A Coffee Chat


So I’m a day late with this post…I spent yesterday at my mom’s house helping her select curtains. Their house is finally coming along and starting to look more like a home! It’s exciting, and I love being a part of the decoration planning committee.

But when I came home and, after cooking dinner, contemplated writing a blog post…I shut off the computer and watched The Sopranos instead.

However, had we actually met for coffee, I’d tell you that I’ve officially crossed the 9-month mark. The countdown until Mister Bean’s arrival is well underway. And man, am I feeling it. I hadn’t had much of a problem with swollen feet or hands through this pregnancy, but this week, it’s definitely kicked in. I can keep it more or less under control as long as I lie on my left side and drink plenty of water, but sitting with my feet on the floor or standing exacerbates it. Even sitting and just keeping my feet up doesn’t really help.

Meanwhile, I’m putting together my packing list of things to bring for the hospital. Everybody says to pack well in advance since you never know when the baby is likely to come…but I’m looking at my list and almost everything on it is something I use daily or regularly. And since I travel light and frequently, all my toiletries and such are already in easy-to-grab travel bags (or are already in my purse) so it never takes me more than 15-20 minutes to pack for any trip of a week’s duration or less–and I’m pretty sure early labor lasts quite a bit longer than that. Even our essential documents are all in one thin binder I put together when we first moved to Thailand. So I’m looking at what I can pack in advance and all I’ve got is:

- diapers
- baby outfits
- receiving blankets (including one to bring home to Dot to help her get acclimated to the baby)
- diaper & nipple creams
- wipes
- maxi pads
- IDs, documents
- a few clothing items, but not all of them, as I still wear most of what I’ll need
- tissues*
- bottled water*
- Tylenol*

* Apparently our hospital charges for every little thing you use, and while the overall bill is about 1/10th of what it would cost in the U.S., we can cut down on costs by providing a lot of things ourselves.

This is not nearly everything I plan to bring. I’m not sure how everyone else is able to really get packed in advance. I guess I’ll just make sure my list is as thorough as I can make it so once labor starts, it really is easy to grab (or have Toby grab) the remaining items without having to think about it.

For fellow mamas out there…what kind of snacks did you pack? I plan to bring some apple juice…would PB&J sandwiches be a good idea too? The only recommendation I have is for healthy items that are easy to digest….so I’m not sure what would be best, especially of stuff that doesn’t need refrigeration. Got any suggestions?

Anyway, aside from all that, things are going pretty well here. Mostly, I’m just trying to hunker down now and get as much rest as I can, especially with the swelling going on.

Are you sick of hearing me talk about all this baby stuff yet? Haha, well even if baby is on my brain, I’m still looking forward to hearing what’s going on with you. What’s going on in your corner of the world? I’m all ears.

A Coffee Chat

photo(15)I probably shouldn’t be having all the sugar and caffeine in this iced frappuccino-type drink, but I am SO going to after the day I’ve had.

Let me back up and explain. My parents took possession of their house on Friday (YAY!) even though it’s not quite finished yet (BOO…), and while we should have been celebrating, we had to deal with bureaucratic a-holes at a local district office (I think I’ve mentioned before how much I hate bureaucracy in this country). Then my mom slipped and bunged up her ankle, and things that were supposed to be delivered weren’t delivered, and then it was a holiday on Monday, so everything shut down…let’s just say it’s been a rough start for them.

Anyway, they’ve been schlepping their things from our house to theirs, and I’ve been reorganizing our stuff and cleaning…and bending and squatting and lifting more heavy things than I probably should…I can’t help it! The nesting instinct is strong. It’s a dilemma: to nest, or to rest. That is the question.

Either way, last night I paid for it. I clearly overtaxed my hips and was in pain most of the night. When I woke up this morning, I felt better, but my groin muscles have still been very sore and tender. Sitting is okay, but standing, walking, or shifting positions in bed is problematic.

