Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bento Tips: Plastic Bag Alternatives

Let me first begin with, we've been under a Winter Weather Advisory for a couple of days now! We were hit with a whopper of a storm (close to 2 feet so far), so the forecasters were actually right on the money. To top off all the snowy excitement school has been cancelled for TWO days in a row. Wow! 

I wanted to share a product i've been using for a few years now, they are a great alternative to plastic lunch bags. Yes, I know using a bento means not having to use plastic bags, but sometimes we do use bags for my daughter's snack at school. These wax bags by Natural Value are $2.99 for a box of 60 at Whole Foods. Or you can find them online here. My daughter is able to put these bags in the compost bins that they have through out her school. 

We love them and hope you will too!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vlog From The Snowy Trenches of The Colorado October Blizzard...

Disclaimer... Before you watch this vlog, I warn you, I am not wearing any makeup. I just shoveled about 500lbs of snow from my sidewalk, walkway, driveway, and neighbor's sidewalk. But really, we all know I'm not all smoke and mirrors around here anyway, so I thought why the heck not. So enjoy it, the plain old ordinary me (with 3 zits on my chin). Oh and Milo, the black lab does make an appearance!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kids Need A Dad, Not A Buddy

Dear Part Time Father at Blockbuster,

I couldn't help but notice how desperately you were in trying to convince your young son to rent No Country For Old Men. I've actually watched this movie and I was appalled to be witnessing your very un-fatherly actions. I was looking for Once when I overheard this conversation. The boy, must have been 10 years old, maybe 12. I was a fifth grade teacher, so the boy easily looked like he could have been a student of mine. He definitely was not in high school. 

Father: Just read the back, this is what I want to see.

Son: But dad, I'm not into it.

Father: You don't know what you are missing. Come on, just read it.

Son: Takes dvd case reluctantly. Glances over the back. This looks dumb. Your lame dad.

Father: Guess I'll watch it on Monday when you go back to your mom's.

Son: So now you are going to be all pissed off at me you're an ass. What a great weekend.

(me, wow...calling his dad an ass, although he has a point!)

Father: Just get the stupid Simpons movie and shut the f@#k up.

Son: Walks away, head down.

I truly had to bite my tongue. Suppress every fiber of my being, to not tell that father what a jack ass he was. First of all, No Country For Old Men, is not appropriate for such a young boy. Maybe, call me crazy, maybe he should be the mature person in the scenario and let his son pick out a more age appropriate film. I am assuming the Simpsons is even questionable at his age.

Or better yet, skip the movies all together. If you spend a limited amount of time with your child maybe a board game would provide an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation. I try not to judge, but sometimes we wonder why young children turn to violence or crime. Obviously part of the problem is children need love and attention, not name calling and being berated over a movie rental choice. Shame on those for not seeing the cues our children drop right in our laps, almost crying out for help. 

As I watched the boy leave the store with his dad, his eyes were welled up with tears, he was moping. Clearly his feelings were hurt. I hope for him, his dad was just having a bad moment and I witnessed that fleeting moment. 

Adult Bento: Leftovers Never Looked So Good!

One night I ventured out with some girlfriends to a local favorite Indian Restaurant. Now when I go out for Indian food, I like to sample a variety. Although I have to admit, I could be quite content with a plate of Saag Paneer (spinach, spices, and homemade cheese), a basket of garlic naan all to myself, and a pot of chai. I'm easy to please. 

On this particular night, I ordered a chicken sampler plate. A sampler at the Jewel of India is a ton of food. If you look closely in the photo you will see there was no left over Saag to send in for lunch with my husband. But how lucky is my husband to have such a wonderful lunch?

My husband's bento was purchased in Japan. It's stainless steel, stackable with two compartments, the top has a moveable divider in it as well. Only downfall of stainless is that it can't be thrown into a microwave to heat it up. The option is to eat it as is or to place the contents to be heated up on a plate and then warmed. If you are looking for a stainless bento and can't find them in your area, I recently saw a latch Tiffin box at Cost Plus World Market. A Tiffin box is a stackable stainless lunch box that is typically round, which originates from India. We own a Tiffin that we bought a few years ago in Vermont. It would have been more appropriate for me to use that to pack these leftovers!

