Fall Cocktail Time.

November 25, 2012

I miss trying new cocktail recipes.  Heck, I miss DRINKING new cocktail recipes.  So I tried something different the other day.  It's from the November issue of Bon Appetit.  It's called a Fall Classic and it is a warming, just sweet enough cocktail that won't completely knock you off your feet (you may need two or three is that is what you are looking for.....)  Try it sometime soon!  It won't disappoint.

The Fall Classic 

1/2 cup sugar
15 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons apple brandy (such as Calvados or Laird's)
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons fresh apple cider
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 dash of Angostura bitters
Dried or fresh apple slice (optional)

Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove pan from heat; add thyme sprigs and let syrup cool completely (a clear thyme flavor should come through). Discard thyme sprigs. (Leftover thyme simple syrup will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add 1 tablespoon thyme simple syrup, apple brandy, and next 4 ingredients. Shake cocktail vigorously 10-15 times and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with apple slice, if desired.

"Sing, Cause You Don't Know How to Say It."

November 13, 2012

Hi there, Internet friends.  I hope life is good.  For the past couple of months, I have felt a little bit like life is spinning pretty crazy.  Not all good, not all bad.  Just a lot of life stuff right now.  The kids are growing and thriving.  B and I are healthy and are enjoying the little rascals.  Friends have had new babies and yet....2 people I know have passed away in the past month.  One was my grandfather (just shy of his 94th birthday) and the other a beautiful 42 year old mother of a sweet and darling 6 year old girl.

It shakes one up to say the least and I have cried my fair share of tears, but I have felt oddly peaceful in these days.  Sort of groundless, but OK.  Does that make sense?  I know I feel most connected to other people during times like these and I have witnessed some beautiful, loving gestures made to me and others.  Somehow those gestures help make just a little sense of what goes on in this life.

This could be the first time that I have experienced this sort of peacefulness at a time like this.  I am grateful and I hope it continues.  But I have been at a loss to talk about some of these things.....not because I have been stunned or paralyzed by sadness, but more because, seriously, what is there to say about a 6 year old little girl who loses her mom to a long and painful battle with breast cancer?

I have had this song on constant repeat since I heard it on Kim's blog.  I think it says and sounds exactly as I have been feeling.  (I'm pretty sure you won't get the intended effect if you don't listen to it in your car by yourself SUPER loud.....just saying'...)  Oh, and I dare you to not feel better after listening to it.

Because I always like having the lyrics:

There's been a lot of talk of love
But that don't amount to nothing
You can evoke the stars above
But that doesn't make it something

And the only way to last
And the only way to live it
Is to hold on when you get love,
And let go when you give it.. give it.

It's a pretty melody
It might help you through the night time
But it doesn't make it easy
To leave the party at the right time

If I'm frightened, if I'm high
My weakness please forgive it
At least I hold on when I get love,
And I let go when I give it.

What do I do when I get lonely
What do I do?
Hold on when you get love,
What do I do when I get lonely
What do I do?
Let go when you give it.

The world wont listen to this song
And the radio wont play it
But if you like it sing along
Sing 'cause you don't know how to say it

Take the weakest thing in you
And then beat the bastards with it
And always hold on when you get love,
So you can let go when you give it.. give it.. give it.

What do I do when I get lonely
What do I do?
Hold on when you get love
What do I do when I get lonely
What do I do?
Hold on when you get love
What do I do?

I know it's true, please don't think I do
Nothing that you say or do will make you love me
Forget the song, things will go on
I keep seeing you from the dark with you above me

I know it's true, please don't think I do
Nothing that you say or do will make you love me
Forget the song, things will go on
I keep seeing you from the dark with you above me

Take the weakest thing in you
And then beat the bastards with it
And always hold on when you get love,
So you can let go when you give it.
Give it.. give it.. give it.. give it.. give it.. give it.

B's Special Night.

October 24, 2012

A few months back, B reached a certain *milestone* of sorts.  I wanted to honor him in a way that would be meaningful and fun, and, of course, in a way that he would appreciate.  I decided a gathering involving delicious food and wine in a beautiful setting with just his close friends (this wasn't my party after all!) would fit the bill.  The only tricky part would be keeping it a secret from him because I knew he would say no if I gave him a choice.  But I figured, hey, there are only a couple of occasions your friends will fly from all over the country and show actually show up for....and this was one of them.  So I took matters into my own hands, and planned the party.  (Which included making it a top priority that Kim be there to photograph the evening.)

{boulette's larder seemed an obvious choice as b had declared it his "favorite place ever"...and see that right there?  that's a reflection of the bay bridge in the window... mmhmm}

{i have to catch my breath a little every time i look at their kitchen}

{the guests waiting for us to arrive}
{still can't believe he was actually surprised}
{i'm so happy alice got to come because b is such good friends with her husband james...can't you tell?}

{b's friend michael brought all of the wine....he knows b's taste better than i do.....thank you, michael!!}

{all i remember about this salad is that it had pickled ramps....it was ridiculously delicious}
{favorite part of the evening was that almost every single person gave a toast...we laughed, we cried, we loved every minute}

{night caps were had at the place of one of our very first dates}
{we may have been a little, ahem, bleary-eyed by the end of the night, but it was well-earned}
Thank you, Kim, once again for the beautiful photos!!!

