Eating (Your Fair Share) Pastries

thMy daughter loves eating pastries of any kind, but she’s especially fond of chocolate croissants.  She’s pretty impressed I don’t eat them anymore. About a year ago I stopped eating gluten all together. I stopped not because it’s the hot trendy thing to do, but because I discovered my digestion could actually be normal without it and let’s just say it was not normal for most of my adult life. So, this morning, as my daughter and I were lounging around in our pjs, I asked her what she’d like for breakfast. I offered to make (Pamela’s gluten-free) pancakes? fruit? a smoothie? scrambled eggs? fried eggs? cereal? and with a smile, she answered “a pastry”… “hmmmm… what kind of pastry were you craving?”  I asked.  “A chocolate croissant”, she said. “You really like those, huh?”, I asked. Her response was about as good a rationalization as any I’ve heard yet for eating pastries: “As I see it, it’s good to eat a lot of pastries in case you decide to go gluten-free. I figure it’s easier to live without gluten if you’ve already eaten your fair share of pastries” and then she added “it seemed to work for you, mom.” HA! I hadn’t thought of it quite like that, but it’s true I’d eaten plenty of pastries over the years. Then one day, just like that, I stopped. I haven’t so much as considered eating one again. Perhaps that’s because I’ve already eaten my fair share?

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My Yarn Stash

322012_2664674427021_42748956_oMy yarn stash is ridiculous. Embarrassing really.  And it’s been hiding away in my garage for years. Yes, what’s pictured here is only a small part of it. I crack open the lids of the tubs occasionally but only to add to them, never to take anything out. I can’t say exactly what is possessing me to face my yarn buying demons this morning, however, here I am and I’ve decided to write about this journey.

Before I had coffee, before my children had even woken up, I found myself perusing yarns on line imagining how they would feel in my hands what colors I would want to wrap myself up in and what I would make out of them. Once again I was in my familiar fantasy land of color and texture falling in love over and over.  In my love struck morning haze I ordered a $52 skein of yarn (yes it will be amazing —prism “wild” in antique to make a scarf that Daryl Hannah rocks in celebrity scarves and my very good friend and fellow knitter Heidi made it too) and after I pressed send and confirmed the order it was like the alarm clock went off and I suddenly woke up. Woah what just happened? More yarn?

Christ Julie. And I thought to myself I need help. I need a 12 step program. I wondered how many other people out there had amazing stashes and still felt compelled to buy more and very expensive yarn.  However, I didn’t feel any remorse whatsoever just resolved to actually get back in touch with my stash. To see what in fact is in there and then to USE it.

I, Julie, am a yarnaholic… I have a habit here and nobody but I can deal with it. Of course I am the best of knitter rationalizers.  A friend for 21 years and founder of Atelier Yarns in the city taught me about fine yarn and how what’s the point of having your hands all over something cheap when you can work with luscious alpacas, cottons, wools, silk. She ruined it for me. From the day she showed me her stash (which is EXTENSIVE) there was no going back. And even this morning when I was conflicted with feelings of guilt around spending money during these hard economic times… on yarn!? I can still explain exactly why buying that skein of lusciously delicious yarn was worth every penny of my $57 (including the shipping).

Your stash reveals a whole lot about you. Your weaknesses, your colors,  your desires…

I’m going to call this my California stash.  One day I want to write about how I plan to deal with and use this stash of beautiful yarns. To tell stories along the way and show you projects. Might be a while though…In the meantime, I’m just acknowledging it’s there.

Worries in the Night

Usually it’s my own anxiety that wakes me up in the middle of the night, but last night it was my daughter’s. At 2 AM or so, she crawled into my bed, crying. She nudged up to me curled in a ball. I asked “what’s wrong? bad dream?” She said, “No. Ivy is 4.” “Yes. She is 4.” I rubbed her back hoping she’d fall back asleep but she went on… “Next she’ll be 5…then 6, 7, 8,9, 10, 11” she counted slowly stopping at “then she’ll be 12…and eventually she’ll die.” “That’s true” I said, “but that’s a long time from now… in fact, some animals live longer than you expect. One of my best friends has an 18 year old cat!” “But mom, cats live longer than dogs.” “You’re probably right. Is there something else that’s worrying you? Do you know another dog or someone else who died recently?” “No. Just thinking about Ivy.”… “OK. Well, let’s try to go back to sleep sweetie and talk about this in the morning, ok? I’m right here with you.” “But I can’t sleep.” “Are you sure? You haven’t really tried, have you?” “I can’t stretch my legs out.” “Oh why not?” “because Ivy growls every time I try.” “oh” I laughed out loud, forgetting Ivy was in my bed too… “I wondered why you were in a ball! OK, If I move Ivy over, do you think you can go back to sleep?” “I think so”. So I moved Ivy over and my daughter fell fast asleep again, but unfortunately I was up the rest of the night worrying about things like death and then everything else and nothing in particular.

