Monday, September 18, 2017

We have nothing to lose and a world to see

Okay, okay, so I know that you are just dying to figure out what in the world is going on with us and why oh why we moved to Spain (or, most likely you aren't but let me delude myself with self-importance here, after all, I'm writing a blog - about me, my life, my family - insert eye roll here).

Well, so, here goes. We moved to the Denver Metro Area back in 2003. It has been a great place to live. Denver has SO much going for it. The proximity to many outdoor activities and the mountains, tons of activities for singles, couples and families, a pretty diverse population, an awesome foodie paradise with a thriving medical and recreation marijuana industry - Denverites are spoiled rotten. We've loved being in Denver for (wait for it): four-teen years! We've built our community, our support system, our tribe there. We bought our first home there and had our first -and only- baby there.

We moved to Denver shortly after graduating from college and getting married. We knew a couple of people there and that was it. When we packed our Penske moving truck with all of our earthly possessions, our two cats and a dog and drove off from our apartment in Waukesha, WI, I kept thinking "it's like we are pioneers moving out West, except that it's 2003 and we have a moving truck and not covered wagons". It was, an adventure. I had been in the US for less than 10 years living in a comfy bubble of college life and post-college life in a place that I felt comfortable in and understood. Moving to Denver was a whole new ball game for me. Like all adventures, we had our ups and downs, but we learned so much and grew from it. Can you see where I'm going here....?

I've been itching for the past few years. Looking for jobs around the world. Applying for this and that and praying to the job gods that something comes through.... zip, zilch, nada. And then, I got laid off in the Fall of 2015, started my own business, acquired a kick-ass business partner and focused on that while doing a bunch of side projects and letting my creative juices flow. Slowly but surely, I started floating the idea of selling our house to my spouse and moving somewhere else. A lot of conversations were had, many things discussed and a lot of mulling over took place.

Where would we go? Anywhere. Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico seemed like good choices because it wouldn't be hard to obtain residency in any of those places. While I love many parts of Canada and do speak some French, I wanted a place where our child would be immersed in Spanish - so that was out. The more research we did on Mexico, the more nervous I got about safety because the very specific part of the country I wanted to move to. It also seemed to familiar. And if Mexico seemed familiar, well, Costa Rica was then clearly out of the question being incredibly familiar - not really an adventure but more an extended stay vacation that would rarely pull us out of our comfort zone. And while the idea of our child being much more knowledgeable about where I grew up and being surrounded by friends and family was extremely appealing, it just didn't feel right.

So now, what? Ecuador? Peru? Argentina? Chile? Colombia? We wanted a place that was new to all of us, that was Spanish-speaking, where I would be happy with the weather most of the time (yeah, humidity and heat are not friends of mine and make me a really cranky person), that would allow us to explore and travel but also be enticing for our friends and family to come visit.... what about.... Spain? Extensive research was done, pros and cons weighed and well - we're in Spain!

Is it totally bonkers to sell your house, pick up and move to a country you have never been too before? Um, you know what the name of this blog is, right?

Don't get me wrong. Our life in Denver was good. It was steady and predictable in the most comforting of ways. I knew what to expect, how to navigate things and where to find anything I needed. And yet, I also had a very high level of anxiety and stress. Our family was in a perpetual state of "fine" and "chugging along". Which, by no means, should be categorized as something negative it just... isn't what we want out of our lives. Life is an amazing journey with so much adventure waiting to happen and we had a choice; we could stay or we could go. We could make things happen or stay complacent.

The poet Seamus Heaney wrote: The way we are living, timorous or bold, will have been our life.
Well, this is us. Being bold.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hello?

Hey!

So, yeah.... it has been 3 and a half years since I last posted anything on my blog - WHAT. THE. HELL? Yeah well, what can I say... things got a little busy. And I've been tired a lot because raising a tiny human isn't as easy as everyone else makes it look, you know you are basically teaching them how to do EVERYTHING. And I don't mean the easy stuff either like how to walk or whatever but how to blow their noses (think about how you learned to blow your nose - it ain't an easy thing to teach nor to learn), saying please and thank you, coughing into your elbow, not putting everything you come into contact with into your mouth, etc. And now that we're finally to the stage where the child can refrain from trying to be a suicidal stunt-person for more than 5 minutes at a time, things seem to be calming down a little and I'm back!

