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    January 23, 2015

    Grandmas and beaters full of frosting

    My grandmother passed away early early this morning. I woke up to an email saying she went quietly and calmly and then I laid in bed a while longer feeling... relief. Joy, even. I keep wondering if I'll cry and I haven't yet. I did so much crying last week, just over the messiness of dying, and I've cried before over how old age and Alzheimer's slowly turned my grandmother into someone near-unfamiliar. But today I am relieved and a sort of tiredhappy. Last week I had a dream about a cathedral with its doors wide open and I feel like my grandmother went through those doors this morning. She's there. She's in peace. She's in Love. 

    And then I had to do a bakery event. A pretty big one. It went so well, you guys, SO WELL. I said a lot about it on Twitter and Instagram, but I didn't know how to say anything about my grandma. Or if I should. But I wanted to say something eventually - I know many of you helped pray her through this.

    Thumbprints is in charge of funeral reception desserts (which, if we're truly honoring my grandmother, will be the only food there.) I hope to write much more about my grandma and what she means to Thumbprints. (Katie: "She taught me how to bake." Me: "She taught me to appreciate a good batter-laden beater.") 

    Phillip just left for his ski weekend which means there's no one here to judge me if I make a batch of Grandma's fudge frosting (from the recipe book my aunt made for all the grandchildren several years ago) and eat it with a spoon. I bet my grandma would. 

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    January 22, 2015

    A SAHM shrieks into the empty not-listening evening, then sucks it up (she promises)

    I'm going to write myself a small, indulgent, self-pity post, okay? And because this is the internet and it CAN'T go without saying, I LOVE MY FAMILY and I ACKNOWLEDGE MY PRIVILEGE, but I'm still going to whine because MY WEBSITE. 

    Also because OH MY GAWD if my three-year-old doesn't start using the potty soon I'm going to need a padded room. She is almost always dry when she wakes up. If I stick her on the potty at regular intervals, all is well. But I can't think of a single time she's told us she needs to go BEFORE SHE'S ACTUALLY GONE. I swear, we are going to be buried alive in filthy pull ups. (I'M SORRY FOR THAT IMAGE.) Memories of potty training the other two are vaguely unpleasant and I know for certain that I never felt like there was a method or rhyme or reason or trick or ANYTHING other than persistence and hope and the knowledge that they wouldn't go to COLLEGE in diapers. But I'm also getting onto myself for not going whole hog and committing a week to getting this over with, you know, like clearing the schedule and wearing underpants or going without and working with her. Except DEAR GOD I can manage, like, one day of that. Then I'm bouncing off the walls. I cannot stay home all week. I cannot give potty training every ounce of my attention and effort and maybe THIS is why she's not trained yet and etc. etc. horrible mother. 

    Also, just my three-year-old in general. Anyone who follows my instagram account knows how very sunk in love Phillip and I are with our BAYBEEEEE, but this kid never shuts up and guess who gets to hear eeeeeverything. Emma has never had a thought she hasn't expressed out loud. She's never heard a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song she hasn't needed to shoutsing (again: stellar parenting). I absolutely adore her, but sometimes I need some QUIET. I'm like Davis in White Christmas. I need her to get married and have five children and if she only spends five minutes a day with each kid that's FORTY-FIVE MINUTES FOR ME. 

    I know I'm supposed to find myself a mother's helper or childcare so I can work at home, but there's not a lot of room in the budget for that. So I ask my in-laws for help a lot (and they always say yes, THEY ARE LOVELY), but right now I'm still feeling frustrated that I haven't been able to do the website updates for Thumbprints. The day I planned to spend working on my own, for which I had childcare, I ended up spending with my family while my grandmother was in the hospital. Obviously I am not sorry I did that! But it's been really hard to find any time to do real things I need to do. I feel GUILTY that I haven't secured a regular babysitter or childcare, because that's what everyone tells me to do, and I feel guilty for WANTING to secure a babysitter or other childcare because we can't really add that into our budget! 

    ALSO Phillip is leaving tomorrow night for a long weekend with old friends, skiing in Montana. This was his Christmas present. I am not at ALL begrudging this trip and it's fun to see how excited he is. But I AM begrudging the fact that he's leaving for a long weekend without having to think AT ALL about how to manage everything at home. He doesn't have to! I am here! I will take care of everything! All he had to do was get the day off work on Monday and boom. He's off. Whereas I am going to a conference at the end of February and had to move mountains to figure out how to take care of the kids while he's at work. Like, actual mental gymnastics. Getting people cars ahead of time, asking in-laws to get Emma on certain days at certain times, writing out a schedule for my sister, and of course I'm going to freeze some dinners and leave notes on the refrigerator, AND THEN FEEL GUILTY THE WHOLE TIME because I'm taking four days away from my family to do something unnecessary and totally for my own self. 

    My family makes fun of me a lot for being The Guilty One. So I know. I know that I maybe feel more guilt about this sort of thing than the average SAHM. But maybe not. I don't know. I feel guilty that I don't have a job that contributes financially to our family. I feel guilty for asking other people to take care of my kids so I can go away and do something fun, or asking my husband to adjust his work schedule. I feel guilty about not wanting to spend the money for childcare when I am already home. I feel guilty for not having my website updated yet. I feel guilty about ALL THE THINGS, ALL THE TIME, and then I feel guilty for feeling guilty. 

    I mean, I PREVAIL. Guilt is not STOPPING me from going on my mini road trip to the conference in February and it's certainly not stopping me from dumping my kids with my mom and dad when all the Blathering ladies are here (where in the world is Phillip going to go?!) And I'm clearly not so guilty that I can't feel frustrated with the world for being the one who has to manage it all. 

    I'm just feeling like there's things I wanna get DONE, but NO, I have to change yet another three-year-old diaper and everyone is TALKING at me and the sink is full of dishes and when am I going to cross this stuff off my list and why do I bother cleaning anything up when everyone is going to mess it up again and WHY IS THIS ALL ON ME (AND WHY I CAN'T I DO IT BETTER?)

