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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

leave this home!

Nasty viral illness, I banish you from our home.
Runny-nose causing, blocked sinus sniffling, dizzy unsteadiness, begone.
Summer bugs seem so much more unkind than winter ones.
Somehow I mind less when I can curl up under layers of comforters with cooling mugs of herbal tea.
When the sun is out, the garden needs weeding, and the blueberries are ripe for the picking
it just doesn't feel right to be lying on the couch. Also,
the problem is that life doesn't ever seem to slow down enough to take a healing time-out...

So I am compromising with quiet evenings sitting on the couch with my Minous while they watch library movies. Last night was a great one: Stranger than Fiction. Tonight: Le Valet.

Monday, July 30, 2012

five things

Inspired by the incomparable Katy of the NonConsumerAdvocate, I thought I would make a list of five things making me happy today.

1) Pandora Radio. I have used it before, but had forgotten about it! I often don't play music while at home, and the process has become more complicated as speakers and I-Devices and such migrate around the house (often into teenagers' rooms). I love being able to play music in so many genres and learn about new pieces or performers. Right now I'm listening to Yael Naim Radio.

2) Watching my P'tit Minou Deux, who is sitting in the rocking chair wearing my bathrobe and reading a good book (The Candy Shop War) we got at the library yesterday. Too bad he won't let me take his picture for the blog. He's pretty darn cute. Or should I say handsome? Not to mention fun to be around. Just like P'tit Minou Un.

3) Blueberries from our bushes. Several times before the boys came back, I stood outside and grazed off the bushes for dinner. I love eating along the path, gathering before each meal, and still having enough to bake with (cinnamon banana blueberry muffins today).

4) Jogging. Wow, I'm so happy that I can do this. It is a daily dose of happiness. I especially like to roll out of bed and go. I come back and start my day sweaty, relaxed, and energized.

5) Having a planner. I just found one for the reasonable price of $2.99 when I was looking for school supply sales for the p'tit minous. Since I love to make lists and have trouble keeping everything in my working memory, this tool will help me keep up with school assignments. And everything else. I am continually working on the process of learning to set small, achievable, measurable goals. It helps. Otherwise I can spend a lot of less-than-optimally-used time  (hate the expression and concept of "wasting time") sitting in front of a big project, feeling overwhelmed.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

the organizing itch

Tonight my Mom returns from her longer trip, hopefully in a very good mental & emotional space after two weeks of meditation at Plum Village, a Buddhist retreat center in SW France.

My first week back I stayed in her home since our wonderful house-and-chickensitters were still here. I took a few too many liberties with cleaning--it slipped into organizing mode, which is very dangerous in someone else's house, and I hope that she will forgive me. Cleaning up spilled cat litter led to cleaning out a closet. Doing laundry led to organizing the laundry room. Looking for something for a headache led to a 2 gallon bag full of expired medications. Looking for bathroom cleanser led to organizing the cleaning product cupboard. You can see where this is going...

I have the organizing itch. Not to say that my own home is done--far from it--but I didn't have access to it, and besides my mother's home has so, so, so many things in it...piles of them...I had to restrain myself from doing more. (Which I did; Hi Mom!) It always strikes me how very much easier it is to clean when there is less to clean around. And since I don't particularly like to clean, this just makes sense.

Now I am home, back in my own rather spare space (though much less so since my three Beloveds came home) and it feels good. I was asked rather anxiously by one of the p'tit minous if I had done much minimizing while they were gone, and could answer truthfully (to his relief) that I had not--too busy with work and academics. (I also didn't do any gardening, which is sadly apparent).

However, the organizing itch just must be scratched. Last night I sat on the couch with Minou and p'tit minou deux while they watched an action-hero type movie, and I happily organized my computer files and server storage, deleting the multiple nested duplicate files that I have somehow managed to accumulate over the years (I'm better now, but in my early days of thumb drive use it was all a little bit confusing--I must have had at least five or six copies of all my past teaching files).

And I can't wait to see if my Mom will let me at her closets and not-closing dresser drawers...(with her of course).
I love to spread one of the joys of minimizing: being able to find clean, flattering, well-fitting, not-worn-out clothing without digging through a bunch of not-that.
Do you think I should give her time to recover from jetlag before bringing up the question?!

Friday, July 27, 2012

sleepy homecoming

...and they're home!
Tired, bleary, red-eyed and slightly dazed, Minou and the p'tit minous hugged and kissed and smiled and let themselves be smooched and tucked right into bed.
Where I am about to follow.
Thank goodness for safe and happy homecomings.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

something new

I have been doing something new that I am really, really enjoying this past week.
This is helping to train new RNs (but experienced returning workers) at my community health center.
I still feel like a new nurse on so many levels--and I am.
But the process of training helps me to realize how far I've come in the role and in my particular work setting.
It's intesting and engaging. It builds my confidence. I love what I do.
Also, I'm working with several new clinic assistants who are excited about their work.
They are bringing lots of energy and good questions to the job.
I work with a dedicated, spirited, inspiring, intelligent, and pretty amazing group of people.
I'm really fortunate.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

dark chocolate and salmon

...are my two current favorite foods. What else to say today?

