Thursday, January 28, 2010

Diet Brain

I want to continue the eBay saga but am not operating at full capacity. I'm tired from the family's new schedule and am on the third day of the South Beach diet and exercise program. Lost 7 pounds so far. I'm not feeling very analytical. My mind is fluttering around.

I'd love to write about JD Salinger and how he was one of my favorite authors and how my students couldn't believe that Catcher in the Rye was written 50 years before they read it, but I'll just go with RIP. He wanted to be left alone anyway.

Instead, I just started catching up on blog reading. I was scrolling past an annoying post about one of the Jonas Brothers (otherwise known as the Jo Bros . . . how annoying is that?) on Design Scene and found a link to an archived post about ambient art by Detour Moves.  They sell DVD's that you can play on your TV as a kind of moving art. I found samples on YouTube. It's at least a year old now, so maybe you've seen it. I love Fornasetti. This is exactly what my mind can handle right now. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Preschool + Little Dragons

Last night, I found Daisy offering some advice to Violet for her first day of preschool. Daisy is her sister's translator at daycare, and she was worried about how Violet would do without her.

Violet was ready to go long before it was time to leave this morning. She carried around her lunchbox for an hour. She was all business.

She was a little nervous when we first got there.

But relaxed after meeting her teacher. The day went very well and she even talked in class. When I asked the teacher if she could understand Violet, she said, "Some of the time. Sure." That's good enough for me.

Daisy started Little Dragons this afternoon. It's an intro to a mix of martial arts. The teacher referred to his space as a temple and threatened to kick the kids off the Little Dragon team if they used any of their new moves at the playground or against their siblings. As they stretched, he got in their faces . . . "We are a team! Do we have any problems with each other? NO, WE DO NOT!!!" I would have refused to take part in any such thing as a kid. Daisy LOVED IT.

I am really proud, but Daisy is going to have to work twice as hard if she ever has any hope of catching up with Bindy's daughter, who has been practicing karate for years. I'm thinking we're going to have to set up some kind of match.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I will get back to the eBay theme soon but this is a really busy week. I overscheduled the kids for the next month. They've been bouncing off the walls after neverending rainstorms and no real yard access during the construction. So this week . . . Violet starts preschool and gymnastics, along with her speech therapy. Daisy starts Little Dragons in addition to Girl Scouts and school. And right now, we are literally fighting for second grade. First-grade homework is no joke and she hasn't met the reading benchmarks. I wanted to give her growth opportunities outside of school, and she chose Little Dragons. It is a general intro to martial arts and meets twice a week. Daisy is fascinated by ninjas but my husband thought the Little Ninja class might be promoting violence (even though his parents tell me he went through a big ninja phase himself). So, we'll start with Little Dragons.

I'm also going on South Beach tomorrow. I'm sure you've heard of it . . . it's a diet and exercise plan. I'm not a diet person - I have a tendency to rebel against that type of thing. I planned to lose weight before my reunion and before going to New York last year, but in both cases, I gained weight. I lost weight in November then gained it all back in December. The very idea of dieting seems to have the opposite effect on me. So, I don't trust my own judgment anymore. South Beach starts with a couple not fun weeks known as Phase 1. Low carb, low fat, no sugar, no fruit, no alcohol, no processed food. I got the book yesterday and will be cooking and freezing meals tonight. I'm so motivated, it's not even funny, and probably nothing will be funny for the next two weeks. Wish me - and my family - luck.

I also started a book I've been meaning to read, Mindful Parenting, and am finally going to do that meditation practice my counselor has been recommending. I'm organizing my leftover eBay merchandise and thinking about the commercial blog again. I have a new class beginning on Saturday and continue the search for more work. Throw in my morning tutoring and the daycare involved with that . . . and I can now add chauffer to my resume.

