Tuesday, August 30, 2011

[Jon] Dearest Alice.

This post is also appearing this morning over at Dads Who Change Diapers. Scotty just welcomed a new baby and asked his readers to guest-post with open letters to their children while he's busy with the new addition. 

Dearest Alice,

Today is the day you learned how to yell at me. You learned the valuable life skill of yelling at someone who makes you unhappy and I was given a tremendous opportunity to practice my patience and mercy. One day I will look back fondly with perspective of how adorable today's acts of rebellion were by comparison, when you want to leave the house to "hang out with your friends" in a "what the hell do you think you're wearing?" ensemble. On that day, I'll know there was once a time when it exhausted my soul to shovel sweet potatoes into yours between your shouting, tears, and so-mad-you're-blowing-snot-out-of-your-nose boogers.

I love you, Alice. Tomorrow is a new day.


it was even worse than this, she actually tried to smile for the camera.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

{Book Report} The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

Recently I had lunch with a dear friend just before she hopped in her car and headed East on a cross-country road trip to relocate from LA to Boston. Earlier this summer, she spent a week in Paris with her family and a new camera and I went along vicariously via her photo-filled blog, though I had to limit the time I spent wistfully scrolling through. Her descriptions of their exploits, and the photos that accompanied, made my heart hurt for my favorite city. Though she is partial to Italy in general and Florence in particular, she is awfully fond of macarons, the Eiffel tower, Louboutin, and everything else that sparkles à Paris. Before she left town, she gave me a very sweet parting gift, indeed.

David Lebovitz' newest book is a collection of essays, anecdotes and recipes from his time living the sweet life in Paris as an expat chef who needed a fresh view. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet but I trust they will be as fabulous as always. The scope encompasses a nice balance of courses and a good range of French dishes (gateau Breton au Sarrasin, et Socca) and non-French dishes (pork ribs and cheesecake), and even some dishes that one longs for when in France long-term (chocolate mole! carnitas!). All are a welcome addition to my collection, but I am going to try the espresso-caramel ice cream before anything else. 

I follow David's blog where he shares recipes and current travels and tidbits, so I already know that I love his writing style and content (and his ice cream cookbook, his marshmallows, and his salted caramel sauce). He did not let me down here; he's funny and conversational, and charmingly humble and self-deprecating. It's refreshing to read humorous memoir essays that aren't cynical and pretentiously self-conscious the way so many others are (can you hear me, Augusten Burroughs?). Both the essays and recipe introductions are well-written and usually cleverly connected. The recipes feel like dessert for every chapter, thoughtfully chosen for the content of the meal with a charming explanation by your host. 

So aside from being charming and appetizing and making me laugh out loud, David's experiences in Paris made me nostalgic for the semester I spent there as a student abroad. He highlights the kind of idiosyncrasies that are laughably maddening to those who relocate or even just visit, especially if they're coming from America. As I was reading, I contemplated whether this book would be helpful for someone to absorb before they set out to visit or move to Paris.

David provides a lighthearted and comprehensive overview of the kinds of things that might confound an American in the city of lights. None of it should discourage someone from booking a trip, though if read before visiting, I do think that these anecdotes could prematurely influence one's perception of Paris. Then again, that could help ease the transition and culture shock for first-time visitors.

If you're like me, and enjoy pre-vacation research, then put this at the top of your pre-Paris reading list. Or, if you've already been enchanted by the patisseries and je ne sais quois and want to fondly remember each instance when you were amazed by the glaring lack of capitalism, intimidated by the staggering bureaucracy of every task, and baffled by the absence of shower curtains and drinking water, then put this on your wishlist. 

Or if you're simply an armchair traveler, then whip up some macarons au chocolat or chocolat chaud or pour yourself a kir or a coffee (Italian, not French, s'il vous plaît!), put on some Edith Piaf and settle in for a delightful glimpse into David's "delicious adventures in the world's most glorious - and perplexing - city."

Do you have any Parisian anecdotes? Have you read any good books lately??

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How she sleeps.

top/bottom left: practicing sleep ballet; bottom right: sitting underwater, or sleep hula. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How she sleeps.

