Category Archives: Lifestyle


Poof and Pearl

For her birthday, my 6-year-old wanted to get a pet fish. Not being much of a pet person, much less a fish one, I started off my setting up a set of seemingly unattainable hurdles (“Collect enough small, yet unbroken, shells from the beach to fill the bottom of a tank!”) to buy myself some time. Finally, though, I relented, and for her birthday my parents covered the cost of turning us into a fish household.

I wanted hearty fish, so we got two betta. I was told by the PetSmart salesperson that though you can’t put two male betta together, it was fine to put two females in the same tank. I have two female kids, so that made enough sense to me, and I thought it would be nice for them each to feel like they had a special pet, and for the bettas to be friends. So, off we went with Poof and Pearl in their betta store containers, traipsing through Trader Joe’s so that I could complete a last-minute errand, and then back home where we began to set up their habitat. Which I really enjoyed –I think I’ll be adding “undersea decor” to my hobby list.

Once we added both fish into the tank, it was clear that there was some type of interaction going on. Poof (bigger, and pink) was frequently chasing Pearl (smaller, and bluish green). Poof would also eat any food that was dropped in, before Pearl could get to it. And when Pearl finally did get to a betta bit, it was too big for her mouth. Trouble.

I ended up staying up late reading up on female bettas. The frustrating part of it was that most of the available information was wiki-style, meaning that random people just posted information or answers to question (and I mean random — there is no filter against people who can’t spell or who write “yo yo yo” in their responses). I didn’t feel like there was a real, definitive betta authority out there, but here is a collection of what I found out about female bettas:

  • They can live together in a tank.
  • But why would you force them to do that? It’s stressful and against their nature.
  • No, they can’t live together.
  • Well, they can, but you can’t have just two. One will bully the other til the other dies.
  • It’s best to have three females so they can form a hierarchy.
  • It’s best to have at least four females so they can form a hierarchy.
  • Females can be aggressive and territorial.
  • Some betta bits are too big for some bettas.
  • Chasing is ok as long as the fish aren’t nipping each other’s fins off.
  • Horizontal stripes mean the fish are distressed.
  • If you see horizontal stripes, the fish are healthy.

See what I mean? Ok, so this is the worst part — now that I was feeling like God of the Bettas and had personal responsibility for them, I had a sleepless night wondering if Poof was going to kill Pearl, if Poof was just showing dominance over Pearl, if Pearl was ever going to eat, and why I was up at night thinking about Poof and Pearl in the first place (didn’t help that that afternoon some guy on NPR was talking about how fish have feelings and feel pain). I have enough things in my life that cause me to lose sleep, and I really don’t like to lose sleep.

So the next day I ended up putting up a divider between Poof and Pearl, just to ensure that Poof didn’t kill Pearl, that Pearl could have something to eat once in a while (we have to manually crush her pellets to make them small enough) and so that they could get used to the sight of one another. Now I’m obsessively researching whether I can remove the divider once they’re used to one another — seems that it would be nicer for them to have more swimming space. No matter — last night my overly excited daughter fed Poof five pellets (she’s supposed to have one a day) so this all could be moot soon.

Crafts Popular

Cable Knit Pom Pom Hat

This entry is going to be about knitting. If you don’t care about knitting, stop reading. If you don’t care about knitting but do want to learn about how to make pom poms, you can keep reading, but I’m just going to redirect you someone who can explain it better than I can.

My job’s been a little demanding lately, so I’ve been trying to unwind before going to bed by knitting a few rows every night. I started off doing pretty basic things, like 2×2 rib hats on straight needles, but eventually became obsessed with questions like “What if I don’t want any seams on my hats?” and “How do you make those twisty designs?”, and before I knew it I was knitting bad hats using 4-5 needles concurrently, cursing myself all the way. I am pretty sure that if I stayed at home full time I would be equally capable of finding things that would stress me out. Needless to say, this idea of unwinding using knitting only resulted in me staying up later than planned, determined to be able to do what seems to be somehow innate for little old ladies.