So, despite still having a tall list of things to do, I conceded defeat and decided to spend today resting–which I did do for most of the morning. But then, we had an appointment to meet with an advisor about renewing Toby’s visa (normally we do it ourselves, but it’s quite a process–and there’s that whole bureaucracy thing again–and his visa comes up for renewal soon after the baby comes so we’re thinking it might be worthwhile to hire someone else to handle it for us this time around). And it was a quick meeting, but there were a series of minor inconveniences that are too tedious and trivial to really name here, so after a quick stop at the grocery store and the gas station, we were ready to just get back home.

Except, when we finished pumping gas, our car died. We had to call my dad to come rescue us (lucky for us, they’re so close now and have their own car!), and despite the fact that Toby is supremely busy at work today, he’s now stuck taking the car to the shop to find out what’s wrong, since he tested the battery and it’s not that.

Always something, right?

In other news…there’s this:

photo(14)Spotted while we ate lunch today. Yes, that IS a pig’s head. At least we know our food is fresh, right? I think?

Oh well. Could be worse. The good news is I’m 35 weeks pregnant today (a week away from 9 months!). For the uninitiated, pregnancy is about 40 weeks long, but a baby is considered full term after 37 weeks…so, things are getting close now!

And really, life can’t be so bad when there’s this truth:

photo(16)So I’m gonna’ go get lost in some happiness. How about you? What’s going on with you?




A Coffee Chat

A cup of hot coffee in my lap and my favorite new dress that I got just before we left for the States so I’d have something more adequate to wear to the rehearsal dinner than fisherman pants. You can see it desperately needs to be ironed but an iron and ironing board are a couple of the things we have still yet to acquire in our new home that we’ve lived in for two years.

I know I’ve been horribly out of touch lately. I’ve kind of gone off the map and been very rude about not responding to emails and comments. I will try to remedy that this week. I got sick just before we left the U.S. and have holed myself up to sulk in congested misery. I wish I could say I’ve been resting, but there’s something funny about coming back home that makes me super amped to invest in where I live. When we came back from Hong Kong and Berlin, both times that meant scouring local magazines and websites for happenings around town to reconnect with the city in which we live.

This time, it meant I’ve been going a little Pinterest/William Morris crazy. Jules and Zakary did a 30-day challenge last month to clean up and beautify their living space, tackling a new project each day. It’s like what they accomplished in a month, I suddenly wanted to attempt over the weekend.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday after coming back to Thailand and couldn’t get back to sleep at all. I made myself stay in bed until 5 a.m., at which point, I decided it was totally appropriate and reasonable to sneak downstairs to the kitchen and silently take down all the drapes for washing, clean out all the cupboards, rearrange and reorganize the pantry, dishes, and baking supplies, and make fresh iced barley tea. The dog followed me downstairs, watched for a few highly concerned minutes, then trotted back up to bed like a normal person, as clearly the hour was ungodly even for her.

I celebrated when the sun came up because I figured it was slightly less crazy to be doing this if there was light in the sky.

By the time the rest of my family stumbled down in search of coffee, I was steeping an old white T-shirt in rooibos and chai to see if I could stain it a pretty color.

Since then, I’ve purged my closets of old clothes, divested my house of anything remotely touched by mold, reorganized several drawers and caches of documents, and set out a couple more old T-shirts in a homemade brine to make them vintage soft. Since I don’t wear them out much, maybe making them softer will turn them into good pajama or yoga shirts.

Oh, and I took a ghetto plastic bottle we had and turned it into a vase with the help of a little yarn, fabric trim, and glue.

I had been wanting a vase for tall flowers but I couldn’t find any that were the right shape to hold up flowers nicely. And ones I did find were far more expensive than I wanted to pay. So for nigh on two years, I’ve been using a plastic bottle I bought for juices. I don’t know why it took me this long to figure out $4 in craft supplies would solve my problem.

In any case, I’m clearly good at ignoring the fact I’m sick. Possibly touched in the head as well. Nevertheless, next on my to-do list is home baked bread and buttermilk biscuits.

Maybe, I’ll finally pick up an iron while I’m at it.

