Tea Time with Friends

Well, I blinked and two weeks went by. Just call me Rip Van Winkle already, ok? It feels like a lot of things are going on but at the same time not much is happening. Part of it might be because I'm used to feeling somewhat stressed at this time of year due to the busy season at work, and that is only something I'm hearing about (rather than experiencing personally) this year. In a way, I feel a little guilty getting together with friends during the work day since I know that so many of my coworkers are under the summer pressure, but that's when I try to remember that I have a tiny human depending on me to stay alive 24/7. I guess that's its own kind of stress, but decidedly of a different sort.

Speaking of friends, a couple of my best ones and I decided to get afternoon tea along with our small offspring. A daunting thought, to be sure, but made easier by the fact that two of the three babes aren't mobile yet and are fairly content to sit in our laps, and the third is still in the womb for the next 11 weeks or so. It all sounded rather proper and lovely, and so we decided to risk the possibility that the babies could lose it while there and went anyway.

Fortunately, both babies were well behaved (though mine required a snack toward the end) and we had a grand old time. Initially we were headed to the Wenham Tea House, but we realized at the last minute that they weren't open every day and had to change our plans. Instead, we hightailed it to Salem and tried Jolie Tea Company, and it was well worth the extra couple of miles to get there. They offered over 80 kinds of looseleaf tea on their menu, and had a variety of either individual pastries or small combinations of pastries and pots of tea at very reasonable prices. For example, all three of us chose to get "La Petite Tea," which came with a pot of any kind of tea on the menu, along with a scone, a madeleine cookie, and a French macaron for $9.95. Considering some of the teas were around $7 a pot, I consider that a pretty good deal.

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It was so nice that we all declared we wished we could do it once a week. While that isn't really feasible, we'll definitely make it a regular event, and it inspired me to try to make time for creating that type of thing at my own home. Especially as Elise gets older, I think it would be fun for her to have a real, delightful tea party every once in awhile!

It also reinforced how grateful I am for this group of friends. What a blessing it is to have seen each other through the college years, first jobs, boyfriends, engagements, weddings, and now babies. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they're a big part of mine!

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A Trip in Review: NYC with a Baby

Now that we're back from NYC, I figured I'd put together a summary of our trip because I'm sure everyone else is just DYING to hear about how it went. Could you get any more excited? I think not.

We went back and forth for a couple of days when deciding if Elise and I should go or not. Our last vacation with her (at one month) included rather a lot of fussing and sickness, as you may recall, so we were a little hesitant to risk that again, this time with fewer helping hands available. But Elise was a full month older, was sleeping better through the night, and was not coming down with any form of sickness, so we decided it was worth a try. And so off we went! 

We planned to head down Tuesday afternoon and return Saturday afternoon. Chaz was working on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning, so I planned two days worth of activities I could do by myself with a baby, and a family excursion to the Statue of Liberty. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do my typical traveling-solo style mad dash touring, but I also wasn't entirely limited to two-hour journeys only because I had a) the wrap (making yet another appearance on ye olde blog) and b) the necessary devices/body parts for diapering and feeding a small human. That essentially meant that I could do one major thing per day. 

But first - the travel! A couple of important points:

Packing: my usual rule of thumb is PACK LIGHT. Not in this case. My new rule was PACK COMPACT. In other words, pack more than you probably need so that you are prepared for anything. I packed a whole package of diapers (sticking them all in the zip pocket of the suitcase lid), two outfits per day for Elise (since I didn't want to end up having too few clothes thanks to spit up/poop/various other body fluids), and tools for evaluating sickness (in case she came down with something like she did on the last trip). We also brought her Dockatot, since she sleeps really well in it and we also wouldn't have to bring something bulkier like a Pack & Play. Between all of her stuff, the Dockatot, Chaz's work clothes, and both of our regular clothes, we had a lot of stuff, but I fit it all into one suitcase and one backpack, which doubled as our diaper bag for the days. 

