The Baby Plan

27 May

We’re 130 days in. Up 1.5 pounds [but somehow dropped 6 in the first trimester, so arguably up 7.5 pounds]. The belly has popped out, but the button maintains its “innie” character thus far. There are approximately 152 days to go, depending on when the little one makes his or her appearance. Number of individual-sized sour watermelon candy packages consumed: 3 (equaling a 300% increase over the past decade).  Percentage of time since February with ice cream in the freezer: 100%, usually with a spare (another feat previously unaccomplished in the past decade). Amount of time I’ve spent lamenting the fact that I can safely consume neither unheated prosciutto nor delicious red wine: too much to admit here. Amount of times J has asked me what he can to make me more comfortable or happier: countless, thankfully and with gratitude from me.

Truth be told, we planned this journey for many years.  In our college days, we agreed that our late 20s would be the right time for baby-making. We recently took our last-hurrah trip to Mexico to ring in the New Year, during which we engaged in much drinking/adventuring/relaxing/taking baby-inappropriate risks (such as eating delicious tacos from dirty street carts and navigating the Pacific Ocean via an over-packed dingy sans-life jackets in a gnarly rain storm). In accordance with our plan, our pregnancy officially commenced 2 weeks after we returned home from Mexico. The one negative pregnancy test we took was much harder on me than I expected it to be.  It made me more empathetic for the people who want it so badly and can’t make it happen on their preferred timeline. It also made me exceptionally grateful when our timeline somehow worked out precisely how we hoped it would. There was effort, without doubt, but there was also luck and happenstance and maybe some other force that I cannot articulate or understand.

It’s a strange thing to plan to make a baby, to have the plan come to fruition (!) and to know exactly what’s coming next (because, true to character, we’ve read every pregnancy book we can get our hands on), yet still feeling completely and utterly without control over the process. I suppose its good practice for having a demanding newborn, then rambunctious toddler, then precocious (I assume) kid, then awkward preteen, then hopefully not maladjusted teenager, then college wanderer and world explorer (I hope), then independent 20-something with a plan and a penchant for making the most of opportunities (I really hope)….and on and on. J and I have always had a plan and we probably always will. The funny thing with our latest plan—the baby plan—is now that it’s in action, we will have to learn to sit back and let the path make itself known. Wish us luck letting go of control.  We’ll need it!

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Super huge news

16 May

Our blog has suffered from a bit of neglect over the past couple of months. I’d like to say that it was because we forgot the password or forgot to pay for the hosting fees, but the truth is that we were just too busy.

Our bad, blog. Sorry.

However, part of the reason we’ve been so busy is . . . because . . . we’re preggo. Well, technically, S is preggers, but you know what I mean.

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S is currently in her 17th week and, knock on wood, everything has been going splendidly. No morning sickness and no weird food cravings, except a hankering for the occasional fish and chips. S has been a champ. Everyday I catch myself in a moment where I’m amazed by what her body is physically doing and what she’s mentally and emotionally doing for us.

When we first found out the big news, we started looking for a house. It was overwhelming, so we decided that we’d stay in the condo we love, at least for a little longer before the little one is really starting to move around. So if anyone has any great tips for living with a baby in a condo, feel free to email us.

 

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Portlandia

23 Feb

I spent a weekend in Portland recently.  For half the time, I was in regular old Portland at an old fancy hotel with no sign of hipsters.  I drove the three hours to attend industry meetings in a windowless ballroom.  The meetings were about as exciting as you might expect.  Our client dinner in El Gaucho’s private room was just as fancy as you might expect.  Also, stuffy.  If it were on my personal tab, I probably would have regretted the $1,000 bill.  But it wasn’t, so I didn’t mind much.  I happily ate my steak and chose the wine.

