Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finally found the love of a lifetime

sometimes life is all rainbows and rottweilers
On the anonymous parenting question list at work, every couple of months someone posts about "lacking inspiration", "losing their mojo", "complete disinterest" about their work after returning from parental leave. 

It's not surprising, is it?  Especially for first time parents, whose lives have been completely upended by the arrival of a delightful (mostly, right?) baby.  Not to mention the lack of sleep, the fact that your brain is probably still mushy, and the complete hijacking of your brain to worry about how your child is eating/sleeping/developing etc. 

I don't have a solution to this problem besides advising people to go easy on making Big Decisions in that first 6 months back.   For a long time, I was really unsure about returning to work, even part-time.  I loved my schedule and liked my work, but still would have been perfectly happy to stay at home with T 5 days a week.

But now, 2 years after returning from that first maternity leave, I am really happy to be working.  I'm not sure when that happened. 

Part of it was the good fortune to join a team that is full of ridiculously nice people who believe there is more to life than work, while still doing an awesome job at work.  That combination is very hard to find - I've found tons of teams full of workaholics with no outside lives and have also heard of (but thankfully not worked on) teams with people who definitely value their work life balance but are completely useless and unmotivated at work.

As much as I grouse about corporate life, I want to be good at my job.  I want to work with people who are happy to be there, and are doing the right thing for our customers.  Today was one of those days I was all "hell, yeah" about work.

On the face of it, it was an ordinary day and everyone was a little regretful about coming back to work after a glorious long weekend.  But today I picked up a new responsibility that is in line with stuff I've done before, and the sort of project managementy goodness I like doing.  I was busy, and happy about it.  I'm thinking about increasing my hours just a tiny bit.

And I realized I hadn't felt that good more than a handful of days since returning from mat leave 2 years ago.  Of course, this is all moot when I go out on leave later this year, but I'm happy to wallow in the goodness right now. 

The other part of it is that T is getting a lot out of preschool.  Even if I was a SAHM, I'd have enrolled her in co-op or some other part-time preschool by now.  She, like me, loves structure and order.   She tells us enthusiastic (but often incomprehensible) stories of what happened at preschool and is always happy to go there.  So happy that she often has to be reminded to say goodbye to us when we drop her off.

Don't get me wrong.  If the circumstances allowed, I'm sure I could still be perfectly happy as a SAHM.  Especially with all those crafty projects I have on deck and the tons of projects I want to do with T. 

But I am also loving work right now.  Take that, Mommy Wars.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Project Life: February Catch-Up

I haven't posted in ages about Project Life because I am woefully behind time-wise.  This is why I'm not a huge fan of chronological scrapbooking, because then it becomes a chore, something to get done and "catch up on".  Hard to be creative under those circumstances!

But through February I was doing ok.  I couldn't post my pages because I wasn't telling anyone I was pregnant, and some of the items on the page made it pretty obvious.  I only got behind in March when my really crappy mood swings hit.

So here are my 4 weeks of February.  (Click on the photos to see a bigger version.)

In the first week, we had T's baked milk challenge (which she passed!), our Valentine's Day cookie decorating and cardmaking adventures, and a trip to Marymoor on an unexpectedly sunny and dry day.  The photo of T and TJ looking off into the distance is one of my favorites.  This is the first time I used my new typewriter to do the date heading card (top left).

Jan 30 - Feb 5, 2012

The second week of February was a lot of me and T hanging out - at the park with her favorite "Rumble Slide", at Redmond Town Center where we bought her first regular 24-piece jigsaw puzzle, making blueberry muffins with milk and butter, and of course, finding out I was pregnant. 

Feb 6 - 12, 2012

Week 3 highlights included taking the 545 bus downtown to see one of the kid's concerts at Benaroya Hall - T found the bus ride more exciting than the show, I think!  We also got a very yummy waffle at Sweet Iron after the show.  We met T's friend H and his family at a park, and started her Spanish classes.

Feb 13-19, 2012

And finally, in week 4 we all had a really fun trip to the Seattle Aquarium that T still talks about now.  She was brave enough to touch the starfish and posed obligingly for photos with the giant octopus (after all, it was Octopus Week!).  But her favorite was the circular jellyfish tank with the rotating current and the color-changing lights.  She also got a haircut and we made lime cupcakes that weren't too good, honestly.  But we ate them anyway.

Feb 20-26, 2012

I was afraid that Project Life might be one of those things that sounded really cool until I started working on it, but after completing around 12 weeks of it, I'm still really enjoying it.  I think the key is to not let myself get too far behind, but also not to stress about it if I do. 

I can use my blog, my calendar and my email to figure out what we did in a particular week, in addition to whatever pictures I happened to take that week on our camera and on my phone.

Currently, I'm done through the end of March.  I just sent a huge batch of photos to be printed at Target that covers Week 1 of our Ireland vacation, as well as this past week.  I am trying to do the current week while catching up on previous ones so I'm not perpetually behind.

