Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Flour Power

I desperately miss the flour we used in Zurich. Not only was it totally chic in its cream colored bag with vintage design and sleek typography, but it was really good flour. Pastry dough came together easy as pie, pancake batters were smooth, dumplings and cookies came out fluffy and perfect. Back Stateside, I've tried making all of the above with a variety of different flours and they all suck. Pie crust is crumbly and dense, pancake batters are lumpy, and dumplings are brick like. I just do not get it. I'm using new cans of the same Trader Joe's baking powder and soda I always took back to Zurich with me on every visit to the States. What is the difference?
But it's not just flour based recipes. Other recipes aren't turning out as well, either. Our beloved Spaghetti Bolognese (from this brilliant cookbook) isn't turning out as tasty. It seems like everything I cooked or baked in Switzerland was richer and filled with more flavor. I'm using high-quality ingredients like organic ground pork and beef and imported Italian pancetta. Is it just my imagination?

Has anyone else experienced this? And please, give me your recommendations for your favorite all-purpose flour. I have two discs of worthless pie crust in the fridge and I need to make a cherry pie today! ;) Thank you. xo

Friday, November 20, 2015

Have a safe and warm weekend

What are you up to this weekend? If you have a moment, send some good wishes to the people of Spokane who are still without power since the historic wind storm that hit Tuesday afternoon. The photo above is of our friends' house. Can you believe that?! She put this photo on Facebook with the caption, "This windstorm showed us who's boss," and I really have to congratulate her for keeping a sense of humor right now. I would totally be crying!

Due to unexpected thawing thanks to the power outage, we are having a spontaneous early Thanksgiving here Sunday evening with deep fried turkey. I pretty much cannot wait!

Here are some links for your weekend:

Photos of the Spokane Wind Storm. UNREAL!

Priced out of parenthood.

Intrigued by this Thanksgiving dessert.

How to do laundry the right way. (You've been doing it all wrong!)

Coco's new winter boots. Ridiculously cute! (Take 20% off with code DEALSWEEK)

Critical small space living tips.

How's your password?

That's it. I must go to Seoul.

Time to dress up the sweats.

We're not in our twenties, but we're kind of broke! ;) Recipes for those times.

I'm in love with this nursery in Iceland.

And in case you missed it, my ode to the wind storm. It really has been great for us.

Stay warm and safe and see you back here Monday! xo

Spokane Wind Storm 2015

Tuesday morning, I was idly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a Spokesman-Review mention of a severe wind storm coming. It said that it would be worst around 4pm Tuesday and it would continue through Wednesday morning. We dropped Coco off at school, went to Trader Joe's and stocked up with four big (reusable) bags of groceries. We stopped off at a friend's house and got some firewood and then went back to get Coco early from school at 1 o'clock. We already had lots of candles and matches at home. We were ready. We settled in with a cozy fire and read lots of books together and then we pretty much thought nothing of it.

Holy hell.

By 3:30, it was like an inland hurricane out there. My mom was the first in our family to lose power. By 4, one of my sisters had also lost power. By 4:30, when J and Coco went to pick up my mom at her house, there were downed trees blocking roads everywhere. Later reports confirmed that one woman had been killed by a falling tree in my mom's neighborhood. Over a thousand trees went down in the city parks alone. This is tall tree country around here. Ponderosa pines are super tall and just as treacherous when they're falling over. The destruction the next day was insane. It's still insane. School was cancelled for three days. So many houses and cars were smashed by trees. Over 200,000 people lost power.

The house across the street from us was bashed in by a ponderosa at the back. Then, the tricky thing with those tall ponderosas is that the top snaps off after the impact and goes on to cause further damage. The house next door to the house across the street had a huge portion of the roof damaged and the small gable roof over the side door was completely knocked off by top of the ponderosa that snapped off when it hit the other house! The people in the house across the street were renters and the house was uninhabitable after the smash. So the next day, there they were with a U-Haul, just moving out. Crazy.

We were so lucky. We didn't lose power and our house was just fine, except for a few shingles that blew off of the roof and into the backyard. Our house has been like a revolving door ever since. My mom is staying with us. Thankfully, our couch is quite comfortable, she reports. Every morning, my uncle comes for coffee and my sister and cousin have been coming regularly to recharge phones, drink coffee or tea and stay warm.

All afternoon Wednesday, my cousin was here. We didn't sit down and focus on one another like we normally do when we get together. She had a FaceTime call with her boyfriend. She played with Coco and Theo for a bit. She worked on some knitting she had going, and between loads of laundry and scrubbing the bathroom sink, I helped her cast-on and pull it out and cast-on again. While I loaded the dishwasher for the third time, we chatted about one thing and another. As I swept the floor, I noticed from across the room that she was knitting all wrong and we laughed and she pulled it all out and I helped her start again.

