One.

February 13th, 2012

“Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!”
~Where the Wild Things Are

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Given the human propensity towards remembrance, its no surprise my thoughts these last couple of weeks have gone repeatedly back to “this time last year…..”

The weeks leading up to Carter’s delivery were relaxing and peaceful. The nursery was done. Diapers bought. Book read. I felt prepared and ready. OK, more ready to NOT be pregnant anymore than ready to actually take care of a baby.

But when the hospital called to say they had a room ready, all of a sudden I felt that being pregnant for another week wouldn’t be so bad. I’m well aware that my whole labor and delivery experience was near blissful. Sure it was hard, but given all that can go wrong I count myself one of the luckiest women ever.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to capably put into words how it feels to bring a child into the world. And how its felt to watch him grow this last year. Someone once told me that it takes 10 years to be able to look back on a life event and accurately feel and understand it (let alone write about it). I had always known this about myself (years ago I self-diagnosed myself with something I like to call DRE – Delayed Reaction to Emotion), so it was good to hear from someone else that this was normal, especially if you were going to write about it.

So for now, after working on this post for the past week, all I can recount with confidence is that I feel ridiculously fortunate that I made it through the first year of parenting with an amazingly wonderful son to show for it. He’s the best work I’ve ever done; the most scary, brilliant, frustrating, awe-inspiring, tiring, truly beautiful endeavor I’ve ever have or will know.

Cravings.

January 25th, 2012

I’m talking about food folks!

By no means am I a nutrition expert, but I do know a few things. And I pay attention to a few others.

First I must recommend The Nutrition Diva podcast/weekly newsletter/books (all available on iTunes). She’s a factual breath of fresh air in the minutia of myths that abound when it comes to nutrition information.

If you’re like me the start of this New Year brought a RE-start of healthy eating habits. I’m a BIG proponent of nutritious victuals. But I’m also a BIG supporter of not depriving my sweet tooth. As long as you choose wisely there’s plenty of room for a daily craving.

When it comes to choosing your treat, take a minute and think about the
3 T’s:

~Timing~
I’d like to have a sweet something with my morning coffee, after breakfast, between breakfast and lunch, after lunch, and, well, you get the idea. But you should really limit yourself to one sweet-treat per day (and about 100 calories). Decide in the morning WHEN you’ll get your treat. Maybe you like yours as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. I personally like to save mine for after dinner. Just make sure you indulge when you’re not too hungry to avoid having more than ONE of whatever it is you choose to indulge in.

~Type~
There’s lemony, strawberry-y, coconut-y, and of course chocolate! Some people genuinely don’t have a sweet tooth (not something I can relate to!). but So maybe their cravings are of the salty, savory type. These rules still apply.

~Texture~
This is something that many people don’t realize. The texture of a desired treat is JUST as important as what its made of. There’s creamy, chewy, crispy, hot, cold……..pay attention to both type AND texture and you’re more likely to quench the little sweet monster that lurks inside.

I’ve recently found a couple of treats that satisfy yet don’t jeopardize:
Fiber One 90 calorie brownies (chewy, chocolatey, and available in a big box
at Costco)
Special K 100 calorie fruit crisps (these taste like pop-tarts and are also
available in a big box at Costco)
Skinny Cow Peanut Bars (Little Debbie also now makes a 100 calorie
version of her classic peanut butter crisps)
Skinny Cow ice cream treats (they have a great variety and they all taste
great)

There’s a slew of other 100 calories treats but the key is if you buy the box make sure you’re capable of eating only ONE of the packages. Most days I can do this, but sometimes I don’t. If you over-indulge one day don’t beat yourself up just start fresh the next. When it comes to nutrition your average is much more important than any one “good” or “bad” day.

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food” Hippocrates

And sometimes that medicine is a bit of chocolate!

Happy Eating!

Home.

January 18th, 2012

Home is where the heart is.

Home is where you hang your hat.

Home again. Home again. Jig, jig, jig (my Mom used to say this one a lot)

And loads of other cliche tag lines that just don’t quite define what it means to be HOME.
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We moved around A LOT when I was a child. That nomadic lifestyle seems to have continued
on into my adulthood (14 houses/apartments, 6 cities, and 3 countries since leaving for college).
For nearly as long as I can remember I’ve had unresolved feelings towards the notion of
“home”. And now in my 30s I’m still grappling with the concept.

