3.14.2017

3 Songs for GO TIME

When I need to get a move on, when my brain is in la-la land, when I need to find motivation deep down somewhere, I don't just need a high energy playlist, I need songs with rill good hooks. These are my go-to songs, with hooks that get you moving within seconds:


Embed not working, no idea why. This is a girl's jam. It's about knowing yourself and fighting for getting yours.

"Some will want your love, some will want your pain, some will want the blood from your veins. Some are hanging onto every word you say waiting til you fall from you reign. But that's okaaaaaay. Rub it in their faaaaace. Keep on Runnin."

2. Thrift Shop by Macklemore

Still. It's so fun.

"Imma take your grampa's style, Imma take your grandpa's style. No for real, ask your grandpa, can I have his hand me downs?"


3. Pusher Love Girl by Justin Timberlake

JT so smooth. This was the opener for his concert and the intro automatically gets you grooving.



3.12.2017

How I travel

It's no secret that I love to travel, and travel a lot. Sometimes as a family, sometimes just with Porter, sometimes just with the baby, sometimes with just a friend. I'm very lucky. It's also my hobby and passion and when people ask How I make it happen, I say:

1. I Prioritize

I don't shop, and when I do I buy on clearance or at thrift stores (with rare exception). We don't go out to dinner so often, we go to movies barely ever. My car is almost 20 years old, Porter's is 10+ years old. I love traveling and it costs money so the money I have to spend on non-essentials, I try to keep budgeted toward trips.

While traveling, I employ what I call the Skimp-Save-Splurge Strategy. (I just made that up, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to copyright it). Basically, when we are in Europe we eat free hotel breakfast, baguettes, cheese, and salami throughout the day (and trail mix/granola bars I pack from home), so we can afford a few really shmancy meals where I don't have to sweat about the price tag. For hotels, we stay at cheap-o places most of the time and if possible, a few nights somewhere that feels luxurious. We walk and take public transportation more than is always my preference (no taxis, if possible), do fewer organized tours than is Porter's preference and skip shopping sprees (coworkers and children do not need gifts, they just don't). We've Couch-surfed (officially, through the website and literally, just stayed with friends) and camped and swiped free breakfast food to eat throughout the day - but have also eaten expensive meals and paid a lot for boats, guides, and keepsakes that felt important.

At home and while traveling I often go back to the mantra: Pay for it if you love it, but only if you love it.

2. Gaming the system (miles and points)

I also haven't paid for a plane ticket in over 5 years. Some of this is because I can fly standby (see #3), but mostly I play the game of credit card points and miles. I sign up for cards, meet the bonuses, pay off the credit card (always!), and rack them up. I'm partial to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, but there are tons of other ways to do it out there. For the last two years we've had the Southwest Companion Pass, which means you can buy one ticket (with cash or with points) and your Companion can fly for free (plus taxes, $5.60). Add in that babies fly free and we've taken several trips where all three of us cost $11.20 total out of pocket (plus points, of course, which feel like funny money).

For a while I compulsively read blogs dedicated to the game (Million Mile Secrets, Travel is Free, The Points Guyn are some favorites) for tips and tricks, reminders about category bonuses and heads up about promotions. It can get overwhelming pretty fast, but if you pick a system/airline, you can can learn all the upcoming promotions for that system/airline and all the ways to maximize your points. Then booking isn't quite so daunting.

What also feels like gaming the system is we AirBNB our house whenever we can when we're gone. It's a hassle to clean and prep the house while also packing for a trip, and we don't always get bookings that cover the whole time, but usually it covers the cost of a specific tour we want to do or a few nights in a nice hotel.

3. Connections/Luck
Porter's mom was a flight attendant for United and I am currently listed as her +1, which gives me major flight benefits (standby flights and a lap child FTW!). She is also an avid traveler, and generous travel partner when we travel with her, and generous Nana/caretaker so we can leave Jamie behind sometimes. Porter also makes thousands of dollars of purchases for his business which makes credit card points easier to rack up than most everyday spending. Not everyone has these, I realize.