I was doing dishes Wednesday evening, feeling so full of love and happiness and I realized, this is what I thought living in Spokane would be like. I thought there would be family around all the time. I thought there would be this constant feeling of togetherness. But it took an historic storm and widespread power outages to make that happen. Why is that? Are our modern lives really that busy? Is it so rude to stop by unannounced that we don't bother anymore? Is anyone ever home anyway?

I'm so grateful for this storm. Granted, we fared very well and didn't suffer in the slightest. But it also gave me a huge dose of love and family closeness that I've been craving. Coco announced at dinner last night that she would like Grandma Joanie to move in forever. We will never forget it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Montessori Monday: Talking About Tragedy

When bad things happen, like the terrorist attacks in Paris over the weekend, it can be hard to know what to say to our children. Even if we choose not to tell them about it ourselves, inevitably they hear or see something they don't understand. News media is everywhere and filled with disturbing images. Personally, I am not comfortable with sheltering Coco from the realities of life. I believe when bad things happen, we have to talk to our kids about it.

One Montessori mantra that comes to mind is "brief and true". It's the idea that whenever you're speaking to young children between the ages of 3 and 6, you should keep your statements truthful and concise. Children are unlikely to listen to a lecture. Instead, they want you to give them something to help them understand right that minute.

So far Coco hasn't asked about what happened in Paris, but, when she saw the photo of the refugee child who had drowned on the beach in Greece, she was curious. "What happened to that boy?!" she asked. I explained that his family had to leave their home, so they traveled to the sea and tried to go across it in a little boat, but the boat turned over and he died. Pretty brief and all true. This led to Coco asking why they didn't just stay at home. I responded because their city was full of fighting and wasn't safe; they didn't have anywhere to live or work or play, and no table at which to eat their food together.

She thought about it for a minute, then her eyes grew wide and she asked me, "In this world?" Yes, Coco. In this world. I find it hard to believe, too.

Try to avoid over simplifying or phrasing like "bad guys". It's also important to avoid making the issue black and white. Life is messy and grey most of the time. To suggest otherwise would be false. Children appreciate when their intelligence and status as fellow human beings is respected. They're not emotionally or intellectually ready to have the whole story, of course, but they need to hear honest information that they can understand, relate to, and digest.

I genuinely believe that it strengthens our children's capacity for empathy and compassion when they are exposed to some of the harsh realities of life in a way that they can comprehend. So, keep it true and brief rather than keeping them in the dark. What do you think? How do you approach these issues with your children?

Also, a great podcast about talking to kids about death.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Have a great weekend

What are you up to this weekend? I have come down with a pesky cold, so I'll be taking it easy. It doesn't help that right now I am so homesick for Zurich. The Christmas season is so wonderful there. The smell of Marroni (roasting chestnuts), Glühwein (mulled wine) and Raclette at little stands on nearly every street, Conelli Circus and this year Coco would have been old enough to ride the Märlitram. I could cry! But, on the bright side, we get Thanksgiving on the actual day and we will finally be able to take our kids to have their photo on Santa's lap. Plus, we don't have to travel for the holidays. All positives.

Here is what caught my eye this week.

I totally love this song. (The video is SO BAD. Don't watch it!)

Brilliant, understated tiles.

Long hair, don't care.

Loving this sweet nativity play set. And this one is cute, too.

Is your parenting style damaging your marriage?

Martha's gluten-free Thanksgiving.

The antidote to that annoying, "don't tell your daughter she's beautiful" advice.

This one made me laugh.

The best news for IKEA lovers in Spokane. (And, enter to win $500 in IKEA furnishings:)

I'm drooling over this cherry pie with almond crumble recipe. Yes, please. With a cup of coffee à la Twin Peaks.

See you all back here on Monday! Enjoy your weekend. xo

Photo via

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Are you a wine snob?

Now that I work at Trader Joe's, I find myself doing all sorts of bizarre things, like using a box knife to cut and stack and display insane amounts of Two Buck Chuck. We have so many cases of wine out on the floor at one time that we actually use them to build a little room, a room that houses wine tasting on the weekends. Naturally! You might be more familiar with its proper name, Charles Shaw. It's the super cheap wine that sells for two dollars per bottle in California, usually a dollar more in states that slap more tax on wine. It is exclusive to Trader Joe's. And that's the only thing that's exclusive about it.

While J and I have graduated to boxed wine as overwhelmed parents, there is still a very special place in my heart for Charles Shaw, or Two Buck Chuck if that's what you call it. We just so happened to serve it at our wedding.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sleep Deprivation

Honestly, today, it's like I am seeing the world anew. Our avocados at breakfast seemed to be the most beautiful color I'd ever seen. My first sip of coffee was so rich and luxuriously tasty it made me stop, say Mmmmmmm and feel grateful. Mind you, this was a cup of coffee that I had topped off with boiling water because it had been sitting in the French Press for over an hour! Then, after breakfast, watching Theo walk and take little steps with his sweet chubby legs filled me with the most indescribable joy.

