Blue Jeans and a Good Hair Day

Some days, that's all it takes. Those little things every day that makes us smile, or sometimes, just make the day a little more bearable. The mornings where I begrudgingly drag myself out of bed, and tiptoe across the icy cold bathroom floor after a quick shower, only to take a sigh of relief when I remember it's Friday. I throw on my favorite pair of jeans and instantly feel ready to face the day. Or the simple fact that some days, a good hair day is all it takes to make you feel like a million bucks. It's the simple pleasures and everyday comforts of this life that are perhaps most important, yet often the most neglected. 

Inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, I know there is pleasure to be found in writing what makes one happy - even if it's just one sentence (or photo) a day. Thus, starts a Friday ritual of mine - to document the good in every day, through words and pictures. 

"5 years. 365 days. 1825 happy moments captured."

Friday: Jim's Legendary Cheese Steaks on South Street in Philly.  A great welcome to a new city! 

Saturday: Walking through the Historic District and admiring the colors of the city, the food at Ready Terminal, and my new navy and tangerine wellies from Aldo :)

Sunday: A memorable, emotional presentation, followed by Midtown Restaurant and Tom, aka, Uncle Junior from Sopranos 

Monday: Goodbye Philly, hello Tallahassee. A Skype date with Cruz and Beau, followed by a complimentary comfort food dinner at my hotel. This place knows how to take care of its people!

Tuesday: A day to myself sandwiched between two national conferences = quiet time in a hotel room, the most amazing book I can't stop thinking about, and a couple hours to stick my toes in the hotel pool in the bright, Florida sun. 

Wednesday: Another successful presentation with a wonderful group of colleagues on Florida State's sunny campus!

Thursday:  The look on my boy's face through the car window as I made my way out of the airport.  SO good to see my boys.  Cruz's eyes got browner in a week's time!  He seemed happy to see me and loved the little Delta airplane I brought him from the Atlanta Airport.  There's no place like home!

Friday:  THE HUNGER GAMES with Beau!  Bring on buttery popcorn, a cozy theater, and Gale and Peeta ;)

Happy Weekending!


A Book Review

“It seemed like forever ago, like we’d had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” 

As I sit here on this plane, attempting to choke back tears for fear I will look terrible when I greet my husband and son after being away from them an entire week, I sit here amazed at the power of words. And perhaps more importantly, the power and ability some people have to put our stories into such words that breathe life into our otherwise incessant lives. Stories that change us and make us think --- stories that reveal so much beauty that you feel it’s a sin that there are people in this world that will never take or get the time to read them. In this moment, on this plane, as I sit here shivering from the cold air vents blowing air at my toes, I am so thankful I was one of the lucky ones to read John Green’s newest book, The Fault is in our Stars. 

This book is a lot of things. It’s heart-gutting and raw, it’s cancer and death, but most of all it’s life. The way to live and let go, die and hold on. The book takes us through the lives of two teenagers, Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, two star-crossed lovers who find more depth in their cancer-stricken lives than most search for their whole lives. Their stories, and the writing of the insanely talented John Green is absolutely poetic – every line is meaningful. John Green is no Nicolas Sparks, one who seeks to glorify and romanticize the horrors of illness, while also not one to push the limits and cross the lines like many of his other realistic fiction counterparts. No, John Green’s book is on a level of its own – calling me to crawl into similar memories of being a teenager, being in love, and having my heart ripped in two by tragedy. 

I have learned so much from this book. I’ve learned there’s few things more important than how we raise our children, and that sometimes, the ‘greatest joys are found in our greatest pains.’ I’ve learned to appreciate the love I found in my own Augustus and the privilege it is to get to wake up and love him every day I’m afforded on this earth. I’ve learned that Heaven or what Augustus calls ‘the greater ‘something’ exists not just after death, but all around us, “an elegant universe in ceaseless motion, teeming with ruined ruins and screaming children.” 

And most importantly, I’ve learned that our purpose on this earth isn’t to make mistakes or even do something big. “The real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.” 

The Fault is in our Stars is a book worth noticing. Get ready to be sucked in – I promise. 


P.S. If you don't believe me, check the reviews yourself.  578 reviews on Amazon and not ONE below a three-star.  

What I Ate Wednesday

Happy Wednesday. It's that day of the week, hope you're having a good one. In this week's post I'm going to share my food for the day (WIAW), as well as my favorite "green powder" and new baby bib alternative I've been trying out.