I actually added some extra decorations to the mix, a piece of the sushi style green grass, and a few food picks. Little touches make a bento special. Little red piggie was full of special hot sauce from the restaurant. For my hubby, the hotter the better. 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bento Tips: Quick & Easy Fruit Leather Decorations!

Part of the love for bento is the use of decorative foods to give whimsy to the whole lunch experience. While my knowledge of turning food into art is a work in progress, I have one fall back technique that I absolutely adore. All you need is a few cookie cutters, I use mini cookie cutters for this technique, and a piece of fruit leather. This will also work with some vegetables, cheese, lunch meat, or any food that you think would easily be cut by a cookie cutter.

I recently purchased a tin of small alphabet cookie cutters. The letters allow me to spell out things and personalize lunch in a special way. I also own mini farm animals, basic shapes, and seasonal mini cookie cutters. To be quite honest I think the heart may have shown up from the playdough toys, so be creative! Use what's on hand. 

I also use a wooden spoon and a bamboo skewer to create the shapes. You'll find pressing through fruit leather needs a bit of pressure, if you just simply lay the spoon down and then press evenly on the cutter, it will be a much easier task. Our fruit leather of choice is the Stretch Island Fruit Co, but occasionally we are sent some from Trader Joe's which the girls love as well. 

I try to use the cookie cutters in a way that maximizes as much fruit leather as possible. I never throw away the remaining fruit leather strip with the cut outs, I hand it off to my daughter to enjoy during her car ride to school. 

A tip from experience, the fruit leather by nature is rather sticky. I always have a bamboo skewer out to use to help me release the fruit from the cookie cutter. 

Sometimes I place the fruit leather shapes on top of a sandwich, you could even use the fruit leather to make faces! Or other times I just use it as a decoration in another compartment of the bento, maybe on a piece of fruit or rice. 

I never consider the fruit leather as part of the lunch to replace fresh fruit. The fruit leather is a decorative bonus, which I am assuming always gets nibbled up first! A cute, quick way to add a little pizzaz to your bento lunch. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hot Bento: ABC Soup, Quesadilla, And Veges. The Beauty of Before and After...

Maybe someday I'll click back on this post and laugh. Why? Because photographing food is tough work. Let me throw in the added stress of a morning commute, getting breakfast ready, bento being packed, my daughter dressed, making myself look presentable even though I don't step out of the car, her hair and teeth brushed (oh wait mine, too). And me, I'm worrying about photos of the process, in focus looking halfway decent photos. Three of our cameras this morning had batteries that were about to die or that needed charging. THREE. 

With that said, I hope you enjoy and maybe even get a chuckle out of these photos because it's so obvious they aren't staged or created simply for the beauty of them. Hopefully if you look beyond the crumbs, you'll see the love I have for packing a bento. With time, I also hope that my photography and bento packing become more seamless. 

I know you are screaming at the computer screen right now, why don't you just pack them at night? I don't know, I'm a morning lunch maker. Maybe that's something I'll try in the future. 

My daughter asked for soup this morning in her lunch. We have an insulated Floream bento (floral one top right of header) that my husband purchased in Japan, that contains a stainless steel container for the soup and two plastic sealing kidney shaped boxes to nestle in the lunch bag. At the top of the bag is a cute pocket for a spoon. 

With the exception of homemade soup, Annie's Organic Alphabet soup is one of the only soups my daughters will eat from a can. The beauty of the insulated hot bento is that I can heat the soup fresh in the morning and it's still warm when my daughter opens her bento at 11:30. In the photo above (click to enlarge) you will also see two little piggies. They are both accessories from Japan, to traditionally hold things like soy sauce. Well not in this bento, they are used for two very American things. The red pig contains Ranch dressing for dipping veggies in and the blue one is full of these delightful chocolate covered sunflower seeds that I recently purchased to decorate some cupcakes. Yes, I always include a little special treat in her lunch.  

My daughters are great vegetable eaters. Carrots, cucumbers, and red peppers top the list. 

To accompany the soup, I toasted in my toaster oven a Mariposa whole wheat tortilla with some Cabot vintage cheddar (we love vintage cheddar, I buy it at costco). If you catch the tortilla right when the cheese starts to melt, the tortilla stays soft and pliable. Can you guess if I caught the tortilla today before it got crispy?