For those parents who manage to raise a kid or kids under 5 AND work on a blog, kudos to you!

Anyhow... so, what have we been up to? Well - all sorts. But I think you'll be most interested in what we've been doing the past few months.

Our family is moving! There has been a lot pushing us in this direction and now we are finally here. We sold our house and moved out late April, waited for the school year to be over mid-May and then headed on a road trip through parts of the west coast. We've spent the rest of the summer in the rural community of Westcliffe, CO right in the Sangre de Cristos Mountain Range (a new post dedicated just to this summer will be coming up soon) and in less than two weeks will be moving to..... Spain!

So, be on the look out for upcoming posts on the move, our travels, etc. I'm super excited to see what happens - hope you join us on this adventure!


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gratitude

I have a friend, someone I went to high school with but haven't seen since my freshman year in college. She is very religious and spiritual. At the end/start of every year, she prays until the word for the year comes to her. This is the word, an inspiration or direction, for the entire year. Previous words of the year have included contentment, joy, determination. Every year, I've followed with interest what the word of the year will be, mostly because even though I am not a religious person, I find it an interesting way to deal with whatever God/the universe/life (you pick) brings to you. 

As of yet, I haven't had any revelations for a word to guide me at the start of a year (maybe because I don't pray?) BUT as I review the past year, one word does come to mind, a word I've been feeling in a very present and constant way all year long: gratitude.

While I was pregnant, I often thought about what I wanted out of life for Bundle. My wishes for her were: may she be healthy and loved aplenty. You see, while I was a healthy child overall, as I look back at my childhood what I mostly remember was being loved. Not by throngs of people but by a few select, wonderful people who I could count on no matter what. Did I have a perfect childhood? Far from it. But I knew that I had the unconditional love and support of those few and that allowed me to be independent, self-assured and to be where and who I am today. So, I didn't feel that love from some people that I was supposed to feel/get that from? It turns out, that's okay, it wasn't needed after all and I might be the better for it.

But as for the wishes of a new mother, you might be thinking: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. And yet - this beggar is definitely riding a horse! Don't get me wrong. We've had a year with many ups and downs but that doesn't rid me of my gratitude. 

One of the most notable downs was the loss of our 12 year old canine soul mate Aggie in January, and yet, even at that time; gratitude. Gratitude that we have an awesome vet who loved our dog almost just as much as we have. A vet who showed deep compassion, understanding and was willing to go along with our madness (feel free to ask me about the madness later on if you wish to know more details). A staff at the vet clinic full of kindness and sensitivity. Sympathetic friends who at a moment's notice took care of Bundle and gave us the opportunity and time to give our dog undivided attention in his last moments with us. In the past year we cried, we lost, we got mad and/or hurt, we were disappointed.

The year brought many ups as well. We grew as people. We were a part of many of Bundle's milestones and most of her daily living. We added new and wonderful people to our lives. We had adventures, improved our living conditions (new carpet!), got healthier, and laughed often. We learned so much, were reminded of things forgotten and we reconnected. We were able to spend lots of time with family (and that includes friends that are considered family), including going to Costa Rica for Christmas for the first time in 14 years! And again, the take-away from all of our ups has been: gratitude. Gratitude that Bundle has a grandmother that will drive two and a half hours each way, in a single day, to spend a few hours with her at the Christmas Market. A Tita who will move earth and water for her and a Tito who although is not biologically related to her adores and loves her like no other. Cousins who I swear are going to wear out her name from saying it so much (to get her attention) but love playing with her, picking her up and sharing their stuff. Aunts who don't hesitate to change diapers, (even the poopy ones!), are always willing to give advice, and lend a helping hand to her parents. Uncles who without even meeting her or uncles who get to hang out with her often, spoil her and make her giggle. Oodles of love, hugs, and kisses from all of our friends and family. Bundle is loved aplenty, from near and far, by many - and by extension, so are her parents. Having my wishes come true for Bundle and being given this past year, find me filled with gratitude, feeling fortunate, and privileged for having gone through it all.

And, thank you - to all of you, for being a part of our lives, enriching and making them better. We love you all! May 2014 be filled with laughter, adventure, love, and peace for all - we can't wait! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The best egg rolls e-vah! (Yeah I said it)

When I was back in college (it's impolite to ask how long ago that was so: don't), I bought a package of egg roll wraps at the store to try and figure out something to do with them. Coincidently, the package comes with a recipe suggestion which was the foundation for the recipe that I have used over and over again.

