Sunday, December 30, 2012

baby's room: inspiration

Although lately I've been trying to do a lot of baby reading on important topics, such as approaches to sleeping, nursing, and brain development, designing the nursery has been a favorite pastime during down times at home since about halfway through my pregnancy. With 4.5 weeks to the due date, we still have a lot to do to make the baby's room ready. But we've gotten a lot of the major items together and have loads of ideas for the rest...choosing between them will be the difficult part (as will trying to keep the budget under control).

Early on, Jesse and I both started making design boards. We started with gray and yellow as our base colors, partly because the room will continue to serve as a guest room and we already had a gray futon with gray and yellow bedding. Our boards looked a little different – Jesse’s had a lot more burnt orange and turquoise and a little more of a 1970s vibe. I kind of like keeping the color scheme a little simpler. 

This is an extremely chaotic, early iteration of my design board, that has since been streamlined (click on it to make it bigger):

We wanted to have a mostly modern, graphic style with lots of colors and patterns that wasn’t too “baby,” but we also like to have mid-century, rustic, and whimsical elements as well. It might be a lot, but I’d love to incorporate maps and travel, woodland animals, Wisconsin and California, and typography, even if just in some small ways. I’d love to have some DIY elements too, to make it feel more personal.

With that as our direction, we’ve been browsing blogs and favorite shopping sites and coming up with lots of options for furniture, rugs, curtains, bedding, art, and accessories. We’re also trying to bargain-hunt. It’s taken a while, but we finally have the crib, the dresser/changing table, the glider, and the crib bedding (which we haven’t 100% decided to keep). A rug is on the way. I’ve slowly been picking up and ordering little accessories. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, it will all come together!

reality check

I know it's been months since I have written a blog post, which is unfortunate since there is so much to say. I think the pregnancy has made me want to write less than normal. I wish it had the opposite effect.

But a few weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital with pretty frequent contractions. At 31 weeks, it was still too early to deliver and so I was grateful that it was determined that I was not in labor. Even so, the experience reminded me that this baby is coming - maybe soon - and I can't keep putting off the many things I want to do before the baby comes (like write about my experience of being pregnant) or I may just not have the chance to do them.
This pregnancy has been proceeding so smoothly and normally, that I was really surprised to have something like this come up. On the day it happened, I could tell that I was a little off. Jesse was in Chicago on business, and in a brief conversation with him, I joked that I would let him know if I went into labor. When I took the dog out for a walk after I got home from work, I could feel some tightness, so I hurried home, ate dinner, and settled in on the couch to start tracking my contractions. For nearly two hours, they were mostly seven and eight minutes apart. At that stage of pregnancy, they say to call the doctor if you have more than four in an hour. I had more than four in 40 minutes. It took the midwife an hour to call me back, but when she did, she said I needed to come in to the hospital. As worried as I was that something was wrong, I was nearly as worried that I was completely wrong about what a contraction is. I wasn't, and it's good I called.

It took me a few minutes to get ready and prepare the apartment for Yuki to be in it for a while by himself, since I had no idea how long it could be. I even left out an extra big bowl of water and filled his food dish way more than normal. I know he's not a cat, but I thought it would put my mind at ease a little if I couldn't get home to feed him. I got "lost" on the way, since one of the freeway ramps was closed at night and the detour didn't make sense. Thank goodness for smartphones! It's funny now, but at the time, I was pretty nervous that I was actually in labor and needed to get there so they could slow or stop it.

Everyone at the hospital was really great and took the situation very seriously. They monitored the baby and my contractions throughout the night and did lots of exams and tests, and gave me an IV. Although the contractions continued for much of the time I was there (even getting to 3-4 minutes apart), it never turned into labor and so they sent me home around 4:30am. The contractions (Braxton Hicks) have continued since, but now that I am at 35 weeks, I don't need to go in to the hospital when I have a lot, until I can tell that it's actual labor.

Interestingly, I ended up back in the hospital a week later for a completely different reason. I'm grateful to be a part of a medical group that takes these concerns so seriously, but I really, really hope to avoid further visits to the hospital until I am ready to have the baby!

In some ways, I learned a lot from these situations. We need to have an alternate route to the hospital planned. I need to know where to park (late at night, this was also a problem). I need to bring an iPhone charger. We need to have a backup plan for what to do with Yuki if we have to go in to the hospital in a hurry. And I also have a better sense of what to expect in the hospital. I learned that I really don't like feeling immobile due to all of the wires and monitoring equipment, so that will definitely have an impact on how I plan for the birth.

The best part about this is that Jesse got me a cozy scarf in Chicago for my courage. :) 

Monday, May 28, 2012

san juan capistrano

Jesse and I enjoyed a mini staycation this weekend. It involved all the good stuff: yoga in the park (that was new), dog park visits, brunch, walks on the beach, shopping on Main Street, and some mini day trips. We avoided all the bad stuff: laundry, cleaning, and grocery-shopping (this week will be fun...).