 Some time ago, I saw an online discussion about the merits of baby monitors and whether they are necessary. Many people chimed in with comments about how their house was so small they didn't need a baby monitor. I quietly disagreed...

We're big fans of our Angelcare monitor, but when we were putting our registry and our nursery together, we decided to get a video monitor as well. I mean, why not, right?? We have a small house, too, and definitely don't need any kind of monitor to tell us when there's a baby crying. But that's not what these monitors are for. The Angelcare provides great peace of mind, and I would definitely recommend it to every parent. And the video monitor is super useful in it's own right. How else would we know when she needs a pacifier reload, or a limb extracted from the slats? But really, it just makes me happy. And I would recommend that for every parent as well.

I love being able to see my sweet baby even when she's sleeping in her own bed. I call it "the baby channel," and it's surprisingly addicting. Her grandparents all love the baby channel, and anyone who's ever babysat her has found themselves glued to the screen as well while she snores happily away, undisturbed by our voyeurism. 

Though I do wish that it could take and export photos and video, at some point I realized that I could at least record the images with my iPhone. I've been collecting photos of sleeping Alice for a few months now and have finally gotten around to posting them here. I will start sharing small compilations until I can catch up to the present, and will have some hilarious videos to share soon. We'll call this feature "How She Sleeps."

I hope you enjoy these - I highly recommend getting your hands on a baby channel of your own...

clockwise: Face first; a galumphing wild animal; a little beetle flies away; and one sleeping jig.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Faces in Space (and on a jet)

In honor of National Aviation Day, the Walt Disney Family Museum has an interesting post on a little-known bit of history between Walt Disney and Roald Dahl.

And I thought it would also be appropriate to share a little of Jon's love of aviation!

Jon writes:
young Jon, learning to fly
For those new to our lives, I’m a certified aviation nut. It’s something I’ve been obsessed with for most of my life—I even started to fly with high hopes and intentions of one day becoming an airline pilot. I did eventually realize that didn’t jive with the type of homebody I am, constantly wanting to be close to those I love. I suppose I hadn’t felt that when I was considering that life path. Long story short, I am not an airline pilot, but the love obsession continues. Not a day goes by that I don’t look up. More evidence? We have a small-ish airport a few miles away that a number of major airlines service, that undoubtedly every neighbor of ours wishes would disappear. Not me. Our realtor had the easiest time with us. We actually considered properties for their view and exposure to the flight paths. And now, I have an unobstructed view of every departure. Now that you have a little background, you'll know why the rest of this post is so exciting for me.
Jon & the Concorde, at Seattle's Museum of Flight
Last September, I signed Alice and I up to have our “faces” travel on one of the last Space Shuttle missions. They took a hard drive with photo files of all the participants’ faces on it along for the ride and back. Ours flew on STS-134, Endeavour’s final flight, which also happens to be the ship that Los Angeles’ very own California Science Center will receive for a permanent static display in the near future.
I also happened to see a little Facebook contest put on by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines a couple of months back to “Delft Yourself” for a chance to have your face on the side of one of their airplanes along with 4,000 of your new Delft friends. I gave it a go and they picked mine! While this face will never see what my face in space saw, it will be on one special KLM 777 and travel the world. 

The Facebook contest preview of my face in Delft.
They even sent me a video of my Delft tile being applied to the plane. Here are a few screen grabs:

and a shot of the tiled plane
And here's a link to a full shot of the plane.
Oh, and the quote, it says, “Keep Moving Forward.” Which is the truncated version of Walt Disney’s: 
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
And speaking of aviation, we're looking for a cute outfit for Alice's first plane trip. Maybe something like this, from The Boeing Store:
And since they don't sell onesies with this slogan, she'll just have to wear this sticker, too!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Ben Team - Fundraising for Youth Suicide Prevention

Next month, our family will walk to support the Second Wind Fund of Metro Denver in their efforts to prevent youth suicide.

SWFMD began as a church picnic fundraiser in response to four youth suicides in their community. Now, 10 years later, the SWFMD 5K Music Festival is the largest suicide prevention event in the nation. The funds raised provide free, professional counseling to youth at risk for suicide. Their mission is to decrease the incidence of youth suicide by removing financial and social barriers for at-risk youth. Since 2002, they have made 2,300 referrals from 300 schools in the Denver area.