Suitcase Layer 1

Suitcase Layer 1

Suitcase Layer 2

Suitcase Layer 2

Did we overpack? 100% yes. Did we have everything we needed? Well...Elise did. I should have packed one more pair of shorts for me, because I was NOT planning on sweating as much as I did thanks to excessive walking + over-80-degree weather. But apart from that, we had everything we could possibly have required. And when it comes to taking care of a baby in an unfamiliar place, being over prepared is better than being under prepared, and we'll be even more on top of things the next time we travel. 

Traveling: We took the train from South Station in Boston to Penn Station in NYC, and it was the perfect way to go with a baby. It was easy to get up and walk around if needed, there was no change in air pressure due to elevation, and there was no airport security with liquid restrictions. I call that a win. Plus, Elise loved looking out the window when she wasn't eating or sleeping. Added bonus: there was a changing table in a fairly large bathroom. 

Hotel: King-sized bed. Insert the praise hands emoji here, please. I'm slowing becoming convinced that we need one of those at home too, because HOLY SPACE. Amazing. 

Alright! That's how we got to New York. Here's what we did:

Day 1: Levain Bakery! I won't recap that whole trip again since it was already done here, so instead I'll give you a slideshow:

Setting off for the day...at noon. #morningnap

Setting off for the day...at noon. #morningnap

Post-cookie-purchase rest in the park (to eat said cookie).

Post-cookie-purchase rest in the park (to eat said cookie).

The Cookie.

The Cookie.

What a smirk.

What a smirk.

When we got back to the hotel, Elise took her afternoon nap, and then when Chaz returned from working, we walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner. It was delicious, and Elise had the courtesy to fall asleep on the way there and wake up just as we were finishing. That was a one-time deal. Future meals were not quite so easy.

Day 2: Brooklyn Bridge (viewing) plus Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory! Yet again we set off in the late morning after Elise's morning nap, although we started the whole day an hour earlier and so were out of the hotel by 11. I took a second stab at navigating the subway and ultimately decided that nearly every other city in the world has a better labeled, better mapped, easier to navigate metro system than New York. It's possible to get around, but only if you have a pretty good idea of the layout of the city in your head. And definitely don't count on there being a subway map once you've gone beyond the entrance to the station. Once you're past the fare collection, you're toast until you actually get on the train. Nevertheless, we persisted and eventually found our way to Brooklyn. 

When we got there, we took yet another selfie on a park bench. 

You'd think we could come up with a better pose, but I was feeling more overheated than creative and so it's the best I've got. My original plan was to walk over the bridge, but the heat persuaded me to cut my losses and instead just satisfy myself with eating ice cream while taking pictures of the bridge. In the end, I'm not actually sure that counts as a loss, because...ice cream.

Elise spent much time munching on her wrap.

Elise spent much time munching on her wrap.

This was taken shortly before it started melting ALL over my hand.

This was taken shortly before it started melting ALL over my hand.

We called it a day, headed back to the hotel, and yet again, Elise took her afternoon nap. When Chaz got back from work we decided against going out again for dinner and instead got pizza and brought it back to the hotel. Elise approved and got ready for bed early.

Day 3: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island! Moral of the story - we should have packed a lunch. But regardless, it was still fun. Chaz finished up what he needed to do for work in the hotel room, and we got out of there, breaking our record by 1.25 hours and leaving at 9:45. We took the subway down to Battery Park, then hopped on the ferry that would take us to both Liberty Island and then Ellis Island.  

Elise was very enthused/interested in the whole thing.

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We saw the statue and thought about climbing up, but again, it was very hot and we decided we were fine with taking pictures...from down below. 

And so after a quick feeding, we hopped back on the boat and headed over to Ellis Island. 

Ellis Island was is an interesting museum at this point, made more interesting that my then-17-year-old great grandmother went through it when she came over from Norway in 1913. Look! Here's her ship!

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After seeing the sights in the museum, we went outside to the Wall of Honor and found her name...

...then hopped back on the boat and sailed/motored back to Manhattan. 

We were all pretty tuckered out but made it to a restaurant for dinner, but Elise had had enough and made sure that only one of us could eat at a time. But the burger was good! And bed followed shortly after our return to the hotel.