Before Midnight.

October 10, 2012

{before sunset}
I think I may have squealed out loud when I read that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy just finished shooting the second sequel to Before Sunrise in Greece this summer.  I love love love those movies.  B and I watched Before Sunset in the early stages of my labor with C-Man (before things got tough HA!).  There is something so compelling to me about a story that checks in with two people every 9 years...don't you think?  This time they will be in their early '40s.  Love it.

The locations of all three films have been fantastic.  The first movie was set in Vienna and the second in Paris......but this one in Greece?  Be still my beating heart.

{before midnight}

Back to School (a Few Weeks Later).

September 28, 2012

"It is aliveness that must be the guiding principle. 
Joy and happiness in living, a love of all existence,
a power and energy for work, and imagination, a sense of truth and a feeling of responsibility...These are the forces which are the very nerve of education."~ Rudolf Steiner

Well hello there.  Where have I been?  Hmmmm.  I suppose we have been busy wrapping up summer activities, starting school and beginning our fall rhythm.  (That and spending too much time on Instagram!  You should join me!)  But I wanted to be sure and check in and reflect a bit on the journey we have been on with C-Man over the past month.

C-Man started first grade this year, which is a big deal at his school.  He was in the so-called Early Childhood part of the school for several years.....which is a lovely, nurturing, homelike environment.  "The Grades," as they are called in Waldorf Schools, mark a big change for the children.  This is the first time they sit in desks, raise their hands, have traditional schoolwork, etc.  They have a main lesson teacher and at least 2 special subject teachers (French, Music, Handwork, Games and Eurythmy) each day.  They play on the "big yard" with all of the older kids.  They are much more independent and there's a lot more work to be done.  

The school does a really lovely job of marking this transition with the children.  During the summer, all the new first grade families joined together for a Bridge Ceremony on the big lawn at the school.  The families sit with their children together facing a wooden bridge covered in flowers.  Each child is called up and the family walks them to the bridge, gives hugs (tears are shed by certain mamas and papas) and the child crosses over to meet their teacher for the very first time.  She greeted each child with a handshake and a few special words for that child, and then she took them to their classroom for the first time.  Parents aren't allowed to join in this part.....it really is part of the first bonding that takes place between the child and the teacher and the class as a whole.  (In Waldorf Schools, the main teacher stays with the children all the way through eighth grade, so the bond will become very deep.)

Then, on the first day of school, there is an Assembly for all grades.  The main focus is to introduce or present the incoming first graders to the rest of the school.  A high school senior met each new first grader, gave him or her a rose and walked to the front of the auditorium where the child again met the new teacher.  It was truly beautiful and very moving to see C-Man go through this process with confidence and ease. 

I wish I could say everything since then has been seamless but after a few days, C-Man started having some tears and anxiety before school (a first for him, so that made it a bit harder).  He has worked through it now and runs from the car each morning with a "Bye mom!" (or dad)....which is a relief to hear.  After thinking a lot about what could have been bothering him (he could never identify to us what it was), I believe he was sort of mourning the end of his days in the cozy cocoon of Kindergarten and Nursery.  He was facing work and structure and discipline (all in a very nurturing Waldorf environment, of course!).  This was the end of an era for him and I believe my little man knew it.  

Last night B and I got to go to a class meeting with his teacher and the other parents and we got to sit at his desk and look through his book of classwork and see his paintings and drawings and his little basket where he keeps his things and participate in the morning circle activities and it was so lovely.  He is learning to oil and care for his wooden flute and is sanding his first pair of knitting needles. I am happy for him (and very grateful) that he gets to spend his days in a beautiful and natural and nurturing environment with teachers who love and care for him and give thoughtful instruction.  I meant to get some photos of the room and the beautiful little details but forgot.  Another time. 

I hope all of your transitions back into the school year went well.  xoxo

{first day of first grade}

Summer Night.

August 22, 2012

I love the summer.  The energy, the heat, the activities, the swimming, the time with friends and family. The other night I do believe I had the quintessential summer night experience.  It was nothing extraordinary: no celebration, no out of town guests, just a Sunday evening with nothing but all that is special about life in the summer.  We had dinner with best friends.  We call them the Trifecta Family....as in: the moms love each other, the dads love each other and the kids love each other (their three love our three and vice versa).

The kids swam, the parents drank cherry margaritas, we ate homegrown tomatoes, grilled steak and shrimp.  Then after the gorgeous sunset and tiny, perfect moon rose, we went down to their lower yard and had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows for s'mores.
{these kids have known each other their whole lives....i hope that never changes}
{sweetest girls}
{the kids wanted a water slide....so they got one}
{amazing sunset and night swim}
I hope you find some special ways to enjoy these last weeks of summer.....I know I will be!