    GAAAAHHHHH ok I'm done. I'm going to put on my grown up mom pants and figure out what we're going to eat for dinner (it IS 5:40pm) and run to Target tonight for last minute catering open house supplies for tomorrow, for which my in-laws are babysitting, and then OK YES I CAN DO THIS.

    January 20, 2015

    Reads & Recommends

    I can't remember the last time I did one of these. I only thought of doing it tonight because we've found a book series that Jackson really likes AND THAT I LIKE TOO and I felt that that was noteworthy. 

    (And here I am, editing my own post after reading through everything - you won't like these. SORRY. God, I am depressing these days.)

    The Secret Agent Jack Stalwart Series. My sister bought Jack the first book in the series for Christmas and two miraculous things happened: he liked it and he read it (mostly) by himself. !!! Then the other day she texted me a link to the fourth Jack Stalwart book because in that one he goes to LONDON which is where Jackson Cheung is headed in a few short months. I ordered it right away, it arrived today, we hammered out three chapters before bed. It's about a 9-year-old secret agent for the "Global Protection Force". He's sent on missions all over the world (very educational ones, obvs) and is ultimately looking for his older brother, also a secret agent who has mysteriously disappeared... I hadn't heard of this one anywhere else, so here's your heads up. (P.S. Jack and Molly have also discovered the Boxcar Children, which, barf.)

    I finished David Downing's WWII spy series (starts with Zoo Station) and I haven't read anything I've liked since. I've been reading a sort of anthology of personal experiences during WWI, but... eh... I have a handful of books on hold. Oh, and I borrowed No Vulgar Hotel from my mother; it's Judith Martin's take on being a Venetophile - but if you're not in the section of the Venn diagram where "Miss Manners" and "Forget the rest of Europe, I'll rent a palace in Venice" meet, I'm not sure it's up your alley. I don't know why I don't immediately read what everyone else on Twitter is reading... I'm very happy in my war book/murder mystery rut, to be quite honest, and I could use a few more of those. There's IS a new Inspector Rutledge out, but I'll bet you a million dollars Meredith Channing isn't in it and I'll just get annoyed all over again that they're never going to let Rutledge be HAPPY FTLOG. All right all right, I know no one wants my BOOK recommendations. Harrumph. 

    How about an app? The only phone games I like are Bejeweled, the NYT crossword to which I've stopped subscribing because it costs more than ninety-nine cents, and mindless-ish logic games, like Hashi. I finally found a new app I didn't delete after the first try. It's called Logic Dots and I don't know, maybe other people know it already or it's crazy boring? It's the perfect amount of puzzle and automaton swiping that I like to do before I turn out my lights. The first sets of puzzles are pretty simple, but I have a feeling they're going to get bigger and more complicated and start laughing at me. I don't love it like I love Hashi, but it's filling an App Void right now. 

    Links?

    Have you not seen the Taylor Swift Blank Space video? (Why haven't you?!) Okay, so I basically want to be Taylor Swift's character in this video. The clothes, the hair, the makeup, the style, the furnishings, the drama, the opportunity to whale on a fancy car with a golf club - YES, PLEASE. 

    Think anyone is going to let me have my very own afternoon at Bletchley Park when we go to England? I'm guessing no. But this was a great article about an amazing place that no one knew about: Where The Real 'Imitation Game' Happened.

    This is a really long, super geeky link about "advanced" enneagram stuff - moving towards, against, away from) and maybe skip this one? (I read it in chunks, bookmarked for future reference.) (Nerd.)

    Why Asian-Americans Might Not Talk About Ferguson. I still don't have words for this topic, but it's been helpful to read a lot of what Asian-American leaders are saying to Asian-American churches. My general direction to myself is Listen. 

    In a similar-ish vein, Why Can't Critics Talk About Fresh Off The Boat? Phillip and I eagerly and nervously await the debut of this network sitcom. 

    I've been reading a lot about France... this was really interesting (I promise), about French secularism... and here's a piece on Politico.com about why it was okay Obama didn't go to the demonstration in Paris

    Trying to parse all of that is HARD. 

    To cap off a bunch of links you don't want to read, here's another! On that football game this past Sunday, the one during which I washed and changed everyone's sheets because I couldn't stand being around my overinvested husband shouting at the television. But this one made me want to hug the dude that couldn't hold onto that onside kick, man, I feel SO BAD for that guy. SO BAD.

     

    January 16, 2015

    Thumbprints v2.0

    Or maybe 3.0 or 4.0 - remember when it was going to be a mom and baby-friendly coffee shop?! HA HA HA WHAT WAS I THINKING (Answer: CLEARLY NOT THINKING!)

    We learned a lot during December, aka Macaron Madness Month. 

    We both thought December was going to be this huge month for us, and I spent a ton of time setting up that stupid online store to make it easier for people (therefore making them more INCLINED) to order from us. We thought a lot about our holiday menu and what we thought people would want and how we would accomodate all our holiday cookie orders. I was very worried about managing local deliveries and mailing cookie packages on time, etc. And then... no one ordered anything. Oh, we had one or two large assorted cookie orders for a holiday party and an engagement party, but otherwise it was a cake and a few custom sugar cookie favors and that's it. I was a tiny bit embarrassed, wondered what we did wrong, felt stupid. 

    When I had TIME to feel and wonder those things, that is, because OH MY GOD THE MACARONS. 

    You see, thank goodness we didn't have anyone ordering anything else because for about four weeks straight, Katie was making macarons. Like, 8 hours a day. Longer. MACARONS MACARONS MACARONS. I dropped my kids at school, drove to Katie's place, picked up Temperamental Niece, and kept her until her dad picked her up in the evening. Because macarons. 