Does it seem like I eat a lot? Well I do. I'm still nursing Avery, who is 11 months old, and when I'm not with her, I'm pumping for her. This, in combination with my exercise, works up quite an appetite! Enough talk about food, let's get right into my yummy, gluten-free, vegan food for the day...

5:00 AM Just woke up snack: 2 slices of Rudi's Multigrain
Gluten-free Bread, with Earth Balance butter, and organic
strawberry jelly.
Workout: 1 hour yoga with Shiva Rea Sun Salutations.

7:30 AM Breakfast: Chocolate Ice Cream Smoothie

9:15 AM First Morning Snack: Peanut & Jelly Larabar
10:15 AM 2nd Morning Snack: 2 gluten-free vegan pancakes
with Agave Nectar as syrup. Recipe from: The Cinnamon Quill.

11:30 3rd Morning Snack: 1 organic orange

12:30 PM Lunch: "Spaghetti with Sneaky Sauce"...what's the
sneaky sauce you ask? It's simply 1 cup cooked green lentils
and 2 hand fulls of spinach, blended into one jar of spaghetti
sauce on some gluten-free Tinkyada rice noodles. Yum!

2:15 PM 1st Afternoon Snack: 1 Silk Strawberry Soy Yogurt

3:15 2nd Afternoon snack: "Simply Sprouted Way
Better Snacks: Simply So Sweet Chili Tortilla Chips"

4:30 PM: "Green Juice" (aka green powder + apple juice)
So in "dream world" I would crank my "green-ness" up to the top notch, but sometimes reality hits and that just isn't possible. Before Avery was born I would make fresh green juice each morning...ah Kris Carr would've been so proud. But now that Avery's here, things are a little different. I don't have time to get out my juicer, prepare the produce, juice it, and then clean it up. Instead I just make smoothies.

In the past 10 months, I've gotten pretty fast with my smoothies and that "Chocolate Ice Cream Smoothie" that you saw above that I have every morning...well I could probably prepare it, make it, and clean my blender in 3 minutes flat. I'm sure that if I wanted to, I could get my juicing up to that speed, but for now, I've found a solution that works for me...a cool green powder: Amazing Grass Green SuperFood Powder.

Now I'm sure all the true "greenies" out there would say, "Come on just juice it fresh! You're missing so many nutrients!" And I'm sure they're right, but this powder is better than nothing.

Here's some of it's benefits according to the website:
-boosts energy and immune system
-supports body alkalinity
-one serving gives you the antioxidant equivalent of 7 servings fruits and vegetables
-contains pre and probiotics and digestive enzymes to ensure rapid nutrient digestion

It costs about $20 for an 8.5 oz. which lasts me about a month (using one scoop per day).

My favorite way to have this green powder is with some apple juice and here's how I make it...
Using an old BBQ sauce bottle, I fill 3/4 way full with
Simply Apple Apple Juice.

Next, I add one scoop of the green powder.

Since you probably don't want a mouth
full of powder, continue to the next step...

And shake it!  I love using the BBQ sauce
bottle because in between drinks I can
shake the bottle to distribute the powder
back into the juice, since it tends to sink
to the bottom.

And now we have some green juice! I love
this stuff and find myself looking forward
to drinking it every day.

Have you ever used a green powder? Share below what brand and how you like to have it.
5:30 Just-got-home snack: "Chocolate Vanilla Smoothie": vanilla
coconut milk, Chocolate Sun Warrior Rice Protein Powder,
Spinach, 1 1/2 frozen bananas, 3 frozen strawberries.

Around that time Avery woke up from a late nap and had a rockin' hair do. She joined Brandon and I outside to say "Hi!" to the dogs...boy does she love those dogs right now.

Talk about some "bed head"!

"Like my hair guys?"

Always happy with Daddy and the dogs

7:00 Dinner: "Mushroom Mexican Casserole" with some
homeade guacamole.  I need to post this recipe for you guys soon!
It's got mushrooms, quinoa, black beans, pinto beans, onions,
salsa, Daiya vegan cheese, and corn.

It tastes great with chips.

Let's find out if Avery liked it?
"Ohhh good!"

Messy fingers are a good sign...