In my few spare moments of free time, I snuck a peek into all the glory of Portlandia.  Seattle is not so far from Portlandia, both in distance and, in some neighborhoods, culturally.  But Portland takes it to a much higher level of hipsterness that I can’t even pretend to understand.  I drank an americano at Stumptown.  I watched girls (…and boys) in neon leggings paired with hand-knit oversized grandpa sweaters and majorly messy top-knots saunter to the barista, showing a complete lack of interest in life generally.  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are from Seattle, but these Stumptown folks seemed to know all about popping tags at the thrift shop.  I snacked on a scone in my Lululemons, feeling utterly yuppie and out of place.  I strolled through Powell’s on my to lunch and got lost in the Rose room, mesmerized by the smell of old books and people a few days past their expiration date for showering.  It felt romantic.  And kind of grungy.

The Portlandia food (other than El Gaucho, honestly) was what got me.  I called J at every meal or texted him a photo to share the deliciousness.  Hipsters do some weird things, but one thing they do well is choosing the best restaurants.  I managed to follow their lead to some amazing places in Portlandia:

Brunch at Clyde Common in the Ace Hotel, aka Hipster Heaven.  Bacon steak.  Rosemary biscuits.  Communal seating, get to know yo’ neighbor.

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Oven and Shaker.  In the Pearl District, this little spot made me swoon at lunch with its perfectly concocted pizza pie.  You can buy the kitchen a 6-pack; it’s on the menu.  It’s also across the street from Jonathan Adler’s store, a feast for my color-loving eyes.

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I also went to The Parish, a Cajun/Creole gem that served me a delicious soft-shell crab sandwich and the southern fried chicken to my colleagues, I enjoyed a mini-cupcake from Cupcake Jones and had the best mini chocolate chip cookies with sea salt of. my. life from Two Tarts Bakery on 23rd.  Oh, and don’t forget the food trucks.  I visited those, too.  To sum up, I mostly sat in windowless ballrooms, walked, ate, observed hipsters doing various decidedly cool activities, and ate some more. 

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Mexico!

16 Feb

The day after Christmas, J and I woke up at approximately 3am to board a plane to Mexico.  In short, we had the time of our lives.

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We landed in Puerto Vallarta and met our friends in the airport, who had waited an inordinate amount of time while we trudged through customs; in the meantime, they snagged cheap cab info (across the street from the airport) by using our gent friend’s trusty Spanish skills.  We hopped into the slightly rusty beater, windows down, sun setting, ready for adventure.  We got to Sayulita when it was dark.  We heard the ocean waves crashing across the street.  The next morning, once the sun rose, we saw our rental house (above) in all its ocean-view glory and pinched ourselves to see if our luck was real.  It was.  For the record, this fancy-pants crash pad cost $140/night.  Total.  Split amongst 4 people.  Good deals exist.

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This little stairway to heaven led us to our open-air yoga class overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  If you find yourself in Sayulita, walk past Villa Amor, through the archway to the (shockingly colorful and beautiful) cemetery.  Across the way is a set of stairs.  Ascend into workout heaven.

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See?  Heaven.  Not that it was completely perfect.  There may have been strange critters stretching their limbs along with the humankind on the smooth cement ground.  But they came in peace.  And humanity-loving yogis gently pushed the critters along their creepy-crawly way.  Namaste.

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We hiked through a mini-jungle (forest?) to find an incredible stretch of beach with less than 10 humans in sight.  Brilliant.  We climbed through an abandoned home that had fallen down the cliff.  Maybe not brilliant.  Saylita was lovely. 

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After Sayulita, we took a bus to Puerto Vallarta and a water taxi to Yelapa.  Our water taxi carried tourists, sacks of limes, onions, avocados, a captain and his toddler son clinging to his back and 1 mate.  The ride took about an hour and featured jumping dolphins and lots of giddy laughter.  Magic. 

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Rounding into the cove that houses Yelapa is an experience that must be had on a sunny day.  The sapphire and teal water sparkled.  The buoyed yachts lazed about.  The perfectly-hued sand and umbrella-lined beach was a set for a Corona commercial.  We jumped off the boat, into the ocean, waded to the beach, threw on our huge backpacks, and walked barefoot to our beachfront hotel.  The magic continued when we opened the door to our thatched-roof palapa.  The only thing separating us from the jungle and beach was a piece of linen hanging on a rope.  Rustic meet romance.  But be sure to zip your bags and check your sheets every.single.time.  We never saw a scorpion, but our friends killed one in their room.  Not very yogi of them, but I would’ve done the same.  Obviously.

