Family

Harper Turns Nine - A Pandemic Birthday Adventure

Earlier in the fall, we had discussed having a small birthday party in the park with Harper's friends - much like we'd done all summer, with bikes, masks and lots of space and fresh air. Then it became clear that we needed to think different with Covid numbers going up and lock down restrictions in place. So the Drive-By Pandemic Party became the thing. Disappointing to be sure, but so much better than nothing at all. And I think it went well.

The Birthday Girl asked for a Baby Yoda themed party. DONE! (Honestly I thought it would be Harry Potter again! Happy to move on from that.)

So Baby Yoda for the win!

First there was party prep on Saturday and BIG ASS BALLOONS. Because why not.

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Kurt bought Harper some old school gifts.

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We put together gift bags for the kids who were going to come by. We made sticker packs and Harper drew on each of them. There were Baby Yoda cups and stickers and gummy frogs in each gift bag, plus homemade cupcakes for everyone to take home.

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The morning of:

We start with the traditional balloons and streamers on Harper's door.

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Then we moved on to opening presents:

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Did we got a little overboard? Maybe. But to be clear - 3 of these gifts were from other people. We gave Harper six presents: 2 were books, 2 were board games and 2 were items of clothing she so desperately needed as she's grown out of everything! All in all, very practical.
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Then pancakes - Found the batter mix with this on it. When did that happen? I think it was some random school morning a while back - Hilarious.

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Note to self - next year do the numbers backward so they look better when finished cooking.

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Grace sent nice presents and one was this WEINERMOBILE WHISTLE!!!!!! She got to see the WM in person a few weeks ago.

I was so excited! Harper was all: "meh" so I said: GIVE IT. It's mine now. Thanks Grace!
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Then on to frosting cupcakes! We made the cakes the day before and did buttercream frosting the morning of.
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Green for Baby Yoda theme...

Harper did all the frosting herself.

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Kurt worked hard to set up the drive-way drive-by "Party" venue while we were decorating and getting other stuff ready.

Ready to party!

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Street party art:

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Waiting...

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Waiting...

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The party starts!
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We love our friends!!!
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At one point there were about 12-15 people standing around our driveway/in the street (all masked, and all standing at safe distances) and it was so bittersweet to only be able to wave and chat loudly, then send them on their way with gift bags and cupcakes. I'm go grateful for all our friends who were able to make it over!

And then we were tired.

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We cleaned up, then Harper opened more presents.
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Then we had burgers and pie and played LIFE.
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For what it was - Pandemic Birthday with Lock Down regulations in place - not too bad, all things considered.Harper is a lucky lucky girl and I'm so glad we could make it special in its own way.

The days go slow, but the years fly by.

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UPDATE: I forgot to add the invite I made for the party:

Copy of Harper 9th Birthday Invite

 


The Corona Diaries Day 7 - My Turn To Chill

I'm a doer and a producer so being active and managing situations is what I'm about. Yesterday I allowed myself to just chill. Did a few things in the morning that needed getting done, but after that, not much else. Played Candy Crush. Cooked meatloaf.

In a facebook group I'm in, someone asked how we are all doing. Reading through the replies makes me very grateful for all that we have and how lucky we are in this wacky weird situation we are all in. I wrote about how I drift between just focusing on today and what's in front of me right now and then look ahead to the hazy strange future. What will it look like for all of us? I don't overwatch/overread the news, but starting to see articles about "how our future will be radically different" adds to my teeth grinding at night, I'm sure. And my mom is a five hour plane ride away. Maybe that's why my shoulder hurts.

So much is out of our control so I'll focus on what I can do and let go what I can't. And play candy crush when I really just need to zone out.

Speaking of out of control, yesterday (the actual day 7), Harper woke up at 4am - I heard her door open and she went to the bathroom. Cool, I thought, she'll go back to bed. Nope, she came to me and said "I can't sleep." She lay with me in our bed for a bit, then got up and said she would read. I tucked her in and asked why she couldn't sleep. "My ear hurts." Okay, some tylenol then. I went back to bed, she read. Then she came in to our room around 5:30 and climbed in bed again and fell asleep, we both did, until about 7.

