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See you next year!

As the year winds down I have taken a little break from blogging but plan to return to my regular (irregular) schedule in the new year! I hope you all had a wonderful December however you celebrate. I have been doing a lot of reading and baking as well as a lot of playing with all the new toys Diego has received. I think I have more fun that he does ūüėČ

See you soon!

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Changes and making friends

This post will probably be all over the place but I wanted to sort out my thoughts and feelings by way of a blog post. I have a love/hate relationship with change. Big, sudden changes that I am not anticipating tends to rattle me in a negative way but I do enjoy change. I think that even small changes can have positive effects on us. Every now and then an article will pop up about the benefits of making big changes in your life. Moving to a new city or even country is touted as an important part of our journey of self-discovery. Many people feel this is so and use their own experiences as anecdotes of this. While I do agree that having lived in Botswana was a very positive, and privileged time¬†in my life I don’t think that it’s for everybody. Obviously, at the time I was a child and did not have a say in the matter but regardless of how difficult the transition was for our family I cannot deny that the move afforded me many opportunities I probably would not have had otherwise. For one I became fluent in English. I also took five years of French. I also got to experience different cultures and had many friendships with kids from around the world. I learned all about the bush, went camping, had the pleasure of diarrhea while camping (while in the middle of a Kalahari thunderstorm) and got to visit beautiful places around Africa. Those experiences made me who I am today. Traveling opens our eyes and our minds. I firmly believe everybody should do more of it but I also realize that it’s easier said than done. For one thing traveling costs money and lack of money is prohibitive for many.

For me, change can be very exciting and even small changes can have big effects in our lives. I recently sold our guest bed and desk in order to turn Diego’s room into a toddler room. It has been very exciting to see the transformation and the fact that our living room no longer resembles a disaster zone is an added bonus. When there is clutter and mess around me I feel frazzled. Sometimes I can’t tell this is so until I tidy up and a sense of calm washes over me.

This month I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo (I have written 16,698 words so far!). This is also a change. I added something to my plate which will challenge me. It has challenged me to change my routine and it has also challenged my writing and my creative mind. I am not writing this novel because I have any hopes to ever publish it, nor do I fancy myself a great author but it’s something different and an exercise in starting something and finishing it. Meeting my daily writing goal fills me with an immense sense of accomplishment. In fact, this sense of productivity is what prompted me to finally convert Diego’s room. I am getting things done, why not do this, too?

Changes  can tie into each other. Changing around some furniture might make you see the space in a whole new way and that will prompt you into something else. My point is, that even small, seemingly unimportant changes can have a big impact in our lives.

One of the biggest changes of the past two years was having my son. The impact of my pregnancy was huge. I stopped working and became a stay at home person. I look at motherhood as an addition to a house. It’s still the same house but with something extra. This ties into another thing I’ve been thinking about and that is friendships ¬†between child-free women and moms. I was perhaps a bit naive to think that having a child should not make me an undesirable friend but it turns out that for some people it does. The complaint is that parents do nothing but talk about kid things with other parents. I have many friends who don’t have children and I don’t feel like our friendship has suffered but maybe I am wrong. Do they perhaps see me differently? I don’t feel like my identity is wrapped up in the fact that I am a wife and mother. I’m still me. I still have other interests besides my son. I love him dearly but I don’t need to monopolize conversations with tales about him. That’s just not who I am.

For me, being a mom felt lonely in the beginning. I hadn’t realized how most of my socialization came with working. That’s where I met my friends. We had lunch together daily and even hung out on weekends. Now some of those friends have moved to other states and others I simply lost contact with. I remember trying to engage with a few but I quickly learned that out of sight out of mind was true. We didn’t see each other everyday and maybe they assumed since I had a baby I had ceased to exist. Most of my friends are now living inside my phone. In my messaging apps and contact list. I don’t get to see them in person often. I haven’t joined a mommy and me group (I fear I won’t fit in since I’m not an overachieving mommy) and Diego is not yet in preschool. I also dislike the idea that all women with children should¬†be lumped together.¬†I don’t need playdates for myself.