Now, first let me tell you that my egg rolls are NOT meant to be eaten as an appetizer, you can have two or even three of these and have it be your meal, period. Secondly, these are not an everyday meal although I will confess that shortly after graduating from college I ate these egg rolls for a whole week straight, breakfast, lunch and dinner... these are the "I'm starting my diet tomorrow and want to pig out" or "I had the bestest, most awesomest day ever and don't want to go drop a huge chunk of change on dinner out" kind of egg rolls, okay? 

So don't go thinking I'm suggesting you incorporate these into your monthly repertoire cause, I'm not.

These are also non-traditional egg rolls - no mushy cabbage/carrot combo here, these get filled with real yummy stuff. First, I cook whatever veggies sound good (or use leftover roasted or grilled veggies from the night before) - in this case I had a bunch of cauliflower, broccoli and snap peas. I roasted the first two and sauted the snap peas.


 Then, I dice up the chicken and coat it in a mixture of cornstarch and soy sauce, trust me on this! If you use 1 TBSP of cornstarch, you need 2 of soy sauce to dissolve it in, I just eyeball it depending on the amount of chicken I'm cooking (for this recipe I had 4 chicken breasts), in this case I had about 3 TBSPs of cornstarch and 6 of the soy sauce.
Chicken - Before, aka Raw
 I decided to add some julienned carrots to the cooked veggie mixture for an extra crunch and flavor.
Let the chicken caramelize in the pan - the cornstarch/soy sauce combo will give it this fantastic end result coating that I have never achieved when using anything else. 
Chicken After, aka Mmmm, Delicious

Heating up the oil
Once you have all of the ingredients ready, you can start to roll the egg rolls. If you don't know how, you can follow the directions that come on the back of the package OR since we live in a much more modern era now, I'm sure you can find a youtube video showing you how to do it. Mine are never the perfect specimen of an egg roll, but I don't care cause they still taste freaking awesome!
Getting the egg rolls filled

Filled and awaiting an oil bath
Cook the egg rolls until they are golden brown - whichever level of golden brown you prefer. Serve two per person with some soy sauce for dipping. I recommend that you cut them in half to let some of the heat out (cause you don't want to burn your mouth) first.
Batch numbers one and two

Batch number three

The cutest sous chef!
This particular recipe yielded 16 egg rolls, meaning I had enough filling for that number. If you happen to have leftovers: for reheating I recommend that you nuke them for a minute and then stick them in your toaster oven or regular oven and bake them for a little bit to get them to crisp up again before you devour them. However, these are best eaten fresh, enjoy!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Action expresses priorities

Clearly my inactivity on my blog (nothing since December) explains my priorities... I have to be honest, I can't really rate them in order of importance because I think there is a big mosh pit of priorities all at the top vying for the number one spot and I find that I just have to cycle through them as best as I can - talk about learning to juggle! But this blog has not been a part of the mosh pit, it has stood quietly swaying to the music, in the back row, watching everyone else go at it.

Now, here's my dilema: I have a ton of ideas about what I want to write about but no freaking clue where to start. Things like mommy brain, traveling internationally with a 5 month old, baby adventures/personality/frame-of-mind, yummy recipes, celebrations, my opinion of things like Mother's and Father's days and what happens on Facebook during these and any other "holidays", and much more. If I could just straighten out the jumble in my brain I could get started....

Last year, shortly after I became pregnant I read an article in Newsweek that talked about how a woman's brain goes under "maternal programming" which basically involves memory loss in order to make room for new capacities to be a good mommy. Let me just say that this is an ongoing issue for me, this nagging feeling that I have to take care of something but can't remember what that something is (which often happens at the office). I find myself interrupting people often and my interruption normally begins with "I'm sorry I'm interrupting you but if I don't get this out now it will be gone from my brain for who knows how long and I need you to know this before I forget it AGAIN". Yes, like Sisyphus, my memory issues have become my boulder -although it is yet to be determined if I will have to deal with this for an eternity.

