Sunday, May 1, 2022

Blog Template 2

Title of Section 1

What I Avoid:

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Why? One anecdote:

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The Problem with XYZ

What I DO Instead:

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How this Can Work:

One-Word Summary

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For more ideas, see my post titled link.

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Friday, January 7, 2022

Reflecting

I got this list of questions from the Lazy Genius blog. I'm only going to answer some of them. Here are my answers:

  1. What is my favorite memory from last year? ...Possibly our friends' daughter's fourth birthday party at the trampoline gym, because it's one of the only normal things we did (it was scheduled at a time when even our six-year-old was vaccinated, but before the Omicron spike). It was so fun to see everyone together.
  2. What was the most energizing thing I did? ...I started working out for 15-20 minutes a day in August. This effort began after a single conversation I had with two girl friends on a beach vacation, and thus began our daily group chat check-in.
  3. What am I glad I tried? ...To use my Instapot, which was intimidating.
  4. What relationship brought me joy? ...All of them.
  5. What experience brought me joy? ...Any time I went hiking at my favorite park.
  6. What was my favorite place? ...The best seat on my couch at home. It's small, but it's hygge.
  7. What was my favorite outfit? ...Green corduroy skirt. Black long-sleeved t-shirt. A necklace my oldest son gave me. Or maybe my light-blue floral maxi dress and my turquoise necklace?
  8. What was my favorite book? ...Hello, Habits.
  9. What has changed in me that I’m proud of? ...I think the older I get, the less I worry about what other people think of me.
  10. What made me laugh? ...Most of the things our six-year-old says.
  11. What was something that felt hard at the start of last year but is easier now? ...Breastfeeding.
  12. What is something I’m really glad happened? ....That we survived the year relatively healthfully.
  13. What did I miss? ...Going grocery shopping at Target with my 8-year-old, which was something we started doing together routinely just before the pandemic started.
  14. Who did I miss? ...My friend that moved to the Ukraine for work.
  15. What made me feel like myself? ...Any time the house was clean.
  16. What words would I use to describe last year? ...Simple, minimal, stressful, unusal.
  17. What words would I use to describe myself last year? ...Hanging in there.
  18. What mattered most last year? ...Spending time with my kids. Being the best I can be at work.
  19. What didn’t matter as much as I thought it would? ...Buying a house. I thought it was really important to both my spouse and I, but I found that it was way more important to me than to him.
  20. What did I learn about myself last year? ...I feel more edgy about aging than I thought I did. I feel a lot younger than I am.
  21. How do I want to feel about myself next year? ...Proud.
  22. What do I want to bring from last year into this year? ...Confidence.
  23. What do I think will matter this year? ...Patience.
  24. What habits/rituals/rhythms do I hope for? ...To continue to workout daily, to continue to invest, to continue to learn new things daily, and to continue to be a supportive friend.
  25. What do I want to start? ...Learning to cook Indian dishes at home.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The "Chonker" at Age 1






A. His Schedule – He usually wakes up at around 7 a.m. and goes to sleep for the night around 7 p.m. (later on lazy days, and earlier on more hurried days or daycare days). He takes a morning nap at about 10 a.m.

B. His Size – He's wearing size 18-month clothes and size 6 shoes. Currently, he's wearing size 4 Pampers.

C. His Personality – He is a charming, smiley baby. As long as he is well-fed and well-rested, he's irresistibly content. We affectionately nicknamed him "the Chonker" because he's a chunky baby who is pretty large for his age.