Saturday was spent visiting friends (but we didn't take any pictures, sadly) and then traveling back home by train. The longer we're away from home, it seems, the more Elise wants to be home, so she was delighted when we walked in the door. And so here we are, back at our regular routine, until the next time we decide to hit the road!

NYC Eats: Levain Bakery

We're currently in NYC. Chaz needed to travel here for work, so Elise and I decided to come along for the ride! We'll save the "Here's how we traveled with a baby!" post for another time, since not EVERY post on this here blog should be baby-focused. Instead, we'll turn our gaze toward my other great love: cookies. Though I don't have extensive familiarity with NYC (having only been here twice and only walking around at night), I have lots and lots of experience with cookies, and while I wouldn't use the term connoisseur, per se, perhaps we can consider me something close to it. In other words...I freaking love chocolate chip cookies and will seek them out if I get an opportunity.

That opportunity came knocking on this trip. When we arrived at the hotel yesterday, I spent our initial couple of hours soothing an overstimulated, travel-weary baby into slumber while Chaz went out and got us some chicken tenders for a quick dinner. While he was out, he took it upon himself to look up some things for Elise and me to do during the day, since he would be working. What he found was a bakery with a claim to the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. Since he knows me well, he sent me the link, and I immediately added it to our agenda for the next day. Truth be told...it was the ONLY item on the agenda for the next day.

Well, today was "the next day," so after Elise took her morning nap, we set out on a mission to try the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. Things started well. I put Elise in the wrap (looking at you with allllllll the heart eyes, Solly Baby wrap!) and stuck the diaper backpack on my back, so I probably looked like a turtle with a shell on both sides. What a sight. Speaking of...we happened to find a turtle on our excursion:

Moving on.

I could either take a bus, walk + subway, or just walk for 45 minutes. I went with the last option, because a) walking is good for me and b) I didn't feel like figuring out the bus system. Since the walking + subway option was going to take me as long as just walking, I figured that if I needed to change a diaper midway there, it'd be easier to do it on foot rather than on a train.

Off we went! We hit up Starbucks for a late breakfast, and then made our way west...until five blocks later, when I'd already developed a blister and it had started to rain. Not the most auspicious start.

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We bought some bandaids, prayed that the rain would stay a sprinkle and not convert itself to a downpour, stopped to take a photo of some lovely flowers, and found the nearest subway station.

40 minutes later we had emerged from the subway and found the bakery. From a visual standpoint, it wasn't much to look at, but I had high expectations. 

My most sincere apologies for the lack of an artsy picture.

My most sincere apologies for the lack of an artsy picture.

We went in, evaluated the choices, and selected two cookies: chocolate chip (obviously) and chocolate chocolate chip. At $4 a cookie, I wasn't getting any more than that. Off we went with our cookies to Central Park, and since around 2.5 hours had passed since both of us had eaten, I found a spot where both of us could snack. 

So! My entire tale boils down to this moment. If you're still reading, I applaud you. HOW WERE THE COOKIES, you ask? They were decent. But I would not say that I keeled over in ecstasy because I'd just encountered the worlds greatest chocolate chip cookie. In fact - and I'm about to make a very bold, very daring, highly suspect claim here - I actually think my homemade cookies are better. Shoot me.

I liked the chocolate cookie better than the chocolate chip cookie. And that's for two reasons. First, the bakery includes walnuts in their chocolate chip cookies, and while that's probably a feature for some people, it's a bug for me. I'm a bigger fan of a walnut-free chocolate chip cookie, because there are no distractions from the cookie dough plus chocolate flavor. Second, and more importantly, I was expecting the dough to have more of a substantial flavor. They were good - don't get me wrong - but if you're claiming to have the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, I want a dough that is a little more complex rather than just a sweet base that suspends the chocolate chips.  That said, they did a couple things very well: 

1) It's hard to get a giant cookie to have a just-right crispy outside with a soft inside, and this cookie delivered. 

2) The chocolate was still nice and gooey even though the cookie wasn't just-out-of-the-oven warm. I'm not sure how they did that, but it was great!

