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    June 21, 2015

    In which I ramble a lot before I get to the Thumbprints part

    It's Father's Day. I saw my own dad on Thursday. I gave him an unwrapped book of Churchill quotes and pictures from the Churchill War Rooms gift shop and as I was leaving I said, "Happy Father's Day!" and he said, "I don't believe in these ridiculous Hallmark holidays" and I said, "Oh, then can I have the book back?" and he said, "No." So that's my dad. 

    And then Phillip got what he most wanted for Father's Day, which was a day full of shameful lazing about. The kids stayed with his parents last night so we could see The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, or should I say so Phillip could see The Bad Plus Joshua Redman and I could sit next to him and drink cocktails. I have nothing AGAINST jazz, it's just that most of it sounds like a mess (TO ME). I need my jazz to be a steady stream of Gershwin standards, preferably with a singer. But anyway, the kids stayed away and Phillip and I did a whole lot of nothing until it was time to pick them up. Then they all played a Lego Xbox game (their gift to him) and we grilled hot dogs and burgers and now Phillip is out with the big kids at a MAGIC SHOW. A big one at the fancy theater downtown - we kept seeing billboard advertisements for it and Phillip kept saying he wanted to take the kids, but when we realized this was the last night of the show, an impromptu ticket buying commenced. Emma and I are home by ourselves, reveling in the quiet and the sunshine and the advent of summer. YAY SUMMER. 

    I should tell you more about my trip, but the parts of the trip I need to tell you about next require the sort of blogging I used to reserve for the Parenting Post. As in, attempt to write coherently, have a point, share actual information, etc. Tonight's more of a tipping my head to the side, knocking my temple, and seeing what spills out of my ear style of blogging. Also I don't feel well. It started last night when my friend and I had left our husbands for the second set of the jazz show while we caught up on each other's lives in the lobby of the Westin Hotel. (Pro Tip: The Westin Hotel lobby is my favorite downtown place for lounging when you don't exactly want to buy anything.) 

    HOWEVER I started to feel Queasy and it turns out you can't use the Westin hotel lobby restrooms without a key. I basically stalked someone who had a key and then I felt REALLY unwell and when I came back I asked my friend to take me home. But her husband had her car keys and my husband had my house keys and while I would have LIKED to suck it up and let Phillip watch his favorite musician's second set, I DID NOT HAVE A KEY TO THE RESTROOM. Ahem. 

    I was not going to tell you this story. It's slightly embarrassing. 

    Anyway. I felt terrible because 1) Phillip and my friend traded places which was sad for both of them and 2) I FELT ACTUALLY TERRIBLE. Jack had a fever a few days ago, Emma had one today, I am wondering if I am getting something too or what. Blargh. I had grand plans for wine and perhaps a chocolate ice cream bar on my deck for when Emma goes to bed, BUT NOW WHAT.

    Oh, I remember, I was going to tell you about Thumbprints. 

    After what seems like our 47th Come To Jesus conversation, Katie and I made some decisions. Chiefly: Thumbprints is going to become a macaron factory. With a few custom sugar cookies thrown in. After a year of this selling cookies and cakes nonsense and a whole lot of Learning From Our Mistakes, what seems WORTH IT is selling macarons and sugar cookies. I think if you were to pick our least favorite things to eat, macarons and sugar cookies would top the list. But these are the things that appear to bring a profit. And are the things that we can easily store, easily deliver, and easily manage the details of. If we were a STORE, things would be different. But we are not a store. We can't even concentrate on this endeavor full time. Today I picked up a Seattle Magazine and read about a few different food people selling ice cream and other things - they're doing it in a shared kitchen downtown, they have pop up shops, they have dreams for a permanent location. That was me for about 4 months. But Katie moving and the reality of We Both Have Small Children have really put the brakes on Ambition. 

    That said, neither of us want to QUIT and we want to do something that MAKES SENSE. Streamlining down to macarons and sugar cookies makes sense because if we just do those things, getting approved for a home baking license will not be quite as hellish as our attempt last year. SO WE HOPE. The bureaucrats of the State of Washington could still be bored and sadistic and make our application process dreadful. But getting Katie's kitchen approved is the thing that makes the most SENSE. Paying for a kitchen that is too HARD for us to use, plus insurance, is expensive and annoying. So we're going to start that process and, in the meantime, ask our old kitchen if we can go back for a weekend this summer so we can sell stuff at the street fair in August. We're still not totally legal, as our license is about to expire, but WE ARE DOING OUR BEST (@$#*$)!(#%&!!!

    I do not want to be a Quitter and you all know that Failure is basically the worst thing that can ever happen to me, but DUDES. Getting a food business going is... I mean, we finally have customers. We occasionally have to turn things down, even. I do enjoy putting money in the bank account. It is FUN to do something new and grow something from nothing. I love doing this with my sister. But everything else is SUCH A FREAKING SLOG OMG. 

    Okay I'm going to read my fever baby some stories and put her to bed and reconsider that chocolate ice cream bar. 


    June 13, 2015

    Phillip's company needs to open an Italian office

    We listened to the Matilda soundtrack on the way home from dinner out tonight and I thought Gee, I should probably write something about our trip! BUT WHAT. HMMM.