Having read this article and the study linked to it has at least made me feel better about the memory problems. I don't feel as if I'm losing it completely. Every time I have this issue I remind myself that it allowed me to acquire other much needed abilities to better care for my child. But here's the thing... dementia and Alzheimer's Disease run in my family. Since around 10 years of age I have worked constantly on my memory abilities and my memory was a source of pride for me (not so much now). Additionally, since 2004 I've worked at keeping up my language skills, making sure my diet has plenty of omega 3 fatty acids, doing crossword puzzles, reading and any other mental exercise I find to be fun in order to maintain to the most important of muscles in good shape. My brain has for a long time, held more importance to me than my body - I watched my maternal grandmother "live" with Alzheimer's Disease for 10 years, let's just say that the last few years I use the verb living in a very liberal manner.

My brain was also affected by pregnancy in another way. Things I used to "care" about like assigning blame to the correct person most of the time this would have been DH, no longer hold any importance to me. I don't care if you were the last person to use the snow scraper and now I can't find it (so you're going to get yelled at for this infraction) and the windshield needs to be cleaned so that we can make it wherever we are going. What matters is that it's cold, the baby is in the car and I don't want her to be cold so we need to get going to warm up the car faster and in order to get going we need to clean the windshield so we NEED to find the scraper and get the windshield cleaned ASAP. I must admit I'm glad to be rid of this part of my personality, I had tried for many years to not care about petty stuff like that but having Bundle "fixed" my brain and this issue.

I have decided that the blog needs to move closer to the mosh pit and further away from the back row, so hopefully, I'll start posting regularly - no promises though. Now that you have a better glimpse of my "mommy" brain, I hope you understand. And if you just need to know what's going on, email or call - I'd love to hear from you!

XO ~ Jenny

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more

My, my, my... how things have changed! Bundle is now 7 weeks old, can you believe it?!?!? DH and I have made it 7 weeks without killing or maiming the kid - I think that is news to celebrate!  

I don't think it's news though that Bundle's parents love food and love the opportunity to go eat out when they can get it.  In her 7 little weeks, Bundle has been to:
           - Grand Lux after taking her holiday pictures, 
           - Sushi Sasa, Izakaya Den, and Sushi Katsu - hey sushi was on the off-limits list 
              for mom for 9 MONTHS, and therefore dad couldn't have any so they've been 
              a little deprived and had to make up for it - hey, I didn't ask DH to give up 
              booze, the least he could do was not torture me by eating sushi
           - The 9th Door for tapas
           - Super Star Asian Kitchen for dim sum 
           - a quick bite before the art museum at Katie Mullen's Irish Pub 
           - and... Benihana's - with Papa and Nana

Yep, this kid gets around, foodie in the making!  

She's also been to the Denver Art Museum to see the "Becoming Van Gogh" exhibit during which she was very alert, than ate (loudly, this kid makes sucking noises like there is NO tomorrow and her food is going out of style) and to top it off didn't bother to burp - she belched, drunk Barney from The Simpsons style.  Patrons around us couldn't help but laugh!
Anyway, back to the point.  DH and I have taken notice of the reactions from other patrons and employees at all of these food establishments towards our Bundle and which places are kid friendly (meaning they have a changing table, we don't care about a kid's menu), and only one of them fit that bill.  Before you UGH and sigh loudly in exasperation, please know that Bundle has been well behaved at each and everyone of those places, never losing her cool (until we are getting ready to leave and stuff her back in the car seat and even then she isn't loud) and sometimes sleeping through most or all of the meal.  The thing is, now is the perfect time to take her because she is pretty easy and doesn't need much entertaining and easily falls asleep.  Also, DH and I are of the philosophy that going out to dinner is one of the most fundamental social educations a child can receive.  Sitting and having dinner at a public establishment is a force for civilization.  The sooner Bundle feels that force, the better she'll adjust.  Lastly, how are we ever going to teach her how to properly behave in restaurants if we aren't allowed to take her?

Although so far we haven't had any restaurant employees balk when they see her, other patrons certainly take notice.  They fit into one of the following:
a- could care less and don't even seem to notice (we used to fall into this category)
b- love seeing her and desperately want to hold her
c- balk - big time - act like their evening has been ruined by having a sleeping baby sit next to or near to them.  Let me just say that the people who fall into this category get on my freaking nerves!

