Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Wish List

I don't really want much of anything for Christmas, actually, besides time with my family and Bailey's in my coffee in the morning. I do like getting presents, don't get me wrong. I will happily accept all the presents. I've just gotten to this funny point in my life where the things I tend to want most are boring, unacceptable Christmas wish list things. Like thick socks, or more shampoo because I'm almost out, or someone to clean my bathroom. Not really appropriate for an email to the Mother-In-Law, you know?

So mostly I say scarves, or markers for grading, or headbands (which I legitimately love and wear all the time).

But! I saw this dress on Etsy, and now I need it so badly I may cry. The print - stunning. The cut - perfect for my body. It looks like the most fun thing to spin around in ever ever ever. Right?!

I would wear it on dates. Or to the store. Or to work. Every day.
It's $325, which means I'm not actually getting it, but oh man, if I did, I would wear the shit out of it! It's the perfect Ms. Frizzle dress.

And it got me hunting around Etsy for other fun things I really like and will never get, or use, because they're totally impractical. But isn't a Christmas wish list kind of all about the impractical and not needed?

Like this vintage storage pot:
It's just too dang cute

I have no idea what I would put it in, it's so tiny. On the other hand, if it had cheeks I would want to squeeze them because it's the most adorable little painted pot ever.

And then there's these silly things!

If pencils could be hipster...
They're the most twee pencils I've ever seen. OOOooooh, idea!!!! I could keep these pencils in my tiny painted pot! Perfect!

I do legitimately need a new bag. The strap on my purse is currently halfway off. Luckily, Ross gets me a new purse every Christmas! If you're reading this, babe, I like this bag a lot!

And then there's this one. I have no idea what's actually going on here. Is the bird crash-landing? Having such a great idea that he's falling flat on his face? I think it would be very well placed right over the toilet...the bird will look surprised at whatever it is you're up to. Regardless, this picture made me laugh so hard when I saw it and now I want it. And at only about $8, if I don't get it for Christmas, I just may order it for myself.

Ooh, whatcha got goin' on down there?

Thankful today for my husband's excellent cooking, which he does while I blog. For the backyard garden at Wild Side West, because I've had some of the funnest, funniest conversations of my life there. For garlic, just cause it smells so good. For an adorable little bookstore called "Badger Books" because they had the best selection of indestructible books there. Books with real stories, so my rambunctious 2 year old can read away without shredding the pages. I bought him two, for Christmas. Almost gave them to him as soon as I got home, but I decided just the bag was enough, and he didn't seem to mind even a bit. And finally for baby giggles. My kiddo still has them, and I'm so glad.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

SEO, or learning how to tag

This whole thing really is an adventure in learning how to work the internet. I really thought I understood how search and other stuff worked, but I definitely did not. I learned yesterday that the tags I use on Etsy should be phrases, not individual words! I'd been putting up all the individual words that I thought would make up the searches people would use to find our stuff. So my tags for the cute little Penguin Painting on Etsy yesterday read something like this:

kids room
But that's no good! People would need to just search for "painting" or "black" in order for any of Ross's work to show up. So now, I've been slowly working on updating the tags, and it actually helped already! Now, the tags look more like this:
greeting cards
paper goods
butterfly cards
blank cards
thank you cards
custom cards
monarch butterfly
A couple of the things I edited have already started getting some more action on Etsy. People are favoriting them, and following the shop, which is awesome! I'm also trying out the tag "Mother in law gift" becaue I feel like that might be one of the toughest gifts to figure out, and I think that the butterfly cards in particular would be good for moms in law! We'll fingers are crossed!

I'm thankful today for egg-nog, space heaters, mirepoix, colleagues who keep me sane in the midst of a ton of crazy, and my sister, who told me that it's ok to let things slide, just for a bit, every once in a while. And she's so right.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Links Round Up

A whole bunch of things I've found on the internet lately that are fun. Or interesting. Or really dumb, but they made me laugh.

1. Paul Rudd is an hilarious jerk. He could definitely be my friend. Apparently he's been playing the exact same clip from a terrible movie called Mack and Me every time he goes on Conan. Love it.

Here's the link to the video if the embed doesn't work for you:

2. Fox News has taken their whole "War on Christmas" deal a bit too far. It's one thing to be annoyed about people saying "Happy Holidays," (a stupid thing, yes, but still not too wacko), but it's another to insist that both Santa Claus and Jesus are white men. Jon Stewart did an awesome takedown of the whole thing, and you should watch it.

War on Christmas - S#@t's Getting Weird Edition: Fox News clears up the historical record on Santa Claus.

3. This is such good reading. Seriously, I happily procrastinated on my grading for at least 30 mins with this article. When I was home sick, The Price Is Right was one of my very favorite shows. I haven't managed to make it to a taping yet, buy you better believe when I do I'll be re-reading this article before I go. Slate's Complete Guide to Winning the Price Is Right - Without Knowing Any Prices

4. The Awkward Yeti is just my kind of humor. Ridiculously and unabashedly punny. My cousin Nick loves them too, and that dood knows puns.
5. President Obama did something pretty awesome about the Olympics, and the homophobic (btw I hate using that word to describe discrimination against gays - as Morgan Freeman said, you're not scared, you're a bigot) laws that Russia has recently passed. His Olympic delegation includes two very openly gay women and one not so openly gay man. White House Picks LGBT Icons to Open Sochi Olympics

6. This website, Bad Engagement Photos, is too dang funny. The blog's tagline, "Dedicated to poking fun at the big, bad wedding machine" is right on. I have an hilarious one that I may the end of our engagement shoot in the Redwood Park in Oakland, we'd gotten to this little campsite and we were tired. We were almost out of light, and had a couple of pieces of clothing that our wonderful stylist still wanted us to try to use, and while at the time we thought the pictures were adorable and hilarious, I don't think we realized just how silly this one set of pictures actually was. It might not be up there with this gem from the site, 

but it's still pretty bad, in all the best ways:
I don't remember who found the giant stick, but I'm so glad they did. I'll never not smile when I look at this!