    People keep asking me what the best part was and the best part was either going to the theater in London, which is something I could do every night for the rest of my life, or just "living" in our Italian town for two weeks. Which I honestly didn't expect. When we first were planning this trip I didn't want to spend that much time near where I used to live. I thought maybe we could use it as a base to go to the beach and for taking the train to bigger more exciting places. I even thought maybe we'd take a jaunt down to Sicily. I was nervous about maybe having to see all my parents' friends, or old teachers of mine (because when your parents are teachers all their friends are teachers), and high school wasn't the funnest or anything and I wasn't nostalgic and didn't ever need to go back - 

    AND IT WAS SO LOVELY. It happened as soon as we'd landed and made our way through the airport to the rental car parking lot. I felt mysteriously comfortable, at home-ish. I was so happy to be there. I texted some friends right away: I AM SO HAPPY TO BE HERE!

    And it stayed that way, fortunately! The house my folks rented was absolutely perfect, with more than enough space, five minutes from cappuccino and a pizzeria and the train station. It took us at least a week to get over jet lag and I think it rained every day. And my mom and dad kept asking us what we wanted to do and we always just felt like THIS. We wanted to do THIS. Have our cappuccino and brioche at the bar. Buy fresh bread in the morning. Stroll through town. Get gelato in the afternoons. Think about what we'd eat for dinner. Why yes everything DID revolve around what we would eat next. And it was fabulous. 

    We did see some old friends and we did drive the kids past my old house (they were more interested than I thought they'd be!), but for the most part we spent our days traipsing around the town and eating things, or doing little day trips here and there - Venice, Padua, the beach, markets, and this town called Aquileia, an ancient Roman city with some pretty great ruins. It also happens to be one of my dad's favorite places in the world (the favorite?). Any time anyone from the States came to visit, the next day they'd be on their way to Aquileia with my dad as tour guide. It became a running joke in my family, and when my in-laws arrived later on in our 2 weeks, we couldn't NOT take them to Aquileia. 

    One of my favorite memories is taking my in-laws to one of my parents' favorite restaurants. It's the kind of place where there is no menu and the waitress just tells you what they have that day. And you're supposed to order all the courses and you sit there for hours enjoying your meal and if it's summer you're outside on the expansive patio looking out at the kids playing on the lawn. The food was fantastic, the pace was heavenly, and because there was a huge family party happening inside the restaurant, lots of kids kept coming outside to play and Jack ended up playing soccer with them. I LOVED watching this. I loved watching them try to communicate, how the older boys were so nice to Jack, how he wasn't too shy to play with them. It was such a great moment and I hope he'll remember it. In case he doesn't I did take one million pictures. 

    I was not ready to leave Italy. I really was so happy being there. It helped having the perfect accommodations - oh wait, let me tell you about the house. So it belongs to a Belgian family who rents it out to mainly, I think, Germans on holiday. Anyway, it was spotless, comfortable, spacious, and very Italian with the entrance hall and the four giant rooms of equal size off the hallway that could be anything you wanted - just stick an Ikea kitchen in one and there you have your house. The bathroom was tiled up to the ceiling and contained an itty bitty washing machine. The windows were all shuttered, the floors were cold and hard, it had an echoey stairway up to the second floor. And the owners did not pay for trash pick up. The house information sheet, clearly posted in the hallway, instructed renters to tie up their garbage bags and place them in public garbage cans. "You'd better do this daily," the sheet warned. So every night there was this surreptitious leaving of the house with secret bags of garbage to dump in the cans along the sidewalks on the streets nearby. We weren't supposed to let the neighbors see. One night I went out with my purse full of plastic water bottles, dumping one in each garbage can I came to. It was actually sort of stressful, thinking about how much garbage you were going to have to take out that night and if it would fit in the public cans. I was so happy to note the four dumpsters outside our apartment in London PLUS a garbage chute on our floor. 

    Venice was insane. I kept reminding myself that I hadn't been to Europe in the spring/summer for years - I mainly came to visit at winter break or for Carnevale in February. I'd forgotten what the Dolomites looked like without snow and how everyone has hedges of jasmine and the smell of jasmine on a hot evening. (I smelled it and immediately flashed back to high school.) So it had also been a while since I'd been to Venice in the summer and OMG THE PEOPLE. On the plane I'd overheard a pompous young man discussing how touristy Venice is, he just can't go there anymore, and MAN, that is so annoying. Almost all of us are tourists, you know? But WOW, the tourists. The people. For the first time Venice felt like a sort of Disneyland, where this amazing place has been built just for people to visit and no one actually lives there. Scary, actually.

    Of course I loved it anyway. Crowds rarely bother me. Except for when I thought I might get squished to death on the Paris metro. I'll tell you about that later. 

    Padua was my favorite. I'd been, but I wanted to go again, and even though half the things we wanted to see closed before we could get to them, and even though the kids were so tired from walking and it was hot, it was so beautiful and St. Anthony's basilica is so amazing and I won't forget browsing the market stalls with Molly. In 10 or 15 years I might go travel with just Molly. You say, "Molly, what do you want to do today?" and she says, "EVERYTHING!" Girl after my own heart. 

    The beach. I was the only grown woman not wearing a bikini. Not wearing a SKIMPY bikini. And still I was so self conscious, so wanting to hide. I envied these ladies their bikinis. 

    The food. The last time I went to Italy I remember feeling panicky that I wouldn't get to eat and therefore remember all my favorite things. This time I had more than enough time to indulge. I ate all my favorite things and then some. Some of it wasn't as good as I remembered, some of it was entirely new and maybe THOSE are my new favorite things. And it wasn't just the food it was the process of eating it - the wine and the bread and the taking all the time in the world. I could live that way. 