The good news is that I’ve been making progress. The hat to the right is the first one that I’ve knitted that is of my own design, without using a pattern. Except that this was supposed to be an adult hat, and as you can tell by the picture, it is being worn by a doll that is roughly 10% the size of an average adult. So I present to you: Cable Knit Pom Pom Hat for Toddlers! Nevermind the fact that my children are no longer toddlers…um, yeah, I meant to knit a hat for this knitted doll (which by the way was actually knitted by someone in England whose knitting skills are vastly superior to mine). Here’s how to make this hat:

I used:
Valley Yarns Berkshire (85% Wool, 15% Alpaca); wt 100 grams, in Lt. Blue

US Size 10 double-pointed needles (set of 4)

Cable needle (I just used a dpn from another set as the cable needle, with a rubber stopper on one end)

CO 60

Rows 1-6: *k1, p1, rep from * to end

Rows 7-9: *p4, k6, rep from * to end

Rows 10: *p4, CF6, rep from *to end

Rows 11-13: knit the knits and purl the purls

Repeat Rows 7-13 until total rows = 26

Shape crown:

Row 1:
X= if the next stitch is a knit, use K2tog; if it is a purl, use SSK
Y= if the next stitch is a knit, k; if it is a purl, p

*X, Y2 rep from * to end

Row 2: X, Y

Row 3: *k1, p1; rep from * to end

Row 4: *k1; rep from * to end

Row 5-6: *k2tog; rep from * to end

Break off yarn, thread through yarn needle and through live sts, drawing tight and sliding off knitting needle. Secure and weave off.

Making the pom pom:

Do it the cheap way:

Or do what I did if you’re too lazy to cut your own template — buy one:;=prd31838

Sew securely to the hat, and voila! Now find someone who’s willing to wear it, preferably aged 1-2.

This is pattern is free for personal, non-commercial use. Further use requires permission from the designer (me). You may not sell or distribute the pattern in any form. You may not sell the any item or items made from this pattern without my permission. You may not use this pattern or items from the pattern for commercial use.


Celebration of Life

Lady with Cigar.
Originally uploaded by **Poof!**

On her birthday, my brother’s girlfriend asked everyone to take a picture that day that they believed represented a celebration life. This was my favorite pic from the set. I bet this lady doesn’t spend her days working on large spreadsheets.


Early to sleep, early to rise…

Ok, I can’t take credit for this idea primarily because Ben Franklin already said it a little while before I did: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” (By the way, I don’t think Ben Franklin was 100% wise. For instance, he also said, “Eat to live, and not live to eat.” I don’t think that’s right (said the woman who eats mayonnaise out of the jar).). Anyway, I’ve heard this quote since I was little, but I’m just not and have never been a morning person (but I do happen to be a very good night person). As luck would have it, I took a trip to Europe, and when I returned, operating on UK time, I awoke at roughly 4 AM. And you know what? It was great! I felt so productive. In fact, the idea that I had so much time ahead of me motivated me to be much more industrious than I usually am. I did a yoga workout on video, I made a real breakfast, I went to the grocery store (where I was the only shopper and had to pluck produce out of cartons because they hadn’t finished laying them out yet — and if there’s one downside, it’s that I couldn’t buy lettuce because it was still somewhere in the nether regions of the grocery store) where I was congratulated at being the first shopper in store history to buy a fish from the fish department at 6 AM, and best of all, I wasn’t screaming at the kids all morning.

I don’t know about you, but mornings at my house are generally crazy. They’re probably the worst part of the day, tied with the 5 PM – 7 PM witching hour when the kids start to melt down and I start to look for a cocktail. And one of the reasons I dread weekdays is that they all start off so crazy, trying to make sure everyone gets dressed, brushes their teeth, eats their breakfast, has a lunch packed — in addition with trying to appear human myself for my appearance at the office. Add to this the fact that there is a punishment for the parent from the school for being late (I won’t get into it, but trust me, it is bad), and the whole thing is just plain stressful.