    We had a very well placed connection at the company that manages the catering for a little local biz that goes by AMZN on the stock exchange. Whatever we were making, we'd send the leftovers with him to work and one day his boss wanted to know if we'd come up with some macaron flavors for their holiday menu. We chose gingerbread (gingerbread shells, vanilla buttercream filling), candy cane (red shells, peppermint buttercream filling, rolled in crushed candy cane), and clementine (orange shells, orange cream filling). Those flavors made it on the menu plus "assorted holiday cookies" which mean decorated sugar cookies. And orders started rolling in. Orders for HUUUGE numbers of cookies. And it wasn't that we didn't really anticipate huge numbers, we just hadn't ever DONE it, you know? And it was kind of nuts. SUPER nuts. 

    That said, we made a [relative] buttload of money.  

    It was good to take a few weeks post-Christmas to ignore the bakery and settle down and think. When we finally did the December bakery post-mortem, a few things stood out at us. 

    1. Whoa, we were way profitable in December. Way WAY profitable. 
    2. We totally want to keep this gig going.
    3. Whoa, we canNOT do that again. At least, not the way we DID it. 

    And this is where I hear my dad saying, "Think about how much you're learning!" Because what we want to do next is not something I even knew existed last year when I was running around trying to get permitted and licensed. 

    We're gonna get rid of most of what our website says we do. On one hand this is sad. We love taking orders from all kinds of people with all kinds of celebrations! I, personally, LOVE when an internet friend orders a box of cookies for another internet friend. We love thinking up cakes and cookies and new treats and I love thinking about ways to package them and I REALLY love thinking about branding and image and ways to get ourselves known to our local customer base. On the other hand, THAT DOES NOT MAKE US ANY MONEY. 

    We haven't really LOST money on anything we've done, but those subscription boxes? For most of the boxes we do, at least a third of what we charge per month goes to postage. A THIRD. And those are a lot of work. Like SO MUCH WORK. And while starting that service drummed up a lot of capital in the summer, it's no longer worth it. (Obvs we will keep our current subscriptions! We just aren't taking more.)

    I think all these assorted cookie boxes that we wanted to do make sense for a bakery that is baking those things ANYWAY. A lot of our ideas I think would work in a real bakery. And I did spend some time in the last few weeks thinking over a physical location. But our kitchen landlady was all, "Are you crazy? If you can find a way to earn money without paying RENT or getting a LOAN..." and I was all, "You are right, what am I thinking, time to LET GO." 

    We probably wouldn't have changed anything, except the corporate caterers asked us, before December was over, if we wanted to be on their REGULAR menu.

    HMMM.

    Thumbprints v2.0 is gonna streamline, refocus, and get flexible. We will still do large sheet cakes, smaller and fancier celebration cakes, and treats for crowds (ie: dessert bars at weddings and custom treats at parties). We'll still make lots of cookies, but we'll now sell them by the dozen or two dozen, no more individual cookie boxes for sale. We are not a boutique doing wedding cakes. We are not a local bakery where you can drop in for a cookie platter to take to Grandma's. (Unfortunately.) We are not excited about shipping and ordering. What we've seen work for us is bulk orders, lots of them, with no frills. We are going after the caterers. Next week we're doing an open house where all the AMZN event planners can sample our stuff and find out what else we do. In two to three months, we'll do a presentation for other catering managers - this group manages catering for LOTS of local companies - and see if we can get on the menu at other locations. Macarons are trendy right now, people like ours, they're profitable, and we have some good ideas for how to do it smarter. (We HAVE to do it smarter.)

    This is also something we can do, with some adjustments, if Katie moves out of Seattle, which is a definite possibility. 

    This is ALSO also something that, if it gets off the ground, Katie can do with minimal involvement from ME. Because I'm still in the "hey, maybe I can help make something successful! And then I'll be bored and want to do something else!" mindset. 

    We feel really good about this. We've worked hard AND we've been lucky. And shopping macarons around... well, for one thing, it's nice shopping a product that everyone LIKES, you know? Like no one is going to be annoyed with me for bringing free cookies to their office or whatever. But also, I keep learning that people aren't the hoity toity intimidating professionals I expect them all to be. They're just people getting along in a business and interested in newcomers, usually happy to talk or help someone out. I have yet to talk to one single person who thinks Thumbprints is lame. (Shallow, I know, but probably my biggest fear.) If anything, they're interested and know someone who knows someone. And sometimes those someones turn into real somethings. I've seen this happen SO many times this year. Just the other day a dad at school ASKED for my card because he knows the person who plans events at the Gates Foundation. WELL, GOSH, HERE YOU GO.

    I feel like, as long as SOME part of my brain is tuned into smart businesslady thinking (ie: profit-oriented, not fun-and-cute-oriented) and as long as I don't get caught up in the EVERYONE IS SMARTER THAN MEEEEEEEE trap, I can get this done. As long as we make smart changes in how we operate, Katie can get this done. 

    We turned a $1200 profit for 2014. I am incredibly freaking proud of that profit. We had some stellar months and some dismal months and some anxiety-ridden months and some mysteriously busy months and we learned SO much and we still have all the money we started with PLUS $1200and HOT DAMN I am proud of us. 

    AAAAAND as I wrote that last sentence we got our first regular menu order. WOO!

    January 09, 2015

    In the tired place

    In about an hour and a half Phillip will get home from work and I will FLEEEEE this house. My real life friends and I have booked a fawncy hotel room right across the street from Bell Square (which is a fawncy mall in the fawncy Seattle suburb) for two nights and honestly, I don't care if I spend two days in my pajamas reading and sleeping. Actually I think I would PREFER to spend the next two days in my pajamas reading and sleeping. 

    I feel terrible because THIS IS JUST NORMAL LIFE, YOU KNOW, but Macaron Madness, Christmas, Winter Break, starting school again, helping my brother and sister-in-law with their move (baaaabysitting), taking Christmas down, getting life back on track - I kind of feel like I've got everyone's life back on track except mine. I am SO TIRED. I have been tired forever, but I feel like I'm reaching new heights of tired. So Christmas is put away, kids are settled back in routine, things are moving on the trip planning front, I earned some family brownie points, even the BAKERY is refocused, tightened up, strategized. But ME... I'm an overweight tired mess with straggly bottle blond hair and nails bitten to the quick and mountains of laundry following me around. 