    And I was exceedingly obnoxiously proud of how much Italian I could understand and speak. Not anywhere near an impressive amount, or enough worth my obnoxious pride, but I was terrifically pleased with myself anyway. I could tell you every single time I had to bust out my Italian and spoke grammatically correct sentences. By the end there I was even thinking I should download an app or something and learn it for real. I was terrified when I went to France and could speak NOTHING, relieved to go back to Italy, and for real disappointed to go to London where I wouldn't have to translate anything at all. I weirdly liked trying to speak a foreign language. 

    I was so sad to leave. I wasn't ready. I don't quite understand it... I didn't live there THAT long, and the time I spent there was definitely not the best of my life. But there's something about the PLACE and the SCENERY. There's something about those mountains, how everything is flat flat flat and BOOM: mountains, and how the towns we lived in were nestled into that right-angle corner where flat and mountain meet. It was foreign, but still so familiar. I felt like I could be there a long time. I felt like I could learn it and become it, you know? I didn't miss home at all. 

    Paris was different. London was really different. I have another million things to say about those places, and another million about the logistics of our trip. How we managed things, all the mistakes I made, what things actually did work, all that. The helpful trip recappy things. I guess what wanted to come out tonight was how much I didn't realize I missed Italy. And how I would go back, over and over, at the expense of going other places. Molly suggested we go again tomorrow and I said, "Why not?"


    May 23, 2015

    How we've kicked off the big trip. [Cliffs Notes: We're TIRED]

    My first tip for those of you considering European Travel with your family is to go for a long enough time that the first three or four days of jet lag, bad weather, intestinal issues, and disoriented children can be written off as "Just Getting Used To Things". I decided to make some use of myself during this problematic time by sharing my wisdom with all of you - the rest of my crew is at the Carrefour looking for car seats and Imodium. Ahem.


    After I whined for a week straight about packing, we finally got on the airplane. And it wasn't terrible. Well only a little bit. When the lady at the gate yelled above the din of the hordes of travelers gathered that families with small children may begin to board, we had to beat our way through the dozen Older German People [Sans Small Children, Natch] who immediately got in line and I thought to myself, "Oh right! This!" 

    But the flight itself was manageable, if also very long and very boring and mostly uncomfortable. Molly was the only who got any sleep, seeing as how she scored herself a nice dark window seat and zonked out for the last three hours of the flight. 

    Frankfurt Airport, however, where we spent a brief layover, was the Absolute Pit of Hell. My parents had warned us of this fact via email and when I mentioned it during a conversation with a friend who frequently travels to Europe she said, "Oh. I'm sorry." But I am a patient and understanding lady when it comes to people I don't live with and felt certain that we would Carry On. 

    But I was the one tearing up with Unholy Righteous Indignant Anger in security because OH YES for whatever reason, after deplaning and riding a tram thirty miles to the other end of the airport, we got to go through security. Again. And these people. THESE PEOPLE. They were horrible and rude and without a drop of sympathy anywhere in their beings. Getting through airport security is an exercise is losing one's dignity in any airport, but Frankfurt has taken it to an entirely new level. I cannot adequately describe the scorn and contempt with which we were told to take out ALL our liquids and ALL our electronics and why yes INDEED the sleeping utterly-exhausted three-year-old would have to be removed from her stroller, PATTED DOWN, and walked through the scanner. And if her mother walked an extra two [TWO] steps to place her BACK in the stroller, ignoring the commands to HALT! HALT! from multiple venomous security agents because she herself needed to go through the scanner, she would INDEED be chastised like a child, and her fury made fun of by a man of Goering proportions who must have nothing better to do with his life than hassle mothers of small children who just got off a ten-hour airplane ride. "Ma'am, if you just LISTEN to us and FOLLOW DIRECTIONS everything will go SMOOTHLY," a prim and possibly possessed woman snapped at me. All I could do was Glower and Seethe, but trust that I did both of these to the utmost of my ability.   

    The tears didn't come, however, until a security agent, after cycling our carry ons through the machine another two times because we hadn't taken everything out properly, gazed upon our children's water bottles [Funtainers, for those taking note for future travel] with something like horror. THEY CONTAINED SOME WATER. Note! Of the three bottles containing scary water, only two of them were selected for closer inspection. An expressionless woman gingerly held the two bottles at length and took them to first a pair of uniformed men and then a manager type who then directed her to a Special Testing Room where the water in the bottles was to be tested for Top Secret Bomb Making Agents (I am assuming). At this point I fairly screeched, "LET THEM HAVE THE WATER BOTTLES AND LET'S GO" whereupon my clearer-headed husband responded, "Do you want these people to think we're GUILTY of something?!" 

    Eventually the offending thermoses were returned to us and we were told we were free to leave and BY GOD I AM NEVER GOING BACK. I actually really do have a VERY high tolerance for Bullshit and People Who Are Just Doing Their Jobs, but I have never been made to feel so stupid, so imbecilic, so utterly like a piece of human garbage. In relating this trauma to my parents my father said, "Not hard to see how those people became Nazis, isn't it?!" Which was said somewhat in jest and ordinarily I would have found it within myself to at least ACT like this was an indecent thing to say, but as it was EXACTLY WHAT I WAS THINKING MYSELF, I congratulated myself on my observations and VEHEMENTLY AGREED.

    Well! That's over with!

