What Am I Gonna Do With Her?! Life With LeiLei 4/52

I set out to snap a cute picture today, and got more than I bargained for! Lorelei didn't want to hold still at all (as per the norm lately). We're only 5 days away from 2 now, and it's more apparent every stinking day. She came up to me the other day, and I had put on a dress and tights (more thought put into my clothes than usual), and she came up, grabbed the hem of my dress and said, "You be-ootiful." Talk about being a puddle on the floor. The same day David was buckling her into her carseat and I was making silly faces at her in front of the windshield and I could hear her inside the car saying, "Mommy's craazy!" When I got in I asked her what she had said and she replied, "You a crazy baby," something I've been telling her forever. She has us looking at each other in disbelief, or trying to see who loses it first and laughs at her when she's bad a lot lately. We kind of suck at discipline because some of the bad things she does set us off in hysterics. She's constantly telling us we're "mean" or "rude. And she has a penchant for "Your face" jokes. I think it's inherited, my middle sister could never come up with anything better than "Your face" either... What a weird, awesome, smart, "Be-ootiful" girl we have. :)

A Quick Hello!

I just wanted to take a minute to let you all see something I've been working on today. My little sis has joined the blog world, and writes a personal/journal type blog as an outlet being a newlywed hundreds of miles from friends and family. If you like that kind of blog maybe follow her? Either way, go see my design at The Kitty Wumpus. She hasn't even seen it yet, but I can't wait for her reaction! Just a heads up, I actually found her background and header on the interwebs, so if you feel like you aren't any good at HTML and design, do some searching! There are lots of customizable resources out there. I'll be back later with Life With LeiLei. ;P


Let's Get the Coffee Brewing

At home Chemex brewed coffee. Photo courtesy of Photography by David L. Clark
I just realized, that despite coffee being a really big deal to me, and an integral part of my life, I haven't talked much about it. In fact, I don't rightly know where to start...

I guess you could say my relationship with coffee started really, maybe too, young. When I was just a toddler riding along in the car with my grammy to various craft stores and ballet lessons, there was always a latte. Not mine of course, but that doesn't mean I didn't want some! Something that has become really nostalgic to me as an adult is the smell of my grandma's car, with her latte, and usually mints. Some of my earliest of memories involve riding along with her, and her latte, learning to sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." I was that young guys! I remember being excited when she was finished with her drink because there might be some foam left in there, and I just loved that coffee flavoured foam. I don't even think she knew that I sometimes got into her cup when she was done, it usually happened if she was doing something like pumping gas.

Fast forward to when I was about 6, and my mother had this almost unhealthy obsession with these drinks at a local espresso stand. Granitas! Oh man, those things were like liquid crack. In my childish head it was like a sophisticated, way more delicious ICEE. Espresso, sugar, milk, ice, blend. It was the frappe before there were pre-made mixes for them at every coffee shop, only better because it's way less adulterated. I'm not even sure Starbucks had Frappuccinos yet.  Apparently Starbucks trademarked Frappuccinos in 1994, so a year or two before... Needless to say, I sucked down as much of those things as possible when she'd let me have a "taste".

Where were we, oh... I think I started getting my own espresso based beverages when I was about 11. By then my family had moved from the Seattle area to Boise. I had an aunt still living in Seattle though, and my sisters and I would visit her in the summer, and go to work with her (she worked in apartment management). Well she stopped at Starbucks every morning, so we all got drinks too. I insisted on a caramel Frappuccino blended coffee, or a caramel macchiato. Let's just say at this point it wasn't hurting much, the caffeine didn't make me bonkers. The same summer, I was going to church every week with a friend, and we got free coffee and doughnuts every Sunday, so that's about when I started drinking drip as well. By this point I was hooked, never to be off the stuff, ever. Not that I would ever want to be.

So when it came time for me to get my first job I was very lucky in that my very small hometown (population: 809) had finally added a coffee shop. If you can call it that. It was also our video rental place. Weird combo, right? I was 17, and I pestered and applied until they had to hire me. There I got friendly with the commercial espresso machine, and learned that I am quite good with espresso drinking customers (remembering regulars' drinks, making good suggestions to try new things, friendly banter, etc.). I think I learned more about how to be socially adept at working in a coffee shop than about making good espresso. I also drank A LOT of coffee. One free drink per shift (so 4 a week), a drink in the morning on my way to school (mile long walk), drinks to help me motivate myself to do homework instead of read magazines all evening, etc...mostly all coconut breves. Do you know what a breve is? A lesson if you don't: espresso, steamed half and half. That's it. It's sinful. Let's just say that in the 4 months that I worked there past graduation, track, and cheerleading, I put on some weight! Back to the not making good espresso. This job taught me absolutely nothing about properly extracting quality espresso, it didn't even teach me how to correctly steam milk OR do latte art (pft!). Oh well... It was in this job that I realized my dream of one day owning an independent cafe.