I've got most of the supplies I need in one box in the kitchen, so I can work on these pages while T is playing, or working on her own art projects.  She likes us "crafting together, mama!".  She's not a big fan of me working on the computer to edit photos, though, so I save that for night-time after she's in bed.  I think she associates us working on laptops with her not getting our attention.  She's right, of course!

So whaddya think?  Is Project Life something you'd consider doing?  They have a digital version as well so you can build all your layouts online (I think) and you can get the whole thing printed as a photobook.  If I didn't love all the paper and supplies so much, I'd totally do that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

About culture and self-identification

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time and have been drafting it in my head for months.   Hush's recent post on Elizabeth Warren (who sadly I hadn't heard of before this) was the kick in the pants I needed.

When someone asks me where I'm from, I tell them I'm originally from Pittsburgh. As any ethnic-looking person will tell you, this elicits a variety of responses.  Thankfully in culturally-aware Seattle, that's the end of the conversation.  In previous locations, I got my oh-so-favorite rude followup - "No, I mean, where are you REALLY from?"  Because brown people can't actually be from Pittsburgh, right?

When I was younger I was too nice to be confrontational and was trying to fit in, so I'd say something like "well, my parents came here from India" which is apparently the "real" answer they were looking for.  And then the questioner would compliment my English.  Sigh.  This really pissed me off for a long time and now that I live somewhere that people GET IT, I can finally laugh about it. 

The core of why this bothers me is because I self-identify primarily as American.  Or American with Indian ancestry.  I'll settle for Indian-American (IA), but honestly, the American part comes first for me.  (Which of course leads to confusion, because I'm not *that* kind of Indian...)

And that self-identification gave me a lot of grief from childhood on.  I'm sure I let down my parents and extended family by not being "Indian enough" - the classic 2nd generation struggle.   I stopped speaking Tamil pretty early, though I understood most of what people said to me. (In my defense, all of my relatives speak English.)

As a tween and teen, I hated wearing Indian clothing.  (It still feels unnatural to me.)  I didn't watch Hindi or Tamil movies or listen to the music from those films.  Most of my friends were white Americans.  I was really, really into 80s hair metal.  I am not religious.

A lot of this probably happened because of the time and place where I grew up.  The suburbs of Pittsburgh were not exactly a cultural melting pot.  I don't think I knew a single Latino there, and there were just a handful of Asian kids at any school I attended.  In my small Catholic middle school, I'm pretty sure I was the only one.  I was teased a lot.

But part of it was my personality (though I wasn't that self-aware at the time!). 

I couldn't understand my Indian-American friends who had "Indian friends only" parties and had separate gatherings with their non-Indian school friends.  For me, friends were friends and of course I'd invite them all if I was having a party. 

I didn't get it when my Indian-American friends said their summers spent in India with relatives were "like coming home" when all my trips to India made me feel like the foreigner I was, and I couldn't wait to get back to my familiar suburban American lifestyle and friends. 

I never joined the Indian Associations at college or grad school.  I didn't feel like I needed to specifically hang out with other Indians or Indian-Americans, though of course I have friends with those backgrounds.

I didn't exclusively date Indian or Indian-American guys, like a lot of my IA friends.  Sure, there was more explaining I had to do about family culture or religious traditions if my boyfriend wasn't of Indian descent, but really, it wasn't that hard or insurmountable.   I didn't feel like I *had* to end up with a partner of Indian ancestry for it to work out. 

As you can imagine, there was a big gap in what was expected of me and what I wanted.  For a long time I couldn't resolve this.  I'm a stubborn person and big on doing things my way, so I made the choices I needed to in order to be happy (wear what I want, date who I want, etc.) 

This caused me a lot of angst because I think Indian culture is a lot about fulfilling family expectations and deprioritizing individual preferences for family harmony.  Which of course is pretty much the diametric opposite of our American culture that emphasizes individual happiness over doing thingsto keep others happy.

Photo by Kristi Lloyd Photography

I talked through some of this with the couples counselor we spoke with for premarital counseling.  But I didn't work it out until I was pregnant with T.  I had a sort of epiphany.  This is who I am, and that is perfectly OK. 

Not having a strong tie to my Indian culture sounds bad, but only because that's what other people had been telling me.  I'm actually very happy with the choices I've made.  I want to be a strong, self-confident woman for my daughter.  I don't feel like I've "lost" anything, because if I did, I'd know where to find it again. And I simply don't want to.

I can't believe it took me 34 years to figure that out, but I'm so glad I did, because I can raise my daughter with confidence.  She will learn about loving foods from all cultures, learn about all religions and have respect for them and those who choose to opt out,  and forge her way through life, self-identifying as she chooses. 