I have made a lot of friends online, which I never thought was possible. These aren’t just people I occasionally shoot the breeze with, these are wonderful women who share their lives with me. We exchange packages and even meet each other in person. Some of them have kids and some don’t. It’s not something that ever makes the slightest bit of difference to me.

People change all the time. It’s part of life. Some of these changes cause us to drift apart but that’s not necessarily the case. I remember when my friends started to have babies and I recall feeling very much left behind. Even though at the time I was not sure that I wanted to have a child the fact that my peers had taken the plunge made me scrutinize my own choices. ¬†I quickly learned that there was nothing wrong with my life. I was traveling my own journey. Being genuinely happy for our friends is wonderful. Leaving doubt, and self-judgment behind is liberating.

To me, change and friendships have an obvious connection which is why I decided to write about it. Changes in my life have brought new, amazing people into my life. I did lose some along the way but the people that truly matter to me have all stuck around. I still keep in touch with a few high school friends. Perhaps not as often as we’d like but we reach out to each other from time to time and it always feels like it always did. Those friendships are special to me.

Back on the topic of inciting change in our lives, travel and a move are obvious big ticket items but how about reading? Reading allows us to travel for free. Most libraries have e-books now which means you don’t even have to leave your house in order to borrow a book. My goal this year has been to read more diversely. I had been reading a lot of fanfiction and a lot of romance and I was itching for something more. I will pretty much read anything but I had fallen in a rut reading the same stories written by the same people. By becoming more aware of what I was reading I have been able to discover new voices and perspectives.

I have also tried out a lot of new foods this year. New recipes that have expanded my skills in the kitchen and challenged my abilities. These changes did not take me far from home but they took me far in other ways.

My take aways from this venting session: it’s difficult to make friends as adults. I believe that having or not having children shouldn’t affect a friendship, unless it does… Change is necessary, big and small changes matter.

How about you? How do you feel about change?

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Book Fridays- Norwegian Wood

Haruki Murakami has been an author I’ve wanted to read for a while. I have a couple of his books on my TBR list. When a friend of mine told me she was reading Norwegian Wood I decided to read it with her. I had not heard of this book before but I was excited to finally experience some Murikami. I borrowed the e-book from my library and got started right away. But not before skimming over some reviews over on Goodreads. A lot of readers seem to dislike this book, which if I am correct is the book that actually launched his career. Quite a few reviewers were of the opinion that this was his weakest work.

What I found was that I absolutely loved this book. The characters were very compelling though at times unlikeable. The story is a¬†Bildungsroman¬†through and through. The story follows Toru Watanabe as he figures out his various relationships with men and women. On the romantic side we have Naoko who Toru has known since high school. They share a common tragedy and this both brings them together and tears them apart. Then we have Midori, a spunky girl who is on the opposite side of the spectrum as Naoko. Toru’s relationship with these two women is muddled.

Then we have Toru’s roommate, Storm Trooper. This character disappears fairly early on but he does have a lasting impact on Toru. His only friend is a law student that’s two years older than him. They bond over liking the same book. Nagasawa is a character that reflects everything that Toru is not. His morality is at times sickening and one cannot but feel sorry for the many women he beds not least his girlfriend Hatsumi.

Not having read any other works by Murakami it is impossible for me to compare how this measures up to his other works but I am definitely going to read more by this author.

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Halloween!

Two houses and five pieces of candy is all it took to make Diego a very happy child. Once he had this mountain of loot he ran home to admire it in peace, haha. It was funny to see him so excited about so little but that’s the great thing about being innocent. I’m sure next year he won’t be as easily impressed. After our quick trick or treating excursion we spent the evening giving out candy. After Diego was in bed I waited until midnight to start my NaNoWriMo efforts. I wrote a little over 1,600 words. I will probably write some more tonight and that will put me ahead of schedule.