Israeli Couscous Salad.

August 16, 2012

So, I need to tell you about this salad.  It is so good and I think you should make it this weekend, if not sooner.  I first had a version of it at a brunch a few years ago.  The woman who made it told me it was a Mark Bittman recipe.  I have since modified it a bit and it is just to my liking (taste and simplicity of method).  In fact, it is the only thing I have eaten in almost 24 hours.  :-)

Israeli Couscous Salad With Pine Nuts, Capers, Almonds and Moroccan Spices

1 bag Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend (or 16 oz. Israeli couscous)
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. sherry vinegar
1 t. cumin
1/4 t. cinnamon
s & p to taste
3/4 c. currants
1/4 c. capers
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
1/3 c. slivered almonds (or pine nuts)
1/2 - 1 preserved lemon, finely diced
1 c. chopped flat leaf parsley
goat cheese (optional)

Cook grains according to package and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

Make the dressing:  in a large bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, spices and salt and pepper to taste.  Add warm grains and currants and stir gently to combine.  When the grains have cooled a little more (maybe 20 minutes or so), add the rest of the ingredients (except cheese).  Let sit at room temperature for about an hour or in the refrigerator overnight to let flavors develop.  Serve, with crumbled goat cheese on top, if desired.  I also like to squeeze a little lemon and maybe drizzle a little more olive oil on top.  Enjoy!

C-Man's Birth Story (After 7 Years!)

August 15, 2012

I want to tell you the story of C-Man's birth.  It started 7 years ago today.  (I warn you that it is long and might not be what you expect.)

My whole life, I knew I wanted to experience a natural childbirth.  I grew up hearing my mother's birth stories....2 home births (one unassisted and breach, no less) and 2 birthing center births.  I think she had all four of us kids in a grand total of about 18 hours of labor.  I just assumed I would have a similar experience.  I figured it was a mind over matter thing and that if you really wanted a natural and peaceful (and easy!) childbirth, by golly, you could have it!

I (we) took The Bradley Method classes....which were interesting (all 12 weeks of them....pretty sure B still hasn't forgiven me for that haha).  I read books like crazy.  I met with doulas, interviewed hospital employees, quizzed my doctor, wrote a birth plan, took other birthing classes, toured birthing centers, yadda freaking yadda.

Thanks to my most excellent research, I decided to switch care from my doctor (whom I love and respect to no end) to the midwifes at a local birthing center that was located within a hospital...because I thought that environment would fit my idea of what a birthing experience should look like (and because there was only a 1/6 chance I would even have my doctor on call if I were to stay with her).

So there I was on August 15, 2005, almost two weeks past his due date.  I was going in for daily stress tests and amniotic fluid level checks.  The baby looked big, the hair was getting long, and it was time for him/her (we didn't yet know the sex) to come out.  Otherwise, I was looking at pitocin city and I figured that meant I would surely end up with a c-section.  I was very all-or-nothing, you see.

Someone referred me to an acupuncturist to get labor started and I went in at about 11 a.m. as I recall.  That afternoon at about 3:30, as I was walking out of the old courthouse downtown, next to all the crazy guys with signs yelling about god-knows-what, my water broke.  I was wearing a skirt, so it went right down my leg and I am fairly certain no one heard me gasp (thanks super loud yelling crazy guys!).  Of course, I called B and the doula and family right away and everyone else on the "short list" and went home.  And waited.  And checked my bag for the umpteenth time (yep, the organic cotton baby gown was there, just as it had been for weeks!).  Ate and drank a little, as my doula instructed.  But no contractions.  At about 8 that night, B put in a favorite movie of ours (Before Sunrise) and opened a very special bottle of wine we had brought back from our honeymoon in France (I only had a sip!).

Around 9:30, I started to feel some small contractions, but they weren't painful and I could still watch the movie without a problem.  We decided we should try to get some sleep, and B proceeded to crash right out (how do dudes do that??).  I couldn't sleep, AREYOUKIDDINGME???  By 11, the contractions were hurting, I took a shower, a bath, walked around the house, etc.  At 1, I wake B up and tell him he needs to start timing my contractions.  He does and writes everything down on a yellow legal pad (which he still has to this day.....so cute).  By 5:30 in the morning, we decide to head in.  My contractions are about 2 minutes apart and are lasting almost a minute.  Plus I am in pain.  Plus, I could be getting close....did you hear about my mom's one hour and a half labor?  Total?