My Wish

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In a series of text messages the other day with one of my best friends in L.A. we landed on the topic of a second whale washing up on the beach within a month, this time a 32-foot female humpback. I was feeling distressed about it and wondering if it was a coincidence or another indicator of bad stuff happening in the ocean?

He said I need to prepare my kids for some ugliness washing up on the beach over the next year or two. My heart sank. California, he thinks, is ground zero and sea lions and other mammals are dying en masse already. But, like most of us, I don’t want to think about things getting worse and furthermore, as a mom, my natural instinct is to shield my kids from ugliness not prepare them for it. He went on to say the oceans are dying off already because of climate change but Fukushima was a tipping point in large scale collapse and that my best bet is to make humor at the end and prepare my children for what lies ahead.  My friend tends to be intense and he has no kids, but he’s also smart, thoughtful and like usual, makes a good point… things aren’t all that rosy out there and a parent’s job, in part, if not completely, is to prepare their children for what lies ahead, right?

I found myself going over this idea of preparing my children for what lies ahead when I don’t really know what that is. It’s kind of a daunting task if you think about it. You don’t want to get so heavy on them with reality they feel overwhelmed and hopeless, but you also don’t want their heads buried in the sand thinking all is perfect in the world as long as their hair is right and they can post a good selfie. I know my children need to know the basics of how to learn… they need to be able to educate themselves with good information and they need to know how to make thoughtful choices, but what else will prepare them for what lies ahead?

Some people turn to religion as a guide, but for me that’s never been the case. I thought about where I gather strength to move forward in the face of ugliness and I landed on LOVE. Yep. Love. It’s the only thing that ever really pulls me out of the dumps when I’m faced with ugliness. And that made me feel a little better because I concluded it’s what I already know to do, in addition to providing nurturance, support, security, predictability, focus, engagement and expansion (that’s my academic list of what all children need), make sure my kids know LOVE…that they know they are loved and that they know how to love (themselves, others and the planet). In fact they are fortunate to be surrounded by love not just from me but from our friends and family.

And this is my wish for all of us…to know love and be surrounded by it. It’s the only way I know for sure to prepare for ugliness that lies ahead. Amen.

My Dog, Ivy

1970577_10203593551350291_797580755_nIt wasn’t until I got my dog, Ivy, that I understood how people could be so crazy over their dogs. She converted me from being a bit afraid of dogs to being a dog lover or at least in love with her…and if writing 858 words about her isn’t proof of this, I don’t know what is. What follows, is a little bit about how I ended up with Ivy and an introduction to who she is. She accompanies me everywhere and shows up from time to time in my stories…

It’s uncharacteristic of me to be impulsive, but I’m afraid that’s exactly how I ended up with Ivy.  I honestly can’t say what prompted me to drive to the family dog rescue that day. It was as if I were temporarily possessed by someone else, someone who knew I needed to go there right then to find her.

When I told my sister what I was up to (hey guess where I am?, where?, family dog rescue, What?, yep I’m getting a puppy, a puppy, really?, yep, OMG!!!) she was shocked and worried, rightly so, because if it hadn’t been Ivy I came home with, a puppy really could’ve been the last straw.

Fortunately, as it turns out, Ivy is the text book example of a therapeutic dog. My doctor, whom I later learned loves dogs and has a few, was thrilled with the news of Ivy’s adoption. “She’ll help with all kinds of things like depression and anxiety” she told me reassuringly as she invited Ivy in for a visit. Getting Ivy was the best thing for me and my kids right then and now.  She happily travels with the kids between their two houses. She’s a bit like a living transitional object or therapeutic family glue. That being said, I never recommend a dog to anyone because I’ve seen what a pain in the butt disaster some of them can be.