D. His Favorite Things
  • Colors: He looks great in green and yellow.
  • Shows and Movies: He doesn't really enjoy TV yet but he loves listening to music. He'll even bob back and forth like he's dancing.
  • Books: He doesn't like to sit still to be read to but does enjoy a book with some texture to it.
  • Toys and Play: He is currently loving a set of sleigh bells and an elephant with a light-up tummy. He also loves his mobile.
  • Art: We haven't done much art with him yet, which is one thing I miss about the daycare center that my older children went to - they did art daily there.
  • Activities: He is still pretty cuddly. He likes to play independently but near us (he does not like it if myself or his dad leave the room or go outside without him).
  • Words: His favorite words to say are "mama" and "dada."
  • Time of Day: He likes mornings a lot.
  • Bedding: He loves a mint-colored baby blanket from Target and recognizes that it is his (he will hug it when he sees it).
  • Clothing: He looks great in anything but one of our favorite things to put him in is a brightly-colored zip-up jacket and faux jeans.
  • Foods: Besides milk, he likes to eat whatever we're eating. Oyster crackers are a frequent snack.
  • Animals: He seems really fond of our dog and our cat. He likes to make friends with both people and animals.
  • Heroes/Characters: He doesn't have a favorite hero yet, but he does seem to idolize his oldest brother.
E. Things He Does Not Like – When his sister turns on the light and keeps him awake by talking and singing (they share a bedroom and he values his sleep far more than she does).

F. What He’s Thinking About – Despite being pint-sized, he really wants to be included in whatever his family is doing.

G. Surprises – He's such a sweet baby! I am surprised at how well he and his oldest brother and sister get along. They all really gel well together without a lot of competition or jealously.

H. Best & Worst Things –
  • The best thing(s): He seems to have a special bond with his oldest brother. He also seems to really dig me. It feels so good to have a special place in his heart.
  • The worst thing(s): Our six-year-old is not a fan of the Chonker (or his sister). I don't know why since they don't need to compete over resources as they're interested in different toys, different foods, etc. There's enough love to go around.
I. Family and Friends – My mom seems to really have a special bond with the Chonker, perhaps because the Chonker looks the most similar to me at this age? Or perhaps it's because he's so well-behaved? My middle children are frequently bouncing off the walls, but my oldest and the Chonker are pretty mellow by comparison.

J. Parenting or What I’m Doing Differently
 – Given the pandemic is still ongoing, the Chonker has had a somewhat sheltered existence as he doesn't get to go to many places or see crowds. I think I am at the apex of my parenting journey as I am more patient than I have ever been, and thanks to not having to commute to work because of teleworking, I am the least exhausted and the most present.

K. Milestones – He can't walk yet but he's getting so close.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Colors in Your Home, Simplified

Ideas

We all know someone who raves about their capsule wardrobe. The idea is simple - have a set of items that all goes together so that you can mix-and-match everything together and still have it look great. In practice, it's not that simple. What if you love the color red but it looks terrible on you? Will your look be too boring or dull? Do the colors vary seasonally?

You can do the same thing with your home - stick to a set "collection" of colors so that you can move things about your house "recklessly" yet still have things look cohesive.

How many colors is right for you

This will vary from person to person and how specific you want to get. For some people, "blue" is a color, and for other people "navy," "aqua," and "sky blue" are all separate entities. I think in general, the closer together your colors are (e.g. tan and ochre), the more colors you can add in without things starting to look chaotic.

Steps

Look to the following things for inspiration and try to grab a collection of colors from there:
  • Your clothing wardrobe
  • Your favorite vacation spot
  • Your favorite restaurant or store
  • The place where you grew up
  • Your favorite relative's home
Create a Pinterest board that has the vibe you are going for. Don't focus so much on what the images you gather are of - collect images of not just rooms but also clothing, jewelry, makeup - literally anything that has that "vibe" that you are going for.

What Colors Do I Use at Home

Pre-pandemic, I would say that I was less laser-focused on my home color palette. The upper floor tended to have cooler colors (blues and greens) and the lower level had warmer colors (pinks and yellows).

In 2020, my colors at home were mostly whites and blue-greens or greenish-blues. Colors like jade, teal, and aqua popped up regularly.

In 2021, I used less white, kept gravitating to aqua, and added lime green. Frankly, looking at lime green makes me happy, and 2021 was a pretty dark year globally, so that's why I added it. Basically, I swapped in a new "energizing" color.

I find that my laser-focus makes it really easy to buy things for my home because I'm not looking at ALL. THE. THINGS. on Amazon (or the internet) - I am just looking at the things that fit my specific color palette, which automatically weeds out 90% of the products in a given category. For example, I might need a whisk. So I will either go to Amazon and type in "whisk, aqua," then sort by highest average rating. Or, I will go to Google and type in "whisk, turquoise" and pick the first one that will meet my needs, i.e. whisk food and not break in two uses.

