November 19, 2012

Learning to make pasta

Making homemade pasta has been on my Mighty Life List for over a year now, but somehow even though I have all the ingredients and tools on hand, it always seemed so daunting. Even though fresh pasta isn't so different from the soup noodles or dumplings my Grandma Shirley taught me to make, I imagined it would be crazy labor intensive and that after hours of stress and a huge kitchen mess that it would taste something like kindergarten paste. Clearly this awesome picture I imagined in my head made the activity seem unappealing, and thus I avoided it for over a year.

With some extra time to kill of Saturday night, and inspired by Camp Mighty 2012 happening out in Palm Springs, I decided just to do it. Even if it was messy, even if it tasted like glue, I figured I'd just try. Plus, we had 2 giant bowls full of tomatoes that needed to be turned in sauce pronto. I figured even if the noodles were only so-so, the homemade sauce could carry the dishor if true disaster struck we could always order pizza.

Like a lot of things I avoid forever, the actual project itself wasn't even a fraction as difficult as I imagined. I used a super simple recipe that was 4 cups flour, 4 extra large eggs, 1 tsp water. Working the dough through the pasta roller was initially a little tricky, but after several practice attempts my dough started to look respectable.

In the end the pasta was quite tasty and I learned it's very simple to make. It's not as easy as dumping an open box of pasta into boiling water and it creates more dishes, but  the tasty end result is worth it. Now that I'm over the fear I'm see more fresh pasta making it to our dinner table.

October 3, 2012

A mighty update: life list progress

Slicing through my life list, just like I did this bottle of champagne. 

Things to Learn

  • Learn to machine sew
  • Learn to skillfully use the manual settings on my camera
  • Learn to needlepoint
  • Learn to paint with watercolor
  • Learn how to bake my own bread- the kind that is good with hard outer crust and warm soft center. Does not count if said break tastes like glue.
  • Learn to drive stick shift (without crashing and sans tears)  The Economist taught me how to drive a stick last fall before we sold his car. His patience is legendary, so it was no surprise that compared to the other attempts, this time was smooth and tear free.