In other news, I’ve been planning to do a giveaway for, well, months now. It’s actually shameful how long I’ve been wanting to do one, and doing it while I was in the States would have been perfect. And I still dropped the ball. I wanted to do something to thank you all for reading my spiels…and then it was going to be for my birthday…and then to celebrate reaching 100 fans on Facebook…. Now it might happen just in time for Christmas. Anyway, hold tight as I work out the details. I’ll let you know soon! In the meantime, Tinajo is having a giveaway at her place, so check hers out and join in!

All right. I’ve definitely prattled on long enough. Thanks for joining me for coffee and the chat. Tell me, how are you enjoying the turn in to November? Do you ever go on crazy nesting kicks too?

Commandeering Creative Space

I mentioned earlier this week that I’d made some changes to my work space. Those changes were inspired by the lovely Hyacynth’s Creative Oasis Simple Swap series, where she challenged us busy women to find ways to renovate our personal space in 15 minutes or less. Just the simple changes that make a space more welcoming, but that we rarely allow time for ourselves to do.

Mine took the better part of an afternoon, but I’m so pleased with the results. And pictures were requested, so I shall share!

I used to work at the dining room table (despite all the times I vowed, when we lived in a shoebox apartment in Santa Barbara, that I would never again work where I eat). Well the dining room table was an upgrade from the coffee table, I’ll grant you. But it still irked me to no end every time I’d have to clear my stuff away when we were ready to eat. And even when my writing resources were laid out in organized piles, it always simply looked a mess.

And all the while, we had guestrooms upstairs, just waiting to be used.

But I didn’t. Because they were guestrooms. And I didn’t want to invade their space while they’re here. We got a house with several bedrooms precisely so we could host people comfortably, knowing we would be having lots of guests. And so the guestrooms are for guests!

*facepalm* Oh, how our minds create little boxes for us. (Or is it just me? Could be just me.)

So when I remembered that this is in fact is my house, I pulled up an extra desk and moved it into the smaller guestroom. And still I had planned only to use a small portion of the room, until I remembered that I was still being crazy. I moved up my little library of important writing resources (which, thankfully, is super easy to carry despite being well over 100 books because they’re all on my kindle! – which, P.S. I just read that it takes 23 books on an e-reader to outweigh the environmental impact of the e-reader versus that of books) and favorite decor. I decided I need a desk with two sides: one for my laptop, and another for all the books and notepads and journals I constantly use for information, ideas, and inspiration. But I absolutely did not want to spend money on this. So I wrapped up an old dog crate with pretty sheets and use that as the second side to my desk. And since I was primed for dreaming, I converted the twin bed to a comfy couch (in my head) where I can retreat to read and sip my mint, lemongrass & ginger tea.

Are you ready to see?

Here’s my new work area:

This room has big windows on three different walls, so there’s lots of lovely natural light coming in. Perfect for sunny dispositions and pretty photos. And staring out into the garden.

The trees outside all have these sweet little white flowers.

And here’s my library on top of a dog crate. This is where I gather all my research and brainstorms.

But the part I love best are all the pretty little things I brought in to look at while I daydream and create. I don’t know if other writers do this, but with my first novel, I had totally had a soundtrack for the book running in my head as I wrote (Enya’s Watermark). With my current one, I have a very solid picture in mind (that I’d probably like to turn into the book cover) of this yellow suitcase standing upright on an emerald green background. But when I’m racking my brain for that perfect word, I like to rest my eyes on happy things.

(Look, there’s Harold! Hi, Harold!) Fresh flowers…these are called Curcuma Siam, or Siamese Tulips. They’re among my favorite flowers. I love how they just rise up out of the leaves like that, and that totally different little orchid-like flowers pop up out of the leaves, like so:

And this is Charlie. He was a gift from my mother, many, many years ago.

And Tuck keeps me company too.

And what writer would truly be a writer without her trusty companion?

I did tuck that doggie bed into a more appropriate corner (and out of the way of foot traffic), but when I went to sit at my desk Dot gave me a look of utter bewilderment, and came over next to me and whined. So I moved the little bed literally two feet closer (and totally in the way of foot traffic), and Dot promptly went over and fell asleep contentedly.