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And so, with both of our stomachs full, we traipsed back to hotel just in time for Elise's afternoon nap. This time, it had stopped raining and the blister was remedied with the bandaid, so we walked. 

And in case you want my chocolate chip cookie recipe, here you go:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the brown and white sugar with the butter. (Cold butter will yield higher-rise cookies, but I always end up nearly melting mine because I'm impatient and I want it to mix easily.)
  3. When the mixture is smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg addition. Then add the vanilla and almond extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix with a fork. 
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in three installments, mixing after each batch. I'm pretty sure three installments are unnecessary flavor-wise, but it makes it easier on your arm while stirring.
  6. When fully mixed, add the chocolate chips and stir to disperse them evenly in the dough.
  7. Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoonful on to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes.
  8. Take the cookies out of the oven when the bottoms/edges look browned but the middle still looks nice and gooey. Let the cookies sit on the top of your stove for 10 minutes or so while you watch a show or something so that they continue to set.
  9. Eat all the cookies. ALL OF THEM. Or if you don't want four dozen cookies in a single sitting, put them in an airtight container and eat them over the course of the next three days.

For fear of someone disagreeing with a "world's greatest" cookie, I make no claims in that regard. I just happen to like them the best.

Lactation-Friendly Wardrobe Choices

Another baby-related post. My apologies. My life has taken a drastic turn toward domesticity.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune...wait. Not that. The universally acknowledged truth among nursing mothers is that dresses that are nursing-friendly are hard to come by. This is a particularly unfortunate truth if you are fond of wearing dresses. I happen to fall into that camp, so I recently went on a hunt for dresses that would work. 

Since the jackpot of dresses seems to be ASOS, I turned to them first. They had so many options available that I just didn't know where to start. Take this dress for example:

It comes with an amazing benefit. Nursing a baby would actually make you MORE covered up than you would be when wearing the dress sans kiddo. What an idea! Revolutionary, I say!

My next find also had some obvious benefits in terms of accessibility. 

However, the downside appeared to be the same as the upside, so it was nixed.

The third one came with an extra special feature: no part of the dress would have to be removed in order for a baby to eat! That must have been what the designers had in mind when it was created, right?

So thoughtful of those designers, really. 

I found a few more, one of which looked like it could double as a maternity dress. Thankfully I'm out of the woods on that one, so I have no need for such an attribute.

Another dress had a cutout in the perfect location for nursing, although the goth style might not be for everyone.

And last but not least, this dress boasts unparalleled convenience. I can't believe it's not advertised as a nursing dress. 

I can't believe I thought it was so hard to find a dress I could nurse in. I mean, look at all these possibilities! And this search was all with an under $40 filter, so just think of what the options might include if price were no object! 

Thanks, ASOS. You've restored my ability to wear dresses while feeding a tiny human.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: if you think I'd be caught dead in any of these dresses, you probably don't know me very well. 

A Newbie's Report on Favorite Baby Products

At two months on the job, you could hardly call me an "expert" at anything baby-related. I mean, with literally any other job, I'd still be in the training phase, so take this whole post with a hundred grains of salt. BUT. I do have a number of favorite baby products, some of which were absolute lifesavers in the first two months, and some of which I just really like and was glad to have on hand. And so in an effort to both list these things for myself because...who knows if/when I'll need a list of the things that helped me most in the newest of newborn months...and to list them in case anyone else is a first time mom in need of a minimalist's list of things to put on a registry, HERE GOES.

1) Solly Baby Wrap: This is hands down my most used, most favorite, and most baby-approved piece of gear. I started using it the day after Elise came home from the hospital and have used it almost every day since. She loves it, and if she's fussy it almost instantly calms her down. It can be used with a newborn without any fancy inserts, and it's soft, cozy, and lightweight, which is great for the summer months. I have the Charcoal Swiss Dot patterned one, but I've been drooling over the Fig and Fern colors as well. I totally need more than one, right? I mean, the thing has to be washed SOMETIME, and what on earth will I do while it's being washed? 

Kidding. Sorta. I'm sorely tempted.

