Friday, May 27, 2016

things i don't understand

today's post is brought to you by some of my personal pet peeves:

  • someone who makes websites, please explain. i hate when i type in aaaaaaall my bits and pieces: my name, address, zip code, phone number, credit card, security code, blah blah and scroll to the bottom and hit the button to proceed to the next page and boom! your page refreshes with an alert that you forgot to scroll down to the correct country name, all while erasing all the info you just typed in. you hit the backspace because maybe it's on the page you just left. and no. erased. um, seriously? you are going to make me re-enter every single piece of information again just because i didn't scroll through 43 countries to get to united states of america?! don't you already have my complete address? thank you for stealing those minutes of my life, internet.
  • why it's easier to gain five pounds than lose one.
  • why palazzo pants are back in style. i can dig through my old pictures from the mid/late 90's to prove just how unflattering that elastic waist-wide leg-lightweight fabric is, but do we need these in our life again? NO. (walk away from the rack, my friends. walk away)
  • how i can spend $100 at target when i really, truly just walked in to buy toilet paper and deodorant. every time! 
  • how my two small children can completely destroy their bedroom in less than five minutes. it really is like a tornado hit their room, opening their lockers, drawers and hurling their hangers and bookshelves all over the place.  
  • on that note? my kids brush their teeth twice a day. every time i walk into the bathroom when they are done the sink looks like some kind of disaster zone. they only have a total of two mouths and four hands between them. how can they create the amount of toothpaste residue spackled onto the hand towel and random places on the sink, toothpaste spit dribbled down the entire side of the sink bowl? plus the toothbrushes are scattered, the toothpaste cap is on the floor and toothpaste container is across the room on a shelf? oh, and the sink is steadily dripping. always.
  • how it is i can go from being the meanest mom in the whole world to the best mom ever in less than five minutes. on a daily basis, everybody. meanest, worst, nicest, best. 
  • the appeal of seaweed snacks. it's like eating fishy tasting sheets of paper.
  • see also: video games, essential oil obsession, drones in public places (creepy?!), why people like bananas, people who obviously see you waiting for a parking spot and make eye contact with you but then don't signal in some way to you that they aren't actually leaving, they're just putting something away in their car or about to sit in the driver's seat with their seatbelt on and car on so they can text for ten minutes.
really. feel free to explain any of these to me.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

to being brave


a letter to my daughter as she turns six years old,

in some ways you are a paradox: 
since the day you were born you have been a snuggler, rooting against me in infancy not just to nurse, but to be close to me, pushing your small head against my chin, pushing to feel the resistance of another body against your own. and at 6, you are still the same. in the wee hours of the morning when it is still dark outside you will crawl into bed between daddy and me, migrating towards whatever body you can to make contact. if i am sitting at my desk or at the table, you will climb up onto my lap, wedging yourself between me and whatever i am working on. in the kitchen as i chop and mix, you drag your chair in from the diningroom and push it right in front of the cutting board to help, whether i want you to or not.

even so, you are my child who needs space. you sneak up to your room and play alone for hours. i can hear the sound of your small voice as you talk to your calico critters, your my little ponies, your dolls, your legos. you need to be alone to reset. unlike your sister, who wants to interact in all ways and all times with any human in her space, you choose your proximity to others. you know well what you need, and when it is time to escape to the backyard to swing or climb, to cuddle on the couch with books, and to sit on my studio floor drawing.

i've always felt protective of you, my sweet girl. your sister is so confident in interacting with adults, and almost to a fault desires to please those around her; of course she is rewarded with praise and affection, while you are less willing to freely hand out hugs and smiles and the words-you-are-supposed-to-say to the grownups in your life who have expectations of you. it's easy for her to get the kudos and attention from others, and for you to get overlooked. yes, i want you to be polite and kind and social, but i'm also proud of your ability to stand strong and independent. you choose carefully when and how you will show attachment, and then when you do it is real and true and an authentic expression of how you are feeling. 

as you get older, i want you to remember that i love you for all of these parts of you. 

i love that you forge your own path. you stand with your friends, and stick up for others even at a cost to you. you play with the boys and the girls, and when someone criticizes that, you smile and play on. you care so deeply about your sister, and you've learned all you can about her deafness and her cochlear implants: how to charge the batteries, how to turn on her implants for school, how to get her attention if she can't hear you, how to speak up for her, how she can read your lips most easily. i know she is good at speaking up for herself, but i think someday you will be her second best advocate in the world, and you may fight some of her battles for her that as her mom i'll never know about.