I then used a medium sized butterfly cookie cutter to create butterfly shaped quesadillas. Perfect with soup!

Conveniently enough the butterflies fit perfectly into the kidney shaped boxes! Are you getting a laugh yet from my work space?

And this is what I found when my daughter arrived home from school today. A happy empty bento. A few lingering vegetables, but a fabulous job. Really that's the beauty of bento, the portions are just perfect, the waste is minimal. My goal is to show many after photos because if my daughter isn't eating what I am making for her, then I have to change my ways. 

Tomorrow is THE Day, 3 Weeks Later...

On September 30, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. Emotionally I was drained, my house was beyond a wreck. Dishes, laundry, toys, shoes, mail, artwork were better known as piles upon piles. All those items have a home, but there was no follow through from anyone in my household to get those items in their appropriate place. For me, how my home is kept is a direct correlation to how I feel and boy was I in a slump. 

I wrote this post about changing my ways starting October 1st. 

Over the course of the past three weeks, I have changed my ways. Dishes are done after meals, counters are wiped. Toys are in their cute baskets or bins. I've rearranged the living room furniture, which always makes me feel accomplished. Laundry is put away. Coats, bags, and shoes are stowed away in the entryway closet when we return home, not just dumped in the middle of the floor. Hello, we are so lucky to have an entry way closet! But there is still work to do. My office/playroom is still a disaster, but 85% of the house is beyond fabulous. 

One of the things that helped me change my ways was a conversation with one of my oldest friends. She runs a tight ship and so I said give me the low down,  I want your household secrets. Silly as it may sound, I came right out and said, I need to know how you put laundry away, when it's folded. No really, how do you do it? In my house it sits in a basket and gets rummaged through and then it makes a mess. Then I get all resentful and in turn I loathe laundry duty. Grumble, grumble. 

She simply responded, "You have to want to do it. You just have to convince yourself it's what you want". 

You know what, she was absolutely 100% right. Really that was all it took. Those words. I convinced myself it's what I want. Doing laundry means, sorting piles, washing, drying, folding, and putting away. Straightening up drawers and sorting out clothes that need to be mended or that the girls have outgrown, every week. I even, put away my husband's clothes. Typically I would let him fend for himself in the laundry department. 

With those words I also convinced myself of something else. Quite often, even though I dreaded the mess in my house, I would just leave it because I wanted my husband to pitch in and help. I was trying to punish him by leaving the chaos everywhere, but in reality I was punishing myself. My home is also my office, I spend my days here with the girls and I just simply convinced myself it's my job to keep my office running smoothly, clean, and organized. I don't know what J would say about the past three weeks, but I'm not on his back about housework. I'm making the effort on my own and I've taken on the responsibility as part of my job. I decided that when he does pitch in (with out my nagging) that it's a bonus, maybe one less load of dishes or one load of laundry I don't have to do. Truthfully, he's been following through with hanging up his jacket or emptying the dishwasher in the morning. 

Kind of wild around here, huh?

Really, it's still a work in progress. My house is by no means immaculate. But the effort is moving forward, instilling a sense of pride in me. My goal is to have the entire house in shape by the end of the month, which means on top of all laundry even cabinets and closets revamped, so I can start the Fly Lady routine come November 1. There is no reason why I can't start now, but I feel like I want to be established when I introduce the routine. 

Once again, my progress is to be continued...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Panda Bento: Turkey Sandwich, Mandarin Oranges, Tortilla Chips

In August, I walked into Peppercorn in Boulder and happened upon bento lunch boxes! Jackpot. I snatched up this adorable Panda Bento for Sj. It contains two compartments both the same size and stackable, the lower compartment nestles into the top one, and the top compartment comes with a separate sealing lid before putting Panda's cute face on top! The Hello Kitty Bento, is a snack bento picked up at a Japanese gift shop in Vancouver, BC.

For lunch, I packed your basic Diestel all natural herbed turkey breast with Cabot vintage cheddar on Rudi's organic 7 grain bread. Usually I cut out the bread with cute cookie cutter shapes, but I guess I wasn't in the mood this morning. Sj always likes mustard, whereas GL prefers mayo. Whatever you do, don't confuse the two! For the upper compartment I used silicone cupcake baking-cups which are awesome because they are pliable and they are re-usable to hold and separate the mandarin oranges, tortilla chips, and a little dessert! The dessert is little mushroom shaped chocolates from Japan that we purchased at our local Asian Market.