Monday, December 16, 2013

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

According to an oh-so-reliable looking website called "Holiday Insights," today is "National Chocolate Covered Anything" Day. I like it, and I'm going to take it to heart. I missed my chance to celebrate at breakfast, since I didn't know, but I packed curry and an apple for lunch, and had salad planned for dinner...I may have to make some adjustments. Unless there's a good recipe out there for chocolate salad....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

List #6 - I'm Into It

1. Scandal. Oh my god, Scandal. This show! It's so good! We're almost halfway through season 2, and I'm loving it! Kerry Washington has the most amazing snarl-face, Joshua Malina is as sassy as ever, and the President's Chief of Staff is just brilliant. I wasn't sure about it for the first few episodes. See, in the pilot episode, Olivia Pope goes and rescues a baby from some kidnappers, and then when she brings the baby back to her office, she leaves the baby in a box while she and her associates eat Chinese takeout. Not cool, Mz. Pope! But about 3 episodes in, it gets reeeeeally good. I'm glad we stuck with it. I was figuring it would end up as one of those shows that we watch just to make fun of, but instead we're totally obsessed. If you like West Wing or House of Cards, Scandal is right up your alley.

2. Salad. All the time. Now that I've got my salad dressing down, it's like the only thing I want to eat. Except for

3. Soup. I've been craving it pretty regularly. Ross makes this hot and sweet and spicy noodle soup that's completely inauthentic but so good. Cook down some small-diced onions and garlic on low heat til they practically disappear, add in homemade vegetable stock, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, a spoonful of sugar and a ton of Sriracha and Sambal Olec, and then let the noodles cook in it. So nice on a cold night, which is all the time right now.

4. These boots.

 Like I said, it's been cold. And they're warm and fuzzy and comfy and go with almost everything I have that's warm. I get compliments on them all the time, and I have to restrain myself from being like "I totally got them on sale at Target" because that's not what the cool kids say. But seriously, they're from Target, and while they don't have them in the lovely green and brown anymore, they do have white and black.

5. Sake. See above, about the cold.

6. Wearing my hair like a giant cinnamon bun on top of my head. It looks like this, but less sticky, and I think it's very festive. If I could glitter it too, and still be work appropriate, I would.
Image via Another Good Thing
7. Christmas. We decorated the tree today, and put up lights. Ross says it looks tacky, and then we had this conversation:

Ross: I really prefer a classy and elegant "Courier and Ives" Christmas decorative theme. All white lights, all wooden ornaments, blah blah blah artsy stuff.
Me: Babe. You know I've never made anything look classy or elegant. You want Courier and Ives? Get out here and decorate.
Ross: Bah humbug and harumph. Also, why are you hanging things where we can't see them?
Me: grrrrrrrrrrfalalalala-la-la-la-la
Ross: Good point. I'll go do some more art in the other room now.
Anyways, here's our poor little crooked Tree-in-a-cage and my tacky (aka awesome and sparkly) decorations. I love it, and Santa will definitely know where to find us! E likes it too. He calls the tree a flower and smells it all the time. My kind of kid!

I'm thankful today for warm sweaters, living near enough to a Target to be able to run out at bedtime to get more nighttime diapers because we ran out and forgot, living in a neighborhood that really does it up for Christmas (just wait til I tell you about Christmas Tree Lane - it's too cool), enchiladasagna lunches, and the mini marshmallows that come in packets of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gift Guide for My Sister

So Kelle is the best. Like the absolute best. My best closest friend, possibly the funniest person I know, with incredible taste to boot. Her style is edgy, funky, playful, and dark. Think Tim Burton meets Marilyn Monroe, as styled by Yolandi, with just a touch of Lisa Frank thrown in there for fun.

something kind of like this...(images from here and here and here)

Once, she dyed her hair cotton candy pink and shaved her eyebrows off. Another time, she singlehandedly brought novelty socks back into style. She can rock a tuxedo like no other woman, and she's got this amazing ability to raise her left eyebrow in a way that totally transforms her face. She goes from funny face to evil eye in less than a second, and it's stunning.

So I put together a list of things I found on Etsy that seem right up her alley. A gift guide, of sorts, for someone like her - someone who's a little spooky (she loves zombies, ghost stories, and wearing real animal skulls), a little posh (I mean, she was featured by Bumble&Bumble), and a whole lot unique.

A few highlights:

This stunning vintage dress just screams Kelle to me

And I know she'd hang these keys in her house, probably right next to her cow skull

This is my favorite find, though - an antique suitcase complete with toiletry set. It's totally impractical, probably haunted, and super cool.

You can check out the rest of what I hunted down for her here: Gifts for the Spooky Romantic and follow me on Etsy if you're not already!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas music was playing in the background to all of this

When I walked in the door with our little Christmas Tree today, Ross looked like he'd been run over several times by a toddler. (Do you capitalize the "tree" in "Christmas tree"? I think the lots just always do the whole thing in giant red-and-green capital letters...) Anyways, we did a quick kid-swap. I think he was out the door within 5 minutes, poor thing.

E's reached this stage of constant chatter. And, believe me, this kid was chatty before. He loves to talk and loves to ask questions and is really a pretty cheerful guy. He's just also loud about it.

So we've started counting some of the most frequent phrases. Today's count:

"s'Daddy dooooing?" - 64
"s'Mama dooooing?" - 10
"s'Dat, Mama, s'dat?" - 28 (between 5:45 pm and 7:15 pm)
"s'Dat, Daddy, s'dat?" - Ross has no idea
"Nank yoo" - 7
"Oh, ok!" - 31
"Daddy, a twain!" - 3
"Post. Office." (with arms up in the air) - 39
"Kitshen" (only said while opening the baby gates to get into the kitchen) - 6

So Ross needed a bit of quiet time. Fair enough.