you are my little girl with big feelings. you have about 48 stuffed animals on your bed and you love each one as if they were living and breathing; if one is missing the tears come fast and furious. you do crazy flips and brave maneuvers on the monkey bars, but every single movie in the world is too scary for you to watch without covering your ears and closing your eyes. you are so deeply moved by the world around you, and sometimes you don't know where to put those feelings, or what to say about them, but hold on to them. you'll need them.

these will serve you well as you navigate this big world:
you are brave. 
you try hard and new things.
you are strong.
you are independent. resistant to others' opinions.
you don't care about what other people think about you.
you are loyal & kind. 
you love to play.

and these will be hard and might make you hurt sometimes, but make you softer and more whole:
you wear your heart on your sleeve & your feelings on your face.
you love with all you have.
you are sensitive. empathetic. 
you have a tender heart.
you love every animal you meet.
you want to be held close and loved well.
you are expressive and creative and always want to do your very best.

you are amazing my sweet ruby. 
listen to your brave heart, and ignore those who want you to do what everyone else is doing. 
it's overrated. and way less rewarding.
i love all the paradoxes that are you.
i love you,

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

sprinkles make a party!

last week i saw this recipe for confetti cookies on smitten kitchen, and i decided they were just the thing for ruby's ice cream themed birthday party! 

sprinkles on the ice cream...sprinkles on the cookies...sprinkles = a fiesta in your mouth! 

(sidebar: do you call these sprinkles or jimmies? when i was a kid in philadelphia we called them jimmies, but don't think they're called that here in the bay area. anyone?)
when i first found the recipe on smitten kitchen, she mentioned that there are no real rainbow sprinkles, and after trips to safeway, farmer joe's, beverly's, michael's, berkeley bowl? yep. red, orange, yellow, green, pink and white do not a rainbow make! where is the blue? the purple? after wasting waaaaaay too much time looking for blue and purple sprinkles i finally compromised with adding in some blue sprinkles from an small, over-priced container at michael's. (where are the baking supply stores in oakland?!)
these cookies are a cinch to bake, pretty as can be, and tasty (which often sugar cookies are not at all!) this is essentially the king arthur flour recipe for sugar cookies, rolled in sprinkles, and flattened slightly. here they are before they went in the oven, so instagramable...
and viola! after 9 minutes in the oven, they popped out looking like this!

you can get the recipe along with commentary & pretty pictures on smitten kitchen or follow it here:

Confetti Cookies from Smitten Kitchen
Recipe barely adapted from King Arthur, technique and language were tinkered with
If you’re using a food processer, no need to soften the butter or cream cheese first. If using an electric hand- or stand mixer, you’ll want them softened before you mix the dough. If you’re using vanilla bean, which I really love here, I find you can maximize the flavor you get out of it by rubbing the vanilla bean seeds right into your sugar, distributing it evenly and giving it a extra flavor-releasing abrasion. Then use the sugar as written below.
Yield: 4 dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies
3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1 cup (8 ounces, 225 grams or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 ounces, 55 grams or 1/4 of an 8-ounce brick) cream cheese
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1/2 a vanilla bean, split and scraped (see Note up top)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 cup rainbow sprinkles
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking large sheets with parchment paper.
To make in a food processor: Place flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the work bowl and pulse a few times to blend. Add butter and cream cheese in large chunks, plus sugar and blend until mixture is powdery. Add egg, vanilla and almond extracts and run machine until the dough balls together. You’ll probably need to scrape it down once or twice to get the mixture even.
To make with an electric mixer: Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to blend. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and extracts and blend again. Add flour mixture and beat just until flour disappears. In some cases, this dough will feel too soft to roll into balls in your hands; if so, let it chill in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before using.
Both methods: Scoop balls of dough — I like these cookies best with a #40, or 1 1/2 tablespoon, scoop; the texture is less dynamic when made smaller — and roll them briefly in the palms of your hands before dropping them in a bowl of rainbow sprinkles and gently rolling to coat them evenly. I find that the sprinkles adhere much better to tacky exterior of balls of dough that have been briefly warmed by your hands — trust me here.
Transfer balls of sprinkle-coated dough to baking sheets at least two inches apart. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to press down on the cookies until they are about 1/4 to 1/2-inch tall. If you see any bare spots in the sprinkles that bother you, you can sprinkle a few more on top. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes until they look underbaked but lightly golden underneath. [If they’re not quite soft in the center, they will be fully crisped through the next day.] Let set on the baking sheet on a rack for a few minutes before transferring to cooling racks to cool the rest of the way. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