We drive the half mile to the birthing center (which I am sure is the longest car ride I have ever taken) and I have to make a couple stops walking from the car to the door of the hospital because the contractions are that intense.  We finally manage to get up to the fourth floor where the birthing center is and I am relieved to find out it is pretty empty.  I get one of the biggest and nicest rooms all to myself and they begin preparing the birthing pool for me.  They ask me if I want them to check my dilation and I'm like "Hell yeah, give me the good news!"  I don't know if I was more shocked or disappointed when they told me I was at a giant three and a half centimeters.  I was sure I was almost in transition!  I had been laboring for almost 9 hours!  And this had to go on for another six and a half centimeters??

I got over it I guess and got in the pool, which felt fantastic.  It was there that I really got into that "zone" that women will sometimes talk about.  I didn't hear or see anyone else, I didn't want anything or anyone, I know I was making weird, loud, primal sounds, and I couldn't care less.  It was then that the midwife on call said they had tested my amniotic fluid and the teensiest, tiniest amount of meconium was present and I would therefore have to be transferred to the Labor and Delivery floor of the hospital for the remainder of my labor.

WHAT?  I went through all that effort to switch from the doctor I love to come here, only to be transferred to a hospital with a doctor I have never met?  The irony was about to make me cry.  Actually, it DID make me cry.  Like a lot.  But the good news?  I was told the midwife on call would stay with me for the duration of my labor.  But do you want to know the terrible news?  The midwife on call happened to be a man named Steve who almost never even worked in births anymore (apparently a bunch of midwives were sick or something).

Now, I don't want to ever be accused of being a sexist, but I just don't understand why a man would become a midwife.  Especially a short, pudgy one with stringy hair and bad breath.  Yep, that was my "midwife" that day as luck would have it.  My first encounter with him was him trying to get me out of the tub and transfer me to Labor and Delivery.  If you have ever been in active labor and someone tells you you need to do something like this, you may as well be told you have to climb Mt. Everest on your hands and knees in the middle of a blizzard.  There was NO WAY I could get out of that tub, dry off, put some sort of robe on, then make the trek down two hospital floors.  I was having crazy contractions every 2 minutes (or less!).  So Steve pulls me up out of the water (I'm sure I looked like a drowned rat....with a huge belly) and faces my naked wet self to him, holds my hands and says "Just breathe" (as if I hand't heard that's what you're supposed to do) and then started taking exaggerated breaths in and blowing his onion/coffee breath in my face.  Like his demonstration was going to somehow help me.

Anyway, needless to say, I made it down to my new room eventually.  It was a little after nine in the morning.  The room was probably about 15 feet square with no windows and there was construction going on what seemed to be next door (BAM BAM BAM BAM).  And guess what happened then?  I stopped dilating.  I'm sure it had everything to do with the fact that I didn't feel comfortable or safe or peaceful.  I had been at about 5 and half (I think) and then I stayed there for what seemed like forever.  At one point Steve comes in and says they need to put an intrauterine device to monitor my contractions because my "contractions just weren't working."  Hint: don't say that to a woman who has been laboring hard for hours and hours.  It will make her feel like a failure.  He then places the device inside, I start having a contraction and then Jora loses her mind for the one and only time during any of her labors.  It hurt so F$%#(&% bad I screamed to TAKE IT OUT AND TAKE IT OUT NOW.  And his response?  "Where I put that, there aren't any nerves, so that couldn't have hurt."  Men: take note.  Do not become a midwife.

After that he made one very off-color remark that I don't even want to share here and my doula begged me to let her go demand that another midwife be called in.  Thank goodness she thought to do that because I was in no place to even think of that option.  Happily, another midwife came in sometime thereafter and eventually, after one very long afternoon, at about 6 p.m., I made it to 10 centimeters.  When that finally happened, I almost couldn't believe it.  I had spent hours that afternoon in a haze (I still had had no sleep) going in and out of contractions, almost in and out of consciousness, not believing that I could take a moment more.  The baby's heart rate was dropping too.....something everyone else seemed more concerned about than I was (which is unusual because I am normally such the worry wart about health issues).  I was told several times that I needed a c-section, but I would beg for more time and each time, the doctor agreed for some reason.

Somehow, SOMEHOW, I got through that pain and uncertainty and not believing I could do it (but I WAS doing it, I just didn't know!) and got to the other side (and by other side, I mean the point that I could finally start pushing).

So then, I start pushing.  I was sooooo happy to be doing something besides laying there through contractions wondering if anything was even working.  And I pushed and I pushed and I pushed.  I was given a mirror so that I could see the baby's pretty brown hair.  I am still in Labor Land as it turns out because I have no concept of time or what is being talked about in the room.  Finally, the midwife that had been called in to replace Steve, who I like very, very much, takes my hand, looks in my eyes and says, "I'm sorry, but you are going to have to have a c-section now."  It turns out I had been pushing for 3 hours (I had no idea) and the baby's heart rate kept dropping each time I had a contraction.

Then the tears came again.  I believe my words were: "Now?  After all this?  21 hours of labor?  Pushing for 3 hours?  And I can see my baby's head?  Can't you just pull the baby out?  Don't you have forceps or something?"  And with that I was told that they would try the vacuum.  As if they hadn't thought of that option?  Still not sure about that....