Here are a few pictures of our Halloween ūüôā

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Waving goodbye to your toddler

One of the many wonderful things that come with a visit from my mom is the ability for my husband and me to head out on our own. Whether it’s to watch a movie or run some errands spending any sort of time alone together feels really special. I am able to enjoy this time with my husband because I know that my son is in great hands. Hands that I know I can trust because they’re the same hands that raised me, and I turned out OK!

I think anybody that has had kids can attest to the fact that there are things that we all do differently than our parents. I think it’s completely normal because no two people are exactly alike. We all make different decisions based on our own personalities, beliefs and information available to us. No matter how we come to our decisions the impetus is always the same: we want what’s best for our children.

Whenever my husband and me would head our my mom would immediately distract Diego. It brought back a lot of memories of me helping do the exact same thing for my cousins when their parents would step out. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, or simply a habit my family shares but across the board it was what was done. So I immediately understood my mother’s instinct when it came to Diego. Now, I am not one of those parents that is very picky about things involving my son. I would consider myself quite laid back in that respect. But when it comes to saying goodbye to him I don’t want him to be tricked into being left with somebody while I step out. I feel very strongly about this which is why explained to my mom how and why I wanted to do it differently.

It is normal for kids to experience separation anxiety, and it is normal for them to cry and be upset for a bit after one departs. It breaks my heart to see him cry when I leave but I know it has to be done. I also understand the desire to avoid the tears by simply distracting a child so that he doesn’t see his parent(s) leave. There are two main reasons why I don’t believe in distraction over openly waving goodbye to our children:

1. Trust that mom and dad will come back.

I want Diego to learn that he can trust that we will return to him. That we will be honest with him and tell him when we are leaving. I plan on parenting with open communication and this includes communicating with him when we are leaving him behind. He might not understand it all right now but a kiss and a wave goodbye is something he is familiar with.

2. I don’t want him to feel that he has to look over his shoulder.

Peace of mind is something you can’t place a value on. I want my son to have this. I don’t want him to realize that anytime he looks the other way Mom and Dad might disappear without a word. The anxiety that can cause is potentially harmful in my opinion. Being carefree and relaxed is what I want to give him and I think that at some point kids pick up on the vibe whenever their caretaker(s) are about to sneak off. For one thing it’s very blatant when we try to distract them, and the nervous energy is something kids can very easily pick up on.

I honestly feel that sneaking off to avoid tears is more for the parent’s benefit than for the child’s. I hate to see my sweet boy pout and cry when we leave but I know that within a few minutes he will be back to playing and having a good time. In time he will learn that even though we may go out for a bit we will always return to him. We are not abandoning him.

I want to thank my mom for always being open-minded and understanding. I always hear horror-stories about grandmothers who force their way of doing things. I am lucky that my mom has always respected my parenting choices. I have never been shy about standing up for myself and while I think we should always pick our battles I also believe in standing up for things you feel strongly about. And speaking about that I also think it’s important to communicate effectively with caretakers about your expectations and limits. Oftentimes a simple explanation of your thought process is enough to incite conversation. My mom and I do not see everything in the same way, nor will we ever, but we share a thirst for learning and discovering new points of view. I hope to pass that on to my son.

 

French baguettes and self-confidence

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen these past few weeks and it’s no coincidence. My mom is visiting so I have had time to try out some of the more ambitious recipes I have been eyeing. Now that I’ve made bread a couple of times I can say that it is not as labor intensive as I previously thought. I would not have learned that had I not tried.

Today I tried my hand at making French baguettes. It sounded complicated enough to strike my fancy. One of the things I love about baking and cooking is the opportunity to challenge myself. I started the dough last night and went to bed hopeful for the baguettes I would be able to make come morning. The results were nothing short of amazing even though I encountered a tiny problem with my oven. Even though it allowed me to set it to preheat to 550 it got stuck at 535 and never went any higher. All this resulted in was a longer cooking time and a wish for professional kitchen appliances.