3.08.2017

3 Nonprofit Organizations That Support Women

It's International Women's Day, one of those holidays, like International Sandwich Day, National Hug Your Dog Day and others, that is basically made up. Maybe it gets used for marketing, maybe it's all about the warm fuzzies, but I have grown to really appreciate it. Fact is, women are amazing and women are, in fact, at a disadvantage most everywhere in the world. But the world is trying to fix it. LOTS of people in the world. So many it's hard to know who to support.

So here are three organizations I know about, and a link to a bigger list of bigger organizations.

1. Women for Afghan Women

I'm reading a book right now  called The Lovers by Rod Nordland. It's about a star-crossed couple in Afghanistan who are on the run from the woman's family's threats of honor killing her for running off with and marrying the man. Throughout the book, the author highlights a number of stories of basically how screwed women are in Afghanistan (I know, no surprise) and how there are a number of women's shelters that have popped up to protect them. Women for Afghan Women is an organization he worked with extensively and recommends. They operate shelters, transitional housing and mediation for families in conflict, as well as advocacy and training on the ground to improve the situation of women in the country. So they don't get acid thrown on their faces for BS reasons. (PS, There's no good reason to throw acid)

2. Days for Girls

My aunt is currently doing and awesome drive for supplies to head to support Syrian Refugees, and the local chapter of Days for Girls made so many kits for her she couldn't fit them all in her car, so I'm taking another full load for her this weekend. Days for Girls provides feminine hygiene solutions for women in the developing world. Periods basically mess with girls all over the world, and more than just cramps and crankiness. Girls are often pulled out of school and they often have to deal with periods in a very unhygienic way. Days for Girls not only collects supplies to be distributed around the world but also does training in local communities that help provide kits and jobs (read: stability) to local women.


3. ANEW - Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Employment for Women

We worked with this group when I worked at Habitat for Humanity and they are AWESOME. Simple, they train women in trades and help them get jobs. It's an inspiring community and a successful mission. They do great work.

More ideas here 
And some more

Here's a video I saw almost 10 years ago that I think literally made my heart stop. I've thought about it a lot over the last decade. How the impact a girl can make on herself, her family, her community, and the world is incalculable.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5kxysX4MmOU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

3.04.2017

3 Favorite Things About My New Bathroom

We remodeled our bathroom a few months ago! I don't know why there's a ! ending that sentence, it was mostly a long, awful, decision-laden process that I was sure throughout would make me feel like it was a total waste of money.

But it wasn't! There's that ! again. Note: I hate remodel projects. Hate laboring over a million stupid decisions. Hate spending money. Hate seeing on the final invoice a straight up 17% overhead charge. BOO FOR NOT BEING SELF-SUFFICIENT ENOUGH TO DO IT ALL ON MY OWN.

Buuuut I do love the outcome. My favorite things;

1. The cast-iron pan.

Okay most people probably can't tell it's cast-iron. But I do. We got a great deal on it and I feel like ever so subtly it jibes with the 1901-ness of our house.

2. The tile border

This was one of those decisions I thought about for weeks. We knew we wanted 2" white hex tiles. But didn't know if we wanted black tiles. And if so, how many. And in what pattern. After a million Houzz and Pinterest and blog views, I decided I wanted a dotted border. The tile place couldn't sell us sheets of black, only sheets with randomly placed black hexes (dumb). But the tile guy was able to put it all together, and I LOVE IT.

3. THE PAINT COLOR

All in caps because I love it that much. Halfway through the decision-making process I swear I had a vision of what color I wanted so it was just a matter of finding it in the paint swatches. This never happens to me. I saw it in my brain. I found it in the store. It was painted. And it is perfection.

The vintage mirror and matching stained built-in shelves are pretty nice too...









2.17.2017

3 Pieces of a Perfect Bangkok Experience


I'm asked from time to time for advice on how to do Bangkok (twice this week!). Well, how to travel Thailand in general, but since the city is an urban mess of 6 million people, intimidating traffic and an unwieldy language, Bangkok is really what needs the most advice.

