Hello there!

If this is your first visit here, please go to my blog's new home, here. You will find more updated posts and if you are lucky, I might just be running a giveaway :-)

If you have been here before, welcome back! I have moved to self-hosted Wordpress, so now you can find me by just typing www.theunlikelyhousewife.com in your browser. I hope to see you there!

XO, Elisa

P.S. This blog's comment are now closed. One more reason to visit me on WP ;-)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Oy, I've been tagged.

Ok, bear with me - I've been tagged by Paula of Reflections under the Bohi Tree.

I have been commanded to do the following:
"1. Link to the person who tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write 6 random things about yourself
4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them
5. Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up

Random things about me:
1. I'm totally useless at anything craft-related
2. I have a double nationality: Italian and Swiss.
3. I love chocolate, but only the good stuff. No Mars bars for me. Lindt chocolate is the best.
4. I am a total bookworm.
5. My favourite colour is purple.
6. I once stayed up 3 and half days straight working, and on the 4th day I had to be taken home because I was literally delirious, LOL

The moment of truth: who am I going to tag? mhua-ha-ha-ha (my lame attempt at an evil laugh)

Kathy of Junk Drawer

Lindsay of Adventures with Lindsay

Kelly of Not Insane Per Se

Sarah of Sensibly Sassy

Maureen of I'd Rather Be Blogging

OhMommy of Classy Chaos

Gals, I know you will now dislike me in perpetuity. I am sorry, but I am not risking any karmic disaster by not keeping the tag going. Especially with all the 6s involved. Scary.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ah, the pride in shameless self-promotion

Have you been to my cooking blog lately? Probably not. Because it was closed for renovation! (And probably also because there wasn't much to warrant special visits.)

No more. Unlikely Housewife in the Kitchen is re-opening, with a new look and a fresh take on where to go with yet another cooking blog. And I'm hosting my first giveaway! Go check it out.

It's ok, I'll wait right here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Is that a challenge?

Sometimes I feel like such a loser. I used to be able to do a million things at once, take care of everything and everyone, have all my work tracked and organized so I could tell you exactly where everything was at, in the blink of an eye. I sent books to press, slept little, but loved my job; the hectic lifestyle quickly became second nature to me and I even managed to get married right in the middle of a big project. That was me. I was, by all accounts, a powerhouse (or a bulldozer, as some called me).

This makes it all the more shocking that I can't keep on top of things now that I am a mom. The house, the homework, the tantrums, the cooking, plus exercise, study and personal enrichment, getting enough sleep, making time for beauty-related tasks, socializing (on the web and off)... aaaargh!

What happened to me? Sometimes I wonder. Then I remember that taking care of little people is not like managing tasks to be done; you cannot put them on hold and organize them in the order you want for efficiency purposes. Children are people, they get hungry, thirsty, tired, bored, they want to play, they want to cuddle. And why shouldn't they? Isn't that what we (parents) are here for?

Aaah, so THAT's what happened to me. I became a mom. Ok. But apparently there are moms who can do it all: take care of the kids, keep the house clean and tidy, socialize, and look fabulous while doing it. Honestly. Are they lying? Do they really exist, these mythical creatures? Are they really that good, or are they pretending? Because I don't get how you can find enough hours in the day to clean the whole house, exercise, take care of the kids (meals, naps, diapers, homework, etc), cook wholesome meals, read a book, and find time to wax your eyebrows and legs in between. I mean, seriously. HOW?

Be as it may, it's that time again. I already told you how every now and then I get a burst of renewed motivation to become a domestic goddess. Yup, I'm on a mission - again. Only this time I decided to put my anal-retentive, super-organized control freak self on a time-out and take things slowly instead. If I can't get everything done, I will concentrate on the most important things and shoot for just getting those done every day. Everything else is a bonus. But this begs the question: what are the most important things to do each day?

That was already sending my head spinning, while I mentally compiled lists and put the tasks in order of priority, then timed them, then... oh boy, I was getting out of control already. So I did what I always do when I need some level-headed advice. I asked my husband. What are the most important things to get done? He said without an ounce of uncertainty "kitchen and living room". "What about the bathroom? The bedrooms?" I asked. "We can do those together in the weekend." "But you already do the laundry in the weekend." "That's ok, I can do something else in between loads and then we can have a folding party." (Yeah, I know, he's awesome. And he's mine! Cue evil laugh.)