E and I put the lights up on our tree while he was gone. It was adorably, ridiculously, infuriatingly cute. He was totally uncooperative, except for when I asked him to hold the lights. He spent most of the time either scared of the tree and asking for hugs, or throwing a little nerf ball into the tree and then running up and getting it back. By the end of it he was shouting "Cwissmuss" at the top of his lungs and really into the lights.

I think tomorrow we might try to make ornaments. It's going to be a huge mess. Ross is gonna be really anxious about his table while we're doing it. I'll take pictures.

Today, I'm thankful for vodka sauce, the fact that I don't work in a post office around the holidays, the Christmas decorations my grandmother made, and the terrible and excellent comics I saw today. The first got me in trouble with my cousin's wife, because he loves puns SO much that he works them in every chance he gets, and he's driving her crazy. He is the king of dad jokes, so I posted this one on his Facebook:
From Cartertoons by Carter

to which he replied "I always love it when new puns are throne out there!" This guy is a genius! I love it!

And then this one, from the always awesome XKCD, shared by a buddy on Facebook:
It makes no sense and also it's totally logical and wonderfully geeky and just my sense of humor. The only thing I'd add is glitter, because that makes everything better.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Random stuff about my day

The kiddo just woke up from a nap, and walked out to see Ross hard at work on a set of animal greeting cards. He ran over to the table, excitedly said "Daddy painting!" and when Ross agreed, "Yes, I'm painting, thanks for letting me know that," E replied with "Hooray, goojob daddy!"

Too cute. Probably way cuter to me than to you, but it's kind of my job to think he's the best.

Ross finished up a set of cards today - they're super cute. Haven't photographed them yet since the sun went down before they were completed, but it's been very bright and sunny this weekend, so I'm hopeful for tomorrow.

E learned to open the baby gates this weekend. We have SO much kidproofing to do, it's ridiculous.

On the better side of kid learning, he also learned to talk about himself in the first person. Kind of. Now, instead of "Emmett did it" he says "I did it Emmett." So we're close.

Friday, December 6, 2013

List #...5?

1. We have a big fat pile of art to do this weekend. Yay!

2. I graded SO. MANY. PAPERS. this week that I think my eyeballs are going to fall out of my head.

3. This week's episode of Once Upon A Time was cray. Damn you, Peter Pan. Also, Jared Gilmore is not a good enough actor to pull this off. Damn you, Casting Director!

4. This shit is crazy too. Facebook, get it together - 2 year old girls can be naked. Really. It's ok. And while we're on that topic, it shouldn't matter if the topless person is 2 or 20 or 80...if men can be naked on the top half, we should be able to also. Stupid double standard.

5. The desk chair is broken, so I'm writing this with my butt at a 45 degree angle. If anything I'm saying seems crooked, that's probably why.

6. For about 20 minutes tonight, right at bedtime, we were pretty sure we'd lost all the binkies. It was potentially tragic. But we were rescued by the fact that my sister's house is like rightthere, and she has a stash of the kiddo's stuff.

7. It's ridiculously cold. As in, real frost on my windshield. As in, wearing tights under my jeans. Not cool, California! Even Gawker noticed that we've got a "chilly apocalypse" going!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Etsy Etsy Etsy

We've sold 5 pieces! And have a request for a custom order on a 6th! This is so exciting! The stuffed animal paintings seem to be the biggest hit, with the butterflies a close second. We're scrambling to get everything ready to go - for some reason, I thought it would take longer for people to make purchases, but nope! They're buying away! I just love the thought of Ross's art hanging on people's walls - it makes me so happy having it here, I just know it'll make other people smile too.

Here's what we've sold so far:
Butterfly Greeting Card Set
Penguin Painting
Animals Greeting Card Set
Blue Butterfly
Panda Bear Painting

I've been having fun figuring out all the little nooks and crannies on Etsy. I started following several people; mostly family and friends, but also a few people who have excellent taste, like Anastaisha and Denise.

I also started using Treasuries, which is kind of like creating tiny little shops or museum displays. Hunt down items that fit into a particular theme, display them, and ta-da, mini-Pinterest! I have no idea which of the two came first, but I love using both of them to organize my ideas. So far I only have one treasury, called Ooooh, Sparkly, all about the things I would have loved, or did love, when I was younger and highly motivated by glitter. (To be honest, I would still buy all those things now, because I'm still highly motivated by glitter. And Neil Diamond).

It's also a lot like my Pinterest board called Sparkly. Like I said, glitter. I'm always amazed when people get upset about being glitter-bombed. That's a dream come true, not a weapon!

 I'm working on another treasury called Hauntingly Beautiful (I know, it's stolen from an episode of How I Met Your Mother, but "The Pineapple Incident" is probably the best episode of that show ever. So there!) I had it all done, but I must've forgotten to hit "save" or something, because my description is there, but my items aren't. Dangit! I'll redo it and share it at some point.

Also, I think there's a chance I could get Ross into creating Treasury lists. He likes hunting things down, seeing threads of connection between things that others might miss, and really really loves things that contrast harsh and delicate in adept ways. That's kind of what he likes to do with his art, so it makes sense he'd like it when other people do it well, too.

He also got really into my Pinterest board called "Ross Makes Things." The second I showed it to him, he was off and running with ideas and critiques, so we may start adding wooden toys and other things to the shop sooner than later!

