Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where have I been?

Hi everyone! So, it's been months since I've popped onto this blog. Months, eek. Very bad blogging etiquette. But, I've been busy cooking up lots of topics each day for my new health and fitness blog, Vitamin G, over on Glamour.com. Haven't seen it yet? Come stop by!

So where does this leave this blog? Kind of in limbo right now, I guess. I promise to post when inspiration strikes, but for now, I'm busy juggling a lot, especially with the new baby due any minute now! We're having another boy and eager to meet him soon!

So, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and happy 2009! Hope to see you over on Vitamin G, and back here on this blog at some point.

xoxo,

Sarah

Monday, September 01, 2008

Happy First Day of September!


I love fall. So I decided to ring it in a little earlier this year, on this first day of September, by picking blackberries (yep, we pillaged the neighbors' overgrown vine) and baking pumpkin muffins (I used a really good recipe from one of Dorie Greenspan's books).

And, a quick pumpkin progress report: I have six growing in my garden. Six! The San Marzano tomatoes have been eaten by the dog, along with the plums and the lone fig on my tree. Sniffle, sniffle. But the pumpkins, look like survivors!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And, it's live!

Come by and check it out:

http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/blogs/vitamin-g/

Monday, August 25, 2008

Learning to let go


I wanted to tell you about a story I wrote recently for SELF (in the current issue) about learning to let go of things we harbor--for me, the what-ifs about a failed friendship that tanked many years ago. The article was therapeutic to write, and I hope it helps you break free from whatever unhealthy thing you're hanging on to ...

Oh, you can read the article here.

Sarah

P.S. Oh, and just because they are sooo beautiful, I'm including a photo of the dahlias from my garden--snapped in my kitchen the other day. Pure happiness.

Lumpia Cooking Lessons


Last weekend I got a cooking lesson from my brother's girlfriend, Katherine, in the fine art of Lumpia making--you know those to-die-for Filipino fried rolls (kind of like a spring roll, but soooo much better). Well, I've been dying to learn how to make them for, I don't know, FOREVER, and she was kind enough to show me. Kat is half Spanish, half Filipino and began making Lumpia at the ripe old age of 8. I've included a pic, above, so you can see our little feast--and a feast it was. (Side dishes include: watermelon with lime and mint (so so good), veggies and soba noodles, and a salad).


Oh, and tomorrow is the big day: The day my health and fitness blog, Vitamin G, launches on Glamour.com! Be sure to check it out and tell me what you think! 

xo,

Sarah

P.S. And, yep, that was my name in Women's Wear Daily recently (how fun is that?) in an article about Glamour.com's new launch. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I love Seattle--but it's time to get tough on crime


Hi all,

I'm writing today with some serious stuff on my mind. Last weekend, a 24-year-old woman, on her way to a job interview, was brutally raped in broad daylight in one of Seattle's most beloved landmarks: Pike Place Market. My response?

Where were the police?

Where were the people--you, me, anyone--who could have helped her while she was beaten to a state of unconsciousness and raped repeatedly?

What the #%^&#! is going on in this city?

I'm angry. Really angry. What has happened to this city--this place I have loved since I was a child? Now, I know crime is a reality in today's world--especially in the city, especially in the year 2008, but I'm not willing to sit idly back and accept that this is our new reality--that I should worry about being raped when I want to, I don't know, head down to Pike Place to pick up flowers for a dinner party or rhubarb for a pie.

For me, this news was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back, for lack of a better analogy. Crime seems to be sweeping into Seattle with an eerily steady force. First there were the male gang rapes happening in Belltown (yes, male gang rapes), then the upswing in youth violence that has inner-city kids chasing each other around with guns--even my own brother was brutally and randomly beaten up last year by a gang of guys after leaving a restaurant downtown (in case you're wondering, the place was Jillian's--and, nope, not a fan of the joint).

So where does this leave me--besides being very angry? It makes me think it's time to get tough on crime. I never thought I'd say this, but I think it's time Seattle got itself some Giuliani-style "round 'em up and get 'em prosecuted" leadership. Even our friends from New York say they see more blatant crime in downtown Seattle (drug deals, you name it) than they ever witnessed on the streets of New York.

OK, have we been snoozing while crime snuck in and took up residence in this great city? Time to wake up people. You. Me. I think we can all do something about it.

I just mailed in my ballot for the primary election, and now this all has me thinking about the general election ahead. For the first time in a long while, I'm willing to cross party lines to vote for a candidate who promises to get tough on crime--in Seattle, and elsewhere in the state.

I never thought I'd say this, but the things I care about--the environment, help for the poor, and all those other worthy social issues--are all good, but at the moment, keeping our streets safe matters more to me. Seriously. Pollution control vs. rape control. Yeah, I'd vote for the latter right now--if given a choice.

What are your thoughts on this? And, for those Seattle-ites reading, which candidates in the upcoming election seem to be toughest on crime?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Coming Home From War


Cutest photo in the world: My 2-year-old niece with her dad, my brother in law. He came home from serving in Iraq yesterday and reunited with his daughter, wife (my sis) and his new son (who was born while he was in the Middle East!). 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Glamour and crannbery pie--how's that for a combo?




Hi everyone!

OK, so it's been an unforgivably long time since my last post. Believe me, I've been thinking about this ol' blog a lot, and all my pals who I need to connect with.

Speaking of blogs, I want to tell you about some exciting news: I recently accepted a gig as a blogger for Glamour.com! While I'm currently doing some ramp-up work for my new blog, called Vitamin G (get it, "G" for Glamour? Cute, huh?), it won't launch until the end of the month. (I'll post the URL here, when it does.) The blog will focus on health and fitness topics. I've been writing about health for years, and I'm kind of obsessed with staying on top of all the latest news, research and trends in the wellness arena, so it's a great fit for me and I'm so excited for the opportunity. Stay tuned for details on the blog's launch!

Lot's of other things to catch you up on, and share, but right now I want to sign off with this (which will explain the cranberry photo, above): Anyone ever made a cranberry-sour-cream pie? I know, it sounds odd, right? Well, I saw it in a The Pike Place Market Cookbook recently, and I can't get it out of my head. I guess I'm craving fall foods already. (You should see the pumpkins coming up in my garden--sugar pie and Cindarella varieties. So fun!) Anywho, back to the pie: Does it sound good? Gross? So-so? Would you try it? Would Ina Garten--godess of all domesticity--make it? (Like fellow writer Melissa Walker, I, too, am ga-ga over Ina. BTW, she just released her third young adult novel, Violet in Private--check it out.)

I'm thinking of giving this pie a test run as soon as I can get my hands on some fresh cranberries at the market. And maybe, if I'm lucky, I can talk my chef friend Brian McCracken into sneaking me a bag or two from his family's farm--they own a cranberry bog (how cool is that?).

Hugs to all--will catch up more later.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A lesson in graciousness

Today I ran into my neighbor's car.

Let me paint the picture for you: screaming baby in the back, groceries in the rear, and two interviews to get to ASAP. As I tried to park in front of my house, like I always do, I cut the corner too close and ... screech.

My heart rate climbed to an obscene level, and I got out to survey the damage (did I mention my neighbor drives a BMW? Yeah, not really a car you want to mess with). I wasn't sure if I had just scratched the bumper, or if I had been responsible for the other damage on the fender.

Dear Lord.

With my heart in my hands, and my baby in my arms, I went to his house to repent--and I expected anything but what I received. "Don't worry about it," he said. After taking a look at the car, he insisted that the fender damage was already there, and that the scratch on the bumper was no big deal.