So then he asked me what are the most important things to me, aside from taking care of the girls. I said "exercise" then added "making time to make lunch and eating it sitting down even when I'm alone". "Good" he said, and then added "so now add making time to study for your driver's license and you've got your list". (Yeah, I don't have a driver's license, in Switzerland the public transport is so great you don't really need one. That, and also I failed the exam once and have been procrastinating ever since.)

So now I have my list. Except I feel like I should add stuff to it. But I won't. I will just concentrate on getting my things done every day and try to make it a habit, both for me and for Stella - I'll keep her in the room with me when I exercise or clean, and hopefully in 3 weeks she will be used to it.

Part of me is saying "yeah, good luck with that" but I'm trying not to listen to that. But you know what would help? Knowing that someone is doing this with me. Anyone? (I'm kind of hearing an echo).

Ok fine, be like that. But just in case you wanted to join me in my personal challenge and also pick 4-5 things you want to make a habit of, here's a cool gadget I found: the ToDo List from Google Gadgets.

Come on, don't make me beg.

Alright, if you decide to join me, you know where to find me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Teaching responsibility

I am a mom, and it was just a matter of time.

This year I found myself uttering that sentence, yes, that one, the one that is so cliché it makes me cringe: "They grow up so fast!". My oldest daughter, Sarah, turned 9. She is tall, with long legs like her dad, and dark brown eyes like me. She is wonderful.

Sarah is growing, she is quickly approaching her tweens, and it shows. Because although I do mean it when I say she is wonderful, she is also developing her own personality, her own tastes, and starting to make up her own mind about more and more things - which translates into her disregarding what I ask her to do, or what I recommend she wear for the day, and so on. It's fine, it's normal. Except I do want her to know the difference between duties and hobbies, between things that need to be done and things that are nice or fun to do.

It's the eternal question for a parent: finding the line between letting them develop their own tastes, form their own personality, make their own decisions and giving them enough guidance to make the right decisions, not to become spoiled brats. Of course the best thing is to set a good example. But kids don't spend the whole day at home - how to make up for any bad influences they might get? We all know that at a certain age, what our friends do seems so much cooler than what our parents do, especially if they go in opposite directions.

But recently I found a tool on MomCentral that I feel helps me show that playing "on my team" is also cool: The Responsibility Project. Sarah enjoys watching the videos, empathizes with many of the characters and forms her own conclusions, based on what she sees. Sometimes she likes me watching with her or discussing the topic with her, other times she lets a few days pass before she bring it up - almost as if the video she saw provided her with food for thought and she needed time to form an opinion, decide where she stood on the topic or issue. That's how I like to think of it, at least; I like to think she she is reflecting on how to treat others, giving help when it's needed, being nice without expecting anything in return. And she likes to have the chance to form her own opinions.

It's a win-win.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where's my Muse?

If the decrease in comments is anything to go by, my blog has suddenly become less than popular. What can I say, I'm burnt out and uninspired these days. Add to that the visitor who told me I should control the amount of garbage I post on my blog... that's encouraging, right? So today I'm not even trying. I went browsing and found something fun, so here it is.

Got this idea from Renaissance Woman and I decided to try it, because her collage looked quite cool.

The above was the result.

Here's how you do this:
A) Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
B) Using only the first page, pick an image.
C) Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

Go on, make your own. You know you want to...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Take me to the fair... or NOT!

Yesterday I discovered I don't like County Fairs. In fact, I REALLY don't like them. To be fair (no pun intended), there was just the one, but considering how hyped it was and the crowd it attracts, I'm thinking it's safe to assume that if I don't like what is considered a great county fair I won't like lesser ones any better.

Allow me to backtrack a little. Last week a friend recommended we visit the Dutchess County Fair. He said "There's lots of stuff to do: animals for the kids to pet, local merchants, rides... it's really fun for kids. It's upstate New York, but it's so worth the drive. It's also a really beatiful area." So of course DH, who is in IT but is really a farm boy at heart, decided we should go. I said ok, picturing booths of beautifully handcrafted items, fresh produce and homemade honey and jam, with some small rides for the kids on the side and a "petting zoo"-type corner. Yeah, I'm totally clueless about this stuff. So sue me. I'm Italian and he's Swiss - we don't have county fairs where we are from.

Anyway, so yesterday morning I woke up early and decided to check if I could find a website for the fair, since it was so famous. Oh, I found one all right. One look at the website, and there I was, at my desk, shocked expression on my face, my mind suddenly running to the movie Babe when I repeated to myself the words "county fair". Words which were quickly followed by "oh crap" and "no way!" as I browsed through the website. Needless to say, it was not what I had imagined. You see, I don't like farm animals much. Cows can be cute, but they are the best-looking of the bunch. And the smell... yikes. But since I was outvoted and we had already rearranged our day so we could go, I gave in.