She asked for more yoga!

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Then because it's Friday and Friday's are days she can watch tv after school, she asked to watch tv. I said "After school" so she said, "okay, let's do school!" So we did the math work and the language arts work including a letter to my mom.

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Then it was time for art. Kurt set up the easel and paints.

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Then some lunch and snacks and it was time for tv! She watched for a couple hours then I said time for a break. We all just did whatever until around 3:30 or 4. I was playing the aforementioned candy crush and she wanted to help so she did. Then I had to get up for something and I said, "Why don't you take a nap?" and by golly, she said, "okay" and went to her room and TOOK A NAP FROM 4PM UNTIL MIDNIGHT! Wow. Clearly she needed that sleep. I was asleep at 10:30 so when she woke up, she came to me and I took her back to bed and gave her more books to read and fresh water. That lasted a little while then she wanted to get up. I told her to watch some tv with Kurt, and yelling from my bed "Animal shows!" which she did until about 2 or 3. Then she went back to bed and woke up at 7. YAY. I hope that is the end of crazy sleep schedule for her as she is no longer complaining of earache. Fingers crossed.

Kurt and I had dinner on the couch! It's been ages since we did that since we normally eat at the table together every night. It felt like such a throwback to the Before Kids era. We watched the first episode of Top Chef.

Harper got a letter! It's from Grace. As of this writing (Saturday morning) she hasn't opened it yet.

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One week of staying home. It's very very weird to try and conceive of doing this for a long time. While it's stressful to not have work right now (freelance and all) I'm really glad I'm not currently employed so that I can focus on our own needs. Again, very grateful for that.

I have a cold now too...did I catch it from Harper? Whatever was rolling around in her ears? Probably. It's wasn't strep for Harper, so that's good news. No fever for any of us. But a head cold for me. Ugh. Oh well, this too shall pass. Another day, more candy crush.

 


The Corona Diaries Day 6 - Not So Sick Day

Today the ear was better, but we took it easy in the morning. Harper asked again to do yoga - yay! So glad she's loving Cosmic Kids. And I love that she said on the first day "She's from England!"

Biscuit supervised.

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Yoga in the books, she said her ear hurt a bit so gave her more motrin. Then she got to watch tv for an hour with a breakfast of chamomile tea and green apples. I then went for my own long walk which was so nice. Get out in the clean fresh air.

Biscuit is a long cat.

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Later, Harper got to choose between art, math or language arts. She chose art first with Kurt and they did alcohol inks. I was in my office dealing with the rest of our lives. Not clear who was in charge of the class.

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Today was also clean house day! Bringing back Home Ec to school. Harper helped a bit with all of it and we all learned to appreciate our housekeeper even more than we usually do. (She's being paid to stay at home during this wacky time.)

Biscuit again with the Supervision.

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By the way, Willoughby is here too, but has had a terrible case of feline acne and we've had to give her special medicine which she freakin HATES so she keeps to herself a lot.

Lunch happened with ramen, kamaboko and hard boiled egg. Surprise-two yolks! Harper said it meant she would be lucky for five days. Cool!

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After lunch was Math with Prof. Frey and again the table sitting appears to be the key to good math studies. Following Math Class was AP Try On Mom's Fancy Shoes. She nailed it. It was pretty cute then I looked the picture of her in which I focused on the silver shoes and man oh man, she already looks like a model with that pose.

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Awww, shoe-heart.

The rest of the day included language arts, playing video games and having snacks. Before dinner we went on a walk in more sensible shoes and waved at neighbors.

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Things have been okay, but it's not always easy or fun, that is for sure. I was doing tax prep while Harper and I did language arts. Harper really puts in the work which I appreciate. Don't get me wrong, she doesn't go way above and beyond, but she focuses and gets it done. Can't ask for more than that.