Maybe she'll check the boxes for both White and South Asian.  Maybe she'll choose to learn Tamil when she gets older, or spend time in India.  Hopefully she'll be spared the angst I had.  Which is what all parents hope for their kids, right - that they'll have an easier time than we did?

And I hope she'll never have to answer "But where are you REALLY from?" or get compliments on her English.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Submission - Book Review

I finished The Submission by Amy Waldman last night. It took me a couple of weeks to get through it, not because I didn't like it, but because it was emotionally hard to read.  Which probably means it was well-written. 

I can't recommend it in a "you'll love it!" sort of way, but it's the sort of book that I'm glad I read and will stick with me for a long time.

I first saw a review on Sepia Mutiny, the Indian-American blog I used to read occasionally.  It was not a flattering one, so I didn't add the book to my must-read list, given that reading time is scarce these days.

A few weeks ago, I heard the author being interviewed on KUOW, our local public radio station, and found out the book had been chosen for the "Seattle Reads" program, which seems to be some kind of city-wide book club thing.  The interview was interesting and unfortunately I got to work before it ended, but I liked her description of her characters and figured I'd give this book a shot.

I bought it for my Kindle that night and read the first few chapters quickly.  The writing is straightforward and there are a lot of characters.  It's about a (fictitious) contest to design a memorial for 9/11 victims and has several related storylines.

What kept me reading, and what also made it hard for me to read, was the main character, Mohammed Khan, an American architect of Indian ancestry whose "Americanness" is questioned through the entire novel.  As someone with a similar background (albeit not Muslim), it was really hard to read about the racist attitudes towards him, even though this was a work of fiction and of course I'm not unaware of real-life people who think I and people like Mohammed aren't "real Americans".

There were almost too many characters and storylines, and I wanted more depth about some of them, like Khan and Asma Haque.  There were a few characters I just didn't care too much about and they had whole chapters devoted to them.  But altogether it was woven together well though the ending left me sort of... empty.  I just wasn't sure what to do with it.  But I'm a person who likes all the loose ends tied up, and with this story it was never going to happen.

This is the sort of book I wish we had read and discussed in an English lit course - modern subject matter, with interesting themes about the society we live in.  Way better than incomprehensible Faulkner (and I've had to read more than one of his books!) and so-old-I-couldn't-care-less The Scarlet Letter.  Blasphemy, I know.

So if you're looking for something to feed your brain a little, this is a good choice.  Definitely not summer beach reading, though, unless you like to use your brain for that!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cooking the Books: Mi Comida and Mexican Pasta Salad

My friend Di, who I met in college, is having a blog party where we post about a dish we cooked that was inspired by a book.  She gave us a heads up a few weeks ago and I racked my brain to think of something literary and cool.  I came up with ... nothing.

But T and I have been learning Spanish together and one of her first Spanish books was Mi Comida.  It's got a bunch of cute paper collages of food with the Spanish word for it.  Many of these words are ingredients in the Mexican Pasta Salad from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. Examples: los guisantes (peas) and los fideos (noodles).  Tenuous connection, I know :)

I've been trying to find something we can pack for T's lunch other than the sunflower seed butter on whole wheat sandwich we give her nearly every day and I thought this pasta salad might do the trick.  It's not "spicy" in the toddler sense, it has pasta and beans in it which she loves, and I figured I could sneak in a few veggies and some tofu as well. 

It also helped that I enlisted T in the cooking process, and she was a surprisingly good helper.  I had to stop her from eating the black beans and olives out of the bowl directly, but distracted her with a bunch of tofu cubes which she ate happily for the first time ever.

I modified the recipe to add peas, which I knew T would eat, and didn't add any tomatoes because I knew she wouldn't eat them.  I had to throw away the yellow bell pepper I planned to use because it was moldy (so sad!).  I added 4oz of extra firm high protein tofu cut into tiny cubes and a little extra olive oil because I'm not concerned about being low-fat.  I used the Barilla Plus higher protein pasta to sneak a little extra protein into all of us.

Best kitchen helper ever!

Mexican Pasta Salad
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

7.5 oz Barilla Plus Farfalle pasta
1c frozen corn
1c frozen peas
2 green onions, minced
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 4oz can sliced black olives, rinsed and drained
4-6 oz extra firm high protein tofu cut in tiny cubes
1/4c olive oil
juice of 1 small organic lime
juice of 1 organic lemon
3 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 tsp black pepper

  1. Boil water in a large pot with some salt.  Cook the pasta for about 8 minutes, then add the frozen corn and peas, and cook for another minute or two after it comes back to a boil.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the green onions, black beans, tofu, olives, olive oil, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin, cilantro, and pepper in a bowl large enough to hold the finished salad. Mix well and let stand at room temperature so the flavors can mingle nicely.
  3. Drain and rinse the pasta/veggies with cold water and let cool.
  4. Add the pasta, corn and peas to the bowl with the beans and tofu and mix well.  Taste again and add more cilantro and cumin to taste.  If it seems too dry, add a bit more olive oil.
  5. Chill in fridge and serve.  It tastes better after it has some time for the flavors to mix.
I bet this would also taste good with some fresh pico de gallo mixed in (either homemade or high quality store bought) but I can guarantee that my toddler won't eat it with tomatoes visible.