Plus Bangkok has my heart, it really does. It's massive and sprawling and filled with life. It's fragrant in every good and nasty way your nose can handle. There is extreme luxury and devastating poverty, as well as a red lit underbelly that can make your stomach turn. The real name of Bangkok isn't even Bangkok, that's just the name of one neighborhood that's a whole lot easier than the full name:

The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn

Even if Ayutthaya and Vishnukarn mean nothing to you, the fact remains: Bangkok is a great city, the city of angels, a grand capital, abounding in wealth, happiness, like a heavenly abode.
I heart it.

But sadly, if you just show up in Bangkok and wander around, you'll probably not like it very much (because you know, traffic, poverty, scammers, etc.)

So here are my favorite things to recommend to people:

1. Wats (Buddhist temples): You can't leave Bangkok without seeing GOLD. There are more wats in Bangkok than Mormon chapels in Utah, and they are a whole lot more gilded with gold and spectacle. If you wander around long enough, you'll probably just bump into one, but I highly recommend going to at least one of the big ones:

-The Grand Palace (Wat Prakaew/Temple of the Emerald Buddha). The first time I went, I was literally brought to my knees at the grandeur of the jade Buddha (and the mountain of gold upon which he sits).
-Wat Po (Reclining Buddha). The biggest Buddha in town.
-Wat Arun. The wat you can climb for a view of the river.
-Wat Saket (Golden Mountain). The wat you can climb in circles for a different view.

This link has all these, plus others, and a handy map marking them all: http://www.bangkok.com/magazine/10-temples.htm

2. Markets/shopping: My preference is for dinky neighborhood markets selling the seconds from the Abercrombie and Hollister factories nearby (among other things), or markets on college campuses (They seemed to always have the coolest clothes) but they are a little hard to find unless you're really wandering. Markets are most active in the afternoon and evening, but there are ones open earlier too. The further you get out tourist-town (Kao San/Sukhumvit/Patpong) the cooler stuff you'll find
Chatujak Market is a massive market sort of on the outskirts of town. It's only open on the weekend, and the morning is actually better.

-The Lumphini Night Bazaar used to be my favorite to recommend, due to its proximity to my favorite park, Suan Lumphini, but it's gone now, and most of the vendors have moved over to Asiatique, which is cool, but obviously built by a developer. It's right on the river, there's a ferris wheel, shops, and food, so you can't really go wrong, but sadly it feels almost like it could be a southern California outdoor mall.

A lot of markets are conveniently located at subway/skytrain stops, my favorite being Victory Monument. It's massive, with indoor and outdoor shops and food all around a giant roundabout. This is also where you can catch a van/minibus to outside of Bangkok if you are persistent enough to figure it out. The market at On Nut station is smaller but still great.

Beyond these, walking up Sukhumvit, between 3 and about 30, there are tons of shops, and Kao San Road, of course, where all the backpackers congregate.

I actually haven't actually been to most of the markets in this link, but they look rad and I will go next time I'm in BKK: http://bk.asia-city.com/shopping/article/bangkok-night-markets

3. Touristy things you pay for:
Ancient City is not very easily accessible, but there are usually people advertising tours there anywhere there are hotels. It's cheaper still to take the Skytrain to Bang Na and then a taxi from there. It is my number one favorite thing to recommend if people can't spend too much time outside the city or beaches. Basically it's a 300+ acre park with full scale recreations of famous places around Thailand. You can bike around or rent a golf cart, climb all over everything. It's a blast.

Other things I've done and enjoyed:
-Thai cooking class. There are lots offered, I've never heard a bad review. Thai food is the best.
-Thai Massage. Hard to go 50 feet without running into a massage place. Not all are created equal, sadly. I have gotten a lot of really crappy massages and haven't been able to figure out how best to identify which ones are legit. Something about the way they posture, like the most casual they are, the worse the massage is. I took a week-long Thai massage class that was awesome.
-Muay Thai fight. Okay I've never actually been but it does look awesome, and I will one of these days
-Cultural performance. I've been to a few and they are usually really pretty cool. Thai music and dance is something else and these are a good way to experience it.
-River Cruise. I've done just one and it was very cheesy, but at night is quite a magical view from the Chao Praya river

Beyond these, I must advise everyone going to Thailand to prepare to EAT STREET FOOD. Don't be nervous. It's amazing and clean and the very best thing about the country. [Some recommendations of what to ask for: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/thailand/articles/14-mouth-watering-thai-street-foods-you-ll-love/]

Remaining tips:

Where to stay? 
This one's totally based on preference. I usually stay in the Sukhumvit area (between streets 10 and 25 or so) because I know it best and it's super central and easy to get on public transportation to anywhere else. Most backpackers stay near Kao San Road, which is across the river. I've been over there and it's just fine. If you're going for posh, there are some luxury places on the river. A little less convenient to get to, but plenty posh to make up for it. The good and bad of Bangkok is that everything awesome is all spread out, so no hotel is close to everything. 