I wanted to cry--not because I was happy that I wouldn't have to fork over hundreds for repair bills (I would have done so in a heartbeat), but because of how kind he was to me. Before he even saw the damage, he'd brushed it off and forgiven me. I chatted with he and his wife for a while on the sidewalk, and I kept thinking, there is a lesson here, Sarah--a lesson in forgiveness, and graciousness.

How many times have I made someone feel bad for something silly? How many times have I refused to forgive and held a grudge?

You never expect that hitting a BMW will be a wake-up call, but today, it was mine. Any life lessons in your fender benders?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Green decor--I want this bedroom!


Today, I want to share a treasure with you. While working on an article for Weather.com, I came across a fabulous blog run by a mom in Athens, Georgia: Jennae Peterson. The blog, GreenYourDecor.com, is filled with gorgeous design ideas, practical tips, and best of all, budget-friendly ideas to style your home green!

Like Jennae, every few months I get the urge to redo my bedroom. (Yeah, my husband usually puts the kybosh on that.) My new passion is organic bedding, and I'm currently salivating over this cheerful organic bedding, featured on GreenYourDecor recently. Wouldn't you want to wake up in this room?

Why organic bedding? Jennae had this explanation:


"It is grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and therefore provides the softest, smoothest comfort this side of your baby’s bottom. This particular organic bedding has the added benefit of featuring a print that is nature inspired, so you’ll remember why you wanted organic in the first place."


I don't know about you, but that's all the convincing I needed!

Friday, June 06, 2008

On surviving the photo shoot


Hi everyone!


Isn't this gorgeous? This luscious-looking piece of heaven was made by my friend Kristine -- the dessert-maker extraordinaire. She brought it over the other night for a dinner we had here. And believe me, we enjoyed every last bite. 

Sorry for the hiatus. I've been busy these days with new projects and other exciting stuff. I will write more soon, but I wanted to let you know that I survived the Hallmark magazine photo shoot. Remember the dinner party feature that was being shot at my home? It was not only a ton of fun, but we didn't want it to end! From the stylists and hair and makeup folks, to the photographers and fabulous producers, we had a blast and just loved the experience. (You should have seen my husband getting his makeup done -- classic!). 

I'll let you know when the story will run (I'm working on it now), when I hear from my editor. For now, I have several other Hallmark features in the works, one of them has me cooking up some delicious things in my kitchen. I'll share more soon. 

What's on your plate? 

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mother's Day gifts that give back


I wrote this story, in the May issue of Cooking Light, about Mother's Day gifts that give back. Isn't it a great concept to buy a gorgeous bouquet, gift basket, etc., for mom, and see 10 percent or more go to a great charity? Anyway, I think so. And, Jason, if you're reading, I love the roses from organicbouquet.com, and the gift basket from Bumble B Design is lovely too. Hint hint.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A discombobulated day

Do you ever wake up (cliche alert) on the wrong side of the bed? That's what happened to me today. All day, I've walked around forgetting things, tripping over toys, and committing lots of email bloopers (you know, emails that you accidently send to the wrong person or send too soon -- before you've spell checked or really thought about what you wrote). Sigh. I also spilled tomato soup on myself and yelled at my dog for no reason. Poor Paisley. (And don't worry, I gave her a hug an hour later. And, she was kind of guilty. Yesterday she trampled my tulips.)


But anyway, today I also left the house for the grocery store, and forgot my shopping list. Even though it was raining and windy, even though I had to hike up these huge stairs and walk back to my house (with a toddler on my hip), I did. Because I'm blind without a shopping list. Without one I buy pastries and muffins and chocolate and wine. Impractical things that sound great at the moment, but don't put dinner on the table. 

So, imagine my surprise when I get to the market and can't find my list. Again. I'm thinking to myself, didn't I just turn my car around a few minutes ago to get this thing? Didn't I stuff it in my purse? Am I going mad? 

An hour later, after my groceries were paid for and bagged, I reached into my pocket, and there it was: a reminder of all the things I'd forgotten to buy, and maybe of all the things that were going wrong with this day. 

Seriously, losing my mind today. 

Do you have days like this? Days where everything just feels a bit "off"?

P.S. The allergist says my son is now allergic to all tree nuts (especially pecans), in addition to peanuts. So if you come by to visit, there will be no pecan pie here (even if it is one of my faves). 

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My new project



On a lighter note (to balance out the subject of my last post), I want to tell you about a new personal project I'm working on -- one I'm very excited about, maybe because it has nothing to do with parenting, or magazine writing, or book writing. It's a much-needed diversion all in the name of personal enrichment. 


First, let me give you some background:

When you were young, did you ever have a pen pal? In second grade, I wrote back and forth with a girl in New York City. I wish I could remember her name, but all I can recall is that she lived in a cluttered apartment in Brooklyn (I know, because she sent a photo) with two cats. At the time, I couldn't believe that a girl could live in a big apartment building in the city. No yard? No garden? No place to ride a bike? I learned a lot that year. 

So, I wondered recently: Why couldn't I try the whole pen pal thing again as an adult? Could I find a woman in another country, perhaps, who would be willing to write each other letters for a year via a blog that we'd share? What could we learn from each other -- two strangers -- about friendship and life and happiness through the experience?

And, halfway across the globe, Valentina Russo, a woman in Marseille, France, as decided to give it a try and become grownup, modern-day pen pals. Like me, Valentina is 30, and works in the communications/media field. But unlike me, she speaks five languages (her English is fluent, and adorable at the same time!) and not a mother yet, and wondering if it's in her future. She also seems to have a certain zest for life that I admire -- and this is apparent only from our first few letters. I think we have a lot to learn from each other, and we've made a commitment to write frequently for a year. 

Want to read along and see our friendship unfold? Our blog is called Franglish. Stop by and send us some love! 

Life, forever changed by peanuts

It came on so suddenly, I hardly knew what was happening.  


Yesterday, while I was shopping at Trader Joe's with my 15-month-old son, Carson, he started whining for a box of crackers he saw on the snack aisle. I opened the box in the checkout aisle, and gave him one: a tiny little organic peanut butter cracker. 

Actually, a tiny little organic peanut butter cracker that could have ended his life. 

He put the cracker into his mouth and instantly spit it out. Then he played with it until it disintegrated in his hands. By the time I buckled him into his car seat, he was rubbing his eyes. I thought he was tired. We drove a few miles down the road to pick up Jason, my husband, at work (he works at a hospital), and when I turned around to look at Carson I almost screamed. 

My little baby was blotchy and red. There were purple hives all over his face and down his neck. His eyes were swollen. His hands were red and blotchy. 

I knew in an instant: He was having an allergic reaction to peanuts. 
 
We rushed him to the clinic, across the street, where they had an Epi Shot waiting. Because he didn't swallow the cracker, it wasn't necessary as his reaction was much lighter than it could have been. They gave him an antihistamine, instead, and a referral to an allergist. 

Later, when we got home, and I had a chance to wind down and process what had just happened (Note: This whole experience didn't even phase Carson. He was all puffy and swollen and red with this huge grin on his face walking into the clinic. He smiled at all the kids (who looked back at him a little horrified) and tried to say "fish" when he noticed the aquarium in the waiting room), I realize what a life changing thing had just happened. 

While about 20 percent of kids can "grow out of" peanut allergies, the majority have them for life. So, Carson is going to have to learn, from an early age that he has to be extra diligent about what he eats; that a kiss from someone who has just eaten a peanut butter cookie could be the kiss of death (yes, I will be interviewing his potential girlfriends for their ability to take this seriously); that he can't have any peanuts on the airplane, or sit next to someone who has (breathing in the vapors from the bag could be very harmful); and that carrying epinephrin with him at all times is a new way of life. 