A big part of my compulsion to be extra busy has to do with Violet starting preschool. I had that giddy nervousness the first day Daisy went to preschool but I knew It Was Time. With Violet, it's different. There's the speech issue and she will always be the baby of the family. But it's even more than that. Someone explained to me when we spent more time at the doctor's office than the playground, that the bond between a parent and child who's been sick is unusually . . .  strong doesn't do it justice. I have a strong bond with Daisy too but she has always been more independent and open to forming strong bonds with others. Violet is all about her mama. Someone asked me where my shadow was recently, and I realized I was going to be shadowless more often.

I'll let you know how it all goes.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Getting Primed ~ eBay, Part 1

I had a vivid dream about my old job at the home design store a few months before I left my education job in September 2007. The feeling of nostalgia from the dream lingered, and I realized just how burnt I was on the school. I had been providing something like triage for teenagers in crisis for 10 years, but that wasn't what was burning me. Dealing with the high staff turnover while trying to maintain academic standards was getting old. What I was really done with was the staff politics. It got ugly. So, as soon as I became unemployed, I thought about retail. Lovely not-so-emotionally-involved retail. The idea of doing it on my own without any other personalities to contend with was straight-up heaven.

I had sold stuff on eBay before. My parents downsized and relocated to be closer to us after Daisy was born, and my grandmother had moved out of her home after more than 50 years. In both cases, I inherited boxes and boxes of stuff that I sold on eBay, making a little money. I became fascinated with stories of people who were eBay sellers by trade - selling books, movies, ticket stubs, spices, bras, etc. and they were able to quit their day jobs. Well, quit my day job (check), what's next?

My husband agreed to use some of our savings to pay my portion of the bills for six months, neither of us knowing I qualified for unemployment. I was so excited . . . I approached business planning as if I was writing curriculum or piloting a program: research, brainstorm, organize. As always, I found a few books.

Starting an eBay Business for Dummies was helpful in some ways but eBay is constantly changing its policies and procedures. There's no way a book can keep up. Instead, I recommend spending time on eBay Help and Community. The book does provide very clear information about starting a business, but I could have found free information online, though often less clear, and business laws vary from state to state. Information on starting a business in California can be found here.

What to Sell on eBay and Where to Get It was useful. It provides specific strategies in product sourcing, such as spotting trends, identifying niche markets, adding value to products others might already be selling, and finding legit wholesalers. Chris Malta, one of the authors and an eBay celebrity, promotes the use of a product sourcing notebook. I tried his version of the notebook thing, but it was a little too structured for me. However, it did inspire me to always carry pen and paper just in case I came across an interesting product or idea. The other thing I tried was clipping trends from magazines. Between my mom and I, we have enough mag subscriptions for a village, so I started tearing out pages from Elle, Jane, Marie Clare, Allure, Lucky, Home Design, Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping, O, Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Sunset, and The Week. I found this exercise to be minimally helpful because being familiar with the trends wasn't the same as finding wholesalers who would sell to me at a price I could profit from. But overall, my understanding in how to proceed with an eBay business was greatly increased by this book.

Titanium eBay was a tad ambitious. It's geared towards sellers who want to reach a monthly sales volume of at least $150,000. Um, yeah.

I went to my local city offices and filed my business license. My husband was a contractor for a biotech company at the time, which required a business license, so he had already paid the one-time zoning fee. I applied for a resale license. I did the paperwork for the State Board of Equalization so I could collect sales tax. I felt funny about doing all the paperwork before I knew what I was going to be selling, but it allowed me to do two things: buy wholesale and take an income tax deduction for my business losses (expenses, losses . . . it was all the same for me). The grand total from the licensing fees was something like $250.

There was one glaring omission in my planning, but I totally avoided it on purpose. I couldn't quite wrap my mind around a business plan that would address what I was trying to do. I didn't know how to do it. Now, I can see that it would have been helpful to create a written plan of any kind, no matter what the format. I lacked direction.

Later, my accountant performed his magic with my business expense deductions, and although he started to laugh openly when I referred to "my eBay business," he also helped me with the Excel spreadsheets that served as my monthly balance sheets. Because I had done the basic bookkeeping for a retail store, I slapped together a spreadsheet that worked fine but really, I should have put it on Quickbooks. Not only is it supposed to be super easy, it's a compelling keyword to put on the resume.