So, the fluorescent lights go on, the pediatric specialists come in to wait at the side "just in case", the resident doctor, the attending doctor (it is a teaching hospital), a bunch of nurses, a couple of midwives at that point, plus others.  Not the intimate, personal birth I had imagined, that's for sure!  The doctors put on these goggle/face mask things and then they go to work...I guess suctioning the baby's head.  I am given the green light and on the next contraction I push like crazy and then I hear the whole room gasp, blood sprays on the the doctors' masks (I am not exaggerating) and the two of them almost fall back.  At this point, poor B, who is not squeamish one bit and had been by my side the whole time (except when I didn't want him there HA) ran to hide in the corner.  He was convinced the baby's head had come off or something like that.  The doctors had lost suction, but I suppose they didn't really know what else had happened (if anything).  They got the suction back in place and my midwife tells me this is it.  My last chance.  I have to give it everything I have.

And you know what?  I don't think there was a woman in the last million years who pushed harder than I pushed at that moment, and finally, praise everything, my little babe slipped out at 9:30 p.m. on August 16, 1005.  He was pink and round and screamed almost right away.  And the awesome thing was the doctors and nurses and everyone remembered to not announce the sex but to let B and I see it first.  I remember crying "It's a boy, it's a boy....." because that is what B secretly wanted and I wanted that for him because I didn't care if it was a boy or girl.  C-Man was perfect and healthy in every way (but for a very sore spot on the top of his poor head!).

And I remember this feeling of exhilaration and energy and connection and strength and power washing over me (which is what I see in that picture above).  I wanted to hold my baby and chat with everyone in the room about everything that had happened and I'm pretty sure I asked my brother-in-law if he would please go get me some In-n-Out.  It was not the birth I had planned, or even hoped for, but the end result was spectacular.  A beautiful baby and new connection to all the other powerful moms that have ever gone through childbirth.....especially challenging ones.  

I read this quote tonight and wanted to share it because it perfectly expresses how I feel about childbirth:

"Birth is not only about making babies.  Birth is about making mothers -- strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their strength."  (Barbara Katz Rothman)

 (If you're in the mood, Little E's birth story is here and here!)

Monday Mess.

July 30, 2012

I'm thrilled that Trina from La La Lovely asked me to participate in her Monday Mess series.  Hope on over and check it out!

Dancing Queens.

July 23, 2012

Juju was in Dance Camp week before last.  This was a first for her.  She was the youngest (most girls were at least 2 years older than she is).  It was so cute to see her come alive during the performances.  She is usually pretty shy and doesn't like the spotlight (I thought, anyway).  Although she seems to have forgotten most of the moves to the different songs, they are still fun to watch.  In the video below, Little E joined her for the first time.  (Fave part is Juju doing The Sprinkler in a completely casual, nonchalant way....)

What I've Learned Recently.

Hi.  (Is anyone still out there?)  Well, we got home from our trip safely and happily.  However, after adjusting to jet lag, unpacking, and otherwise tackling Re-entry, Little E managed to develop a severe infection in one of her mosquito bites.  (Mosquitoes ate our children alive in Venice and I still haven't forgiven those nasty buggers.)  The infection was bad, as in Real Bad.  Sadly, test results confirmed it was MRSA (which the doctor had predicted).  If you have to google that to find out what it is, don't read too far.....it can be scary.

Thankfully (seriously so much thankfulness going on over here) she has pulled through, and a week ago the doctor declared her 90% better and that her healing had been "remarkable" and "wonderful."  I really think he was surprised that she was able to turn things around like she did.  She is now essentially back to normal.

Here's what I've learned:

1.  Get off the Internet (at least after you've managed to figure out the basics).  Nothing ever, ever good comes from reading discussion boards about horror stories of random Internet people.

2.  Follow your mama bear intuition.  I doubted myself a couple of times, but I ended up having the correct first instinct in a couple of critical periods.

3.  Talk to real people.  I spoke with a few moms who have had first had experience with MRSA infections, and those conversations were invaluable.

4.  Get off the Internet.

5.  Don't ignore a bug bite or cut that looks a little weird (or that is painful).  These infections move quickly and can be very dangerous.  Early treatment is key.  I really had no idea.  I'm so glad I took her into the doctor within a day of it first appearing.

6.  Don't overuse antibiotics.  They think she responded so well to the antibiotic treatment in part because she has never been on them before.  Also, antibiotic overuse/misuse (also, all of the anti-bacterial soaps/gels/cleaners) is probably what lead to the development of MRSA in the first place.

7.  These infections are affecting kids and healthy adults a lot right now!  It used to be something that people got in hospitals or nursing homes, but now the bacteria is all over the place and can affect anyone.

