Taking Stock

I've seen all the Real Bloggers do Taking Stock posts every once in awhile. A quick Google search revealed that it may have originated here, but that's a bit of a guess, I admit. (It was a very quick search.) Despite the fact that I do not consider myself a Real Blogger, I thought it would be fun to do one of my own. Because why not, right? I'm once again trying to make writing a consistent thing over here, because a) it's a nice thing to do during nap times, b) I like having a record of what's going on in our lives, and c) I have to keep up my typing skills somehow. Pretty sure typing is like riding a bike and you never really forget, but I'm also a fan of typing fast and THAT might slip. Priorities. Gotta keep 'em straight.

So without further ado, here's my stock-taking:

  • Making: sourdough starter! I'm on my second attempt. My first grew mold and I had to start over...
  • Cooking: oatmeal bread. Not sure if that counts as "cooking," since it's technically baking, but that's what's I'm creating to eat at the moment. Since sourdough starter/bread takes several days to make, I needed a good interim bread that I could make in a day! 
  • Drinking: water. So much water. Feeding a baby is extraordinarily dehydrating, but that also means excessive bathroom runs. And here I thought I was done with that after giving birth...
  • Reading: this book! It's my absolute favorite and I'm now reading it for the second time. Also the Bible...sort of. I'm trying to read through it in a year, but I'm currently 13 days behind. I can catch up, I can catch up, I can catch up...
  • Wanting: a little more sleep. If the current trend holds fast, I *might* actually get more as well!
  • Looking: outside, but staying inside because it's so freaking hot. I'm not built for 90+ degree weather.
  • Wishing: that far-away friends were nearer. We're now six years post-college and the distance is still too far.
  • Enjoying: being home with Elise more than I expected I would. Watching her grow is rather miraculous. 
  • Waiting: for the next six hours to pass so we can officially start the weekend! Days when all three of us are home are the best days.
  • Loving: the way Elise sleeps with her feet tucked up under her. She's a tummy sleeper (despite all current sleep recommendations), and it's the cutest thing.
  • Watching: Anne with an E. I started watching it (another napping activity, although a very sedentary one!) and I like it a lot even though they took some clear liberties with the plot.
  • Pondering: how my tiny baby already has a personality...she's an introvert and a homebody, and it's a good encouragement for me to make sure that keeping a cozy, happy, warm home is a priority.
  • Wearing: Casual clothes every day! The novelty of not wearing office attire four out of five week days hasn't worn off yet.
  • Noticing: that the summer is slipping away fast. I'm much more inclined to spend time outside doing things when the temperature isn't so hot, so I'm not too sad about it. Bring on the fall! Too soon?
  • Knowing: that these early months are going so fast. I want to cherish them while they last. 
  • Thinking: about anniversary gift-giving. Our third anniversary is this week and I think I've narrowed down what I'm going to do!
  • Feeling: content. Tired. Happy. Quiet. All of that mixed together.

#momlife

This blog once was all about traveling, random experiences, and who knows what else. Food I found abroad? Organic house products? I guess both of those fall under the "random experiences" category. I clearly should have been a little more specific in my initial list of options.

Those posts are all fine and dandy, but life looks a tad bit different now and I'm home waaaaay more often than I will be abroad these days, so I suppose the content is going to be different. Now that I have a kid I guess that makes me a legitimate mommy blogger and thus my list of daily accomplishments has changed significantly. For example, formerly you might have found something here like, "I made it through a 7-hour flight without having to use an airplane bathroom!" (Side note: if I was listing that as an accomplishment, I was clearly not pregnant.) Now, my small feat of the day might be something like, "I made it through the last 12 hours without getting spit up, poop, or other sundry body fluids on my shirt!" Lofty goals, I tell you!

So I guess you could say life is a little slower at the moment. I spend a lot of time doing this:

I'm very aware that if there's another baby in our future, chasing after a toddler would seriously limit my human mattress capabilities, so I'm trying to soak up the opportunity now and fight against my constant urge to get up and do something productive, creative, or otherwise useful with my time. 

I haven't quite figured out that balance. I'm looking forward to the days of having an older, more interactive child so that we can do things together, but I'm simultaneously wishing time would slow down so my tiny cuddly baby doesn't outgrow her propensity to nuzzle against my shoulder while she falls asleep. At the same time, I don't think it's too shameful to admit that I do sometimes miss the ease with which I could pack up and go in a minute if need be, and the adult-only interaction that came with life in an office. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't trade my current status for the world, this job is infinitely more worthwhile, and the benefits far outweigh the small inconveniences. But as time goes on, I'm sure the days will become more routine and we'll all feel more settled.

In the meantime, here's another photo of my favorite girl. And also my leg.

Please note that I was indeed wearing shorts.

Please note that I was indeed wearing shorts.

And that's not to say that every day is without adventure. In two weeks, Chaz, Elise, and I are all packing up and hauling ourselves to NYC for a couple days. I'm sure you'll be absolutely dying to hear all about it, so get yourselves all good and ready for that enthralling tale. 

Oh, and today's small accomplishment? Elise napped in her crib! Score!

Elise Lorraine: An Arrival Tale

Let me just start by saying right off the bat that I know birth stories aren't everyone's cup of tea, so feel free to skip this one if you're less than enthused about the topic! However, I'll spare the goriest details, since...the internet doesn't really need those anyway. Continuing with the disclaimers, I apologize about the length. This post is more for my own memory-keeping than anything else, so it's pretty much a small novel. 

I finished working on Friday, May 26th. I had honestly been hoping that the little one would make her appearance ON the 26th, since Chaz and I got engaged on October 26th and married on July 26th, but no luck - I finished working, packed up the remainder of the things left in my office, and Chaz helped me carry it all down to my car. At 39+3 weeks, I was DONE being pregnant. Pregnancy, overall, treated me extremely well - no morning sickness, no cravings, no excessive weight gain - until the last two weeks. Between swelling of all my extremities and some unpleasant side effects that caused severe discomfort, I was really, really hoping to go into labor over the long weekend. Plus, it was a long weekend! Aside from the fact that my brother had declared that May 28th was an off-limits date since it was his birthday, the timing couldn't have been better.