The SWFMD explains that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens and that in surveying suicidal individuals, a high proportion are concerned about the cost of treatment. Among those surveyed who have considered suicide, 62% stated that the expense of treatment was a factor in why they did not seek help. The SWFMD provides at least eight FREE sessions to each youth referred to the program, when on average, it takes less than five therapy sessions to move most youth away from considering suicide as a viable option.

Our family is aiming to raise $1,000 to help support the efforts of SWFMD. You can learn more about the organization and this annual event on their website at SWFMD.org. If you would like to help support this cause and our family fundraising goal, please visit the page for The Ben Team. Any donations would be very much appreciated, by our family and by the families who will hopefully never have to face losing a precious life to suicide. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Recent randomness

Sorry for the radio blog silence around here these days. I feel like we've been busy but couldn't really tell you with what. Certainly nothing interesting or blog-able, that's for sure and I've pretty much forgotten how to take a photo in the last few weeks. But here are some of the random bits and pieces that we've been up to.

On my birthday, we went to the Glendale Americana in search of some cheesecake. I spied a sign for the L.A. Creamery and amended my plans to include small batch artisanal ice cream instead. Jon and I both had the salted caramel; he paired his with tiramisu and I chose the honeycomb - luxurious honey with addictive little crunches of sweet comb. I had inappropriate dreams about both flavors for days after, until I could arrange for an encore visit later the same week. I got the salted caramel again (because I really, really love salted caramel) with brown butter pecan. So good. It was especially sweet because of the two friends I was with, former officemates who have moved on to grander adventures.

I also tasted their beer ice cream, made with Newcastle, but didn't think the beer flavor was strong enough. I tasted the basil/feta but thought that too salty a cheese for a sweet cream base. The basil was very interesting though, I would have liked to try it with a lighter flavor. Maybe cucumber? Or watermelon, or cantaloupe! Anyway, I was super excited to find such an interesting, high-quality, high-value treat within the radius I'm willing to travel. It's a nice reward (within my price range) for when I force myself to brave the parking lots and crowds for clothes that are also within my price range (which always makes me think of this awesome music video about Glendale - not for the easily offended).

Jon's parents came up to visit last weekend so they could get some baby time. They ordered us out of the house so we could have some adult time. And what super romantic, super exciting plans did we make? We test drove a Subaru and various umbrella strollers, and then walked to our favorite neighborhood watering hole for some beer and board games. We are the most exciting people I know. Everyone says that having children will change your life, but I have good news for childless people everywhere: we were this boring before we had a kid, it's definitely not her fault. I am sure that you will be able to maintain your life of fabulousness when you have kids...

We're in the beginning stages of research gathering and budgeting for a new car. Our plan is to sell Jon's car and transition into a one-car family. Then, when we've figured out what we want and how to afford it, we'll sell my car and upgrade to something newer and safer. It's been about eleven years since I've been car shopping and it's a much different experience this time. Not entirely unfun, but more of a hassle and less of a thrill than one hopes. We're zeroing in on our top choice and on our finances, so it might start to get exciting soon!

Alice's first plane trip is coming up soon so we're working on our strategy for traveling with a one-year old. We decided we needed a cheapie umbrella stroller for this and future trips, especially since we'll be renting a car and I like our Baby Trend jogger too well to risk damaging it on an airplane. Although Jon just admitted that he wouldn't buy our stroller again, I've been really happy with it. I think it's a great value but I think he'd probably be happier with a pricier, designer rig. If we ever need a double stroller, I think we might splurge on some nicer wheels.

Anyway, I'd done a little research on umbrella strollers and narrowed my sights on three options: the Kolcraft Countours Lite, the Chicco Capri, and the Kolcraft Tour Sport Umbrella - all under $65. On our super romantic date, we headed to Babies "R" Us to see if they had any of these models in the store that we could take for a spin. I also wanted to see if they had any secret options to discover. Of the three I was interested in, they only had the Chicco and we pretty much hated it right off the bat. Luckily, there were a few good secret options. The BRU model was decent for under $30 but the Lamaze LS50 Lightweight was better made so we tried it out instead. I'd heard good things about the Maclaren Triumph but had ruled it out at $170+. I couldn't stop Jon before he pulled it off the shelf, though, and neither of us could resist it's charm. It was seriously dreamy.