Getting around
I usually take a taxi from the airport to your hotel at first, it's just easier. They'll ask if you want to go surface streets or take the toll way (tang duan) and it's worth the toll for the speed. There is a public transportation option, but I don't know much about it. I'm always tired and disoriented when I land. 

After that, the skytrain (BTS) and subway (MRT) are super easy and go most places. It's pretty cheap and all stops are posted and announced in English. (Guide here: https://www.off-the-path.com/en/getting-around-bangkok-a-transportation-guide/)

For short trips, or getting from the Skytrain down a long road, I recommend trying out motorcycle taxis (Guide here: http://www.iamwannee.com/a-guide-to-bangkok-motorcycle-taxis/). Generally stay away from tuk tuks. They are loud, expensive, and seems like most of the time are trying to rip you off. 

If you're feeling adventurous, I love taking the canal boats (Klongs). They are crowded and confusing and the water is actually pretty gross, but there is something seriously wonderful. And they can be waaaay faster than other modes of transportation. No traffic jams! (Basic guide here: http://www.bangkok.com/attraction-waterway/)

Just outside Bangkok
There aren't really any good beaches. Pattaya isn't so far but it's gross. Hua Hin is where people I know have gone. If you want really amazing beaches, you've got to go all the way down south, more than a day trip from Bangkok.

Other quick trips I recommend are:
  1.  Kanchanaburi and the Bridge Over the River Kwai. There are some cool waterfalls 
  2. Ayuttaya. It's got cool ruins
  3. Lopburi. Lots of monkeys





2.13.2017

3 Celebrity Couple Crushes

Can't we just be friends, or neighbors?

1. John Krazinski and Emily Blunt
Ask Jimmy Kimmel, they make any party more fun. They seem just that right mix of ambitious, laid-back, fun, and serious.





















2. Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis
The fact that they are married to each other makes me think he must be as smart as she is and she must be as funny as he is. They are so cool.



3. Tim and Faith
For real though, are they not the greatest?

2.07.2017

My Jamie

I don't know how to keep up with this kid, literally on a minute to minute basis and more generally, recording his little life.

MAN ALIVE, my child is adorable. It is amazing how many times a day I watch him with total crazy eyes, dumbfounded at the little fireworks going off in my soul. I just luuuurrrrrve him (you know, when I'm not dead tired or pulling my hair out).

Some things I want to remember someday:
  • Any time he wants to go somewhere, he'll whine "goooiing! going!" If he wants you to come, he'll pull you with a "coming! coming!"
  • He likes having blocks and toys shoved in his shirt
  • He likes having pillows chucked at his face, kind of hard
  • He is increasingly obsessed with Lambie, which is cute but also awful, dirty and I realize, precarious. We have multiple to switch out as needed
  • He is most snuggly right when he wakes up
  • He loves Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
  • He loves playing with cars, trucks, trains, and things that go. And balls
  • He is obsessed with Nannie
  • His cheeks are the perfect combination of warm, soft, and springy. They are my #1 favorite thing about him
  • His S words often leave off the first letter (i.e. swing is wing, spoon is poon)
  • I am more often momma than mommy or mom
  • He took immediately to my dad, even though they don't see each other much 
  • He has a love/hate relationship with the Rumba (more like obsessed/terrified)
  • His best dance moves are a little shimmy, a spin, and jumping (he actually gets air!)
  • The most common comment I get when we are out and about is "he is all boy"
  • He is hit and miss with naps. I spend a lot of time driving around with him asleep in the car. Sucky nap days are when I feel the worst about myself as a mom
  • His favorite toys that are not toys are a hammer, screwdriver and measuring tape
  • Porter is a natural dad. He is as delighted as I am at Jamie's antics
  • He's good at blowing kisses and giving high fives, but especially like pounding knuckles, which he does even to himself, it sounds like 'bunnit'
  • He hasn't been around tiny babies much, but the few times he has he has been gentle and wide-eyed
  • His surprise/confused face is awesome
  • He is especially ticklish in his thighs and neck (the itsy bitsy spider gets them all)
  • He always laughs at us when we pray over a meal
  • Almost any bad mood is fixed by a few minutes playing outside
  • When I cry, he wipes my tears and starts crying
  • When Porter and I kiss near him, he will always run up and try to get it on the action
  • He eats pretty good, mostly. He'll be a bottomless pit for a few days then eat barely anything for a few days
  • HE IS MY BABY, no matter how big he gets
'Photo Dump

