Friday, May 20, 2016

this amazingness was a whole year ago

oh u2, i don't care that i'm old, and you're old, and we're all old. i don't care that you deposit albums on people's itunes accounts and play stadium rock. 
i don't care that your show is a well-oiled machine and that you are experts at playing to the crowds. 
i don't care about any of that. 

one year ago this week i was enjoying you, live, from the front row, and i couldn't have been happier. here are a couple of snippets from my phone:



hit me with your best shot

talk to me, non-commenters.
i need new music and podcasts for the following times in my day, and i'd rather ask you real live humans rather than depending on pandora like i am now. so tell me...
suggestions for:

  • when i'm working in my studio 
  • when i'm running
  • when i'm doing another non-running workout situation
music i want: music to fall into (studio time), music that makes me want to move (when i exercise)

podcasts i currently like: this american life (duh), the moth, undisclosed, miscellaneous ones on npr one app, the mystery show, creative pep talk, serial, modern love, and radiolab. 

ok, your turn!

who am i and what am i doing?!

about four years ago my friend nicole (who used to blog here) did whole30 and it completely changed her life. whole30 is a nutritional program eliminating all dairy, sugar (of any kind), legumes, grains, alcohol, soy for 30 days. when she did it i thought she was insane. 30 days without bread of any kind? no cheese? no cream in my coffee? not even a sip of wine? whole30 guidelines are pretty strict: you slip up? then you start over. i was intrigued, because she felt so good and was so much healthier. but it seemed kind of...extreme.

fast forward a few years. in september 2016 i went to the dr for a checkup and i stepped on the scale. i saw the number and thought, "oh this scale must be in some other unit of measure besides pounds because that number is SO big! that's what i weighed the day before i gave birth to ruby. that can't possibly be right." um, people? it was right. when the doctor sat down with me in her office, i started crying. how had i gained 35 pounds in about a year? and to be clear, that is 35 pounds when i already should weigh less than that to be healthy. so now i was, what, at least 50 pounds overweight? losing ten pounds seemed impossible much less 50 or 60. it was a dark day. i went home and crawled under the covers, shooting off depressing texts to poor matt all day. then i sent a few sad texts to some of my dearest safest friends who i knew would understand. i felt pretty hopeless and discouraged; i was ready to give up but not ready to give up all at the same time. 

how did i get there? well, for one, i had enjoyed a lovely summer of good meals and cocktails or wine more often than not, with a pretty steady regime of exercise. but sadly, when you are eating (or drinking) a billion calories a day, a thirty minute hiit workout or very slow run does not burn all of that off. (i wish.) i'd also decided, together with matt, to stop weighing myself. he had pointed out about a year before (rightly so) that my self worth and identity is not defined by a number on a scale. he said, "you exercise and eat healthy food, and that the practice of weighing yourself just messes with you.' true, all true. but here i found myself the victim of overestimating the calories i was burning and underestimating the calories i was consuming, and that all adds up to gaining weight and feeling blah.

i knew pretty clearly it was time to drag the scale back out to keep me accountable. 

i knew i had to buckle down and track carefully what i ate and drank.
i knew i needed to start exercising faithfully again.

so, i did. 

slowly, by january i'd lost ten pounds. but i knew i was still relying on some unhealthy bad food habits (i'm talking to you late night snacking and mindless munching) and i was ready to address them. my sister rebecca asked me if i wanted to join her doing a whole30 that month, and for the first time instead of thinking, "are you kidding?" i thought, "maybe i should." i had been scared off before by the structure and rigidity (and the fact that i don't like eggs!) and now i found myself craving those very things. whole30 isn't a diet, and i wasn't thinking of doing it to lose weight, but to look at the ways i often ate without intention, and to spend 30 days being mindful of patterns i needed to break.

so right after my birthday in january, i did my first whole30.