The secret to these French baguettes is keeping the oven steamy. You achieve this by placing a pan of water on the bottom rack and spraying your loaves with water every five minutes. It’s not difficult but it is labor intensive. It is not a bread that you leave while it bakes.

If you’re interested in trying out this recipe head over to Food Wishes¬†for a complete recipe and video demonstration.

Baking and cooking have long been passions of mine. I love trying out new things in the kitchen. As I mentioned before I enjoy challenging myself. The kitchen is the perfect place to do that and the results always teach me something. For me, cooking provides a sense of accomplishment. I might not have the most exciting day but I baked a French baguette!

Self-confidence is something that, like most people, I struggle with from time to time. How people perceive me and how I perceive myself are two very different things. Should we let other’s opinions of us affect us? I think that we spend too much time worrying about how other people judge us. We walk into a crowded pool area and we fear judgmental stares. So we cover up and hide. We cheat ourselves from enjoying the moment because we are so focused on strangers’ thoughts. It is likely that most people aren’t paying you any mind but how to convince yourself of that?

I am a strong advocate of body positivity. I have mentioned it before and will continue to discuss it. It is important. Young girls and women are currently starving themselves, cutting themselves or succumbing to an eating disorder because they believe that their bodies are wrong. There are people who believe they are right to criticise others’ eating habits, to speculate on health and other private matters simply based on the size of a person’s body. I have learned first hand that some people do not care to change this. They believe that being cruel is kind, that offending and humiliating is a path to healing. Those are the kind people we need to keep away from our children. Intent is not enough to excuse this behavior.

So what do I do when I get down on myself? It really depends. Sometimes I try out a new recipe. I’ve recently been baking a lot but for the most part I stick to revamping our dinner menu. Baking is often impractical for me. For one thing, it’s really hot here in Florida, and I also have a toddler that loves to get in my way. He’s too young to be any real help in the kitchen so it’s easier for me to have somebody entertain him while I putter about in the kitchen.

Another way I make myself feel better is by putting on some makeup. I can’t explain what it is about mascara and eyeliner but it makes me happy. I love playing around with makeup and although I am not one to wear it everyday I know my way around my face.

Something else that helps me gather my thoughts and myself is this blog. I have a space where I can talk about anything. I can record my thoughts on whatever I want and nobody can censor me. People may disagree or even dislike what I write but they can’t control any of it. I think we all need a space like that. It doesn’t have to be shared, it can be something that’s just for you.

Am I a good person? Am I a good mother? Do I do enough? Should I be doing more? These are questions that are often on my mind and the answers are all a bit ambiguous. I like to think that I excel in most areas of my life, but I know that I fall short sometimes. Do I let people down? Yes. One of them being myself. Good is relative and subjective. I don’t wait on my husband hand and foot. To some that is wrong but I burned my bra a long time ago. So, am I a good wife, person and mother? I’ll let my son’s kisses, smiles and hugs be my answer ūüėČ

This feels like somewhat of a random blog post but it’s what’s on my mind at the moment. I hope you enjoyed the read and if you’re feeling industrious may I suggest trying your hand at the French baguettes I mentioned? They really are worth the effort.

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Hidden gems: Margate, Florida

Margate is probably not a city that is on most tourists’ radars. I had never heard of it before I moved here in 2006. I would say that Margate is an up and coming city. It is only seven and half miles from the Atlantic ocean, and in close proximity to excellent shopping as well as other attractions. Margate is also home to JM Lexus, the #1 volume Lexus dealer in the world since 1992 (in case you enjoy random trivia). Here are three hidden gems that I love:

La Bamba Restaurant

Maybe it’s the happy hour specials, maybe it’s the complimentary chips and salsa, or maybe it’s the food. This place is always busy. The food has never disappointed me. It is always consistent. Service is prompt and friendly, and the bathrooms are clean. What more could you want? La Bamba has become our unofficial celebratory hangout. Whenever something big is happening in our lives we end up here. Partly because it’s a stone’s throw away from home but it’s also just that good! Birthday dinners are almost always celebrated here, when we found out we were expecting we celebrated with a nice La Bamba dinner, after our 20 week ultrasound where we found out we were having a boy we also ended up here. This restaurant has become our place and we love it. The Margate location has been in business for 25 years. It is a family owned business founded right here in South Florida by the Molina family. They have grown to five restaurants, each managed by a Molina. Their lunch and dinner specials are great and their portions will not leave you hungry. If you’re in need for a quick lunch look no further than La Bamba. Their lunch portions include a soup or a soft-drink and range in price from $6.50- $9.50. In the interest of research, I took my family out to lunch and timed their service. Less than 10 minutes from the time we ordered our food, we were already enjoying it.¬†Good food at a good price in a casual atmosphere that is what La Bamba means to me.

La Bamba II storefront

La Bamba II storefront

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Pollo a la plancha

Pollo a la plancha

Baby palomilla steak

Baby palomilla steak

Chicken Enchilada lunch portion

Chicken Enchilada lunch portion

Ritter’s Frozen Custard

Located at 6700 W. Atlantic Blvd, this franchise was founded in Franklin, Indiana and can now be found in several states. Florida is lucky to be among those. Their special custard is creamy and decadent, and their flavors are delicious. While I prefer vanilla, my sister-in-law swears by their rum raisin, and her husband really enjoys their banana. With their varied menu, indoor and outdoor seating, and late hours I don’t think you can ever go wrong at Ritter’s. Any day is a good day for ice-cream here in Florida but summer evenings are probably the best time to enjoy a cone, cup or sundae. On Monday’s they host a night just for dogs and on Wednesdays they have a kids night complete with bounce houses and face painting. photo 1-12 photo 2-12 photo 3-10 photo 4-8 photo 5-5

 

Coral Gate Park

Coral Gate is our favorite park. It might not boast as many features as other parks but it’s peaceful, safe, clean and convenient to us. Their three half basket ball courts are always busy on weekends, and their four tennis courts get plenty of use regularly. There is a small field perfect for kids to run around as well as a playground. photo 2-11 photo 2-10 photo 5-4 IMG_3771 IMG_3445 IMG_4233

 

When RelayRides contacted me about writing a blog post featuring hidden gems in my community I was immediately inspired visit some of my favorite places. Revisiting old faves is great but discovering new gems is just as awesome!

RelayRides is one such gem, and an idea I wish I had thought of. My husband had mentioned the company to me a couple of years ago when he was considering listing one of our cars. We have since become a one car family but the idea behind car sharing is an amazing one. The service is pretty simple you can either list your car, or find a car to rent. You search by city or airport and once you’ve found a car you like you book it! The company has a $1,000,000 liability policy so as a vehicle owner you’re very well covered. For more information check out their how-it-works section right here. Sharing cars works because we don’t need a car all of the time and the less cars on the road the happier our environment. I think it is the future, and it’s not limited to renting while traveling. Sometimes we need a larger car or truck to haul a large purchase, and renting a car is a great way to get things done without having to pay delivery fees.

I ¬†hope you enjoyed these hidden gems. If you’re ever in town, pay them a visit, and if you’re not go out and discover some hidden gems of your own.

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Turning 30 and 30 random thoughts

I am thirty today! I remember when thirty sounded like a big number. I don’t think I’ve ever feared turning thirty but I used to have a specific idea of what my life would look like once I hit this so-called milestone. Here are thirty random thoughts…