But before I had anything to account for, I needed to figure out what I was going to sell. That's where things got a little bumpy.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No More Whining

This morning, I took videos of my home as a storm continued to rage. I quickly downloaded this month's accumulation of pics and videos to my computer with self-righteousness . . . I'm going to post one of these movies showing what I'm dealing with here! I wanted to make sure the drama of my living situation was fully represented. Then, there were technical difficulties, so I turned on the morning news instead.

All that really needs to be said is Haiti. Not to say there isn't suffering of all kinds across the globe and in my neighborhood and yours. I'm tempted to talk about how my toes go numb if I sit still for too long in my house and how last night my three-year-old repeatedly made messes and broke things before shrugging her shoulders and declaring with a big smile, "It happens." (I'm hoping that's what she was saying.) But then there's Haiti. I was feeling good about texting my $10 donation after reading a White House blog . . . but I heard this morning that these donations aren't made for at least 30 days when the phone bill is paid. So, really I've done nothing yet.

Did you hear about the 50+ Haitian orphans that were flown to Pittsburg today? From what I understand, most of these children were already in the process of being adopted by American families before the earthquake hit. The adoption laws in Haiti are apparently strict and cumbersome, but there were something like 380,000 orphans in Haiti before the earthquake struck. That is a lot of kids in one small country. I'll be looking for ways to contribute positively to the situation. Maybe my daughter's GS troop could get off their first-grade hides and help.

The moral of the story is that I need to stop venting and make myself useful. This might be an awkward transition from major destruction and loss of life, but there's something I've been meaning to write about for awhile. And it might be useful to someone somewhere . . . I certainly would have appreciated the info a couple years ago when I first tried to make money on eBay.

Within 24 hours of becoming unemployed in September 2007, I started making plans for an eBay store. There was a need for me to be at home because Violet was constantly sick with asthma. I had worked retail for years before teaching and felt like I knew something about it. I researched how to sell on eBay and how to start a business, filled out the paperwork and got the licenses. How hard could it be? I was coming from a place of experience in my career. I was a Trainer and Manager of teaching across subject areas, writing for various audiences, tracking large amounts of information, organizing spaces, dealing with difficult people . . . I was completely confident in my ability to run an eBay store.

I officially shut the store down in June 2009. I learned a little but that knowledge came with $7000 of debt. I'm working on a series of posts that will explain what happened - good and bad - with the hope that it will help someone else in the same vulnerable spot. At the very least, you might shake your head at my misguided and costly attempts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


A crazy big storm blew in yesterday. Our house still has Tyvek paper instead of sliding glass doors and windows, making our heater useless. Today, it's blustery, damp and chilly. But last night, it was so much worse. I could barely hear that cornball Jake and his mentally unstable love interests on The Bach. The pounding rain, rippling paper, groaning scaffolding, thunder and lightening made Violet and our dog Sadie burrow in tightly on either side of me in the middle of the night, and I realized I was just as scared as they were. I usually love the worst of the weather we get in California, but this one's freaky - especially in tent-like conditions - and it's supposed to continue all week.

While yelling at Jake and his ladies to get over themselves and their idiotic idea of marriage, and exchanging the obligatory OMG text with Tabitha (see Bindy? That's how you watch that show), I entertained myself with pictures of what being indoors on a winter night should be . . . like insulated.






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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cooking Adventure

I'm always intending to cook more but rely heavily on pre-made stuff from Trader Joe's and Costco. When Daisy was younger, she asked me to teach her to cook then turned to the microwave, "So how does this thing work anyway?" My repertoire of semi-homemade dinners include tacos, baked ziti, canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, various egg dishes (a.k.a. breakfast for dinner), and sometimes I can make the best tuna melt you've ever had (lemon zest brings it to a whole new level).