And with this new reality, Jason and I find ourselves blaming ourselves. Did we introduce peanut butter too soon? Most experts say after 12 months, it's OK, but to be safe, wait till 3. What was I thinking? Was this just hereditary? My mom's late father had food allergies. Maybe a connection? According to some troubling statistics, food allergies in children have more than doubled in the past 10 years? WHY? What the heck is going on here? 

I've thrown out all peanut products in our house, including cooking oil, and any other foods that were "processed in plants that contain peanuts." I've made an appointment with an allergist. And tonight, when we went out to a restaurant, I spoke to five staff members, from the waiter to the manager, about whether there was any peanut ingredients in the building. Luckily, it was a pizza place, and the answer was no. 

But mostly, we're just reeling from this shock to the system. I've decided that when I explain this all to Carson one day -- when he can understand what I'm talking about -- that I'll tell him about Superman. But instead of peanuts, he had Cryptonite. Not a bad analogy, eh?

So, if you are a peanut-allergy sufferer -- or have a child who is -- please drop me a note. I'm new to this, and a little scared. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The illusive cup of coffee


I've heard rumors about the new coffee machine, Clover, making its way to some local cafes here in Seattle -- rumors that die-hard coffee fans, like me, are literally falling to their knees in pure joy upon taking a sip. An urban coffee legend? I had to see what all the fuss was about, so today, I visited my fave local cafe to taste for myself. 


For the last month or so, this place has been brewing Clover-made coffee. And, for those of you who aren't sure what I'm talking about -- Clover is a startup (or was a startup -- see below, and you'll know what I mean) that plunked more than a million dollars into a new coffee-brewing technology that has high hopes to revolutionize drip coffee. The machine they created sells to coffee shops for about $8,000. 

OK, so I was hopeful, but skeptical. I ordered a tall cup of drip -- a Guatemalan blend -- and took a sip. 

[Insert sound of triumphant, joyful classical music, as the clouds open up and a ray of light shines down on my coffee cup.] 

This coffee is pure, unadulterated heaven. I nursed the cup down to the very last drop, then schemed, all the way home, about how I could convince Jason that we need one of these machines. That we can't live without it. That we should stop putting money into Carson's college fund, and instead create a Sarah's Clover Coffee Machine Fund. 

But, there was no point even going there, because the company was just sold (last week) to ... guess who ... Starbucks. 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Interview with "Violet" author Melissa Walker


Today I'm talking to NYC writer Melissa Walker. I've never met Melissa, in person anyway, but somehow I get the feeling that if we lived in the same city, I'd invite her to all of my parties (not that I'm throwing many these days with a baby in the house). She's fun and down to earth -- and also a writer with a voice I admire. 

Melissa just published her second book, "Violet by Design," a follow up to her successful first young adult novel, "Violet on the Runway." Here's what she had to say about fashion, writing, life in general:

SJ: Except for my obsession with The Babysitters Club series in the 80s, I am a bit of a newcomer to young adult (YA) fiction. How did you find yourself writing in this genre and what about the category do you get excited about?

MW: I honestly think it was the ELLEgirl audience who inspired me—they were such smart, funny girls and I got to the point where I wanted to write more for them.

I love writing for teenagers because I think they’re such an honest, open audience. They’ll tell you if they LOVE a story and they’ll call you out if something just sucks.


SJ: What is your advice to writers who want to break into YA fiction writing? Be up on trends? Channel your inner 17 year old?

MW: No need to be up on trends as long as you can tap into the real emotions that you felt when you were 17. Teen years hold some of the most poignant moments in life—my life anyway—and if you get those moments down, if you can tell them in a way that resonates, it doesn’t matter if you’re trendy or old-fashioned. The most important thing is that the FEELING of what you write is true.

SJ: A lot of people can only dream of making it to where you are at right now — working as a full-time writer, NYC no less. I’m there too, except in Seattle, where it rains. A lot. But, back to writing: As much as I love this gig, sometimes it can feel isolating. What kinds of things do you do to keep your work fresh and to beat feelings of isolation?


MW: I go to the gym, I make plans most nights of the week to see friends, I talk to my coffee shop lady, I shoot the breeze with the UPS guy when he comes. Basically, I take any chance for interaction I can get. Because you’re right—isolation can become a problem. It also seems to have caused a phone phobia—seriously, I hate answering my phone during the day!

SJ: Fashion is a big part of your VIOLET books. Curious: do you know a lot about fashion (the history of Chanel, the latest and greatest new designer to hit Milan)? Or maybe the question is, do you care about fashion — as in, do you save up your pennies to buy a designer dress or just head to Target? (And, just so you know, you’re talking to someone who wears Uggs and yoga pants most days. What can I say? I have a toddler.)

MW: As an editor at ELLEgirl, I interviewed a lot of fashion types and up-and-coming models. So I know a little bit, and I’ve gotten to go to a few fashion week shows. I also got to attend Fashion Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil once, which was a crazy enlightening experience. I keep up with fashion blogs, I enjoy knowing just the basics, but no, I can’t name season, designer and line in one glance.

SJ: I read something recently, I think it was from Anna Quindlen, about the importance of not confusing your life with your work. This resonated with me, since most of the time my work feels like my life: It’s what I think about a lot — way too much. It’s what I get excited about. It’s what I worry about. And on and on. I’m fortunate to love what I do, but big note to self: Work should not, and does not, define me. On that not, writing aside, what else is brewing in your life?

MW: Ooh, this is a blurry line for me, too. I’m recently engaged, though, so I’ve at least stopped working long enough to date someone for a while, right? I also have fantastic friends and a pretty healthy social calendar—I love a good beer garden. And I do yoga and run in the park. That’s pretty much it. Mostly, I write and work. (Because I really love it!)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It was bound to happen

Mothers cherish the milestones in their babies' lives. First they babble, then they crawl. They toddle, then they're saying "mama." Well, last week, my son hit another milestone. This one, well, I'm not so thrilled about. Why, you ask? He's learned how to turn the TV on and off. 


It was cute at first. "Oh look, he turned the TV on, can you believe that!"

But that didn't last long. Especially when I was watching something really important on the evening news, and he walked over and turned it off, giving me a look as if to say "hah, look who's in charge now!"

Or when it was time for bed, and he trotted over to the screen with his little pointer finger and hit the "on" button -- again.

You get the idea. 

At least he's not surfing the Web yet. I have that to be grateful for.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Some of this, some of that

I have been a very bad blogger. This week, I find myself with several deadlines, a boy who has decided he's not into napping, and a to-do list the length of a football field. Wait a minute, that sounds like last week, and the week before that, and the week before that. Yeah, earth to Sarah: life is busy. 


I'd like to give you some updates by way of my favorite literary tool, the list:

*I'm writing several really great articles for CNN.com right now. Check the "lifestyle" tab this month and next for my byline. Seriously, you're going to get a kick out of several of these stories. One of them, hands down, makes the Top 10 Favorite Stories I've Written list. 

*Recently, I bought the book "Your Spirited Child" on Amazon. Because, you know, I'm raising one. Funny thing happened: When it came in the mail today (I should mention, it's a used book), one of the corners had clearly been chewed off by the previous owners, or rather, the previous owner's spirited child. It looked like some kid took a bite out of the bottom corner -- chomped it right off. I had to laugh at this. Clearly, someone else's spirited child is more spirited than my spirited child. Still, I'm keeping the book away from Carson.