For most of my young adult life Page, AZ was home, even after leaving for college. Though we
lived in several different houses within that tiny town, the city limits still created a magical
comfort threshold for years after I didn’t even have a house there anymore. I spent 8 years
playing and growing on the streets of that town. It was the first time that I could remember
feeling settled. But it wasn’t a brick and mortar domicile that evoked that feeling (indeed some
of our homes were tin sided). And I found myself still being envious of my friends who had
lived in the same house since they were born.

On the other hand, being home doesn’t necessarily coincide with the length of time spent in one
location. We’ve lived in a beautiful house in Texas for 2 years, but even now I find myself
sometimes feeling like London is still home. I’ll never forget the trip I took back to Phoenix
when, upon leaving, I felt for the first time since moving to Europe that I was HEADED home
and not leaving it. Perhaps it’s just a mixed dose of nostalgia and “expatriate-romance” causing
these thoughts, but it’s also because I felt very “at home” and comfortable in London. And
while we didn’t have many friends there, the ones we did have were warm and caring.

In fact, there have been times when I didn’t even live in a place but felt very much at home – at
my Sister Lindy’s house in Flagstaff & Colorado, or at our good friends The Bradley’s house in
Phoenix. These are places I’ve visited often, so there’s a level of ease and familiarity. But I’m
certain that my level of comfort has more to do with the wonderful people residing in these
houses than with the frequency and duration of my visits. When you’re with people who feel
like home, home could be anywhere you’re all together. Transversely, if you don’t have good
friends nearby, even the nicest house in the best city can seem foreign.

So I guess HOME is not necessarily a singular place or specific duration of time or the people
you’re surrounded by. Its ALL and NONE of these things in some unknown mix with a
sprinkle of attitude and experience on top.
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I’m learning to make peace with the fact that, for me at least, a definitive definition of HOME
doesn’t exist (yet). And while the ambiguity can sometimes be unsettling, after many years and
many moves I’m learning to be comforted by the fact that indistinctness doesn’t necessarily
mean lost-ness.

Sweat, Books, & Art

May 28th, 2009

Because this JUST happened in real time, I think that’s a good place to start……When we were in the Red Sea (Stephen, Kris, & Lisa were quite literally IN the sea, I was lying inside the boat wrapped in a towel) the boat crew prepared a lunch for us that was really delicious. One dish was a black-eyed pea over rice concoction and I’ve been craving it ever since we went. Today I decided I’d try to recreate it and it WORKED! I wonder how long it’ll take before I’m not surprised when something I make turns out good………I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this will be the highlight of my day.

The last couple of weeks have been busy in a more conventional way.

On Mother’s Day we signed up for what Stephen and I call Globo Gym (Dodgeball reference – if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend picking it up). It’s a Reebok gym and it’s HUGE – 3 floors including a pool, rock climbing wall, steam room and the most fun class I’ve taken in a LONG time Reebok City Jam! Yeah! I’m so into this class and the teacher is amazing. Basically we dance for 45 minutes, get sweaty, and burn loads of calories. It has become a permanent appointment for me on Wednesday nights. Also a good reminder for me (and anyone else) to never stop dancing, never, ever.

Last week Stephen and I hosted a Happy Hour for Hope for the Starfish Greathearts Foundation (where I was an intern). It was also an opportunity for Stephen’s co-workers to celebrate a big deal they had won. The night went great and we had a good time. I don’t know how much money we made yet (still needs to be retrieved from the collection tins and counted by the Starfish folks) but the tins felt pretty heavy. Good times for a good cause, perfect!

This past weekend was absolutely brilliant weather wise here in London. I love how European cities transform when it’s nice out. We took the opportunity to venture into the countryside with our neighbors Daniel and Elena (who have become good friends AND they were nice enough to drive us all in their car). It’s no secret that I am a giant NERD, especially about books and art. So one day a while back I was reading a BOOK about ART (the artist Marc Chagall to be exact) and discovered that there is a church just south of London with all its stained glass windows done by Marc Chagall! Well since he’s one of my favs we just had to go and the day did not disappoint. Stephen took some great pix of course, so check those out. After seeing the church (which I could’ve spent the better part of the day in, just reading by the golden, blue, or purplish light cast into the nave by the beautiful stained glass) our friends knew of a cute little town to grab some lunch a take a short steam train ride for more country-side views and a beer at a pub. It was a most excellent day.