After driving for 2 hours and getting an ever-increasing "middle of nowhere" feeling, we arrive to the place. At the gate, a large plaque depicting a cow greets us, which prompts my "Oooh, a cow plate. This is promising" quip. And then we see it. The sea of cars. It's 11 AM, and there are already hundreds of cars parked outside of the fair grounds. Great. My husband has a lot of good qualities, but finding our car in a crowded parking lot isn't one of them. So the first order of the day when we get out of the car is to look around and pinpoint our location, so we don't have to spend ages trying to find our car when we leave the fair (believe me, it woulnd't be the first time).

We park and make our way to the entrance. The sign at the ticket booth lists the DON'Ts of the fairgrounds: no cans, no bottles, no pets, etc. And then in large letters at the bottom: SHOES AND SHIRT REQUIRED. I start giggling, point it to DH and say "wow, this a classy place". People start to stare. DH shushes me. Then I see in front of us a man with a slogan t-shirt which says "YEAH, YOU RIGHT" on the back. At which point I giggle again, then start digging through my handbag (mentally kicking myself for not bringing a notebook) and start grabbing the camera, going "oh, I am SO blogging about this". DH admonishes me "Do not spoil this for all of us". "What!" I say, all innocent-looking.

We step in, and the rest is... well, not history, really. But it can be summarized pretty much like this: junk food, rides, farm animals, pig races, trucks, more junk food. Oh, and crafts. Never seen so many crochet doilies in my life. Wait, that's unfair, there were also some cool things, like these bong-shaped smoothie glasses:
bong-shaped smoothie glasses

or these airbrushed t-shirts:
airbrushed tees

No, I didn't buy any. But I did buy some pretty good raw honey and agave nectar. And there were these wooden bangles in these amazing colors, all shiny and gorgeous, I could have bought 10 of them.

But all in all, we spent there the same amount of time we spent on the road - 4 hours - which is not a good balance.

Next time they want to see animals we'll go to the Bronx zoo: it's closer, it's prettier and it smells better.

Though the fair was kind of a zoo too.

P.S. If you, unlike me, actually like fairs, you'll probably love this one. But I'd recommend getting there early, because the later you come, the harder it will be to find a parking space that isn't miles away (not kidding!) from the entrance. And you finding your car afterwards won't be a picnick either ;-)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cool finds - Baby edition

Babies, babies everywhere! My little niece Rita was born on Wednesday*! Everyone I know seems to be pregnant or a new parent.** In her honor, I decided to center this "cool finds" post around babies and tots.

Part 1: gifts to celebrate baby's arrival

Birthday Keepsake print: this is so gorgeous and girly! It will be customized with baby's name, date of birth and weight. I don't normally like these things, but this one is a lovely painting. Since you are at it, take a look around Dimples and Dandelions: they have gorgeous things! (OMG, I thought I was SO OVER the diaper bag obsession, until I saw this Fleurville tote)

A pair of good-quality, stilish shoes like these Lauren Pediped baby shoes is always fun to buy and fun to get. I don't like loafers, but these are just the cutest. And Pediped is well known for being good quality, fashionable, soft and comfy for little feet. Robeez are a good pick, too. When Stella was younger, we absolutely loved their booties.

If you prefer to go more traditional, I love this Welcome Wagon and this Wicker Baby Rocker, as well as this smaller (and more affordable) gift set. All of them are available in pink, blue and unisex yellow and green.

If mom and dad are eco-conscious (or if you are and want to bring them on board), this colorful organic bamboo mini bowl and utensils would make a lovely gift, especially when paired with a copy of Green Babies, Sage Moms and a cute organic cotton onesie. Or you can add little gift for the new mom with a bottle of organic body butter by Earth Mama-Angel Baby.

I think it's a really nice thought to get something for the new mom; the attention always shifts to the new baby, but the mom deserves some pampering too. Blooming Lotus makes sustainable gift baskets that look pretty and smell delicious.
If mom practices yoga or has expressed interest in it, she would probably love a Dali Mama raw silk yoga bag accompanied by a good postnatal yoga DVD.

And if you want to go one step further, bring dad a bottle of this Ceago Sauvignon Blanc, which is made from organic and biodynamically grown grapes. A great gift that is also eco-friendly.