*My agent is sending out my novel to publishers this week. It's an exciting, and scary, time for a writer -- knowing that your work is being read by editors at the big houses, that your agent might call at any moment with NEWS, that you may be gearing up for a big rejection, all the while worrying that you should have fixed that dialogue on page 33, or the description on page 128, or the ending or the beginning or the middle. You get the idea. I'm hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. No matter the outcome, my husband I are cracking open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the milestone.

*Just wondering: Does everyone in America suddenly have Celiac disease? Do I have Celiac disease?  

*In the period of three days, I have fallen in love and fallen out of love with a home. Not mine, but a house down the block that just went up for sale. On Monday I was certain we should buy it, tear it down, and build our dream home. I envisioned dogs and kids and friends frolicking in the backyard, the smell of BBQ in the air. By today, it was just "meh." Funny how house-shopping can be such an emotional rollercoaster. I have shed more tears over houses in the last 6 years. 

*I'm doing some new features this spring for Hallmark magazine, one of my new favorite publications. Every time I pick up this mag, I learn something, tear up about something, or just smile. One of the stories I've been assigned is particularly exciting. I can't give too many details, like why, how, who, or when, but let's just say check the mag next year for a particularly fun dinner story, which will be shot in my home and surrounding neighborhood.

*I also feel compelled to tell you that I'm eating vanilla bean cheesecake right now. 
 

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jazz apples and Cara Cara oranges


How can I put this delicately? Life with a toddler can get, well, kind of bland sometimes. 


You know the drill: Same old routine, same old grocery store shopping list (bread, whole milk, baby food, cereal, repeat). So, for me, nothing cures the blahs better than a day out with a friend, a challenging writing assignment, a new adventure with my little guy (he's into looking at flowers this week, so off to the park we go), or a few great new discoveries at the market.

Today, during a quick trip to the green market for dinner and a few staples, two things caught my eye in the produce aisle. I recalled one of my editors telling me about Cara Cara oranges -- a sweet juicy orange variety that a lot of people are buzzing about right now. So, I bagged some up. 

And then, among the bins of everyday apples, I came across organic "Jazz apples." These small, almost baby-sized, are supposed to be extra tart and crunchy with a tangy, lemony sweetness. I could almost hear Stan Getz playing somewhere as I picked out a few; I couldn't help but let my mind wander the direction of an apple tart, or maybe a simple crisp (which I've been craving ever since I saw Ina Garten make one on the Food Network recently). 

So, there you have it: The cure for my day of toddler blahs: apples and oranges. Oh, and an apricot croissant. That helped, too.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The truth about motherhood

Hello from San Diego. I'm here visiting my sister, who just had a baby -- her second, an adorable, healthy, and totally mellow baby boy. And it's the mellow part I want to talk about today: Of course, I'm thrilled that my sister has been blessed with an easy baby, but part of me is envious, too.

It's not really because my son, Carson, screamed for the first six months of his life (I wouldn't wish colic on anyone) or the fact that he whined for the next four months. But it's really because in the four days I've been here, my toddler has cried more than her infant. I probably should mention that Carson is 14 months old (AKA: too old to be having newborn-style meltdowns all the time).

In fact, as I'm sitting here typing, I'm recovering from one of Carson's meltdowns, or as my sister, my mom and I have all named it "the meltdown that will go down in infamy." It started in the car, and then continued in the restaurant. He screamed and kicked. He threw food and wailed. He drew a crowd of onlookers, and a few dirty looks. He nearly was the cause of a car accident.

And this went on for about three hours.

I don't know where I'm going with this post. I'm kind of discouraged, kind of tired, and kind of in need of a drink (I know, it's 2 p.m. -- shame on me). I guess what I'm trying to say is that motherhood is not all giggles and cupcakes. Frankly, I believe it's the most exhausting job in the world.

And I'm not going to follow this up with "but it's such a joy and such a blessing." Of course it is. But I think it's OK to just take a deep sigh and be honest about the fact that my son nearly kicked my butt today.

Maybe things will be better tomorrow. (And, just to remind myself, I'm including a photo from an outing a few days ago, to the beach in La Jolla where Carson walked on the sand for the first time.)


Monday, February 18, 2008

Interview with "The Opposite of Love" author Julie Buxbaum

Today, I'm speaking to Julie Buxbaum, the fabulous new author of the recently released book "The Opposite of Love." Julie is 30 (like moi, whose birthday is today, in fact!), a first time author who is seeing a lot of success and acclaim for her first work of fiction, and as you'll see, below, an inspiration to people who are thinking about making a big life change in the name of happiness and fulfillment. Here's my conversation with Julie: 
SJ: I'm always fascinated with people who make bold moves. And, from what I know about your story, you are certainly one of them. It had to be frightening quitting your job at the law firm (especially after working so hard for that degree!), and looking ahead to the unknown. How did you justify such a leap? Did you know that when you quit, you'd be working on your book, or did that come later?

JB: I have to admit, I was scared to quit, but I realized that it was something I just had to do. There came a point where I just couldn't handle another Sunday night where I was dreading Monday morning at the office. It seemed ridiculous to spend ninety percent of my waking hours in a career in which I was unfulfilled, when I hadn't even seen what else was out there. I'd always dreamed of writing a book, so when it was time to leave the law, I figured it was my shot. When I sat down to write THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE I made the decision that no matter what happened--if my novel ended up being just a pile of paper that lived in a drawer for the rest of my life--the experience of writing it would be enough. So the fact that I have made a career out of writing feels--to mix my cliches--like icing on the cake and nothing short of a dream come true.  

SJ: In life, I fear these things most: rats, snakes, and evil bloggers (and if I had a book out right now, book critics would probably be on the list, too). Rats and snakes aside, book publishing kind of puts you out there, and I wonder how you prepare yourself for that as a new author. For instance, when you wake up one morning and realize that some snarky blogger has said something not-so-nice about you, how do you deal with that? Roll your eyes and say "whatever," or maybe call your best friend for sympathy? 

JB: No doubt about it, I find it strange and terrifying that my novel puts me out there, especially because writing is such a solitary and personal exercise. When you write, you can't think about what's going to happen years later, when those words are in an actual book on a shelf that someone is going to buy (hopefully!) and read and comment on. When I read anything about the book, the first thing I do is try to learn something from it. Do I agree with what this person says? Disagree? If there is some constructive criticism there, I try to put my ego aside and hear it. If you look at the Amazon comments for your absolute favorite book in the world--the one that you think is a masterpiece--I guarantee there are a bunch of people who have called it crap. The truth is this is all subjective, and I try to find comfort in that idea. 

SJ: When you got your book deal, how did you celebrate? A fabulous dinner out? A pair of (wildly expensive) new shoes? Several joy-filled screams in the street? 

JB: My husband (then boyfriend) took me out for a casual dinner, and I spent much of the evening shell-shocked. I just kept repeating, "Can you believe it? I don't believe it? Can you believe it?" I was incapable of conversation beyond that for a good twenty-four hours. The next day, I visited my local bookstore and checked out where my book would live in the fiction section and who would be my alphabetical neighbors. I remember just staring at the shelf and smiling to myself. Pretty great moment.  

SJ: Now that you're not bustling between the courthouse and the boardroom, what does a typical day look like for you? 