    We booked this weekend a loooong time ago. One of us is super big on Friend Weekends Away and the other two of us are happy to make them happen. One of us is a super strong believer in taking breaks and resting and relaxing and taking care of yourself and the other two of us are grateful for her because otherwise we probably never would. We were supposed to go this summer and then I, uh, booked the bakery for the street fair. Oops. 

    The kitchen is cleaned and I stocked the fridge with fruit and cheese, the freezer with pizza, and the cupboard with bread and peanut butter. Phillip should be just fine. And there's a big football game tomorrow night and while I do enjoy a house full of people all excited about something and drinking adult beverages, I find this football stuff stressful and it'll be nice to be hidden away with friends who probably have no idea this football game exists. 

    I sort of hate the book I'm reading, so if you read this this evening and have a book rec, let me know. I'm finding I don't love a lot of the books Twitter loves, but I'm not sure why. I have this "no disturbing movie" policy that has now crept into what books I read. Except I still read heaps of war books? And fiction set during war? So I don't know what that's about. I kinda set you up to fail there, didn't I. Maybe don't recommend books to me. 

    I am just so tired. But even when I'm dead tired I still wake up during the night, so I'm bringing my trusty bottle of Target brand sleep aid. I'm not sure if I officially announced that my brain medicine is working. They told me "sometimes it takes up to 12 weeks". It got worse at 12 weeks. Like, a lot worse, and I was working myself into a place where I could go BACK to the brain doctor and say I have to try something else, do this whole thing ALL OVER AGAIN NOOOOOO, except things clicked into place around the 15 week mark. Which is crazy to me. When I went back on meds after Emma and they didn't work and I got on the massive hamster wheel of SSRI experimentation - I wonder if I'd just stayed on them a little longer, if it would have worked out like this one. Not that it matters NOW. Now I am feeling pretty un-anxious and just like myself. I have tons of weight I want to lose and I'm not sure I can - due to the medicine and my own lazy self. I want to cut my hair off, but I can't afford haircuts every 5 weeks AND bleach. I have a simple wardrobe of stretchy pants and slouchy tops that I attempt to improve with many scarves and expensive eyeshadow. I am close enough to the miserable anxiety place that I would not hesitate for a split second if I had to choose between Chubby and Anxious. So I feel thankful for that. And thankful I feel well. It took so long! and then I can't believe that it's gone! (For now.) (Always have to add that "for now".) 

    I should go pack. I should probably think of something other than pajamas to pack. Like I think I might be expected to go out to eat. Or shop. Or be in public. 

    I have such good friends. Here and in "real life". In the throes of planning another friend weekend (though that one's more the type to close down bars while wearing heels. So. I'm lucky to have both, aren't I.)

    P.S. I will tell you about the bakery next week. Please prepare your commenting fingers.

     

    January 06, 2015

    On budgeting, SAHMing, and Purpose In Life-ing

    Money talk is SO AWKWARD, isn't it?*

    Budgeting has not been a strong point in the Cheung Household (UNDERSTATEMENT), but we are giving it another go in 2015. For a long while Phillip paid all the bills and did all the money stuff and I was a proper 1950s housewife who knew nothing about nothing. Then he went back to school and taking over the money stuff was something I could help with - and shoot, I kept myself afloat through college, working and paying my own bills and whatnot, I'm not TOTALLY useless. And I developed my own "budgeting" system (mostly a very neurotic Excel spreadsheet and stacks of receipts), but I'd say that all of the budgeting we've ever done has been more of a "Oh, huh, look at all the categories we overspent in THIS month!" rather than a "Oh, huh, look at that category, we should probably not go out to dinner tonight." You know? I was SUPER GOOD at tracking what big spenders we were, basically. 

    Earlier this year when the bakery started taking over my life, Phillip went back to doing the money stuff. And he started using Mint, which I absolutely positively cannot stand. For unidentifiable reasons. I just do. Also Phillip's mode of budgeting was basically the same as mine (excellent tracking! not so much with the cutting!), except he added an element of OHHHH NOOOO and this is where everything went to pot. Many many MANY discussions this year re: our differing approaches to money, our differing views on what is enough money, our differing views on what to do with the money. I should say that we are in full agreement on the big questions; it's the small nitty gritty questions where we butt heads. 

    We had another of these painful conversations last night, and a lot of OTHER stuff plays into these conversations too, right? How you grew up, expectations, general levels of stress, how you cope, all sorts of really complicated things that you just have to accept and put aside and deal. We manage to do that by having a fight first, then having a productive conversation. Is there a better way to do this? Probably! We just haven't figured out how yet. 

    ANYWAY. For a multitude of reasons, not least because I never understood Mint, we downloaded the free trial of You Need A Budget and set the whole thing up. We are hopeful! I already understand the system better than I ever understood Mint, and Phillip appreciates having everything accessible and uploadable and not color coded in aqua and pink and yellow with circular reference errors all over the place (I didn't say I was GOOD at Excel). 

    But we did decide that we couldn't send EJ to preschool like I hoped. It's not a HUGE deal and we WILL find a way to make it work next year when she's four, but stuff like Europe Trips and house maintenance are the big deals currently. And preschool's expensive, even the cheap ones. I cut the housecleaner because they were honestly causing me more stress than helping, but I know that will be annoying as soon as it's time to clean a toilet. We made up good-sounding amounts for groceries and dining out and clothing, but have we ever adhered to those amounts before? This feels a bit like a new year's resolution to lose weight that's bound to crap out by February. I have a definite "oh, everything works out!" personality which drives my poor husband around the bend, so it's in the interest of our marriage that I stay engaged and concerned. And I plan to. I'd like to learn how to SAVE money and go to Europe AGAIN! (Phillip: hanging head)

    Any discussion of money, though, takes me into the Is It Okay That I'm A SAHM frets and I feel kinda insecure tonight. Especially reading everyone's tweets about their kick ass working moms today. I know Phillip would have preferred I stay working, though it wasn't a choice I made so much as my job sort of disappeared after I left it and I wasn't sure how to "go back" to work. And also we were making it work on one income. And I never liked my job. Or working in an office. And I really loved staying home. And yes, I have ALWAYS felt like someone was going to TELL ON ME or something, that's how much I loved (love) staying home. 

