July 2012

A Slow Moment

July 31, 2012

Hammock by the Sea

I could really go for a few hours in this hammock today. This photo reminded me of home: the dark sand, the craggy shore, the color of the ocean…relaxes me just looking at it. Yesterday I spoke to some of my family — they were on the beach, swimming and relaxing by the water, and I was missing my annual visit home. But I couldn’t think of a better reason to miss out on a Nova Scotia summer this year.

Image spotted on Pinterest

 

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Preparing for Travel

July 30, 2012

Packed Bags

The days are flying by here and there’s still so much to do!

There are so many details involved in preparing for this trip. The packing is the simplest part: There’s getting prescriptions called in, getting vaccines, filling out paperwork, getting some of it notarized, buying presents for orphanage staff, buying gifts for the kids at the orphanage, bringing stuff for our girls, creating photo albums to leave with them, creating an album for the birth family (if we have a meeting), calling credit card companies, going to the bank, and then buying over-the-counter meds, snacks, emergency items, toilet paper, rehydration salts, kleenex, and much more.

Apparently I also need rain boots, which is a bummer, because I just ordered waterproof walking/hiking shoes to bring as my main footwear and don’t have room for boots. We need to pick up our visas at the embassy in D.C. today or tomorrow. And then there’s just preparing to be away for a week…making sure bills are paid, things at work are under control, and certain people are notified. I’d also like some time to breathe and pray and relax myself before we grab our bags and take off early Thursday morning.

Every time I plan for a big trip, I realize there are things I’m missing — the right suitcase, the perfect carry-on bag, the right purse for a long trip. And there’s always the shoes. I never seem to have the right shoes… Remember Spain?

Does this happen to you? Do you have all the must-haves for travel, or do you find yourself scrambling for the right stuff at the last minute?

Image seen on Pinterest and found here 

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Milk

It’s pretty much impossible for me to think about anything else other than our upcoming trip right now. I’m not being as productive as I’d like because I’m so tired — the anxiety seems to be zapping my energy. I’m trying to take care of myself in between the busyness so I don’t come down with a cold or something else before we even get there. I’ll update you on how things are going early next week.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a column Mark Bittman wrote earlier this month about milk. He cured his lifelong acid reflux problem by giving up dairy. No surprise to me — I’ve heard of this before. Industrial dairy is not exactly known to be the healthiest thing around. (Of course, not all cases of GERD or acid reflux are so easily fixed.)

I stopped drinking dairy in my early 20’s, with the exception of taking it in an occasional coffee or tea, and I continued eating yogurt and cheese here and there. I’m pretty lactose intolerant now and one sip of regular milk can leave me feeling nauseous. Raw dairy doesn’t have that affect on me. (And it annoys the heck out of me that drinking milk straight from an animal is now tantamount to dealing in cocaine, but that’s a topic for another post.)

When buying conventional dairy, I purchase minimally pasteurized products from local farms as much as possible, and I find that makes a difference. As dairy substitutes, I use coconut, milk, and rice milks. They’re good in shakes, granola, and even in some recipes. There’s a lot of delicious raw cheese you can now get in grocery stores.

Are you a big dairy consumer or have you given it up?

As we head into the weekend, I want to share a few items I found when distracting myself from my to-do list over the past few days:

  • Part 2 of Mark Bittman’s thoughts on dairy.
  • These dream vacation spots of Agnes Blum’s are, well, dreamy, aren’t they?

Image seen on Pinterest and originally spotted on ritzy bee

 

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Summer Settin’ Music

July 26, 2012

by Margaret Cabaniss

One of my favorite podcasts, the Slate Culture Gabfest, recently encouraged listeners to send in songs for a “summer strut” playlist — music that made them feel like…well, strutting down the street in the summertime. The resulting list was something of a mixed bag, but it made me think about the kind of music I like to listen to in the summer — only for me, in this heat, my preferred mode is less strutting than, say, porch-settin’.

So, in honor of my vacation this week — during which I’ve become something of an expert on settin’ — I thought I should put together a little playlist of my own: something that makes you want to sit out on the porch in the heat of the afternoon, kick back with a cold drink, and sweat it out to some summer tunes. Apparently, for me that means some roots rock, a little soul, and a sprinkling of gospel, blues, and country. It may be a little random, and I definitely could have spent some more time tweaking it here and there…but my raft in the lake is calling. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!

Image: Colleen Duffley for Coastal Living

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Stress Ball

July 25, 2012

Stress

This trip to Ethiopia is crazy intense to plan.