As for me, my temper is kinda short, my nerves on edge often. I'm working on breathing through it but every morning I wake up with my inner cheek rubbed raw from the teeth grinding while I sleep. It's worse than it's been in a long time, the teeth grinding. Glad I have my sexy night guard. I make sure to get outside every day, have time to myself for at least half an hour here and there, even just to play stupid candy crush on my phone. God it's relaxing.

How are you all holding up? We have weeks if not months more to go. I plan on going to the hardware/nursery store to get plants to put in the garden. Tomatoes, etc. A good activity with bonus food down the line!

One day at a time, my friends, one day at a time.

 

 

 


The Corona Diaries Day 5 - Sick Day

Last night Harper woke up crying at about 11pm with an earache. She cried and cried and cried. My theory is that half of that was unexpressed emotional stress about all these changes. Poor thing. I gave her motrin and water and read to her for a bit and she felt better and went to sleep. It was about 11:30 or 12. She woke up at 6:15 this morning and napped a bit this afternoon. Hopefully she'll get a good long sleep tonight.

We do talk to her about what's going on, that it's serious and we are serious about doing all the right things, that it's going to be a big challenge, but we will be okay. I try to ask her about her feelings and share some of mine (But not all. I'm not a monster!)

So Day Three of homeschooling was a sick day. Sweet girl did do another yoga session (she asked to do one!), then got to watch Netflix for a bit as it was a sick day. She ate apples and had hot chocolate.

I enjoyed that down time with a lovely pot of tea.

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I attended to household business, bills and calling the doctor for Harper's ear and such. Kurt was out golfing - I know I know, it sounds nutty, but out in the wide open and easily staying far from the other players sounded good. On his way home he stopped at Vons for more apples and cucumbers and parchment paper and potato chips. Many things were empty but many things were still very much available and it wasn't too crowded. We got a starbucks treat as well (Biscuit was jealous). Kurt took a silkwood shower after all that outdoors/among people stuff.

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Harper had a doctor's appointment at 2:30 so we hung out and ate lunch then played Uno (aka math practice with the Biscuit assist) on our bed.

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It was nice to drive around, traffic was fine, but busier than I thought it would be. There were cautions galore at the Dr.s office, which is good. It took no time to get seen, which was even better. Harper got a strep test just to be overly cautious, negative in the office, we'll get confirmation tomorrow. For now just take the motrin as needed.

Harper proved she is genetically related to me and my mom by doing THIS all on her own. God I love looking through drawers in doctors waiting rooms...!!!

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Harper was perky in the afternoon so Prof. Frey had math class ready for her after the doctor. She did great. I think the alternate seating options are helpful!

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Later she distracted herself with lemon picking and while I'm glad she found something to do on her own, I was really bummed she picked all those lemons as I had planned to leave them on the tree and use them as needed. :-( Luckily there are still a few on the tree.

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So.

Thursday is Lemon Zest and Juicing Day!

She had a nap while I made a lovely leftover rice/chicken/cheese casserole for dinner with enough for more tomorrow and a bunch for the freezer.

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Quiet dinner, a bit more tv and now bedtime with a slug of motrin for the girl and hopefully a good night sleep!

Fortunately, fresh lemon goes well in a vodka tonic.

 


The Corona Diaries Day 4 - Diorama Day

Tuesday, St. Paddy's Day. We didn't find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but dang, we got a rainbow! Small blessings.

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I got to write more this morning, Harper woke up a little after 7:00am. Clearly she needed the sleep after being up so early yesterday. It was good to have lots of quiet time to myself and put some words down in a creative fashion.

Before school started I put on my walking shoes and went for a lovely cold march through the neighborhood. I was thinking I might pop into Trader Joe's for 2 small things on the way then came around the corner and saw this:

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I didn't get any details but am guessing people were only being let in a few at a time. I am very happy to wait for my small not very necessary items.

I came home to find school was gearing up. Harper started with more yoga and then as I made some breakfast, she and Kurt started math class. I audited. Then they went for a walk as I hit the showers.

