Thursday, July 31, 2008

The People in Your Neighborhood

Hopefully I have just corrupted the rest of your brains into singing "....the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...the people that you meet each day." From Sesame Street. Oh, come on. You know it.

We had a concert in the park tonight. What a beautiful evening. I made a variation on this salad tonight. Good summer fare.

Saw all sorts of locals, which is so fun. We are lucky to live in a nice little village with lots of nice folks.

I finally got to meet my "virtual" neighbor! So lovely in person. What a treat.

My son was off the hook tonight. Running, running, running. One of our neighbors, who lives up the street (and around the corner) has a lovely daughter who is, I think, about 5 years older than my son. He was literally stalking her at the playground during the concert tonight...calling her name, running after her, inserting himself when she was hanging out with friends. No shame at all. How good is it to be four? (I should add she was a dear, being highly tolerant of all his craziness.)

We're going to have an older-woman problem when he's older. I know it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dark Chocolate: The Answer? Or the Question?

There are a few things that I think reveal much about a person.

Some key indicators, if you will, are likes, or dislikes. C and I have often commented that one can likely boil down a psychological profile to simple everyday preferences that somehow really strongly indicate a personality "type."

One of these is chocolate. Think about it. You know people who:
  • Don't enjoy chocolate at all.
  • Prefer chocolate bars/candy over other chocolate foodstuffs, or conversely, have an aversion to the solid stuff.
  • Have a preference for dark, milk, or white chocolate (white chocolate can be considered a chocolate for those about to debate it...the difference is that white chocolate doesn't contain chocolate liquor; but it should - unless it's made cheaply - contain cacao butter).
We are dark chocolate people. O eats it too, though he is not as discretionary as C & I are. I personally have zero desire to eat any variation of milk chocolate. I'll typically go no-chocolate before I go milk chocolate. And well beyond a Hershey Special bar...give me 70%+ cocoa and I'm happiest. Not entirely bitter, but a somewhat bitter is just fine. Too sweet or full of non-natural additives...ick.

I truly believe that dark chocolate is a personality "type". Ok, yes...right now it's being marketed as being good for your health, blah blah blah. Maybe it is, but it's right up there with me liking pomegranates before that news broke.

So what does it mean? Now, no one take offense. This is hardly scientific; I've done zero research on this. C and I feel that you can cut a wide swath through our friends and family and...yup...dark chocolate. It's like there's a gene or something. We don't discriminate, I mean, hey, we have plenty of non-dark chocolaters in our life, but it just so happens we run in more "dark chocolate" circles.

Here are a couple links I just dug up, realizing that it's always a little more interesting with some back-up:
Are we crazy? Do you agree?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Renovation: Now it looks like a house.

What did I post last on this? Oh yes. That gorgeous Tyvek exterior. Ahem.

Let's move on.

We have siding now. We choose tight-knot cedar with a bleaching oil application, one of the good recommendations from our contractor (as opposed to a good bunch of stuff that...ugh. I don't need to get into all that now). Here is our "address" side of the house. Note that we plan on (eventually) power-washing the paint off the brick chimney to match the extension.

Ok, if you moved left from the photo above, you get this view (below)...ultimately the entrance to what will be our front porch. The deck--what's left of it--is coming down.

Keep going around to the back of the house and this is behind our new dining room, with the french doors. When these pictures were taken, we were planning a brick patio. Now we have it ...but you'll have to wait for an updated set of shots to see it. You can see all our skylights from this angle.

Here is the driveway side of the house (to the right, around the corner of the first photo). No garage doors yet. (Still! Next week, we think.)

Here is an interior shot of what the old "sunroom" area looks like now that the renovation is relatively complete inside. This is the block of windows to the left on the photo above.

Next week, after a little painting and additions, I hope to post the whole exterior set. Interior...well, we're working on that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

G: Reversal of Fortune

Don't misinterpret that. We're beyond lucky to have this little girl and love her to bits.

I think I may have mentioned in an earlier post that she was sleeping nine hours, eating well, and even doing a #2 on a regular basis. Clearly, I was asking for the jinx.

That came to a grinding halt in the last week as the train seemingly went off the rails. Now:
  • she is not sleeping well
  • she it not taking more than 3 oz at a time
  • she's much fussy than she was
  • she's spitting up more that she was
  • when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she's almost in a painful "startle" reflex, crying and inconsolable
  • she demands a bottle in the middle of the night since she wakes so much
She does have a bit of a cold as well, that I assume is residual damage from her brother's cough last week. But that has really just been the last three days.