Floral Party

This is my idea for a simple floral-themed party.

Products, All Ages

Cups (reusable or disposable), Napkins (reusable or disposable), Tablecloth (reusable or disposable), and Cake Stand (reusable or disposable), and Icing

Products, Children or Those Young at Heart

Coloring Books, Colored Pencils, Leis, Balloons, and Floral Temporary Tattoos

Ideas

If you set your party up for the middle of the afternoon, it's both tea time and more affordable than throwing a traditional meal-time part (lunch or dinner). Depending on the age range of the guests, you could serve cucumber tea sandwiches and tea, or cookies and juice.

The Cake Itself

You could buy a cake or cupcakes, but we prefer to use a cake mix to bake two 8-inch cakes (they will bake up higher than 9-inch cakes), then stack them on top of each other, and decorate the cake with a cake decorating kit, icing, and sprinkles.

Coffee, Simplified

There's more than one way to get from here to Piscataway. Here are the methods that I've used to make coffee, and my thoughts.

Prep - Buying ground coffee versus grinding your beans yourself

Assuming you're not using Keurig K-cups, you'll need to grab a bag of coffee. I personally prefer to buy whole bean coffee (here is our favorite brand) and ground it at home using an inexpensive coffee grinder.

Coffee-Grinding Products

If you're going to grind your coffee beans, you can use an electric coffee grinder, a cheap manual grinder, or an expensive manual grinder if you're a perfectionist. I value ease of use more than anything, so I think you can guess which one I use, even though it doesn't get the grinds to be all of the same size.

Steps for Coffee Grounds

If you're siding with me on this one, just dump in 2 tablespoons of beans per cup of finished coffee and pulse for 15-20 seconds in the electric grinder, then dump your freshly ground coffee into your coffee maker. Because I'm safety-conscious, I always unplug my grinder right after using it and never leave it plugged in. If your coffee is already ground, measure and dump in two tablespoons of ground coffee per intended finished cup of coffee.

Coffee & Cups

In case you're wondering, this is  our favorite coffee, and these are our favorite coffee mugs (18 oz, oh yeah!).

French Press Method - my spouse's method

French Press Method, the Products

For this, my spouse uses a manual French press, a microwave (to heat up the water first), and a large measuring cup (to measure and heat up water). I would not recommend an Ikea French press as we've broken three of them.

Steps for French Press Method

So what my spouse does is heat up water in the microwave, then dump the ground coffee into the base of the French press, followed by four cups of water (assuming your French press holds that much water), then set a timer for four minutes. After the timer goes off, he plunges downward and pours out the finished coffee. Your could totally heat your water in an electric tea kettle if you prefer. I personally wouldn't want to wait for water to heat up on the stovetop in a regular kettle, but you could do that instead.

Electric Coffee-Maker Method - my method

Electric Coffee-Maker Method, the Products

For this, I use a small cheap electric coffee maker and a reusable filter. I chose my coffee maker because it was simple (I didn't want to learn how to set it the night before). You could use disposable filters but that's one more thing to remember to re-buy, and if you have a mini/5-cup coffee maker like me (not a big mama/12-cup sized coffee maker) then you have to watch up because it's easy to buy the too-big size of coffee filter by mistake.

Steps of Electric Coffee Maker Method

Ah yes, friends, this is the method that I find the easiest. I am not a morning person nor do I have a lot of time, so this works for me. Just pour your ground coffee into the reusable filter (or buy and use disposable ones if you prefer), use the pot it comes with to pour 5 cups of water into the reservoir, flick on the switch, and wait.

Pour-Over Method - my mom's method

Pour-Over Products

She uses disposable filters, a ceramic holder/dripper, her microwave (to heat up the water), and a small/1-cup measuring cup.

Steps for Pour-Over Method

This is my mom's preferred method. It's low-tech for sure. She will put the ceramic device over her coffee cup, put a filter in it, and slowly pour the hot water (usually heated up in the microwave) over it. As said above for the French press method, you could heat your water up in an electric kettle or over the stove instead.