So since I got back from my trip, I’ve been making myself get up early. And you know what? My whole day is better! I’m relaxed in the morning, I eat a real breakfast, I talk to the kids, and I just have this general feeling that everything is really ok.

The downside is that I’m avoiding social activity, fearing it will interfere with my bedtime…the good sleep habits rule, as suggested by my college professor Dr. James Maas, is that even if you have a late night, you should make yourself get up at the same time every morning. I fear this. I have a known love for sleeping in, and I’m afraid that this will bring me back over to the Dark Side.

Well, sleep tight. I’m sure some of you do this already. I’m a little slow — it took me about 10 years to notice that Brad Pitt was “kind of cute”. You know, by the time everyone else had moved on.

Food Gardening Health

My cup of tea

Maybe I’m a little slow on the uptake, but though I always knew that tea was made of dried leaves, it really didn’t hit me til recently that they’re really just dried leaves. I guess I had always assumed that something special had to be done to them…why else would you pay money for a bunch of dried leaves? A co-worker of mine who is a bit of a tea freak went to a tea tasting in San Francisco Chinatown, walking out with several $30 bags of tea. What was so special about these teas was that they were whole leaves — so when you pour boiling water over them, the leaves reconstitute and open up (unlike the shredded bits of leaves you get in standard tea bags). He said that leaves that do that actually haven’t been dried for very long, and thus are lower in caffeine. I haven’t verified that claim — just putting it out there.

As you may have noticed I’m a little obsessive about efficiency (this drives my apparent zeal for things like recycling, composting and energy conservation, but refer to my previous post for the real story). I get a lot of dried lavender blooms and fallen-off rose petals in my garden. Mostly I throw them into my makeshift compost pile, or chuck them around the garden for slow decomposition, but I’m always looking for new things to do with garden refuse. So I decided to try making my own tea.

My criteria:

  • It shouldn’t kill me. Before gathering dried leaves for tea-making, I looked online to make sure there were like things on the market (e.g., other people had tried them, hadn’t died, and thought well enough of it to market it to a broader audience).
  • It shouldn’t taste disgusting. I also looked online for combos of leaves that, as in the first bullet point, people tried and liked enough to keep making.

I have a little teapot with a strainer for tea leaves, so I didn’t have to bother with sewing tea bags or anything of the sort. So far I’ve made a couple of teas:

  • Lemon verbena. This one gave off a really lemony smell, and was very light. It was a little lemony for my liking, but hey, it was free and didn’t kill me.
  • French lavender and rose petals. This one tasted like it smelled. I added honey a little bit of cream to it, but I think I went a little too heavy on the lavender.
  • Ginger. This didn’t come from my garden, but I plopped a chunk of raw ginger root into boiling water and added a bit of sugar — this was delicious. It was a little spicy, and really soothing.

I put in approximately 1 teaspoon dried leaves for every cup that I brewed. My conclusion: you can definitely make your own tea. Do a little research before dropping the leaves into your pot (hemlock, for instance, might be a bad choice), but for the most part, there’s nothing to it. Of course there are always leaves not readily available to you that are worth buying from tea manufacturers, but it is another way to use up the stuff in your garden.

Beauty Health

You know you’re fat when…

  • You go to talk to a gay guy at work, and instead of making eye contact with you he makes waist contact with you — he stares at the muffin-top above your pants the entire time.
  • Someone sets up a meeting using Outlook and lists you as the location.

Both these things actually happened to me this week.

I hate exercise. This was moderately ok when I wasn’t middle-aged and when I lived in a city and was forced to walk everywhere, but now on occasion I even have debates with myself on the merits of getting up from my seat to go to the bathroom versus…just not. If I were an animal I’d be a sea anemone. I’d have a symbiotic relationship with organisms that groomed me and would wait for food to come to me.

There was a time when I ran. I only run when I’m depressed. Anyway, I kept waiting for this “runner’s high” I kept hearing about. Maybe it’s just me, but unless runner’s high consists of severe cramping and the flab on your face actually detaching from your bones due to all the turbulence, I never got runner’s high.