I'd been having consistent Braxton Hicks contractions for most of the day on both Thursday and Friday, to the point where they were timeable. But by the time the evening rolled around, they'd taper off, and I'd go to bed hoping that I'd get a full night's rest and go into real labor bright and early the following morning. 

I woke up on Saturday (May 27th) and felt the same - extraordinary discomfort due to my "side effects," with mild contractions about 20 minutes apart. Every few hours I'd get excited because they'd increase to about 15 minutes apart and start feeling mildly painful, but they'd space out again shortly thereafter. We proceeded with our regular Saturday routine. Chaz went to the dump, we cleaned the house, and then we got ready for the day. Around lunchtime, we decided to go on an excursion to Wahlburgers for lunch. While the burger was delicious, it was probably the most uncomfortable meal of my entire life. I could barely sit on the hard chair, and my "Braxton Hicks" contractions, though still not more frequent than 15 apart, were decidedly uncomfortable. We got back in the car, headed home, and spent a quiet afternoon around the house. 

The evening rolled around and we grilled pork chops for dinner and sat down to watch a show. I noticed the contractions were getting closer together, clocking in at 10 to 12 minutes apart, but remained convinced they'd go away as soon as I went to bed. But as soon as we got tucked in around 10:00, I realized sleep wasn't in the cards for me. I told Chaz to get some rest, but that I was going to go downstairs and manage them there "until they went away." 

I went to our guest bedroom and dozed there between contractions, which were getting steadily more painful and decidedly closer together. I stayed down there until 1:00, at which point they jumped from every 6 - 7 minutes to every 4. I finally convinced myself that they weren't stopping like I expected, so I gave the birth center a call, and to my surprise - I'm still not sure why I found this surprising - they told me to come in. 

Since our guest bedroom is downstairs and Chaz was sleeping upstairs, I texted him at first to see if I could avoid climbing the steps. No luck. I waited another five minutes, breathed my way through another contraction, and then went to wake him up. "Is it time to go?" he said. I confirmed, and I put in earrings (again...not sure why I felt that was necessary) while he got his bag ready and put everything in the car. 

We arrived at the hospital 15 minutes later and they sent us to L&D triage, where they put me on the monitors for 20 minutes to make sure everything was consistent. After the nurse told me that the contractions weren't the "strong, middle-of-labor contractions" variety characteristic of active labor, I convinced myself they were going to send me home. But! The doctor came to check me, and upon finding that I had made some progress, he informed me I could stay and we'd be having a baby. They had me sign a bunch of forms, took my blood (though I tried to talk them out of that...), and got me into a delivery room by 3:00am.

The hours between 3:00 and 6:00 are a bit of a blur. I spent most of the time sitting on a yoga ball beside the bed with my head and arms draped over a stack of three pillows so I could rest between contractions. The nurse came in to check on me every so often, but by the time 6:00 rolled around, I knew something needed to change since I felt like I wasn't going to be able to handle the pain for much longer. The nurse offered me a couple of non-epidural drug options that I wasn't thrilled about - I've never liked the idea of not being fully mentally present for anything, let alone delivering a baby - but then she suggested that I get into the tub. It sounded perfect, so off she went to fill it up. 20 minutes later, I was sinking into a nice warm bath, which helped immensely. Contractions were still coming regularly, but they were easier to manage when surrounded by what essentially felt like a giant heating pad. Chaz was even able to sleep a bit in a chair nearby! 

I hung out in the tub for 7:30. The contractions picked up in intensity again, and I wasn't getting much of a break between them anymore. And by then...I was done with it. I asked for an epidural, and died a little inside when they told me the entire process would take about 20 minutes from start to finish. Fortunately, they said they could do the IV while I was still in the tub, so at least I could distract myself with being surrounded by warm water while they stuck me with needles. Have I mentioned how much I hate needles? I HATE NEEDLES. Prior to labor, I thought my hatred of needles would be enough to prevent me from wanting an epidural. Ha. No. After 10 hours of labor, my mental state was something akin to "Stick me with all the needles! Help!"

And so I hobbled back to the delivery room from the tub room at the speed of an overheated, dehydrated tortoise with an IV pole, where the anesthesiologist arrived with a tray of giant needles that I steadfastly turned my gaze away from. Chaz apparently had a nice view though, and he tactfully said nothing about the size of the needles until several hours later. 

They had to do the epidural twice. The first time I could still feel the insertion of the tubing used to administer the drug and it HURT, so they pulled everything out, waited through another contraction, stuck me with the numbing needle a second time, and then did the tubing again. The second time I could still feel a little, but it didn't hurt anymore. Shortly thereafter, my legs started tingling and the contraction pain was significantly diminished, and I sent two friends a text saying, "I've concluded epidurals are God's most perfect gift to women." It was glorious and though after another 10 minutes I couldn't feel the lower half of my body at all, it was so nice to have a bit of a break.

The break was a bit short-lived, however, because about 10 minutes after that, I noticed my arms were tingling as well. When I asked about it, the nurse said she thought it was the blood pressure cuff, since it was taking measurements every two minutes. But the next thing I knew, the nurse was handing me an oxygen mask and paging the doctor. This part is all very hazy to me, but apparently my blood pressure had dropped like crazy, as had the baby's heart rate (normally around 150, down to 80 beats per minute). The flipped me every which way to try to get her heart rate to stabilize, assuming that the cord was wrapped around her neck. I heard the anesthesiologist say, "Ok, give her ephedrine," but around the same time they realized that I wasn't able to support the upper half of my body at all to assist in positioning myself to fix the baby heart rate issue. The doctor was there as well and they realized that the problem was the epidural, not the cord. The epidural drug had gone both down (which is what it was supposed to do) and up (which is not what it's supposed to do), so I had no feeling at all from my neck to my toes! 