Allergy? Formula? Ear infection? Teething? Lactose intolerant? All those hypotheses were in round one. Yesterday, I took her to our pediatrician (who we love, if I haven't mentioned that).

He pretty much ruled out everything mentioned above. (I personally was thinking ear infection, but they were clean.)

Based on all we told him, he had three theories:
  1. It's a sleep problem. She doesn't self-soothe yet. We know this is ultimately going to be an issue. But, he felt there was a bit too much going on with the eating to mean this was the crux of the issue.
  2. It's a virus. Possible, he said, but no fever, so it's a long shot.
  3. It's reflux. Meaning, the gastro-intestinal variety (actually I'm not sure what other types of reflux are). This is the age it starts, around 4 - 5 months, and since she seems more disturbed at night, he feels like it's making sense.
So, I have a prescription for baby. That's the easy part. It's less of a dose than infant Tylenol - a liquid Pepcid. The other thing to give her...Mylanta. Three and a half droppers full. That is just foul torture, for all of us.

We'll see. There have been very minor improvements here and there today. Cross your fingers.

I wish you could talk, baby girl. Makes us so sad.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Pins and Needles

I have been missing for a few days...mostly due to the fact that I've been trying to be typing as little as possible. I woke up on Thursday with a ridiculous stiff neck. It really hurt.

I did the usual: hot shower, asked C to give me a backrub with some anti-pain herbal oil, tried not to strain it, took some Motrin. Which is tricky when you have a baby that is hitting 17-18 pounds and is a bit needy lately (more detail on that in the next post), having to be picked up a lot and soothed, waking in the night, and generally not leaving you with the ability to sleep well.

It felt a bit better on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, I was quite stiff again but put on a brave face and was feeding G at the breakfast table when she jerked and I had to react. The pain was so horrible I think I cried for 15 minutes. At this point, I figured I'd better do something about it.

I reached out to friends, neighbors, and co-workers for recommendations on a chiropractor. I'd had an accident over 15 years ago, and a great chiropractor set my two vertabrae straight that were out of alignment. But, that was in CT. (I should say that I did get one or two great recommendations, particularly one from a friend who had almost the exact same situation she needed help with. So they are filed for future use. Thank you!)

I got to thinking about acupuncture. I had acupuncture once before--long story short, I was taking a mental health day and had a great session, then walked out to find 7 messages on my cell that my major client had fired us. Nice timing. Needless to say, my relaxation and comfort was short-lived.

I am not one to take pills or pain killers if I can avoid it. This was no exception, and I honestly am not sure what motivated me toward acupuncture over chiropractic, but I found her cell number and it turns out she practices in Dobbs Ferry. I was able to get in on Tuesday.

The basic principle of acupuncture, from Wikipedia:
Health is a condition of balance of yin and yang within the body. Particularly important in acupuncture is the free flow of Qi, a difficult-to-translate concept that pervades Chinese philosophy and is commonly translated as "vital energy"). Qi is immaterial and hence yang; its yin, material counterpart is Blood (capitalized to distinguish it from physiological blood, and very roughly equivalent to it). Acupuncture treatment regulates the flow of Qi and Blood, tonifying where there is deficiency, draining where there is excess, and promoting free flow where there is stagnation. An axiom of the medical literature of acupuncture is "no pain, no blockage; no blockage, no pain."

I wound up getting around 20 needles, I think. That's an acupuncture needle, over on the right. They are small, and some you don't feel going in at all, some you feel varying degrees of a pinch. I had a few put in my ankles--she explained that was to draw the energy/blockages out through the bottom; that if you just focused on the localized area, it could backfire.

Once I was set up with the needles, I settled there for about a half hour-45 minutes. (I was face down on a massage/therapy table, so the only part is that the head rest does get a little uncomfortable after a while of not moving.)

She took the needles out and then--I don't know how to really describe this--used her hands to somehow focus the energy in my chest/shoulder/neck area. Probably for about 10 minutes.

How did it work? I started the session not being able to turn my head to the left more than 10 degrees, and I couldn't lift my chin. I left with motion to turn my head to my shoulder and was able to look to the sky. Wow.

There was a little residual bump on the back of my head where one of the needles was; she noted that happened on occasion, and that my condition should continue to improve over the next 24 hours. It has.