My husband has done most of the cooking over the years but my underemployed self has felt the need to step it up.  Last week, I decided I was going to finally cook a whole chicken. I've been meaning to since reading some magazine article by someone who said Everyone Must Know How to Roast a Chicken. I remember the recommended recipe involving lemon and lots of spices. But this time, I turned to Cook's Illustrated. If you like to cook and have never looked at a Cook's Illustrated magazine or cookbook, FIND ONE. It will change the way you think about cooking. Recipes are obsessively tested in endless variations and so detailed that even a wildly inconsistent cook like me has good outcomes. Those CI people are cooking scientists.

The CI recipe for roast chicken was so simple that I almost looked for another one. Here it is: Remove the giblets (I actually looked up how to do this online. Guess what? You pull them out). Rinse and pat dry (make sure it's really dry and not sitting in the water you rinsed with). Heat up the pan in a 375 degree oven (the secret is to get the pan nice and hot). Bring the hot pan out and throw a greased v-rack on top of it. Brush the chicken with a couple tablespoons of melted butter (do not repeat this step after the chicken goes in the oven). Add salt and pepper. Rest the chicken sideways on the rack, so one wing is facing up and cook for 15 minutes. Rotate the chicken so the other wing faces up and cook for another 15. Rotate the chicken again, breast side up, and turn the oven up to 450 degrees for another 20-25 minutes (that's for a 3-pound bird . . . add five minutes for every pound on top of that).

As always, I had a small assistant in the kitchen. I didn't want Daisy to handle raw chicken so I asked her to keep me company instead. She was horrified when I unwrapped the chicken, as was I. "That's our dinner? DISGUSTING!" I explained that this was a dead chicken, so we blessed its little chicken life. Daisy provided nonstop commentary as I awkwardly brought the recipe to completion. I made her a plate at the bar, and she gave me feedback as she ate everything on her plate. After an hour of her talking storm, all I could do was laugh uncontrollably.

If I was on a cruise ship, I would definitely pick yours. [She meant cooking show.]
Mom, I think you should be a chef . . . that's really fun. [She gives me a lot of career counseling these days.]
You know what? Um, ah . . . it's so good! Mom, what's your secret ingredient? L-o-v-e . . . is that your secret ingredient? Yes? Yes or no? Yes or no?! What is it? I mean it Mom . . . I MEAN IT MOM . . . What's your secret in . . . gre . . . di . . . ent? That's the best thing I ever had!

It did turn out well. Golden, crispy skin. Dark and white meat cooked perfectly. I don't think my husband even added anything to it, and he's all about sauces and spices. The kids loved it. I threw some potatoes on the bottom of the pan and although they looked charred, they were tasty. Five pounds of chicken vanished in one night. (That isn't my picture . . . but it looked very much like that.)

The dessert wasn't as successful. I gave Daisy some coconut pudding, sweetened with agave, that I found at Whole Foods. I hadn't tried it yet, so I didn't know about the slightly grainy texture. I asked her if she liked it.
Mmmm hmmm. It's not that it tastes like vomit. It's just that my throat tightened or I'm going to choke. I'm not sure. 

But that roast chicken rules. I planned to turn the carcass into a stock . . . maybe too ambitious though. Don't want the fam to think I like spending time in the kitchen. Might get stuck in there.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Grind

Man, this was another off day. It's been a struggle in the last couple weeks to get a perspective on things . . . find the humor . . . say something clever. It's not that I'm freaking out. I'm staying strong with my feet planted where they should be. It's just that my daily grind is really grindy. See? Nothing clever about that.

Late night is precious. It's when I can think, write, read. Everyone else is usually in bed and no longer requiring my attention. Tonight, I have the added bonus of paper where there should be walls on two sides of the living room. It's not bad with a jacket and blankets. The highway almost sounds like rushing water. But I'm coming up short on inspiration.

I started the day by running late to Violet's speech therapy. My excuse was first, I couldn't find Daisy's lunchbox and then, I just needed a moment to sit and drink a cup of coffee (my bad). I realized Violet hadn't done her speech therapy homework, so I grabbed what she needed on our way out the door. But Violet was cranky and I struggled to get her to the car, sloshing coffee all over her homework and our clothes.