    I don't think I'm especially GOOD at it or anything. I am not SuperMom. I do as little housework and cooking as I can get away with. When they were babies I hung out with my friends with babies as much as humanly possible. I've done a lot of shopping and coffee drinking and napping. For a while I did a lot of exercising. My kids are clean and fed and taken care of, but am I teaching them to read or doing art projects or playing games? Um, SOMEtimes? Not REALLY? They know their families really well. They know about being kind. They are forced to eat vegetables every couple of days. ???

    I think one thing I feel confident about, but also mixed-feelings about, is that because I stayed home with the kids, Phillip has been able to pursue everything he's wanted to pursue. Grad school, business travel, switching jobs several times, without ever worrying about how to manage things at home. I have always taken care of that and I for sure don't know how he would have earned that Master's degree without me holding down the fort. (I suppose there's an argument to be made re: "but YOU'RE the one who wanted to have kids", but that's a dark mental pit that doesn't actually exist in the real world and I try to stay away from it.) 

    THAT SAID. I'm not sure what that gets me as a woman in the 21st century. I have family members and friends for whom it's VERY IMPORTANT to be able to earn your own living. And I... can't do that. Something happens to Phillip? Not sure what I'd do. I have nothing to fall back on. And I never found The Thing I Like Doing. Although... I think I HAVE, actually, but no one pays you to be a professional pray-er. (This is my problem, Phillip says. Everything I work hard at is not paid work. ALAS.)

    In that respect I feel failure-ish. It's all on my husband to support our family. Even if I WANTED to help, childcare would cost more than whatever I would take home. (At least now, while we still have one at home.) Perhaps I have let myself down? I have not been All I Could Be? Am not fabulous career woman, famous writer, rich business lady, cannot even buy my own lip gloss.

    But even THAT... I mean, I LIKE my life! I don't feel unfulfilled or unhappy. I DO feel guilty, sometimes, that I am not contributing financially. And that what I AM doing (bakery work, long weekends for churchy conferences) is somewhat hard on my husband without any financial gain for us. Most of the time I feel like I have plenty of time to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up, though I suspect it doesn't involve an office or more schooling or any sort of financial independence. Gah. Uh... life would be pretty DULL without me?! **

     

    *I have an Asian-American husband, Asian-American in-laws, and two Asian-American best friends and this means I talk about money in public a LOT. The cultural differences here, they are big time. 

    **I KNOOOOOOW. I KNOW I AM WORTHY AND VALUABLE EVEN IF I DON'T HAVE A PAYCHECK. I'm just saying, if I kept writing about that this blog post would be eons long. It's ALREADY eons long. I AM AMAZED YOU GOT THIS FAR. 

    January 04, 2015

    Blue chair + plane tickets = cheery disposition

    I want this chair.

    Bluechair

    I spent this evening figuring out how much money we can pay ourselves after Macaron Madness Month. With my earnings I am going to buy this chair. I have been wanting A Chair for my living room and I like this one quite a lot. It is my favorite color. And every time sit in it - no, LOOK at it - I will think to myself, "Macaron Madness Month purchased this chair" which will, hopefully, fill me with a sense of Satisfaction and Contentitude. 

    Also it is on sale. 

    Thumbprints Baking Company is in a bit of a holding pattern, mainly because Katie is looking for new digs. It would be difficult to run an online bakery when the baker is, say, 45 minutes away from the packer/shipper/deliverer/picture taker. I am happy to wait and see and in the meantime I shall buy this chair. 

    Also in the meantime I shall plan our trip. Today I 1) responded to the nice English lady whose Southwark apartment we want to rent for a week and 2) bought plane tickets from Venice, Italy to Paris, France. Dudes, those tickets were CHEEEEAP. I don't think I can fly to SPOKANE for what I paid for Venice to Paris. I mean, the Paris hotel will more than make up for whatever we saved on cheap airfare, but I feel like I'm going to need to do a lot of financial brightsiding on this trip.  

    So far, the trip looks like this:

    • Fly to Venice. 
    • Spend 6-7 days in small town northeastern Italy in a vacation rental house with my parents and Other Sister, her husband, and impossibly cute baby. We plan to take the train to Venice a few times, head to the beach, day trip to my parents' old favorite spots, but also drink a lot of cappuccino, eat a lot of gelato, and walk around the town. For a while I was thinking we'd drive up to Austria or even Bavaria, but you know, I have a LOT of cappuccino drinking to do. 
    • On day 7 Phillip and I will leave the kids in the vacation rental with my parents and fly to Paris. Two nights and nearly three full days. Phillip said, "I'm realizing this isn't going to be a relaxing vacation." YA THINK, PHILLIP?
    • The day after we fly back from Paris, Phillip's PARENTS are flying into Venice. We'll spend yet another day in Venice with them and hopefully direct them to our small town via train and show them the small town sights. It probably sounds super obnoxious that I want to take Phillip's dad to the small town Chinese restaurant, but I honestly think he would get a gigantic kick out of it AND become besties with the owners. He is just that kind of guy. 
    • THEN we are flying to London. With Phillip's parents, though it remains to be seen if they are tagging along so closely that they're picking the same flight, or if we'll just meet up again in London. Phillip will work a few days while I try to maintain a nice balance of Culture, Art, Playtime, and iPad time. I'm not SUPER sure what the must dos are with small children. The Tower of London, a museum or four, Hamley's, Foyle's, the changing of the guard. I am GOING to the Imperial War Museum with or without my family. And we are FOR SURE going to see a musical. Well, quite honestly, we will attend as many appropriate-for-children theatrical productions as I can afford and manage. THOUGHTS? 
    • We'll be there over a weekend and I am PRETTY sure we will attempt Stonehenge. Jackson is suuuuuper into Mysteries Of The World and had a whole week of Stonehenge obsession this summer. I THINK it'd be fun to do that? Maybe find some kind of tour that will bus us there and back? The Salisbury Cathedral on the way?
    • Phillip works the Monday after the weekend (THANK YOU, PHILLIP'S COMPANY, YOU ARE LOVELY PEOPLE) and we fly home on a Tuesday. Sadness.