    Now we are in Italy. And you guys. I am in love. The last time I was here I was pregnant with Jack and everything is totally different and exactly the same. When I think of this place I usually think of the time I spent here as an unhappy to moderately less unhappy teenager and all the ways my experiences here contributed to my Hated Anxiety Episodes, the things I didn't yet know about myself, the boys I had crushes on, how much I wanted to LEAVE and BE A GROWN UP and STOP BEING SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. I don't so much think about Italy itself, specifically this smallish suburbanish not-too-interesting-for-tourists part of Italy that was, for quite a while, the place I was "from". The way the houses look, how the stores close in the afternoons, the fish shop and the cheese shop and the meat shop and the bread shop, the language, the mountains (oh my God, the mountains, I cannot wait until the weather gets better so I can instagram the crap out of the mountains), the pace of life, the driving, the old buildings mixed in with the new, the way it is all so familiar and also so incredibly different from my own life. 

    Last night we went to a bar (so in Italy, the bars are more like coffee shops that serve drinks and also gelato and cookies, so basically the best places in the world) with old friends of my parents. And I used to go to this bar often in high school. It looks exactly the same. The same daughter of the owners was still working there (and has her own child and is probably the owner now) and she recognized my parents and we all had gelato (I had mango cheesecake TO DIE FOR) and it was twilight and the town was quiet, but also sort of buzzy like a proper Friday night, and I couldn't help being nostalgic. But I don't think it's JUST nostalgia, not least because I don't HAVE a lot of nostalgia for this place! I wanted to leave so badly! My parents lived here for THIRTEEN YEARS and act like I know all the places and people they know and I'm always, "Dudes. No. I was here for my angsty teenage years and ESCAPED ASAP. I remember none of this." But it appears that I remember the pace of life and the tastes and the views and apparently I have really missed it. 

    And thank God we're here for two weeks because the first few days haven't been ideal. Jet lag is doing its best to render my whole family useless, including myself. The weather is TERRIBLE. (It looks to get better right when Phillip and I go to Paris, and then possibly go back to terrible when we get back.) We wanted to go to Venice today, but the idea of marching around Venice in the rain sounded miserable so we headed to a larger city market this morning (not as big or busy as I remember - my dad says the huge influx of big American-style everything stores is hitting the markets and small shops hard) (this is where they're at right now) (I'm sad I'm not there). It was wet and gray and blah, but we made up for it with cappuccino and sweets at my parents' preferred pasticceria and a tour of the cathedral. My kids were enthralled with the church and it wasn't even the sort of church you'd make a point of visiting. Even this regular boring not-tourist-town church had frescoes and statues and oldness and I loved that they were so interested in all of it. 

    Tomorrow is supposed to be the only nice day for the forseeable future, so we're going to try it tomorrow. My sister and brother-in-law and 10-month-old nephew fly in tomorrow afternoon and join us in this house - I haven't even told you about the house! That's for another post, I guess. Too much space wasted by the evils of the Frankfurt airport. We're also hoping to go to the beach one day and a small town on a mountain lake my parents particularly love. Other than Venice not a lot of "important" sight seeing and this is honestly fine by me. Just "living" in a town is its own experience. It's not like my kids are dying to do anything other than open every Kinder egg in sight. 

    I'm posting all my pictures to Instagram (/mighty_maggie) if you like that sort of thing. Unfollow if it's not! So far it's been a fun and stress-free way for me to document the trip. I used to collect every bit of paper and take a million pictures for scrapbooks that I never ended up making. Now I'm instagramming and the kids are writing in their journals every night (BLESS my former-grade-school-teacher mother for taking up this responsibility so far!). 

    I think I'm going to go take advantage of the rainy day alone time to sprawl on my bed and read... exactly what one should do on her European Vacation, yes? 

    May 15, 2015

    I need to go this far away

    My parents are already in Italy. They are poor travelers (and freely admit this, not breaking blog policy here, HI MOM!), but it sounds like the flight went mostly well and getting the car and driving to Practically Podunk, Italy went ok too. My mom's email this morning said they spent most of the first [rainy] day at their favorite coffee shop where the owners remember them and want to see the kids and I'm feeling sort of sad about that. My mom and dad lived in this town for 13 (I think?) years, and only moving back to the US when Jack was born. I know they want to be near us and their now hordes of grandchildren (I already can't imagine living far away from MY hopeful future grandchildren!) but I sort of feel like Practically Podunk is home for them. My dad, I think, would disagree. He always says he's American and feels most comfortable in America, but there are no Italian-style cafes where they live now. No good bakeries with fresh bread, no weekly markets, no lifestyle of evening strolls and cappuccino in your regular bar. I can still see my parents living there and being happy in their Italian farmhouse, my mom's flowers, my dad's weekend road trips, the dinners out, the knowing how to get around Venice, the friends they still have there. I feel bad (sad? mournful? wistful?) that they moved. (And happy too.) 

    I finally got out the suitcases. I packed a week's worth of underwear for every family member in a ziploc bag. I divvied up the activity books, crayons, markers, and stickers amongst three backpacks. I've almost found sandals for everyone. I'm doing laundry. I have a general packing list. We have kid headphones and car seats and as of this morning we have a will and health directives. Not a necessary item, perhaps, but one we've been meaning to do for YEARS and now we have it and if our Paris plane crashes into the Eiffel Tower, at least our family will know what to do with the millions of dollars we have hidden under the mattress. 