8.  For all the talk out there about how terrible our health care is, I am so grateful for the doctors (and nurses) who helped us.  They were attentive, patient, thoughtful, and gave us independent advice (not just canned "protocol" type recommendations).  I have no complaints at all...just thankful we live in a place with these types of health care professionals.

9.  Lastly, get off the Internet.  Ha.

So there you have it.  That's what we've been dealing with over the past couple of weeks.  Hopefully, I can get through our photos from the trip sometime soon and get a post up!

Thoughts on Traveling With Kids.

June 11, 2012

{been here, done this}
A post I have been thinking about and writing in my head for years now is the Master How to Travel With Kids one.  But I have come to accept I am no expert and there are certainly lots of other people out there who have compiled great lists and suggestions.  But since I am in the middle of packing for 5 (five!) people, I will give a brief list of things that I have found to work for our family on long-haul flights (I think there are special issues with overnight flights lasting 10+ hours....don't you?).  We have done this four times now with small kids, so I have learned a thing or two.

1.  Don't overpack.  This is the cardinal rule for travelers of any age, but it is even more important when you have small bodies that will likely need to be carried through an airport at some point.  We try to bring just what we think we will need and then cut that in half (ha).

2.  You have to pack a lot in your carry-on bags, so accept it and just be super smart about it.  We each bring one carry-on.  The kids have small backpacks that have a special toy (ONE), a new drawing pad and crayons (buy these....they won't roll off the tray and sending you crawling on the disgusting airplane floor for "GREEN!  I need GREEN!!") and a snack.  B and I carry big carry-on bags that zip or snap closed (very important as you don't want your crap falling out).  I wish I had a good, roomy backpack so that I could be hands-free, but I haven't found the perfect one.  Suggestions?

3.  In the big carry-ons, I use separate ziplock bags for everything  (juju's jammies and change of clothes in one, toiletries in another, snacks in another, you get the picture).  This helps prevent the stuff from falling out everywhere when you are looking for something.  Plus you can never have too many ziplocks on a trip.  They come in very handy to use later for wet clothes, food, all sorts of stuff.

4.  I bring little presents for the kids to entertain and delight (my mom has been nice enough to help me with this in the past).  Smaller and lighter the better, obviously.  I usually give them things I might not normally buy, so they think it's a real treat.  I also bring stuff like post-its, band-aids, tape and string.....they will provide hours (hopefully!) of entertainment.  For C-Man, the Where's Waldo Travel Book has been a lifesaver.  For Juju, she'll play contentedly for a long time with little tiny animal figurines and a playsilk.  Not totally sure about Little E yet....she was just a year and a half last summer when we went on our last big trip so she didn't really play much.  I am still nursing her, so there's always that.  ;-)

5.  For food, I am always trying to think of good food that doesn't need to be refrigerated (and that isn't purely carbs....carbs are easy).  Someone once told me to bring pancakes, which I always do now.  Nuts, string cheese, peanut butter sandwiches....but I need more ideas.  Help?

6.  I use Rescue Remedy.  I think it helps them relax (me too) and fall asleep more easily.

7.  Take a red-eye flight.  We have done both.  Leaving the West Coast at 8 p.m. and arriving in Europe the next day (without having to change planes) makes it a whole lot easier for everyone to sleep.   I highly recommend this.

8.  Dress them in cute clothes (or even matching clothes).  I really think it softens up the flight attendants and passengers around you (for reals!).  Last year, the kids wore matching navy and white striped shirts (nothing fancy) but everyone was ooh-ing and ahhh-ing about the shirts.  We have always had good luck with the people we sit by on planes.  Let's hope it continues.  :)

9.  The obvious: bring movies and books on your computer or iPad.  This is a treat for our kids so it works like a charm.  However, the kids entertain themselves really well and usually they watch just a movie or two.  (We once flew from Pisa to San Diego and they didn't watch anything!)  They also like to mess around with the screens on the plane.

What I really need help with is what to pack for myself.....I am thinking dresses that can work as a beach cover up, sandals, striped t-shirts, a hat, linen pants.....  What are you tips and ideas (for what clothes to pack or how to survive long flights with little kids)??


June 9, 2012

As I was driving home the other day (no kids, alone with my thoughts, such a treat), I listened to part of an album I hadn't in a very long time.  I'm not quite sure what possessed me to do it.  It was one of those Life's Turning Point Albums.   Then I started to think of other albums like that...ones that told the story of some period of my life that was shifting in big ways.  I'm sure we all have these.  The summer of a move, a fantastic trip, falling in love, starting college, bringing a baby home....  I am weird and won't go back and listen to them very often because I want to preserve their meaning.  I feel it would somehow water down the intensity to keep playing it once my life has settled in a different place.  I want to be able to tap back into it, in case I need that.  Am I the only one who does this?

Anyway, I'm pretty sure India Arie's Acoustic Soul was the soundtrack of a certain summer of mine many years back.  And this song was my anthem.