We glided around with that Maclaren, turning it with a mere flick of the wrist, our feet nowhere near the wheels (why is this such a problem with umbrellas??), folded and unfolded it with ease in seconds flat. It reclined, like, really far. We were smitten. We were seriously considering paying $100 more than planned for this slick and smooth ride. Then, Jon tried to unbuckle it and just like that, the love affair was over. I tried it for myself and couldn't believe they blew it so bad on the buckle. It was bad. Like you may never get your kid out of that stroller. You'll have to take them to college in that thing.

Comparing online between Amazon and BRU it looks like the Amazon photo is a different model with a different buckle so maybe the BRU is selling an older model (don't tell Jon). In any case, we eventually decided to go with the Lamaze. At $50, it fit what we were wanting to spend and seems like a good value. It doesn't recline as far as the Maclaren but it DOES come with a nifty soft-sided cup holder/zipper compartment accessory. It folds up easily and will be easy to take in the airport and on the plane and throw in the trunk of a rental car. The whole point was to get something we weren't emotionally and financially attached to, and I'm afraid we'd be heartbroken if we had to buy that Maclaren again. 
the winner - secret option C: Lamaze LS 50 Lightweight 
We needed a drink after all that station wagon and stroller shopping. I think Tony's Darts Away would still be our favorite bar in town even if there were more bars in town to choose from. It's definitely the best we can walk to, and according to their website, has the best beer selection in LA, was voted in the USA top 100 beer bars and #23 of 50 in the world. Not too shabby. They are a no bottle, low-waste bar, pouring only California craft beers and have a tasty selection of vegan and non-vegan morsels. Plus, it's pretty family friendly and there are BOARD GAMES! I mean, what's not to love? We probably shared one too many glasses, but we were having too much fun playing Brew Master and making up our own clever beer names. Naming your creations isn't officially part of the game but it was our favorite part, especially with all the educational info on the different varieties of yeast, malt, and hops. 

The next day, we ventured out of our neighborhood for a social engagement in Los Feliz/Silverlake. We were going to bid bon voyage to one of my best friends heading off on the trip of a lifetime. We were headed just a block from the brand-new Broome Street General Store which has the blogosphere all ablaze, so I definitely wanted to stop in. I had wanted to go down there early, check out the goods, get a coffee and a treat and explore the nearby Rowena Resevoir but Alice foiled that plan with an extended afternoon nap. She left us just enough time to pop in, take a look around, ask Eric behind the counter to move the store to Burbank, and leave. I'd like to go back for the picturesque outing I imagined, but I'd love even more to just walk around the corner whenever I need to pick up a thoughtful and unique gift or linger over a cup of legendary coffee. 

Clearly, I've had about all the excitement I could handle lately and almost keeled over when the Lake Street Creamery truck pulled up to my office on Wednesday. I tried to pretend it wasn't happening, but when I heard about the flavors (Donut? Aztec Sacrifice? Pancake Breakfast?!?), I couldn't resist. I stood in an intimidating line for my very own lick of Don Draper and oh my word, it was SO worth it. Vanilla, bourbon and smoke topped with caramel accompanied with a scoop of "Cup of Joe" made me weak in the knees. And I don't even like bourbon. But man alive, I love Don Draper and I love ice cream. And I love videos of kittens. If the rumors are true and these folks open shop in my town, I will face quite the dilemma when choosing where to get my ice cream fix.

In yard news, Jon finally bested and buried the stump. He's out back now, making some good progress on the next steps with a good friend of ours he enlisted for help. He is thrilled to finally be moving on to the next phases, with the prospect of planting a lawn in the fall looking more and more likely. 

And in Alice news, she is finally cutting her last molar and FINALLY walking on her own accord. It's still not her primary mode of transportation but I don't have to coax her any more! 
A is for Alice.
What have YOU been up to lately? Bought any good cars? Or strollers? Been on any good dates?