I'm thankful today for being an adult. It means I can have pie for dinner if I want, which was exactly what I did want. Also, for Lysol. It was needed. Hot toddies with lots of lemon and honey and whiskey and Grand Marnier left over from Thanksgiving (we're getting sick around here - the kiddo is crying and being consoled by Ross as we speak). And for a job that lets me bring my kid to work when necessary without batting an eye. I'm so lucky to work where I do. Finally, I'm thankful that Ross turned on the heater. Seriously, the man NEVER does this. But today (probably because he's getting sick too), he did. Which means I'm almost warm for the first time in ages!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Email Sent!

So Ross and I sent out an email letting all our family know about the art he's been making. I'm so nervous and excited that we've really done it - we're actually trying to get his wonderful art sold, and I love it! Here's the gist of what we told everyone:

     Happy Holidays family! Here's hoping you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you're all headed into an even better year-end celebration. Ross and I definitely have a lot to be thankful for this year, and one of those things is the recent chance to start a business together!
      As you may know, Ross is an artist. Way back when, before I stole him away from art school in New York, he had plans to be a professional graphic designer, painter and art teacher. His art was actually one of the things that made me love him so much - it was thoughtful and striking and so gorgeous. Once he moved out to California, other jobs became his priority, and rather than being his career, Ross's art became a hobby.  
     Recently, though, a few of his pieces were featured in a benefit auction (full disclosure - I planned the auction and convinced him to let me include his work), and, just like I knew they would, his paintings sold quickly! Soon after that, I was able to convince him to give "artist" another shot as a career choice, and now here we are, launching our business together! He makes the art, I write about it, and we're hopeful that you all will like his work as much as I do (being a serious artist, Ross will never admit to liking anything he's created...but he sure does beam with pride when Emmett asks him to tell stories about the bear and penguin he's painting!)
Called "Paint By Number Parents," our home-based, online, decorative art shop offers unique and one-of-a-kind paintings and photographs created by Ross, with the occasional addition from me. Our products are designed with both kids and parents in mind - art that is sweet and kid friendly, but also appealing to parents. 
     It's been great fun brainstorming design ideas with Ross, and I think a lot of the fun shows in the things we have for sale - adorable animal watercolors, custom made name or initial paintings, fancy and impressive watercolor greeting cards, canvas mounted photographs, with unique lighted paintings and more soon to come!

We offered a coupon there for some awesome items like Ross's Stuffed Animal Greeting Cards, or one of my favorite photographs from our honeymoon, and I'm going to throw a great deal out here too! 

Use the coupon code "Holiday2013" and we'll give you 30% off anything in the shop. Free shipping! We'd love for you to use it, hopefully on something you really like. 

Crossing my fingers, cause here we go!

I'm thankful today for butter on popcorn, tin foil, Thanksgiving leftovers, rock-paper-scissors, and driving around with the heat on and windows down

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Love Is

Danced in the kitchen with my husband tonight, while thinking and smooching about how much we love that we've loved eachother for 14 years. Since innocence. He was my first love, and I'm so thankful that I loved first the man I'll love last. In the most "Sweet Valley High" and "Clueless" way possible.

Followed up by this, with a couple twirls and Prom reminscences., And then thankfulness.

I love my family, so much. All the new ones and old ones and close ones and not so close ones, in whichever way those may be, whether by distance or by time or just by how things go. And I love you all and I am blessed. Not just by some higher-up, but by the lucky happenstance of the combination of wonderful people who are in my life.

Finish with these two totally disparate representations of excellence in the world of creativity.

Today, I am thankful for stuffing, whiskey, white wine, Balderdash, and Family. So good, so loved.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu!

We've gotten started on the cooking for Thanksgiving. Mom and Dad are housesitting a couple doors down, so between the three couples, we've got three kitchens. And we will SO be using them. Just at the cottage alone, we're making:

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Nutmeg Bechamel Sauce
Sweet and Spicy Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon, 5 Cracked Peppers and Olive Oil
Lynds's Vegetarian Stuffing with Cranberries
Ross's Grandmother's Apple Sausage Dressing
Fresh Baked Honey Dinner Rolls
Cinnamon Raising Bread Pudding with Hard Sauce

And then you add in the rest of the kitchens:

A 22 pound Roasted Crispy Turkey with Fresh Sage
Lynds's Grandmother's Old-Fashioned Stuffing
Green Bean Casserole
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Pie
Salad with the Best Salad Dressing Ever
Probably Apple Pie
Tommy's Mom's Homemade Pho
Wine, Wine and more Wine.

I can't wait. Thanksgiving here is the best fun tradition - giant meal, good music, plenty of drinks, and then ridiculous and multiple rounds of board games. Balderdash, Apples to Apples, Cranium, and maybe even a shot at Cards Against Humanity. I'll post lots of pictures the day after Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best Salad Dressing Ever

I used to think, back before I went to college, that salad was a side dish. That wimpy, watery iceberg lettuce and dried out carrots, miniature croutons and shredded American cheese, mealy tomato cubes and neon-orange French dressing were as good as salad got.

I was so wrong. See, there's this place in Berkeley called Cafe Intermezzo. Or there was that place, anyways. And they served the best most amazing giant salads ever. Bigger than your head, with mounds of almost fluffy red and green leaf lettuce, the thinnest of sliced cucumbers, brilliantly purple red cabbage, bite-sized cherry tomatos, crunchy crouton discs, half an avocado just plopped on there, kidney and garbanzo beans, bright orange carrot slices, and if you wanted them, sprouts (I never did). Served with a hunk of just-made honey whole-wheat sunflower bread, the "Veggie Delight" was breathtaking before the dressing was added.

Photo by Micah L

But then came the Poppy Seed dressing. A little tangy, a little sweet, a lot something I could never quite figure out. It was addicting...dip your bread in it, let the croutons soak some up, always be sure to toss your salad (haha) around a lot to get all the dressing on there. It turned a great salad into something worthy of being on a "top ten meals of your life" list.