I'm going back next Friday, as the stress, baby-carrying, and sleep situation doesn't have a lot of promise in the next handful of days. She thinks she can get rid of "it"...meaning my residual injury. Will keep you posted.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why Everyone Should Own an American Express Card

I've always loved AmEx. So does C.

9am this morning (yes, a Saturday), I get a call. Answer the phone and I hear:
"Please wait for an important message from American Express." So, I wait.

A rep gets on and tells me she's from account security. Uh-oh.

Seems as if someone got a hold of my account number and has been attempting to charge a few things to my card. I say attempting because as it turns out, AmEx was able to realize that it wasn't me for whatever reason, and nothing was actually cleared. They tried to use it at, 800flowers, netflix...places I don't really shop at.

I got off the phone in 9 minutes and 10 seconds. In that time:
  • I was alerted that fraudulent charges were attempted on my card.
  • I was given detail of these charges to see if I could identify them.
  • My card was cancelled.
  • I was transferred to another rep that actually knew what the situation was.
  • This rep issued a new card and arranged delivery.
  • I'll have a new card by Monday EOD via UPS (no cost for the rush delivery).
  • All this was done very courteously and professionally.
Seriously. And I don't even have a fancy card...just a rewards green.

I am rarely impressed (genuinely) with customer service. People don't pay enough attention any more. American Express is one of the very few that have never disappointed me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

O: Crazy Hat Day

Today was crazy hat day at O's camp. Per the calendar.

Now, most parents know that if you need to bring something to school, even if it's noted on a calendar they gave you a month before, the school realizes you're totally preoccupied with life and sends a reminder. I did not get a reminder yesterday. So I figured they were making hats at camp. (Admittedly, I am a first-time camp mom. Maybe my expectations are off.)

This morning, as always, I looked at the camp calendar to tell him if it's "wishing it was winter" day, or what he's having for lunch, etc. So I mentioned the crazy hat day to him and said, "you'll probably make a really cool hat today."

"NOOOOOOO! I have to bring a hat!"

Oh, for the love of God. Good thing I'm crafty. In the ten minutes before the bus came, I grabbed one of his summer hats and a handful of pipe cleaners. I quickly whipped up a "sun hat"...meaning a sun affixed to and hovering over the top of his head.

How'd I do? He said a lot of people thought it was silly. Indeed.

G: "Carrots!"

Are better than sweet potatoes. Yummy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

G: Solid Food!

Whew, it's a milestone every other day here.

Little miss G had her doc's appt yesterday with our fave pediatrician, and weighed in at 16 lbs 4 oz. Nice and healthy, but not too big at all.

She has been reaching for our dinner (and breakfast, and lunch) plates for at least a month and giving us this "not fair!" look for some time, too, when we are eating in front of her. So we got the green light for orange vegetables from her doc yesterday, but waited until today to try it out since she seemed a little feverish/off from her immunizations yesterday.

For those who are thinking, "what? no cereal?", our pediatrician said she is getting enough iron via her formula at this point, so why not...give her the good stuff.

Here is G right after her first bites of sweet potato. No crying, just messiness. She'll get a hang of it soon. Go, little girl!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

G: Rolling Over!

Our almost-five-month old is rolling over!

She's been doing it for a week, but I never saw the full roll myself. So, technically, at least in my mind, it doesn't count until then. Back to belly.

Here's a shot of our little beauty once she made it to the other side this evening.

More Good Readin'

I've added another blog down there on the right. Comes via recommendation of Finkipedia.

Social Technologies. Oh yeah, well, maybe it doesn't sound all that compelling to some of you. Give it a shot. You will be surprised on what it sparks in your head. It certainly tickles my marketing funnybones.

I had dipped in a few times and found the content interesting. You see, Social Technologies is a futurist group (firm?). They advise companies, governments, etc. on what's coming up next. This is their blog, called ChangeWaves.

I could perhaps use them with regard to figuring out what my future should look like. I think I may get the book featured in their post today, called Escape From Corporate America. On second thought, I really don't work in corporate America. But it's a good thought anyhow.

Monday, July 14, 2008

On Working from Home: Articulate the Plan Well

So here it is, summer, and I am feeling torn, as I did last year at this time.

My son is out of school. The main reason that I work part time from home is because he goes to school, and I need to be a functioning part of the carpool. I'll admit that I haven't necessarily gotten over my freelancing days, either, and I like the freedom of working how I wish without an office environment all the time, too.