    I haven't flown overseas since Jack was born and I'm starting to dread the trip. I hate small closed spaces. I hate confinement. Everyone does, I know, I am not a special snowflake. At least the way the seats are situated we are only sitting with each other, no strangers with whom to bump elbows. Although I can see scenarios where I might prefer a stranger to my own kid. 

    I bought tickets to Matilda. Thank you, wonderful London reader, for your recommendation and instructions on how to get from Stansted to Southwark. I have printed out every single airline and hotel and otherwise logistical confirmation email, boarding pass, and ticket. I wrote down how to get from the Paris airport to our hotel. Phillip SAYS we will have data plans for the phone but WHO KNOWS. I'm very much a Have A Folder Full Of Everything I Could Possibly Need sort of person. I'm super fun. 

    I think... finally, after the insanity that has been our Spring, I am ready to get on a plane to anywhere. I want to go away. I want to not think about school or the bakery or what's going down on Twitter or my church obligations or who I haven't emailed or talked to or where I'm supposed to be tomorrow or what I'm supposed to buy or pick up or mail or clean or ANYTHING. I want to stop THINKING. I want to get on the stupid airplane and get myself to Practically Podunk and then *I* want to spend a full week sitting in an Italian bar drinking cappuccinos and listening to people have conversations I don't understand and don't need to worry about. I will be a tourist in England, but in Italy, at least for that first week, I want to relax my shoulder muscles for the first time in months. 

    May 11, 2015

    A few thoughts on Pants, Fit Of and the chances of losing children in the London underground

    The FPC is here because we have a wedding cake tasting tonight and another tomorrow night and there are a lot of little cakes and bowls of fillings on all of the surfaces. And between this (passionfruit curd!) and the crazy meds and running errands instead of going to the gym, oh and also PLAIN TIRED, there is a lot of angsty sighing when it comes to choosing a pair of pants to wear each day. Oh, pants. PANTS. Or should I say "pants". What's really working for me these days is a nice sack on top and something soft and stretchy on the bottom. Like... pajamas.

    But then this morning I saw a tall, slender, elegant looking lady in the Target underwear section, holding up a piece of shapewear and eyeing it critically. And I thought, Well. There's no hope for ANY of us, is there. 

    I have probably never been in a more confident state of mind, happier with who I am and who my people are, how things are with my family, really, and my PANTS. MY PANTS have the power to take all of that confidence and happy-with-self-ness and make me want to crawl into a hole of shame and doubt. How does that even WORK? 


    Katie has... (wait I have to ask, hang on...) Chocolate cake with a whipped ganache filling and chocolate sour cream frosting OHMAHGAWWWWWD. Cookies and cream filling. Passionfruit curd. Coconut frosting. Cream cheese frosting, raspberry filling, carrot cake, white cake, lemon cake... YOU WISH YOU WERE HERE DON'T YOU. EFF THE PANTS.

    Europe is only going to exacerbate the pants problem, but I'm finally in the place where I can't wait to go. I need a VACATION. Right now it's a big spin of what we need to buy and what to pack and all that, but it will be SO NICE to get away from the stupid calendar for a bit. No bakery deliveries or pick ups to worry about, no back and forth to school, no homework, no piano practice, no who's working late or who has a dinnertime meeting... We've been go go go since the end of March and NOT going sounds SO NICE right now. So nice. (Except for the part where I GO to Paris sans children. Yes.) 

    Thanks for the Matilda recommendation - I am totally buying those tickets ahead of time. HAVE MY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS, WEST END! I AM COMING FOR YOU!

    Oh, and Phillip told his parents the other day that if we were going to Syria, say, their level of panic over theft of both money and children would be appropriate, but since we are NOT, maybe they could dial it back a bit. Because they are wonderful wonderful people, his dad just sighed and smiled sheepishly. I shall still mentally prepare to ask my in-laws to allow my children to run free at London playgrounds and for regular anxiety attacks (THEIRS) whilst managing the kids in the underground. 

    (I told my FIL this story about my brother getting "lost" in St. Mark's Square - he lost US (too busy feeding pigeons), but my dad had an eye on him and watched him feed pigeons while throwing up his head every few minutes or so to shout, "MOM!" Basically letting him get good and nervous until my dad "found" him. But my FIL did not think this was funny AT ALL. "You need to get LEASHES!")

    Excuse me, I believe my tasting services are needed (PASSIONFRUIT CURD).



    April 29, 2015

    Packing, Planning, Blathering Recovery

    I'm trying to put my life in order which is pointless considering that we're going on vacation in 3 weeks (THREE WEEKS) and when we get back it will be summer vacation and there's never any order during summer vacation. Does it really matter if I organize the art supply bins? Does it even matter if I put them back where they're supposed to go post-Blathering? What about putting the winter coats away? Or organizing my desk? WHAT IS THE POINT. 

    I cleaned and decluttered for the kitchen designer to come on Monday and he ended up canceling and seriously, I should just make myself a t-shirt that says I HAVE STOPPED BOTHERING.

    Things I Still Need To Do For Our Trip About Which I Am A Little Bit In Denial

    Buy another Bubble Bum

    Borrow the Rider Safe Vest from our friends

    Get powers of attorney for the time period when Phillip and I will be in Paris and my parents will be road tripping with the kids

    Rent a car for Italy

    Figure out the best way to get from the Stansted Airport in London to our Southwark apartment 

    Think about what I want the kids to do during our trip and buy the appropriate supplies (keep a scrapbook? write a blog? Write reports?)

    Make packing lists (I do not want to do this. I do not want to do this. I do not want to do this.)