Part 2: recommended items for parents of little ones

1. A diaper clutch is a must have for a mom/dad on the go. Just pop diapering essentials in it and put it in your bag, or leave one in the car. I prefer the ones that unfold into a changing mat, because I am kind of a germophobe when I'm out. I love my OiOi one! The Skip Hop Pronto Changer is pretty similar. If you like to have things that are personalized or customized, look no further than this Quick Trip Organizer.

You can also choose a more polished, less baby-like look and go for this patent changing clutch. And if daddy wants his own, this is a good pick.

2. A good carrier can make your life soooo much easier! The problem is: there are too many, it's impossible to choose. So go to The Baby Wearer, which is a very friendly community where you'll find descriptions of the different types of carriers and tips on how to choose the one that's right for you. My personal favorites:
- The Moby Wrap for newborns and young babies: it's soft and cuddly, it comes in some really nice colors (and a matching pouch to fold it into) and it's made of stretchy fabric, so it has a much smaller learning curve than most wraps. It's also very affordable.
- A pouch or ring sling for quick outings. I like to have one always in the car or in my bag so I don't need to take the stroller with me for quick shopping trips. My favorite ones are the Mamma's Milk adjustable pouches, Peanut Shell fitted pouches and a ring sling I got custom-made by Beth of DrewBaby Designs.
- A Mei tai carrier for walks, hiking trips, or just to replace the Moby Wrap once baby becomes too heavy for it. I absolutely recommend you get a Babyhawk: really comfortable, lots of colors and patterns, lots of options. Not only it's worth the money, it's worth more.
If you aren't fond of the straps, perhaps a Beco will suit you better.

3. Whether you're nursing or bottle feeding, these items are a must to keep mom comfortable and baby safe.

So there you have it! If you have any questions or special requests for a future edition of the weekly Cool Finds post (baby-centered or otherwise), please share in the comment section. Also let me know how you liked this one!

* Rita is actually my cousin's daughter, but it's as close to being an aunt as it goes for me, since I am an only child

** excuse me while I pull out my handy dandy baby dust deflector

Monday, August 18, 2008

SELF is neurotic too

The latest issue of SELF magazine has been sitting on the kitchen table for over a week. This is highly unusual, since I am constantly looking for something to read, and I love getting my magazines, because it's like a surprise every time I get one.
Ok, I'm not slow, I realize if I am subscribed they come every month, but I like getting stuff in the mail, it's the adult version of the "Santa was here!" thing, I guess: you know he's coming, but it's still really exciting when you see the presents.

Anyway, so it's been sitting there for a week, in part because I already had something to read which I was really enjoying, in part maybe because with my father visiting we have been indulging a bit more than usual in rich foods and I didn't feel like being reminded of what I should really be eating because that would send me on a guilt trip. And I think part of it is also that this year I have subscribed to way too many magazines: part was my doing, but some I got for free, like Home, Parenting, Shape. Except I also get InStyle and Self, and my husband is subscribed to Entertainment Weekly. So now we no longer place magazines in the mail basket but on the kitchen console, and there is a pile of stuff to be read from when we were gone this summer. And now I am feeling... not eco-friendly at all.

But I digress: this morning at breakfast I finally opened SELF (which this month came with a copy of Fashion Rocks) and below Jennifer Lopez (who is remarkable good shape - didn't she just have twins?) I saw it: "The list issue" it said, with a check mark next to the title. "This should be good" I thought. Because really, I love nothing better than a nice list - it makes you feel like you have things under control and know exactly what is going on and what to do next. Of course in my case the stuff on the list doesn't always get done. In fact I am almost scared of making lists now. It's almost as if I am jinxing it by writing it down.

I am not the only one though: Kelly loves lists too - check out one of her Listy McListerson posts. Ah, it feels so good to know I am not alone. In fact, I'm not even the most neurotic. Check out this website and tell me. I mean WOW. *index finger twirls near temple* See? I'm not so bad afterall.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cool finds... and cooler ones

Did you like my post about Alima? Were you relieved to find a brand of makeup without any of the ugly stuff?
Then you will love these two brands of nail polish, both free of Formaldehyde, Toluene and DBP and unlike most non-toxic brands of nail polish, they come in great colors!
Zoya is very affordable and boasts an impressive selection: 300 colors. I don't know about that, but I'm in love with their Pulse Fall collection! If you prefer matte to metallics, you'll be happy to see they have a second Fall collectiion, Vibe. I love that you can get sample packs with several miniature bottles, so you can try several shades!
Butter London is slightly more expensive but everyone who tries it seems to fall in love with it. It has been featured on InStyle, Allure, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, you name it. They have some very unusual but gorgeus colors (with some cool names!), as well as treatments, base/top coats and so on (check out the foot care). The coolest thing? They sell color packs based on skin tone, so you there's no guesswork in finding the best shades for you.