Keurig Method - good for office building setups

Keurig Method, the Products

At work, we have a Keurig machine and I buy K-cups and use a travel mug. At this point, I'd recommend the large-sized Keurig machine with reservoir, not a smaller Keurig machine, given my office has broken two of the smaller ones. Optional: water filter (to fill your Keurig machine with). Pro-tip: measure carefully since not all travel mugs will fit under the Keurig's spout.

In lieu of buying disposable k-cups, you could buy a reusable basket and fill it with your own grounds, which is possibly less expensive and more eco-friendly, in addition to taking up less space to store (K-cups are bulky). But to me, the kind of person who likes a Keurig is also the kind of person who doesn't think they have time to fiddle with cleaning out a reusable basket. And if you have the space for a Keurig, you probably have the space to comfortably store a month's supply of bulky k-cups. 

Steps for Keurig Method

If you have a Keurig with a large water reservoir, you just plop your cup under the spout, put in your k-cup, and hit the button for your desired amount of coffee (I always choose medium). If you're an economizing sort of person (I am) you can get a second, weaker cup of coffee out of your k-cup, which I liked to drink in the afternoon. If your maker doesn't have a large reservoir, you fill it up each time you make a cup of coffee (I just use a clean cup to transfer water from the sink to the reservoir). If you have a Keurig, I recommend descaling it periodically - here's how.

My Favorite Coffee

I would be remiss if I did not mention that our favorite coffee at my house is Stumptown. You can find it in the supermarket or get a subscription, either from Stumptown directly, or from Amazon. One honorable mention for good coffee is Black Rifle Coffee.

Finishing Touches

A Final Flourish, the Products

I use an electric frother and a 16-oz metal cup to froth whole milk. You could instead froth cream or a less fatty milk. According to Google, you could even froth almond milk.

Steps to Frothing Milk

What we do is put about a fourth-cup of milk into a cup (either a 16-oz metal cup or a small measuring cup, grab our battery-operated frother, and go at it until the milk's consistency is light and airy.

Age-Specific Hiking with Kids Recommendations

 Specifically for Babies

Milk & Formula Nothing is worse than a hungry baby and no milk, so I pack this thing up with three pre-portioned formula servings, plus I pack a couple of bottles of water. Additionally, I pack two baby bottles loaded up with breastmilk in a lunch box with a couple of ice packs, and all of my pumping equipment, including back-up parts. I leave the pumping equipment in the car, of course.

Carrying the Baby We like this style of baby-carrier for comfort and ease of use.

Breaks Putting the baby down for a break is sometimes awkward as there is no great place for the baby to roam - you don't want the baby to fall into water or crawl through something yucky. I tend to just take a beach blanket and watch the baby closely during breaks.

Specifically for Toddlers

Conveyances We like this one for carrying toddlers. We like this wagon for slightly older kids for gentle terrain (obviously not going to work if it's rocky).

Breaks & Snacks We like to take a break at roughly the halfway point, and eat snacks. We value the ease of the snacks and how much they please the kids over nutritional value on our hikes, so we like sip-ups, fruit snacks, and individual bags of chips. We have picky eaters, but other snack ideas are boxes of raisins or carrot sticks.

Shoes If water is going to be involved, Crocs make life easy. If money were no object, we'd get the kids their own hiking boots, but they're twice as expensive as regular shoes and the kids' feet grow so quickly. So if not Crocs, then we put our kids in tennis shoes or, if they need more grip, then we put them in duck boots since, although expensive, duck boots do double duty as snow boots and can usually be worn when they're one size too big or too small. Whatever you do, don't let your kids wear sandals to go hiking - the sandals will get soggy, or break, or start to rub awkwardly.

Specifically for Elementary School Aged Children

Motivation The fun snacks and the break halfway through definitely help.

Breaks& Snacks Read above under the toddler section as the same holds true for us.

Walking Sticks You can buy a children's walking staff, but honestly you might just be better off choosing a lightweight adult-sized one since it can do double-duty. Use with caution, as you don't want a sword fight to break out.

Shoes Read above under the toddler section as the same holds true for us.