Eventually, they got me into a position where the baby's heart rate was stable, but they also broke my water and stuck a fetal monitor on the baby's head so they could get more accurate information about her status. They turned the epidural completely off, and once I was looking a little less...zombie-like, I guess...they left us to our own devices until the effects wore off. Fortunately, my body kept on laboring during the whole thing, so things were still progressing.

About two hours later, I could feel my arms again, although everything below my navel was still numb. No complaints - I wasn't really interested in feeling much after that, so I was a happy camper. They gave me a popsicle and I took a selfie that turned out to be a very accurate portrayal of my state of affairs:

Tasty popsicle, messy hair, tired red eyes, and SUPER BLURRY because I'd been shaking nonstop probably since 3am. Labor + adrenaline = the shakes, I suppose. 

And so we waited. It was a pleasant couple of hours once I'd recovered enough to talk. Around 10:30 I made a dumb joke that if we had the baby in the next 20 minutes, we could still make it to church on time. Around 11:15, they checked me again and said it was time to push. The doctor recommended that we try every other contraction, since her heart rate was still on the unsteady side and we didn't want to rock the boat too hard. So for the next 1.5 hours, that's what we did. I was starting to feel contractions again now that the epidural's effects had mostly dissipated, but epidurals have a magical re-up button and after a bit they let me hit it since the renewed pain was distracting me from pushing. 

I knew things were getting close when people started assembling and the doctor suited himself up. In addition to the doctor, there were at least three extra nurses (aside from the one - Katy! - who'd been with us the whole time) and the neonatologist. When they called in the neonatologist I knew they weren't going to put the baby on me right away, and I was fine with that because it meant they were going to make sure she was in good shape right away. 

I guess she wasn't moving out quite as fast as her health required, because the doctor said that it was time for the vacuum. Another side note: the term "vacuum" isn't really accurate. It's really more like a suction cup. With that, they stuck it on her head, gave me a small surgical modification, and vacuumed while I pushed. And there she was! It was 12:58 pm on May 28th, and we named her Elise. We definitely missed church.

They took her over to the warmer right away and checked her all over. She screamed immediately, so we knew her lungs were doing just fine. She was pink and she had ten fingers and ten toes, weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long, and was perfect. Then they handed her to us and we loved her.

We spent the next two days in the hospital getting to know her, recovering, taking a thousand pictures, seeing visitors, sleeping a very little, and eating some surprisingly good hospital food. 

And then we took her home and started figuring out how to be parents. It's an adventure! 

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And we love it.

This post is for my own benefit...

Last time I was in Budapest (May 2016), I was with a lovely group of people from work and to make a long story short, we found a great restaurant. The three folks with me all got Caesar salads, but I wasn't feeling lunch food and opted for French toast instead. It turned out to be the best food decision I've ever made, and to this day it remains my number one location for French toast in the world. Problem: I had taken no pictures, I hadn't noted the name of the restaurant, and I only had a vague recollection of the location ("It's somewhere diagonally away from the Parliament building..."). Not the most useful.

I returned to Budapest this week - for work again! - and I was determined to relocate said restaurant. After a solid 15-20 unsuccessful minutes searching Google maps for "cafe" in the general diagonal direction away from the Parliament building, I finally took a wild chance and Googled "French toast in Budapest Hungary," figuring my chances were slim to none for finding anything useful. LO AND BEHOLD, I found this website, which led me to the actual cafe's website. I scheduled it into my Saturday plans immediately, and it may have been the highlight of the Budapest part of the trip...again. Honestly, who could turn down French toast with cinnamon butter and a berry sauce?

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Ok, I admit...that picture is not the MOST appetizing, but it's because I took it really fast so that I could devour it immediately. Does this help?

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I suppose not. Partially eaten food never looks the most appetizing. You'll just have to take my word for it, I guess. Anyway, this post serves as a way for me to remember where to get French toast in Budapest whenever I'm here next. Or whenever I decide to make a very expensive spontaneous decision to fly to Europe for brunch.

New Year, New Post, New...Woodstock!

It looks like 2016 turned out to be the Year Without a Blog, because my last post was back in September! But...there's a good reason for that, because four days after my last post, we realized that the next weeks/months/years were going to look a little different than everything preceding them.

And so before, on, or sometime after May 31, there will be a new, very small Woodstock in the house, and we couldn't be more excited.

I've been really lucky to have a very easy pregnancy so far - no morning sickness, and apart from a near-constant headache, no other major side effects. Our one complication earned us a super fun evening/early morning in the ER at 9.5 weeks, but even that came with the unexpected blessing of getting to see our baby for the first time - wriggling around and (presumably) happy, safe and sound.

I had taken a pregnancy test early one Saturday morning before Chaz had woken up, expecting a negative result. To my surprise, it was positive, and so like the average rational person, I decided I immediately needed to go to Target - the logical response to a positive pregnancy test. I traded my pajamas for a pair of jeans, told a still-sleeping Chaz I needed to run an errand, and ran out the door. I arrived about 10 minutes before Target opened...so I sat in the parking lot and checked the test a few times over again to make sure that I wasn't imagining an extra line (again, bringing it with me was the obvious, ultra-logical choice). Once the doors opened, I hurried inside, picked up some juice, another few pregnancy tests, a small gift bag, and a pack of onesies. Upon checkout, the cashier said, "Do you need a gift receipt?" Since I responded to the negative, I suppose she was the very first person to suspect anything...

When I got home, I stuffed the bag with some tissue paper, the test, and a onesie, and waited for Chaz to come downstairs. He was awake by that point, so when he came down he saw the gift bag on the table, and much excitement abounded henceforth.

And as of this past Friday, we know it's a girl! Hooray! We can't wait to meet her.

Crunch Time

So I'm slowly becoming a hippie.