On Saturday, we took a little trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano, a place I have been wanting to visit for a while. It took us about an hour and a half to get there, and much of the drive had great scenery. The mission was founded in 1776 and includes a pretty little chapel, which is the only church remaining where Junipero Serra (founder of the California missions) officiated. The ruins of the "great stone church," which was mostly destroyed in the earthquake of 1812, are also very pretty. There were lots and lots of beautiful flowers, and some nice fountains and bells too.

On our way home, we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway through Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, stopping at Huntington Beach just in time for sunset. We'd never been there before and were surprised to see so many fire pits, so we'll definitely have to go back and have a campfire someday.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

california design + animal

A couple of weeks ago, we were having a very typical weekend - relaxing and getting some things done around the house. Jesse worked much of the day on Sunday, and I caught up on piles of laundry. But I was very eager to see an exhibit at LACMA that won't be around much longer, so around 5pm, we headed out to the exhibit with plans to grab dinner out afterwards. It was the kind of evening that makes me really appreciate LA.

The exhibit is "California Design, 1930-1965: 'Living in a Modern Way.'" Since we moved here, I've been loving retro California design and all the mid-century modern furniture that you can find at antique shops and flea markets. The exhibit showed off a lot of these fun designs, but also gave some of the historic context for its development, which I thought was really interesting. Here are some quotes from the exhibit:

"By the onset of World War II, these homes and their furnishings were characterized by a particular kind of modernism rooted in California culture and conditions. The general qualities associated with the state (optimism and democracy, fearless experimentation, and a love of new technology) and those specific to design (an affinity for light and brilliant color, an openness to Asian and Latin influences, and an advocacy of fluid spaces and cross-disciplinary approaches) made California's best products distinctive."

The exhibit also said California design during this time demonstrated a "connection to nature," "embraced comfort and leisure," "responded directly to the environment," was "functionalist," "and it embraced the informality that came with the permeable spaces by blurring the distinctions between indoors and out..."

I love spaces that blend indoors and out, so that appealed to me. And one of the things I love most about California is the optimism and fearlessness that is generally present, so it was fun to hear those characteristics applied to design. The exhibit made me proud of my adopted state!

On a whim, we went to Animal for dinner, a place we've been wanting to try. The chefs were featured on a Top Chef episode not that long ago, and the restaurant always gets great reviews. Here is what we had:

sliced pig head, hush puppy, pickled ramp vinaigarette
tandoori octopus, tamarind, kumquat, raita
poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar
grilled quail, rhubarb char-siu, apple, mandarin, yogurt
foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy
bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p ice cream

The foie gras was so good I almost cried, and the bacon chocolate crunch bar made me giggle. It was one of the best meals I have had in LA, and I loved that it was a spontaneous one.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

travel plans: the decision

Jesse and I had been hoarding airline miles ever since we made several trips back and forth to Japan while living there. Although we've flown many times since, I was really committed to using the miles for a "big" trip, and we'd been thinking for several years for how to best take advantage of them. The prospect of "the trip" grew bigger and bigger in my head. The longer we went without travelling internationally, after travelling so much for several years, the more the trip started to feel like a major, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I wanted to make sure we used the miles for just the right thing. But the longer we held on to the miles, the more I worried that they would disappear and the more I feared that this long hoped-for trip wouldn't actually happen.

With both of our jobs, we had a hard time finding time that we could both be gone for more than a week at a time. My first year at Pepperdine (2009-2010), I never took more than a few days off at a time. My second year, Jesse had started working as a consultant for Disney, and didn't feel like he could get away while he was on a limited-term contract. The third year seemed to be the right time for us. We initially planned to go in the fall, but several other events came up, and we decided to put the trip off (again). Then, American Airlines declared bankruptcy in late 2011, and my irrational fears that we'd lose the miles re-appeared. It turned out to be the kick we needed.

We started looking into dates for the travel. We knew we wanted to travel internationally, and we wanted to take two weeks off. Although we had started discussing "where" we would go, we were really more concerned with the "when" at first. By the time we got the vacation time approved for the middle of April, we still didn't know where we wanted to go. There were so many places we both wanted to see and it was starting to feel impossible to choose. Making decisions has never come easy for me, but this one seemed particularly difficult. I love to travel so much. But with limited vacation time and the cost of travel, I started to feel like we wouldn't be doing it as often as I'd like. These miles were our chance at a low-cost trip, and we were only going to get the one. Neither Jesse nor I could figure out how to prioritize the places we wanted to see, so we started to think about the kinds of international experiences that interested us.

Classic: France, Italy
Adventurous: Machu Picchu (this one is mostly me - I'm sort of fixated on it)
Exotic: Turkey, Morocco
Familiar: Japan
Little-Bit-Unique: Finland, Russia, Iceland, Eastern Europe
Leisurely: A resort anywhere in the tropics

We pretty seriously considered every one of those areas. Finland was one of our top choices. Since Jesse's ancestors originally immigrated to Wisconsin from Finland, and our last name is Finnish, we had a special interest in seeing the country. It also looks gorgeous and has an interesting design scene. However, once we knew we were going in April, it didn't seem like the weather would be ideal. Having spent most of our lives in the Midwest, the chance for a cold and slushy vacation wasn't all that appealing; give me snow or sun, but not in-between. The same went for Russia. We talked a lot about going back to Japan. It's been five years since we left, and we would love the opportunity to visit friends and see familiar places. But ultimately, we decided we wanted to do something new. Japan felt like a trip we could take anytime, and we know we'll definitely go back at some point.