JB: I roll out of bed around nine am, and change from my sleeping pj's to my day pj's. Recently, I've upgraded from full fledged pajama pants (with polka dots) to lounge pants, and for that my FedEx guy is very grateful. I think he was starting to worry about me. I walk about ten feet to my dining room table, which I use as a desk, though there is a perfectly good desk right next to it, because the table faces out a window. When I sit here, as I am doing right this moment, I am easily fooled. Whatever I am doing here cannot be called "work." If I am in the middle of a first draft, I'll write till I take a break for lunch, and maybe an afternoon shower to clear my head. And then it is either back to my desk to keep plugging along, or perhaps, if I'm in need of some human interaction, I'll put on some real people clothes and head to a nearby coffee shop to work for the rest of the day. I try to keep a pretty normal working schedule, but I am not always that diligent.  

SJ: Are you working on any future projects that we can keep our eyes out for?  

JB: I am currently at work on my second novel, but not sure yet when it will be released into the world. I'll keep you posted!  

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Baby's first trip to Pike Place Market

The sun was out today (if you have survived a Seattle winter, you know how exciting this is), so I chucked my normal routine, begged forgiveness from my editors, and played hookie with Carson. We went to Pike Place Market. 


A longtime Seattleite, I am a little ashamed to say that I rarely get down to the Market -- unless guests are in town. There are plenty of nearby farmer's markets, plus every grocery store a girl can imagine, near my home. But today, I had a reason to drive downtown: a stop at Le Panier to pick up Jason's Valentine's Day surprise: a Napoleon. In the process, I found myself giving my 1 year old a culinary tour of Seattle. 

First, we visited the fish market, where a toothless fishmonger played peek-a-boo with Carson, who thought this was great fun. Next stop: produce stand, where we both fell in love with these gorgeous miniature eggplants and filled our bag with other treasures (sweet onions, carrots, heirloom tomatoes, yellow squash, and a few other things that I can't remember right now). 

From there we buzzed over to the original Starbucks. I'll admit, I get a little sentimental about this place, even though I much prefer smaller cafes where shots of espresso are pulled by hand. But there's something special about the very first Starbucks. It's worn and torn, with a certain patina to everything, unlike the shiny new monochromatic stores everywhere else. It's kind of like the management just decided to let this place be, and I'm glad they did.

Carson pointed to Beecher's cheese shop, so we stopped in for a quick look at cheese being made (big vats of curds and way!). I tried to explain what was going on to him, but he was already interested in something outside: of course, a dog. 

After standing on the curb visiting with a friendly looking mutt for a few minutes, we popped in to Michou for lunch (me: a divine chipotle chicken sandwich, and Carson: rosemary lentil soup) and then made our way to the grand finale: Le Panier. 

One loaf of bread, two eclairs, a slice of apricot tart tatin, and a Napoleon later, we called it a day. But, not before I passed the spot where my teenage self was kissed by her then teenage lead-singer-in-a-band boyfriend. In an instant, I was 17 again, at the peak of Seattle's grunge/punk scene, smitten with a guy with a mohawk (yes, you've probably heard him on the radio, and no, I'm not telling you who). I looked down at Carson, who looks more like Jason everyday, and smiled deeply. It was a gift to remember how grateful I am that life turned out the way it did. Besides, I would have made a terrible groupie. 
 

A flower primer for men

Happy Valentine's Day! My husband surprised me with a gorgeous vase of pink roses this morning, which sent Carson into tears. Roses are a little scary, I guess. 

Anyway, today, I have a message for men: Buying  your gal roses today? Let me pass on a few friendly tips:

*Skip the baby's breath. Really, tell the gal at the floral counter no. 
*Step away from the carnations. That's all that needs to be said.
*A nice, compact round bunch is lovely (think of a wedding bouquet, in a vase).
*Go with one color (i.e., a bunch of orange roses, or a bunch of pink tulips, rather than a mixture of the two).
 

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fear of drug stores during flu season

Disclaimer: I give you full permission to shake your head at me after reading this post. Heck, I'm even shaking my head at me. But I must fess up and share: I absolutely, positively, detest going to the drug store during cold and flu season -- so much so, in fact, that I pull a Bill Murray a la "What About Bob" (you know, when he opens all the door handles with a paper towel?).


But today -- cringe -- I had to go. And when I arrived, the place sounded like a symphony of sickness: 

Cough, cough. Sniffle, sniffle. SNEEZE. 

I hurried.  I held my breath. I Pureled. And then when I got to the checkout line, and turned my head for a second, the cashier was (gulp) holding my son's hand

Noooooooooooo! Don't touch the baby with those germy hands that have probably just rung up the purchases of 321 people carrying the flu! 

This is what I was thinking. Of course, I didn't say it. Instead, I smiled and paid, then booked it to the restroom to wash Carson's hands before he could start sucking his thumb. 

I told you you'd be shaking your head. 

But please tell me you can relate. Maybe just a teeny bit?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mineral makeup hazards?

I love my new mineral makeup. It feels nice knowing that I'm not dousing my skin in chemicals and preservatives every morning. But today I got to thinking: With all the dust flying around (or rather, minerals), is breathing in all those particles during the application process harmful to my health? If you've tried this type of makeup, you know it's a tad messy.


OK, so I've gone from worrying that my makeup is toxic to worrying that it's giving me lung cancer. Forgive me for being a tad paranoid. But, please weigh in on this issue. What do you think?

P.S. I'm typing this, for the very first time, on my new Mac! Already lovin' it, even though I'm a little slow figuring things out. I have to admit, I do miss the ol' right click. Hugs and kisses to Jason for spending the better part of the weekend archiving old files, emails, and doing the transfer. It was a big job, and it's nice to have my very own (and quite handsome!) tech guy!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Cake on the brain

I have a confession to make: I've been thinking about cake -- a lot. Lemon, chiffon, white chocolate, fondant, all kinds, really. I'll be interviewing someone for a story, and there goes the brain: to cake. Here's an example:

Interview subject: "Bla, bla, bla ..."

Me: Hmm, I wonder if I can cut this interview short and bake a chocolate cake before Carson wakes up from his nap? Or maybe I should drive over to my favorite bakery later (Simply Desserts)?"

Interview subject: "Bla, bla, bla -- bla!"

Me: Did he just say CAKE?

Here's the weird thing: Ask anyone who knows me -- this craving is completely out of character. In fact, my mom had to make pies for my birthday parties as a child because I hated cake. (Yep, she decorated them with birthday candles and all!)

I've learned, through researching a new story I'm writing for Health magazine (keep an eye out this spring!), that food cravings can be as powerful as drug cravings. Whoa!

What are you craving?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The family plate

You've heard of the "family bed," right -- you know, when the kids sleep with the parents? While Carson is (thank you Lord) content in his own crib, I think we've got an issue going on with the dinner plate. Let me explain.

Recently, we realized that the baby food days were nearing an end when Carson, our 1 year old, started pointing to my plate and screaming as if to say "hey, give me some of the good stuff!"

Things were going well for a while: We started feeding him more real food, just chopped up and pureed a bit. But as babies tend to do, he figured things out. Carson soon realized that he wanted the food that was on our plates, not in his bowl. (Um, he also seems to want what's in my wine glass, but as they say, Pinot Noir is not for sippy cups.) So, now we (me and baby) eat from the same plate.

But tonight, Carson threw another curve ball: He started pointing wildly at Jason's plate across the table. He wanted what daddy was having -- and he wanted it NOW!

I had to laugh when Jason suggested that Carson would be much happier if we all ate off the same plate, or maybe chowed down together at a communal feeding trough. Quite an image, isn't it?

I guess no one said parenthood was dainty.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What will they think of next?

Have you heard of the new water bottle from Arrowhead? It's billed as an "eco-shape" bottle. The idea is that it uses 30 percent less plastic so it's environmentally friendly. Are you rolling your eyes right now along with me? Better idea: Ditch the plastic bottles for a Sigg, or another reusable bottle. My Sigg, in fact, would probably take a prominent place on my can't-live-without list. Really.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

How do you store bread?