We eat this as a main course, but it would also work as a side dish for burgers or at a cookout.  It's great for packing in lunches because it tastes good at room temperature and doesn't require heating.

Thanks again to Di for hosting this blog event!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Can't slow down

I'm having the same dilemma I've had several times since 2009.  Do I keep running my Etsy shop or is it too much?  It's like having an apple pie sitting on my kitchen counter.  It doesn't seem right to throw it away even though it's not what I should be eating.  I love eating apple pie.  But if I eat as much pie as I want, I feel crappy both long-term and short-term.

Ok, maybe not the best analogy as running my business isn't making me physically ill.  But it's stressful.  I can't seem to dial it down.  If the shop is open and I'm taking custom orders, I'm either working on orders, figuring out how to get more sales, or feeling resentful that there are so many similar shops on Etsy and many with more sales than I have.   Is my pricing ok?   Am I offering unique enough products?  Should I invest time and money into selling my work in person at shows?

I'm not a competitive person, but something about having my own shop really brings out the worst in me in that sense.  I obsess about whether my shop is getting enough views and people marking favorites.  I wonder if I should place Google or Facebook ads.  I renew listings to get them to show up at the top of the search, even though they haven't expired yet and it costs me money.

I'm at 70% of the aggressive sales goal I set for myself this month, with several more days to go in the month.  And every time I take a break, I get several past customers asking when I'm reopening, and I hate to turn them down.  When I do reopen, I'm rewarded by the little email pop ups of new sales notifications.  Clearly this shop is satisfying my need for external validation and "gold stars", which is something I'm not terribly proud of.

my product photographs have gotten so much better since 2007!

Don't get me wrong - I love making things.  I love that people think my work is good enough to give to their spouse on their wedding day.  Actually crafting the pieces puts me in a GREAT frame of mind - calm and peaceful.  I've learned a bunch of other skills from running this as a real business - dealing with taxes, product photography, customer service.  I'm thrilled that even with a toddler and a tech career, I can make time to do something artsy and soul-satisfying.

But here's the thing.  When I made my Mondo Beyondo list, I had no goals for my business at all.  And that didn't surprise me.  I've already proven what I set out to do - I wondered if I could ever be successful at selling what I had made.  The answer is yes.  I don't have other "big goals" for it beyond that.

Since T was born, I've taken several breaks from it when it felt like "too much".   But I keep coming back.

I feel guilty about the supplies and money I've invested over the years.  I feel like I should at least "use up" the consumable supplies before I quit.  The other part is feeling like I'm wasting an opportunity.  People work for years trying to build up a freelance career or flexible side business to make some extra money.  I already have that "big idea" and it's clearly working for me.  It seems crazy to give that up.

I know for sure I never want to quit my job and rely on my crafty business income.  That would be the surefire way to kill the fun and skyrocket my stress levels.

But on the other hand, I hear stories of how my pet ID tags ensured lost dogs found their way home.  Or how someone cried when they received the item I made (hopefully not because it was hideous!).  And the woman who watched her husband open the gift I made over Skype because he was serving in the military in Afghanistan. 

Obviously there are tons of people out there who can take my place, and tons of folks who *are* doing this as their sole source of income.  Of course they are going to have the time and inclination to maximize their sales.  I know I have too many other priorities.  But when I'm away from it for too long, I miss it.

I'm just not sure how to keep it in balance and not make it all-consuming.  Thoughts?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Over the hills and far away

I can't believe I'm already halfway through this pregnancy (fingers crossed that Baby X' stays in as long as (s)he is supposed to).  It seemed to go much slower last time, but then again, I didn't have a toddler to wrangle nor did we go on a Big Vacation.

I got my first pregnancy massage yesterday and it was so nice.  Being OLD I feel a lot more sore and rickety than last time.  Which reminds me, I really need to make time for exercise, something I haven't been able to do since even before T was born.  I dislike the idea of it, so it always falls down the priority list.  Not exactly setting a good example, am I?  Sigh.

Next week we find out the sex, if Baby X' cooperates.  Hooray! 

But also, I'm a little stressed, because that means I can go into Full Project Manager mode.  Sorting clothes, picking names, moving the craft room, decorating and setting up the baby's room, which if history repeats itself (s)he won't actually use for another 18 months or so.  But I want to get all that stuff done BEFORE this baby shows up and we realize how much easier it was with just one 2.5 year old.

It's also time for me to sort through my maternity and nursing clothes as some things are getting uncomfortably tight.