I guess at some point it was inevitable, having grown up in Vermont and all, but for several years I thought that I had avoided it. NOPE. The granola is here, and probably here to stay. 

It started with face wash, which seemed innocent enough AT THE TIME.

This image is taken directly from Damn Good Face Wash's Etsy store. It's fantastic! Go buy some!

This image is taken directly from Damn Good Face Wash's Etsy store. It's fantastic! Go buy some!

Despite the fact that I'm 27 years old, my face has continued to break out. But now, it's so much better! It's amazing! And suddenly, I figured the magic HAD to be in the all natural ingredients, and so I went on an all-natural tear, one household product at a time. 

The next step down the path was the Mrs. Meyer's hand soap. It just smells so good! And using it basically puts another star in your crown, right? It's almost like solving global warming because it came from the earth. Basically. 

Please ignore the black speckles on my sink. They have since been cleaned.

Please ignore the black speckles on my sink. They have since been cleaned.

The all-natural soap (bar soap, of the used-for-showering variety) was the logical subsequent addition, but I knew I had really swallowed the secret sauce the day I got an essential oil diffuser. 

Does it actually make me sleep better? Does the essential oil boost my immune system? WHO KNOWS. Does it serve as a delightfully scented humidifier when we're already facing 100% humidity? YOU BET. With this stuff, I'm practically guaranteed to live to 969 years old, like Methuselah, right?

I think I'll stop well before long-skirts-and-dreadlocks status, and next week they'll probably tell us that lavender is actually poisonous, coconut oil is linked to Alzheimers, and wheat germ is the new superfood, but for now...I should be healthier by the day.

Oh, and if my hair starts looking exceptionally greasy next week? It's because I tried an all-natural shampoo. We'll see how that goes.

#Goals

The East Coast has its charms. For example, breakfast. The East Coast has breakfast places all over, and they're all mostly great. The West Coast does not have many breakfast places. It does, however, have coffee shops. 

East Coasters may think they have coffee shops. I mean...Dunkin' Donuts exists, in all of its fast food style glory, and if you're lucky you may be able to find a quirky coffee shop every once in a great while. But you have not experienced a real coffee shop until you have visited Seattle. Not only are they awesome, but they are also plentiful. Go to any town, and you will find at least three different coffee shop brands within a five-mile radius.

I, being an East Coaster (sider? Vermont has no coast...) through and through, had no idea what I was missing out on until I started dating a Washington state native. Starbucks gave me just the faintest glimpse of what could be, and I think that's the general reference point that we (the Easterners) think of when conjuring up the idea of a coffee shop. But now that I've been to the West Coast numerous times...I think it's time for something to change.

Georgetown, Massachusetts is in desperate need of a legit coffee shop, and it is my bound duty to make it happen. Just look how happy you'd be!

So I'm using "this space," as blogs are so often called, to declare my intention to finally make good on a several-years-in-the-making dream of having my very own coffee shop. Heck, I literally don't even like drinking coffee, but I love the community atmosphere, the scent of roasting beans in the air, and the comfy chairs where I can slowly sip my chai lattes. It's going to happen one day, people.

Now I just need to figure out how to write a business plan.

Going Abroad: What Not to Do

Well, hello there! Long time no...write! It's not like life hasn't been going on. Since the last time I posted, Holy Week happened, we took a trip to Ireland, and just this past week we got to go to Budapest for work. It's been a very long time since Chaz and I have been able to travel for work together, so this was a novelty. As an added bonus, three other co-workers were on the trip, so we had a grand time checking out the city outside of our work responsibilities.

I learned a few things from this trip, which I will pass along to you so that you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.

1) If you must choose between forgetting your hairbrush and forgetting your razor, DEFINITELY FORGET THE HAIRBRUSH. I forgot both, and while I was totally fine finger-combing my hair and then throwing it into some sort of up-do every day, I could.not.handle. the hairy legs situation. We found a grocery store on Day 2 and solved that with some disposable ones.

One of two possible hair solutions, plus one solution for forgetting about hairy legs.

One of two possible hair solutions, plus one solution for forgetting about hairy legs.

2) If you plan to carry a camera plus an extra lens around with you when walking around a city, plan to bring a bag big enough to fit everything. I didn't, so I bought one. It has an owl on it, and we joked that it will be a family heirloom because it's better suited to a child's life than an adult's.

Go ahead. Tell me he's not cute.

Go ahead. Tell me he's not cute.

3) Sneakers are your friend. I don't own any, but I think it's time to invest. My Converse shoes would start chafing my pinky toes around miles 4 or 5, so while they weren't the worst ever, they weren't the best either.

Or...forget the shoes and take a taxi.

Or...forget the shoes and take a taxi.

4) Always, always, always carry Advil! This was a dumb oversight on my part, since I normally do have Advil with me at all times, but I got a headache around 3pm on one of our work days and was stuck without it. I ended up having to skip the first half of a nice group dinner because I had to lie down for an hour. On the plus side, when I did walk to the restaurant, it was magically dusky outside and lent itself to some lovely photo ops. 

5) Never forego an opportunity for ice cream. We didn't make this mistake. We ate the ice cream and have zero regrets.

6) Captain Obvious here, but...milk the trip for all it's worth. Otherwise, we could have spent the entire trip doing this:

Screen blurred for privacy, of course!

Screen blurred for privacy, of course!

And the work is important! That's why we were there, after all! But it was wonderful to take some time to explore. 

And there you have it! 

An Apple a Day

Before we get this party started, here are three bits of information:

  1. I don't like needles.
  2. My worst fear is being unconscious. This fear outranks my fear of needles.
  3. Needles make me pass out.

Now that we have some context...onward.

On Friday morning, I went to visit the doctor for an annual physical. As far as I know, there is and there was nothing wrong with me, which is always good news, and also indicated that there would be nothing even remotely invasive (read: needles) involved. In typical fashion, I arrived to my appointment a rather unfashionable 17 minutes late, expecting (perhaps hoping?) the doctor would tell me that I was too late and I'd have to reschedule. But no! It was a lightly scheduled morning and the doctor was free. Good for my health, I guess.