I already told you about RememberTheMilk.com, but check this out: if you want something simpler, if you like to get precise directions and wish you had someone like YOU to do just that... or if you have a long to-do list and you get overwhelmed looking at all of it at once... I have the answer: NowDoThis! Input your tasks in order of priority and save - it will show you your tasks one by one, and jump to the next one on the list when you mark one "done". And if you like you can add it to your Firefox sidebar.

As you know, I was very excited about Amazon's Universal Wishlist feature - because sometimes people need a little (or a lot) of guidance to get the right present. But what to do if something is too expensive to add to your wishlist? (We don't want to seem greedy, do we?) here's what you do: create an account with ShoppingNotes, save the item you want and put the highest price you are willing to pay for it - and ShoppingNotes will send you an alert when the item is discounted at or below your selected price. Score!

And if you need a bit of relaxation, the Here Comes the Sun yoga festival (which I told you about here) is coming up, and I still have a $5.00 coupon available for online ticket purchases - just shoot me an e-mail! And if you need some yoga gear, check out the Gaiam sale.

Ahhh... ready for the weekend?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Alert: messy mom tainting the gene pool???

Disclaimer: if you are expecting a light, funny post, you might be disappointed. But if you are all for rants and the right to different parenting styles, read on.

My dad is visiting. As it always happens when my dad is around, we talk about stuff, our opinions on stuff, or disagreements on stuff. Stuff that is mostly generic, so that noone gets hurt or feels criticized. That changed today.

We were talking about stuff. We got to talking about my mom. Note: I don't have the easiest relationship with my mom - more on that maybe later. But a summary is: we love each other, but she is kind of controlling and judgmental and I, a grown woman who has traveled lots and left home at 17 and is now married (have been for 11 years) and has two children and leaves far away from home - I, for some reason, still care deeply about what my mom thinks of me. I don't look for her approval, but her critics hurt me. To be fair, she can be kind of harsh. And most of you will agree with me that a critic touches you more when your own mom is making it. My dad, on the other hand, is usually pretty mellow and diplomatic and takes things very lightly (which explains why he handles my mom's criticism better than I do).

Anyway, so we got around to talking about my mom. He had mentioned before that she was concerned that we didn't enjoy spending time with them (my parents). I said that it wasn't true, but that if sometimes I'm tense its because I feel judged very often when I ma with her. He said it's not that, it's that sometimes she doesn't know how to tell me things without making me mad (I get upset when I'm hurt, so sue me) and I said that I've never established taboo topics, so I wasn't sure what he was referring to.

Should NEVER have done that.

Can open. Worms everywhere.

This apparently was interpreted as my go-ahead for a diatribe about how messy I am, and how this negatively affects my family, and how my toddler is out of control because she is allowed to make a mess everywhere (like she ever asks for permission). Come again?

At first I thought this was still a light discussion. Oh how wrong I was. When I tried to make a joke about Stella being too fast for me to keep up, he made a few remarks that made it very clear that we were very much past a light discussion. We were already in full-blown parental-lesson-turned-reprimand and now-I'll-talk-and-you'll-listen mode. Once the dam was open, it seemed impossible to close it. And I started feeling like I would actually need to hire a lawyer.

Here's a summary of our discussion:

Him: You are messy and your daughters are getting used to being messy and you are setting a poor example and doing a disservice to your family. And what is worse you don't even seem to care because instead of spending your time tiding up you play or read or stuff like that.

Me: Yeah, I do that. Sometimes. Because I have decided that as long as I do a certain amount of cleaning up daily it's ok, and I have accepted that as long as I have young children at home my house will never be perfect. But it's not like we are tripping on banana peels on the floor or anything.

Him: You have given up on getting the house in order and your family picks it up and they think it's ok to make a mess. And you let it sit instead you should put everything in order the moment it's out of place, without letting it accumulate.