I'd explained to my employers that getting him back and forth to preschool is the primary reason for my work-at-home status. As I've said before, they are really very supportive of the situation, and I can't really put my finger on a time, ever, where I've been given a hard time about asking for/notifying them of flexibility needs.

With that said, whether it's the guilt demons in my head or an actual vibe I get from a co-worker or two, I have a hard time reconciling the fact that I am not "required" to be home and I am still heading out early to work from home a couple days a week.

I like that I have a regular schedule. That I am home a little more, even if I am working. That I can see them that much earlier at the end of my day, and they know I am "here". Why upset that just because I'm not required to drive him to school two times a week?

Two points come out of this to think about, if you're going to consider a similar arrangement.
  1. When you negotiate your flex-time, or days from home, or however you are approaching it...don't be too detailed. I will be taking/need "x" days at home. Period. Don't undo your flexibility by backing into a slim schedule. Most likely, it won't benefit you in the long run, and it will be difficult to re-negotiate. (There is probably a whole other post hidden in "will take" vs. "need"....)
  2. Get over it! Priorities are priorities. And perhaps the fact that your priorities are in order make someone else uncomfortable. Remember that's their problem, not yours. At least that's what I'm going to try to do.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Long-Awaited Date Night

C and I went to NYC last night for a date night. Very overdue.

It was a pretty decadent date night, as a matter of fact, since we actually got to overnight in the city, using a gift certificate for the hotel. We stayed at the Four Seasons New York and had a wonderful room with a city view, 22nd floor. What amazes me is the massive closet they give you...a walk-in, complete with built-in drawers, places for shoes...and the bathroom. This is the size of our foyer in our house.

Let me take that back. it's bigger. And the bathtub fills in 60 seconds. Yes, I had to take a bath. I don't think I turned the water up all the way, could do it. Very lovely.

C made 9pm reservations at Raoul's in SoHo. If you haven't been...go. We opted to wait 20 minutes when we got there to dine in the back garden area. You have to walk through the kitchen to get to the back room, then out, where they have three little tables outside. It was such a gorgeous night it wound up being the perfect choice.

This is a pretty accurate review from New York Magazine. You must, must get the Steak Au Poivre; unconditionally the best in the city, as far as I'm concerned.

We had a great, romantic night, full of conversation and catch-up and connecting.

Love you, C.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Fireflies

I guess it took me so long to post this week because I was waiting for something great to post about.

We had the best time tonight after dinner on the patio, running about with my son (and running the daughter with us), chasing fireflies. O has actually gotten the hang of catching them gently, watching them, and releasing them to see them light up as they fly away.

Do you see it? I actually caught the firefly in the shot. (Yes, I'm proud of that.)

C and I often followed them about our yard, even before we had kids. There's something so charming about them. Is there a human on earth that doesn't enjoy them?

It was just one of those times that was perfect, in parenting-land.

Go find some fireflies this summer.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Easy and Cheesy

Feelin' cheesy this week!

In addition to the post yesterday about fromage fort, I felt the need to post my mac-and-cheese recipe that I have received numerous requests for. Here it is, on Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. I made it this Sunday when we had guests over; I also made it recently for O's kids' birthday party and it was a big hit.

It should be noted that I rarely, if ever, use the exact recipe.
  • Sometimes I add the ham. It's best to do that after you have an awesome ham for Easter, or some other holiday. (Which, on a side note...if you do...order from Ham I Am. Sounds silly, but it sure isn't when you taste it. Just close your eyes when you sign for the shipping charges. It's worth it.)
  • Inspired by some other recipes, I add Worcestershire and mustard. This adds a little kick to it and is particularly delicious in the cooler months. Holds up a bit better next to a red wine. I like this better than the cayenne mentioned in the ingredients.
  • I don't always add the breadcrumbs on top, either. Not necessary if you've got too much else going on. Add a little extra cheese and it will get crunchy anyhow.
  • Wheat pasta. Go ahead. Just use it. It tastes good in this and no one will really know unless you tell them. I think it actually adds to the flavor nicely.
  • Lastly...and I think I find this about every mac-and-cheese recipe I've ever tried....add more cheese. Like, a cup more. Trust me, you won't ruin it.
Yummy. I had leftovers for dinner...I guess that's why I felt compelled. Let me know if you come up with any other variations.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Summer Has Finally, Officially, Arrived

And by that I mean the entertaining vibe is on.