About a year after I quit there I met David and I turned him into a Starbucks junkie. We'd spend about 2 or 3 days and nights a week together and made at least one coffee run during that time. Then I started working retail, and I consumed more calories in Frappuccinos than I did in food (and lost 25 pounds). We moved in together and were broke, so the coffee stopped, until I bought a 4 cup Mr. Coffee brewing machine with my tax return. Then we started drinking drip together every day. David didn't drink drip at all before that. Guilty admission, we only drank it with flavoured syrup and heavy cream (blehk!). A couple months after getting our first coffee maker, and feeling like real adults, we got pregnant, so the coffee drinking lessened because it made me queasy. We got pregnant in May, and then through the summer had a budget to go to Starbucks once a week. Then David left for the Army in August.

This is where I go a little out of control. In the first month of David's absence I was battling some depression, trying to stick to a budget (while having a lot more income), and being bored out of my mind living in podunk Idaho at my grandparents' house, I managed to spend somewhere between two and three hundred dollars at coffee shops. It wasn't all on me, I would take my sisters with me, or my best friend, but it was a problem. When I sat down to do the math I was really embarrassed, and thought David would be super mad at me. Turns out all he could do was laugh...I think he was in disbelief. I then put myself on a strict $25 a month coffee budget, and got coffee on Sundays before or after church. This was good because then it felt special again, like those days of sneaking foam off of my grandma's latte.

Doma's Mia's Organic Blend, roasted 2 days prior to us receiving it. Photo courtesy of Photography by David L. Clark
When David got out of the Army we had major issues (some because of changing taste, and some user error) with our coffee maker, so we bought a French press. Drinking coffee from the press was like seeing with new eyes! I couldn't believe that black coffee could be so full bodied, so fragrant, and that  the flavor profile could be so discernible. We really enjoyed our French press coffee, but about 6 months ago I broke the glass container to our 8 cup Bodum Chambord. So that was out, but we didn't have money for beans anymore anyways. Up until we moved to Seattle from Boise last February we were on a once a week coffeehouse visit schedule. It was nice, but then we had to cut costs again, and absolved that money into our grocery budget.

Here we are at the present. We stopped going to coffee shops unless they were special, like Black Coffee Coop in Capitol Hill, who boast all vegan food choices and all mismatched thrift cup, and coffee from a roaster we hadn't tried. Or Bluebeard in Tacoma, because Elizabeth of Delightfully Tacky recommended it (they roast their own coffees, their logo is awesome, and have a killer lemon bar). And don't even say Starbucks anymore, we try to go sometimes, and end up disappointed every time. The hubs and I traded a really old Canon DSLR body that David found in the trash at work for a DeLonghi home espresso machine about 4 months ago. At that point we still knew nothing about making good espresso. I knew to measure the espresso (I was using a spoon), tamp it, and to fill a shot glass with the liquid, and I knew how to heat the milk and get really think foam on top. That was it. David jumped into research about how to pull a perfect shot and would relay his findings to me. With new knowledge, we bought a burr grinder. We finally pulled the best shots I've ever pulled or tasted for three consecutive days a couple of weeks ago, and it was downhill from there. We thought the beans went rancid overnight (the roast date wasn't marked, shame on us for not buying directly from the roaster), which we still don't know because even with new beans we didn't get good shots. We bought commercial grade espresso machine cleaner, that didn't help, we depressurized the porta filter, nothing. We increased and decreased tamping pressure,  weighing out the grams of espresso, and tried different grind sizes. We decided we had outgrown our espresso machine because it didn't rely enough on user input. Even though we had all the knowledge to get a perfect shot it was not happening. The machine was going to ruin the coffee every time.