June 7, 2012

You guys!  We leave for Italy in five days.  B "surprised" me with a trip by cashing in about a billion miles and a couple companion passes we've had with British Airways for awhile.  He did this less than 3 weeks before we were to leave.  I like surprises and all, but I was kind of like "Honey, next time we take a trip let's do the talking thing first."  Anyway, now that all the uncertainties of where we are going to go and stay and all that have been taken care of, I am super, duper excited!  And this after I just told everyone I know how happy I was we were to have a low-key summer in town and available for any and all last-minute barbecues, pool parties, beach trips, etc.  Ah well.  Our lives are pretty boring in every other regard, so this last minute trip is just what our family needs I think.

So... we are flying into Rome and staying for a few nights.  B and I LOVE Rome (he taught me to love it actually...before him I was sorta on the fence).  But with kids?  Not so sure.  So we are staying just long enough to (hopefully) get over our jet lag, get a few photos of the kids on the Spanish Steps and take them to eat pizza at our favorite place.  Then, we are headed down to the Amalfi Coast for 12 nights.  This is a dream come true for me because we have never been together and I love it but B is always like I'm-above-that-place-the-menus-are-all-in-German-and-the-place-is-filled-to-the-brim-with-ugly-Americans.  Whatever!!  It is popular because it is awesome, am I right?  Luckily it didn't take too much convincing on my part because we knew we wanted to be somewhere coastal with the kids and we found a great place with a pool.  He'll get over it, I'm sure.  After that, we are taking a night train (with three kids yikes!) to Venice.  We are pretty certain it will be the most exciting thing to happen to them ever, and that the adults will not asleep.  That's what Italian coffee is for, I suppose.

Even though the trip is last minute and we are going in high season,  I am pretty stoked about the places we are staying in. Herewith, our place in Positano:

I am obviously excited, but I also get some anxiety before we leave on a trip.....something about being away from the comfort and security of our home.  Anyway, it isn't that big of a deal, just part of the whole being a mom makes everything more complicated I suppose.  ;-)

Magnolia (a Post by B).

June 2, 2012

(This is something B emailed me after he read my last last post.  The title he chose refers to the movie Magnolia, which is a story of many strangers whose lives converge, and is a movie he and I love beyond reason.  Hope you enjoy!!)

Jora’s last post (about our return to St. Francis Winery and Chris Silva) was typically pleasing, but left out the real story. So here it is:   

In the Summer of 2002, there were two people trying to set Jora up with supposedly eligible bachelors.  One was her boss.  The other was her aunt Rinda, who never had kids of her own, but treated Jora as the next best thing.  She always took a special interest in Jora and, accordingly, no one was “good enough” for Jora.  But there was one guy she was grooming for the role: it was the son of her best friends, a nice young man, who was

·         Born in Northern Cal
·         Was part Portuguese
·         Was raised religious
·         Was a grocery store clerk growing up
·         Lived in Italy
·         Worked in the US Senate
·         Became a lawyer
·         Blah, blah, blah.

Aunt Rinda made a strong case for the guy of her choice: Chirs Silva, who is pictured below in Jora’s post.  Chris was in far away Sonoma and Jora did not meet him.  Yet. 

For, as luck would have it, Jora’s boss won out.  He set her up with a guy who was

·         Born in Northern Cal
·         Was part Portuguese
·         Was raised religious
·         Was a grocery store clerk growing up
·         Lived in Italy
·         Worked in the US Senate
·         Became a lawyer
·         Blah, blah, blah.

That guy did not run a winery however.  He was lowly me.

So, here’s where the story goes P.T. Anderson.  On one of our first dates, I was telling Jora about a friend of mine from 15 years before.  One that I met in Washington D.C.  He was like a brother to me.  Runs a winery.  You know where this is going: Jora stopped me.  His name?  Yes, indeed.  Chris Silva.

Chris and Jora would later become fast friends.  He would later preside over our wedding at his winery.  He continues to remind Jora time and again of what might have been:  If only she had followed Aunt Rinda’s advice, she could have been “First Lady of the Winery.”  Jora sighs.

Here’s a picture of Chris and me with our sons. 

It has been 28 years (where does the time go?) since Chris and I met.  We did not see sons in our future.  Girls were the main topic then.  Fortunately, I found Jora first.

So, now you have the rest of the story.

A Sonoma Getaway.

May 30, 2012

Weekend before last, B and I snuck away for the night to Sonoma.  We left early on Saturday morning and came home Sunday night.  It is really amazing what you can get out of a trip as short as that.  We came back feeling both energized and relaxed, and eager to see the kids (a win all the way around).

The main reason for our trip up there was to visit with our dear friend Chris who runs a winery in Sonoma.  (We were married there almost eight years ago!)  The winery was having a dinner that Saturday night and we were invited.  Pretty much a no-brainer.
{st. francis winery...that bell rang after our ceremony!}
We hung out in Healdsburg during the day on Saturday, which is our latest "We could live here, we should check out the real estate listings" kind of place for us.  Little downtown (both quaint and sophisticated), beautiful farms and rolling hills, wine everywhere, a fantastic Waldorf School in the area, an hour and a half to SF.  Perfection, am I right?