Everyone I know seems to have a different way to store their favorite loaf: in a bag, in the fridge, in a bread box, on the counter -- you get the idea. Personally, I've been thinking about purchasing a bread box, since plastic is not only a problem environmentally speaking, but it also seems to trap a lot of moisture. Soggy bread = gross.

What's your fail-proof method?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Trans fat alert

You're up on the health dangers of trans fats, as we all are now, so when you go to the grocery store, you know to steer clear of products that contain that scary stuff. You give yourself bonus points, even, for spotting products labeled "trans fat free."

But maybe, like me, you didn't know that, by law, a product can still contain trans fat even if it says it doesn't. Yep. I learned by trial and error:

I normally shop at green markets, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's stores, so trans fat is usually not an issue (these stores do not carry products that contain TFs). But, the other day I was busy and was trying to combine my shopping in one area of the city -- so I went to a different store.

I needed tortillas, preferably organic. No luck there. So, I decided it wouldn't kill me to buy non-organic tortillas, as long as I could find a pack that was free of TFs. With no time to read a long ingredient label with a fussy boy in my arms, I grabbed a pack of "Mission" tortilla's labeled "0 grams trans fat."

Then, a few hours later, at home, I read the ingredient label. I was horrified to find the words "partially hydrogenated" right there in black ink (see below for proof) -- on my tortillas. Friends, as you know if ya see "partially hydrogenated" it's code for TRANS FATS.

Nina Planck has a great article about this very topic in the February issue of Bon Appetit. In short, if a food product contains less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, the manufacturer isn't required to declare it. And not only that, but they can call it "trans fat free."

Can you believe that?

So, say you have three quesadillas. You'll eat about 1.5 grams of trans fat, which is about a teaspoon and a half of trans goodness (fat that researchers say goes straight to the belly, I might add).

Appetizing, eh?

Morals of the story:

*Read ingredient labels, even if the baby is fussy.
*Maybe drive across town to a store that sells quality products.
*Beware of claims on food products.
*Make your own tortillas (they're really good).

Things I thought I'd NEVER do

Funny how being a mom makes you change in ways you never thought possible. Here is my list:

*Minivans: Nope, I don't drive one. Love my Volvo. But I have to admit, the thought has crossed my mind. Dear Lord, help me.

*Ground coffee: I used to be a whole-bean purist, but that darn coffee grinder wakes up the baby.

*Yoga pants and Uggs: My uniform.

*Buying your kid the thing he's screaming for (and won't let go of) at the store: Yep, I'm that mom.

*Using your clothing as Kleenex: I probably don't need to elaborate.

*Elmo: I never could relate, but now, oh I TOTALLY GET IT. Mornings without Elmo, well, they're just not good. (Still, though, I do have some standards: We're a Barney-free household.)

What's on your list?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Good Mom, Bad Mom

Everyone knows that when it comes to mothering, there is no perfect. Yet, I've found there are days when I deserve an A- and days when I probably should get a D. I love Babble.com's "Bad Parent" feature, and it got me thinking about the good and bad mom moments in my day (and maybe yours too?):

Good Mom

5:30 a.m.: I don't complain when Carson decides to wake up early. Instead, the second I hear his cry I'm there -- by his crib smiling with a big GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE!

8:00 a.m.: Even though I have email to respond to and other important things to do, I sit next to him and play.

9:30 a.m.: So what if he doesn't want to nap, that's OK. We'll read books for the next hour instead.

11:30: Today we're having homeade soup, and pureed apples and spinach that I made last night.

1:30: While baby is napping, I clean the playroom, do an interview, wipe down the high chair, get dinner rolling, and plan an educational outing for later in the day.

3:00: We head to the zoo, to teach Carson about birds (which he is currently wild about).

4:00: I give him a healthy snack of sliced kiwi and whole grain crackers and cheese.

5:30: Dinner is on the table, the house is clean, and somehow I've finished two articles, too.

7:00: Carson gets a nice bath, storytime, and is happily in bed.

Bad Mom

5:30: I say "not again" when I look at the clock, stumble into Carson's room and hardly wish him a good morning. It's way too early for pleasentries.

8:00: He watches Elmo while I doze off for a few minutes on the couch (hey, he was up three times last night!).

9:30: It's naptime, so why the heck is he resisting? Instead of running to him when he puts up a fight, I let him cry a little, and he falls asleep a while later. I feel bad, but not that bad.

11:30: Lunchtime: I open a can of Annie's stars and cheese soup. Hey, at least it's organic. But he doesn't want to eat it, or anything else, so I cave and feed him more string cheese. All the while, I'm wondering if a child can survive on a diet of only string cheese.

1:30: When he's down for his afternoon nap, I feel like I should wipe down the high chair, tidy the playroom, and get organized for the afternoon, but I'm too tired. I tell myself I need to work on an article, but instead I spend the hour on PerezHilton.com.

3:00: I'm too exhausted to even think about packing up the baby and heading to the zoo, or any other place. So we stay home. The only thing Carson seems to want to do is play with the dog's water bowl. After four "redirects" I finally give in, pretending not to notice him splashing around in there. Later I feel bad, and wash his hands. Eww.

4:00: Snack time: We go to the drive-thru Starbucks and he has bites of my scone.

5:30: Dinner is not on the table. The house is not clean. And my articles are not done.

8:00: After pizza has arrived and been devoured, I decide that bathtime would take too much energy. He's not that dirty, I tell myself. Plus, um, my show is almost on.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Is this normal?

Yesterday, I made a mad dash to Whole Foods in search of dinner. Carson loves grocery shopping with me. He has fun pointing at things that he recognizes, like carrots and oranges and baby food jars.

But, yesterday I discovered something new about Carson -- and let me tell you, my reaction was whoa.

Let me give you some back story first: Sometimes when I'm at Whole Foods around lunchtime, I'll grab a cup of soup from the soup bar, and sit for a bit, giving Carson a few bites. I've done this maybe two or three times.

So, back to yesterday. We passed the soup bar area, and he started pointing and whining and then SCREAMING. Obviously he was trying to tell me something, but what? Big tears were rolling down those chipmunk cheeks like you wouldn't believe. I couldn't figure out what was going on. Did something frighten him?

Then it hit me: He wanted soup, and in a major way!

Maybe it's me, but I thought food-related tantrums were for the terrible twos. Carson is 1. In any case, next time I go back to Whole Foods, I'm going to make a detour -- around the soup station.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Interview with Vicki Glembocki

If you're anything like me, the first year of motherhood was an adjustment -- a big one. And if your baby is colicky (like mine), it's that much more of a shock to the system. In the last year, I kept wishing someone would write a no-holds-barred book about new mommyhood -- the ups and the downs, the pretty and the ugly times. And, how thrilled I was to see that a writer friend of mine, Vicki Glembocki had done just that! Her new book, just hitting bookstore shelves now (so go pick up a copy!), The Second Nine Months is receiving lots of praise for being an honest look at life after pregnancy. And if you've ever read Vicki's work (she contributes to Fit Pregnancy and has a new column in Women's Health) you probably know, and love, her frank, laugh-out-loud, tell-it-like-it-is style. Vicki took time out of her busy book-release schedule to answer a few of my questions:


SJ: Finally, someone is willing to give the dirt on motherhood (the stuff we all go through, but don't really talk about)! For a long time, I thought I was the only new mother on earth who felt that the first several months of babyhood were, um I'll be honest, a NIGHTMARE. From the worry to the sleep deprivation and all the crying in between (both by me and my colicky son), I wondered for a long time if I had ruined my life by having a child. When you were going through the hard stuff with your daughter (who you mentioned was colicky), what got you through?