I live in Southern California, so I have to spend a good part of the year in a swimsuit — and often times, sadly, in front of people I know. So instead of addressing the root of my problem, I ordered 6 tankinis to try on, figuring, the more coverage, the better. I ordered them from Victoria’s Secret, which I knew right off the bat was a really bad idea. It is impossible for me to tell what those swimsuits actually look like because, unlike the models, I do not have breasts that resemble a grown person’s buttocks. In fact, I could have stopped the last phrase five words in. But I’d venture to say that outside of Southern California, most people don’t look like that. So, it is not possible to tell what the swimsuit actually looks like on any normal person based on the photo. As such, it was shocking when I actually put them on. The most fitting phrase would be “female wrestler”. I didn’t think this was possible, but I looked even worse in those tankinis than in a bikini with my midsection exposed.

My new strategy is to appear in locations where I am comparatively in shape. For instance, our next vacation is going to be in Palm Desert. Next to most octagenarians, I look young, firm, and in shape. I appear lively and full of energy.

Anyway, I eat well and I try to be healthy minus that moving-around part. You can’t win ’em all.

Health Home

It Ain’t Easy Being Clean, Either

Ok, sorry for the posting mishap. I think I just made a blank posting. Not that that’s any worse than my usual postings.

I’m at home today because theoretically we are getting recessed lighting put in. I say theoretically because the electrician is 2.5 hours late. He called about an hour and a half ago to say that he was going to be here in 30 minutes. It seems (see my previous post) that if left home alone, I stray to the dark netherworld of cleaning supplies. Since I’m down to my last few drops of the Method cleansers I bought a few months ago, I found myself on this website: . Inspired, I decided that I was going to refill my Method bottles (recycling) with some of these non-toxic recipes (cheap). Going down the supply list, though, the only recipe I could make with what’s in my house was a 1:1 water/vinegar combo. Then, to make myself feel more commercial, I put in a few drops of red food coloring (which promptly stained my hands to a murderous hue as the bottle, which had been unopened since 2003 which was the last time I baked, exploded). Then, I gave my counter a squirt. I was pleasantly surprised at how little it smelled like vinegar — and then thought it might be nice to add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance next time (which I would have done if I had any).

Anyway, I’m really excited about these cleaning supplies. They’re cheap, and they won’t kill you!

Health Home Uncategorized

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

So over the past few years I’ve slowly begun to go green…not for the right reasons, like caring about the environment or anything, but to satisfy one of my neuroses: I have this thing about efficiency. I can’t stand it when things aren’t efficient. Once when I was in college (and obsessive about recycling; again, because I can’t stand waste) I had a dream about eating paper. I was eating the paper because it was too inefficient to throw it away.

I was home from work today because my kids were both sick. It’s a really good thing that I’m not a stay-at-home mom because I ended up buying $75 worth of household cleaner (Xtreme Kleen)from a door-to-door salesman after he drank some of the all-purpose-cleaner to prove to me that it was non-toxic (and biodegradable, and environmentally sound, etc). But I just wanted him to stop drinking the solvent. I had already purchased some Methodcleaning supplies thinking that it would be better overall for all of us (including the housecleaners I have) to have more environmentally and theoretically safer products. $75 later, I started doing some research on cleaning products. Here’s what I found:

  • Manufacturers of cleaning supplies are not required to divulge their ingredients. This makes it kind of hard to figure out if what you’re buying is good for your health or the environment.
  • Biodegradable and environmentally friendly does not equal good for your health. For instance, a lot of biodegradable products (like butyl cellosolve) are fine for the environment but can cause a whole host of problems for humans (like liver and reproductive damage, to name a few). Butyl cellosolve happens to be in many household cleaners, including Xtreme Kleen and other more common brands. Method didn’t disclose particulars; their ingredient list says things like “biodegradable solvent”. Hm.
  • There are no regulated labels for claims like “environmentally friendly” and other phrases that make things sound like they’re good for you / the earth. I bought some “environmentally friendly” laundry detergent and the ingredient list was no different from the Costo Kirkland brand laundry detergent I had purchased previously.