    Make sure everyone has appropriate shoes

    Research tube tickets for London 

    Find out how much WWII-related stuff I can do in England without driving my family insane

    Figure out if we have any money left over to see a musical in London

    Emotionally prepare myself for my beloved sainted in-laws having hourly anxiety attacks about losing children in London (quoth my FIL this weekend: "You need to buy LEASHES for the kids!")

    Find someone to housesit and/or pick up mail and water plants

    Worry about all the things I'm forgetting

    I feel like I can't throw myself full force into trip planning because there is STILL big stuff happening - Jack's first communion is Sunday and there's a lot involved in that. Saturday we have to go to the rehearsal and then make a banner for our family's pew the day of - who knows how long that will take. Sunday is the big day and after Mass we're having a lunch at our house. It will also double as Jack's family birthday party because his birthday is the FOLLOWING Sunday (Mother's Day.) And because I'm kind of big on birthdays, I feel like he should also have a FRIEND party so I have to figure out how we're going to do that next Saturday (day BEFORE Mother's Day...) I was going to throw money at that problem, but all the options are so MUCH money and have so many restrictions with how many people and times and all that... it just doesn't feel worth it. 

    That's a lot of stuff, right? 

    I DO feel recovered from the Blathering, which, well, I wasn't sure there for a while. I am not a young lady drinking too much wine in someone's back yard anymore! My age is showing; also my introvert. Man, my poor introvert was silent screaming by the end and I had to give her a few days of intense solitude. Thank goodness that's over - I'm sort of a BAD introvert and can't stand spending days on end by myself. I can tell I'm all better because I spent the better part of the morning trying to find someone to hang out with Emma and me and feeling MOROSE when no one was around. 

    I didn't even tell you about the Blathering, did I? Maybe I'll write a proper post, but for now I'll just say that I was so stinking proud of Seattle, you can't even imagine. The weather was DIVINE. The views were GORGEOUS. The food was YUMMY. The party bus did NOT get stuck in my cul de sac and none of my neighbors have dropped by to interrogate me about the horde of women who showed up that Friday night. I was so so happy with the way everything went off. I was beyond delighted with the sunshine. I did my best to spend time with individuals and small groups - I'm best via email, but if I must be endured in person, it's best to endure me in small groups - and I felt like I got to talk with a few more people than I usually do at this event. I'm just PLEASED. And proud of my city, which is dorky I know, but you know what I mean. 

    Feeling like I've outgrown blogging/Twitter/the Internet is a frequent topic here (sorry, also how meta, also eye roll), but oh I would missssss yooooooooou. 



    April 23, 2015

    In which maybe the bakery doesn't have to define itself. (YET)

    So I've been thinking. Maybe it's okay that the bakery doesn't have a big huge VISION or GOAL attached to it. Maybe it doesn't need that. Maybe *I* don't need that. MAAAAAAYBEEEEE?

    We have done absolutely NOTHING to promote the business since Christmas. ZERO. We had a lot of business in February, next to nothing in March, and now... I have two wedding tastings on the calendar, possibly a third, a baby shower, a possible bridal shower, and over the last few weeks random birthday cake and custom sugar cookie orders. Not a ton of work, but it seems like a lot of interest for a baby business with no storefront and no marketing. 

    Also, order by order, we are somehow managing to shlep the goods from where Katie bakes to where people are celebrating. 

    I very much like to have PLANS and ORGANIZATION and VISION. Katie has always been pretty cool with just doing what we're doing and seeing where everything goes. I'm the one who's all NO WE HAVE TO SHOOT FOR THIS MOON AND THEN THAT ONE. Which is not bad! I think baby businesses need someone with big and near-impossible ideas! 

    But maybe it's okay that we don't have that right NOW. Maybe?

    I was feeling like I couldn't go on unless there was a new vision for Thumbprints, meaning a new idea or an adjustment to the previous idea to be profitable. With Katie moving away, the previous plan for getting profitable seems TOO impossible. If I scratch that, what do I have? Does this even make sense anymore? Do I still want to work on it? 

    The last few days - seriously, just the last day or two - I'm starting to feel like it could be fine. It's not as if we had a business plan when we started, or even as recent as Christmastime, and we still improved and got more business and learned stuff. It was fun. And I was never about the business plan until one actually occurred to me. Would it be so hard to go back? Is it ACCEPTABLE to go back? 

    I am just now getting pretty involved in a new church thing. I wonder if that's what's making me feel okay about Thumbprints not doing everything it possibly can to take over the world. I have something else to dream about? Maybe. 

    But also I'm just responding to these orders for baby and bridal showers and dudes, it's fun to talk to people about cake. Everyone reaching out to me is having a party. I love parties. It's fun to be part of their parties, you know? It's fun to discuss how many macarons a group of ladies will want (never as many as I think they should want) and whether chocolate cake is better than light fruity cake (ALWAYS, THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS).

    I don't know. I just thought I should mark the day when I stopped feeling Despairing. Maybe I don't have to despair. Maybe we just keep on keeping on. Maybe one day a new idea will pop up. Maybe everything is okay. Maybe Thumbprints can just keep being our little baby business where we're only doing as much as we want to do, and only when we want to do it. 

    April 09, 2015

    Made to write?