and guess what? 
sometimes it sucked. but not as much as i thought it would.
sometimes i really missed certain foods (mostly the ritual of alcohol and the ease of some carbs like bread.) but not as much as i thought i would.
sometimes i had to say no to things i wanted to say yes to. but not as much as i thought i would have to.
sometimes i was cranky. ok, that's true.

i drank a lot of black coffee (and liked it!) and i ate a lot of weird breakfasts...mostly leftovers from the night before, because i don't like eggs enough to eat them consistently. (yes, i know, we even have chickens.)

normal breakfast (or as i like to think of it, meal 1. whoever says your first meal of the day has to look like an american breakfast on the denny's menu?)

so many significant restrictions forced me to rethink how i cooked and what i was eating in a way that i hadn't before. i couldn't fall back on tried and true meals and snacks without adapting them somewhat. i found that some of my staples weren't as necessary as i thought they were. 

also, i fell in love with kombucha. before this year i thought kombucha was a random hippy health kick kind of thing to drink. but then i drank it & loved how it made me feel. (seriously, who am i?! drinking kombucha, eliminating entire food groups from my diet?!)

i about threw myself a parade when i saw this massive 48 oz. kombucha at the store the other day.

on my first whole30 i fought through funky belly issues, missing sugar and dairy and bread, and mood swings, but i also slept awesome, had way better skin, and felt clearer mentally and creatively. by the end of the month i was sold. not on eating whole30 for the rest of my life, but by shifting over to a whole30-most-of-the-time way of life, and choosing selectively the other food rather than grazing on whatever i wanted at any time. i had also lost weight. on whole30 you aren't supposed to weigh yourself (i didn't), but after my experience over the last year +, i realized that for me it was good data to have. the key for me is to think of it as data, and not a moral failing if the scale goes up or a measure of my self-worth if it goes down.

meanwhile, i started to up the intensity and amount of exercise. at our elementary school auction, i bid on and won a two month bootcamp session from balanced fitness for moms, which is run by a parent at the girls' school. in march, april and may, i got up twice a week for the 5:45 am class, plus kept running or working out at home a couple of days a week. the class freaking kicks my butt every which way and i might think i'm about to die every time, but i also love it. i haven't been this strong in a very long time. if you know me, you know that i do not love (or even like) the morning. i like my bed. i like lounging, snuggling, burrowing, and all of the words that mean you hide under the covers until you're forced to come out. and yet? i am loving this class and how it makes me feel. for me to continue doing the class is a significant amount of money for us, but i am thinking of it as a long-term health insurance policy or retirement fund. because, really, truly, that's what it is, right? i'm doing it to live longer and live better. 

(after an early morning sweat session. looking good, i know.)
and moments like this are happening: ruby wearing my running shoes saying, "i'm mommy exercising. i'm so strong." when i think i am going to quit halfway through an intense set of burpees in class, i think about these two little girls, and how i want to model to them that it is good to move, and to be strong, and to actively seek health. not because of a number on a scale or to fit into a certain size, but because we have been given this one body, and we currently have the gift of having healthy ones. 

i don't feel like that all the time. i have these (false but present) thoughts in my head from a lifetime of messages on repeat that i have to fiercely push against: "You were born with this body, and that's how it's always going to be. You are built just like your dad/dad's side of family. Skinny people are just born that way and can eat however they want and don't have to worry about gaining weight or working out. You work out to lose weight. Once you lose weight you don't have to work out anymore. You're just not athletic." where did all of these voices come from? society? experiences growing up? celebrity culture? myself? i don't know, but they are there, and there with a vengeance. i have a lot of baggage from growing up in this body and that is a reality. 

in a lot of ways, having two daughters forces me to confront those issues because i am very aware that the words i say and the ways i act will have a profound impact on the ways they see themselves. doing things like the Whole30 makes me address these negative thoughts head-on too. am i defined by my genes? do i have to make the same choices i always have? am i really undisciplined like i tell myself? (no. i'm not, but it's an easy out.)

i have to reframe the conversation and let this be my mantra when eating healthy and exercising: "i am choosing a longer life, a good example for my daughters, a healthier frame of mind, positive steps towards self-care, gratitude for the health i have and the desire to preserve it. i want to be strong and healthy. it is a long and slow and daily battle. i will not wake up tomorrow with the body i want without putting in the work for a while and not giving up." 