When we arrived at the appointment, I took one of the last available spaces in the parking lot, which is mostly there for Adult School. Violet behaved during her appointment but refused to leave because she wanted to hang out in the play area afterwards. I had to get her to daycare so I could make it to tutoring, and she let me know that wasn't going to work for her. I got her in the car and realized that another car was blocking me. I was starting to run really late, so I tried to maneuver out of the space anyway and TOTALLY crunched and scraped my car on a pole. I ran from room to room in the Adult School, interrupting classes to ask if anyone had a gray Sentra. When I found the person, Violet and I ran back to the car but it took awhile to get out of there still because I had really gotten myself in a bad position.

I rushed Violet to daycare while she cried that she didn't have her "OG nonnie" (translation: her original pink satin blanket). I didn't have time to get it for her - and she didn't need it anyway - but my frantic mindset probably made her crave a little comfort. As I dropped her off, I got a parting snapshot of her falling apart and announcing to everyone in daycare that "my mommy was meeeeaaaaan to me." Ah, guilt.

I was a few minutes late to tutoring. It's not ok to be late, partially because the kid enjoys broadcasting my lateness down the school halls and I'm trying to make a good impression on the administration in case there are ever any job openings. But I found my inner zen because there are two things that are guaranteed to happen with this student. . . he will be oppositional and I will repeat myself A LOT.  After tutoring, I walked my dog for an hour by the ocean, which I thought was going to transform the rest of my day.

Instead, I was back to drama after picking up Violet. I WAS SO OVER HER. Everything was a problem. I couldn't deal with her as constructively as I would have liked because I had some paperwork that I had to get out this afternoon, or lose out on my unemployment check for another week. She fell asleep on the couch while giving me the silent treatment (much better than the screaming treatment anyway). Our contractors came back from lunch and resumed their loud banging, and Violet slept about eight feet away from them, so I knew she must be really tired. She was upset to eventually wake up to the madness, so I took her upstairs and got her ready to pick up her sister from school.

I had us all ready to go, bags packed to spend the afternoon at my parents' house. But just before we left, Violet apparently waited too long to go to the bathroom AGAIN and peed in her clothes and all over the floor. I just needed to help her change and get her shoes on, and we could still be on time to pick up her sister. But Violet didn't want clothes so she ran naked through the house having a fit. I wrestled her down to dress her and it turned into a huge scene that didn't end when we got to school. I was shaking mad. Daisy came out of her classroom complaining about something and I let her know THERE. WAS. NO. MORE. PATIENCE. FOR. WHINING.

We spent the afternoon with my parents and they took us out to dinner like they do most weeks, except this time, my husband joined. The kids held up the bad rep that kids have in restaurants, and I tried to manage them the best I could so my husband could bond with my parents. I left the meal feeling like all I wanted to do was take some Tums and get those damn kids to bed. (I hesitated to say "damn kids" but they can't hear me, and any parent who hasn't gotten there hasn't been a parent for very long.)

When we got home, Daisy needed to do homework and Violet apparently needed to have another fit. After realizing we were out of pull-ups, I rushed to the grocery store. I came back to get that pull-up on Violet and she cried (shocking). I worked on getting an impressive dreadlock out of Daisy's hair and she cried. Then, I remembered by the public restroom smell that I had some more cleaning to do. Turns out, Violet had accidents in two bathrooms today. Too bad my husband doesn't have clean pants to wear to work tomorrow and I haven't taken a shower since Saturday morning. I'm done. I got the blankets, put on Bachelor, and distracted myself with more unnecessary drama. The contestants held an uncanny resemblance to giant crying three-year-olds.