  1. It’s great to plan but it’s equally great to be flexible.
  2. There is no timeline. We shouldn’t rush into major life decisions because we feel we are running against the clock. Marriage and kids are not requirements.
  3. Meeting people online gets a bad rap but it can be very rewarding. Some of my closest friends are ones that I met on the internet.
  4. Speak up. Learning to use your words is a necessary lifeskill that will serve you well in all your relationships. When we communicate honestly and effectively we are happier for it.
  5. Confrontation is never fun, but it’s a fact of life. I don’t go looking for confrontation as I would much rather avoid it but on occasion it’s better to face the issue head on and move on.
  6. Friends are what keeps me sane. If it weren’t for venting sessions and overall silliness I don’t know what I would do. Now more than ever friends are a central part of my life and I am thankful for them every day.
  7. All relationships take work. This doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships but friendships as well. All relationships are an investment. Whether it’s your spouse, significant other, friend or relative if we want to keep our relationships healthy we need to work on them constantly.
  8. Staying in touch is important. Sometimes I get lazy about keeping in touch with friends. Facebook and other social media gives us a false sense of intimacy. Because we see our friends posts and photos we cease to initiate personal contact with them. A phone-call, text, or e-mail is a great way to stay connected in a meaningful way when distance prevents you from hanging out in person.
  9. College degrees are over-valued. I will never regret going to university. For one thing it’s where I met my husband, but it was also a great experience overall. Still, having a degree isn’t what it used to be.
  10. Don’t stick your nose up at work. Believing that you are too good to do a certain job is icky. Don’t be a snob. We all have aspirations but your first job out of college will likely be completely unrelated to what you want to do.
  11. Read. I know some people don’t enjoy reading, and that’s ok, but¬†reading is an important part of my life. I love getting lost in a book, learning about a new topic or simply reading about things from a point of view different from my own.
  12. It’s ok to wear makeup.
  13. It’s ok to go without make up.
  14. Removing toxic people from your life is not selfish, it’s smart.
  15. Most people are doing the best they can.
  16. Following a recipe is great and all but sometimes recipes leave things out. I’ve just had first hand experience with bread: your kitchen needs to be warm and if it’s not you need to create a warm environment for your dough to rise. (turning your oven on to 200 degrees and turning it off is a common recommendation)
  17. The internet is forever. I don’t understand why more people don’t grasp this. I see a lot of airing of dirty laundry on social media and it often just makes me cringe.
  18. I dislike lists that tell women what they should have accomplished by a certain age or what things they should or shouldn’t be doing. We are all different. Some of us can’t afford a hefty savings account because we don’t make enough money! We all move through life at our own pace and while some of these ideas have merit these lists only serve to shame and make those who don’t live up to them feel inferior.
  19. Don’t pay any mind to silly lists on the internet. See above.
  20. By definition this IS a silly list. Don’t pay it any mind ūüėČ
  21. I think every human should have a working knowledge of cooking, food safety and basic house upkeep. If you’re able-bodied and capable, then you should be able to take care of yourself.
  22. There is only ONE way to achieve a bikini body/summer swimsuit body: put on a swimsuit and strut your stuff at the beach or pool. As long as YOU are comfortable nothing else matters. Other acceptable forms of swimwear- shorts and tee shirt, tank top, wetsuit, etc. You can wear as much or a little as you want. The idea that a beach body is one free of flaws and under a certain size makes me sick.
  23. Feminism/feminist is NOT a dirty word. Stop it. I hear women declare “I’m not a feminist, but…” why is that? If you’re unsure, do your own research and assign labels to yourself as you see fit but please do it out of an informed decision and not just because you have been led to believe it’s a bad thing.
  24. Speaking of believing it’s ok not to believe. I used to be very afraid of letting people know I am not religious. Religion is one of those things that can get people worked up fast and I find it an impolite topic of conversation but in the right environment it’s a great discussion to have. I always say that I haven’t been given the gift of faith but I support all those who have theirs.
  25. Hand written thank you notes. What more is there to say? I love getting these in the mail and I love sending them out to friends. I feel it’s not practiced enough. Sending a thank you text just doesn’t measure up the personal touch of a handwritten note.
  26. Hand made/homemade things are awesome. If you have the time and inclination of course.
  27. Writing lists seems like a great idea until you get to no. 27 and realize you have nothing left to write.
  28. Further down you start to question the whole thing.
  29. By 29 you feel like a cheat but with only one more to go you figure you can fake your way through this.
  30. Cookies can’t fix your problems but they make them more bearable.

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