Me: You know, I have tried that a couple of times, because contrary to popular opinion I do like a clean and tidy house and I WOULD like it to stay lovely and nearly perfect at all times. However I realized that if I wanted to go after every magazine, every toy, every piece of clothing, every cup that wasn't exactly where it belonged I would do nothing else all day. And that would be pretty sad. I prefer to let some stuff slip and spend some time drawing with Stella or making a puzzle with Sarah or checking my e-mail or reading a bit during the day. Granted, sometimes I could spend more time cleaning but there is no chance that I will try to run after every bit of mess made through the day. With a toddler in the house, I would eventually be go completely bananas.

Him: Which brings us to your toddler. You are sending the message that it is ok for her to make a mess and also she does pretty much whatever she wants.

Me (starting to get defensive at criticism of my parenting): I don't think I do that. But she's a toddler AND she is very stubborn, so there is a lot of stuff she'd like to do her way that I may not like during the day, so I try to pick my battles. I think if I tried to win on everything she would fight me on everything. So I prioritize. I prefer having her eating fruits and veg and sleeping in her crib to her not doing that but also not ever taking her toys out. Even if I didn't I'm not entirely sure that can be a accomplished with a 2-year old. But I do work on teaching her to put it away.

Anyway, this continued for over an hour and after the above it included examples of people who "let their children run wild" and how that eventually bit them in the a**, and a now less-than-veiled accusation that not only I am setting a bad example and doing my family a disservice, but that my life is actually out of balance because I am messy. At which point I started to get annoyed at what I felt was an uninformed and unfair judgment (afterall, we spend together 3 weeks out of a year). So I said this to him and I'd say it again:

I cook 90% of our food from scratch, using mostly organic products, unrefined foods and good-quality ingredients.
I read books, do research, read labels, buy the best food I can find so that my family enjoys a nutritious diet virtually free of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, colorants and synthetic ingredients.
I make a weekly menu and shopping list every single week so that we we have a balanced diet and also save money by buying exactly what we need so nothing goes to waste.
I buy almost exclusively wooden toys and I'm subscribed to the newsletter about product recalls so I can avoid buying items that are harmful in some way.
These are some of the things I do, and they don't make me perfect, but I think they are important things to do and I am doing them.
I'm messy, and I am not proud of that, I know I have to handle it, and I haven't given up on getting better on that, but I also think it is now being blown out of proportion in terms of how important it is to the survival and well-being of my family.

My house is livable and comfortable, it doesn't smell bad, there are no cockroaches or rats or other disgusting creatures running around, there are no broken doors, broken furniture, broken appliances, ripped curtains or old mangy pillows in it. Some rooms are often messy, some only sometimes. I don't obsess over it but that doesn't mean I like it either.

It is easy to judge someone else's parenting skills, relationship, behavior from the outside - but the truth is that we never know if we would really do better in their place, because we are not living their life.

And to be completely honest Dad, I don't want to hurt you, but I am not sure that you and mom would do a better job if my life was yours. You might or you might not, but the truth here is that when you have a lot of balls in the air one or two will fall very often, and I feel like there are worse balls I could be dropping.

In the end, I said we'd have to agree to disagree and that it was late and we should go to bed. But this conversation bothered me. Because to me, the "we are proud of you" now rings oh so false.

You think I'm being a baby? Go ahead and say it. I already admitted that more often than not, unless the criticism comes from my mom, I couldn't care less.

But if you are going to say that you agree with my dad and being messy makes me a bad mom, then I have two words for you: BITE ME.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The road to mess is paved with good intentions

My daughter Sarah has been staying in Italy with her grandparents for the past 3 weeks. Tomorrow, she is flying back (yay!). My dad is flying with her, and he will be staying with us for a little over a week - which means I have to get the guestroom ready.

Now, our guestroom is in the basement, which is where the trouble starts. And before you scrunch up your face in disgust and shock that I could put my father in the basement, you should know that our basement is fully finished and has recently been renovated, including new walls, new paint job, completely new floors, thank you very much. It looks very pretty. But being my house, it's also pretty messy. Because, let's face it: as pretty as it is, it's still the basement. It's still the place where we relegate the stuff we have no space, time or inclination to store upstairs.

So I set out today to declutter my basement and sort everything so that the largest room of the two could be turned back into what it was always meant to be, a guest room/playroom. But a few hours in, it doesn't look pretty at all. It looks like a basement.

And you know why? Because in addition to being messy, I save stuff. I set aside clothing and toys to be donated, boxes for recycling, baby clothes that are too small for my cousin in Italy who is having a baby at the end of the month, and so on. I am not a hoarder, I don't buy more than I need, my basement isn't full of stuff I bought that was never used - but it's full of stuff that I don't want to throw away because it seems like a waste. It's all nicely organized and separated, but it's a lot of stuff. I'm telling you, being eco-friendly and messy - not a good combination sometimes. I mean, look where my good intention have gotten me right now: lots of piles of stuff.

