Thursday, May 31, 2012

Yelling at the Neighbor

Yes, that is what I did today. And if you ask how often this happens I would say never before. Today was the first time I ever yelled at a person I hardly know. I am usually polite with people. And I do consider myself a reasonable person. I also believe that whatever arguments may arise between civilized people should and can be resolved in a civilized way. Well, apparently, not everyone can be reasonable. To make the situation clearer for you, let me give you a bit of a background.

The trees and bushes in our garden got a bit overgrown in the past years and so in the past few months my husband and I have been doing some trimming here and there. We do not have a gardener, only a few guys who come over every couple weeks to mow the grass, that's all. So most of the real gardening responsibilities, like keeping your plants from overgrowing, fertilizing the lawn, pruning fruit trees, etc. falls on our hands. I guess, we are sort of happy to do it, long as we find the time.

Since I decided to plant a vegetable garden this year we needed to do some extra cutting, cleaning out all the old brush and debris along the fence. That strip of dirt between the fence and the lawn was where I wanted to plant tomatoes and other goodies. So together with my husband we cut off a lot of branches that were hanging over from the fence creating a lot of shade. As you can imagine when you do a lot of trimming there are trimmings which must be dumped somewhere. Since there was no place to store all those branches and dry leaves in our yard we moved them across the driveway where there's empty land, a lot adjacent to ours that the owner plans to develop sometime in the next few years.  There are trees and bushes growing on that lot too, no one cares, particularly the owner. We thought it was a good spot until we could get all that cleaned up little by little - we only have one trash can for yard waste which is picked up once a week. Little by little all that pile would disappear.

Well, that did not sit well with our neighbor. To be frank, there are a lot of things that don't sit well with him. Ever since we moved here it seems like the only conversations we ever had with him were when he would tell one of us how this or that was not good or not nice. For a small man he sure complains a lot. (A little side note here, my definition of a 'small' man is not merely judged by height, anyone narrow-minded and petty would definitely end up in this category; although in this case, sadly, it's both). He already complained to my husband about that pile to which he got a reasonable explanation. My husband assured him that with time that pile of trimmings would be gone. It was just due to the limited capacity of the yard waste bin, that's all. Besides, all that stuff was not in anyone's way, not blocking anything.

Well, today our neighbor decided to bring this pity-party to my door - as soon as I pulled in he came out with his petition. Those who know me personally, know that I am far less gracious than my husband. I will listen as long as I see that I am getting somewhere in the conversation. After a few minutes of listening to this whining and complaining I understood it was a waste of my time. He kept rambling that all those branches were a fire hazard (like if they are in our yard they are not!) and that the pile attracted coyotes (yikes!) and that it was simply not nice, just as if he would throw their baby's dirty diapers across the driveway (I wonder, in which world do the dirty diapers equal the tree trimmings and dry leaves?!) I tried reasoning with him in return to which I got the same old whae-whae song. So I simply said to him that if he had a problem he could take it up with the owner of that empty lot.

I thought the conversation was over. Boy was I wrong. He stormed away, went and got his rake. Came up the driveway and began raking all those dry branches back across the driveway and into our yard. That totally freaked me out. That's when I yelled at him. I said I was going to call the police if he didn't calm down. He was invading onto our property. I didn't know what else to do, so I called my husband (my hero and my stronghold!) Thankfully, he was close on his way to home and he intervened in time. I don't know what he said to him, but a few minutes later this loser finally backed off.

I guess, I don't have to worry about talking to him ever again. Not in the near future anyway. And certainly not until he apologizes (which I don't think is ever going to happen, he is way too small of a man for that).

And how was your day today?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Time Flies

Where did the time go? Before I noticed, we are entering a second quarter of the new year! Christmas time and new years was very busy, full of travelling, seing family, friends. Lots and lots of good moments. For Christmas the whole clan met up in the Bay Area where we spent a few wonderful days celebrating and enjoying the company of each other. The three little cousins had a blast playing together too. Then came New Years day, and after the time flew so fast I lost track.

My husband got me an iphone back in the fall which by now I got very comfortable using for most of my facebooking and pinning. So much so that I hardly remember the last time I used my computer for that. And since I was mostly busy and away from my computer I dropped out of the groove of blogging. I guess, I should try out their app for that :)

Anyway, I am still here, still enjoying my mommyhood and all the adventures that come with it. The recent development is that my daughter finally began walking. She's been crawling for a long time. But as far as walking, it seemed like she couldn't get her balance right. It was ok when someone would hold her by the hand. But she was terrified to let go. Well, at the age of one year and 3 months she finally did. It was actually kind of amazing, one day she just got up and walked. And she's been doing that ever since.

With that came the next stage for both of us - she is officially a toddler! And even though she is a bit more touchy and a lot more energetic, it's a fun new stage. I can hardly wait to begin planting my garden. It is going to be so much exploring for her too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Power of Power

Electrical that is. I am talking about electricity. The storm that swept through Southern California last week left most of San Gabriel valley (and other Los Angeles areas) without electricity for a few days. Some cities were able to clean up their streets and fix up their wires within two or three days, and for some it took up to a week. Sides of many streets are still lined with chopped up branches of trees, palm leaves and broken tree trunks.

It is in times like these when you're left without electricity in your home that you actually come to realize just how dependent we all are on this modern convenience and how great all those days are when you have lights and warmth and are able to use your wireless internet. Those days are taken for granted until something like this storm comes along. A home without electricity feels so lifeless for some reason, so quiet and sad. Another thought that comes to mind is how being dependent on one resource is so dangerous - no power and there's chaos on the streets, in the stores. What we most rely on nowadays, all our technology is powered by electricity. Take it away and everything lies in ruins - a bunch of useless, lifeless stuff. Isn't that crazy?