If we owned this house instead of just renting it, I would paint the walls a soft mint green and maybe find some pink or violet accents. Looking at this, it occurs to me the space I’ve created for myself is both childlike and feminine. I’m okay with that. I think I dream that way.


bit by bit, it comes together

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m done seeing that ugly spider at the top of my blog. It’s time he was replaced by someone else we met.

We found this guy at the market yesterday!

Hello little guy!

Except you’re not so little are ya? Man, go to get some oranges, and find yourself a baby elephant…(and die of the cute).

This weekend took it out of us. Both of us are just wiped out today. But that’s okay. I’m ready to take it easy for a couple of days. We did have a productive weekend.

On Saturday, we went and bought our first scooter. A Scoopy!

We call it Scoop-dawg.

That took most of Saturday. Plus we got stuck behind a fixie race.

Yes, folks. You heard that right. Fixies have come to Thailand. Fuggin’ hipsters.

Then Sunday, we acquired more stuff for the house. Pillows, and vases, tea servings and place mats.

It kind of doesn’t look like much, but when your sole transport is a scooter and you have to carry all that stuff slung in a duffel across your back, it does get tiring. Nevertheless, our house is slowly becoming a home. We still don’t have pots or pans, but we can entertain guests well enough to make it feel like a home. Yes, I prioritized decorative pillows over spatulas. Easy to do, when there’s so much yummy street food to eat! … And the European pastries….{drool}. The day European desserts met Asian fancies was a very auspicious day indeed.

Um…so yeah, this is a rambling post. Can you tell I’m tired? I think I’m going to go grab some lunch and maybe do a Thai reading lesson…and otherwise take the day off. There’s still so much to do, but we both need a break.

Happy Monday!

tell it to me tuesdays – sometimes i…

Sometimes I place my hands on my belly…
sometimesI…and wonder what it would feel like to feel another life inside.

How would you finish the phrase: “Sometimes I…”?

The Rules
I think there is real power in the human voice, as flawed as it may be. And when the voices speak together, when you have a multitude of voices speaking, patterns begin to emerge and there you can begin to understand truth. So in the spirit of the personal narrative, I am hosting a weekly challenge every Tuesday morning, where I will post a topic (ranging from the banal to the intimate) and ask readers to respond. I would love to see everyone’s answers and how similar and different they all are.

You can respond in any way you choose. You can give a fictional response or a true one. You can use words, sentences, and/or photographs. If you have a blog, you can link it with Mr. Linky below. Please be sure to include “Tell It To Me Tuesdays” in the title, and link back to this post. Feel free to use the “Tell It To Me Tuesday” button available to the right. If you don’t have a blog, but want to join in, you can just leave a comment. Please follow the rules. I don’t want to have to delete links. I like links! Don’t make me delete them.

Next week’s challenge
: Complete this phrase: “I wish I could say…”

a message for the women

wombI’m sure we’ve all heard of penis envy (Oh Freud, did you ever even talk to a woman, really?) But is there such a thing as womb envy? Do men ever feel envious that they cannot bear life? That the powerful changes and emotions of the pregnancy experience is something they can only try to imagine? Certainly, they provide a necessary and vital function in the creation, protection, and rearing of future generations. But they never feel another heartbeat beside their own. Nor do they feel the warm glow of new life within.

Really, it is truly a magical and wondrous thing: our ability to conceive life. That within our bodies, a separate and (all-too-soon) autonomous being can grow and develop. That we can give nourishment, lavish care, and truly devote our entire lives and beings to another. That we can even bear life so another might experience the joy of motherhood.

And that we, too, are connected to the moon and the oceans, waxing full, and then shedding and beginning again in lunar cycles. (Which, by the way, did you know? Up until a few decades ago, we were told the cramps associated with menarche were merely psychosomatic? It’s a wonder no woman ever punched the lights out of those making such claims. Thankfully for us, it has been scientifically proven it’s not just all in our heads.) And we are connected to each other, converging cycles with those close to us.