And on top of it, where am I while this needs to be done? At the computer, taking a break - not necessarily a well-deserved one, since I haven't gotten a whole lot done today aside from my weekly menu and shopping list, but hey, I have already come out of the closet as a major procrastinator so why lie about it? (I can hear a little voice saying "Pride, girl. Pride.")

So - at this point I would normally make a list of things I want to get done, but today I'm a little afraid of going there, for 2 reasons:

1. it might get out of hand and I might spend more time than I should on the list - sometimes I can get carried away, with the breaking down, and the bulleted items and all... because I'm a freak like that.

2. I'm afraid to jinx it. Because somehow, when I make detailed plans for something it often ends up not happening. Now, this usually applies mostly to diets, but hey, I can't afford to risk it now. Normally if I can't get something done when I'm expecting guests I can take the remaining mess to one room and make sure THAT door isn't open for any reason whatsoever for the duration of the visit. But that's when the guests are only here for a few hours - my dad is staying 10 days, which means the whole house needs to be livable, walkable and showable, which means I'll have no space to hide anything especially since he is staying in the bloody basement!!

Oh goody, I'm getting freaked out. That will help. Now, I hate to do this, but I think I only have one choice now. I will have to ask myself that dreaded question: what would the FlyLady do? And don't say babysteps, I hate the stupid babysteps! And I'm not putting on lace-up shoes, either.

I know! There is an emergency cleaning checklist in the book. Let's see: blah, blah, blah... oh, there: Marathon Clean - if you really have to:
1. Go get dressed all the way to shoes, hair fixed and moisturized and makeup put on. Yeah, I'll get right on that. Come on!

Ok, the rest lists out kitchen, timer, coffee break, bathroom... yeah, ok. Off I go. Wish me luck!

P.S. And you know what else I saw when I was looking for the emergency cleaning checklist? The FLYLady's 11 commandments. I had highlighted "4. Don't allow yourself to be sidetracked by the computer". Yeah, sure. I'm never going to be able to follow that one.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ah, the joys of life as a reporter

No doubt you have heard of The Great Interview Experiment, which is possibly the most brilliant blog post/initiative I've seen this year - not to mention a lot of fun! You get to feel like a celebrity, make new friends, find great new blogs.

Today I finally got around to doing my part to contribute to the experiment (shout out to my new pal Ry!). And that'show I found My Mumbling Thoughts. Sam is an American living in London, so she is an expat like me. That alone may not be enough to foster bonding between two complete strangers, however I found it peculiar that she left home at the same age I did, on an inverted path: I went from Europe to the US, she went from the US to Europe. And then I read her post on how she really felt about the move. And it sounded so much like something I would have written, that I started feeling like it was kismet (actually, I thought "Oh dear God there's two of us!!"). You go read her blog and decide for yourselves - I found it to be addictive after a couple of posts, like a good book after a couple of chapters.

But wait! Don't go now! You haven't read the interview yet. Here it is:

First of all, how is the packing going? The last post I read on your blog you were kind of having a hard time there. But you are excited about the move, right?
Packing is such a pain in the ass. We were lucky when my mom was in the military, because they provided movers for us to pack away all of our accumulating crap; but now that I have to do it myself I find the task to be so annoying and frustrating. It is moving along, however, slowly but surely, and will get finished only because I know it has to be done. And yes, I'm extremely excited about this move. I cannot wait until we move out of this crap pile of bricks and I can put all of its problems behind me.

Let's talk about your blog. Your blog archives go back to June 2005. Is this your first blog? What has kept you blogging for over three years?
I did have a blog before this one called, In America, when I used Blogger, but ditched it and moved over to My Mumbling Thoughts when I thought I had been compromised at work. I simply moved all of my archives over from In America, though, to My Mumbling Thoughts where I've been ever since, and it feels like I never made the change. The only thing I can think of that has kept me blogging for over three years, though, is that I've always felt like I had to write. I go through stints where I'll only blog one time for an entire month, but that doesn't mean that the need still isn't there. I always find myself back behind the screen and clicking away at the keyboard eventually.