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We had to wade through the river that connects to the ocean to get into town.  This made things interesting, but ultimately uneventful, on New Year’s Eve.

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We rang in the New Year at the most amazing outdoor “Yacht Club” (below) with seemingly every person aged 1/2 to 100 who was planning to sleep in town that night.  And every person in town was planning to stay that night, since Yelapa ingress and egress is strictly limited to water taxi during daylight hours.  There was fireworks, good luck lanterns, and enthusiastic dancers galore, some of whom clearly left the U.S. in the 1960’s and likely haven’t been back since.  Well after midnight struck, we said goodnight to the donkeys tied up outside, the primary means of transportation other than on foot, and waded back to our hotel room.  And then, the rain started.

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We cut our trip to Yelapa short since it was raining in our room and the rain was pooling on our floor.  The entire draw to Yelapa is to sit outside and do nothing but stare at the beach or take a long hike through the forest, so frankly it was fairly useless to us during the storm.  That may sound harsh, but we’re Seattleites and we didn’t travel to Mexico in January to see the rain.  It’s not supposed to rain like that in January, they claimed.  But rain it did.  So flee we did.  And it was terrifying.  A boat already far over capacity, with far too few life jackets, that was stuffed to the brim with locals and their luggage covered in plastic garbage bags, which ran out of gas as soon as we “boarded,” led by the fearless captain and entirely frightened mate that were maybe 35 years old between the two of them; this is how it started.  After about 30 seconds in the open-air water taxi that had been glorious 2 days prior, we realized we were soaking wet, our backpacks were imminently close to bouncing overboard, the look on the mate’s face suggested he had already soiled his pants in fear, and everything I knew about maritime law was exceptionally unhelpful as I knew we would not travel beyond the 3-mile boundary to international waters and I know zero about Mexican maritime law.  But I did tell J that that the Death on the High Seas Act precludes recovery for pain and suffering.  So that was one helpful tidbit of information in case we went overboard and the sharks slowly ate us to death.

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Needless to say, we survived.  We showed up to our all-inclusive resort dripping wet.  Actual droplets were falling from our shirts, pants and shoes.  The Barcelo felt like nirvana.  The drinks came free and often, the tacos were never-ending, and our super-spacious, bug-free, mosquito-net-free room had TWO televisions with access to CNN.  And Keeping Up with the Kardishians, if I’m being honest.

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We spent the next four days laying next the pool, eating, drinking, and trying to muster enough energy to eat and drink again.  We never made it to the nightly shows because we were busy trying the fancy restaurants that are only open for dinner.  Somehow, we managed to entertain ourselves for 4 days with a swimming pool and swim-up bar, several novels, and bottomless tacos.  When it was time to head home, we left the resort at least 10 pounds heavier and happy as clams.

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Mexico was exactly what we needed.  And we felt about 1 billion times less guilty for our amazing trip when we found Runaway Stella (who is back to her happy, opinionated, sweet self) a few days after arriving in Seattle.

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Snow Camping Part Deux

14 Jan

As I previously admitted, I first learned about camping when I moved to Seattle. My first camping experience was terrible. I had no blanket, no pillow, no sleeping bag, and a questionable “tent.” I’d like to think that I’ve tried to embrace sleeping outdoors. Recently, I went snow-camping again with some friends. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s a lot like regular camping, but a crapload colder.
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As far as I can tell, there is no real agenda in snow camping. We essentially drive out to the mountains, throw on our snowshoes and backpacks, and walk up a hill until we are A) too tired, B) lost, or C) have snow up to our waists. Next, you try to make camp, which consists of stomping down the snow until it’s flat enough to set out your tent. After you’re done planning your sleeping quarters, it’s time to dig out a kitchen/sitting area. Lastly, make dinner, have a drink, go to sleep. So the net effect here is that you hike up into a mountain only to shovel a bunch of snow.