Speaking of books……….I’ve just finished reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. If anyone is looking for a wonderfully written, down-right disturbing novel, then by all means pick it up. On a 1 to 5 scale I would give it a 5 for sure, but reader beware, there are some brutal images (eloquently described) in this book. Next up is Three Cups of Tea for a book club here in London that I’m going to try (I think my wounds have finally healed from my attempt in the Netherlands – that Tuesday Night Book Club is a HARD act to follow I tell you).

GMT and -7 GMT (without daylight savings) OR My Two New Loves

May 10th, 2009

I got to spend the last two weeks of April in Arizona with my family and friends. My many thanks to you all for taking the time to spend with me and for making my visit an absolute joy. I know Phoenix (at that time) was still considered to be “not that hot”, but I was painfully aware the whole week I was there that I have definitely acclimated to a cooler climate. I still don’t like being cold, but my tolerance for heat has definitely lowered. A LOT happened while I was back – my good friend Kristin had her baby girl, Makenna (oh she’s a cutie for sure!); my other good friend Tina had a birthday (thank you for letting us celebrate with you!); and my heart was stolen by another guy (well, baby actually, my newest nephew Patrick!).

Whilst in Flagstaff, I played babysitter for a week, during the days while Lindy was at work. Even though there were some (not naming names, but you know who you are) that thought I might not be too savvy on the baby routine, I think Patrick and I had a great time. I knew I loved him before this because he’s my nephew and he’s Lindy’s son and all that, but I actually got a chance to get to know him and while I will admit I’m a bit biased, this kid is the cutest, sweetest thing. We went for walks, watched Baby Einstein, and munched on some yummy (NOT!) baby snacks. My absolute favorite part of the whole trip was going upstairs when Patrick had just woken up from his nap. He’d be lying in bed just talking away at the ceiling. He would smile when I walked in and lie still long enough for me to kiss his face a few times, gently closing his eyes and lightly smiling. Really, of all the images I have in my head, this one is the best, BY FAR! And I thought I missed him before………..

My next newest love was discovered this past Saturday. My good friend Chantal from the Netherlands was in town visiting (thank you again my homie) and we woke up to a very nice London spring day – just a few clouds in the sky but pretty warm and even moments of sunshine. So we decided to head to Greenwich. I had heard it was a cool spot and boy “they” were not lying. We walked down quaint (busy) streets and found a place for lunch, then walked over to the Greenwich Market (1 of 3 or so). People were packed into an area lined with stalls of vendors selling everything from clocks to fortunes (the palm reader’s booth was actually quite busy). At one end of the market area was an amazing assortment of food vendors – Ethiopian, Brazilian, Spanish and more! We had already eaten, but still shared a crepe on the way out (Nutella and banana, the BEST!). After a short walk in the HUGE park nearby (where THE spot for GMT is located) we made our way home. What a great, sunny, yummy, day. We’ll definitely be frequenting Greenwich in the future.

A big shout out to all the Moms today! I hope you had a special day. My friend Gin did a great job of reminding me just how special Mother’s are!

Things that have made me happy lately – or – some NOT so deep thoughts

April 11th, 2009

When new recipes go right
Thanks to the G20 summit I wasn’t able to go in to do my internship during that week (the building where I go is right in the middle of where all the craziets protests were happening). So, like the world leaders next door, I took some time to really sit down and contemplate some big issues: how can I help the planet? Am I doing enough for the less fortunate? When will my amazon order get here? And of course, what should I make for dinner? Yes, I know……..whatever it is that you’re thinking, I know.

Inspired by one friend’s fish pie and the free (its free if its just laying there and I pick it up and take it right?) magazine I found downstairs with the article on not wasting food, I decided to throw all the almost gone bad produce into a pot, add some cumin, then bake it with mashed potatoes on top. To my shock and delight my “cottage pie” turned out really well! Score! My next culinary success would come only 1 day later when I again managed to throw some stuff (rice and beans mostly) into some red peppers and yield another good dinner. My number of “meals that I can cook well” has now doubled………to 4.

Too early for drinks? Nah……..
Apparently, here in London (and indeed what I’ve seen of the rest of Europe as well) “too early” and “drinks” don’t ever co-exist in the same sentence. It warms my heart to see an elderly couple enjoying a beer with breakfast. And it makes me smile to see a couple toasting with a glass of wine at lunch (lunch starts at 10:30 right?). And what makes me happiest about the Europeans lack of “appropriate drinking times” is when I see a man in a suit walking through Canary Wharf business district with a nice tall can of Boddingtons! (think Budweiser only worse). I have yet to fully adopt these new drinking rules. But for the sake of fitting in and assimilating, I’m working very hard at it.