Of course, the pain and unpredictability of childbirth is terrifying. And I’m sure the terror and helplessness men feel as they watch their wives bear children is significant in its own right. But the raw power of such self-sacrifice in order to create a beautiful, new life is something only women can know.

Where do you live?

homeI realize a question like that makes me sound like some crazy stalker lady and you all might decamp immediately with your children in tow, but that’s really not how it’s meant. In the next year, my husband and I will have to move from sunny southern California to who-knows-where and I find I haven’t the foggiest idea where I would want to go. (I’m a spoiled brat, what can I say?)

The thing is, I’ve lived in southern California almost all of my life (not counting the first five years where I was born and lived in Mississippi). I’m simply used to having sunny weather, oh, 92% of the time. And not oh-my-god-I’m-roasting-in-an-oven-sunny. A nice temperate 70-degree sunny. I’ve traveled a lot and I know that I can handle super hot and humid weather. I can also handle some cold (down to about 30 degrees), though really I’m not a fan of supercold. I can deal with snow, as long as I don’t have to shovel it from my walk every day. But having lived with the sun for so long, I’m not sure how well I’d deal if it was gone for too long.

woman on bench

I’m also used to having a wide variety of really good ethnic food – ranging from excellent sushi to stunning Indian, Moroccan, Vietnamese, and amazing Mexican (because we, here, know what a good avocado is) – and Asian stores where I can buy coconut milk, curry paste, Asian vegetables I don’t know the English name of, and rice noodles, etc. But you know what does suck about California? Property prices. We are now paying $1,350 a month to rent a 1-bedroom apartment (a shoebox at that) which is pretty much more than a mortgage for a house just about anywhere else in the continental U.S. And I would LOVE to have a house with SPACE. And my husband would be happy anywhere he could go for long, scenic rides on his motorcycle.

As far as society and culture go, we’re in our late twenties now and we do like to go out to nice restaurants, watch movies, and grab a drink at the bar. But we’re also equally happy eating dinner at home and watching DVDs or reading books. We don’t need a fast-paced, high-society life (though we do enjoy it). However, we do need some diversity and things to do whenever we have been cooped up in the house too many days straight.

So these are our considerations when we think of moving somewhere. We’re ready for something new, and would love to live elsewhere for awhile. And for (my) career reasons (my husband works remotely), it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will have to move somewhere else this time next year. But not having lived anywhere else, I’m curious to know about the places other people live, what they think about where they live, and what they love and hate most about their location.

Where do you live or where have you lived? Give me the skinny on what your life as a native is like!
(I realize this is public space on the internet, so only go as specific as you feel comfortable. Responses like “southwest Nebraska” are totally fine!)

Nesting Pains Soothed

For those following the Nesting Pains saga, today we find its culmination. In the final fit of turning Shoebox Apartment into Home, I painted our kitchen cabinets and living room walls (landlord be damned). And the result is deeply satisfying.

I sought to try out a new aesthetic: something along the lines of vintage Victorian; classy, with a little funk.

These were my tools.
This was the coffee I cracked myself out on.
This is what the kitchen used to look like.
This is what it looks like now.
Instead of the drab old gray, I introduced a sunny, minty green. With cute little accents like these.
And these.
Then I took our boring, white living room walls and painted them a lovely, dove gray, which complements so nicely the new kitchen green.
And looks so elegant with the white trim, and blends so well with our new bathroom decor.
I especially love little details like this pink orchid against the gray wall.
And the gorgeous new pillow covers I found on Etsy (from seller Clee27).
I’m still waiting for my new table runner to arrive in the mail, but once it does, my renovations will be complete.

A little paint will go a long way towards soothing one’s soul.

Nesting Pains Continued

In the unending saga of desire to make a nest and call it home to fill with approximately two munchkins, I’ve decided that if I can’t have a real nest at least maybe I can have a half nest and fill it with pretty things to help me pretend I have a real nest.

I recently visited a friend who lives with her husband in an apartment in San Francisco. It’s a two-bedroom, but they’ve decorated with nice furniture. Furnishing we call adult furniture. Not college furniture. Not the fossilized hand-me-downs from parents. Not the Back-To-School sale items from Linens N’ Things, and definitely not the lumpy old couch filled with beer stains, old farts, and that one sticky spot that nobody can quite identify (‘Cuz really, does anyone even remember what happened that one night?).