After stacking Panda together and putting on his cute band, I also prepare the other items that I place inside the lunch box with the bento. I always include an Easter Egg with a hand wipe for Sj to clean up before lunch. The purple lady bug is a freezer pack I use on the days I pack a sandwich containing meat. I put the freezer pack on the bottom, place the bento on top, and the egg sitting next to it! Voile, lunch is ready to go.

We have a variety of lunch boxes/bags for Sj to take to school. Each bento fits well in some bags, but not in others so I like a variety to choose from.

Welcome A New Adventure... Bento Lunch Making!

For a couple of years now, I've been dabbling in Bento Lunch making, after J returned home from Japan with a bento lunch box for Sj. Now I'm packing a daily bento. So what else is there to do? 

Blog about it. 

Please welcome Colorado Bento! It's going to be a journey into all things American Bento. What's even better, I have Jen as my partner in crime so I'm not going this alone. 

Join us and learn about Bento lunch making!

My previous bento lunch posts

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Bento?

A couple of years ago my husband traveled to Japan for a film shoot. One of the gifts he returned with was a bento box for our daughter. I had heard of bentos before, but wasn't really familiar with them. In Japan bentos are used as lunch boxes. If you do enough hunting around the web, you'll find amazing bento creations. Once bentos become a part of your life, you'll want to make beautiful lunches. 

Beautiful lunches? Yes. Beautiful lunches. 

With the arrival of our first bento, in the photo my initial reaction was, but it's so small!?! Is it a snack bento? No it wasn't a snack bento, after using it a few times I was actually amazed at how much food a bento can hold. Packing a bento lunch is truly going against the grain of how I was raised. Everyday in my lunch box, my mother would pack a sandwich in aluminum foil, small bags of things in ziploc plastic bags, or fill a thermos with soup. 

But with a bento, the possibilities are endless. You see a bento is a container that has compartments. The bento pictured has a lower compartment and an upper compartment. The lower compartment has one open space and the upper compartment has a divider in it. Typically I would pack a sandwich or quesadilla in the bottom of the bento, then in the upper compartment pack a fruit and a grain. The possibilities are endless but my main go-to's are grapes, mandarin oranges, annie's cheddar bunnies, veggie straws, or crackers. 

I promise I will dive deeper into how to pack bentos in the posts coming. I just wanted to share with everyone my love for Bento lunches, for they've changed my perspective on packing a lunch. 

Why Bento?
Bonus of bento lunch making; eco-friendly (no need for plastic bags or aluminum foil for that matter), small portions to create a variety of foods to offer our children allowing them to indulge in more food groups without being bored, and it's fun, easy, simple. Bentos bring whimsy into a world that we all know can turn dull within weeks of the start of school. Bentos aren't just for kids. I pack my husband bentos as well. Trust me, once  you start packing bentos for lunch, there's really no turning back. It becomes a hobby really. 

Celebrate food, pack a bento! Welcome to my journey into bento land...

Thanks Twitter, I Get It, I'm Just IttyBitty...

I've never quite felt so miniscule in the world of blogging until I became a member of Twitter. Daily I take in the 140 characters or less of others that are off at conferences, off being wooed by huge corporations, and maybe even being featured on television. Then there's an entire faction of bloggers that are their own biggest cheerleaders. Constantly they are linking back to their posts, they are heard. They roar. They thrive on the comments, the traffic, they ask to be Stumbled. It's all about the numbers. They are sharing searches and stats in 140 or less.

And me, I read the tweets. I sometimes click through, but generally I fade into the background. Occasionally I'll link to a post of my own, but it depends on my mood. October 8th was the last time I linked back to my blog, which was about 125 tweets ago. So I can honestly say a couple times a month I am my own cheerleader. I never really could relate to the pompoms and little skirts, the constant smile, perfect hair, and attention seeking of the real cheerleaders. If only I made the Freshman Squad back in 1987, maybe I would feel differently today. Instead I liked blending into the background, being a part of the crowd in the bleachers, I preferred skateboarders over football players anyway. Ironically enough my Twitter relationships reflect that as well, I'm probably not conversing with the Twitter Prom Queen most days of the week.