I'm crossing my fingers that I'll find my brain sometime this week. Or maybe I should just focus my search on humor. I'd settle for solid walls.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

To Do Sunday

Saturday is now the only day I teach at the learning center, which is about 45 minutes away. Yesterday, I had just four hours of class time, but half that time was spent with a new, large middle school class of mostly boys. You know it's going to be High Maintenance. By the time I got home, I was looking to zone out for a few minutes.

Daisy had other ideas and lots of them. I sat with her and offered to make a list for Sunday, since it was obvious I wasn't going to make her wishes come true on the spot. While Violet tried to distract us with naughtiness, Daisy dictated a list of tasks to me, then asked to see my notes so she could make her own copy. She remained focused despite her sister's best efforts.

Things to Do for Sunday

*Teach Violet manners.


*Play wii.

*Teach Violet how to talk normal.

*Teach Violet don't play with your food.

*Eat lunch.

*Go for a bike ride.

*Take Sadie for a walk.


*Online coloring.

Mostly reasonable for Sunday, the one day I don't have to be somewhere. Daisy did help me clean for a couple hours. We took a bike ride, with the kids yelling and wrestling in the trailer that jerked left and right behind their dad's bike. We played wii for the first time. . . well, I didn't because the kids wanted to play karaoke and I hate that. But they were overjoyed to use a microphone.  Daisy and I tried to approach Violet with some guidance, but she apparently wasn't looking for advice.

It actually turned out to be a pretty good Sunday. I got stuff done . . . replaced my hard drive, did a grocery run, packed away valuables. The house-shaking construction is back on tomorrow. Also, there were three earthquakes last week. Who knows what might happen next. You're probably hoping something happens. Make the next post a little more gripping.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Rough Week

I hit a wall with the job hunting. It's been some time since my last wall splat, and this one was messy. I've never been more focused on getting a jobI would l-o-v-e to discover a way to make money without a job but so far, haven't made it happen. It's back to that annoying envy for those who are financially independent, relatively sure about their places in the world. Applying to endless jobs with nothing to show for it sucks. Networking has turned into getting updates on the "it's tough all over" theme.

The construction zone, formerly known as my home, presents a dynamic backdrop. Daisy says it's like living in a haunted house. Picture this: I'm wearing a neon orange Halloween t-shirt with faded navy star-print flannel pajama pants. I've just gotten the kids ready for their day and out the door; in a few minutes, it will be time to get ready for tutoring. I'm catching up on emails, clutching my coffee, and suddenly there are *deafening bangs* as the plywood covering a nearby window or door is ripped off. HELLOOO. Here's what I wear when I don't see people . . . except there you are. I actually like the contractors. I enjoy their company when doing my housework, but privacy is one of my most treasured possessions.

My hard drive crashed this week, and it still isn't fixed. I lost a month or two of pictures, but it's not the end of the world. As a Dell owner, I really should not be shocked. Totally recommend the max warranty. This will be the fourth time I've used my warranty after purchasing the laptop 10 months ago. Next time, I'm getting a Mac, like my middle brother recommended. Did you know that Macs are recyclable, while PC's end their lives as toxic waste?

Daisy started GS. Those initials stand for a certain national girls' organization. I'm too paranoid to refer to them directly because they're more powerful than I ever imagined. I had to become a card-carrying member as well (so did her dad . . . HA HA). It's a lot of pressure. I tried to nonchalantly avoid the group handshake thing at the end of the first meeting, then Daisy found me and made me join in. She's so into it. She's already working on her pledge:

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God* and my country,

To help people at all times,

And to live by the GS Law.
Why do I feel like she's joining the army? I need to talk to her more about the god asterisk. And yeah, they have laws . . . this is really going to be a challenge for me. Some of you should expect to be hit up for cookie orders by March.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

School Appropriate

Violet had speech therapy this morning for a second time and she's doing really well. *BRAGGING IN PROCESS* Her therapist pulled me aside and told me that she is a "really remarkable three year old" because usually the first year of therapy at this age is about teaching kids how to behave in a school setting . . . sitting, listening, following directions. But my daughter does all that without any prior school experience, and the therapist is able to jump right into the exercises. Violet's also doing well on her homework - which so far is coloring a gingerbread man and practicing the H sound - but still.