Since we used to fall into the A category, we have certainly been in for a rude awakening, and guess what? We are not in Kansas any more.  DH and I are not used to getting dirty looks on a regular basis (okay, so I am but I'm normally the cause and am well aware of what I'm doing to deserve them), repeatedly during the course of a meal while at the same time getting these adoring, doe-eyed looks - mostly these are directed at DH when he is doing his daddy duty and simply holding Bundle.

I remember being taken out to eat by my grandparents often, some of those places were "family-friendly" and some were not.  My grandmother also insisted on taking us a few times a year to a very fancy place for tea and we would receive "going out to eat" manner lessons at those teas as well, from how to politely address the server, to which fork to use or how to sit at a table.  Never a dirty look from anyone.  It may be that these events took place in Costa Rica, where children are seen and heard, and people don't have a problem with it.  Kids are a part of life and are therefore expected to show up, well, everywhere.  Although I thought I was over the "culture clash" phase of living in the US, having a baby is bringing all sorts of issues up to the surface, hmmmm..... this might be fodder for another blog post, but I digress.

Have you had this happen to you if you have kids?  If you don't have kids, how do you feel about having them dine out and why?  Would really like to hear some thoughts on this so please share!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Omwana taba womoi, or, It takes a village to raise a child

I don't think it's a secret, at least not to the people who have been around me for the past couple of years, how much I love the Pacific Northwest.  The love affair started many moons ago with a cookbook called Pacific Northwest: The Beautiful Cookbook by Kathy Casey.  I don't know why but the pictures and recipes in that book just spoke to me.  

At long last, DH and I had the chance to go visit some long time family friends in 2010 and then again in 2011, let's just say it was love at first sight and I fell hard.  Since our first trip DH has heard me repeatedly say things about us moving out there, how I love the water, the climate, the people, etc., on and on... I looked for and applied to jobs out there with the plan that if I was offered one, we would move out and then DH would have to find something there as well, (hang in there, I swear this is going somewhere)...
Water
and mountains...
I don't think my pictures do the place justice, but you get the point...

But then, things changed.  First, I got pregnant (no biggie, right?) and felt like I was sleep walking through life for the first few months.  I was exhausted all the time, my brain didn't function properly and I was sick for what felt like non-stop.  I was grateful that I wasn't at a new job, with new coworkers/boss having to prove myself to them, instead I was in what I might call a "loving" environment, working for and with people who knew me, what I was capable of, and were patient and understanding of my circumstances.  Unexpectedly, events during this past summer in the community I work in further changed my situation.  All of a sudden, my program was getting local, state and national coverage (check me out on NPR and the BBC, links and autographs sent for free) and I was being recognized at a higher level than ever before for my work... career-wise, it was time to stay put.

At the same time, the people in our lives reminded us what community really meant.  From the very beginning, we received tons of help and advice with my pregnancy.  Congratulations and enthusiasm when we felt like deer caught in headlights.  Lemon and ginger teas, sour patch goodies, almonds, crackers and preggie pops to help with the constant nausea and vomiting.  Chat fests and moral support to let me vent, ask questions and voice my insanity.  Three different baby showers! And then came the hand-me-downs of clothes and all sorts of other goodies to stock baby for the first 9 months at the very least.  In all that we also had a savvy bargain hunter (and advice guru) who helped locate a Pack-n-Play and a Bobby pillow.  Our baby would lack nothing because of our community.

And then, the child who from now on in the blog will be known as "Bundle" (at this time it stands for bundle of joy but it could be bundle of "I'm going out of my mind" or bundle of Chinese sleep deprivation torture, etc., at some point as well) came along... she's only two and a half weeks old but I am so in love! (Yes, go ahead and get mushy on me, but only briefly!)  Both DH and I are enchanted by this little one.


Bundle has reminded me and opened my eyes as to how lucky we are.  Lucky and grateful, because she's perfectly healthy (we were worried about jaundice and diabetes for a minute there), she has 10 fingers and 10 toes, the cutest facial expressions and hilarious little noises and squeaks come out of her. Lucky and grateful because even though my relatives all live far away from her, we have a ton of aunties and uncles, who are all here (or a phone call away), ready and willing to lend a hand, give support and love her and her parents.

Do I still yearn to live in the Pacific Northwest? Absolutely.  But for now, I'm happy and extremely grateful that we don't live there.  That we are in the right place and the right time for our Bundle to have this lovely village that is here for her.

To all of you who have helped and supported us - THANK YOU! We don't know what we would do without you!