    You know what else I'm thinking about a lot these days? The SEATTLE Blathering. Yep. So much to plaaaaan! 

    Now I have to go clean in preparation for my cleaning people tomorrow morning. You know how it goes. 

     

     

    January 03, 2015

    A bullet list without the bullets

    I think I've found an apartment rental in London. It's walkable from Phillip's office. Walking distance of 2 tube stations, several grocery stores, several parks. An acceptable amount of pounds, meaning Phillip's company will foot the bill for MOST of it. I am ELATED. I mean, I'm going to have to do some mental work and character growth re: not getting to do everything *I* want to do in London, but I feel confident that I'll work it out. 

    We've decided EJ Cheung needs to go to preschool. Like yesterday. Staying home with mommy does not seem to be cutting it anymore. Just feeling like SHE could be getting more out of the world than going shopping and eating cookies at 9am with her mom, you know? But I've been looking for preschools happy to accept a young 3 in the 3s class who is also [insert shameface emoji] not potty trained. This preschool has yet to appear on my google search. 

    I bought this cardigan/sweater/fleece thingy at the Nordstrom clearance sale today and it is made of teddy bear snuggles and Christmas pajamas. Not terribly efficient at butt covering, but excels at muffin top disguising and keeping one toasty in one's poorly heated house. 

    I've talked to a few people (sisters, friends) about better-observing the liturgical year, and what it would be like to switch the party from a Christmas shindig to a Twelfth Night something or other. Problem is, Twelfth Night is pretty specific and it'd be lame to have your Twelfth Night Party on the Eighth Night because Twelfth Night is a school night. You might think I'm worrying about this a bit too far in advance, but then you must not know me at all. 

    After careful study of both products, I prefer my Naked 2 palette to my Lorac Pro 2 palette, though because of formula and the way Urban Decay eyeshadow goes on as opposed to colors. I love the Lorac 2 colors, they're just... powdery? Fly away? And dark ones are super dark and the light ones are too light? I was thinking today I might go for Naked 1, but are there too many pinky browns? Pinky browns are my least favorite. I need a palette full of grays and taupes and and lavenders and smoky blues and sparkly white-pinks, with a few shades of greens and golds. Does this exist? Possibly called The Black Eye Palette.

    The Seahawks are not playing this weekend. Which is great, except for Phillip just casually mentioning he'd need to watch anyway (DAMN FANTASY FOOTBALL). Remember when Phillip didn't want ANY sort of ball? Also I am for real apprehensive about this upcoming week of football because seriously, the whole city seems to need a Xanax and everyone wears their blue and green gear and they exchange knowing looks and UGH THE PRESSURE. It's like I somehow internalize the playoff anxiety - the PERCEIVED playoff anxiety! - of perfect strangers. STAY AWAY, AM DELICATE FLOWER!

    I am suuuuuper happy about the kids going back to school this week and everything going back to normalish, except for the part where getting out of bed and pouring cereal and making lunches is normalish. I still think Thumbprints should market bags of savory filled buns and whatnot to put in freezers for kid lunches. Not that my kids would eat those. Maybe filled with peanut butter. 

    I am super into a song called 'Dangerous' by Big Data right now. But then I finally got Phillip to watch the Veronica Mars movie last night and this song is playing in the bar scene! This movie came out last year! AM I THAT BEHIND? (But in my hunt for lyrics I read a bit about the music video and hmmm, it sounds icky. At least the lyrics themselves aren't noticeably icky, like, for example, 'Habits (Stay High)' and 'Take Me To Church', which is so disappointing because I like the MUSIC.) (I don't think I'm a HUGE prude about song lyrics, but dude, that High song is gross. AND SO CATCHY.)

    While we're complaining about music, that song Rude? DRIVES ME CRAZY. First of all, it's not RUDE so much as debatably CRUEL, and what is this girl, cattle? Also I hate reggae. I SAID IT.

    I'm just sitting here writing this as I refresh Twitter every two minutes and click on Cillian Murphy gifs. Thinking I am nearing the end of my blogging career. Maybe. I need to do a Reads & Recommends pretty soon if only to wax rhapsodic about my string of WWII spy novels and Benedict Cummersnitch in The Imitation Game. GOOD NIGHT

    December 30, 2014

    A retrospective, a looking forward, a commitment to unhealthy foods

    Everybody's all "resolutions!" and "goals!" and "no more sugar!" and I'm all WHEN ARE THE KIDS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL. I hate to be that way, I really really do, but I'm having a hard time. It's not that the kids are home and driving me crazy so much as there is no routine and if anyone in this house needs routine it's the 35yo mom. I need Things On Which To Hang My Days, and when there's no school and everyone you know is traveling or sick or too far for the casual afternoon dumping-of-the-children-to-entertain-themselves-in-the-basement, life gets difficult. Plus it's the DARRRRK time of year and I HATE being stuck at home in the long dark afternoon. When Phillip got home tonight I nearly fled the house for the nearest movie theater (dark, but blissfully lacking in people asking for snacks). Instead he found some chocolate in a dresser drawer and I spent the next hour in the bath reading a post-WWII spy novel. THAT was lovely. 

    So yeah, no resolutions or goals for me. Yet. Maybe. Although I typically don't like to do resolutions - my biggest goal in life is to not fail at anything, so NOT making resolutions profoundly helps with that. 

    I think, at the end of 2014, I find myself in a place of looking back over the last couple of months and thinking, "Hmm. I could do THAT better." 