The first half of the appointment was great. Everything checked out and you might as well call me a horse, because they say horses are healthy. She did note that my blood pressure was a little bit low, but that was nothing to be concerned about. UNTIL....

"When was the last time you had a tetanus shot?"

"Umm...I'm pretty sure it's been longer than five to ten years..." 

"Yes, I don't see any record of that in your medical history since you've been a patient here, which was 2008. I think we'd better do that today. I also want to do blood work, since it's good to do that on a regular basis."

NOOOOOOOOO.

And yet I agreed to it anyway, because I figured that if I had to set up another appointment for both of those things, the nervous anticipation leading up to the event would be worse than having it sprung on me without notice.

I calmly informed the doctor about the passing out problem while internally weeping. I also asked her if it would be ok to have the phlebotomist use a child-sized butterfly needle, because it hurts a lot less and the bloodletting is slower, therefore making the sudden blood loss less faint-inducing. She was the nicest and agreed to all of the above, and then she left me to stew in my rising panic until the needle-bearing nurse arrived.

The tetanus shot was uneventful, mostly because it was small potatoes in comparison to the prospect of having my blood drawn. The nurse finished the shot in about five seconds, disposed of the needle with a kind smile, and left.

Then the phlebotomist walked in. Things were going fine until about 2/3 of the way through, when despite the fact that I was lying down, I started getting pretty woozy. I held myself together since I didn't want to look like a baby, and then asked for some water when she was done. She brought me some (thanks, Jan!), made sure I was alright, and then told me another nurse would be in shortly to take my blood pressure. After she left, I tried desperately to hold on to my slipping consciousness and spontaneously broke into a cold sweat. I tell you, hanging out with me at the doctor is SO FUN.

I managed to not faint, and soon another nurse arrived with a blood pressure cuff. She laughed when she could get no reading on my right arm, then checked her stethoscope when my left arm had nothing either. When the stethoscope proved to be fully functioning, I watched her face turn pale as she informed me that my blood pressure had become extremely low.

"I..um...it's REALLY low. Who saw you? I'm going to get her. Here's some water! Drink it all and DON'T LIE DOWN."

Which, of course, was awesome given my tenuous grasp on cognizance. 

The doctor returned with a concerned look on her face, three packs of crackers, and two more cups of water. She told me to consume all of it, then walked out again.

Six saltines and four cups of water later, I felt much better.

The doctor came back and took my blood pressure reading one last time and declared I had recovered. 

So the moral of the story is...I guess everyone has a high-maintenance trait. Doctor visits just happen to be mine. What's yours?

 

 

The Ultimate Decorating Project

As I know I've mentioned before, interior decorating is not my forte. If I was describing my decorating style to anyone who stopped me on the street and asked (a likely scenario, of course), I'd probably just describe it as "sparse." I think my biggest hesitation is that I don't want to buy things to hang on the walls, because it seems like things on your walls should have some sentimental value. Things that you buy at Home Goods generally do not have the sentimental value appeal, and so I'm stuck.

However. The time has come for me to up the ante on decorating, because Chaz got a new office. It already got a subtle improvement when I went to Ikea and got some picture frames and a plant, but we're still working with this:

We're really lucky to have a lot of flexibility in the decor department at work, and this flexibility has been effortlessly, flawlessly displayed by both the wives of the other large-office occupants. Needless to say, there's a pretty high bar for me. 

Challenge accepted.

Yesterday, we ordered a couch and an end table. That should make it feel more homey already, I think. I also got some fabric to make pillows for the couch, and prints for the frames are already in the mail. 

So I think it's safe to say that in theory, I have the right materials. And when it all arrives, I guess then we'll see if I can channel my inner Fixer Upper to make things look snazzy. I'll keep you posted...

The Wine Rack

Today I turn 27, which means that yesterday I was feeling the full weight of the gravity of the Last Day. You know, when thoughts like, "Today is the last day I'll be 26...EVER. I must make this day count for something!" run through the mind. What? I'm the only one who experiences that? Well...you should try it sometime. It turns your Last Day hours into the most productive ones you'll have all year. 

And so as a result, I realized that I absolutely had to finish my wine rack building project before my 27th world-entering anniversary rolled around if my 26th one was to mean anything. It's a project I had started a couple of months before, but had put on hold when the weather turned chilly since I had been working on it in the unheated garage. I sawed all the wood...

Or if I'm being honest, I sawed MOST of the wood. Chaz did the beginning few cuts.

That part took the longest, and I think that's why it got put on hold. It got a little repetitive, but after that I could start screwing the shelves together.

Having two drills made ALL the different - one for pre-drilling the holes, one for screwing in the screws. Rather than having to change the drill bit for every single joint, I could just trade drills. Thanks for the extra drill, Dad!

All of that was what I had finished before yesterday. But as of yesterday morning, I still had to attach all the wine bottle slats on all of the shelves and then put the whole thing together. In other words...unless I worked all afternoon, my entire 26th year would be meaningless. 

And so after moving the entire project into our basement (and going to church - can't finish off a year as a heathen either!), I got to work.

All the slats got attached. I ran out of screws and went to Home Depot. I came back from Home Depot and we watched Downton Abbey with a side of pizza for dinner (are you caught up?? It's the final season!). And then I went back down to my lair in the basement and put the whole thing together.

And I finished the wine rack at 11:07 on 2/21/16. 53 minutes before my 27th birthday.My 26th year was saved!

I suppose this now means that we need to start collecting wine.