You mentioned in one of your posts that you are a deeply shy person but you mask it with banter and sarcasm. Do you think blogging helps you deal with stuff?
Blogging TOTALLY helps me deal with stuff. It's not only a fantastic way to exercise your writing skills, but it's also deeply therapeutic. I always feel so much better after I've punched out a post when I'm feeling depressed or pissed off or confused. Being able to sort through your thoughts like that and then go back over and re-read how you were feeling at a precise time is, at least for me, a kind of control. It's a great release and a brilliant way to get some of those toxins out of your system, so to speak.

Nowadays, it seems that blogging can sometimes turn into a bit of a pissing contest. I think you know what I mean, because I got the idea from your interview with Miss Grace that you "think that the 'blog hierarchy' is a load of wank". Man, I love that line. Tell us more about this, don't be shy ;-)
I think that blogging is one of the best things that I've stumbled on for a long time. I also believe that there are some amazing bloggers out there who have broken down so many different barriers in the blogosphere and have opened numerous doors and windows for other up-coming bloggers. However, I also think that there are some people out there who are in it for the wrong reasons, and only have a blog for the popularity, or to try and promote themselves to get a book deal, or make up a load of crap and bullshit their readers, which isn't what blogging is meant to be. So occasionally, when I do find bloggers out there who appear to be one of the "favorites" for no good reason at all, I can't help but think that the blog hierarchy is a load of wank.

You come across kind of badass on your blog, but I actually got a different impression, you seem really sweet to me. And on your blog you called yourself "a human mood ring", which I think is very poignant. Do you think your persona on your blog reflects who you are in real life?
Do I come off as a kind of badass? Sweet! Nah, I really am a nice person (really!), and I think that my blog is an honest representation of who I am, but it's the raw and uncut version of me. Rather than spending weeks or months getting to know me face-to-face and all of the different layers, my blog just gets right down to business.

Now, let's get down to the travel section. You currently live in the UK, where you attend University. What is the best thing about living in London? What do you miss from home that cannot be sent in a care package?
Aside from the fact that it's LONDON, and I love everything about this city, I would have to say that I love the public transportation here (it's kind of weird, I know). Honestly, we have nothing like it back home, and I am a huge fan, despite it's flaws (but hey, nothing's perfect). If not that, then I'd definitely say Ribena and Brown Sauce. I cannot live without either of those things always being in my cupboard. And the one thing I miss from back home (aside from my family and friends), would be my car (I guess I'm all about transportation). I love my car so much, it's unhealthy.

I think Alias was one of the best shows of all times - I love that you look to Sidney Bristow for inspiration. Who else do you look to for inspiration?
I know it's standard and cliché, but my mother is a huge inspiration. If I could even be half the woman she is, I'd be a lucky gal. I also love Audrey Hepburn, Kristen Bell (from Veronica Mars), Sarah Jessica Parker, Jenny Lewis (from Rilo Kiley) and Scarlett O'Hara. They're all pint-sized pistols that I admire very much.

I don't think it's cliché, I think it's awesome that you feel that way about your mom. I think any mom would love to hear that!

Thank you Sam for taking the time to answer our questions! Good luck at the new place :-)

Now there, off you go to read Sam's blog! Think I'm bossy? You haven't seen anything yet ;-)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

An extra nugget of coolness...

... for the girly girls out there who are trying to be more "green":

I just found out that Alima cosmetics has extended their sale until August 4!

For those of you not familiar with Alima, they make absolutely gorgeous, totally natural mineral makeup. Let me tell you why I love this brand:
1. Unlike mineral makeup from Neutrogena, L'Oreal, or the ever popular BareMinerals, Alima cosmetics' ingredients don't include any chemical additive, but really only minerals;
2. Unlike many all-natural mineral makeup brands, they actually have some really gorgeous colors available;
3. They offer sample sizes! That's right, you can try as many samples as you like, even order only samples of various shades, so you can make up your mind of what colors work best without wasting money nor products!
4. You can send the empty jars back to them for recycling. If you send them 5 empty full-size jars you will get a FREE eyeshadow of your choice.
5. If all the above wasn't enough, every package you receive will include a few FREE samples they pick based on the shades you selected as part of your order. As part of my first order I got 2 shades I loved so much that I included both in my order this time around!

Until August 4, you save 15% on your order if you use this code at checkout: SUMMER08. And if you order 75 dollars worth of products, accessories and samples you will receive a limited edition set of 3 full-sized eyeshadows.

BTW, this isn't an ad. I just really love these products and I thought I'd spread the word. I think you'll love them too!

I found this lovely brand reading Gorgeously Green.
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