It's a happy coincidence that I got pregnant almost EXACTLY at the same time as last time so everything is in the right season, and that also means the baby clothes we have are in the right season too, though if X' is a boy, we've got some shopping to do.  (Add that to the Project Plan!)

But life is good.  T is enjoying her preschool, though has resorted to NOT napping there for the past week or so, which means she is a hot mess by the time she gets home at 4pm.  My solution of putting her to bed before 6pm seems to be working, mostly, except she's also going through some kind of crazy growth spurt where she's waking up in the middle of the night wanting to eat. 

And having TJ at home?  Totally, amazingly, awesome.  We spend lots of time together as a family.  Stuff around the house is getting done.  We have lunch dates together sometimes on my work days. Most importantly, he is happy and content.

So yeah, livin' the dream.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Polish Strips - Review

I used to get regular biweekly manicures when I had my first real job.  In college, my friend K and I discovered the wonders of the LA nail salon where you could get a manicure for less than $10. 

Prior to that, in high school, I liked to paint my nails all sorts of "weird" colors.  My very chic French teacher was appalled by my "flamingo French" manicure that was opaque baby pink with black tips.  Granted, it was also very messy, because I *suck* at applying my own nail polish.

I feel justified now that OPI and other top respectable cosmetics brands (not just Wet N Wild, y'all) have a rainbow of colors available, and not just the usual pinks and reds.

I don't get regular manicures anymore because there's rarely time for me to go every 2 weeks as needed, and with all the crafty stuff I do, my nails get wrecked pretty quick.

When I saw the Sally Hansen Salon Effects nail polish "stickers" at Target, I was smitten.  They came in *patterns*!  I don't do fake nails so elaborate nail art is not an option for me.  I bought a super cute package of black and white houndstooth and promptly forgot about them.

Today at Target I found a bunch of the Salon Effects patterns on clearance for $4.48 - they're probably discontinued as they were all bright, spring-y colors.  There was a super-cute plaid pattern called Mad for Plaid, so I figured I'd give it a shot (for real this time!)

They're made of real nail polish so they're a bit smelly, but they're also flexible and easy to stick.  They come in a pack of 16, with different sizes so you can match them to your nail width.  The instructions are clear and not that complicated for cosmetically incompetent folks like me.

They came out looking better than I expected, though it took a LONG time to apply them - probably about an hour for me to do all 10 fingers.  I might get faster with practice, but I can get a manicure in 30 minutes or less, so I'm not sure how many times I'll invest in these.  But again, the cute patterns might win me over.

my manicure with sally hanson salon effects nail polish strips mad about plaid
i'm not a hand model, thank goodness.

  • Wider is better so if you're between sizes, pick the larger one and use the included pointy stick to peel off the excess once you've applied it (carefully!)

  • A manicurist told me once that these last longer if you add some top coat after applying.  Not exactly mess-free or instantly dry, but clear topcoat is easy to deal with and dries pretty fast.

  • If you have a multicolored pattern like a plaid and very short nails, you might need to do some creative placement to make sure your nails all look similar.  I have one nail that didn't get any of the hot pink lines from the plaid and it looks a little odd. 

Have you tried these?  What did you think?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Lovin': Owl Babies Book

Cloud had a post last week about souvenirs from trips, so I thought I'd write about my favorite purchase on our recent trip to Ireland.  We made a conscious decision not to buy random souvenirs, so all we bought was one Christmas ornament (a miniature watercolor of the pub we liked to go to), a pair of lovely handknit wool socks for me, and a book for Trillian called Owl Babies.

I forgot to pack a selection of books for T to read while we were at the vacation house.  I had a few specifically for the plane rides, but they were activity books rather than stories.  So we headed out to the teeny tiny bookstore in Kenmare.

We spotted Owl Babies right away thanks to its gorgeous illustrations.  I'm usually a fan of more cartoony-style kids books, but the artwork on the cover was really striking and T quickly latched on to it.

We took it home and read it for bedtime that night, and many nights thereafter.  It's such a sweet story - three baby owl siblings wake up to find their mama is gone, and they worry together until her return.  The text is simple and repetitive, perfect for toddlers. 

I worried that it might be too much for my sensitive girl - she cries when book characters get into difficult situations or make scary faces - we still haven't made it through Slide Already! because of the faces.  But the tension is resolved in this book fairly quickly so she's ok with it.

In fact, T had memorized nearly all of it by the time we left Ireland, so I entertained myself by letting her "read" most of it to me - I'd supply the first few words on the page and let her recite the rest.  OMG the cuteness - I should have recorded it.  Now that we're home and there are more books in the rotation, I think she's forgotten a lot of it.

I wasn't sure if there was an Ireland connection here, but it turns out the author Martin Waddell is from Northern Ireland, so it really is a souvenir in the traditional sense!