I bought a townhouse when the market was good and I had a well-paying job, and I remember being overwhelmed with how much it would cost to furnish the townhouse with nice things. It seemed practically empty. But when I made the decision to go to grad school (what was I thinking?), I had to rent that one out, turn it in for a shoebox room in a (crazy) house, shared with other (crazy) people. Enter boyfriend-now-husband, I’ve upgraded to shoebox apartment. And now I’m stuck in a tiny space, with furniture crammed in without an inch to spare.

But the nesting pains are hitting hard, with no end in sight for the foreseeable future. And when it does come time to buy a house, I don’t want to be quite so overwhelmed with all the stuff we’d have to get to fill it properly.

So I figure, in the meantime, it would be worthwhile to at least UPGRADE the stuff we do have. We can exchange the college things we have just because we have to have something to sit on/eat at/cook with, and turn them in for nice things in an aesthetic we actually enjoy (the wedding went a long way towards helping with this). We have nice dishes, stemware, and bedding we adore. We have a big ass flat screen TV (and pretty much everything Apple has come out with). I can’t control the fact that we live in a shoebox, but I can control what a lot of our stuff looks like. With a few low-cost touches, I think we can make our place much nicer, much more OUR OWN, spread out the financial pain of getting stuff to fill a real home, and also try out different aesthetics to get a feel for what we like and what we’ll tire of before committing whole-hog.

Step 1:
Upgrade the bathroom. Now, some of you might remember the fiasco that was our shower tile remodeling. For those who don’t, you really ought to read this post: Construction Madness.

There’s still not much I can do about the navy blue tile, but at least I can hide it behind a shower curtain. And not this one:

This curtain was a gift from Toby’s stepmom (and I’m pretty sure she purchased it with an inordinate amount of glee from Ikea). The little dancing stick animal figures are not entirely my aesthetic, but it was a gift, kind of cute, and it has served us well for several years now. That rug has definitely served its time, having come from my old college roommate, Katie, back in oh-naught. Somehow, move after move, it has ended up in my possession, and I am very ready to retire it.

I saw a gorgeous satin teal and brown shower curtain (honestly, the picture doesn’t do it justice) and had to snap it up immediately.

I got towels and mat to match, and am very pleased with the results. For a full two days afterward, I kept walking by the bathroom just to bask in the glow of excitement for pretty, new decor. (Yes, I am this domestic. Bite me.) I plan to add a couple more accents, but that is for a later post.

Step 2:
Renovate coffee table. We don’t have a dining room; all we have is this coffee table that serves simultaneously as a work station, TV viewing spot, and dining table. It is a hand-me-down from my parents. I’m pretty sure it’s approximately 20 years old, and given perhaps another 10 years, it might actually come back in style. But it is still a perfectly good table, and I think combined with our current living room furniture, would serve really well in a future office, den or game room. It’s worth holding on to, but after 20 years, it definitely collected some dust, grime, and gunk.

So last night I spent a couple of hours scrubbing and sanding it down. I really wish I had the forethought to take a Before picture. But even just cleaning it was a marked improvement. It looked quite pretty.

But this morning, we hauled it out onto the front lawn and I whipped out my trusty little brushes and stained it.

And now it’s all pretty. And shiny! Who knew it could shine? Not me. It just needs to dry a couple more hours, I’ll slip the glass back on and ba-da-bing! Brand new old table. I’ll cover it with this table runner, and our living room will have a much needed face lift.

Steps 3 & 4 will involve painting our living room walls and kitchen cabinets. True, our landlord would have a hissy fit if he found out, but we plan to paint it back when we move out. And I have officially decided I Say No to swiss coffee. I am so tired of that stupid wall paint. From henceforth, my walls shall have color! We have visitors coming this weekend, so next weekend I will continue the decorating extravaganza. So stay tuned! Same bat time. Same bat channel.

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