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Afterward was break time then onto The Diorama! Harper and I worked on it with my trusty new glue gun. I didn't burn myself at all and Harper only did once. Success!

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There was some lunch and more chillax time, followed by Language Arts. We went through her workbook and then the worksheets which we forgot yesterday. Harper didn't really want to do the work sheets at first, but then she started rolling I just sat back as she plowed her way through them. Rock on, girl.

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Then she got to watch Frozen 2 while I dealt with grown-up stuff, tax prep, paperwork, etc.

Then the diorama beckoned her again and she finished it before dinner with supervision and some assistance from Kurt. I was amazed and pleased as I told her she could do more this week. But no, DONE! Well, not 100% done. Still needs the facts and description.

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While they glue-gunned away, I baked a water cake that someone had posted on Facebook. A cake made without milk or eggs or butter. I was dubious but decided why not give it a go. I had wanted to make Irish soda bread but didn't have buttermilk or cream or even white vinegar to make faux buttermilk. Gravity was on my side today, no mishaps.

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It's different. Definitely benefited from the lemon curd I had in the fridge. The flour I used was not All Purpose, but a stronger one I had from Grist and Toll. You can taste the flour a bit too much. There is lemon zest in it, but not nearly enough. I would play with this cake recipe when I have more flour. I do have some coconut flour in my baking drawer, I should find something to make with that.

I had a nice call with my sister in San Diego and texted with friends around the country. It's nice to be in touch in this wacky time.

Second school day in the books. It went really well, though there were a few moments of WHY IS EVERYONE IN MY OFFICE RIGHT NOW??? on my part, but more in my mind than out loud.

We are working on a field trip idea! More on that later...

 


The Corona Diaries Day 3 - First School Day

Day 1 of actual 'school' day. It was chock full, starting oh so very early.

I woke up extra early to get some writing done (since all my day time writing time will disappear). Started writing at 5:40 am hoping Harper might sleep till 7:00.

6:04.

SIX OH FOUR!

Ugh. Oh well. At least I got a page done in that time.

Harper and I did kids yoga via Cosmic Kids this morning. It was a bit, um, faster than I was used to for a yoga session. But a good thing to get going with. And later in the day she asked if she could do another one. Cool!

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The morning was filled with a friend of Harper's whose parents were in a child care pickle and of course you have to step up and help. They had a great time playing and making silly videos (which I will not post here because it consisted of much screaming and running.)

After our friend left there was math and language arts. Using the handy dandy white board in an alternate direction.

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Around lunch Harper found an alternate use for her backpack. Biscuit kinda liked it.

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After lunch was art class. I happily observed the lesson on shading, cross-hatching and blending. Kurt is pretty darn good at drawing! There was a lovely rain shower while class was on. It was very relaxing.

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Then we rounded out the day with baking cookies for St. Paddy's day tomorrow. We had green icing but no shamrock shapes. And in case you imagine I have my sh*t together, please observe many an imperfect moment! Ha! Gravity and heat...my nemeses.


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After we made dough, when it needed to cool for an hour, Harper took a long nap. Something she rarely does. I guess that early wake up, super high energy morning with a friend and classes at home really did her in.

I hope she sleeps later than 6:04 tomorrow...!

It was a good first day and a good start to the whole new world we are living in.


My Dream Car

I found myself reflecting on cars. I live in LA and cars are oh so very "important". The quotation marks are there because for some people, cars still are very important in a practical sense as a means to get around, even with more trains being built and electric scooters springing up on every corner. But mainly cars are "important" to show other people how much money or coolness you have - or both. Twice last year I was inside a fancy new vehicle belonging to colleagues and I found myself so glad that I'm not that person anymore. I used to dream of being that person, of having the brand new fancy, fast, sleek car. And then I got over it.