Practice letters from my pointed pen calligraphy class.
  • Take a calligraphy class  I actually took two calligraphy classes. I took a weekend pointed pen calligraphy class from Michele Hatty Fritz of Meant to be Calligraphy in the summer of 2011 and last winter, I took a more traditional 8-week foundational hand calligraphy course at the Smithsonian. It was such fun to learn two very different styles and to think about calligraphy not as writing the letters, but rather as the drawing and flowing of lines. 
  • Learn to use Photoshop beyond basic editing
  • Learn to make cheese
Video evidence of my successful saber attempt. 
  • Learn to open champagne with a saber  I was super sad not to have the opportunity to do this at Camp Mighty last year. The opportunity was foiled first by screw top champagne and then rain. However, one of my fellow campers told me that Miss Helen Jane Hearn had this great YouTube video explaining how to do it. So clever girl that I am I watched it about a dozen times, then chilled a half dozen bottles on Thanksgiving and convinced the Economist we needed to do it pronto. In my mind I imagined my attempt to be seamless and awesome, it reality I sort of hacked at the bottle and didn't have enough power in my follow through. The Economist however had no problem and sabered off 3 tops without breaking a sweat. Each time I couldn't quite get it off, he'd just tee up the butcher knife and boom. Not easily daunted, on my fourth attempt, I finally heard the sweet pop of success! WHOO-HOO!
  • Learn to meditate
  • Learn to crochet granny square
  • Learn to compost  When I posted this a year ago, my friend Anna from high school, who is now an expert in this area, contacted me and provided me with all the basic info the Economist and I needed to get started. For Christmas the Economist received a compost tumbler and since then we've been composting as a part of our regular routine. We save food scraps in a jar on our kitchen counter and once it's full the Economist takes it out back to the tumbler to mix with dry leaves or newspaper. Once the scraps and leaves have fully broken down to compost the Economist used the fresh organic matter to boost the soil in our planter boxes. 
  • Learn to make a graceful exit
Make and Do
  • Meet and be on a first name basis with at least 10 people in my neighborhood Currently I only have three people that I'm super friendly with, but I've upped my wave and smile neighborhood friends substantially, so I'm sure this list is going to grow quickly. (Erin K and John N, Sarwat H)
  • Make 10 new DC friends
  • Try 100 different kinds of tea
  • Make 100 new recipes
  • Mail 100 happy surprise packages
  • Take a picture a day for 365 days
  • Try a year without watching television
  • Give a meaningful toast or speech
  • Sew a dress I willing to wear in public
  • Make a quilt
  • Make homemade pasta
  • Design my own font
  • Paint a portrait
  • Cook live lobsters at home
  • Help someone apply and get into college
  • Throw a monthly dinner party for a year
  • Plan a surprise party for someone
  • Host a party where the ceiling and floor are covered in balloons
  • Send someone flowers just because
  • Plant spring bulbs
  • Grow flowers and/or grass in barren front yard I'm not crossing this totally off the list yet, because our front yard is still a work in progress, but this spring the Economist and I substantially improved the situation. The Economist's mom helped us identify some ground cover plants and establish a plan for the front patch of yard and tree box. We then added some plants we picked up super cheap from the National Arboretum annual sale and also that a neighbor a few blocks over was clearing out. Finally, once it officially cools down, I'm planting bulbs for the spring.
  • Host an outdoor movie night in my backyard
  • Sell something I made myself
  • Frame family pictures
Happy 30th birthday to me! Can you spot my end of the first trimester baby bump? 
  • Throw an epic 30th birthday bash I'm crossing this one off the list, but it was exactly epic in the way I had intended when I made the list. By the time my 30th birthday rolled around I was pregnant with EEL, but given the high risk nature of my pregnancy, we were not yet telling anyone, which made planning such an epic event quite a challenge. I was also exhausted and even thinking about a party made me want to take a nap. Thankfully, the Economist and my bestie Anna stepped up and planned a more low-key memorable affair. The party included dinner for 12 featuring all my favorite foods, pink champagne punch, balloons on the ceiling and floor, and a giant piƱata. The following month when we told people about EEL's impending arrival, the party guests couldn't believe I was pregnant. Where were you hiding that baby bump and what about the punch, were the two most asked questions. Here is my pro tip, when concealing your secret pregnancy, bring your own bottle of fizzy soda matching the color of the punch and no one other than the hostess will know what's in your glass.
  • Write a book
  • Write a piece for the NYT’s Modern Love column
  • Rekindle my pen pal relationship with Sarah
  • Hire a house cleaner for regular cleaning My brother Gus and his wife gave me the best present when EEL was born, someone to clean the house twice a month for a year. I hired Roxana and I'm seriously in love with her. The clean bathroom and dust-free baseboards she leaves after each visit bring me a ridiculous amount of joy, plus it frees up more time to cuddle my sweet little one. 
  • Be a contestant on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
  • Teach someone to read
  • Re-upholster my fainting couch
  • Create an annual tradition
  • Stop biting nails
Places and Things to See or Experience
  • Attend an official Inaugural Ball
  • Attend a TED talk
  • Attend 100 lectures or book talks Ann Pachett, Anne Lamont & Sam Lamont
  • Attend a Seder
  • Attend a Quaker service
  • Attend the Brimfield Flea Market in Massachusetts
  • Attend Kentucky Derby wearing a truly fantastic hat
  • Attend an auction at Christie's or Sotheby's
  • Visit the Museum Of Modern Art (MoMa), Manhattan in New York
  • Visit the  Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Me outside in the Getty Courtyard in November 2011.
  • Visit J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles The Economist and I spent a morning here while in Los Angeles for Camp Mighty in November 2011. 
  • Visit Fallingwater
  • Visit Niagara Falls
  • Visit New Orleans for Jazz Fest
  • Visit Maine, eat lobsters and visit LL Bean factory
  • See the Newport Mansions in Rhode Island
  • See a play on Broadway
  • See the tulip fields in Holland
  • Ride on a cable car in San Francisco
  • Shop in a Paris Flea Market
  • Shop at Harrods in London
  • Drink high tea in London
  • Kiss under mistletoe
Health things to explore/do
  • Do 10 real push ups
  • Start a regular yoga practice
  • Try acupuncture In August EEL started eating larger meals and I was growing concerned my milk supply wasn't going to keep up with her growing demand, so I decided to try acupuncture to help increase my milk supply. Not only has it helped boost my supply, but I've also noticed an uptick in my energy, a decrease in my muscle tension and I find it easier to take a deep breath. I'm so delighted I tried it and I intend to keep getting stuck.
Turns out I was able to get pregnant. Here is evidence here of me at 25 weeks on Mother's Day in 2011. 
  • Figure out if having a baby is possible I figured it out sometime around home pregnancy test number four, you know, because those first four tests could have been mistaken. Seriously though, when I made this list I expected figuring out if having a baby was possible to involve many doctors and even more appointments. I assumed this lengthy process would give me and the Economist lots of information, which we would then carefully weigh and decide if having a baby was a good idea given my limited lung capacity. Instead I learned having a baby is possible by actually having one. 
It's been nothing but surprises from the beginning with EEL, but having her was a brilliant idea.
  • Figure out if having a baby is a good idea Again, this wasn't something we got to spend too much time thinking about, but after the fact I can 100% say it was a terrific idea. My body managed to handle the pregnancy like a champ and now that we have EEL everyday I think about how delighted I am she is in our lives. 
  • Stop avoiding dentist, get new one
Financial and Career things to explore/do
  • Figure out new career
  • Find and do rewarding work
  • Create a long-term financial plan
  • Have 1-year of expenses in an earmarked savings account
  • Organize important life papers
  • Write a living will  Having a baby forced me to get serious and make sure I had a living will and that the Economist was briefed on my wishes.
  • Eliminate money as a concern
Things to Own
Our door is russet not candy apple red, but I've decided red is red.
  • Live in a house with a red door Technically our door is a russet red, not a bright candy apple lacquer, but I've decided it's close enough. 
  • Live in a house with a window seat
  • Live in a house with built-in bookcases
  • Live in a house with a wraparound porch
  • Graduate from training bra, own real bra that’s flattering and fits well
  • Own Burberry trench coat
  • Own red lipstick that looks good on me
  • Own Christian Louboutin red-soled shoes
  • Own linen sheets
  • Own a pretty umbrella