on a bad day, i step on the scale that hasn't moved or put on the jeans that are still snug and I think, "screw it. i might as well eat this, drink that and not exercise because it doesn't matter anyway. why am I even trying? it's so hard and for such small, incremental changes! i was a fool to think I could be strong and healthy. I am just (and then insert all the negative self-talk.)" i feel defeated. then the excuses come, and then at some point i stop making excuses and don't even try. of course then it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, right?

but right now, today, this week, this month, this year, i am choosing a new storyline. and apparently that means i'm doing things i never thought i would: getting up to workout when it is dark outside (help me, jesus), drinking kombucha (ok that isn't really part of my health routine but i just think it's funny that i am now drinking it after years of thinking it was ridiculous), and doing not one, but two whole30's! (yep, that's right; i'm on day 20 of my second whole30!) once again, who am i and what am i doing?!
on the left is the girls' first day of school in september, and on the right is about a month ago. slowly making progress, and chipping away at some of my ingrained negative self-talk along the way. 27 of the 35 extra pounds are gone, and more importantly, i feel so much stronger, healthier, and in control than i have in a while. so genetic predisposition? i know, i know, you're still there. but you can suck it.

(i'm not going to lie, when this round of whole30 is done, i will very intentionally drink a glass of wine and toast my self-discipline!)

we can do this. i can. it feels impossible some days, but really, truly, we can. and even if i'm just talking to myself? you got this.

Monday, May 16, 2016

sneak peek! aka want to help us name our chickens?

we went to get some new chicks yesterday!
we brought home eight of them! we got two each of four different varieties, and are hoping to get two more. plus we are taking home the cute chicks from ruby's class to get them ready to go to my brother's coop and my mom's coop. i really wanted to buy all of teh chicks, but we don't really like on a farm after all, so eight cuties it was.
 someone is very excited. she should just be called the animal whisperer, because ruby loves her some animals.
and don't worry, she still loves our four year old chickens too. well, i should amend that to say that she still loves sweet rose cake, who has had her heart from day one of living in our house.
 they are ridiculously cute, and they peep constantly.
 i kind of want to call this one cookies and cream.

break from my studio to say hello to this cutie!

next up? naming them! any ideas?

file under things my mom taught me

remember points of joy?

bad day? good day? tracking points of joy is to note little moments that spark joy and remind you that it is going to be ok, even if you are waded down by a crappy day, week, or season. when i was a 21 year old emergency-credentialed teacher that was totally and completely overwhelmed by 35 4th and 5th graders my mom sat me down and said, "susannah? it's time for points of joy." or maybe she didn't sit me down, because i was very likely buried under a mound of blankets drowning my sorrows by eating snackwells by the box because it was 1996. what was i doing? i have no idea. god bless those poor kids that were in my class that year. i did my best, but i also was really struggling to walk through the doors of that classroom every day. i was living at my parents' house at the time, so every day when i got home, my mom would ask me what my points of joy were, despite the fact that i was miserable, dreadfully ill-prepared and stressed out in that classroom.

i'm not feeling quite so desperate these days (although i will not lie, i had a mid-life crisis flareup the other day ---is that a thing? i think so, because i had one.--- that i will probably blog about this week if i'm feeling vulnerable enough) but i've counted points of joy ever since. here are a few from my week:

*the peeping and cheeping of the new baby chicks currently house next to my studio in our laundry room

*lots of la croix sparkling water in my cabinet!

*jump roping with my girls in the backyard
*ruby's adorable my little pony play sessions. here she is lining them all up in a parade. (thanks to our friend amy jo for all of these ponies!)

*monday morning co-working with my friend amy, where my studio becomes her office

*watching monrovia rock the soccer. she got four goals on saturday! (ahem, maybe some happy accidents in there, but she felt victorious nonetheless.)
*slipping in to kiss my girls on their foreheads at night
*these insanely beautiful peonies popping up in the yard!
*the new sfmoma. incredible, beautiful, massive, inspiring. it made my week last sunday and monday to visit.
*playing around with new color combinations in my studio

*lounging on our backyard benches while matt gardens & the girls play

*field tripping to see teeny tiny crabs
*watching monrovia in the sound booth as she did a study for kids with cochlear implants. my sweet girl is so positive and willing to do things like this study.

any points of joy in your world?