Here's the new bib alternative I've been trying lately:
Baby Buddy Bib Clip.

It's just a set of clips that you can attach to any napkin
or cloth and use it as a bib...thus eliminating the need
for standard bibs.

I'm already annoyed with the semi-plastic bibs I got for Avery, because although they were PVC-free (one yucky toxin), they are not holding up very well. I suppose I'm not washing it right because it says just to wipe clean, and I usually soak it and then try to ring it out...but I'm sorry, wiping it does not get the job done!

I've looked into cloth bibs but none seemed to fit Avery (they are all too small and too short), so until I have the time to make my own (maybe a Pinterest craft of the month?) this is what I'm trying now and for only $5 it's worth a shot.  Even better, the clips are BPA, lead, phthalate, and nickle free.

So far they've been working out great. We just attach a dish towel, make sure to put the clips kind of close together (so no food goes down the front), and let her eat away. Afterwards, I unclip the towel, throw it in the wash and we're good to go. I love how it helps decrease the need to buy, throw away, buy and throw more away. Talk about being better for the earth and your wallet.

Avery's favorite part of dinner: finding Daddy's nose,
a body part she loves to label...messy
fingers and all!

Dessert: "Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough"...SIKE! It's actually
beans (that taste like cookie dough) from
Nourisng & Flourishing.
See you all next week! 

Neither here nor there...where do I belong?


"We all grew up in multiple countries
and multiple worlds,
the reasons are different 
and where we grew up is completely different
but we are united by this experience."

These are just a few words of the film "Neither here nor There" produced by Eman Ryan Yamazaki. The film is all about third culture kids, growing up among worlds. A trailer can be seen above. Clips of the film will be shown at The Families in Global Transition Conference (FIGT) 2012 in Washington this Friday 30th of March. The DVD of the film is for sale.

It's a documentary that explores cultural identity for people who have grown up in places other than their home culture, known as Third Culture Kids. Through the stories of six people, the film investigates the often overlooked effects on adults who had international upbringings, their struggles to fit in and an eternal search to belong. "Neither Here Nor There," explores the ideas of cultural identity. One person says: 

"I am a confusion of cultures, uniquely me"

As you know I was a third culture kid too. I have been thinking about the trailer of the film. I can identify with the people in the film. Their story is just like mine. The following words are my thoughts on this topic.

The past I cannot change,
the future I can try to influence
the present I can make the most of
but most of all I want to accept myself, just the way I am.
I will be happy just because I'm ME.

Mix together a little of these countries: the Netherlands, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Stir well
Add lots of sunshine
Allow to mature
Sprinkle with some tears
Enjoy the result: ME.

What are your thoughts on this topic? 

Related posts:

Philly Love

I am over halfway through my trip down the eastern side of the Atlantic, and am relishing the quietness this morning and anxious to re-enter the blogging world.  It's weird how this blog has taken over a piece of my identity - that if I'm not recording and reflecting and writing, I start to feel like a piece of me is missing, like a part of me will forget the very experiences I'm living and cause a black hole in this small piece of my life.  A little drastic, I know, but evidence of the importance this little hobby has become.

Today, I spend a day in Florida awaiting the rest of my party.  I flew from Philly, to Atlanta, and down to Tallahassee by myself yesterday, the first time I've ever traveled by air solo.  I did it, and the independence I felt was reassuring and invigorating .  Now, I sit in a beautiful suite overlooking an outdoor pool in sunny Tallahassee.  A room to myself, a complimentary snack bar 24 hours a day, and six dreamy pillows just for me.  But, with all the excitement and escape the last five days have brought to my life, my reality is back home, sitting on the floor of the bathroom during bath night, rocking with a blankie and Elmo before bed, and endless, available snuggles from my blonde baby boy.  
Last night, I had a Skype date with Beau and Cruz while Cruz soaked in the tub.  He acted as if everything was completely normal, as if the three of us were crammed in the bathroom like every other night, demanding tricks from Cruz and repeatedly asking him to 'sit down before you slip and fall.'  He still flashed me his devilish grin through the screen, stood up and exposed his birthday suit, and stared straight into my eyes until I finally coerced him to sit.  And when it was time to go, he blew me a kiss goodbye before bed.  Although not the same as snuggling and smelling the top of his head, enough to get me through 'til Thursday.  I ache for them and anxiously await seeing their smiling faces at the airport.
It didn't take me long to fall in love with Philly and am convinced the Cedar Valley could replicate the street-side food carts, fresh produce markets, and endless supply of Philly Cheese Steaks that the city has to offer.  It's exciting to live in the city for a few days, with literally hundreds of food choices at your fingertips and Anthropologie literally across the street.  The people, the busy, and the culture is so exciting, but also exhausting!  By Monday afternoon, I was ready for some Midwest hospitality, although so far, Tallahassee and its palm trees have filled the void quite nicely :)