Every time I was nearby, I popped into Cafe Intermezzo and ordered a Veggie Delight with Poppy Seed Dressing. Even when I wasn't nearby, I'd more-than-occasionally head over to pick up a salad to go, driving 30 minutes out of my way sometimes and never feeling like it wasn't worth it to have this amazing salad dressing. I'm not kidding, it's that good. None of that grocery store garbage compares. I don't even really LIKE other poppy seed dressings.
Photo by Henry S

And then, Intermezzo burned down. A little over a year and a half ago, my favorite restaurant burned down, and with it went the recipe for the best salad dressing ever. Ever since then, I've been trying to figure it out, experimenting with piles of ingredients and tweaking my recipe here and there. And finally, I think I've got it! Try this now. You won't regret it, I promise. In fact, you can come find me and yell at me if you don't like it.

Poppy Seed Dressing

(yes, I know the measurments are funny. My kid stole all my measuring cups except for the 1/5 cup & the 1/2 cup. Sorry.)

Ingredients (makes enough for 3 big-a** salads)

~1 tsp of grated yellow onion (I use a microplane)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
~1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/5 cup red wine vinegar
1/5 cup white sugar
1 tbsp poppy seeds
a blob of mustard


Add all ingredients into a jar or container with a tight lid. Shake it up. Pour over lettuce and other salad-y things. You'll be happy you did. I am, and now I get to have this deliciousness whenever I want. 

I'm thankful today for early Christmas gifts, for my sweet and goofy students who made me giant cards of well wishes while I was gone, for the even sweeter but also more serious student who cleaned my room and reorganized my papers for me, for new headbands, and for comfy shoes.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to Find Your Passion, Part 2

Disclaimer: If you're reading this with a lot of grammatical mistakes and a sort of speech/ stream of consciousness vibe/ flagrant abuse of ellipses... then that means Lyn didn't edit this too much, we have very different writing styles. If you're reading this and it's grammatically correct... then that means that she edited it... and deleted this whole disclaimer.

Oh, and I haven't read her answers to the questions brought up by this article yet so this should be interesting.

Step 1: Answer the Question: What do you love?

I love creating things...painting obviously...otherwise I think the name of this blog would be different... but also woodworking, drawing, cooking...and wildly obscure metaphors to explain concepts (ask me about my football based Congestive Heart Failure explanation sometime). There's a lot of pride in a finished piece that you're happy with.

I also love teaching people things/ being the guy with the answers. Seeing someone "get it," whether it's a difficult new concept, or an activity that they've never tried, is a pretty awesome feeling. Explaining a medical condition and the treatment to a patient so they truly understood and felt more confident about letting me working on them, talking politics or sociology with someone in a way that they understand it's relation to current events, science (what little I know)...that sort of stuff. Teaching probably wouldn't be a bad choice for me if it wasn't for being surrounded by loud, obnoxious, Know-it-all kids. (I remember myself in high school)

I love the adrenalin rush of a win in a stressful situation. Like an live-fire ambush or room clearing exercise drill in the Marine Corps or an acute medical call on the ambulance where you're always one step ahead and watching the patient improve with the treatment choices you made.

Step 2: Answer the Question: What do you loathe?

I loathe busy work... might explain my decision not to re-enlist. If there is not logical, productive reason to be doing something other than "because I said so," don't make me do it. I can totally accept "I don't have time to explain it to you right now, so get it done and I'll explain it all to you later," or even better, "there's absolutely no good reason to be doing this but I want you to look busy in case my bosses walk in." (Emmett, if you read this someday "because I said so" is a totally acceptable reason for me to give to you!)

I loathe people being mean or disrespectful just because of a misplaced sense of authority...public service, municipal, local, and federal is all service to the people, not the other way around. Your badge, stars, bars, stripes, degrees, title, or office don't give you the right to belittle, ignore, or disregard somebody's wishes. You don't have to honor them but you do have to recognize and consider them.

I loathe working retail.  From corporate to customers to pay, with the occasional exception of coworkers there is almost no redeeming quality to working retail. I'm thinking no one is getting barista for any corporate outfits as their dream job.

I loathe inconsiderate people who are oblivious of their surroundings. People who stop in the middle of aisles, people who let their kids run amok, people who feel that they are the most important person in the world and everyone else need to submit to their will. (see: the majority of customers I encountered working retail).

Step 3: Discover the Seven Seeds of Your Soul

1. Even if you didn’t get paid a cent for it, would you still do this? I'd do (and right now I am doing) art without getting paid. I probably wouldn't volunteer teach and I definitely wouldn't go back to being a Marine or a Paramedic without getting paid (it was barely worth the little pay I got.)

2. Would doing this inspire you every day? I like getting the new ideas for artwork and figuring out the riddle of getting it done... so yeah, that's inspiring. Teaching would be pretty great with the right batch of kids or maybe the right school... but the way that the education system is going there are really no guarantees. The Military and Emergency Medicine pretty much sent me the other way... unless misanthropy can be inspired?

3. Does doing this come as naturally to you as breathing? I guess organizing ideas into images and structures is pretty natural to me... I had an idea for a new series of paintings tonight and immediately after the idea hit me I had picture layouts and compositions figured out. The words "I wonder what that would look like" seldom come out of my mouth because I've already imagined what it would look like. (I'm usually disappointed about the actors they chose for characters in books I've read).

4. Do you feel you’ve been given a special gift to do this? Like Olsher said... this is sometimes a hard thing to admit. When I was a Paramedic and sometimes as a Marine, people would say, "I could never do that"...sometimes they meant the academic side of learning medicine but mostly they meant the occasional blood, frequent exposure to bodily fluids, common invasive procedures, and constant jackasses. I would always tell them they could do it, because I've seen people do some amazing things under stress. It's desire that they didn't have. But I've known people who really wanted to do some of the things I have done with art and weren't able to. At every other job on the list there have been people were doing it better than I was...sometimes because of natural ability and sometimes because of yeah, while I know I'm no great artist, I do think that I've got a skill that some don't have.