So what’s a girl to do? The best thing to do is to live in filth. No, actually, the safest thing to do (which I have yet to do, and maybe I’m willing to risk my health in order to optimize idle time) is to make your own household cleaners. If you’re inspired to do this, here‘s a link. It is a whole lot cheaper, but — let me know how it goes.

Since I won’t be making my own household cleaner in the next couple of hours, I was looking for some easier efficiency projects to concentrate on. A few months ago I already switched out 1 in 3 of our lightbulbs for energy efficient types. Surprisingly, it made a pretty significant dent in our electric bill. More efficient! I stumbled upon my latest idea on the National Geographic Green Guide site. I haven’t subscribed yet to the Green Guide because 1) I’m lazy and 2) it seems counterintuitive that I would subscribe to this thing that is printed on paper, but I’m sure I’ll get over that. The idea is to stop using paper napkins at dinner. I do happen to have about a thousand cloth napkins that get used about once a year sitting in the linen closet upstairs. I don’t know why I never thought to actually just use them. I mean, I have to do laundry anyway, so why not. And I’ll argue that I don’t have to press them because I’ll use up less energy using them wrinkled.



Mean Girls

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but since then I’ve been 1) to Asia, 2) working, and 3) to Disneyland. I will write about none of those right now, but I did want to talk about something else. My oldest daughter, Amelia, hasn’t wanted to go to school lately — and I’ve recently uncovered that she has a bully! It’s like Mean Girls, Preschool Style.

She used to be friends with these two girls, but they have turned on her and now make her miserable. I am totally reliving all the stuff I would just as soon forget. The good news, though, is that having had 36 years of formulating come-backs after the fact, I am now much better at them — so I have been working with her on rehearsing comebacks. Like when one girl tries to scare her by saying that there is a ghost in the room, and I told her to say something like, “Yes, there is a ghost, and it’s your smelly fart!” Or when a mean girl tells her that’s she’s a nincompoop, I told her to say “I know you are, but what am I?” (that, I know is not very original). I was going to make her wear these funky striped pants (that I would wear were they in my size) but she refused since one of the mean girls makes fun of those pants, so I actually reconsidered (remembering what my mother made me wear) and put her in khakis today.

This is not as bad, though, as a case I know of (I think this took place in second grade) where the mean girls, also ex-friends of the victim at hand, invented a play about the girl they were being mean to. I guess at least nobody created an adaptation of Ulysses for use in my ridicule.

I am realizing that, in a sort of reincarnation, I am going to have to go through everything all over again — the mean girls, the awkward phases (though no one can outdo me on that one), rejection and bad tempers…I can’t wait.

Parenting Whining

Mew, mew, mew

I am totally over-extended at work. I am having conversations at home with my 2-year-old along the lines of: “I am going to be on a conference call. Do not scream during the conference call. If you scream and disrupt my conference call, I will lose my job and we will not be able to live in this house and have to live in a canyon.” [read with a teeth-clenched-together type of tone]. Following this type of conversation, 2-year-old screams while I run around the house to get away from her so I can pretend like I have everything under control. I sometimes wipe my kids’ butts while on calls, sprinting away as the toilet flushes.

So it’s 1 AM on a Friday night, and I just wrapped up my work for the night. In the past few weeks something has happened wherein I have completely lost the boundary between home life and work life. I’m still trying to figure out what happened, but most likely my need for approval and praise resulted in me agreeing to several assignments which are technically not possible to complete within the bounds of my normal work day. That, and we’re coming up on one of our peak periods in our business cycle. That, and a few days ago I had one of those days where everything exploded (Venture partner freaks out at legal liability and drops our very profitable deal! In-house counsel stands me up several times for meetings on time-sensitive matters! Other parts of organization made decisions without informing me that significantly affect my ability to meet targets! I spill my entire lunch on the break room floor!), so I am really not feeling like I’ve got very much under control at all.

Don’t even get me started on this new, humongous, spontaneous mole that appeared on me. I am about to develop mountainous hills of cystic acne all over my face. Happy Thanksgiving!