You have to excuse my bragging because I've been wondering if Violet will have issues around appropriate school behavior. We were in the kids' department at Macy's the other day looking at the clearance stuff, and she ran off and hid in one of the fixtures. I looked around then called for her . . . Where are you? Her response was "I'm right here, you idiot." It took me a couple seconds to process what she said because she said "idiot" with a French accent . . . "you eeediot." Needless to say, I got down at eye level with her and let her know that we don't talk that way, and she hasn't said it since. Violet has probably gotten away with saying all kinds of things because of her unclear speech. We might be surprised at what we hear as the therapy progresses.

I'm sure the idiot thing came from SpongeBob. I know it's my fault for letting her watch that, but it's her favorite show and after you get over the initial shock of the SpongeBob world, it's a much less irritating show for adults to watch than say Dora or I Spy. Violet has also decided that Dora is for babies but I tried to argue it isn't. Younger siblings are especially adept at knowing what's for babies because older siblings break it down for them.

The other issue of appropriateness that has cropped up recently is that Violet loves Lady Gaga. LOVES HER. You might wonder how she knows who she is and I did too. What happened was she heard "Poker Face" on the radio and somehow figured out it was Lady Gaga. She started asking repeatedly for "Oker Ace" before I even knew what the song was about. Her dad put it on a mixed CD for the kids and now we're fully aware of what the lyrics are.

I'm not going to make a big deal about it but will try to gently guide her to another song obsession. I have no problem with Lady Gaga. I can appreciate her as a performance artist, but I'm certain she didn't make that song for the preschool set. I'm reassuring myself with the idea that Violet thinks "bluffin with my muffin" is something you do at a bakery. I'm hoping I can get another song in her head by the 26th, when preschool starts, because one of the questions they ask on the first day is "what is your favorite song?" Maybe they won't understand her anyway.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Two words: Swine Flu.

I should have known. I was pretending I was better, but after 10 days of feeling weak and exhausted with a sore throat and cough that wouldn't quit, battling a headache that felt like I was being stabbed in the eyes, and experiencing alternating muscle sensations of pain and heat for no reason . . . I realized something was wrong.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Daisy had the worst of it. She lost weight and gained a crazy bad attitude. Her younger sister figured out that if she slapped her in the nose, blood would pour out. How incredibly satisfying for a baby sister. Yesterday, I was convinced we had mono. Today, Daisy was diagnosed with Swine Flu and pneumonia. She's on antibiotics. My doctor's office isn't open on Saturdays but I'm feeling better for real . . . just low energy and a mild headache.

My husband came down with it around New Year's and Violet has escaped unscathed as of today. The kids had one round of swine flu vaccinations but were supposed to get a second. I wonder if Violet will be next, or if somehow one round was enough for her. Anyway, none of this is very interesting.

But you know what is? Transcend 2010. And here's what I'm going to do on that theme . . . I'm going to take Swine Flu off the personal worry list. Been there. Done that. It wasn't great but it's almost over. As far as my worry list for humanity . . . I hope we can all look back and laugh at the piggy flu paranoia, but blessings to those who go through what we did or worse.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

It seems that everywhere I look people are trashing 2009 . . . what a terrible year it was, no one's sorry to see it go, let's beat it up on the way out . . . or something like that. I wouldn't say it was my best year, but I'm too much of an optimist to say bad things about it. I'm sure lots of lovely things happened in 2009, like . . . um, well . . . I'll get back to you on that.

In the meantime, I've come up with a mantra for the new year. You better make sure you are sitting securely in your chair because it's so good, it's going to rock your world, and I don't want anyone falling and hurting themselves. Ready? Here it is . . . Transcend 2010. Just let it sink in. Feel it. Love it? I know.

I don't technically do resolutions this time of year, but I can't ignore the need to be healthy, cook more, exercise more, save money (blah, blah, blah). So, in the spirit of transcending 2010, here are some fresh blogs for inspiration.