If you're looking for a baby or toddler gift and don't want to give the old standbys for fear of duplicates, this is a great choice.  Or, if you need a good, mellow bedtime story for your own owl babies, I recommend it as well!

My only regret is that she doesn't let me read it to her as often as I'd like.  She's probably sick of hearing it every night.  Next time I'll remember to pack more books for her!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

I'm a person who likes holidays and celebrations.  I used to be too lazy, but then we had a baby. So now things are more fun if they are a Big Deal. (We did skip Easter, though, since we were in Ireland, I was sick and wasn't sure where to procure dairy-free candy for her.)

Still, we're having a pretty chill Mother's Day.  It's gorgeous outside so we're sitting out on the deck, with T in her inflatable "crab pool", the best $20 we ever spent at Target.  It's starting its third year of use now!

I might be one of the few mamas out there who likes to have a big chunk of "alone time" on Mother's Day.  TJ took T out to a playground this morning and I used the time to do a bunch of house stuff that was bugging me.  I feel much better now :)

Later today we'll drop off T at my parents' place.  I'm not yet sure what our plans are for that time but some of that will be in my craft room.  I'm really looking forward to that.

There are all kinds of stupid "mommy wars" conversations going on in Internet-land as well as print media and they're pissing me off enough that I'm making a conscious effort to disengage and remind myself that my parenting philosophy is essentially MYOB - Mind Your Own Business.

I don't care what other people are doing.  I can't.  Life is too short and this work is hard enough.

And with that, all you mamas out there, have a Happy Mother's Day in whatever manner you'd like to spend it!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Function over Tradition: Kids Art Supply Storage

Baby X Prime (X') is kicking me out of my craft room and I'm moving it downstairs into what is now affectionately known as the Dog Room.  Which means everything currently being stored in the craft room either needs to find a new home (hello crafts I never started!) or a different storage space in our house.

BabyT has acquired quite the collection of art supplies because we love doing "Art Projects", as she calls them.  They didn't really have a home.  Some of them live on our kitchen counter for easy access (watercolor paint, crayons and coloring books), and the rest are scattered in drawers in my craft room wherever I had space. 

Not  a good solution for me to see *what* we have.  So I only ever used the crayons and watercolors because going through "the pile" was too hard.

Clearly this wasn't working, and now that T is in such a structured preschool, I want to spend lots of time doing art with her.  She definitely gets some at school, but not every day, and she loves it.  (I miss that about daycare!)

When we remodeled our kitchen in 2004, we took out all the old oak cabinets, but saved one of the glass-door ones to be mounted in the dining area for our glassware.  We got tons of wine and champagne glasses as wedding presents, and also inherited a bunch of glasses from TJ's grandmother.  The cabinet was quite full.

It occurred to me the other night that we don't need to have such easy access to *that many* wineglasses.  We don't drink that much wine and only have lots of people over on rare occasions, maybe a few times a year.  If that.

So we decided to move our glassware to a different high shelf in the kitchen, box up the extra ones and our fancy china which we use only once or twice a year.  TJ picked up some dishware boxes from UHaul and packed it all away one day when I was at work (*swoon*).

Which left this handy, spacious cabinet available for toddler art supply storage.  Hooray!

kitchen cabinet for kid art supplies

I know it's traditionally not what we're supposed to put in a glass-front cabinet in our dining area.  But it's *so* much more functional for us.  And I have a better idea of what we have, and what we need.  And what we most definitely don't need (no more paper or coloring books!).

It makes it so much easier to set up a project for T quickly on the dining table since it's right there.  When she's a little older, she'll be able to reach the cabinet and get things out for herself.

I'm considering putting some decorative paper inside the glass doors to hide the stuff inside from view, since it's not particularly pretty, but that may never happen.

This simple change makes me ridiculously happy (sort of like paring our kitchen knife collection down to just 7 that we use all the time).  Strange, I know.

Got any good storage hacks to share?  :)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Seven years is all she wrote

Seven years ago, TJ & I got married.

It was perfect.

To celebrate today, we took our favorite person to the zoo.

toddler dancing

I'm a lucky woman.  Life is good.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Strange Coincidences

In the past week, two things happened which were unexpected and very cool.

I got another one of those "free drink" coupons at Starbucks that comes from using my Starbucks card way too much.  I've been hoarding it for the right time as I'm trying to save some money.  I love my chai, but I don't *need* one every day to make me happy.  Maybe just a couple of times a week.  I was wishfully thinking about how I could get more free Starbucks drinks.

And then, the next day, we got a letter in the mail from our mortgage broker.  With a $25 gift card from Starbucks, because TJ referred someone to them.  How freaky cool is that??

Second weird coincidence:  last week I had to get blood drawn.  In my doctor's office there were these really awesome paper collages - cute sunny scenes that made me happy.  Here's the one I liked best:

Dandies in a Field by Kate Endle

I couldn't find the artist's name, and had to hurry out of there to get back to work.  Through the week I thought about those collages and wondered who the artist was.  I have another appointment in a few weeks so I vowed to ask then.