5. Does time seem to fly by when you’re engaged in this activity? Art: yes. Marine: seldom. Paramedic: sometimes. Retail: only in comparison to scooping out my own eyeballs with a rusty spoon.

6. Can you possibly make money doing this? Art: Hopefully. Marine: yes but at physical cost. Paramedic: yes but at mental cost. Retail: yes but the cost would be ten years with a possible chance of parole in five.

There are plenty of things that I love and hate that I could expound upon in these lists... but in the interest of brevity... and the fact that Lyn keeps asking, "how's it going in there?"... I'll end it here. I'm happy with my primary job of taking care of Emmett (which covers the love and some of the hate questions) but I'm also very glad to be doing art regularly again and be in this project with my amazing wife.

PS - ...Was that good babe?

Finding Your Passion (not the dirty kind...this isn't that kind of blog)

We got back from Chicago late last night, and all I wanna say about it right now is that I fucking love my family. The best. Ever. I'll probably fill you in on the visit at some point, but not today.

Today, I want to write about this article, called "How to Identify the One Thing You Were Born To Do," which is a terrible title, but not necessarily a terrible thing to try to figure out . Ross showed it to me today, and it's been really interesting to talk to him about it. See, we're just about to do an actual launch of the business. I'm in the process of registering our business name, and we've got holds on a couple of website domains so that we can try to really make this happen. Is it jumping the gun? Maybe...but as Ross and I have worked on building this up (me doing the writing and the networking, and him doing the art and creating ideas), we've gotten more and more attached to making Paint By Number Parents work as a real business. He is loving painting every day, and I'm remembering that I've been a writer (though never really professionally) for a long time. Plus there are piles of other reasons we want to make this happen: we work well together; he's going to be a stay-at-home dad for a while still; we need some more income but we don't want E to be in full time childcare; with a new baby on the way at Kelle's house, Ross is going to have his hands full taking care of kiddos so school may take longer than expected. Plus the whole thing is fun, but I think I mentioned that already.

Anyways, Ross showed me this article today and it got us both thinking about how this project kind of actually fits who we are and what we love. Or, as Steve Olsher puts it, Paint By Number Parents just may be our "what." Figuring out your passion can apparently be done in three simple steps, which is awesome, and so I'm not only going to go through them myself, but I'm gonna make Ross do it on here too. It's about time his voice got added in as more than a critic of contemporary music.

We start, of course, with step 1: Answer the Question: What do you love?

Focus on the activities and interactions that lift your soul. Avoid listing skills you’re good at simply because you’ve practiced them over time. Now, dig even deeper. Remember a time years ago when you laughed hysterically? What triggered the laughter? And as an adult, what gives you goose bumps? Maybe it’s the moment when you come up with a really good idea and realize you’ve found the solution you’ve been looking for. Tie the goose bumps moment to descriptions that encapsulate the activity in noun or adjective form — such as singing, teaching or healing. When recalling a special moment, try not to be too literal; look for the subtext. For example, imagine you have a fond memory of an evening spent bowling with your grandmother. Instead of writing “bowling with Grammy” on your list, broaden it to “investing time with a beloved family member.”
This one is pretty easy, at least to start. I love teaching because I love explaining things...if you've ever hung out with me after I've had more than one glass of white wine, you know this. I just can't help myself - the words are out of my mouth before my brain has a chance to tell me that no one's interested in the love affairs of Louis XIV. I love writing, and telling stories. I love reading. So. Much. And cooking. I really like cooking, especially with Ross, making things with much too much butter. I love my family, and playing board games with them after dinner. I love wine - the flavors, the varieties, the fanciness, the opportunity to make fun of the fanciness. I love gossip, which means I love news, and politics and soap operas. I love cuddling, and capers (the sneaky kind, not the salty kind). I love terribly good music (If Neil Diamond and MC Hammer teamed up together to cover Debbie Gibson songs, I just might die in an explosion of glitter and snarky bliss.)

Next, step 2: Answer the Question: What do you loathe?

If you’re clear about which activities you despise, you can establish a strong foundation for moving your life forward by starting to let them go. Whatever it is that pushes your buttons (in a bad way), write them down. Even if you worry that others might see these things as petty, include them. The key is to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Now, reflect on why you deplore an activity. Tie these moments to descriptions that encapsulate the activity in noun or adjective form — for example, cleaning, watching TV, eating unhealthy food, being around miserable people, shopping.
Oooooh, fun game. Ok, I hate: people who are in the way (seriously, you don't have to stop your shopping cart in the middle of the aisle, make small talk with the clerk at the DMV, walk three people wide on the sidewalk, or drive slowly); defeatism; technology that doesn't work; being out of touch with the people I love; spiders; intolerance, or lack of compassion; when people say "nucular" instead of "nuclear"; Garrison Keillor's smug voice and the fact that he has a weekly program that people listen to; blaming the victim;  Men's Rights Activitsts; when people don't see their privilege; running (seriously, why would you make people do this?!); the NRA (and all other instances of promotion of violence as an answer to any problem, including other violence); actually, that last one should probably just say "violence of any kind" because I'm a big ol' hippie; not being taken seriously when I'm trying to be serious, or having my actions/complaints dismissed as unimportant, or not being able to do something about "it," whatever the "it" may be.