    The other day an old old friend and I were together and talking about what we should do with ourselves when our littlest kids go to school. Old old as in I met her when she was a sophomore and I was a freshman at UW. We've lived down the hall from each other and countries apart, but the blessing (and curse) of the NDCF is that it trains you how to talk about God in your life. It teaches you to ask questions and expect answers and to go there, if you will, in a way that I haven't found many people outside of my old NDCF world know how to do. Like a current NDCF staff friend of mine likes to say, NDCF grads are total snobs about conversation.

    (Not sure I've mentioned the NDCF in eons, so it stands for Non Denominational Christian Fellowship (my blog name for it, not its real name) and it's basically what I majored in in college and where I met my husband and many of my closest friends.)

    So anyway, even though Old Friend and I haven't lived in the same town for forever, it's been easy to catch up and we went down the rabbit hole this last time: where is God? What does he want me to do? What am I supposed to do with my LIFE?!

    We actually talked about writing. Long long ago we would take creative writing classes together and read each other's work before the arrogant snots in our class (every English department has its share) got their hands on our stories and ripped them to shreds. Didn't I want to write? she asked me. Didn't I do that anymore? 

    Ummmm, nope? Not in a long long time. And as I admitted this I realized AND HEY! I DON'T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT EITHER!

    Because WRITING was going to be the thing that I did that made it worth having me in the world. I was only biding my time, the universe tolerating my presence, until I finally wrote the thing that yearned to be written inside me, and then I would have earned my place. I would be worthy of my parents who still talk about the writing I did in elementary school, my junior year English teacher who thought the world of me, my senior year English teacher who pushed me harder than anyone ever has, and those college professors who thought I was a wooden useless mute until I wrote my first papers and I'd see the inevitable PLEASE SPEAK UP MORE IN CLASS scrawled across the tops. When I finally WROTE something I would have then achieved the thing everyone I'd ever known had told me I should achieve. Then I'd be worthy of their love and praise and all the things they'd said about me. Then I could feel okay about however many years I spend on this planet. Wasn't I made to do this? Wasn't I BORN for this? Everyone saw this in me. *I* saw this in me. 

    I just had to do it. 

    This is where my old friend had left my story. And I needed to catch her up.

    OH, I told her. Yeah... I don't really write anymore. I mean, sometimes? Sometimes I think about it? But... not really.

    Things have happened, I told her, in the last few years. Things that have shown me, revealed to me, made me understand on entirely new planes of thought, that God doesn't love me for what I DO. That God doesn't love me less when I screw up and he certainly doesn't love me more when I do well. That I cannot earn His love. That His love is not shut away in cage with a lock inscribed OPENS AFTER PUBLICATION. That he loves me right NOW, right NOWWWW, when I haven't done ANYTHING amazing in my life! When the one thing at which I excel is eating a whole bag of chocolate chips in one sitting. I mean, that is a good God right there. 

    And I told my friend: once this truth became a truth that I wholly and completely and entirely absorbed, I didn't really care about writing anymore. And I certainly did not care about getting published

    For a while I've felt bad to say that out loud. Because it sounds... I don't know. Like, maybe to someone who thinks the God stuff is eye rolly it sounds lazy or dumb or like someone who gave up on a dream for a totally whack job reason. Yeah. Like someone who GAVE UP. But the thing I realized when I was telling my friend this story was: I DIDN'T FEEL BAD. 

    So YEAH everyone who went to high school with me! And all my teachers! And all the people who told me I had TALENT and blah blah blah. Writing is awesome! But it's not my thing anymore. It's not the thing that makes me special or makes me ME, even. It's not the thing that I'm about or that I do or that I want to do or that I was made to do. It's not the thing that makes me worthy and it's NOT the thing that makes me lovable. 

    I love Anne Lamott for saying that publication does not solve your problems. 

    I love to write. I express myself best in writing. I am MUCH better on paper than I am in person. :) And I keep writing even when it's stupid, like the fact that hardly anyone writes on their dumb blogs anymore, but here I am! I would do this even if no one read. No one DID read for the first couple YEARS I did this! And now I'm learning to write prayers. It's different from straight up journaling... I'm still figuring it out, but it's good and I'm excited about it. 

    But I'm probably not going to write a novel. I mean, it'd be awesome to write a novel! But I don't have to write one anymore. I can reach the end of my life and if the only writing I leave is the heaps of drivel accumulated on this website, fine by me. (I mean, hopefully someone deletes this thing, but you know what I'm talking about.) 

    Am I communicating how terribly horribly VERY MUCH IMPERATIVE it was for me to be a REAL LIVE WRITER and for people to KNOW I was a REAL LIVE WRITER? 

    And now how I don't give a crap? 

    This is God in me. It's amazing. I never thought that would happen. I never thought I'd feel free. I didn't know I NEEDED to feel free. 


    While I've been sitting here writing about how I don't want to write anymore, my children have seen fourteen television shows and the breakfast dishes are strangely still unwashed and no one has thought of what to make for dinner. CLEARLY there is still Building of Character to be done and Life Lessons to be learned. But this tiny piece, this piece is good. 



    April 06, 2015

    A not particularly informative Thumbprints update.

    The big news around here, if you didn't catch my moping on Twitter, is that my sister Katie, aka The Other Half of Thumbprints, moved away this weekend. And like my brother-in-law said, "GEEZ you guys, it's only an hour away!" So yeah. IT'S AN HOUR AWAY. This has major implications for Thumbprints, of course, and then there's the fact that my sister MOVED AWAY and the only word I have for that feeling is BEREFT. I can't even write about it; my eyes are welling up. 