Last night I was reading a coworker's lovely blog, and saw she had a link to the new Caspar Babypants album Hot Dog! and a quick mention that his wife was also very talented, with a link to an Etsy shop.  So I clicked over and what did I see?  My beloved collage from the doctor's office!  Hooray.  I was *so* surprised.

I am thrilled to know the artist's name, and that her work is affordable.  Once we figure out Baby X's sex and theme for his/her room, I'm totally coming back to her shop.  And I may even get a little something for my new craft room. 

Both of these things reminded me of something we talked about in my Mondo Beyondo class last year - little random good things that happen that move us forward towards one of our dreams.  These two things are so trivial, but what amazes me is just the thought in my head of "I wish..." resulted in me getting just a tiny bit more happiness in my life.

Obviously, I should be wishing for things like winning the lottery, right?  Heh.

If you are contemplating taking Mondo Beyondo, they are running a HUGE sale right now to get the $99 class for only $49.  It's so totally worth it.  Use coupon code mamasrock49 at checkout, but this is only good through the end of day Sunday (tomorrow).

Let me know if you decide to sign up?  I'm in for the Dream Lab class in June (you can also use the coupon for that too!).

Friday, May 04, 2012

How to Make a Felt Board for the Crafty Challenged - Experiment 10

Today I spent about $30 and many hours making a felt board for T.  I guess technically it's a flannel board, since the board itself is covered in flannel.  For those who haven't seen these before, it's something found in a lot of preschools - a board full of shapes that can be moved around to make pictures and stories.  The awesome thing is that you don't need magnets or velcro - the felt just sticks to itself!

I first saw these in action at the Seattle Aquarium in February.  They had a HUGE board with lots of fish and aquatic plant shapes. We had to drag T away from it to go see the rest of the exhibits.  Then we saw one last week at our friend E's house, which inspired me to make one.

I did several online searches to find a decent tutorial that explained what kind of felt to use.  I came up empty.  No, I didn't look on Pinterest.  The tutorials I did find went mostly like this:

1.  Stick (or staple) felt to board.
2.  Cut out shapes.

I don't do a lot of fabric crafting, so I needed more details.  What kind of felt?  Are the shapes made out of the same stuff as the board? 

So I turned to my trusty (and crafty!) Facebook friends, and asked them.  K told me to use flannel for the board itself, then felt for the pieces.  She used a thrift store frame for the board, which is what Martha Stewart recommends. 


E's feltboard was a piece of artists stretched canvas so that's what I bought, because I liked the look without a frame edge. 18 x 18 inches was a good size for T's little table.

I am fabric-challenged and can't sew, so venturing into the fabric section at Jo-Ann's was an adventure.  I finally found the "soft flannels", which were even on sale, and chose a pretty sky blue.  I liked the glitter flannel but it wasn't as fuzzy as the plain stuff, and I think the key to good stickiness is the fuzz.

I got a piece that was 24" long, which was more than enough.  I also found a pack of felt flower "buttons" in the trim section, which I figured would save me a ton of time cutting out flowers individually.

For the shapes, I bought a multi-pack of colored craft felt.  This is the same stuff they sell in 9x12 inch sheets, but the pack was a lot cheaper per piece.  It's soft fuzzy felt, not self-adhesive, and not the stiff kind.  If you want bigger pieces, Jo-Ann had bolts of it in the home fabric section.


Online tutorials suggested either hot glue or a staple gun to attach the felt to the board.  I chose the staple gun since it looked like fun and I've never used one before.  It's my new best friend. Special thanks to TJ for the staple gun lesson and troubleshooting.

I needed sharp scissors to cut the shapes out of felt, and I used my American Crafts Galaxy White Marker to trace/draw the shapes.  Many people use a Sharpie but I'm picky and didn't want dark lines on everything.

I used some cups and bowls to trace circles, and a ruler for straight lines.  Everything else was drawn (poorly) freehand.


1.  Cut flannel to just larger than the canvas.  About 3 inches extra on each side worked well.  The edges don't have to be particularly straight since you're going to fold them in.

2.  Iron the flannel.  Mine had huge ugly creases in it and no amount of stretching was going to get rid of those.  Note to self: Don't iron on the dining table, even with a towel underneath.  I ruined the surface of the table when I used the steam setting.  Sad.

3.  Place canvas upside down on top of the flannel, centered.  Before you do this, make sure the surface is clean and dry!

4.  Fold the ends in so the frayed edges aren't exposed then pull the flannel tight and staple it to the wood part of the canvas.  I put the staples in about 2 inches apart.  You can use binder clips to hold the sections tight.  Do one side at a time and make sure you don't have any wrinkles or "bubbles" on the front. 

I'm especially proud of this corner!