The weatherperson called for 10 inches of snow. Apparently, he low-balled it. It was snowing so fast that we had had to constantly dig out our tents every 10 minutes. Waking up the next morning was . . . surprising. As I opened my tent door, I was found nearly 3 feet of new snow that fell throughout the night. Except for our tents, it looked like we hadn’t even placed foot on our campsites and our trails into the site were completely covered with waist-high powder.

Below is a photo of the tents before I headed off to sleep. There is a second tent somewhere under all that snow. See if you can find it.

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Stella.

12 Jan

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Stella, you taught us great lessons about loss and love.  We returned from our trip to Mexico and couldn’t wait to see you.  We talked about you while we were on the beach, hoping you were behaving yourself and being a good houseguest for my parents.  We hoped you were having fun running around at the lake house.

I opened the door to my parent’s knock, looked down to greet you, and saw nothing but hallway carpet.  I looked up and the pain in their eyes said it all.  You were gone.  J was at work that Sunday morning, preparing for trial, so it was only me who knew for a few hours.  They said you were walking in the woods, heard a loud noise, and ran.  They searched for hours, for days.  They put up signs and offered a reward.  They did everything to find you.  But you weren’t findable.

My tears came quickly, but not as quickly as my sadness in knowing how much your loss would hurt J.  Then came the scenarios that played over and over like a movie reel that wouldn’t—despite how hard I tried—turn off.  The lake property is surrounded by woods that house coyotes.  I know this because I’ve slept in a tent and I’ve slept in the house and both ways you hear the screaming coyotes throughout the night.  You ran away after it had snowed.  You weigh no more than 25 pounds.  Heartbreaking.  Awful.  Tragic.  Your end must have been shrouded in terror and viciousness or freezing loneliness.  Whatever way it happened, it was unbearable.

We learned about your plight 11 days after it began.  There was no hope that you, a condo dog, feisty as you were, had survived 11 days and nights in the winter woods.  All that Sunday, we tried to make our peace by crying and holding each other and crying and staring at your empty bed and crying and grocery shopping with swollen eyes and crying and sadly watching the Seahawks’ big win and crying when the dryer buzzed and you didn’t bark and finally climbing into bed at 9 p.m. because there was nothing better to do. 

You were our family.  The three of us made a life together right after J and I graduated college, first in Fremont (a perfect post-college years neighborhood), then to Mercer Island (none of us much approved), followed by South Lake Union (that was more like it), a stint with me in Boise (you sure loved those sunrise hikes in the hills), and finally to our longest-term family home in Eastlake.  You loved watching the boats and barking at the dogs across the street and saying hello to our neighbors.  We, a family of three for over seven years, were suddenly a family of two.

In all honesty, the Facebook post was meant to inform our friends and family that our beloved pup was gone more than it was meant as a true request for help in finding you.  11 days in the freezing woods is not a fair match for a little guy like you.  But, post we did, because we didn’t know what else to do.

But, to our extreme shock and pure giddy joy, the Facebook magic touch worked like a charm.  Enter: the snowball effect and friends of friends of friends caring and the goodness of humanity coming together for a 25-pound common purpose.  Three days after you were reported to us as forever gone, suddenly you were looking into my eyes, freshly bathed and fed, curled up in your cozy bed.  No major injuries.  No illness.  No rabies.  A miracle.  Your story of what exactly transpired during your excellent adventure will forever remain your secret.  What we know is you were likely in the woods for 4 days and 3 nights before a nice family found you walking along the road like you owned it.  4 days.  3 nights.  Freezing temperatures close to the Olympic Mountains.  Coyotes and countless other creatures large and small.  You survived, essentially unscathed.

Thanks to humanity for showing us your love.  And thanks to Stella’s excellent adventure for teaching us what she really means to us.  And thanks to Stella for being the Winningest Wiener, as our dear friend deemed her.  She’s our fave and we’re so happy she’s home where she belongs.

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Just keep running.

2 Dec

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I’m not a good runner, per se. And I don’t mean that in the humble, “Oh, I’m a really good runner, but I don’t want to brag,” kind of way. I mean that I’m decently fast, but on the whole, I hate running and I get winded really easily.