Sinner and Jim of Auckland, New Zealand post a variety of Asian and English recipes such as Steamed Barbecue Pork Bun, Chicken and Beef Satay (below), and Lemon Yoghurt Cake. There are rednecks in New Zealand? And they cook Chinese, Indian and Thai? I googled for more info . .  . all I learned is that Waitakere is New Zealand's fifth largest city and the terrain ranges from treacherous black sand beaches to forest-covered mountain ranges.

Mrs. Ergul describes the premise of her blog this way: "Being a Singaporean Chinese, Chinese food naturally is the regular on our dinner table. Occasionally, I will try making new Türkish dishes to satisfy my better half with some comfort food that reminds him of home that is a million miles away . . . Other than bread which I bake regularly, I like to expand my repertoire but some just look so daunting. That is why I'm part of the Daring Bakers community to push myself further." Recipes include Lahmacun (below), Soy and Sesame Pumpkin, and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I, too, wish to push myself further, Mrs. Ergul.

I have never been vegan nor do I plan to be . . . but I do like the idea of a little bit of vegan every week . . . even if it's just one meal. I also like this blog by Bianca, which is about "Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South." Recipes include Sweet Tater and Almond Butter (below), Healthy-ish Biscuits and Gravy, and Holy Mole Chile.

Oh, Tomato Kid . . . where do you get your knowledge? I could read your mysterious blog all day. Here's a couple samples from the "talk about food and health."

7 kinds of the worst diet easier to get fat
1. In the kitchen to eat
2. At work to eat
3. In the darkness, eating
4. In a restaurant to eat
5. On the screen before eating
6. Eat too hasty
7. Mastication time is too short to eat

In order to stay young, you must remember the name of the following foods: chicken skin, fish, caviar, shrimp paste, oysters, liver, mushrooms, edible fungus, pollen and so on. They are rich in elastic fibers, or nucleic acids, helps to maintain smooth skin.

I almost skipped this one just because of the title. But upon further review, Karen Evans of Ohio provides clear and minimally-annoying information on a variety of health-related topics.

Here is an excerpt from her post regarding smart choices at McDonald's. Eating at McDonald's might not be smart to begin with, but there are those times, especially with kids, that it does have its advantages. And yes, I did know that apple slices have fewer calories than fries, but it's helpful to see the numbers.

For a healthy side order, avoid the fries which come in at 380 calories and 19 grams of fat for a medium order. Instead, consider the Apple Dippers. Even with the caramel apple dip, the calorie count is just 105 calories. A second option would be the Side Salad that has just 20 calories. Even with a serving of low-fat dressing, the side salad would only clock in at 60-80 calories depending on the dressing you choose.

But then again, Dr. Mirkin of Maryland explains in Junk Food Alters Intestinal Bacteria in Just One Day that "after just one day of switching from a plant-based diet to a high-fat-and-sugar diet, mice with human intestinal bacteria developed bacteria associated with obesity in humans, and soon became grossly obese (Science Translational Medicine, November 11, 2009)." What else can you share, Dr. Mirkin?

This charming blog by Ildie, a self-described sassy woman from Ohio, is a little random but there will be no criticism from me about randomness. Ildie apparently enjoys exercise and watching what she eats. I can forgive her though, because she also loves coffee and cookies. Check out her nice photos. The first one is the oatmeal she made for New Year's Eve.

Alicia Lynn Carrier of Portland writes about her pursuits in healthy cooking in a down-to-earth, reasonable way. She shares creative ideas like throwing curry paste into pea soup and appealing recipes like her mother's stuffed artichokes.

These similarly themed blogs feature coupons, deals and other offers . . . like Free Meals at Ikea or an amazing deal on a canvas photo. Save Your Money Mama also includes product reviews while Discount Queens offers Coupon 101. I sometimes clip coupons but always forget to use them . . . maybe these sites will help. We'll see.

Would love to hear more blog recommendations to . . .

Transcend 2010.