Now let me be the first to say, I am not judging any of those behaviors I mentioned. I am not on a soapbox calling out anyone. For some reason it just makes me feel itty bitty in the blogosphere. On those rare occasions I grasp how infinite the internet is, it blows my mind. But then again, I write what I want to write. I'm not the "ambulance chaser" of the blog world. We all know who they are, the first to hop on the hot topics, just so they get click-throughs. Their twitter follower count is big, their subscriber numbers are high, and in turn corporations love them. Oh and if you have "mom" in your username the corporations super duper love you. I find that odd. Have you noticed this or am I the only one?

Even more recently, I've come to discover sometimes bloggers twist the truth or even blatantly steal other people's words and use them as their own (hello, PLAGIARISM!). I assume this is in an attempt to bring a windfall of readers to their blog, maybe get twitter talking about them, or falsely lead their readers to believe their lives are more than what they truly are. Which made me realize, my life is so boring. Why don't I have this overwhelming desire to conquer this medium, do whatever it takes to top the numbers game? Am I complacent? Two years later and I'm still just happy doing my own thing. Writing on a whim, writing what's on my mind, and writing as a release. Oprah should have been calling ME by now.

So I shall conclude, with really no conclusions drawn in the matter at hand. I don't have a badge saying I'm authentic, I just have my words. If you meet me in real life, you will find that yes, these words are just like I speak. While I don't share everything about my life, I find no reason to not be authentic to my true self around here. This is my home. I feel grateful that someone other than my mother may stop by and read whatever is on my mind. I like this little place and I'm not going to let Twitter interfere and make me think being itty bitty is a bad thing. I'm fine just the way I am.

Now I'm off to Ft.Collins to find the Balloon Boy's family and have a blogger exclusive interview, stay tuned my press conference will air in just moments. I swear. I'll show you twitter.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where Colorado Locals Go: Craving a Philly Cheese Steak? Olde Philly Towne

The first time I saw Olde Philly Towne from the outside, of course I quickly passed judgement. It sits in a strip mall, in between a scuba shop and the DMV. Close by are K-Mart and Hobby Lobby. While I don't assume a restaurant has to be in a free standing space to produce good food, of course the strip mall thing initially was a turn off. 

But that changed quickly. 

I grew up in Upstate New York, so sometimes I just have a craving for a cheese steak. Luckily I found Olde Philly Towne close by to feed that craving. Olde Philly Towne is always bustling with customers, which is a good sign. Yes, expect a wait. They offer a variety of "steaks", as well as cold sandwiches, and charburgers. But I'll be the first to admit, after having one of their Cheese Steaks I haven't even entertained the other items on their menu. 

Top of the of the Steaks menu is a Philly Grand Slam, thinly sliced rib-eye steak, grilled onions, mushrooms, peppers (hot, mild, or mixed), melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise. The rolls are always soft and fresh, they just seem to perfectly soak up the juices from the steak. I typically find myself craving the Chicken Slam, which is the same as above just simply made with skinless chicken breast instead. I have to be in the mood for steak, but when I am it's always a hit. 

Other options include the plain steak (steak, onions), cheese steak (just meat, onions, and melted cheese), or the pizza steak with marinara sauce. There's even more a meatball, italian sausage, or a chicken sandwich. Trust me, there's something for everyone. 

Typically we'll order some onion rings or zucchini sticks to accompany our cheese steaks. My daughters also devour their cheese steaks whenever they join us. Funny enough they have a kids menu, but it only includes hamburger, turkey, roast beef, ham & cheese, or corn dog. I'm thinking they need to add a steak to the kids menu?!

When you're sitting inside Olde Philly Towne, you'll hear the clacking of spatulas on the grill. Every employee has a station they are in charge of. I'm also always delighted by the mother/daughter team that keep the place rolling very smoothly. It's a local's favorite and if you are craving a cheese steak, give it a try. 

I've decided to start a weekend post about different restaurants in the area that I live, to help spread the word. I'm not paid by these establishments. Gosh, I always love a food recommendation and it's about time I start sharing where we choose to eat. You won't find us much at chain restaurants, we like to eat in the locally owned places. The authentic places. The places you can't wait to visit again. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Soaking up the sun, my world is still, but the clouds are in motion...