After three days of back and forth with travel agents, trying to figure out the best itinerary to get us there on the date our adoption agency wanted us to arrive, I was relieved to finally get the tickets booked on Monday. My to-do list is taller than I am so it was good to get one big thing checked off and move on…

<Insert sound of screeching tires here.>

Then an email arrived yesterday afternoon saying our court date had been changed. Only by a day, but it meant our return flight had to be changed, and the problem was, all the flights were booked. Like, all of them. No waiting lists, even. Seems like everyone’s going to Ethiopia right now and I’m not sure why because it’s rainy season already and there are apparently heavy rains over there right now. (Yeah, just what a girl like me likes to hear. Ugh.)

Anyway, for a little while I thought this just wasn’t going to happen. But our impressive and patient travel agent worked her butt off and found a return flight on a different airline a few days later than we wanted. So we changed our dates and booked a new itinerary. It was a fun few hours going back and forth with our adoption agency (whose server was down), our travel agent (who was trying to hang on to every possible option but needed my responses ASAP), and my husband (who was having a very busy day at work and hadn’t even read the email about the court date change). And I was at one of my jobs, trying to act normal and conduct business, which I wasn’t pulling off very well.

Even though I’ve had a sensation around my throat like someone is choking me off for the past five days, I did manage to almost laugh today because the stress became so much I interiorly felt myself giving up. Whatever I thought. And that’s probably good, because what you may not know about me is that I’m a control freak. Hey, I’m the eldest of 10 and happen to have a lot of fears, so trying to be in control of everything is second nature. The international adoption process is not suited for such people. This whole thing may just shave off a few years of my life. But then I see the faces of those little girls and I think all of this will be worth it.

Image spotted first on Pinterest and found here

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A Little Kitchen Tip

July 24, 2012

by Ann Waterman

As you may or may not know, I have a penchant for re-purposing containers, and after reading Margaret’s brilliant idea for converting a mason jar into a salt dispenser, I was inspired to make my own little kitchen fix.

I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately, and one of my pet peeves is baking soda boxes. Most are tab-opened, leaving the soda open to air and moisture — and good luck if the box tips over. Many baking powder containers, on the other hand, have that ingenious metal ledge that allows you to level your measuring spoon as you take the contents out of the container.

Solution? Next time you’ve worked your way through a baking powder container — which may require you to make lots of chocolate chip cookies (I know, what a pain) — remove the label, pour your baking soda into it, and affix the appropriate label indicating the contents. Problem solved!

You could also do this with corn starch, another product that comes in unhelpful packaging. And if you’re a neatnik, this idea helps create uniformity in your cabinets.

What’s your favorite way to re-purpose containers?

Image: Ann Waterman

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Ethiopia Bound!

July 23, 2012

Ethiopia Highlands

Wow, this is a whirlwind. My head is spinning!

We got word late on Friday that our court date in Ethiopia is scheduled for August 6 — the last day the courts will be open before closing for their annual two month break. Our adoption agency wants us there on August 1, so we leave one week from tomorrow.

Ack!

My excitement is definitely being overshadowed by anxiety right now. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to accomplish in the next week and by the fact that this fearful flyer has to spend umpteen hours in the air to Ethiopia and back. Add to that the fact that I also have to get on a small Ethiopian aircraft and fly up north to the town where the orphanage is to meet our girls. I’m shaking in my boots. Who’s crazy idea was it to adopt from a developing country half way across the world again?

My posts will probably brief this week. Ann will be here tomorrow, and Mags will have something fun on Thursday.

If you’ve been to Ethiopia, I welcome your packing tips.

Image found here

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It’s Twins!!!!

July 20, 2012

Twin Blossoms

I hardly know how to announce this news, but here it is: Yesterday, B and I officially accepted an adoption referral of twin 4-year-old girls!!!!

Everyone talks about getting The Call, but things never seem to go the normal way for me… I’ve been so used to not even thinking about a call from our adoption agency that I didn’t recognize the phone number when it came up on my cell phone. Who’s calling me from Seattle? I don’t know anyone in Seattle!  So I let voicemail get it.

A little later, an email popped into my inbox. Then my heart started to pound and I couldn’t think straight. I debated whether I should call back right away, as I had a life coaching session coming up and didn’t think I could possibly be present to my client if I spoke to our case manager first. (I did call, and through sheer force of will, I managed to still pay attention to my client.) B and I were sent their information that evening.

The girls were in the upper range of our age request (0-4), but when we saw their file, they seemed like the right fit or us. They are from the north — a new area our adoption agency is working in. They are sweet. Their story makes us very sad. We keep staring at their pictures. We can’t wait to meet them! We filled out the paperwork and sent it in yesterday.

Crazy amazing!! And scary. And overwhelming. And awesome. And a million other things!

So what’s next?