Around the time we got the vacation approved, we had more or less settled on France. We even used our miles to put some tickets on hold. We figured we'd spend a little time in Paris and then make our way south to enjoy villages and hopefully lots of wineries. It sounded relaxing, leisurely, and romantic. A perfect trip, right? For whatever reason, I really couldn't get excited about it. I think when it came down to it, I wanted something completely new and out of the ordinary. I would love to see the south of France one day, and I think it will happen. But a bigger adventure was more appealing to me. I'd also been to Paris, and although I had loved it, it wouldn't be new.

Although our frequent flier miles wouldn't get us all the way there, we ultimately chose Morocco. By booking tickets first to Madrid, and then buying separate tickets from Madrid to Marrakesh, we were able to work it out. I had originally seen Morocco on a list of great places to travel in 2009, or sometime around then. The brief note had mentioned the food, and that Morocco was a culinary destination. That piqued my interest, and it has always stuck in the back of my head as a place to see. The more research that I have done, the more I feel that this trip will encompass so many of the kinds of experiences we had hoped to have. There will definitely be some adventure, it will be exotic, there will be good food and leisure, and it will be unique. So far, our planned activities involve a cooking class, a spa, an afternoon at a resort, art galleries, old medinas in several Moroccan cities, historic markets and sites, a ferry across the Strait of Gibralter, train travel, and Roman ruins. Sadly, we had to rule out a camel trip in the desert due to time (who knew two weeks isn't even close to enough time for Morocco?). We're making time for a few days in Spain, and we will get to see the French influence in Morocco, so we'll get to have a taste of the classic as well.

I am really pleased with our choice. Ultimately, I feel really, really lucky that we have a choice at all. The chance to take two weeks off to travel to another country, and not to have to pay for the airline tickets...that's something special.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I'd never been to Las Vegas, although Jesse had been several times. We'd been talking for a while about going there, since it's so close to Los Angeles, and our anniversary was at the end of January. So when we both realized that we had MLK Day off a couple of weeks ago, we made last-minute plans to drive up for the weekend. It turned out to be a great trip. We mostly spent our time wandering from one hotel/casino to another, checking out all of the over-the-top decor. It truly felt like adult Disneyland. Everything is so fake, but still so nice. Like the Venice canals, for example. Fake sky, fake cobblestone streets. Silly, right? But...still fun! And actually kind of pretty. Here are a few things I found amusing:

1. The drive through the California desert.
2. The different smells at all of the casinos. The Tropicana smelled like tanning oil.
3. People-watching. Especially at night when the cocktail dresses and stilettos came out.
4. The Cirque du Soleil show "O." I've seen a few Cirque shows and wasn't sure one more was necessary, but this one was different and a lot of fun.
5. Dinner at Bouchon, one of Thomas Keller's restaurants. I had scallops with roasted winter squash, glazed parsnips, and confit chestnuts. It was really, really good.
6. Our gorgeous, spacious, and comfortable hotel room at the Palazzo.
7. The lobby at the Wynn, with its colorful tile mosaics and the wall of water.
8. The conservatory at the Bellagio, which looked amazing decorated for the Chinese New Year.
9. The crazy amounts of crystal at the Cosmopolitan.
10. And - my favorite - the fountain at the Bellagio. So entertaining!!

Even after 2.5 years of living in the West, I still get excited at all of the places that are now within driving distance from our home. There are so many more to explore!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

rose bowl festivities

I know the Badgers didn't win in the end, but Jesse and I still had fun attending some of the Rose Bowl festivities this year, especially the Rose Parade. We're not always in town for New Year's, so I am glad we took advantage of the opportunity this year - it was really fun to see. And of course, we enjoyed having lots of Wisconsinites around town for the few days leading up to the parade and game. In full disclosure, I don't really follow the Badgers in the same way I follow the Packers, but I'm always a fan of anything having to do with my home state.

A sea of red at the Badgers Pep Rally at the Santa Monica Pier a few days before the game. It was a very, very foggy day. The pep band played, and they interviewed some of the players on stage.

Jesse, Yuki, and Bucky. Lots and lots of people stopped to say hi to Yuki. Someone who stopped to pet him said, "Oh, this must be the big dog that people are talking about." He loved the attention, and we liked chatting with the other Wisconsinites.

Badger train! We parked at Union Station and took the metra to Pasadena for the Rose Parade. We were not the only ones with this brilliant ideas.

The floats were so fun to see! Apparently people camp out on the sidewalk starting the day before the parade to get good spots. We showed up just before the parade started to come by this spot and I was very happy with how close we were.

The Trader Joe's float.

The Badger float.