My daughter fell asleep in the car during the afternoon school pickup jaunt. The last few times I tried to move her from the car, she woke up, so instead when I arrived home I let her sleep. It was a beautiful afternoon, I opened the car window and took a moment to soak in the sun on my front porch. I decided to write with pen and paper, to me it's funny how my voice sounds different when I write it down first. You decide. 

There's a pink hula hoop weathered by the sun, laying randomly on the ground under a tree. A hose snakes away from the house, through the flowerbed, and coils around in just the perfect place to trip over as you enter my house. I've been meaning to move that hose, at least it was disconnected from the spigot before it burst some pipes during our cold snap last week. 

I have yet to trim back my irises that really need to be divided up. Their growth is strangling them, they need more space. Although some of the remaining foliage is green, they sit limp and slumped over, screaming trim us now! Just along side those past their prime irises, my lavender has also lost it's color and it's fallen asleep in mother nature's brown dull winter shade. It seems just like last week all my flowers were blooming, but 20-30 degree days for a week does a number on even the hardiest of plants. 

The Adirondack lawn chairs are turned upside down, protecting the smaller chairs that could blow away at a wind's whim. Broken branches, dried leaves, even weeds are no longer able to cling onto a vibrant green shade. Dormancy has arrived in my front yard. 

Ironically the sky is blue, clouds are out bursting into my field of vision. The clouds are moving, even though I am sitting remarkably still which leads me to think is our movement being shown by the clouds or are the clouds moving? I realize in that moment even though we are always moving my world feels incredibly settled, incredibly solid. 

Clouds and a waking two year old are gentle reminders that we are always in motion, moving, going.  

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dusting Off Landscape With Red Cloud and Some Inspiration...

Have you ever played the question game where you write down three things about yourself, two that are true and one that is false? The object is to write down things that are true about yourself that others wouldn't believe. Well one of my favorite lines that I always used to trick others was, "I've had a painting displayed in a museum in New York". Yes, that's mine. It's a watercolor collage, brilliantly entitled (ha,ha) "Landscape with Red Cloud". The year was 1991 and I submitted a portfolio to the New York State Scholastic Art Awards. From my portfolio a sculpture and a painting were selected for regional display at the New York State Museum in Albany. My painting was actually awarded a gold key, which is the highest level of achievement at the regional level. It was then sent off to New York City (where I never saw it displayed) for national adjudication! Woah, big time. Well my painting wasn't selected for a National Medal, but the gold key was certainly special enough for me.

So what in the world inspired the tale of my painting?

I would consider this painting to be special, it tells a story. Or better yet it has a story. But where does it sit, tucked away in a paper portfolio in my guest room closet. Not a very happy ending for a painting that once was worthy of museum exhibition. A painting that allowed me to receive a hand-signed letter from my favorite New York State Governor, Mario Cuomo. 

But maybe it's more indicative of how I no longer nurture the artist within me. Sure I dabble in crafty things, I'll pick up a paint brush and join my daughters in some doodle painting, I'll sketch out something in crayola crayons from time to time. But I no longer set aside anytime to paint. Painting is the space where I always felt shy, but confident. I loved to push paint, which means I would just sit in front of a blank canvas and let the brush do the work. Not much planning or sketching, just organically creating art. Sometimes I'd fall for a painting I created and other times, I'd gesso over it and start again before the paint even had a chance to dry. I also very much enjoyed landscape painting. Sitting outside, paints sprawled around, easel up, with a majestic backdrop just off in the distance, and no worries about spilling paint or making a mess. Now, I live in Colorado where picturesque settings to artistically interpret in a painting are around every corner. How silly do I feel?

When I came across dusty ol' Landscape with Red Cloud I realized it's time to once again see what I'm capable of. I've put my brush down for close to 15 years. And if I'm trying to be more present instead of falling back on two vices to escape, painting may just fill the void. 

Before I put my paintbrush to the canvas, I've committed to framing Red Cloud. It should be hanging in my living space, providing me with a glimpse of inspiration day in and day out. 

My painting among the competition, looks rather small, huh? Hey so is the Mona Lisa:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I'm Not A Hoarder, But...