Our visit to Black Coffee Coop. We had hazelnut lattes, a vegan rueben sandwich, and a vegan breakfast sandwich for Lorelei. Photo courtesy of Photography by David L. Clark
So Saturday, we went out and armed ourselves with all of the necessary equipment to brew using a Chemex, and seriously, it's the most amazing drip coffee I have ever had in my long relationship with coffee. Currently we're brewing Mia's Organic blend from DOMA, a roaster that we fell in love with when we lived in Idaho. The aroma's described on the site are: chocolate, wild berry, and wooden boat. I didn't get the wooden boat thing, until we brewed it. I couldn't imagine the smell of a wooden boat, but when the coffee finished dripping and we smelled it, I was like, "It smells like a...wooden boat?" Seriously. The flavor profile lists: earth, spice, tobacco, and fruit, and yes, they are all accurate and so beautiful!

Hang in there, I'm almost done. The point of this introduction to my relationship with coffee is this: I want to talk more about it here. I've got a how-to on Chemex coffee in the works, and we'd (David and I) really like to make some videos, and share what we're learning as we go. If you're into that sort of thing, hopefully you'll enjoy it. If not, you can skip the coffee talk. ;)


Soba Noodle Salad

So, I tried this new recipe last night, and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it ASAP. It's really more of a summer dish (being as it's cold and all), but some how, in my mind (I'm thinking summer, summer, summer), this past week cold food just sounded good. Enter spring rolls, vegan sushi, and this here salad. And, um, I love Asian fusion food? The best thing about this dish (besides the flavor explosion) is that it's pretty easy to make. I'm going to cut to the chase.

Makes about 4- 1.5 cup servings.

1/2 cup rice vinegar (no substitutes here, it has to be rice vinegar)
1/6 cup sugar or agave
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lime, zest and juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
8oz package soba noodles
1 bell pepper, for this I highly recommend orange (the flavors are very different, if you didn't know)
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped mint

Suggestions from experience: Add some ginger juice, and peanuts.

1. Boil the soba noodles according to package instructions, drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside in a large bowl.
2. Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small sauce pan. Heat on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Once hot add the minced garlic, then remove from heat. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice, and sesame oil.
3. Poor the prepared dressing over the noodles and toss.
4. Add the fresh basil and mint, and then the vegetables.
5. Place in refrigerator to cool and marinate, at least 1 hour. All day or overnight is even better!

This would be good with so many variations. I suggest trying it out and experimenting. If you do, let me know what you used! :)

No 'Poo for this 'Do

I tried really hard to get a good picture of the whole head of hair, but had difficulties with focus using a tripod on the bathroom counter. Sorry. :( Hubs will help with the next update.

Since it's still January, I think it's acceptable to talk about trying new things, or goals to try new things, whatever. One of my goals for this year is greener cleaning. Both hygienically and around the house. So far I've really only started on the hygienic part of that. The week of Christmas I felt compelled to try no 'pooing for the second time, with the goal of sticking with it until my birthday in mid February. In my humble opinion Winter is a great time to try it out because if your hair goes through the nasty, over-greasy phase, you can just put a hat on it (even better a hat with a bird, 'cuz, you know).

So, thus far I am not swayed one way or the other. I've heard that it can take a good 8 weeks for your hair to re-adjust and be gorgeous. I'm waiting it out. I have had some kinda greasy days, but nothing too terrible. I think a lot of the major issues with no 'pooing are user error. That was the problem the first time I tried it anyways. Right now the roots and top half look pretty shiny and healthy, and the ends are a tad dry and tangly. Tangling and hair breakage/loss have been my biggest concerns this time around. I've probably experienced more of those things then your average shampoo-less gal though because my hair was not healthy to begin with. I have about 3 inches maybe more of half dead hair going on. For a week or more I had to brush my hair 5-8 times a day with monster rats. And my brush was full of hair every few days. Like post-natal hair loss amounts! But that has subsided and I'm back to brushing my hair 2-3 times a day. I've been dealing with all of the woes pretty well and I'm darned proud to say it too. I have a really hard time sticking with things, so this is a good test for me.

Good things I've notice as of 1.24.13 (one month from starting):

  • I can now wash it every 3 days instead of every other day without looking like a grease ball.
  • I have a nice lightly wavy natural texture. Before baby it was stick straight, then hormones gave it a few random, poorly placed wave/kinks.
  • It's really shiny!
  • I haven't had any smell issues like some people do. It smell like clean hair minus the artificial fragrances.