There are two main steps after a referral: court proceedings and embassy appointment. Right now, the Ethiopian courts are about to close for the rainy season, which they do every year, so our agency is trying to get us squeezed in before that, which means we’d be leaving in two weeks! If that doesn’t happen, we’ll have our court date as soon as they reopen in late September/early October. That first trip is typically about a week long — we meet the children at their orphanage, and possibly some of their birth relatives, and then we return to the capital city for court. After that, we come home and wait for around two months until our appointment can be scheduled with the embassy. That’s when we’ll obtain the children’s visas to be able to take them back to the United States.

I hope you’ll forgive me for not having any fun links to share with you today; I’ve been just a little distracted this week. My weekend will be spent catching up on rest (I haven’t been sleeping very well!), creating mega to-do lists, and trying to keep myself sane as we wait to hear if we are leaving for Africa soon to meet our girls.

I wish you a slow and happy weekend!

Image found on Pinterest

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Taking a Slow Vacation

July 19, 2012

by Margaret Cabaniss

This time next week, if all goes according to plan, I should be swinging in a hammock next to a lake, cold drink in one hand, pulpy summer reading material in the other. God bless vacation. This is a big one, too: My dad’s entire side of the family — 25 of us, including grandfather, kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids — will be spending a week together at an undisclosed location on Lake Gaston, right on the North Carolina-Virginia border. No theme parks, no night life, no internet — just good food, good books, and lots of bonding time on the water.

Of course, vacationing with family can sometimes get a little…stressful. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit apprehensive about the chaos involved in pulling off an operation this size — but I think we have a few things working in our favor:

1. We’ve been planning this for a while. A study a couple of years ago showed that a good chunk of the pleasure people derive from their vacations comes not from the trip itself, but from the anticipation of it. There’s definitely something to this: Instead of a whirlwind trip that will be over in the blink of an eye, I’ve been savoring the idea of this reunion since last Christmas, when we first started putting plans in motion. Having to hammer out the details with various family members has kept us all in closer touch lately than we otherwise might have been, which just helps extend the reunion vibe. And the kids have heard nothing but how much fun all the swimming, fishing, and canoeing will be, so I think they’re primed to have the time of their little lives — even if the trip itself will pass much too quickly.

2. We planned, period. I’m not a terribly spontaneous person. It’s ok, I’ve made my peace with it. I can’t handle being in large groups without any structure or direction (which is why I hate going to the mall); I’d much rather know the who-when-where in any given situation so I can slow down and actually enjoy it, rather than worrying about what needs to happen next. To make things run more smoothly on our vacation, we’ve already planned a lot of seemingly mundane details — sleeping arrangements, the meal plan, rotating shifts for kid-watching duty, and so on. It may seem a little Type A, but it takes the guesswork out of the things that have to get done, which leaves us free to relax and enjoy the things we want to get done.

3. …but everything else we’re leaving unscheduled. My family has never been the destination-vacation type; our idea of a good time is a stack of books and unlimited hours on the water. And because there’s not much else to do where we’re going, there’s no real danger of overscheduling ourselves. As much as I hate having no plan, trying to plan every tiny detail and cram the day full of scheduled activities can sap the fun out of a vacation just as quickly. Outside of the details we needed to nail down to make the week run smoothly, we’re leaving everyone up to his or her own devices, so that those who want to fish and paddle and swim all day can do so — and those who want to nap in the hammock can do that, too. (Ahem.)

What about you? What do you do to help make your vacations run smoothly and slowly?

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Salad Time

July 18, 2012

Summer Salads

Have I ever told you I’m a salad freak? I can eat it any time for any meal — except perhaps breakfast, though I’m guessing I could think of something salad-like to reach for first thing in the morning if I tried hard enough. Summertime is the perfect season for salads, of course; you can do a lot when produce is so fresh, abundant, and available.

One of the mistakes a lot of people make is assuming a salad always means lettuce. I’m a rabbit myself, so I love green salads — mixed greens, arugula, romaine, Bibb, etc. But salad is so much more: You can use grains, grilled vegetables, fruit, berries, chicken, tofu, fish, noodles, cheese, nuts, seeds. Really, anything can go into a salad. You can make it hot or cold, light or hearty. The secret is to balance the flavors and textures.

And, of course, there’s the dressing. Ann mentioned her go-to recipe here. My favorite dressing for most vegetable salads is just a simple olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar, with a little dry mustard, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Sometimes I’m lazy and I just add the ingredients one by one right onto the salad and toss — and it still turns out.

You can be experimental and spontaneous with salads, which is another reason I like them so much. I’ll combine some unlikely things together and it usually works. They key for me is the quality of ingredients: When they’re good, you can keep a salad super simple and it’s delicious.

How about you? What are your favorite salads at this time of year?

(Above are some of the salad dishes at our anniversary party last month — a curry couscous and currant salad, a cabbage and ramen noodle salad, caprese salad, and chicken salad, to name a few. Gorgeous, huh?)

Image: Zoe & Hal

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