2.03.2017

3 Best Scenes in Age of Adaline

I was sick a while back and, as is custom, used my stuffy nose and sore throat as carte blanche for watching a lot of movies. I had heard mostly all awful things about The Age of Adeline, a sappy fantastical movie about a woman who doesn't age, so spends her time alone, lovely and interesting. I think Blake Lively, while surely a bit pretentious and obnoxiously perfect, is actually quite lovely and seems to be relatively grounded for how beautiful and celebrity she is. And she did great as Adeline, who was beautiful and grounded and who made me cry because I was sick and the story was sentimental and lovely.

Three best moments:

1. It's New Year's Eve and Jenny goes to meet her old blind friend, who thinks she is old too, Jenny and Ellis lock eyes and in slow motion just LOOK. STARE. Time stops. THEY FALL IN LOVE IN A MOMENT. It's breathtaking.

2. When Jenny meets Ellis' dad, William, it turns out she had known him years before and she had disappeared when they gotten too close. He sees her, freaks, and everyone tried to play it off as not the awkwardness that it was. Harrison Ford is stricken and vulnerable and moving as this man who sees someone he loved so much walk in the door.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkR_E8jw6qE

3. At the end of the movie, Jenny gets hit by a car and finally decides to tell Ellis her secret about not ever aging. When her 85-year-old daughter comes to visit her in the hospital and introduces herself to Ellis as Jenny's grandmother, Jenny smiles and tells her daughter that Ellis knows. Ellen Burstyn gets beautifully emotional, as one would when your mother looks 28 and you're looking into retirement homes and you've been holding onto this secret forever. Also, if you've encouraged your mother all her life to open up and LOVE already. "He knows." She is visibly relieved of so much worry, and hugs Ellis, who is understandably still reeling.

Link: https://youtu.be/Jxs8p22Pq_Y

Give it a chance.

1.31.2017

How Great the Goodness of God (Three Great Goods)

At church a while back the Sunday School lesson was called How Great the Goodness of God. I think it covered one of the first ways God is so great, but it got me thinking about others:

1. God has perfect love

A concept that is pretty hard to understand. Feeling true love from my parents (I seriously lucked out in that department), I get it on some level. Finding the love of my life helped me understand a little bit more. Having a baby seriously leveled me up in understanding unconditional love. But when I think about God, love is overwhelmingly the characteristic I think of.

My grandpa used to tell this story that feels almost too special to share on the internet (but I'll share what I can). He was sick with cancer, so sick doctors asked him if he wanted to die at home or at the hospital. The family had a big fast for him, with lots of prayers and a special blessing (I was 2 at the time, not super helpful, I'm sure). And he was healed. Like 100% of his cancer was gone in a matter of days, doctors were scratching their heads healed. But healing isn't the memorable part, though he did live another 25 years. He recounts this experience he had praying so sincerely (with the gravity someone being sent home to die can only muster) and feeling an intense and all-consuming love. In the last years of my grandpa's life he told a lot of the same stories on repeat so I heard the experience regularly and even in his recounting of it, I could feel the reality my grandpa was feeling even in recounting the experience and felt an extension of that love every time I heard the story. I've heard other similar brushes with death (or life, as it were) or touches with heaven that recount similar explosions of love.