CivicI've been lucky with cars. I learned to drive and got my license at 15 in a hand-me-down Honda Civic (stickshift) (the image at left is similar to the one I had but mine was blue). I had been in a carpool up until then and now it was my turn to be the driver of the carpool. The car was small, 2 doors and a hatchback, but you could jam 5 people into it for trips to the beach or camping. I said good bye to it in college and didn't have a car in LA until sophomore year when I got a hand-me-down 1969 VW bug (stickshift of course). The car came with about 3 different colors and a few dents here and there. I saved up $100 and got a cherry red Earl Sheib paint job. It looked like this one except it had a black interior.  Bug

It was startling how much camera and film gear you could get in that thing. Or roommates to go to crew practice at zero dark thirty. Or how easy it was to jump start it when need be. I could jump it on my own, no help from extra hands -- one foot out the door to push it along, to build momentum, then a quick pop of the clutch and off you go. I will always have a special place in my heart for bugs. That special engine sound, the smell, the wacky pedals. 

After getting a license, there were cars to dream about. I dreamt about sports cars, I liked speed. Magnum's Ferrari and then later the Acura NSX. Had to love the NSX because it was a proper sports car but it was still a Honda. Of course there were more practical dream cars and one of my dreams came true. A few years after college, while still driving the bug, I bought a brand new Honda CRX! It was also read, also stickshift and came through the kindness of a partial loan from my grandmother. I kissed the bug good-bye (it went to a younger family member for more service) and proudly drove my dream car.

It looked just like this:

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I got the base model, the HF (stickshift). Oh it was spiffy with 105 horsepower, manual crank windows and no air conditioning! And I loved it. I looooooooved it. I drove it for about 8 years. It got into one crash (an insurance scam crash that I was a victim in, luckily no damage to me and easily fixed damaged to the car) and it got stolen once for the seats. Thankfully I had good insurance for both of these instances. But I was ready for a grown up car to go with my grown up job. 

My new dream car would have 4 doors and a trunk. I wanted 4 doors sooooooo badly. And a trunk that no one could see into. I considered some higher end cars but decided to keep payments low and went for a green VW Passat. (stickshift) Fun and new but not anything to break the bank. I said good bye to the Honda, thanking it for all its dream car services in my 20s.

The Passat lasted less than 2 years simply because my dreams started changing. I wanted to be freelance, not tied to a company where I didn't have much say in the jobs I worked on or the teams I was assigned to. I got laid off (which I helped engineer) and smartly sold the Passat right away. I didn't have another car to buy so I drove a Rent-A-Wreck for a month or so. It was a POS Nissan something something, but it was clean, cheap and got me where I needed to go.

Living in LA without a "nice" car was an interesting time. It was a fantastic lesson in what is really important to me: freedom. I shed all the exterior trappings of "what car do you drive" and "how much do you make" and really started to see what was best for me. I ended up buying a hand-me-down Acura Integra (2 doors, hatchback, stickshift). (I can't remember what year model it was....so I can't find the right pic to link to...) I drove that car for about 8 years and it served me well. I got all kinds of props from valet parking attendants who always were impressed that a woman drove a stick and would I want to sell that car. (Even now, when I drive our VW GTI - stick - I get props from the valet dudes who are probably more amazed to see this old lady getting into that car.)

Now we have that 10 year old VW GTI (stickshift) and a 3 year old Subaru outback (AUTOMATIC!!! First automatic I've ever owned). There was Kurt's Honda Accord (also stolen once) and his mom's 2001 Buick Park Avenue mixed into the last 15 years. 

People still ask me what my dream car is. And I haven't had an answer for that since 1990 with the Honda CRX. These days its more like "does the bluetooth work, are there 4 doors and is there a back-up camera? I'll take it".  

But this morning I woke up thinking about cars (I have no idea why) and realized what my dream car truly is:

A rental car that takes me and the family on new adventures. 

2 years ago it was a white Citroen in Lucca, Italy. 1 year ago it was a blue Vauxhall that took us to magical places in England. Those were dream cars. 

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Now I can't wait to see where the next dream car takes us.

 

 


Happy New Year!