And finally, step 3: Discover the Seven Seeds of Your Soul

Get your lists of Things I Love Doing and Things I Hate Doing. Start with the top item on your list of Things I Love Doing and ask yourself each of the six questions below as it relates to the activity. Each answer should be a definitive yes or no.
1. Even if you didn’t get paid a cent for it, would you still do this?
2. Would doing this inspire you every day?
3. Does doing this come as naturally to you as breathing?
4. Do you feel you’ve been given a special gift to do this?
5. Does time seem to fly by when you’re engaged in this activity?
6. Can you possibly make money doing this?
Ok, so I can answer "Yes" to all these questions for: Teaching, writing, and cooking. Next!
When you arrive at an item with six yes answers, circle it and then ask yourself this final question: Does performing this activity involve anything on my list of Things I Hate Doing?
Hmmmm...actually, teaching may just be the only one of those things that doesn't fit...but I can't know for sure, because I've never tried to write or cook professionally, and if you don't know that doing something as a job is different than doing something for fun, you have never tried to follow your dreams. Also, I love teaching. And I teach at an amazing school, which in part means that I can do more than one thing, since teaching hours are so conducive to life outside of work, if you're doing it right! So with that, I'm gonna hand this off to Ross, who has just finished making me a dee-yicious salad for dinner. Next post will be from him!

Today, I'm thankful for a grocery store that's nearby, for salad, for people who believe that "it takes a village to raise a child," for "Parks and Recreation," and for sake.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stuffed Cabbage, If You Can

A couple of years ago, my mom asked my Grammie for a recipe. Cooking wasn't Gram's best thing, but she had a knack for those home-cooked comfort foods. The stick to your ribs, good old fashioned, midwestern style food that try as you might, you can never quite replicate, probably because you're not using enough butter.

So anyways, Mom was feeling nostalgic for Grammie's stuffed cabbage (also, Costco had a deal on cabbage), and she emailed, asking for her recipe. This bit of brilliance is what she got back:

the spice I used was the same spice you use for swedish meatballs    allspice     and the cabbage leaves were par boiled so you could drop  in your meat mixture kind of wrap it up and cook it slowly in in tomatoes     I used plain canned tomatoes but you can use stewed tomatoes also finely chopped onions     but not to many  one half of a small onion would do it in the meat mixture   you can put the all      spice in the meat mixture s well as the tpmatoes   season to taste with the allspice      sounds like spomething good to make     maybe I will do it also     made vegetable soup last night with top sirloin beef      browned the beef and simmered the heck out of it for 3 or so hours    almost every veggie you can think of except peas 
Of course, Mom sent this on to Kelle and me right away, because how can you not love it? I think she tried to decipher it, but it didn't quite work out, so she also wrote back, asking for clarification. You know, things like "So... Eggs in the meat mixture?" and  "Do you remember how much rice to beef?" and "Is the rice already cooked?" which, naturally, just got her more joyful confusion:

rice is allready cooked      meat is not      no eggs         not quite half   rice to beef       or less        you can allways serve extra rice on the side with the tomatoe gravy     let me know how it turns out

And this kind of thing is exactly what made her the brilliant matriarch she was. Funny, but without meaning to be; helpful, in the most unhelpful way possible; and loving, with full force and intention.

Grammie died last night around midnight, surrounded by her daughters and with her husband by her side. She leaves behind a legacy, and not just one of love and family, but one of laughter. There is nothing she loved more than making us laugh, except for making us food. Yogurt most especially. I'll miss her terribly, but I feel so blessed to know that she was my grandmother. As my dad would say, it's all Grammie's fault that we're around...and thank God for that.

I'm grateful today for so many things...for my cousins, who all called each other the instant we knew Gram had died. For my husband, who spent the day packing my bags for me so I wouldn't have to, and was good enough to remember my "Marge and Jack 50th Anniversary" tshirt. For my Great Aunt Dorothy, Sally's Grandma, my Grandma and Grandpa Schlax, and my Great Grandma Ohlberg, who all left me beautiful jewelry that are like talismans to me at times like this. For Alliya and Sally and Tiffany, who've all held up our NorCal branch of the family over the past few days with lots of calls and texts and love and food and offers of rides and other needed things, but mostly just for the reminders that they're really here for us when they say they are. For air travel...because as much as I hate airlines and the crappy way they treat their customers, it is allowing us to go home to be with family, and there's nothing in the world I'm more thankful for than that. My family is the best family. If you want in, you're totally welcome. 

PS - I just got a text from my sister with the most amazing thing ever in it. A voicemail from Gram, on Kelle's birthday. See, Grammie and Bapa always were the best at birthday phone calls. No one could beat them - there were jokes they'd practiced in advance, coordinated squabbles, uncoordinated squabbles, singing, insults, and the best love ever. And Kelle managed to save one from years now I'll be able to hear my lovely Gram's love and smile (because you can't hear this without hearing a smile) for always. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Time for Tears

This circle of life thing is awfully hard. Birth and death, beginnings and ends, celebrations and sorrows.

My beloved, beautiful, strong and fabulous Grammie is dying, maybe today.

It's also Emmett's 2nd birthday.

Conference-called with the cousins to decide whether to fly back home to Chicago while wrapping last minute birthday presents.

Learned that Bapa had decided he just wanted his love to be comfortable from now on while pulling cupcake pans out of the cabinet.

We got the call to be able to talk to Gram one last time while Emmett was opening his presents. I couldn't hear her, because she's apparently too weak to talk, but I told her all about our plans to celebrate the kiddo's birthday with cupcakes and trains and french fries. He said a cheerful "nankoo gwammie yuv yoo gwammie" while I handed my sister the phone so she could say goodbye.

Emmett listens to the Beatles Birthday song, and dances away, while my mother plays Frank Sinatra to my Gram to help her feel calm, safe, and ready.

Just after the kiddo spilled sprinkles all over his face, and consequently the floor, my dad called to say he'd likely be heading to Chicago shortly.

It's been all tears and all smiles, and not much in between, except for love. Love and appreciation for the amazing family I'm a part of, the family my Grammie created.

My two kindred spirits, in love with each other from the moment they met, celebrating life at the same time, in such aweful and different ways. And yes, I meant to spell it that way. I'm in awe, completely.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Science Experiment - Think You Know the Result?