2. God has perfect understanding

Meaning we don't have to explain ourselves so much. Nor do we need to judge or make excuses for anyone else. God knows are hearts, He knows our personal experiences, our losses and fears, our greatest joys. He knows when we've acted out of weakness and when we're doing our best, and when we know better and are justifying things to ourselves.

The great lesson from all this understanding is not that God is planning a big fat 'Gotcha!' when it comes to judgment, or that there is any chance of God sneering at us, rubbing our faults in our noses, but rather that all this understanding adds up to complete and total mercy. We've got a listening ear when we are going through hard things that no one gets, and a generous and loving perspective when we just really kind of suck at life.

Research shows that what drives shame and furthermore what drives the downward spiral of sadness and poor decision-making is a lack of connection with others. We're hard-wired to feel connected and when we feel alone and misunderstood, we go haywire and bad feels worse. God's perfect understanding is an antidote to this lack of connection. It is our tether to our self-worth and inherent value.

3. God is perfectly beautiful

He has created beauty, including imperfections. I understand why people don't get into religion. I get why people don't believe in my religion, but I look at the world around me and the experience of human life and it is impossible for me to not believe in a higher power. It's not the science of how humans work that makes me believe, it's poetry and sunrises and best friends and intimacy and music and intuition and all these things that make us human. There is a lot of ugliness and hate in the world (feels like especially so lately), but in thinking about that ugliness, I've been drawn toward all these sparks of beauty. In them I feel God.





1.19.2017

3 Ways to Enjoy German Christmas Markets

A couple months ago Trish told me she and her best friend Pat wanted to watch Jamie and could Porter and I go out of town for a week or so? Yes, my mother-in-law is the best person on the planet, and yes I realize how lucky I am.

Throw in the stand-by connection and the world was very seriously our oyster. I went to the Christmas market in Prague like 10 years ago and it was so magical. I has been on my mind lately, so we Googled 'Best Christmas Markets in Germany', picked a couple and hoped there would be space on the plane (there was). 

1. Big town
We chose Cologne for its proximity to Frankfurt (the airport we had to fly into), and that it boasted six different Christmas Markets AND an unreal cathedral. The cathedral was, in fact, unreal. Very Pillars of the Earth and Gothic looking. We stayed in a simple, but very adorable little inn that everyone kept taking pictures of. (Sidenote: They did not have shampoo. I did not pack shampoo, nor did I buy shampoo. My hair did not appreciate any of this.)

The train lets you out right by the cathedral, which is right by the river, and the cutest parts of the town (and most of the Christmas Markets), so we didn't venture far from that area. We arrived on a Thursday morning and thought it was a bit crowded until we saw what Friday and Saturday looked like. Shoulder to shoulder packed, everywhere. It was insane. Sure, vendors came from all over Europe (most notable/delicious, a Nougaterie (fresh nougat maker) from France and sausage maker from southern Italy). There were candles and wood carvings and adorable German things everywhere. Cheap brats and hashbrowns with applesauce and people lingering and being generally festive. Pretzels for days. It was awesome. One market had an ice rink with a portion dedicated to what looked like ice bocce. In another town we barely stopped in (Mainz), there was a nativity pyramid a full story high.

2. Small town

After Cologne we stayed just one night in a town called Cochem, which is in the Mosel Valley (the wine region) and spend an afternoon in Koblenz, where the Mosel and Rhine converge. We took the train along the Rhine while listening to Rick Steve's Best of the Rhine, which was a play by play of cute towns and castle along our way. The Christmas Market in Cochem was much smaller (though I did end up buying most of my stuff there... because choices are too much for me), but the town was adorable and quaint and the perfect opposite to Cologne's busyness. Added bonus, the town had its very own castle, where there was a live nativity.

3 Religious

Porter and I noted that we both had the idea that Germany is very secular, along with much of Europe. Maybe it's just that the Christmas spirit is especially difficult to dampen, but I was surprised at how religious many places felt. Even among the shops, there was a lot of care taken to display religious items well. During the live nativity, there were several times where the group broke out into Christmas hymns. It all felt very much like worship and not just tradition. 








Of course we were total geeks about FaceTiming with Jamie. The connection was awful but it was encouraging to see him having such a good time at Auntie Pat and Unc Floyd's house.



Isn't my Porter handsome?