who knew? (Though I'm still unsure about the camera. It's like those HDTVs that make everything look like a BBC program. I'm so uncool.)


Misty mornings are pretty darn magical. Until this week, I had yet to experience a proper Pacific Northwest fog. Yesterday, after waving goodbye to Husband and Kiddo, I walked out to the end of the driveway only to become convinced I was in a Harry Potter movie. You may send all correspondence to: 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, England.


Every once in a while it's necessary to put aside your grain-free diet for the sake of pancakes. Because life without pancakes is no life at all. Also, blueberry + oatmeal pancakes must be good for you.


The realization that you have crow's feet (or a crow's toe, as it were) on the eve of your birthday could be a lot to take in, I suppose. I'm actually rather smitten with it. I think it makes my smile look more genuine.


Mario has been working from home this week, which has meant mornings spent drinking coffee over our respective computers. I really never get tired of hanging out with this guy—even after all these years.

 {Linking up with Lauren}