Back to walking

The last couple weeks I finally got out of the house for some walks, and I’m so glad I did.

Dogs: also glad.

Spring is so lovely here. All the different blooms have a way of lifting your spirits.

Especially those bright orange poppies.

And the occasional redwood.

It had been so long since I walked my old route that what used to be a middle school is now an open field.

Power plant: still there.

As I turned to walk home I noticed the super steep hill where I used to hike all the way to the tippy top.

I missed it up there with all the eucalyptus trees shedding their bark. So that’s what we did for Easter – more pictures to come.

The hardest part

Of all the things that have been difficult about having a baby — the sleep deprivation, the crying, the frustration of not knowing what to do — nothing has been harder than having a baby who doesn’t nap. It probably sounds like a random thing to complain about, selfish even. But any parent of a non-napping baby understands. It is just brutal to take care of a baby full-time without breaks. And it’s even worse when you can tell your babe is tired but either can’t or won’t fall asleep. 

Most days Harper sleeps 25-30 minutes in the late morning and another 25-30 minutes in the afternoon. In 14 months her routine has been all over the place. But rarely has she ever slept longer than that. And usually if she has it’s because she was sleeping on me. Don’t get me wrong, those cuddles are so precious to me. But the cumulative effect of virtually non-stop parenting and breaks that are over almost as soon as they start is big. After a while you feel like you have given more of yourself than is even possible. And it’s just plain hard.

My workload really let up in the last month and I finally had some time for reflection. The other day as I was bringing Harper home from the nanny, where she had once again taken a 2-hour nap, I just felt like I’d been socked in the stomach. I feel like I’ve tried everything, EVERYTHING, to get this girl to nap during the day and had almost no success. I try not to spend much time in a place of self pity or to focus on things I can’t change. But I felt such longing for the kind of day where we could play for a while, then I could get some work done while she napped for a couple of hours. Maybe I could even read a book, or do nothing! 

When I was planning to stay home with Harper and work on my business part-time, I imagined it as an ideal scenario. But I never imagined that she just wouldn’t nap. And that all my work would have to be done after she went to sleep. That scenario just frankly doesn’t work. Getting the nanny was a godsend. Having my mom here, well, that will just be amazing!

My moms email group has been a huge source of support since Harper was born. But if I have to hear one more person complaining that their child is down to just one 2-3-hour nap a day, I might explode. Do you know what I would give for just one day like that? The idea that some people have 4+ hours of nap time a day is something I can’t even fathom. 

So maybe this Mother’s Day I don’t want breakfast in bed or sweet-smelling lotion or anything like that. I just want my baby to produce one glorious 2-hour nap. We all want things we can’t have. But what do you say, baby — just this once?

Gluten-free baking success

Up until recently my efforts at gluten-free baking had been mostly failures. It’s a tough thing to master. But I picked up a couple of recipes on Kristin’s blog, and they both turned out surprisingly well. At the time I was looking for a guilt-free snack I could bake, and these seemed to fit the bill. Substituting other flours for wheat often yields a higher-protein, healthier baked good, so I thought it was worth a try.

I made the lemon-blackberry breakfast cookies, substituting blueberries since I had so many in the fridge.

I’m not usually a big fan of banana-flavored things, but in these recipes the banana was more subtle. You can taste it, but it’s not overwhelming. 

I also made flourless peanut butter chocolate chip muffins. I was amazed by how much the texture resembled something made with flour. The muffins are soft and fall apart easily, so I would not make them bigger than mini muffin size. But they taste great, and I bet you could add nuts, fruit or other ingredients to change them up. 

They disappeared so quickly, I have to make another batch!

New look

I decided my old, unsupported WordPress theme was not cutting it anymore, so the blog is getting a new look. There may be some slowdowns or strange looking things as I finish working out the kinks. As always, thanks for reading!

Dressing a post-baby body

I don’t have to dress for an office every day, so usually the style I’m going for is comfy-cute. But I realized I was looking more like bedraggled-new-mom lately. I had this uniform of skinny jeans, a stretchy tank top and a curvy fitted cardigan that I thought was flattering. But the way the sweater curved out at the bottom was actually just highlighting my stomach, which is the part I least want to highlight. 

So I tried to find some affordable and truly flattering pieces that would take my style up a notch, but still be practical for my lifestyle. I have to carry a toddler, bend over constantly and play in the dirt. So anything I wear has to work with that, plus be nursing friendly for a little while longer. So that’s pretty limiting, but I’m finding some basics that are working really well, and I just wanted to share. 

1. Merona sweater dress, on sale for $16.08 at Target
I grabbed this on clearance without even trying it on, and it has become one of my favorite pieces to wear. After I washed the dress, it got shorter, so it’s more of a tunic now. Throw on a belt if you want to define the waist a little more. The zipper detail on the shoulder is key!

2. Old Navy linen shirt, on sale for $20.
Button-up shirts don’t usually work for me, but these are softer and more comfortable than most. They’re super cute layered over a tank top, and they have shape without being too tight over a less-than-flat belly.