    Case in point: Christmas. Christmas was different this year. We did our own thing on Christmas Eve for the first time ever - the children's Mass (Jack and Molly were in the choir SO CUTE), then coming home, eating pizza and snacks, opening up our family presents. It was low key and easy, but I realized later I was annoyed that we didn't really have a PLAN. And even MORE later I realized that what I wanted was a TRADITION. As in, we ate the things we always eat on Christmas Eve. We opened the presents in the way we always open presents. Except we don't have those traditions. Yet. We have the way my family has always done things, but PHILLIP didn't grow up with that so he didn't KNOW, but then maybe we could mix it up a little ANYWAY... I just sort of wish we'd spent 10 minutes talking about how we wanted Christmas Eve to go. That said, it was lovely and the kids were super fun and it was really nice not having to rush around the next morning with church and getting ready for brunch with Phillip's side of the family. 

    But next year...

    I also want to find a way to make preparing for and celebrating Christmas more about JESUS. SIGH. This was doubly hard this year because of the bakery, aka Macaron Madness Month. I forgot and/or left out a lot of Christmas party things I always do and this was doubly true of Actual Christmas. We didn't even do the chocolate Advent calendar! The absolute laziest thing you can do for Advent! 

    I don't know if we'll still have a bakery next year (lots to discuss this month! STAY TUNED!), but even so, I've been reading a lot about the people who don't put up the tree until Christmas Eve and make the 12 Days of Christmas a THING. Part of this is appealing. We always leave up the decorations until the Epiphany and wouldn't it be nice if Christmas wasn't suddenly slam bam OVER on the 26th? What would it be like to turn our annual Christmas party into a TWELFTH NIGHT party?! (I am seriously digging this idea.) That said, this is a way of being counter-cultural that would be VERY DIFFICULT for all involved... Like, I just don't think I could wait until Christmas Eve to put up our tree. We do our big Christmas shindig ON Christmas Eve! I don't want to explain why it's not the Christmas season YET or get huffy about it in blog posts and you guys I LOVE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AT THE MALL I JUST DO. And I don't think I could draw out the present opening for 12 days (although is this something everyone does or just the person whose blog post I was reading?) But TALKING about the 12 days of Christmas, maybe planning a thing to do on each day when there's so much more time to observe the season... I don't know. This is definitely something I want to talk to Phillip about in the car, when he's a captive audience. Anyone here do that or considering it? I think if I wasn't spending the week before Christmas planning a party and getting rid of the kids for the weekend and worried about how everything is decorated, I miiiiight have more time to talk about running for your lives and having a baby in a BARN. Etc.

    What else. Oh, I hate my house. It's like now that I'm not bakerying 24/7 I have time to be irritated with my house again. It also doesn't help that one of my friends is planning to put her own house on the market this spring and constantly texts me with Redfin links to new construction. I mean, I love it, but it doesn't help with the fact that I have a poorly designed bathroom and my kitchen countertops are embedded with 25 years of grease. And I SERIOUSLY can't do anything about it because any money we might be able to spend on the house in 2015 has gone towards lodging in London for a week OH DEAR GOD. I swear, London will be the reason my kids don't go to college. 

    BUT I LOVE YOU, LONDON. I have spent the better part of winter break on AirBnB and VRBO.com looking for the perfect vacation rental. (It does not exist.) I have read ninety-seven articles about London With Kids. I have calculated how much it will cost to see a musical (this will be the reason the kids have crooked teeth). I am super excited to go to Italy and I am somewhat excited about our few days of just-us time in Paris, but London OH. I really do love London. I think I can love Paris too - I've only been as a 17-year-old trying to lose the adults who were constantly on my case and as a 21-year-old with her college roommate (and trying to lose her too) (I have since grown as a person). Being there with my One True Love will surely make a difference. And Italy... well, I mean, it's just a GIVEN that Italy is my favorite and everything there will be as spectacular as it always is. London is just the place I always hope I get to go to and LOOK! I DO! WHEE!

    (Prague is my other favorite. And if all the stars aligned I would actually be on a Tour of Important Eastern European Locations In 20th Century History, but we all know no one wants to go on THAT trip with me, amirite?) (WARSAW! I want to go to Warsaw!)

    ANYWAY.

    Things. Needing them done differently.

    2015 may be the year I find a regular babysitter. In 2015 Emma will start going to preschool. I'm trying to find a place to start her in January, though her age (a very young 3) and the never-going-to-happen-potty-training situation are making this task difficult. Maybe this will be the year the business becomes, you know, real. Real-er. Or it becomes the year we decided to put it aside and I get all obsessed about my house again, who knows. We will travel lots. (I have $750 in Alaska Airlines vouchers from my disaster Colorado trip that I need to spend by June!) The Blathering is HERE! Partly in my HOUSE! My kids are getting older which is very much freaking me out. I'll turn 36 which is definitely on the downward slide to 40. Oh, I should probably lose some weight too. NOW we've got ourselves a proper resolutions post! 

    I could take care of my house better. I could be a better wife. I could read better books. I could learn to dress better. I could bite the bullet and do better at being a Good Parishioner instead of hiding in the back. I could definitely be a better keep-in-touch-er. 

    But I think the thing I most want to do is keep moving... I want my heart and brain to keep expanding, you know? New stuff. More people. Bigger world. So more of that, 2015. And if it means I have to let the clean floors and no chocolate vows slide, well, I'll power through. 

     

     

    December 20, 2014

    Christmas Party 2014 Post Mortem

    Except for year my sister got married in December and we did a St. Valentine's Day Massacre party instead, we've thrown a Christmas party every year we've been married. It's been a white elephant party and a collect-canned-food party and one time I tried to create a dance floor (FAIL), but it's always been a invite-pretty-much-every-single-person-we-know-and-eat-and-drink party. And I really love having it. 

    In the last few years - the first year we lived in this house, especially - I have tried to out-Pinterest Pinterest. Which is sad/funny since I'm not much for crafting. Buntings and hot chocolate bars and cute labels for everything. Our house has high ceilings and I would spend DAYS stringing lights and garlands and tinsel, carefully placing mason jars full of cranberries and tealights in the high window sills. I would fret about no one coming, then I would fret about too many people coming, then I would stress about food and make millions of to do lists. 