It's funny, for years I was an Oprah regular. I'd look forward to new seasons, new shows, and rarely miss a show. But nowadays I'm busy from 4-5pm or distracted or Oprah just doesn't have on what I am needing in my life (Whitney Houston, for reals?). Yesterday, like many of you, I made a point to tune into to Stephanie Nielson aka Nie Nie Dialogues. I'm so glad I did, what an amazing, inspirational woman. Then I caught a glimpse of the preview of today's show about hoarding and decided to tune in.

I'm not going to give you a full run down of the episode, but it was about extreme hoarders. Oprah delved into the psychological battle that is hoarding and how it presents itself in people. Watching the show, I felt like I could relate. Although, I wouldn't consider myself to be a hoarder, I do find much pleasure in getting rid of things especially rotting food, thank goodness. But my office/playroom right now is out of control unorganized and my problem, putting everything in it's place. I have to admit I watched the show to feel like, my life isn't that bad. Nice, huh?

But what really hit home for me was the focus on hoarding as an addiction. I go through phases where I use food to cope and deal, first and foremost most the months of August and September. It's true, I've said it before and I will say it again, I know I use food. Others use alcohol or working out, gambling or drugs, online chatrooms or shopping. Which leads me to my second problem, shopping. I am not a compulsive shopper, but I have definitely used shopping to escape. Hell, I can use a trip to Target to escape. A list of five things turns into an hour later and $150 bucks. Ouch. Beyond the waste of money, it's the compulsion to buy crap that I don't need, stuff that gets five minutes of admiration and thrown into a donation box or the trash or fills a bin and gets thrown in the closet.

So shopping and food, my weaknesses.

Maybe I dabble in both consistently enough that I don't overly abuse one or the other. But let's admit they both sure are taxing. One to my wallet, the other to my body, and both to my mind. I can't really name the exact moment but at some point over the last couple of years, I recognized I abuse the two. I get it. For a very long time I didn't get it. I just thought I needed things or I had the money so why not go shopping.

So now what?

I watched that Oprah show today and tonight I went shopping! Gulp, way to go, way to learn something! I did go shopping with a mission, I knew what I was looking for and with August and September just recently behind me, I don't feel slim and trim, so that helps my neurotic self weed out things I may have purchased on a whim. I tried on lots of things, I browsed through many stores, but I didn't over buy. I put things back I had picked out for the girls and walked out of stores empty handed.

Just like I said a week ago, tomorrow is another day, tomorrow is the day it really is. Over the past week, I've fought some tendencies, brushed up right in their face this evening, and even feel proud to say I know taking a closer look inside is hard work. I'm on the path.

Tomorrow maybe i'll focus some of my will to escape into being present. I recognize the beauty in wanting to change and knowing the only way to do that is to look within.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sitting On Chris Martin's Lap and No Photo To Prove It, Damn it.

I always feel out of place when roaming the streets of a foreign city. My girls were running up ahead of J and I, as we strolled down a cobblestone sidewalk. Of course the foreign city had cobblestone walks, crooked iron fences at the entryway to homes right off the path, and wet grey architecture stole the view. Maybe there was an occasional tree swaying in the breeze. It was cloudy, but not raining. I can't quite remember what I was wearing that day I was strolling in London with my family. Oddly enough I wasn't caught up one bit in the nuances of my new bangs or how my ass looked in my jeans. All those silly things I would have normally stressed over considering the company I was about to join. 

My daughters ran up the staircase first. There was an iron gate that we slipped through that opened into a gorgeous courtyard. The foliage was so lush I felt like we stepped out of London and into Tuscany. There were mosaics built into the grounds, stepping stones covered in moss, a fountain creating just the right background noise, and little sculptures appearing in the most perfect of places. I laughed to myself when I saw a tiny replica of the Birth of Venus sculpture under a blooming Hibiscus Bush. I've always had a thing for Botticelli's Birth of Venus and my heart felt at home seeing her here. 

All of a sudden, the mood changed. My girls and husband began to venture off into the maze like courtyard while I was distracted by a view through a window. My nose pressed upon the cloudy vintage glass, as my breath was taken away by a sparkling turquoise indoor pool with the comfiest of lounge chairs around it. My eyes instantly honed in on a lone piano. There was a box with overflowing trash in between the pool and the piano, it looked like crumpled up paper from my view. It seemed out of place in this picturesque view. 