3. Toms cordones, $69 (get their emails for coupon codes)
I love these shoes because they’re just a little bit more stylish than your average slip-on. I don’t have time for laces anymore, so I leave mine out. Best part about Toms — you can throw them in the washer anytime they get dirty. I got these in a grey color, but I probably should have gone with black.

4. J.Crew Jackie cardigan, $65
I bought 3 J.Crew sweaters when they were ridiculously cheap on clearance, and this one is by far the best. It’s short and fitted and really comfortable. I should probably get rid of 2/3 of my cardigans and just have a couple of these. 

5. Denizen modern skinny jeans, $27.99 at Target
Over the holidays my pants were getting too tight so I went to Target and bought another pair out of desperation. I normally would not pay nearly $30 for Target jeans, but these fit so perfectly, I had to. And I’m so glad I did because they’ve become my absolute favorite pants.  They’re fitted enough to be flattering, but stretchy like a jegging. And $27.99 is really not a lot to pay for good jeans.

6. PACT cropped leggings, $29.99 (I got them during one of their 30% off sales)
I’m wearing a lot more dresses lately, so tights have become essential for chilly nights. I love pretty much everything from PACT — they’re a great eco-friendly company. Next chance I get, I’m ordering more of these.

7. Old Navy bermuda shorts, $24.94
I bought two pairs of these last season when they were on sale for $10. They are so perfect for when you need something casual to wear on a warm day. I have short legs, so I roll up the cuffs a little higher. 

8. Old Navy jersey tamis, $10
As I’ve said before, I live in these. They’re nice and long, which is an absolute must for me. Plus they’re stretchy and they come in lots of cute colors. If they ever stop making these, I will be totally screwed.

9. Old Navy terry sweatshirt, $17.94
There’s a lot of Old Navy here because I think they make the best variety of inexpensive basics. That store has saved me! (Though I am starting to explore our new UNIQLO store.) Anyway, I included this sweatshirt, because it is the least frumpy looking sweatshirt I’ve ever seen. It’s another great layering piece that I’m finding I can’t live without.

What are you wearing these days?

We got a house!

I’m so excited to say that we bought a house! Here she is.

Given the crazy market, it feels like some kind of miracle that we were able to put in an offer on this house and it was accepted. We think it probably helped that they only had one open house and gave 4 days for people to put in offers. They wanted a quick sale and we needed a quick sale. It was also rainy that week, which might have kept people away. And the house, while in excellent shape, is a little bit … frumpy?

It was formerly occupied by a retired lady, and so many things haven’t been updated. But that’s part of the charm for us — projects!

Starting with the godawful awnings out front. They must go! Look at what they are doing to the view.

The kitchen cabinets are actually kind of cool and in great shape. I’m thinking all they need is a paint job. The microwave, on the other hand, is as old as me.

There is ugly brown carpet throughout the house, but we’re told it’s all wood floors underneath. The floor in our room gives a sneak peek. I love the inlaid pattern.

The bathrooms both need updating. We may not be able to do it right away, but hopefully soon.

There are many, many more potential projects I’ll tell you about later. First things first we have to address some problems with the electrical system. And unfortunately we have to spend $5,000 to update the sewer line. But generally the inspection revealed that this house, built in 1949, is a real gem. Good foundation, good plumbing, no earthquake retrofits needed. Whew!

(Did I mention that the home inspector had a waxed mustache and arrived on a bike with a ladder strapped to the side? He was awesome.)

Other things we love about this house:
• It has a master suite that my mom can use.
• It has a separate workshop out back that I can use for my business.
• It’s on a nice big lot with a deck and plenty of room for Harper to play, the dogs to roam, and us to use for gardening or storage (perhaps Airstream parking?)
• It’s about 2 minutes from where we currently live. We love the neighborhood and don’t have to learn a new one.
• The schools are in El Cerrito and much better than some of the other options we would have had to consider.
• Though the decor is dated, the layout is perfect and has so much potential.
• It’s on a nice flat street. So many houses in the area are on precarious hills.

Downsides are that it was at the absolute max of our budget, so we don’t have much left over for improvements, and it’s a little on the small side. We came really close to going for a house in Richmond that was closer to 2,000 square feet. It was a 1920s house with lots of built-ins, and a ton of retro charm. But it needed like $100,000 of work. In the end we went for the safer option and I’m glad we did.

If all goes well, we’ll close on April 29 and probably move in slowly throughout the month of May. That gives us time to redo the floors and fix whatever needs fixing. Then my mom will join us in August.

I can’t quite wrap my mind around just how big this is for our family. I have wanted to be able to buy a house since Mike and I first moved in together 8 (!) years ago. It felt like such a daunting task to try to buy one here. I felt so discouraged at times. But for all our hard work pounding pavement and scouring ads, I think we honestly got the best house out of all the ones we saw.