I've always been a believer in doing things that are beyond your normal skill-scope. I'm not a carpenter by any stretch of the imagination. There are definitely irregularities on the wine rack that the graininess of my oh-so-lovely iPhone photos hide, and it's highly doubtful I'll ever be a master woodworker. I'm totally fine with both of those things. Trying something as a beginner is one of the few places where you have absolute freedom to make mistakes and enjoy the process rather than the end result. And what do you have to lose? I admit, I could just be biased because I like projects, but there's my two cents. Don't forgo creativity just because of unfamiliarity. 

Here's to year 27.

On Being a Woman and Traveling Alone

Fact: I am female and I travel a lot by myself. Almost all of this travel is work-related, but on most trips, I have a fair bit of time to explore on my own. In some cases, that time is between when I finish working in the afternoon and going to bed that night; in other cases, my flight home is either late night and I have the entire day to explore; and in still other cases, I've built in a little extra time if it's a place I've really wanted to see. Regardless of how long I'm going to be in a place though, the fact remains that I'm female and I'm traveling by myself. As a result, I've heard from a few people that doing that themselves would make them nervous. So I'm here today to give you all my traveling advice!

DON'T BE AFRAID. JUST GO...

Culture Observations: Maybe it's because my family had traveled internationally several times when I was small, but the landing-in-a-new-culture aspect of traveling has never put me off. That's the interesting part! You get the privilege of learning how day to day life operates in different patterns than your own. And that's not a bad thing. If you can come at it with interest rather than apprehension, you're starting off on a good foot. 

Flexibility: For me, traveling alone is sometimes preferable to traveling with either Chaz or a group of friends or coworkers, particularly if I want to see a lot of things in one day. I like the ability to set my own pace, and I know my own stamina, so I just go until...I stop. For me, that usually means I end up walking several miles in a day, which is not the ideal sightseeing experience for everyone. Regardless of how you like the travel, the beautiful thing is that you can do whatever the heeeeeeeck you want.

I freaking love my clogs. They are comfortable and convenient. Do not judge. FUNCTION. OVER. FASHION.

I freaking love my clogs. They are comfortable and convenient. Do not judge. FUNCTION. OVER. FASHION.

Pictures: Take a lot! One of the downsides of traveling alone is just that there isn't anyone else there to experience all the cool things with. Taking tons of pictures helps with that, because then it's like having a report to take back home. I also usually take a few selfies, which I sort of hate, but I also like having a picture or two of myself in places rather than just pictures of things. 

Packing: PACK LIGHT. Unless you are leaving your stuff in a hotel, you're going to be hauling it around and no one is going to help you. I can tell you from experience that bringing a rolling suitcase with you around the streets of a big city is not fun, even for an hour or two. Don't do it. My best packing/traveling experience was when I got everything into a backpack. I was able to walk around London for the whole day without bumping into people and getting in everyone's way.

There's four days' worth of clothes on my back right there, plus a computer and two pairs of shoes. 

There's four days' worth of clothes on my back right there, plus a computer and two pairs of shoes. 

Lug this thing around the streets of Oslo and you'll want to leave it in the middle of the street too. Even if it's only with you because you're heading to the airport.

Lug this thing around the streets of Oslo and you'll want to leave it in the middle of the street too. Even if it's only with you because you're heading to the airport.

Feeling Comfortable: I honestly think that some guidebooks (hey there, Rick Steves...) will scare you into believing that every person around you is just waiting to steal your luggage, your money, and your passport. I don't buy it. Wear your backpack on the front of your body and you will look like a nervous tourist who isn't having fun. Wear your backpack like a normal person and you will look...normal. You will blend in, and no one will give you a second glance. Do you feel comfortable walking on the streets in Boston? Great. You'll be fine in London too. But of course, as with anywhere, just be aware of your surroundings, because it's always safer when you're paying attention. Which brings me to part 2...

...BUT DON'T BE STUPID.

Common Sense: As mentioned above, be aware of your surroundings. I like to stick to places where I know there will be lots of people so that I don't find myself in a dark alley all alone. Not that that's likely. I try to avoid dark alleys no matter where I am! Which is sort of the point: if you wouldn't do something at home, don't do it abroad. 

Wandering After Dark: This is debatable. I once walked three miles after dark in a town outside of London to get from my hotel to the grocery store and back again. I turned out fine, but I was on edge the entire time and I decided not to do it again. Had it been daylight, I probably would have thought nothing of it, but the fact that it was very dark made it freaky. Learn from my mistakes! Take the cab.

Public transportation: the cheap traveler's best option. Also the dirtiest.

Public transportation: the cheap traveler's best option. Also the dirtiest.

Pack Carefully: Packing light is really great, but it's easy to steal any form of external luggage. If I'm walking around with any sort of bag, my wallet, passport, and phone are not in it. They are instead in an internal pocket of my zipped-up jacket (or if it's hot...somewhere else not in a bag). That way, if my whole bag gets stolen, I still have money, identification, and a communication device.

Let Someone Know Where You're Going: This is actually an idea from a friend (hi, Sarah!) that I hadn't thought of, but it's a good one! In her words, "I always make friends with the hotel desk person, and then if I'm going out I'll casually mention what time I'm going to be back. They probably won't pay attention, but it can't hurt, right?" Right. 

I left the client-site and saw a fort in Puerto Rico during the day time with people around. Safe or not safe? Pop quiz!

I left the client-site and saw a fort in Puerto Rico during the day time with people around. Safe or not safe? Pop quiz!

Trust Your Gut: Intuition is a useful thing, I've found. Something smells fishy? Walk away. Seriously. Fish smell terrible... (insert courtesy laugh here). But for real, just pay attention. Don't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: HAVE FUN!

That's really all it boils down to, after all. Go be adventurous and discover the world, because it has a lot to offer. Then come back and show me all your photos over a glass of wine and some chocolate, because coming home is pretty great too.

Mostly my face, with a side of Buckingham Palace. Also: the same jacket was worn for each of the above dastardly self portraits. Apparently I have a security blanket.

Mostly my face, with a side of Buckingham Palace. Also: the same jacket was worn for each of the above dastardly self portraits. Apparently I have a security blanket.