Anyway, back to my story… So, I told the person who was working there (at the rescue) I had no idea what kind of dog I was looking for except I wanted a medium sized, mixed breed (I had read somewhere mixes have fewer health issues) and one that was all about love. She smiled and led me to three dogs she thought might fit the bill. The three of them were in the medium size group (the dogs were actually organized by size with “small” “medium” and “large”, labeled with handwritten signs outside their pens, which I thought was smart since it turns out people (not just me) choose dogs partly for their size), but I only had eyes for Ivy. She stole my heart instantly.  Sitting in my lap for all of about two minutes, I told the woman “I’ll take her”, not even thinking to clear it with the kids or their dad. The next day, I pretended to have them (my kids and their dad) check her, but truth is, I’d already decided and just needed to sign the papers. Fortunately they were just as taken by Ivy and we left with our new puppy wrapped in a blanket, all of us head over heels, all about love.

From day one, Ivy has been super mellow and well-behaved. I think she peed inside like once. Other than when she feels the need to protect us, like when the front doorbell rings, nothing gets her all that fired up.  She can’t be bothered with fetch and she’s a bit “whatever” about chew toys. Honestly, she spends most of her time asleep. It’s not to say she can’t run fast because she does. On the beach for instance, she runs faster than any other dog out there. It’s just I think if she had a choice she’d go back to sleep rather than run.

She sleeps every morning until everyone else in the family wakes up, which, with teenagers, means she sleeps in pretty late. She doesn’t seem depressed or anything, she just likes to rest. When she does decide it’s time to wake up, she first stretches her legs out while lying on her back. Then she jumps down off the bed onto the floor and does a lazy downward dog.  Then she stretches her hind legs, one at a time and meanders to the back door and starts sniffing. Her sniff gradually gets louder the longer she waits, but that’s all she will ever do, to indicate it’s time to let her out. Then, when she’s done outside, she returns and goes back to sleep, until it’s time for a walk or a snuggle. She does like to snuggle.

I know we probably lucked out with Ivy (she came home with us from the rescue fully trained at 6 months) but I also think a few people were looking out for us that day. Either way, I’m grateful we found her. She doesn’t even mind when my daughter dresses her up for photos and she told me it was totally fine for me to go on and on about her in my blog. I think she might actually enjoy the attention.

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Are You My Mother?

ladybug

The other day a ladybug landed on my ring. I sat there quietly, wondering if this spotless little ladybug thought maybe my ring was its mother? It walked all the way around the rim before flying away to continue its search elsewhere.

The whole thing reminded me of the children’s book “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman about a newly hatched bird who doesn’t understand where his mother went when she flew off for food. The bird can’t fly yet so he walks around searching and asking everyone and everything he sees…a dog, a cow, a boat, a plane… Are you my mother? and everyone says “NO” but eventually he ends up back in the nest and his mother returns too. It’s a feel good Mother’s Day kind of story, if you’re looking for one.

Anyway, I’m glad I had my phone with me right then to take the picture because the photo really tells the story. Plus it’s one of those things nobody would believe without seeing it.

Win Friends With Salad

I’ve got a few friends who like to sing me the “You don’t win friends with salad” song. They think it’s very “Lisa Simpson” of me to always order a large salad to share when we’re at this one pizza place while everyone else orders pizza and beer. Everyone eats the salad, mind you, it’s just part of the routine to tease me about ordering it and that includes singing me the song, which sometimes they do in a conga line, depending on how much beer was consumed prior to sitting down at the restaurant. If you don’t know the song, you should. You can listen to it and it will be stuck in your head for at least a day (you’re welcome).

But contrary to what my friends sing, I actually have won friends with salad, especially this one. I wasn’t planning to post recipes on my blog, but I think I will make some exceptions for a few of my favorites…you know, the showstoppers, the ones that win friends, like this one. It’s originally from the Esalen cookbook, except I don’t add sprouts (sorry but yuck) or mushrooms and I usually add brown rice and grated carrots, if I have them. I also like to add some protein, maybe a fried egg, sliced grilled chicken, grilled salmon or smoked trout and then I drizzle a bit of Sriracha on top for a little kick.

I promise you, this is one salad that will win friends! Here’s the recipe for you to try:

Julie’s Raw Kale Salad Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 pound fresh kale
  • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup or so of peeled and grated carrots
  • 1 avocado diced

Directions

  • 1 Whisk together the Bragg (or tamari soy sauce), olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl. Slice the onion into half moons and marinate in the dressing as you prepare the rest of the salad.
  • 2 Toast the seeds in a heavy bottomed pan (cast-iron is the best though I don’t own one) over medium heat until seeds are just golden and fragrant. Toast each seed type separately as their size requires varying roasting times. Cool to room temperature.
  • 3 De stem the kale. Slice kale leaves into 1/4 inch ribbons (time consuming but worth it)
  • 4 Toss the seeds, carrots and kale with the onions, and as much dressing as necessary to lightly but completely dress the kale. Thoroughly massage the kale with your hands.
  • 5 Add the brown rice and toss.
  • 6 Top with avocado slices and/or any other protein you might enjoy. My favorites are: fried egg, grilled chicken, grilled salmon or smoked trout. I also like to drizzle a bit of Sriracha on top, but I tend to like things hot.