Top Ten Reasons Philly Fits its Brotherly Love Status...
1.  The history.  To American historians, this is as ancient as it gets.  The cobblestone, brick, and history that lies in and around Independence Hall is fascinating.  We saw Ben Franklin's grave site, the basement of the first White House, and the place where the foundation of our country was formed and signed.  I admired the beauty, the charm, and the color, and felt proud to walk the same streets as our forefathers.

2.  The Philly Cheese Steak.  I could get used to this.  From Jim's on South Street, where I learned exactly what it means to order 'wit whiz,' to the numerous street-side vendors and their delicious smells wafting through the streets, Philly knows how to make a sandwich!  They're proud, too, and could all answer the magic question, Where's the best cheese steak? in a matter of seconds.  I had three cheese steaks in four days, and must say, my sandwich at the Wrap Shack was the best :)

3.  The shopping.  After missing our first flight due to fog, and having to spend three hours 'killing time' at the Mall of America on Friday, I figured the surprise shopping was done.  But when I discovered that our very hotel was connected to a mall, not to mention Philly's most exclusive shopping district just a block from our hotel, I knew my baggage was in trouble!  I got to wander through the racks at Zara, browsed through a number of children's boutiques, and could have spent hours in an old church renovated into an Anthropologie. 

4.  The flowers.  Philly was in bloom, and the colors of Spring were everywhere.  The brick and brightly colored shutters made for the perfect backdrop to the life springing up all over the city.  At one point, while standing near Independence Hall, there were more people taking pictures of this amazing cherry blossom tree than taking pictures of the building itself!  Oh, the wonders of the natural world!

5.  Midtown Restaurant.  We discovered this gem on our way back to the hotel after our presentation, and spent some time discovering the ins and outs of Philly from Uncle Junior himself.  Yes, Tom, or who I like to think of as 'June,' looked EXACTLY like Uncle Junior from The Sopranos.  When I told him of the resemblance, he sort of brushed it off, however, when I asked what he did before he 'retired,' he shot me this grin and said, 'lots of stuff.'  I'm convinced it was him and I think he knew I was on to him.  I wish now I would have asked him if Tony really died in the restaurant during the season finale.  I guess we'll never know...

6.  Reading Terminal Market.  This is a must-see if you're ever in Philly.  An old train station turned into a market, filled with foods and goods from all over the world.  This place was a photographer's dream, although a little overwhelming for a novice.  The four of us spread out and each found something delicious, then sampled each others' in the dining area.  While my pizza and Josh's Italian sausage were good, Jim wins with his jambalaya, fried macaroni, and amazingly sweet corn bread. 

7.  The smells of the numerous street-side vendors and the lines that formed behind each during the noon hour screamed big city and made my waistband thankful for Cedar Falls!  I don't know how these people do it!

8.  The Philly Convention Center.  This was the home of our conference and a truly magnificent place.  I think it took up four city blocks, to which the conference took up most.  I was thankful for the opportunity to network with educators from across the globe, and for the opportunity to share the story of Price Lab with our audience.  The response from our story and the news of our closing made for quite the hook during our presentation, and the reaction and faces of those in our audience was one I won't forget. 

9.  The architecture.  From the magnificent City Hall to the Art Museum, better known as, the Rocky Steps, the character of the setting we were in was awesome.

10.  An ASCD Exhibit Hall that took two hours just to walk through.  Conversations with Promethean and Scholastic, our school on ASCD's Interactive Map, and our pictures on the cover of Ed. Leadership!  Teacher freebies, new ideas, and many, many laughs with colleagues and friends.

That's it!  Philly was good to us, and I'm thankful for the amazing experience.  Gearing up for one final presentation tomorrow and a flight back to my boys next later this week.  In the meantime, I may check out that pool while I wait for my colleagues to arrive :)