Then our friend, or was he my friend, came walking into the room and sat on the piano stool. He had on black pants a simple white t-shirt and bare feet.  On a whim he glanced up and noticed me, waved hello and ushered my down with his hand. For a moment I had one of those Molly Ringwald feelings from 16 Candles, I turned around and looked behind me. Then my hand rose to my chest and I mouthed, me? My friend nodded and I entered the antique chipping door that was just to the right of the window. The door was heavy, almost too heavy to move. Three stairs went up and just stopped into the wall. The staircase down briefly spiraled and then turned in a way making the width of the staircase feel smaller and smaller. I felt nervous, like I really wouldn't end up where I wanted to be. 

Just like that I was sitting on a white couch, at the edge of the pool that looked out into a very long hallway, gorgeous white fabric curtains were cascading in the breeze. The light in the room felt like the most intense sunset I had ever laid my eyes upon. My friend was playing the piano. My friend was Chris Martin

Before I knew it, I was sitting on his lap, his arms were to my sides and he was hitting some keys. We were conversing and joking around, catching up like old times. At one moment I tried to casually slip a photo of the two of us. I wanted to be nonchalant about it, but I was clearly a bit miffed when I flipped my phone around to see I had gotten a shot of the ceiling tiles instead. Great, I thought this moment is going to slip away and I won't have a picture to remember it. 

I'm not quite sure where my husband and daughters were, maybe they were being entertained by Gwyneth, Apple, and Moses. But with nothing short of drool in the corner of my mouth, I awoke to a view of a humongous Cottonwood Tree out my window. I clearly wasn't in London, I was dreaming. What a spectacular dream indeed. 

Now I'm left thinking, do you think 7pm is too early to hit the hay tonight....

Friday, October 2, 2009

Where Have I Been? The iPhone Trail Part2

(simply click to enlarge)
I was surprised to see my First edition of Where Have I Been? was in August! I think uploading my iPhone photos once a month and taking a look at them as a collective is fun to do. Obviously I took way more then 28 photos, but these are the ones that made the cut this round.

Instead of list them by row, I'm going to start at the top and just talk about them!

After my post on Wednesday, I wanted to start anew and one of the things I had to do for that to happen was to throw away the remnants of a birthday cake. Our sock puppets turned out to be much more of a family fun activity than I anticipated, we even made a make shift puppet show. Maybe next round i'll share a photo that looks like a little inappropriate puppet action. A late night self portrait. Oh one of my favorites, a delivery of cupcakes from 90210, Sprinkles Bakery.

On 9/11, I took my girls to a local memorial, I feel lucky to have a place to gather and help educate the girls. My little helper, grocery shopping. The fruit fly epidemic and my trap! It worked wonders. Growing up I loved Fluff in my hot chocolate or peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches. When a girlfriend found it locally (it's made in New England) I ran off to buy a tub. Yum.

Lunch at the Kitchen when my hubby surprised us with a three day getaway during his 16 day trip. Oh, raspberry picking and a trip to Berry Patch Organic Farms, salsa verde amazingly fresh and delicious. A self portrait the day of my new haircut, bangs after 20 years, the photo looks weird to me. The wildfires in California made their way through the atmosphere and clouded our view of the mountains.

A beautiful vining flower at my daughter's school, nothing better than being surrounded by gardens at a school. A hotel room with a view, it looks like Florida or California to me, not Colorado. Class pets, two little guinea pigs my daughter's favorite. A sunset from the back of my car, we were watching an airshow!

Lunch again, this time at Sushi Tora with a couple of fabulous friends in town for a wedding, my girls love sushi. Breakfast in bed, enough said. A birthday treat at lunch, one of many, boy is my girl lucky! A close up of the birthday cupcakes I made to celebrate Sj's big day!

More cupcakes, 48 total, 24 strawberry and 24 vanilla with chocolate frosting, 100% from scratch. A birthday girl's bowling party! The streamer fairy always comes on the eve of a birthday, once again she graced us. Fruit kabobs for treats to celebrate with Sj's classmates, due to allergies fruit is the best way to go, healthy-portable-delicious!

Some Blue Dog art work up at Sj's school. A beautiful moment by myself on the trails in Boulder. My GL seizing the moment of playing with her big sister's new birthday toys while she's off at school, tee hee. And yes, I really did cover up my television and unplug it, I have to admit I didn't miss it until about 9pm!