My mom, me, and Elise, who's taking one of many wrap naps. Day 9.

My mom, me, and Elise, who's taking one of many wrap naps. Day 9.

2) Dockatot: This was something I didn't know I needed until Chaz's cousin (hi, Kristine!) let us borrow it. We didn't choose the co-sleeping life; the co-sleeping life chose us. In fact, if you'd asked me prior to Elise's arrival if I supported the idea, I probably would have laughed and declared that OUR baby was going to sleep in HER OWN BED, because I said so. Funny how things change once the kid actually arrives on the scene. After several very sleepless nights that resulted in me giving in to Elise sleeping in my arms in bed, we pulled out the Dockatot and have never looked back. Elise slept a thousand times better, which meant we were sleeping a thousand times better, and so better times were had by all. The only downside is that Elise is pretty tall, so she's going to outgrow it fast. We will use it to the hilt until that day arrives. Here's a photo of Elise in the Dockatot getting ready for bed:

3) Hanna Andersson (Non-Footie) Pajamas: Ok, these don't have to be Hanna Andersson. Hanna Andersson items are far too expensive for my liking, but we have an outlet nearby and I never buy anything full price, so I waited until they had a sale. Thus, Elise has a pair of (outlet) Hanna Andersson jammies, and they are theeeeee best. At first I wasn't a fan of the fact that they didn't have feet, but as my tall and lanky baby grew three inches in two months, I quickly realized that not having feet meant that she'll be able to wear them for much longer than her other already-too-short pajamas. If her feet are cold...I just put some socks on her and call it a night. Bonus: who can resist a baby in stripes?

Snoozing baby bean.

Snoozing baby bean.

4) Little Unicorn Hooded Towel: We have a couple of hooded towels, and this one is by far the best. It's thick and warm, and it's got a pretty pattern to boot. Elise doesn't always love bath time, but she does love being wrapped up, and while very biased, we think she's adorable when sporting a towel. 

Snuggled up after her first bath at home.

Snuggled up after her first bath at home.

5) Little Unicorn Muslin Swaddle Blankets: Same company again. These swaddle blankets are great. We use them all the time, whether it's for wrapping Elise up to get her to sleep, tucking her in her car seat, or draping over her while nursing. They wash and dry well (no fading!), and just get softer over time.

Coming home from the hospital!

Coming home from the hospital!

6) Gerber Cloth Diapers (for use as burp cloths): While we use disposable diapers for actual diapering, these make the best burp cloths. They're fairly inexpensive and we don't care if they get spit up or any other inescapable body fluids on them, because they just go straight into the wash. We started with one pack, and then quickly realized we used them for everything, so we went to Amazon and ordered two more packs ASAP. 

7) Gap Nursing Nightgown: This is both a maternity nightgown and a nursing nightgown, which means I've gotten a ton of use out of it. Gap almost always has sales as well, so I'd never recommend buying it at full price, but if/when it does go on sale, it's a good thing to have. While pregnant it was also one of the few things that made me feel like I looked nice (even if it was pajamas), which is a valuable thing when feeling like a beached whale!

8) OxiClean: Count this one in the "lifesaver" category. Babies = stains, so a stain remover was absolutely necessary. We've used it on Elise's pajamas, sheets, my clothes, and (happily only once...so far) carpet. We have both the powder version and the liquid version, and we use both on the regular. 

I should probably round out this list and add two more things to get to 10, but these are definitely the things that I've loved and/or used the best/most frequently and I don't want to add things that we haven't used as much. I also skipped the obvious things like a car seat, diapers, and wipes, because those are a given. In all honesty, the only items you really NEED for a baby are diapers, wipes, a car seat, a place for him or her to sleep, and a way to keep him or her clean, warm, and clothed, but these are the things that have really helped with making life more comfortable for both Elise and us during her first several weeks. I think this list is also bound to change as she gets older, so I'll probably revisit it down the line and come up with the 6 month or year version to see what's different.

And if none of this applies to you at all...well, at least you got to see a couple pictures of a cute baby?