Enjoy!

Leave While You’re Happy

People ask me a lot of questions about parenting. Probably because I’m in the child development field they think I might know something about the topic, but also my kids tend to behave well in public, which is something, especially since they do not necessarily do so at home.  I’m reluctant to give advice though because I know there aren’t silver bullet answers to parenting questions. Parenting is an individual process and more often than not, the best answer is “it depends”. That being said, I do have exactly one piece of universal parenting advice I love to share and I wish more people would follow it. I can’t remember when I learned it. It might have been at the co-op nursery school with my own kids, but whenever it was, it wasn’t soon enough. The advice is to leave while you’re happy.

That seems easy enough, right? Leave while you’re happy. Well, once you start paying attention to this concept– at restaurants, at parties, at parks, at the mall — you’ll notice people rarely leave while they’re happy, especially with young children. I suppose that’s because, if you’re happy, why on earth would you think to leave? Well trust me, you should.

Maybe a better way to say this is… don’t wait until you’re certain you aren’t happy to leave, because by then (and we’ve all experienced this ourselves or have observed it happen with other people) you’re probably looking at a full-on temper tantrum disaster which makes everything harder if not nearly impossible, like buckling a kid in a car seat or stroller. By the time a baby or toddler (or any age person really) is unhappy and screaming bloody murder, it’s just proof you’ve waited too long to leave…you didn’t leave while you were happy.

It might be helpful to think about this in terms of adult relationships as it translates fairly well. Here’s an example from my work life. Instead of leaving a job in which I was still fairly happy but had completely outgrown, I stayed and stayed and stayed, until I was completely certain I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was so unhappy I would come home at night and cry about the way my coworker typed (she used two fingers and typed super loud– it probably would make anybody cry at some point). But clearly, I was miserable and needed to leave that job a long time before I was bothered by something as small as the way someone typed. It’s when little things that once were cute or would otherwise go completely unnoticed (in a baby’s view perhaps it’s grandma tickling their toes or being buckled into a car seat) drive you to tears, it’s likely you’ve stayed too long. Maybe it’s the way someone sips their coffee in the morning or the way they whistle to themselves while they putter in the garage… Or the way they chew. It might be those tiny little things bug you simply because you didn’t leave while you were happy (and/or you probably need to take a nap). It’s kind of like my other favorite saying…stop while you’re ahead.

Yeah, so anyway, that’s my only real parenting advice… leave while you’re happy, because waiting until you’re certain you’re not happy and you’re crying over the small stuff, it means you’ve most likely waited too long.

Braiding Hair

I didn’t realize my inability to braid hair would be such an issue but the mornings are getting increasingly stressful around here with requests for various braids my daughter sees on other girls or she finds on-line (yet another reason to hate the internet). The stress to do them quickly and evenly without being poofy drives me insane. But since I’m the only one with any hope of doing it right, my daughter keeps asking me to try and I do. I do try. Inevitably though, she takes out whatever I’ve done, adding an eye roll and a sigh telling me “It’s all wrong. I’ll just wear a pony tail….AGAIN.”  I know it shouldn’t make me feel inadequate as a mom that my braids fail, I mean I do so many things well, but since I do love fiber arts and I’m good at making things with my hands, it kind of makes me crazy that I can’t seem to braid her hair right. I mean really… I can knit…I can sew…I can weave. What’s my problem with braiding her hair? Hers is slippery, which makes it particularly hard and it’s totally straight too, which means it shows every single bump, but I think it’s really the expectation thing that gets me. The fact that she has in mind a certain outcome (including perfect symmetry without pieces sticking out) makes me nervous, as if it’s a test I just know I’m going to fail before it even starts. I’m much better off doing things without intention, without rules and definitely without symmetry– unless of course the symmetry happens by mistake which is a nice surprise. But I’m going to keep trying to braid her hair when she asks, because you never know, maybe tomorrow I’ll get it right? and that’s what good moms do. We keep trying.