So, it came as quite a shock, especially to S, when I decided to run in the Seattle Marathon.

When asked why I decided to do this, I didn’t have a good answer. The truth is that I’ve never wanted to run a marathon. I hate running. I have a great deal of respect for marathon runners, but I never wanted to be one. I wasn’t running for a cause. I’m just not a runner.

As I thought about it a bit more, I realized that running a marathon was really a line item on my bucket list. I wanted to do it because I can. Because at some point in my life, I won’t be able to run anymore, which makes me sad, so I might as well do it now. It was something that I never thought I could accomplish, and that made me angry, so I wanted to prove myself wrong.

When I went on my first training run, I didn’t even know how long I was supposed to run for. How fast should I run? Should I time myself? Should I be this tired?

Like most people who have no idea what they’re doing, I downloaded an app on my phone. The program seemed easy enough – run three times per week with the mileage getting higher and higher each week.

After I started logging a few longer runs, people started asking me when the marathon was. “Oh, I’m not running in one. I’m just going to run 26.2 on my own.” I was told by a few folks that this was a stupid idea. The Seattle marathon, as dumb luck would have it, would occur in a couple of months, so I should just run that I thought. The problem was that I would have to speed up my training by a month. Yep . . . my great idea was just to jump a month ahead in my training schedule. This meant that my long run was 10 miles on one Saturday and then 16 miles the next Saturday.

As my runs got longer, I actually felt like I was getting weaker and more tired. I stopped working out at crossfit. In fact, the only time I went to my beloved crossfit gym was to borrow their weighted vest for short runs. In my twisted logic, I decided that doing short runs while wearing a 25 pound vest was a good idea to speed up my training. It turned out that it was a good way to get strange looks from people at 6am.

November 25, marathon day, a day that seemed so far away snuck up on me. To be honest, I was really, really nervous. This was odd considering my only goal was to finish the marathon. I had zero aspirations to actually do well. I just wanted to finish . . with a minimal about of walking breaks. . . and without any major injuries.

As the race started, I was filled with a ton of energy. I was going to complete something I never thought I could achieve. There were so many people excited to run. And so many friends and family woke up early to cheer them on. Much to my surprise, I found myself running way ahead of my pace. While training, I found out that I’m a very slow long distance runner . . . like 10 minutes per mile. But for the first 14 miles, I found myself running at around 8 minutes per mile.

I was going to finish in under 4 hours… Ha, no I wasn’t. 

Unfortunately, I started to crack at mile 14. My left knee felt like it was going to explode, my right calf was on fire, and my mind started to wander. Why is 26.2 miles so far?  The pacing groups that I was ahead of quickly passed me and I found myself falling further and further to the back.

At mile 20, I wanted to quit. Screw this, I’m not a runner. I wanna take my ball and go home. As I was running, I’d periodically get encouraging texts from S, who knew I would occasionally look at my phone to change music. Her texts kept me going. I knew that she’d be waiting at the finish line and I wanted to run through it and give her a big, sweaty hug. I did not want to quit. I thought that if I quit, then I’d just have to enter another marathon to finish this pointless goal, so I might as well trudge through and finish.

When I hit mile 24, I knew I’d be ok. I had visions from training where I conjured up mental images of how far 2 miles was between two points. Seattle, in its silly way, is made up of a ton of hills. So, as luck would have it, the last leg of the course is up a hill. As I forced myself up that last hill, I saw one of our friends, let’s call her K holding a sign. I must be delusional, I thought. Why would K be here? Then I saw her husband, C, jump off the sidewalk and start jogging along side of me. Around the bend and into the final stretch I saw another good friend, A, and a few feet later I saw A’s wife, B, and, of course, S. Does this paragraph seem like an algebra problem, yet? Seeing good friends and S was the perfect motivation to sprint through the finish line. Funny tangent about sprinting through the finish . . . turns out that the race organizers video taped the finish. What felt like sprinting, looked more like painful trotting across the finish line.