 4a.  Pull the corners in tight, rolling frayed edges in.  I did this a little like wrapping a present, where I folded the corner over like a triangle (when I could- some sides just wouldn't cooperate!). 

5.  Repeat steps 4 and 4a for each side and corner.  Make sure you're always pulling the fabric tight.  Here's what it looked like when I finished all four sides.

Woot!  Now the board is done.  Step back and admire your handiwork!  If you have pre-cut felt shapes you can test it out now:

5.  Draw and cut shapes out of the soft craft felt.  The sky is the limit!  I made a variety of different sized and colored shapes, stems and leaves for the precut flowers, clouds, moon, a sun, stars, fish and trees.  I used the white marker to trace or draw the shapes and then cut them out.  Sharp, small scissors are helpful for detailed designs.

Because I was having so much fun being crafty, I found a cute box to hold all the felt pieces and added some letter stickers spelling "FELT" to the top.

Tips and Thoughts

  • I'm not sure if the flannel used for the board will pill over time and wear.  But it was easy enough to make the board that if it gets that much use, I can always make another.

  • You can make *anything* stick to the flannel if you put a small velcro dot on the back.  So I may experiment with cardstock or shapes and letters cut with my paper die cutting machine.

  • I don't know if the felt pieces will fray over time.  I didn't treat any of them with Fray-Check because it seemed too time-consuming.

  • When using the staple gun, make sure you hold it close to the front, and press down when stapling, so the staple ends up going in flat, without a gap.  A flat head screwdriver is handy to remove misplaced staples.

If I had to make another one, it would be a lot quicker.  The most time consuming part was cutting all the little shapes out of felt.  I probably cut more than T really needs - there certainly are more than she can place on the board at once!

T was pretty excited about it when she saw it and spent a good 20 minutes playing with it, even after a busy day at preschool when her focus had run out.  I expect we'll get at least a year's use out of it, if not more. 

If you make one, leave me a link in the comments!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

For three strange days

We've only been back from Ireland for about 2 weeks which is surprising because in some ways it feels like AGES.

I was still horribly sick when I got back and visited my primary care doctor as soon as I could. She gave me the party line about how she couldn't really prescribe anything since I was pregnant, but gave me a tip that I could take Claritin or Mucinex safely. Fine, that helped a little.

The next day I had an appointment with my awesome OB for a usual checkup on BabyX', who finally allowed us to hear his/her heartbeat on the Doppler. She scoffed at the *3* doctors I saw who wouldn't prescribe anything and finally gave me sweet relief with a prescription for Zantac which cured the nausea and puking after the FIRST DOSE, and an inhaler which FINALLY got rid of the cough I've had for 4 freakin' weeks. I love my doctor.

this one goes out to the ones I love
So once I got the puking out of the way, I could resume real life, which meant getting back to work after nearly four weeks off. That's already tough, and it was even more of a party when I found out my job is going away and I need to look for a new one.

So as I am prone to doing, my inner project manager go to work and went into frantic job-search mode. I'm a pro at searching for internal jobs, having switched roles 5 times in the almost-10 years I've been there. The unsettling thing about this is that it wasn't my choice. I like my current team, and of course LOVE my part time schedule.

But after a week or so of freaking out and talking to people across the company about potential jobs, I'm not as unemployable as I thought. Let me tell you, it's awkward to bring up the fact that 1) I am pregnant and will start my maternity leave in October, and 2)I work part time and would love to keep it that way. I figured no team would want that.

Keeping the part-time schedule is going to be a challenge. Most of the interesting jobs I found are not ok with it. I had a few managers tell me outright "this team does not have good work-life balance." Yikes.

I *could* theoretically go back to working full time, because TJ is home now. But I also want to enjoy the time with him. Today we went to the Children's Museum in the morning, and it was a beautiful thing - easy parking, no crowds.

Our team got merged into a larger team, so I went to talk to some folks there. My last meeting was with the director of the team we got merged into, and I was a little nervous about that. And then she presented me with what sounds like a really awesome job. Project management. Bringing order to chaos. Helping other teams go through a process to release their code.

And not only that, she's totally cool with the part time schedule. I wouldn't have to go through the usual gauntlet of 5-7 interviews for this role. They need someone right away. I have the option to go full time later.

I know, I should be all "where do I sign up?", right? But I'm apprehensive. Every time I look for a new job, I worry about whether I'll make the right choice. Will this be a good or bad manager/management chain for me? Will this job disappear without warning in 8 months? Are there environmental factors that will make performance review a miserable thing? Is this work going to make me happy? Could I find a different position where I would earn a bit more? If I take this one, am I moving too fast? Should I consider more options just for the sake of time? (We did buy the first house we saw because we LOVED it...)

Does the "perfect" job even exist?

Sigh. I am grateful to have these questions, and not "how will I put food on the table?" Any words of wisdom here?

sharing is nice

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