I think it's all because I got a good night's sleep.

When Theo was ten days old, J snapped the photo above of me co-sleeping with Coco and Theo. I love this photo so much. It captures all of the sweetness that makes co-sleeping completely worth it and wonderful. But, the night before last, I got to thinking (as I have many times before) that it may be time to give up co-sleeping once and for all. I haven't been getting good sleep lately and now that I'm working late some nights, I honestly can't deal.

But, it just doesn't seem like we'll ever go through with it, so I filed that thought away for later. Then, last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I happened to think of it, so I ran into the hallway and grabbed a sheet to cover the blinds on the door to the balcony off of our bedroom. There's a light in the alley that really bothers me at night. Somehow that horrid light manages to shine right through the tiny holes in the blinds and straight into my eyes at night. It is ridiculous. Until we get a curtain, I figured, why not just hang a sheet up there?

OMG. Total game changer.

Last night, I slept all night long and it's got to be because of the sheet! Theo was in bed with us and Coco climbed in during the night, too, but I only vaguely remember her coming in and asking for a drink of water. I don't remember Theo waking me once before sunrise. Then, this morning, J and Coco got up and got ready for school and work and I didn't even hear them. Theo and I slept until 8 o'clock! Seriously.

Co-sleeping wasn't the problem. Theo hadn't been waking me at all. I think it was that light in the alley! I can't even count the number of times I woke up with that thing beaming into me like a laser beam, and I think it had been waking Theo, too. The light may have even been preventing me from getting into deep sleep. It's a known fact that bright light will mess up your circadian rhythm and sleep cycles. I am leaving that ugly sheet there until we get a curtain!

It is amazing to get restorative rest when you're sleep deprived. The whole world seems different. If you're getting bad sleep lately, really assess your sleep environment and make sure it's nice and dark, cool and quiet. Little changes can make all the difference. Sleep is king!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Have a cozy weekend

What are your weekend plans? I'm working tonight and Sunday at my new part-time job at Trader Joe's! It is actually the perfect solution for our family right now because I can work evenings and weekends and we don't have the added cost of childcare. Plus, their benefits are really out of sight. It's kind of an amazing company, it turns out. I'm feeling so grateful for it right now. I love that our kids are with their parents full-time and I still have the time and energy to devote to writing. Win, win!

Saturday night, my niece is babysitting and J and I are going out on a much-needed and horribly overdue date night. We will eat at home, then go out for cocktails at Santé (the best!) and take a walk through downtown. I can't wait to have some time together, just us.

Here's a bit of what caught my eye this week:

The most beautiful phone cases.

I love this essay so much. I read it again and again.

Cold and flu tonic to make at home.

IKEA asks kids what they want for Christmas.

The loveliest alternative to Thanksgiving sports games. Do you play?

Nordstrom's big fall sale is underway. :)

But, it's not fall until we make this exquisitely simple dinner.

An inspiring new video series from Holy Mama.

Have you seen these hilariously awkward Tweets inspired by The Bloggess?!

Interesting perspective on life and vacation.

I hope your weekend is wonderfully cozy and restful. See you back here Monday! xo

(Armoire photo via Design Mom. 650-square-feet essay via Cup of Jo.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Swiss way to get rid of the pacifier

Coco hit a huge milestone Tuesday when she decided to give all of her nuggis to the Nuggi Fairy. Nuggi sounds like cookie and is the Swiss German equivalent of paci or binki. We were honestly beginning to think that Coco would leave for college with her nuggi! For more than a year, it's been for sleeping at night only, but still, her teeth are clearly displaced from it and it was past time. We had made one attempt to get rid of it in the summer, which resulted in Theo giving up his nuggi for good, but Coco held strong.

As with all parenting dilemmas, I suddenly felt really, truly, confidently ready. So Tuesday morning, I asked her if she'd like to gather up all of her nuggis and make them into a necklace. Then, I explained, we could take them into the forest and - she interrupted me and finished the story, including what the Nuggi Fairy would bring her in return! The whole story after the jump.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Customer Service in Switzerland

Oddly enough, I am feeling wonderfully comfortable with my ambivalence following our trip to Zurich. I had hoped to come back with clarity on our future plans to either a). move back to Zurich or b). settle in Spokane. Now, I feel totally at ease with going back and forth multiple times a day. What's coming? We don't know, and it honestly doesn't matter. Clarity, shmarity!

But, one thing that I have 100% clarity on is the total and utter lack of customer service in Switzerland.

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