Here's how I do it, at the very end of my shower (as it's time consuming):
  • Fill a 16 oz. bottle with a lid with 2 tablespoons of baking soda and the rest with warm water.
  • Fill a 8 oz. bottle with lid with 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and the rest with "" water.
  • Wet hair.
  • Pour baking soda solution on a little at a time, focusing on roots, especially at the front, sides, and back/bottom (you don't need to put it on the ends, it will run through as you rinse).
  • Work that in well and massage scalp.
  • Rinse out very thoroughly. Don't expect your hair to feel squeaky.
  • Saturate hair with vinegar solution, you'll want to intentionally put some on the ends.
  • Work it in like the baking soda solution.
  • Rinse until it feels like there hasn't been anything in your hair, and rinse again.
  • Cold rinse to seal the cuticle.
  • Allow to air dry before brushing. 
I find that the cold rinse and allowing to air dry before brushing are of vital importance, as my hair condition drastically improved after incorporating those steps. Though, I realize some people actually have lives and can't spend this amount of time just waiting for their hair to be ready to do. The improvement could also just be because my hair is finally regulating. *Shrug*

Anyways, it's a work in progress and I'll let you all know how it has gone again around February 15th. 

Side note: I'm also *trying* to grow out my bangs because I feel not having them would make my life easier. Another test in patience. We'll see how it goes. 


This Kiss 3/52

I'm running a little, okay, quite a lot, late with my Life With LeiLei picture this week. I wasn't feeling very inspired to grab the camera. Then I went into the bathroom to wash my face and discovered this gem of a photo opp. Neither David or myself knows when her little mouth planted this, the mirror had stayed pretty clean for a while, but there it is. I haven't brought myself to wash it off yet because, seriously, a little squishy kiss in the middle of the mirror is precious. :)

This picture took a lot of experimentation to capture the lips marks in good detail. At first I tried keeping the camera out of the picture, and then I realized (as did my husband at the same time, we REALLY share a brain) that the darkness of the lense would make a good background for the lips to pop on. You'll have to forgive the fuzz on the mirror. I tried to blow it off while snapping, and I tried to edit it out, but it is what it is. I like it regardless. Our little wild one knows how to keep us on our toes, and falling deeper, and harder for her all the time. 

In other news WE'RE NOT MOVING! That's coming late, since we found out last Friday, but David and I got knocked on our butts for several days with some weird/awful headaches. Speaking for myself, and I'm sure David too, we're relieved. Nobody likes the process of moving (at least no one I've ever known)! Both of us started feeling like something was off in the whole transfer process, it just didn't feel good, so we decided to withdraw the request, but learned the next morning it had already been done. There is some melodrama behind that, but not on our part so I won't elaborate. I'm glad that my life doesn't feel like it's in upheaval anymore, and I'm more appreciative of what we have. Lessons learned. 

Thanks to everyone who wished us luck in the process, I believe it went to the right place! 

Midweek Music P.13: Sucre "Place to Be"

At some random point I stopped posting music every week, because well, I just wasn't feeling it. But now I'm missing it! I like sharing, and music is one of my very favorite things. It has become a new experience for me again since we got a record player. Listening to an album I'd heard at least 30 times digitally, on vinyl the first time was, don't cringe: an eargasmic. Newer readers, or non-family readers might not be up to speed on how much I love music. It's a lot. I grew up with a musician dad, musician uncles, exposed to a wide variety of tunes, and I can honestly say, I would not be the person I am now if not for the music in my life.

Our vinyl collection is barely existant at the moment, but we have a long list of hopefuls to add as we can afford. My next pick is The Cure's Disintegration, for sure, but Sucre's first Album is high on my list as well. In fact, I need to get it before they put out another. I know that Stacy, Darren, and Jeremy have been recording, and today I found this gem! I'm in love. Stacy has always been an incredible lyricist, something I don't credit a lot of female artists with, and after having a baby she's finding more depths. I just love it, and I hope you do to. A plus, the videos they do are always dreamy. :)


Why So Serious? Life With LeiLei 2/52

It seems that more often than not, Lorelei is quite serious for the camera. Oddly enough, because she's a total hoot the rest of the time. She is speaking sentences and constantly babbling now. Most of the time she speaks very clearly, especially when saying "I love you." She has us smiling and melting into pools all over the floor/couch constantly. :) Yesterday I put on a necklace (very rare, I'm not much of a jewelry wearer) and she was obsessing over it so we went to Target and let her pick a little cheap one. I love having a little girl. Right now she is taking a nap, which pretty much doesn't happen anymore. So I get to blog about her. Hehe. She's going to be two in 3 weeks. I might die...

David put in his transfer request for the job in Tacoma on Friday, so we went and looked at the apartments to figure out which one we'd be moving into. Aesthetically, and functionally, the new apartment will be a huge downgrade, but it's going to save us so much money, get us off food stamps, and allow us to save money for our business. I'll admit I was so not gracious while looking at the apartments. I sort of had a laughing/crying meltdown trying to see the good parts of them while really being fixated on the bad.