April 30, 2012

First anniversary

The Economist and I were married a year ago today. I look at the pictures now and marvel at how much change can happen in a year. If you'd have asked me last year if I thought marriage would radically shift our relationship, I would not have thought things would be much different. We had already done the hard work of merging our lives: we lived together, we became each other's emergency contact, we bought a house, we purchased furniture not requiring self assembly. Each of these steps felt like steps into deeper intimacy. I assumed marriage would be a similar small, but important step.

Yet, a year later as I look at the pictures and think back to where we were a year ago it seems as though without realizing it we have made a great leap forward.Our bond seems to be growing as rapidly as my midsection (which if you're keeping track is nearly double what it was a year ago). I'm sure part of our increased closeness can be attributed to the baby, and how we're about to embark on the grand adventure that is parenthood. However, I think the challenges we've weathered this year have forged a tighter bond as well. 

When I read that the first year of marriage is hard for couples, I assumed the experts meant for other people the people who hadn't merged so much of their lives before saying I do. I failed to see beyond the obvious. Our challenges were not over who empties the dishwasher or which family we would visit at Christmas or how often we have sex--we already knew how to negotiate those things like pros. 

Instead, we faced things even my best worst case scenario planning failed to take into account. And frankly many of the situations just sucked. Even worse, they just kept happening. We would no sooner deal with one terrible mini crisis, when another potentially calamitous situation would spring up. Tempers flared and tears were shed, our spirits were dampened, our egos bruised, but  even in our worst moments, we had each other. It sounds terribly cliche, but at 3 a.m. when you're both wide awake in bed, because your house has been broken into that afternoon and there is no emergency weekend door repair, so you're barricaded into your own home and ever tiny noise feels like the burglars are back, having each other feels less cliche and more real.