There is nothing we like better than having friends over for food, drinks, and just getting silly and talking for way too long. We were blessed with being able to do it twice this weekend.

One thing I've done for years is clip recipes from anywhere I find them. Most of the time they get filed away until I am ready to dig in and need inspiration (I am very much one of those "what is on sale/fresh this week or what is in the fridge, they are coming in a 1/2 hour" folks). You can imagine how delighted I was to stumble upon the following in the ol' recipe box.

I found a recipe from Jacques Pepin from Food & Wine for fromage fort. Simple and fast, it is about the greatest appetizer I can imagine. Because I hate wasting food. Especially good snacking food, like good cheese. It went over very well on Saturday and will be in my recurring repertoire.

Side story on Jacques Pepin (who I love to watch)...he rented a beach cottage next to my friend's place in CT years ago when we were young. I wish I had the appreciation for this man at that age, and for food, as I would have been knocking on his door asking him to teach me to cook.

Now this weekend didn't really serve up the best weather for taking advantage of the patio. But we'll get out there soon, I'm sure.

Hope you all had a happy 4th!
Happy Birthday, USA.

Photo credit: Marc Nilsson, Food & Wine, 2004

Friday, July 4, 2008

O: On Travel and One of the Five Senses

Two beauties today.

We have a repro vintage Eastern Airlines poster that hangs in our TV room, at least at the moment. "Miami Beach Florida - Just 10 hours from New York". I can't recall what exactly was said that brought up Miami, but C pointed to the poster and I told O he actually was in Miami when he was 10 months old.

"I don't think I was in your ammy. Maybe we can go to your ammy or Daddy's ammy."

I then attempted to ask him what an "ammy" was, since Daddy and I clearly both had one, and he pointed to the poster. Kind of like a beach. Fair enough.

I don't know about anyone else out there but my son always has to go to the bathroom during a meal. Never fails.

We were eating outside tonight, and he had to go, so I eventually followed him in to see if he needed help (he's pretty self-sufficient, just needs a "clean" check). And he looks at me after a pause in his ramblings and says, "Do you smell that smell?"

"What smell?"

"My poop."

This deteriorated into a back-and-forth about smelling/not smelling and the fact that all I really wanted us to do was get back to dinner on the patio.

So many, many laughs on a daily basis. Never would trade it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Blogging from CT

Check out a new blog that discovered me first...a CT local (for those of you who don't know, that's where I'm originally from). Lots of breaths of fresh air.

And she may help me know a few good restaurants in the Constitution State when I need it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On Working from Home: Really?

I haven't done a post on working from home in a while, and an article in the NY Times this past week inspired me to do so. It's titled "Working Alone, In a Group".

A main point in the article discusses what drives folks to these shared workplaces that are seemingly becoming popular. " home is not always conducive to work." (Well, my friend, have you tried it with a renovation underfoot?)

But Ms. Belkin makes a really good point in a single sentence that outlines many of the biggest challenges of working from home, especially when it's a new situation:
But if you stay home, you lose the routine, the companionship and the accountability (napping is tempting).
I've gotten over the temptation to nap--well, only once or twice--and it was technically on a sick day or at the very end of my pregnancy while I was just trying to hold it together. So let's put that particular issue aside and stick with accountability. You still have to have a to-do list, an agenda for the day. Whatever you would get done in the office, you have to be just as productive at home. Period.

Companionship is an important consideration with work. There are folks who do best when left on their own entirely. It is true of many businesses, however--and I have found this to be validated in the marketing discipline--that collaboration brings inspiration, even if not necessarily crafted for that purpose.

When I work at home, I do have distractions, like the fridge. (That's a whole other post in itself...controlling your food intake when it's "free" and right nearby.) And I'm a talker. But I just re-channel that urge and call a client instead.

The routine she mentions is something you need to control yourself. I've said it before. I think you need to be far more disciplined at home than in an office.

With that said, maybe I'll try one of these sometime. However, if it's just a hipster version of cube-land...I'm already over it. What do you think?


O had his very first day at camp today. Highlights:

  • Both C and I almost cried with him getting on the bus. He was so BIG boy about the whole thing. Like, see ya!
  • Best response a parent could ask for about the camp you shelled out for when you ask them how it was: "It was great!" Separately, "My favorite part was everything."
  • You hope he'll like his counselors. "I knew I liked one counselor when I saw her. She smiled at me. I knew in my heart that I would like her." (Can you stand how cute that is?)
I could just eat him up some days.