VG: Honestly, I have no idea. Wine didn't help. My husband didn't help. Oprah didn't help. In retrospect, I like to tell myself that what got me through were those brief moments when I actually felt like I'd done something right--figuring out, for example, that she napped well in a swing (where I then put her, like, 24-7). But I didn't feel that way very often. I felt like time had stopped--that I would forever be sitting on THIS couch in THESE stinky sweatpants with THIS screaming baby refusing to latch on to THIS perpetually exposed boob, for the rest of my entire life. I didn't recognize that this stage would pass, because I didn't know what was a stage and what wasn't, what was normal and what was me sucking at it all. I had no frame of reference. I just assumed that I was the only woman on earth who didn't have the maternal instinct gene, so my daughter and I were, basically, screwed.

SJ: I'm sure there are a million funny, and downright hilarious, stories from the trenches of motherhood in your book, which I can't wait to read. Can you share one with us? Maybe one that wasn't so funny at the time, but now gets you chuckling a bit?

VG: Well, there was the time when I was sitting on that couch, with those boobs hanging out, Blair reclining on the "My Brest Friend" nursing pillow hooked around my waist, me trying to coax her to latch on for the 427th time, when the dog started to bark in the backyard. And he wouldn't stop barking. And his barking was freaking Blair out. And it was freaking me out. And he needed to be stopped. So I stood up, walked over to the sliding glass door to the back porch, threw it open, stepped outside, and yelled...to find the dog...barking...at three men from a tree service who were in my yard working on cutting down my neighbor's tree...and now they were all staring up at me. And Blair. And My Brest Friend. And my boobs.

SJ: What do you think about mothers who claim that their babies are "easy"? Do you think there is such thing as an easy baby (I'm praying I get one someday), or do you think they're fibbing a bit?

VG: I know there are easy babies. My second baby, who is eight months now, is the easiest, most laid-back baby on the planet. During the first couple months, though, she was tough--with the sleeping and the crying and the nursing. But she is an easier baby than Blair was. But that doesn't mean that, if I'd had her first, I wouldn't have had a book to write. No way! Yes, Blair was colicky, but the nightmare of the crying wasn't the entire problem. The problem was the transition into motherhood, the sudden identity shift--"Yesterday? No baby. Today? Baby." I went through a legitimate identity crisis, trying to puzzle out who I was now, what parts of the old me I could mesh with the new"mother" me. These are issues that every new mom can relate to, whether your baby is easy or hard or gassy or pukey. But, at the same time, I do think new moms are afraid to talk about anything they're going through that doesn't jive with the expected "I'm loving every minute of it" line, or the "this baby is the best thing that's ever happened to me," line. I was so terrified that someone would think I was a bad mom, I didn't tell anyone...and THAT was what made me feel so alone. That's why I wrote the book, which is a book I hunted desperately for during those second nine months and couldn't find. Now, someone has said it out loud, someone has told her real story from day one so that other women can know that they aren't the only new moms who think they might be maternal mutants.

SJ: When my son was younger, I used to see those commercials for sleep medications like Lunesta and wished I could just pop a few of those and wake up eight hours later. Yeah right! Do you have any advice for dealing with the horrors of sleep deprivation?

VG: If I had the perfect advice for dealing with the horrors of sleep deprivation, I'd be rich enough to buy every woman reading this a nighttime nanny. That sleep thing? That is the hardest part of it ALL. It's no wonder we feel overwhelmed and like time has stopped and like we want to kill our husbands and our dogs and our mailmen. I can't even make it through breakfast without a good night's sleep, much less months. And months. And months. Until we "cried it out" when Blair was 5.5 months old, she was pretty much waking up every hour, on the hour. And I was back to work. But, after we "cried it out," she slept through the night. And still does. My advice, I think, would be this: don't be afraid to let the baby cry a little. (I can practically hear the attachment- parenting devotees huffing and puffing. Oh. They get sooo mad.)

SJ: What's it like having (gulp) two kids? In particular, what's it like being a successful, productive, and ultra-creative writer while being a mom to two kids? Please tell us it gets easier.

VG: It is so. Much. Easier. Why? Because I know what to expect. I know that "this, too, shall pass." I know that a baby WILL eventually stop crying, a baby WILL sleep through the night, a baby WILL smile and giggle and eat mac-n-cheese. Two has it's own set of challenges, of course, but I'm so much less neurotic this time. I actually enjoyed it. I actually think about having another (do NOT tell my husband this). Working and being a mom is always hard--it was with one, and it is still with two--and I work at home four days a week, with the girls at daycare. These days, I'm really struggling with going off the clock at night, with not checking e-mail until they go to bed, with being entirely present with them. It seems like it should be a no brainer, but it isn't. And, this just goes to show that, even though the second nine months are over, the struggle for balance isn't over. I don't think it'll ever be over.

SJ: Finally, do you have any new projects in the works that we can be looking out for?

VG: I'm writing a monthly column for Women's Health magazine that I'm really psyched about, partly because they let me write about whatever weirdo thing is rattling in my head and, partly because they created an illustration of me to go with the column and the illustrated me is VERY thin and stylish. I love her.

New baby food find

I picked up this new cereal for my little guy a few days ago -- the little guy who screams and whines and throws fits at breakfast. Clue: Maybe he hated what I was feeding him? Interestingly, as soon as I switched his old cereal for this new stuff, Multi-Grain Cereal (organic with probiotics) from Happy Baby (endorsed by Dr. Sears, too), the fits have diminished. While I can't say there hasn't been an occasional breakfast-time meltdown, I can say that he's happier and he's EATING breakfast. You can find this stuff at Whole Foods.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Running: Why I need to do more of it.

This morning I decided to go for a jog. I can't even remember the last time this urge struck me. Let's just say, it's been a while. Proof: When I went to go looking for my running shoes, I had to launch a whole-house reconnaissance mission.

But once I found them, and leashed up the dog, it felt good to hit the pavement again -- even if the forecast was calling for snow. I picked up my pace and decided to jog through the ritzier part of the neighborhood -- the streets where nobody cleans their own houses, and I suspect, meals are cooked by personal chefs. Why not check out the lifestyles of the rich and famous while getting some exercise, I reasoned?

The morning was perfect. Just me and the sidewalk -- not another human in sight. I could hear birds singing, trees swaying, and little bits of icy snow pellets hitting the ground. The lavish fountains of my more well-to-do neighbors were frozen solid, as were their front lawns, the ones that look like someone took a cuticle nipper to them.

After a few minutes, my lungs started to feel like they were frozen solid, too, so I slowed down my pace. I could see gratitude in Paisley's eyes (she's my overweight golden retriever). So I just kind of puttered along. And halfway into my morning trek, I realized that I hadn't thought of Carson -- my little boy -- once. I wasn't fretting that his daddy was feeding him inappropriate foods for babies (steak and cupcakes came to mind), nor was I worrying that he was missing me, falling down on the tile floor, or getting into the dog's water. My conscious, for the moment, was worry- and baby-free, and that felt so good.

I've always loved the idea of running. But sticking to a routine is the thing I have trouble with. Somehow, though, this morning's jog gave me the new found energy to try again.