And now here’s Al with the weather
As most of you know, the weather has been one of my biggest complaints since moving here. And even as I type and gaze out my rain splattered window into the abyss of fog that has engulfed our building, I must give props to Mother Nature for providing over a whole week of sunny, warm (I use this term in its most relative context) days. Yes, being able to go outside with only 1 layer (as opposed to 3) and a coat makes me happy. As the days get longer and warmer, the impending summer makes me very happy!

A Robbery, A Move, and A Rash

April 11th, 2009

It’s been an exciting couple of months here in London. For those of you who haven’t heard, here’s a short (?) re-cap:

Towards the middle of February I returned from a great weekend in the Netherlands (seeing friends, discovering a hidden gem of a museum, experiencing a wonderful feeling of familiarity) to an apartment full of muddy footprints and glove marks, a broken window, and the most fear I’ve experienced thus far in my life. While the thief didn’t get much “loot” (except an irreplaceable bracelet given to me by one Mrs. Tina Bradley – I’m still angry about that!) he/she did get my sense of safety and security.

A couple weeks before the robbery, Stephen had suggested that we find a different apartment at the end of the year when our lease was up. I completely balked at the idea – packing, ugg…..lifting, ouch….unpacking, argh. But once you don’t feel safe somewhere, the prospect of a new place is quite appealing and completely overruled my disdain for moving. Within 2 weeks we found a new place (18 stories up and without the robber friendly scaffolding of the old apartment), packed, and moved.

We only had a few days in our new place before we headed off to Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt and the beauty of the Red Sea. The idea was for Stephen and I to get scuba certified and dive in one of the most beautiful dive spots in the world. For me, the trip was kind of a disaster from the beginning. I drank waaay too much with our German host the first night we were there. The next day I forgot that I’ve been living in Europe for the last 2 ½ years (not AZ) and my now pasty skin burned in no time. Then came time to scuba and it turns out I’m allergic to it! Haha. On the first check in the pool I freaked trying to clear my mask, and sitting the next day just discussing going under again I broke out in a rash all over my body. Could’ve been the hangover, the sunburn, some allergy to milk, fear of the scuba……probably a combination of all the above. My body shut er’ down and I spent the rest of the week trying not to itch, applying rash cream, and sitting in the shade.

Even though some of my worst fears were realized in the last couple of months, as I write this I look back and laugh. If we hadn’t of been robbed we never would’ve got to move to our new apartment – which we absolutely LOVE (great views, very modern but still cozy, safe and secure). The move itself was much less painful than I had anticipated. Since I pack like the old man from the Richard Pryor movie “Moving”, Stephen packed most of the house (thanks babe!); we hired some very friendly Polish guys to do the heavy lifting; and unpacking was fun with so much more room and being able to go out on the terrace for the sunset when it got too boring. And if we hadn’t gone to Egypt I never would’ve got to laugh, sing (“who’s Johnny, she said….”) and have fun with our friends Kris and Lisa (which was the best part anyway – we love you guys!). Also in Egypt we took an over night hike to the top of Mt. Sinai (or Moses Mountain). The no sleep, cold, and physical challenge was all worth it to see the sun come up over the beautiful vastness of the dessert. It was sitting on the cold rock at the top, being gradually warmed by the rising sun, that I was reminded once again that there’s good in everything that happens – even if it scares you, makes you tired, or gives you a rash. ?

The first quarter here at KowalCentral (London Office) ended with a wonderful visit from our wonderful friends Shelly & Jordan Olmstead. We really appreciate them spending their spring break with us and loved having them as our first American guests. We filled the week with trips to: Tower of London, Regent Street for some shopping, Windsor Castle, British Museum and a great exhibit on Babylon, the National Gallery (where we were actually able to eat lunch on the steps in the sun!) and another great exhibit on Picasso, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and a wonderful performance of the play “Wicked”. We hope they had as much fun as we did – we love you guys!

My internship with the Starfish Foundation is going great. I’ll be sad to leave in a couple of weeks. The gals I’ve been working with are great and it’s been a wonderful experience. My writing class also ended this past week. So its time to sign up for another one – I’m already excited. The weather is getting warmer and we’re looking forward to a spring time IN LONDON!