2 Months of Elise

It's hard to believe that we've had a baby in the house for two full months now. Some days it seems like no time at all, and other days (honestly, most days) it feels like she's been here forever. It's hard to remember what life was like before she arrived! 

I meant to write down everything when she was one month, but I only got so far as taking a few pictures. Right around that time she hit a developmental leap (read: a week of fussing), we went on vacation, and she caught a cold. But she was still cute!

We made it back from vacation, her cold (plus conjunctivitis) went away thanks to some lovely Erythromycin ointment, and life carried on, and here we are at two months!

Elise, at two months of age, smiles a lot. She's happiest in the morning when she wakes up and after eating, and likes to talk, presumably telling me all about her dreams from the past night. We lucked out and she typically sleeps at least one six-hour stint every night, and occasionally sets records by going for 8.5 hours. This sleep schedule is a vast improvement from her first month, when she predictably woke up at 1:30, 4:30, and 6:30. I'm expecting that schedule to return around her fourth month, but we'll enjoy the longer stretches while they last.

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While she hasn't quite rolled over yet, she's very, very close, getting frustrated when she can't twist herself in quite the right way get all the way over. Her favorite activity is practicing standing. She'll put weight on her legs, wave her arms like she's trying to do a crawl stroke in the air instead of a pool, and do what we've come to refer to as "standing face" - opening her eyes very wide and opening her mouth to match. We didn't get the greatest picture of it, but it has been documented nonetheless! 

She's a happy, content girl unless she's tired, hungry, or uncomfortable due to digestion, which was a little tough for her during her first month. This month has seen a vast improvement in that department though! 

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She also loves hanging out in her wrap, and has taken to munching on the part of it that is in closest proximity to her mouth. Since her other most favorite pacifiers are a) nursing and b) sucking on my pinky, eating the wrap gives me a nice break! 

She's our favorite girl - since we only have one kid it's ok to say such things - and we're so glad that she's here with us. We love you, Elise! We can't wait to see how much you grow in your next month of life!

The Saga of the Sourdough Starter

I had high hopes that I would master the sourdough starter on my first try. I started with the instructions from what seemed like a trustworthy source. With a title like The Bread Bible, how could I possibly go astray? 

But to my dismay, my mix of 1/2 cup of organic rye flour (as prescribed in the book) with 1/4 cup of bottled water, after sitting for the recommended 48 hours, had not evolved from a ball of dough to the described pancake batter-consistency goop. Instead, it looked like a science experiment still in the shape of a ball of dough. 

While I realize sourdough requires a fermented starter, fermentation does not equal mold. So into the garbage it went.

I was determined that my second attempt would work. So I took to the internet and did some research, where I learned that sourdough starter should never come in contact with anything metallic. That must have been mistake number 1 with the first one, since I measured in steel measuring cups and stored the starter in a metal bowl. In addition, the internet said that measurements should be 1:1 rather than 2:1, and all measurements need to be exactly precise. In other words, I needed a kitchen scale.

So off to Amazon I went and bought myself a scale. It's one of those kitchen gadget purchases that I had thought of making on and off for years, and this is what it took to get me to pull the trigger.

BUT. Even Amazon Prime shipping speeds couldn't dissuade me from trying again that very night. Surely my metal-avoidance and oh-so-precise measuring skills would be enough to make a successful second sourdough starter (try saying that 10 times fast) without special equipment. Armed with my newfound knowledge about sourdough starters and an overabundance of confidence, I mixed up a second batch of flour and water and left it to ferment in a glass jar.

Days 1 and 2 looked decent, although I had a thin film of water on the top of the mixture. The instructions said that if that happened, the original measurements were off, but pouring off the film, "feeding" the starter, and mixing it very well could still lead to success. I did that, and Day 3 continued looking promising. 

However, by Day 4 I knew the second starter was also doomed. It now had a thick layer of water and was not developing a layer of foam as it should.  

And so now, new equipment in hand (thanks, Amazon...I shouldn't have been so hasty...), I will try a third time. If this one doesn't work, perhaps I'm just not cut out to make sourdough bread.

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?