So even though I never signed any legal documents*, I am so glad a year ago I said I do. The public declaration of love and commitment we made at our wedding seems to have been a miracle grow for our relationship. I look forward to seeing how much we continue to develop this next year and many more to follow.

* Yes, in D.C. you can totally be married without signing any paperwork, so long as someone else has gone to the Courthouse with your photo id and social security number, pays the fee, and an officiant licensed in D.C. certifies they performed the ceremony. How crazy is that?

April 19, 2012

Pursuing parenthood

Baby announcement (left) and baby shower invitation (right)

Hello, there. My apologies for having been quiet since November, but the Economist and I have been quite busy. 

We are having a baby!

Don't worry, it was a surprise to us at first too. We discovered the happy news shortly after returning to D.C. from Camp Mighty and since then things have been a bit of a whirlwind. 

My compromised lungs meant I was instantly a high risk pregnancy. While all of my doctors were optimistic that both the baby and I would be fine, the Economist and I both worried about both the baby and how well my body would fair under the additional stress of growing a tiny human. So as we wrapped our brains around becoming new parents, we kept the news quiet. It gave us time to collect our thoughts, do some research, and figure things out for ourselves before we let everyone in on the new addition to our family.

All the extra doctor's appointments—in addition to a string of chaotic events the Economist and I experienced this winter—meant my posting here was not a priority. Also, it was hard to share much here since most of what I was pursuing were naps and remedies for nausea, neither of which are very amusing.

In February, we finally decided to share the news with close friends and family with a Valentine. As expected, everyone we told has been both delighted for us and totally surprised. Yet, I have still been somewhat guarded in telling people, because part of me still worries about jinxing things. But today, after receiving the invitation to my baby shower, I decided I was ready to open up and spread the word here too.
Me at 25 weeks pregnant wearing a dress I've been rocking since 2003.

After all, July 21st will be here soon. Plus, even though my baby bump is pretty tiny, and I'm a pro at the art of dressing to minimize it, I certainly look pregnant now.

Oh, and in case all the pink hasn't given it away already—we're having a girl!

November 19, 2011

Camp Mighty part two: life lists

It wasn't all amazing speakers, pool lounging, and champaign swilling we also did some work on our life lists
Life Lists: If you haven't already you can read my life list here. Most of Saturday was life list directed. We met with our teams for lunch and shared 5 things from our list we most want to accomplish this year. Since I didn't know anyone other than the Economist in this group, it was a bit frightening to put everything out there and be so vulnerable. Do you know the dream where you show up naked to the first day of school? The feeling was akin to that, except you're awake and you have to look everyone in the eye. Deep breaths were required. Thankfully, another braver soul went first. 

As each person walked through their list they identified one of their five that they needed help to accomplish. Time after time others in the group piped up with suggestions, ideas, names of people to contact, promises to email recipes etc. There was a poster at camp that said: "People Make It Better" and going around our circle sharing our lists and supporting people who no longer felt like strangers seemed to illustrate this point quite nicely. At the closing dinner on Saturday Maggie and Laura presented the ladies with a necklace with five gold rings to remind us though out the year of our top five life list goals. Expect regular updates on my progress as the year goes on. 

Mighty Team 3 group photo
Gold star people: Camp Mighty managed to draw a truly fantastic group of people. Many who attended are professional writers and bloggers, but the common three for everyone was being drawn to Maggie and Laura's concept to Live Better, Get Smarter and Do Gooder. Among the many dynamic people we met were AB,Amy, Amy, AndreaAnnaAliceCalebCecily, Elizabeth, EllieHeatherHeatherJen and Chris, JillJulesKateLauraLeslieMargitMatt and Melissa, MegMeganNicoleSusan, SarahWendy, Wendy and many more.

My only regret of the weekend is that I didn't spend more time chatting up everyone. Though by nature I'm an extrovert, in this situation I was a bit nervous, being so far outside of my element and thus wasn't quite the social butterfly I would have liked to be. However, what I lacked in outgoingness, I made up for by wearing bright colors to attract attention. When in doubt I default to my personal strength.
  If you missed my recap of the awesome speakers and events, check that out here.

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