And as a parting gift, a word to the wise: DO NOT get stuck in traffic on the way to the airport unless you want to have a heart attack.

These Days

Ahhh, that was a great Christmas break, wasn't it? It's good to be back in the saddle...a month later.

This month has been a quiet one, in a way. No traveling (at least for me), lots of evenings at home, lots of friends, lots of crafting. I tend to think that's how the long winter months should be spent, since the cold outside prevents most other things. We don't have enough snow outside to do the typical outside winter activities, but you won't hear me complaining! Remember last year?

Also: all hail the power of the snow blower. If I had to spend one more winter shoveling the amount of snow we shoveled last year, I might just decide that it was worth staying inside until it all melted, however many months that might take. 

Honestly, that's really the latest from around here. Just a small account of the quiet, happy, sometimes boring joy of the everyday. 

On a tangent: would you host a Super Bowl party if your main team AND your backup team are both out of the running? 

What We've Been Up To...

Well, we flew to Washington...which unfortunately turned into an experiment on blog abandonment. Instead of blogging, I've done a lot of the following:

A) Eating. Pretty sure I'm going to be a few pounds heavier upon my return to MA. There's just so much good food! Teriyaki restaurants, pizza places, burger joints, fro yo...you name it, and we've eaten it and enjoyed every last darn bite.

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B) Shopping. We waited to get Christmas gifts for the family members out here until we arrived since we didn't want to haul it all in our suitcases, and since there are many family members, we've been in more malls than you can count.

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C) Exploring. Washington is the coolest, I tell you. Do you want to see water? Ok...look out the back door. Mountains? Yep...look out the same door. We decided that view wasn't quite enough, so we went on a drive through a mountain pass on a day when there wasn't a massive snowstorm, and it was well worth it. 

D) Beer-tasting. Ok...this is admittedly not me. But I appreciate it in spirit. Does that count? One day I hope I grow to like it, but not this trip. 

E) Coffee-shopping. There are SO MANY COFFEE SHOPS(!) out here! Why is this not a thing in Boston? They're comforting and friendly and they have tasty things. Who wouldn't like that type of thing?

I started laughing after the second picture...

I started laughing after the second picture...

F) Crafting. Sorta. We painted pottery, because the town we're in had a place that coupled pottery painting with a coffee shop. Brilliant.

G) STAR WARS.

So far...that's it. Considering we still have three days though, I'm sure there will be more to come!

Thursday Vignettes, Vol. 3

It's been awhile since I did one of these, so the time has come again! 

1. We had our final Star Wars movie night last night - we finished Episode VI just in time for Episode VII to "hit the theaters," as they say. We made our traditional movie night dinner (nachos) and our somewhat new dessert tradition (ice cream), and it was great.

I also found a Star Wars t-shirt at Target the other day, and since this new movie coming out is such a phenomenon, I bought it. I mean...it was six dollars. I plan to wear it to the theater when we go see the movie in Washington next week. Nerd alert.

2. I have a dreadful addiction to the cards and invitations section at Target. I went in the other day to pick up something random for the house - a soap dispenser, maybe? - and I almost left with two new sets of thank you notes just because I might need them sometime. I stopped myself (I really have no need for an extra 150 thank you cards, since I still have leftovers from my wedding 1.5 years ago), but it was hard.

3. Ever since we ordered all the things we need for the guest bed, we've been getting packages almost daily. One of them arrived other other night from Ikea, containing a rolled up mattress pad. At first I was confused as to what it was, though, because the box looked like it could have housed something about five feet long. Nope...turns out Ikea just has strange ideas about packaging non-breakable items.

4. I can't really say that I have a gift for words when it comes to expressing profound thoughts, which is why I stick to the more light hearted stuff over on this blog. But if you do feel like you want some deeper thoughts to sink your teeth into, a friend from home in Vermont has been writing a wonderful blog. It's currently focused on Advent, so check it out!

5. Since, according to the social media world, Thursdays are now dedicated to throwbacks (or has that trend sorta stopped?), I'm going to throw it back to the last Thursday I was in Puerto Rico. I had heard from the last coworker who had been there that supposedly iguanas were everywhere. I believed him until I got there, because for three full days and almost a fourth full day, I had seen none. It may have been frivolous, but apart from working well, seeing an iguana was the primary goal to complete before leaving. And lo and behold, as I was leaving the school campus on the very last day, THERE HE WAS. Those things are huge, and they move faster than lightning. I posted a zoomed in picture on Instagram when it happened, but I took another picture out my rental car window because the iguana was sitting behind a parked car. Having him there gave a nice reference point for how big he was, so...enjoy.

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The Barre Experiment

Last night, my friend Meghanne, her friend Lindsey and I decided to try something new and completely different. Well...new and different for me. Meghanne had done it once, and Lindsey several times. What did we do? We signed up for a pure barre class and exercised our butts off. Or at least that's what it felt like last night. This morning I can attest to the fact that it's very much still there due to my aching muscles.

I obviously didn't take any pictures while at the class, because that would just be weird. No one takes #workoutselfies in a class of six people with a ton of mirrors, and honestly...no one wants to see that anyway. As a result, I can only give you a mental picture.

At one point in life I thought that I could pull off a "passably graceful" status. NO. Pure barre has taught me that I cannot look smooth and flowing when lifting a sand-filled ball above my head while simultaneously pulling my knee up to my elbow. In addition, it's very difficult to extend your leg out to a 90-degree angle from the rest your body. I know this because I attempted it and reached about a 60-degree angle instead.

By the end of class I could barely wobble out to the car, and I felt like I'd gotten a very good workout. Hence the wobbling - the result of the best type of workout, I say. Despite my lack of gracefulness, I'll probably be back. Also, we felt so good about our worked muscles and burned calories that we celebrated with a trip to the Cheesecake Factory.