My boys are coming back soon. I think it's odd that my mama instinct is saying "Start baking!"
Why does baking=love? I'm not sure, but something about sweets, comfort, good smells in the kitchen, the love and care mixed in....maybe it's not so odd after all.

The danger is that Minou and I enjoy treats as much as our reasonable boys, if not more so.
Thursday night, you can be sure to find me in the kitchen stirring up blueberry muffins and lemon pound cake. Any other suggestions?

Monday, July 23, 2012

packing, clothing, traveling gear

I 'm sure you are all wondering how my light-packing experiment went on my recent Trip to France. I tried to take very few items, mostly things that I had been gifted by M1 or Mamie, and that would combine well together. Did I end up with too much? Not enough?

I took one carry-on small rolling travel suitcase (not sure of the dimensions, but you know the type--small enough to be stowed in the overhead compartment on a larger plane, large enough to be stowed in the cargo hold on a tiny plane) and one carry-one "purse", really more of a messenger bag/satchel, borrowed from my friend K. that had a million useful pockets.

I had hoped to avoid the messenger bag, but was called upon at the last minute to transport two bike helmets in the other carry-on, so that two safety-conscious kids could ride borrowed bikes in France. No mama is going to argue with that. It did take up a chunk of space in the carry-on, leading to leaving the laptop at home (which I have to admit was very relaxing) and putting my notebook and novels into the messenger bag. It was great--I had no room for the large & bulky laptop! I had every excuse not to participate in online study activities while in wireless-access airports, leaving me completely free to walk around, scribble in my journal, watch people, and read novels (Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is amazing).

It was ironic that I had been concerned about not taking enough clothing and ended up not wearing it all. I had one pair of pants, three short sleeved shirts, two skirts, three dresses, two long sleeved shirts, and a hooded long cardigan, plus underwear, a swimsuit, a pareo, two pairs of sandals and light jogging gear. (I also carried a toiletries kit and a first-aid kit). It was more than enough. The only issue that I had was not taking one change of warmer items. It was chilly and rainy everywhere except in the South, so when my mom and I went travelling in Brittany, Normandy and around Paris I wore my pants and cardigan daily. I didn't have time to wash them out, and was worried that they would be offensively stinky by the time I got on the plane in them. Nobody complained, so it was probably OK, though it felt great to throw them in the wash immediately on returning (and so strange to step out into a hot, hazy, 90 degree Oregon evening after leaving a 62 degree Paris).

I had been told that taking the first-aid kit was probably overkill--p'tit minou un stated flatly "We don't use all this stuff at home, why would we there?" However, both anti-constipation and anti-diarrheal meds came in handy, as well as anti-inflammatories for knee pain, arnica for bruises, tweezers for splinters, bandaids for blisters, antibiotic cream for infected earlobes, and acetaminophen for headaches. Ha! Nurse Mama Minou knows best! But in the end, it was p'tit minou un's foresight in bringing an enormous roll of moleskin for blisters that saved me from (an) exercise in agony. I went running without socks one very hot and sweaty day, and developed a blister the size of a silver dollar, just in the right spot to be continually rubbed raw by my other pairs of shoes, on the arch of my right foot. If you are planning a trip with a lot of walking, I urge you, take moleskin--it could make the difference between limping around in miserable, snappish, teeth-grinding pain and enjoying yourself.

I am a little embarrassed that despite my best efforts to resist clothing temptation, and leaving the bike helmets and a couple of novels and magazines behind, my carry-on was harder to close coming back than it was going. This was partly due to bringing back boxes of cookies for gifts, but also because M1 again opened up her closet and gifted me with clothing too beautiful or interesting to refuse. (Merci M1!!) Also, one day when Mamie, my mom and I were wandering around downtown Montpellier with a couple of hours to spare, we went to check out the "Soldes" in Etam (this was in the period where big sales occur in stores all over France). Mamie ended up gifting me with a long-sleeved black t-shirt for the decent price of 5 euros (about $7.00) that ended up being part of my daily cold-weather wear up north. So again, lesson learned--even if you think it won't be cold (or hot), either have enough layers or take a change of clothing just in case.

I obviously have more to learn about packing lightly. Any tips to share?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

perusing the pantry

How is it possible to lose weight while on vacation in France? Despite a daily four-o-clock "gouter" with coffee and dark chocolate, and frequent ice cream stops while visiting beautiful medieval villages, and a nightly "apero" with snacks and drinks before the meal?

I'm not sure by what magic it occurs, but it does, and I'm not complaining. Actually, I think I do understand the phenomenon. What happens is a sort of re-setting of habits, being away from familiar triggers, and influenced by a whole different set of customs around mealtimes and eating. Delicious foods and drinks, but consumed in a slower and more ritualized manner, in smaller quantities, with more people and more conversation.