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It's been two months. Two crazy months. But now I can finally say Happy New Year! and mean it.

December is always a whirlwind of Harper Birthday and Christmas and holidays and stuff and stuff. Then January rolled around with a teacher's strike and some planned medical stuff for Kurt that was stressful. It all went very well and he's fine - hooray!

As always, I have some goals and some plans. January included two goals: No drinks and No buying stuff on Amazon. I made it to January 11 without drinking. Ha! January 12 saw an afternoon kid's party at an indoor trampoline park and OMG that drove me to drink when I got home. Then the 13th was my birthday and Kurt had a friend in town and we all went out to a fabulous restaurant on my birthday and the cocktails and wine were so yummy. Why did I want to not drink in the first place? More of a reset, really. And while I definitely had a lot of wine during the teacher's strike and medical issues week, I stopped again and have just had a beer or a glass of wine on the weekends since then. And that works just fine. 

As for Amazon, it was really more about stopping the impulse buying. Being conscious of what I was buying and asking myself - do I need this or just want it? Can I make do with what I already have? (98% of the time YES!) It's been a very good change in my thinking and I want to continue being this conscious about what I buy/what I spend. I've gotten better at figuring out how to fix things and actually FIXING things instead of buying new. Or making things like the gauzy flowered canopy in Harper's room*. I am using the library instead of buying books (my biggest amazon pleasure) and am loving the library. I actually started the library using last fall and am so glad I got my head out of my butt and am doing that. It also helps when the book I want to read doesn't really hold my interest and I can just chuck it back to the library and not feel bad that I bought it and only got half way through. (Also, life is too short to finish books that don't spark your interest!)

The only actual 2019 Resolution I have made is: Wear a necklace when I go out of the house. I've accomplished that about 80% of the time and really enjoy it. 

For the rest of 2019 - Oh I have plans. Plans that I'm already moving forward on. Creative, juicy wonderful plans. If we are on Facebook or instagram or twitter together, you've seen some of my projects playing out! Keep watching!

What's new with you??

 

 

 

*I think I wanted this canopy more than Harper. I ALWAYS wanted something like it when I was growing up with fanciful thoughts of romance and castles. Harper doesn't seem to be a romance and castles type. Not at age 7, anyway...


5 MORE Things I Miss About England

I miss my commute. It wasn't always this route, maybe about 50/50. This route would often be a good 5-10 minutes faster than the main roads. This route would also mean a 5-10 beats per second increase to your heart rate. Some days there would be HUGE farm trucks coming at you. Some days a ton of other cars (with far more experience on these roads). Some days no oncoming traffic at all. 

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I miss Pret-A-Manger. Pret became known to me in 2006 when I went to London to work for about three weeks. It was the cheapest, best quality quick lunch or coffee place in Soho. I still love it to this day. Fantastic variety, lots of veggie options, hot food, cold food, kid sized food. I wish we had one here. 

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Speaking of good eats: Wagamama is also a big favorite. Lovingly referred to as "Snobby Noodle" by friends here who have spent time in London and love Wagamama as well, we were so pleased there was one in St. Albans. We must have eaten there at least every other week. Sometimes we'd order it in for lunch when I was working. (In my brief window of working.) My favorite was the Shiitake Donburi. Or the Vegatsu. Or any of the ramens. 

Dammit. Now I want some. 

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Moving on to dessert -- Bakewell Tarts. I'd never heard of them before this trip. (Astonishing) A tart made with raspberry jam and almond? DONE. I haven't looked for any here. I haven't learned how to bake it. YET. I asked someone at a cafe what a Bakewell Tart was. And they were so confused.

"It's a bakewell tart." 

"Okay but what's in it?"

"It's a Bakewell." 

Okay sold. 

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(picture by Brynn from Wikimedia Commons)

These horses who lived on our route to Harper's school. 

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I asked Harper if she wanted to live in another country again and she said yes. And I said, England? And she said, Yes! So. Watch this space. I'm going to figure out how to make that happen.