You may know this, or you may not, but my stunning amazing little sister is going to be having a baby in April!!! I'm crazy excited - I get to hold and smell and love on a new little one so soon, and Kelle is going to be an amazing mom, and it's all just so much to be ridiculously happy about that some days I think I may explode.
Glowing, happy, gorgeous!

So a couple of days ago, after we went to the Tilden Steam Trains, we dropped the kiddo off at home for a nap and headed out to Park St. for a much needed pedicure. Seriously, my toes were sporting some green polish and remnants of daisies from the last time I visited my family in SoCal, which was over the summer. Totally not sandal-worthy. Not that there's any reason to be wearing sandals right now. It would be a bad idea to wear sandals, actually, because it's been chilly here, so really, I could have just taken off the nail polish and no one would have ever known, because no one's seeing my toes right now except for Ross, and he for sure doesn't give a damn if they're polished or not.

But we went anyways, because our pedicure spot is awesome and it comes with a massage chair. Plus we got Thai food beforehand. I'd been craving dim sum, but Kelle vetoed that, and there's no way I'm going to contradict a hungry pregnant woman, so Thai it was! And really, how can you be unhappy with a meal that includes a Thai ice tea. It's just not possible.

While we were pedicuring, we talked to Sophie, the owner, about the baby-on-the-way, and about how we both think it's a girl. Which got us to talking about all the old wives tales regarding predicting a baby's gender. Which of course led to a caper, because when Kel and I spend any length of time together, something very silly is going to happen. And it sure did. We found websites. With lots and lots of silly ways to predict your baby's gender. And it was all downhill from there.

At first, it was only about cataloging the easy ones - What does she think the baby will be (mother's intuition is one of the more reliable predictors - cool, right?) She thinks girl, and so does everyone else, except her man!

Is she carrying high or low? (we didn't know what this one meant, but lots of people say she's carrying high, so it must mean something!) Beach ball or football? (Apparently girls make a mom's belly wider than boys do)  Looks pretty footbally to us!
Also, pretty sneechy

 Feeling pretty or feeling unattractive? (Girls "steal your beauty," the jerks) I think she's extra stunning as a pregnant lady! Is the dad gaining weight? (He wouldn't fess up, and Kel's smart, so we left this as the other "maybe?") Is she craving sweet things or salty things? (Definitely sweet...she cried a few weeks ago because Tommy brought home lemonade instead of limeade.) Girls apparently make you want sweets.

But why stop there? There's so much more ridiculous stuff to consider! Like: How does she grab a key when it's presented to her? (Fat part=boy, skinny part=girl, because, of course).
I surprised her with this one in the supermarket. It's not that startling of a thing, but she jumped a mile into the air. I think it runs in the family.

Is she extra moody? (Women are happier while pregnant with a baby boy because "they have a little penis inside them.") I'm not gonna put in a vote on this one, because I'm not that dumb, and Tommy wouldn't either (good man)...but Kel said she thinks she's been moody, so I'll go with it.

Is there a "V" or branch shape on her eyeball? (This was almost impossible to get a picture of because I kept tearing up when I looked at her eyes. Sorry if it does the same to you. You can just pretend you're crying because you watched that awesome video I posted about last week.)
We decided yes, there was...which apparently means girl. Again, how are these things related? 

What happens when we hold a needle or a gold ring over her belly? Does it move in a circle, or a straight line?
Or does she just make a sassy face?
Ok, it was circle. But of course Ross had to explain the physics behind why, because he likes to ruin our capers. He was all "the rotation of the Earth will cause things to spin blah blah blah" and we were all "but this is way more sciencey than adding her age and the year together to find something out (which we had just done with the Chinese gender test) so just let us do this experiment" and then he was like "ok, whatever, but if you get criticized for your methodology don't say I didn't warn you" and we were like "yeah, I don't think that's gonna be what people criticize us for."

Next: Are her legs large? (Compared to what?) We thought no, and didn't take that one seriously enough to investigate any further. Is her pee a dull color? (Also, compared to what? Like the time I had to do a lab test involving peeing all day and the technician asked me if I needed a big cup or a little one...I was like, I don't know, what do you usually give people? And she was like "I give people what they need - do you pee a lot or a little?" And I was like "compared to what?" and then got all huffy and just gave me one of the cups...I don't know if it was a big one or a little one, so I still don't know if I pee a lot or a little. Good tangent. Moving on.) 

If you are currently thinking "Lynds, shut up about the pee already," you should just stop reading this now and read about something else cool from today, like Batkid or Rob Ford's interrogation or mustaches. Because the next bit involves lots of pee.

Apparently, if you mix a pregnant woman's urine with things, it will tell you the secret gender of your unborn baby. And since we were this far into the whole thing anyways, and Kelle is too impatient to just wait until the day after Thanksgiving when her ultrasound is scheduled for (and by "Kel is too impatient" I mean I wanna know now if I'm having a niece or nephew!), we went ahead and did those tests too!

Baking soda test - no fizz at all, which means girl!

Drano test - a little reaction there, which meant boy (aw).

Cabbage test - it stayed purple - girl again!

does anyone need half a red cabbage? We have extra....

And finally, baking powder. In retrospect, I should have read the internet more closely, because it turns out this isn't actually a real test. It was just a gross science experiment that ended up with a pee explosion and told us nothing! Boo.

Is it weird that I feel like I should apologize for my dirty table?

Now, with all that work, we could have just taken this online quiz from, which supposedly combines all these things (except the pee tests) into one and gives you a percentage. At the end of the night we did, and she scored 72% girl, which just about matches up with what we discovered. But doing it this way was more fun. Also more gross. But so are babies. Fun and gross (see the poo sandwich incident from yesterday if you want more proof). So there.

The final tally - 11 points for girl, 2 for boy, 2 unknowns, and 1 explosion