    The day OF the party, I would clean and decorate and prep food and slump onto the couch, usually about 4pm, and wonder why in the world I do this every year and GOD THIS IS THE WORST IDEA EVER. Then I would pick myself up, put on the dress (which would be the least bad dress out of all the dress options, sigh) and do my makeup and hair and put on tall shoes and THEN I'd find myself kicked into gear. A glass of wine while I'm putting out the last minute stuff, Phillip hunched over a laptop and the TV stuff, trying to get the music to work (WHY DOES THIS TAKE HIM SO LONG, EVERY YEAR, YOU THINK HE'D CREATE A MACRO, DO THEY STILL HAVE THOSE?) and I would start to fa-reak. out. about. everything not getting done and THEN! 

    People would show up. And I would have the best time. Seriously, so much more fun than LAST year. 

    Then: the half hearted late night clean up. An "eh, that's good enough" and passing out with your dress still on, on top of the covers. The next day: did people have fun? Really? Did they like the food? Did they think the people were cool? I'm sure they did, our friends are awesome, but I don't know, what about that one couple who didn't seem to talk to anyone else? Did I ignore them? Oh crap I forgot to put out that decoration! I meant to light those candles! I didn't put embarrassing party prep materials away! I forgot to hide the potty seat! OH NOOOOOOO WORST PARTY EVERRRRRRRR

    So. 

    This year was very much the same. The same Phillip working on a tertiary level of party prep vs. me frantically putting food out and hoping he will notice and HELP ME FTLOG, the same very old friends, the same mix of super new ones, the having of the best time, the same people staying late, the same stuffing of leftovers in the fridge and passing out, the same groggy wakeup and second guessing of every moment. 

    But certain things were different. I did not have TIME to Pinterest this party. In fact, I didn't manage to put up a large chunk of plain old boring stuff I ALWAYS put up. I did start decorating early and I thought I had time to do it all, but it turned out I sort of didn't care and also suspected other people wouldn't even notice. (They didn't.) 

    I did not make punch. No one came up to me and demanded to know where the punch was. No one has emailed me yet to say how disappointed they were I didn't have punch at the party. (Basically, I forgot about punch.)

    I forgot to light the candles. 

    I forgot to put on shoes. I got my shoes OUT. I just... didn't put them on. And when I realized my shoes were in the middle of the floor instead of on my feet, I chose to kick them under the table. I also left on the leggings I wore all day under my party dress. Eh. 

    I didn't make ANY FOOD. Like, for serious. There has not been ONE YEAR in all the party throwing years when I don't pore over appetizer recipes and STRESS and FRET and WORRY because I need the party food to be SPECIAL and FANCY. No. This year I went to Costco. I bought all the chips and bread and crackers. I bought all the dips. I bought all the fancy Italian meat. I bought all the cheese. I did roast some peppers and I did throw some meatballs (from Costco) in the oven. There was no itemized list of when to cook things in the oven this year AND IT WAS SERIOUSLY THE BEST THING EVER. Also, no one complained or has since called or emailed me to complain or be disappointed. The fact that I think this is a possibility may tell you a little something about me. I know it's weird to be afraid of disappointing people with store bought food when the food I MAKE is often VERY DISAPPOINTING, but no one has ever accused me of being rational.

    We still had the obscene table of booze and mixers (thank you, Duty Free Store!) but it wasn't decorated very nicely, I didn't have time to write up drink recipes in pretty handwriting, and I just sort of threw the bar equipment on the table and hoped for the best. I'm not aware of anyone being disappointed by the haphazard bar layout and/or lack of a second bottle of Maker's Mark. (I had one. Downstairs. Dudes, if I put out ALL the Makers Mark, they won't drink anything else!) 

    The biggest possible disappointment was the severe shrinkage of the dessert table. The morning of the party I made three ridiculously easy bar cookies and brownies, cut them up, threw them on platters, cut up some toblerone and threw some truffles in a dish. Done. I didn't THINK this would be a big deal, because I usually have ten tons of cookies left over after the party anyway, but it was disappointing to ME. There were no Thumbprints sweets on account of every macaron being worth their weight in gold around here, and people at Phillip's work had been asking if they'd get to sample Thumbprints stuff! No, they just got my lame bar cookies. But you know? I don't think people were for REAL disappointed by this either. 

    I didn't do anything new. I didn't try anything different. 

    But, as usual, the people made the party. We have the old friends who come every year. And because Phillip keeps changing jobs and because I'm conning all the school parents into being my friends, we had a lot of new folks too. And I know this sort of thing is not for everyone, but I REALLY REALLY STINKING LOVE gathering all my people. I love introducing them to each other. I love feeding them and plying them with drinks and getting dressed up and not having kids around and meeting peoples' spouses and learning what neat things people are doing and I JUST LOVE IT. I'm an established introvert and like everyone else, I hate small talk too. But you just start asking people about themselves and they have such interesting answers! It's also possible that I am just surrounded by super fabulous people YAY ME. 

    I suppose the one TRULY terrible thing that happened last night is that my blog - oh yes, THIS BLOG RIGHT HERE - was outed, and not even by a BLOG FRIEND. Yeah. HI, FELLOW SCHOOL PARENTS! WELCOME TO MY MANY NEUROSES! I UNDERSTAND IF YOU DON'T WANT TO HAVE THAT PLAYDATE ANYMORE.

    I guess... it was not my favorite party in that I didn't feel super spectacular about how everything LOOKED or TASTED, I would not have given myself an A+, no one is going to pin a picture of my beautiful tablescape. TORTURED SIGH. But you know, I am growing as a person, don't you think? Look at me all "Who cares if I wear shoes! Who cares if the candles aren't lit! Who cares if I just left this plastic tub of spinach dip on the table in the middle of everything after I dumped it into a bowl? C'EST LA VIE!"

     

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