It didn't hurt that the weather that weekend could not have been more picture-perfect.  Low 80s and not a cloud in sight.
{us :-) }

{the view from our table at dinner....out to the very spot we were married!}
The dinner that night at St. Francis had a "Luxury Bacon" themed menu.  I don't know about you, but I love all things pork and cured and luxury, so I wasn't the least bit skeptical.  

{grilled pancetta-wrapped bacon with basil cream was my favorite dish of the evening}
On Sunday, we were back to Healdsburg to fantasize about life there, as well as to do some obligatory wine tasting.  ;-)
{chris at brunch in healdsburg.....hi chris!  we miss you!}
{wine tasting at j vineyards}
Can't wait to go back.....

Being Real (and Vulnerable).

May 27, 2012

I have been moved and inspired by the "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" posts circulating lately (more about that here).  When I first started reading blogs a few years back, I was drawn so strongly to those women (I'm pretty sure I have only ever read women's blogs) who shared of themselves on a personal level.  I loved the pretty picture blogs (who doesn't?), and all the cool advice, and fantastic clothes, and the recipes (oh, I do have a thing for food blogs).  But then I started my own blog, which was sort of a big deal at the beginning in terms of feeling exposed (even though I'm pretty sure it was only Alice and B and maybe a couple other close girlfriends who read it).  And ever since then, it has been a push-pull thing with me wanting to share more or.....posting pretty pictures and recipes.  If you have a couple days to kill, you can search my archives to see I do a lot more of the latter.

The truth is, there is A LOT I do not share on this blog.  It isn't because I want to hide things, but sharing hasn't always felt appropriate.  What I never want is to give the impression that my life is easier or nicer or tidier than what shows up here.  I like authenticity in people and, well, everything come to think of it.   And while I struggle with trying to focus on the positive, I feel a small sense of pride that blogging has helped me to see all that is good in my life and in the world.  It is real.  And it is good.

But I do want to get something off my chest here.  It involves my family (mom, dad, brother and sisters, not B and my kids).  I have a very, very painful family situation.  I really don't want to go into a lot of detail (believe me, you don't want it), but what I can share is that we have not all been in the same room for probably at least 15 years.  We are very divided and people don't speak to each other.  My brother has never met any of my kids.  The reason for all of this is religion.  I won't say which one and call out negative attention to it, but that is the one and only issue and this is, obviously, very sad.  I do not belong to the religion that most of them do, and consequently, I am not included in their lives.  It is very black and white.  I have struggled more than I could ever type into this stupid blogger post template thing, but it has been a real "theme" in my life I guess you could say.

I know, though, I have learned a lot from this unusual situation, and I know I have so, so, so much more to learn and grow from because of it.  I am so very lucky to have the friends and extended family that I do.  I really believe that friends are the family you choose.  I also know that nothing, nothing in this life is a given.  We can talk about what a mother should do or never do, or how a child should be treated, or the ways families should interact and support, but the truth is, not everyone has the things that seem so natural.  (Things that I can't imagine happening in my own family with B, C-Man, JuJu and Little E.)  I also know that it is hard to grow up and be who you really are, especially when that means it will cost you something crazy valuable like your family.  It is hard to figure things out on your own.  I am positive it is always easier to take the path of least resistance and follow the crowd.  I also know that this experience has made me a much more conscious parent and wife.  I know so much more about myself, which guides me everyday while parenting three little ones (but boy oh boy I need more of that).  B and the kids give me hope and love and the desire to move beyond things in my past.  Most of all perhaps, I know that we never ever know where a person comes from or what battles they are fighting.  We are all here on a path of learning and, hopefully, growth.  We can never judge where a person is on that path.  We just don't know.  I live for that connection I feel with a stranger or new friend that comes from my gut knowing we are more the same than different.

So there you have it (UGH).  On the off chance you thought otherwise, my life is not perfect.  Far from it.  I am thankful if you read all the way to the bottom of this post, as I know it is a whole lot of navel gazing....but hey it's my blog and I'll cry if I want to.   Here's to being real!  xoxo

photo credit

p.s.  this post was brought to you by two glasses of rosé and this song on repeat....like a thousand times.

Simplicity Parenting.

May 15, 2012

Over the past week or so, Alexis and some friends have been discussing the book Simplicity Parenting on her blog.  Yesterday, I was honored to share my thoughts on the last chapter of the book, "Filtering Out the Adult World."  Thank you for having me, Alexis!

p.s. Have you read the book?

p.p.s. A funny little ESP thing....when I emailed my post to Alexis, she didn't see that I had attached the above photo.  So she decided to look through my blog and find one to use.  She picked the VERY SAME ONE!  Crazy, huh?

photo by 180/360
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