    There's a lot to write and process, but I won't do that here until I've fully done it with Katie. The short answer to the "what are we doing" question is: For now, we're keeping on keeping on. (Today I booked a baby shower in a fancy Microsoft millionaire neighborhood and why yes I WILL drop my business cards over the sides of all those private gates.) The long answer starts with: I have no idea.

    So it's good news the catering company canceled/postponed the event where we were supposed to give a little presentation to other catering managers and hand out giant boxes of samples. I've been looking forward to this since about February. Getting on a few more corporate menus was going to be the way we DO this thing. If there hadn't been the uncertainty about Katie moving, I might have been trying to do this on our own - I had a few contacts and I was going to suck it up and introduce ourselves and drop off cookies and see where it went. But I'm not sure how we INCREASE what we're doing when we've also increased the hard stuff about our business...

    We would have done the presentation anyway (and it was going to be the Tuesday after the Blathering, omg), but (and I believe I've mentioned this before) Food People are lacking the spiritual gift of Administration. Turns out none of the other catering groups had their spring menus done and no one was ready for the spring tasting event. I have no idea if it's just postponed a week or they'll wait until the next one (they do it seasonally)... who knows. But it takes something off our plate, both for the business and me personally. I'd told EBJ it was fine if she wanted to stay Sunday night, but I'd have to put her to work on Monday.

    When I dropped off our kitchen rent for March, I told the coffee shop owner we wouldn't be using her space anymore. It was terrible. I mean, SHE is lovely and she gave me a great big hug and said encouraging things and wants us to keep in touch. But MAN. Wait. I said I wouldn't process here. Yet. I'll do that later. My eyes are welling up again. 

    In the meantime, I'm BUSY. We hosted Easter and I've got something going on every day until the Blathering, and then most days after that until we leave on our trip in mid-May. Jack has his first communion coming up AND his 8th birthday. We're doing art class and I've just quasi-joined a new churchy volunteer thing which means a few nights and weekends out. We also started contacting contractors, but I think I'm going to tell Phillip he needs to manage that. I have too much with the trip right now. And Thumbprints. I'm mixing up my contractor emails with potential new kitchen emails... 

    Also I'm not feeling well. I'm feeling like I sometimes do at a certain time of month, except it's so not that time, and IS MY BODY TRYING TO TELL ME SOMETHING. Possibly that it needs cake and a nap. Or graham crackers spread with passionfruit curd while watching RHOBH with Katie OH WAIT. <teary face emoticon>

    April 02, 2015


    Phillip and I have kind of sort of decided that we maybe might be able to remodel our bathroom next spring and the kitchen the year or two after that. Or we could reverse it - kitchen first - except I potentially want to do way more with the kitchen than I want to do with the bathroom, and the bathroom feels like a nice smaller (but not small) project to do first. Possibly? 

    Also I went to see my friend's brand new freaking ginormous house last night and now I want a massive island in my kitchen JUST LIKE HER. 


    I need some help. Or ideas. Or experience.

    1. We are hiring out. Everything. ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. That being said:

    2. How do we go about it? 

    I have purchased myself a membership to Angie's List and I have a reasonable list of highly rated contractors and remodeling companies to contact for bids. My questions are more about what I want them to DO on their first visit to my house. 

    Because for both the kitchen and the bathroom, there's the Smaller, Keep The General Footprint remodel and then there's the Hey, We Found A Money Tree, Let's Make This Amazing remodel. Except the Amazing remodel we would need, like, significant design help. I wouldn't be able to say, "This is exactly where we want things to go," because I'm not sure if it's even possible for those things to GO there. You know? 

    So when I invite someone over to give me a bid... can I ask those things? All the companies we're looking at come with design service. And I feel like I would have to ask about BOTH, because even though we plan to do the kitchen second, if it turns out it doesn't make sense to change the footprint, then I'd have more money to potentially do the bigger remodel on the bathroom. Right? 

    Are my remodelers going to hate me before I even hire them? 

    Am I worrying too much about wanting them to not thing I'm crazy? 

    Do I hire a kitchen designer separately from all this? Find that out first? I would prefer to go crazy on the kitchen as opposed to the bathroom. Phillip might feel differently, but let's be honest, I will win this conversation. 

    The simple plans:

    BATHROOM: Keep the existing space, but divide it so that there is a small powder room with a door to the hallway and a bigger-but-not-much-bigger master bath with a door to the master bedroom. (Right now it's a jack and jill into the master and hallway. Annoying.) 

    KITCHEN: Keep the existing footprint, but gut. New everything. 

    The not so simple plans:

    BATHROOM: Divide the current bathroom to create a small powder room and master bathroom, but add pointless hallway space plus master closet to create a Big Master Bath/Closet. Would require moving the bedroom DOOR. Not the best idea, but would be interesting to see how a professional would make it work. 

    KITCHEN: Gut. Take down a half wall and post. Create brand new kitchen and kitchen table area with expanded opened space. Potentially makes a lot more room for dining AND opens up the space for parties and gatherings. 

    I've read a lot of places that "kitchens are usually designed a certain way because THAT'S THE WAY THAT MAKES SENSE" but you guys, my house is weird. WEIRD. There MIGHT be possibilities. I would like to find out! For kicks! And potentially thousands of dollars!

    I just... I want to ask all my questions, but I am afraid of looking stupid. Which, okay, really really eye rolly thing to worry about, but this is my hang up about absolutely everything. Is there anything you can share with me to make me look less stupid? Maybe?