The cons of the new apartment are:

  • Single sink...this doesn't accomodate that I wash a lot of dishes by hand: bamboo cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, cast iron skillet, baking sheets, baby cup, etc.
  • Unmatching, old appliances (this is really mostly aesthetic, but I've been spoiled with all matching, new, good working appliances.) I just hope they work, because I cook 3 times a day...
  • No built-in microwave, so we'll have to take up counter space with a clunky one.
  • No light fixtures in the bedrooms, so we'll have to buy some.
  • Albeit the good closet space, the shelves are almost like unfinished particle board. Ugly and catchy.
  • The cupboards are hideous, plus discolored and dingy looking.
  • Closer to the "ghetto" part of the complex.
  • The playground is in the "ghetto" part as well. 
  • Farther away from Trader Joe's and PCC, where we shop every week.

The pros are:
  • Savings in rent, and utilities, plus pay raise.
  • 2 bedrooms.
  • Fireplace.
  • Gorgeous view of golf course and ponds.
  • In a residential area. Our current apartment is in a shopping/commercial area, and that's not our thing so it's not really appealing.
  • In Tacoma, which is an area that we do like.
  • More opportunity for growth as far as David's employment.
  • Gets us off of food stamps. This way we'll be able change our grocery shopping schedule and buy larger quantities of staples in bulk.
  • Ample storage space. Coat closet, linen closet, pantry, walk-in in master, storage closet on large balcony, decent closet in second bedroom, and lots of cupboards.
  • Linoleum in dining area. We currently have carpet. You can guess how that goes with a toddler.
  • It has a little built in desk in the dining area, so I'll have a space for reading recipes, meal planning, list making, and putting on my makeup in natural light. 
  • The living area won't accomodate our desk, so the computer will go in our bedroom. There it will be less inviting for David or myself to spend a bunch of time on, and Lorelei won't ask to watch so many movies. Out of sight, out of mind. 
  • Vaulted ceiling in living room, and lots of natural light. 
  • Having a larger kitchen again, maybe I'll start making more homemade breads like I did before...
  • Closer to WinCo, a nicer WinCo than we have to go to now.

Obviously the ups outnumber the downs. I'm just hoping we're there long enough, and I get comfortable enough to decorate and such. I'm excited to have a little budget wiggle room to buy supplies for DIY projects I've wanted to do for a year. Wish us luck. I'll try to keep up here, no promises though. Hope your Sunday is going well! :)


So This is the New Year, Life With LeiLei 1/52

Here I am, finally getting around to the first post of the new year. I thought a lot about what I would say regarding resolutions, goals, a fresh start, yadda yadda, but I guess I wasn't really feeling it. I have a long, revised but not finished, list of goals for 2013 but I'm not ready to share it because I don't feel particularly committed.

I started out the year with a cold, quick moving and not too horrible, but now I've got some sort of stomach bug too. Good excuses for my lack of motivation. There is also this inner struggle going on over projects I thought I'd be getting to like getting the last two boxes in the apartment unpacked, and hanging things on the bare walls. The problem is that we very well may be moving, again. I should be used to this by now, as I've lost track of how many moves I've made in my life. The number is greater than my near 23 years of age.

This move would be great. It would be due to a position and location change in the company for David, a much bigger apartment for less money, a pay raise, and being in Tacoma, where we thought we might like to move a few months ago. The only problem I have with it is that I am so, so sick of packing up my entire life and taking it somewhere else again. I've never in my life had the luxury of feeling settled, or like a place was home. Part of me never lets my self get to comfortable for fear of being uprooted. Hopefully that will change sometime within the next 5-10 years, after we start our business.

One thing I did decide to commit to for the new year is a photo challenge. At first I thought I'd do a 365, but who am I kidding, that fizzled out by the 2nd. Then I decided a 52 week challenge would be good for me, as I only have to commit to once a week. I've seen a few other bloggers doing it this way and I'm feeling good about it. The reason I want to do a photo challenge is that I have absolutely no skill or knowledge of photography. I had been using Auto mode for everything and wasn't pleased with my images, so I had my husband give me a quick lesson on manual focus, shutter speed, aperture, lighting, etcetera... And I got to shooting. My theme is Life with Lorelei. This may mean pictures of her, or pictures that could be from her point of view. Some weeks I may do just one image, and others a set of images. Should be fun. :)
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