P.S. Those cupcakes I mentioned were made by my friend Kristine: boston cream cupcake to be exact, and equally as delicious as they were sinful.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Today I ate a teething biscuit

The title of this post kind of describes life right now. Things are a little topsy turvy. The dog is stinky, my office is a little more messy than I'd like to admit, and my son's teeth seem to be all coming in at once. So, we have a lot of teething paraphernalia lying around these days.

This morning I was looking for a treat to dip in my coffee, say a biscotti or maybe a pain au raisin. But no. Sigh. I reached for a vanilla teething biscuit instead. Hey, they're low-cal and organic! What's not to love about that? Only problem was, they also taste a lot like cardboard. Hmph.

Tonight: adult food. We're going out for crepes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Life, according to the list

I love lists. They work for the little things in life like shopping or to-dos for your hubby, and big things like dreams and goals. Right now, there seems to be a lot of things on my current list: Some are stressful, others are frivolous, and there's at least one that's quite frankly driving me crazy.

To Do

*Figure out how to get my 1 year old to eat and not a.) spit his food out, b.) throw it at me, and c.) give it to the dog.

*Interview two more sources for an article that is due on Friday (an article that I'm quite proud of, I might add).

*Determine what in the world is causing my office to smell like -- are you ready for this? -- cabbage soup! Last week, I walked into my office and noticed it, and it's been hanging around ever since. A leaky pipe? A (gulp) dead rodent in the wall -- please God no! -- maybe? A rotten container of goat cheese (I do write about food for a living)? No, nope, and nada! We've called plumbers, checked out the crawl space, bought an air purifying machine, tore the place to pieces -- with no sign of anything. Yet this smell is driving me CRAZY.

*Take Carson to the zoo.

*Plan a meal for a friend who is having a baby soon. Her only requests: no celery, and not too many onions, please.

*Put the finishing touches on my book revisions for my agent. "Finishing touches" makes this sound so light and breezy, when really it's going to take all my free time for the next week and a half or more.

*Send a note to one of my favorite editors who has found herself in the hospital with a scary health situation. Get well soon!

*Vacuum, Swiffer, fold laundry, wipe down counter tops. Repeat.

*Figure out how I'm going to celebrate my 30th birthday (next month). A party? Too much work. A trip to the spa? Now that's more like it.

*Create several recipes for a new food story I'm working on. Anyone want to volunteer to taste test?

P.S. Love this blog entry from an editor I've worked with at Glamour -- had to share. I could almost identify with every word!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Poor teddy


Here is my son, Carson, dangling his beloved teddy bear over his crib. His favorite pastime these days: terrorizing teddy. He threatens to toss teddy over various baby gates, dangles him from his high chair, attempts to feed him to the dog, and chucks him into my office.

Since he can't talk yet, teddy helps him communicate. If he throws his bear in a certain direction, he reasons, we'll get that this is where he wants to go -- sort of like a mountain climber's grappling hook. Carson has the whole thing down to a science: 1.) I want to get out of my crib. 2.) Brilliant idea: I'll throw teddy on the floor, that'll get me out of here. 3.) Hey, why is teddy down there, and why am I still in this crib?! Moooooooooooom?! Get me OUT OF HERE.

But sometimes this throwing-teddy business gets a little, well, inconvenient. Exhibit A: Naps. Exhibit B: Bedtime. You try explaining to a 1 year old that when you fling teddy out of the crib across the room, for the fourth time at 2 a.m., mommy is probably not going to retrieve him for you -- again!

Cast-iron skillet cooking


Today I pulled out a cookbook I've been meaning to spend some time with for a while now. Someone mentioned chicken and dumplings somewhere -- it might have been on TV, at the cafe, on the radio ... I'm not sure where I heard it, but I knew I needed to make this dish, and fast.

With The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook in hand, I got down to business this evening. Mission: To make an old-fashioned Sunday dinner. I know, a little cheesy, but stay with me here.

First, there was a mound of shallots, onion, celery, mushrooms, and celery to be chopped. I got the prep work done, then threw the chicken into the skillet. Ack, it began to stick! But, an extra drizzle of olive oil seemed to do the trick.

After the chicken browned, it was the vegetable mixture's turn for a dip in the pan, this time with a bit of butter (I didn't say anything about this meal being low fat). Next up: some flour, to thicken things up, a splash of sherry, broth, and plenty of heavy cream (sorry dieters, this is strike two, I know). I added a splash of white wine for good measure, too. Why not?

While this simmered on the stove, it was time to tackle the dumplings, which were actually so easy that even a nonbaker, like me, could pull them off: cornmeal, flour, baking powder, butter, salt, and milk. I also threw in a dash of oregano. The recipe called for rosemary, but I didn't have any and the plant I had growing in the garden bit the dust last summer when I was too busy with my colicky infant to water it. Consequences.

Carson and Jason watched as I topped things off with little mounds of dough and sent the ensemble into the oven for about 20 minutes. I had filled the skillet just about to the brim, so I worried the whole time, that there might be an eruption in the oven. Um, it's not like this has, um, happened before ... I'm just saying ...

Fortunately, we didn't have a natural disaster on our hands. Nope -- we had a winner. What a meal! Satisfying? Yes. Comforting? Oh yeah. Just the thing I was looking for on this wintry Sunday evening. More cast-iron skillet cooking is on tap for 2008, I think.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fueled by chocolate


Chocoholics -- you're going to love this. A group of people from England spent their Christmas holiday driving across the Sahara in a vehicle that was fueled by chocolate (fuel derived from thousands of pounds of discarded chocolate). Just think, next time you head to Chevron your choices may be Unleaded, Premium, Milk, or Dark. Leave it to the Brits!

Haphazard cooking -- and singing

In a semi state of exhaustion this evening, I plopped the baby in the walker and got cooking. I had no idea what I was making. Ever done this? I call it fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cooking. It's when you just start pulling things out of the fridge, the pantry, the spice jar -- hoping you can pull together something edible and with no road map or recipe to guide you other than hunger.

Luckily, I had some decent ingredients on hand: a pound of Alaskan Sockeye salmon, a bunch of (slightly wilted) basil, garlic, olive oil, fruit, and a package of really good pasta that I dug out from the back of the pantry and suddenly remembered splurging on it at the market a few months ago.

What to make? Pesto. Yes -- definitely, pesto. I got the Cuisinart fired up, then started steaming the salmon while sending the pasta for a dip in the salted boiling water. While tossing a few crackers to the baby, I chopped up some random fruit (hey -- we have to get our five a day!). Fifteen minutes later, dinner was ready. Five minutes after that, dinner was devoured.

I have been under the weather, so putting together a decent (and healthy) meal felt good -- both because it was nourishing and it was an accomplishment.

Which brings me to Part B of this post. Ever found yourself singing a song, and you catch yourself belting out some ridiculous line that's way over the top WRONG? So, I had a jazz CD on, and some vocalist was doing a rendition of "My Favorite Things." I start singing along, and "doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles" somehow turned into "CRISCO with noodles." Now, I wouldn't touch a canister of Crisco with a 10-foot pole, so I have no idea how this slipped in there. I suppose it could have been worse, maybe "DISCO with noodles." But somehow, right now, that sounds kind of fun.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Move over chicken noodle


When I'm sick, like I have been this week (don't worry, I'm not contagious!), I turn to soup (and occasionally spill it all over my couch, as I noted in a recent post). But, chicken noodle might soon have some new competition, according to a new report.

Yes, expect some unusual flavors to cross your palate this year, according to trend watchers. For instance, how about a bowl of watermelon bisque? Or maybe pork belly stew? Oh, or surely you're in the mood for some piping hot rhubarb-blood-orange soup (actually, this kind of sounds good).

What unusual blend of soup have you been cooking up lately?