Whether this happens because of being in France, or being on vacation, or being with Minou's family, I'm not sure...but it is so different from our regular family weeknight during the school year, with a starving adult (me) returning late from work, and starving kids (them) after ballet and basketball at the Y, and hurry-hurry-hurry let's eat dinner because there is homework to do and showers to take and story reading to occur. You parents may know this routine.

I want to keep some of this intentionality to meals. Since I returned home alone, it's a little easier to eat when and how suits me best right now than if I also had to take the needs and desires of three other lovely folks (who I can't wait to see this upcoming FRIDAY) into consideration. I also thought that this might be a solo opportunity to get creative with the contents of the pantry and keep the grocery bill as low as possible this month.

My original plan was to see if I could make that grocery bill nonexistent, but two things interfered with that: an overwhelming craving for milk and fresh fruit and the need to have 10 debit purchases to continue getting a higher interest rate on our checking account. So with frequent stops at the grocery store to pick up one item at a time, my spending has been pretty minimal and my diet pretty healthy since I came home. It's amazing how much food some of us have squirrelled away in our freezers, can cupboards, and pantries! And how easy it is to overlook it and just go buy some more! And how much more slowly one adult trying to eat consciously reduces it than two consciously eating adults and two rapidly growing teenage boys!

I am lucky in that although we didn't really get a garden in this year, many friends did and I have been gifted with amazing bounty of fresh zucchini, lettuce, bok choi and kale. The now-eight Ladies are laying a storm of eggs (farewell to poor Petunia and Blackbeard), and the eight mature blueberry bushes are covered with blue deliciousness.

With those needs taken care of, I have been enjoying breakfasts of cereal (of questionable date, but fine), flax seeds, walnuts and raisins, dinners of frozen salmon patties, frozen freezer veggies, and steamed fresh garden vegetables with soy-sesame-ginger dressing, and lunches mostly composed of interesting canned items I probably wouldn't usually look twice at. Example: a salad made of canned green beans, canned beets, canned corn, and canned salmon (it might not sound good, but actually was). Another day: soup made of canned diced tomatoes with basil combined with canned black beans. And I discovered that (I know, its shocking to say) instant coffee isn't really bad when mixed with a spoonful of brown sugar. Spending in the last 11 days: $22.00, but that included using the debit card to start stocking up for when the boys return.

I haven't had to resort to some of the meals I imagined for myself, of endless toast (I still have a loaf of bread I bought in the train station at Rennes in the fridge, hmmm...) with jam (we somehow have six large jars of marionberry jam), fried eggs, and doesn't sound too bad! I will however draw the line at those unidentifiable freezer items....

What are you eating these days? Have you ever had an empty-the pantry challenge?

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Hello--I'm back! And I will have pictures to share with you once the photographer of the family returns next week.

Pictures of green rolling hills dotted with stone walls and cows in L'Aveyron, pictures of beaches and palm trees and pink flamingos and busy city squares from L'Herault, lavender fields and old villages from Provence, and many, many pictures of family members contentedly eating and smiling and swimming in rivers and showing off their new pocketknives from Laguiole, or not-contentedly hiding from the camera.

I had such a good time with family, with my amazingly smart, bighearted and generous sister-in-law M1, my lovely and creative mother-in-law Mamie. I enjoyed seeing my boys at home in France, correcting my language errors, guiding their Grammy around the streets of Montpellier, showing me how to take the new tram line, instinctively knowing the cultural do's and faux-pas (note to self: do not approach people with cute dogs and ask to pet them), remembering favorite foods and activities. It was special to have Minou share his history and memories with us in a place he still knows like the back of his hand.

It was also an amazing gift to have four days just with my mother, to travel together and visit new places and have an adventure. We stayed in Rennes, ate delicious Breton crepes, visited the Mont St Michel, had a day in Paris where we were scammed (phooey!) by an unofficial taxi driver but then motivated to figure out public transportation (which we did well), and took a train to Chartres to explore the cathedral.

It was hard to come home, because of a combination of no longer being on vacation and leaving Europe
 (with Minou and the boys still there).

I miss my boys. I can't wait for them to come home.

I'm anticipating the strangeness that they may feel, cultural readjustment. I jumped back into work, which was much easier than I anticipated thanks to my very interesting job and great co-workers. Jumping back into the student routine was much harder, a little repeat of last term's angst. And the jet lag! I can never remember which direction is supposed to be easier to travel (does anyone know?) but I found it much harder flying home, east to west--of course that could be because I was flying back to a schedule, versus to being on vacation and taking naps.

Anyway, my plan is to stock the fridge with all those good ole American classics (at least our family classics) that they know and love--burrito fixings, tofu dogs and nature burgers, cheddar cheese. And to be all caught up on schoolwork (sigh...) so that I don't have that stress interfering with their much-anticipated homecoming. Speaking of which! Back to the plan for the day.