After I finished, I nearly hugged the military member who congratulated me and adorned me with my token medal. S came running over to congratulate me along with our friends. The feeling was sort of odd. On the one hand, I thought about how I could have ever doubted myself. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other. On the other hand, I was completely satisfied in myself. I took a challenge I had no genuine interest in, made a plan to achieve it, and did, in fact, complete it.

I likely won’t run another marathon again. It just wasn’t my cup o’ tea. I do, however, have a new respect for runners. But more importantly, I have an additional reason to be confident in my abilities to achieve whatever whacked out goals I put my mind to.

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Drama unfurls and retracts.

21 Nov

Seattle’s skies were dramatic this week.  From my office, I saw all of the beauty below in a matter of three hours.  The fog started us off, cloaking the shipyards in a dense blanket.  The fog was followed by heavy dark clouds and thick, fast, intense rain that swirled and danced between the top floors of the office buildings.  Then, as she is apt to do, our cloudy Seattle skies opened up and let a peek of her pretty blue show through.  The sparkling sun blinded me as it bounced from the waters of Puget Sound; it really was quite a show that I felt privileged to witness from my perch in the office.

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Coffee and a Cupcake

13 Nov

Coffee shops are a dime a dozen in Seattle. There are actually times when I can’t decide which one to go to because there are so many to choose from. S and I have a several favorites – some we like for the atmosphere, some for people-watching, and some for nostalgic purposes.

Verite Coffee in Madrona has some of the strongest nostalgic memories for me. As a recent New York transplant, S introduced me to Madrona, Verite Coffee, and cupcakes from Cupcake Royale. During college, we frequently escaped the chaos of the University District to go study at Verite. And during law school, when I needed to escape the stress of my fellow law students, I often drove over to Verite instead of walking to the other coffee shops that were much more conveniently located across the street from school.

S and I recently made a trip back to Verite and it was nostalgic as ever. We even got to sit at one of my favorite tables by the window. The purpose of this shop has changed for us over the years, but as far as I’m concerned, it’ll always remain a quintessential Seattle coffee shop.

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Croissants

11 Nov

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Did you know that homemade croissants take three days of work? Me neither!

A week ago, while experiencing a craving that I can only imagine rivals a pregnant woman’s craving for ice cream and sardines, I had a hankering for croissants. I selected the first google hit that popped up and was pleasantly surprised to see that Fine Cooking described making “classic croissants” as “not difficult.” Bullshit, I say.

I (J) am not a baker, per se. I don’t typically like to measure ingredients, which is incredibly ironic given my type A personality. I like to cook by feel and sight. Freud would’ve likely opined that I acquired this trait while I watched my mother and grandmother cook. Cooking with my grandma would go something likes this: Little J would ask, “How much bread crumbs should I use, Grandma?” And she would reply, “Use enough to mix them in with the meat.” Me, “WTF.” Alright, I didn’t say WTF to G-ma, but I’m sure the 5 year-old equivalent of WTF went through my large, child-sized head. Suffice it to say, I found the precision required for baking croissants pretty darned challenging.

Below is my memory of the recipe or you can read the real recipe here.

Day 1 of making croissants is easy. Throw all the ingredients into a mixer equipped with a dough hook, turn on the mixer, and wait.

Day 2 gets a bit more challenging. Make a 6 x 6 square of cold butter and roll it out so it’s a 7.5 x 7.5 square. Yep, here I am with a tape measure, measuring butter. Roll out the dough and fold your healthy butter square inside the dough. Refrigerate dough, take dough out, roll dough until it’s 8 x 24 inches, measure some more. Refrigerate, take out, roll out, measure two more times. Make gigantic mess of your kitchen counter by throwing flour everywhere.

Day 3 requires you to find your inner architect. Roll out the dough until it’s 8 x 44 inches. Reflect on how happy you are that your kitchen island is the length of a football field. Cut dough into perfect triangles, start rolling, and make sure they look pretty. Bake. Break out butter (because there’s probably not enough already inside) and jam. Chow down at 1 am and try to remember why you wanted croissants in the first place.

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