Oh, you want to see a photo of just the glorious, once-time-per-year peppermint cheesecake? BUT OF COURSE.

Pardon the lighting. The Cheesecake Factory doesn't specialize in brightly lit spaces.

I'm sure we had burned off all of the calories that we consumed, right? Isn't that how exercise is supposed to work? 

Christmas Dilemma

By yesterday afternoon, I kept thinking that it was Tuesday, and I woke up this morning feeling like it was Wednesday. Anyone have tips on how to reset your internal weekly calendar? 

Non sequitur.

In some years, I've done very well with Christmas gift ideas. Last year in particular was a good year - I got my mom a crockpot, my dad a craft beer book, and Chaz a coffee maker that we have used every single day since.

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But this year I'm completely drawing a blank for both Chaz and for my dad. HELP. For Chaz, here are the rules:

  1. No "random stuff" - it needs to be something we'll use regularly or has a specific function. Basically, nothing that you'd find on the "100 Great Gift Ideas for Guys!" lists that you'd find in a Google search.
  2. No clothes.
  3. Not very expensive - the bed in the guest room was our main Christmas gift this year, so we're each planning to do something small and not pricey.

Anyone have any inspired ideas?

Project Days

We were so excited on Friday because we had a weekend where nothing was going on, for the most part. Every once in awhile, that's a much needed thing, I think, as it gives you a chance to catch up on sleep and cooking and all the other things you've put to the side. Say...cleaning the house. We knocked that one out first on Saturday morning.

Since we had so much left over time, the rest of the weekend sort of morphed into a weekend for building things. First, I put together the headboard and bed frame for our guest room, which means that if you come to visit us, you no longer have to sleep on either a twin sized bed or an air mattress!

Next, we hung up a picture that had been sitting in our office for months, just waiting for us to nail a little hole in the wall. This particular item should have been hung much, much earlier, considering it took us a total of five minutes to do it on Saturday.

It was a wedding gift from our friends - it's a painting by their uncle of the spot where we got engaged! 

After that, I decided to try to make monkey bread. We had gone to the store before looking at the recipe and got ourselves some Pillsbury crescent rolls. Those are delicious, but they aren't the right sort of Pillsbury product needed for monkey bread. Nevertheless, I attempted. The pre-baked version looked promising.

It smelled amazing while it was baking, but when we tried to take it out of the pan, all of the pieces just sort of fell apart. They're still delicious, but you can't really call it monkey bread. We dubbed them Joy Nuggets.

Then on Saturday evening, I decided to get started on a project we'd been thinking about for awhile: building a wine rack. We still have leftover wine from our wedding over a year ago, and right now it's sitting in a giant cooler that doesn't look aesthetically pleasing just hanging out in our basement. Thus, a wine rack. I'm following these instructions. It took me two trips to Home Depot to get all the stuff, and I realized at the end of the day yesterday that I actually need one more board, so that's going to make it three. 

I then spent all afternoon on Sunday cutting up pieces of wood. I hadn't used a circular saw since probably 7th grade Tech Ed class. Thrilling.

Chaz did some of the initial cuts to make sure the saw was working and to sort of figure it out, and then I took over and did the rest.

It's not done yet, so this is sort of a home-improvement cliff hanger. I'm sure you're just dying to read about my finished product, right? 

Ha.

This post is brought to you by Tell-Don't-Show Writing, Inc. I'll do better tomorrow. It's Monday, after all...what could you expect?

Crafting Complete

I think I finished the wall art! It's not hanging up yet, but it's ready to be hung up and that's what counts.

As I mentioned yesterday, I got the idea from Pinterest, but the real source is here. You really only need five materials: a canvas, some paint, scrapbook paper, glue of your favorite variety, and Mod Podge.

First, you take your canvas and paint it so that the whole thing is the color you want as the background. I used spray paint because it was fast and I'm impatient.

Let the paint dry...obviously. To keep you occupied while it dries, take your scrapbook paper and cut out one circle for the center of the flower and a lot of leaves of various sizes. I ended up using ten different patterns of scrapbook paper for the leaves, and I cut out eight big leaves plus one tiny leaf from each one.

Once the leaves are cut and the paint is dry, start arranging them on the canvas.

When you're happy with how the pattern looks, glue them down so that they won't move. I used hot glue, because again...impatient. Who wants to wait for glue to dry after you've already waited for the paint?

Finally, after things won't be moving around anymore, Mod Podge the whole thing so that it looks uniform.

And finally, once the Mod Podge is dry, you're done! Go hang it up.

Or...you know...just put it on top of a table until you figure out where you want it. That works too. 

Have a most excellent weekend!

Decor Challenged

This year, Chaz and I decided that our Christmas present for each other would be a bed for our guest room. It's the one room of the house that's very obviously unfinished after moving, so the time has come! The other room like that is the "kids'" room, but there are no kids, there are a lot of small items that don't have final storage spots, and it's upstairs and not used by your average house guest, so it can wait. 

Black Friday weekend was glorious for finding good deals on a bed. I found a nice headboard on Wayfair.com that was 70% off, and Macy's was having a crazy mattress sale, so we got everything done and ordered well ahead of Christmas.

All that was really just backstory for the main point of this post, which is decorating, and the fact that I am not a decorator by any stretch of the imagination. Or at least...I'm either bad at decorating or not millionaire-enough to put together a room all at once. If it were up to me, sheets sets would be no more than $20. I'd also price nice furniture in the $100 - $200 range rather than the $500 - $1,000,000 range, but furniture makers don't ask me, do they? I'm guessing the real answer lies in thrifting. Thrifting is another skill that I lack. Someone want to teach me?

This has been the most rambly post. That's really all I have to say for now, except that I'm making this because I saw it on Pinterest and I love it:

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Mine doesn't look like much yet.

And the only thing tying all of this nonsense together is the fact that the art is going in the guest bedroom with the soon-to-be bed, and hopefully someday other decorative things that I haven't discovered yet. 

The end.