Sitting in a darkened room lit only with candles made me go back in time and think of those people who did not have electricity in their homes, the times before it was even invented. Thinking of those people made me sort of jealous of them: they did not know such thing existed therefore they did not need it or missed not having it. They were really able to enjoy long evenings with family and friends, sitting near a fireplace reading or conversing with others. Life was so much simpler back then.

And while for two days we've been struggling to keep our refrigerator cold by stuffing it with ice (finding which was no easy task, after all the whole valley needed it!) I did manage to see some positive sides to this whole ordeal. For one thing - this was a wonderful opportunity to take a break from our busy lives overfilled with digital media, information and oh-so-many-things-to-do, and just enjoy the moment. I finally got to finish reading the book that I began reading months ago. We got to enjoy two evenings of simply talking by the fireplace, sipping on hot tea and taking our time to relax. No emails, blogs, computers or browsing internet, just sit and talk. Lots of candles everywhere and lots of hot tea! Our heaters are electric so the only source of heat we had was our fireplace. Two days of romantic atmosphere and relaxing (to a certain point, it was rather cold which im my mind makes relaxing sort of complicated). It was good, I suppose, but I'm glad it was over soon.

So I guess, my point is, taking a break once in a while is great. Sometimes, life just makes you take a break when you think you're way too busy for that. And that's good too. Now, however, the romantic time is over and it's time to dive back into the holiday rush, preparing and fussing and doing things: those Christmas cards are not going to send themselves! So off I go, catching up on all the things I missed in the two-day break:)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Much to be thankful for

There was no time for blogging with all the preparations and planning that came my way in the past two weeks. With the birthday party and Thanksgiving I ended up hosting two big events in less than one week! I still don't know how I pulled it off... Either way, both events turned out great. You can read about my daughter's birthday party from my previous post.

Out of all holidays we celebrate Thanksgiving has become my most favorite. It is so important to take time to count your blessings, think of all the things you can and should be thankful for. This is how one comes to realize that there are so many reasons to be happy. And if you think of it, what is happiness if not the ability to appreciate what you have?

A grateful heart is a happy heart. It is amazing what these two simple words can do. If you think you could use some positive changes in your relationships, try showing people how grateful you are, say 'Thank you' more often. Things will change, you'll see.

What else is great about Thanksgiving? Oh, the food! Gatherings like this are always around good food. The dinner table - that's where the conversation flows best. There are so many wonderful recipes to work with for this occasion and the variety is amazing. Since I love to cook nothing makes me happier than cooking up a big meal and then watching people enjoy it.

A few years ago I cooked my first traditional Thanksgiving dinner for our extended family and the event turned out so great that I definitely wanted to do it again. The whole family seems to enjoy these dinners so who's to say we won't turn this into a family tradition? It seems like a great opportunity to get together and enjoy each other's company. Now that most of us are married and have their own families we don't get  to spend time together like that very often.

So in this year's menu I decided to go with a lot of vegetables as side dishes. We had roasted butternut squash, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus. All these were of course in addition to the traditional Thanksgiving staples like turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. All dishes turned out extra delicious and I was very excited to see that there was plenty of leftovers! This really is the best time of the year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Have a cupcake party second to none!

Time goes by so fast. I cannot believe my little girl is already one year old. It seems just a few days ago I held her in my arms, this tiny helpless creature crying for attention and food every two hours. And now she's about to start walking. I guess, we never realize how precious some moments in life are until they are gone. The time passes by so quickly and soon all we have left is memories. Sometimes I think that one of the reasons we have kids is to remind us about that, make us think and cherish those life moments.
Anyhow, sad and philosophical thoughts aside, we have celebrated our girl's first birthday and the party turned out to be a blast! At least I thought so :) Looks like this post is going to be more of a photo report of the event. Since a picture is worth a thousand words I'm including lots of pictures and I sure hope you find this is the case.
When I was planning the party I wanted to have some kind of fun gifts for kids. We did have 10 kids attending with their parents and I wanted to make this event fun for them too. It always seems like they are so bummed out that this one birthday child is getting all the presents! I didn't want to just give them candy, it's too cliche and too unhealthy :)

So I what came up with was something they could make themselves while having fun. We all know how much kids love stickers, not sure why... maybe it's the sticky part, or maybe the fact that you can affix those little pieces to almost anything and make it hard for mommy to take them off later :) wooden frames and stickers to decorate them. Each kid got one of these and they can be as creative as they want. We also took pictures of the birthday girl with each kid and I am going to mail these pictures to them to put into their frames.
All the kids wore special cone hats and seemed to like them :) And so did the birthday girl. She didn't even try to take it off which was quite a surprise to me because whenever I put a hat or some kind of hear piece on her she loves the challenge of taking it off as soon as she possibly can!
She got lots of presents. A lot of them were toys. It looks like it will be a while till I will have to buy her any new ones. I decided to put some away and give them to her later to avoid new toy overload syndrome. That is not a real disorder, of course, you get the sarcasm. But really how much stuff does a child really need? Sometimes I notice she would pick one thing and carry it around with her all day while all other toys are just laying on the floor. Every day she just seems to have this dig-through-the-basket-till-you-find-the-toy-of-the-day kind of game. I wonder if all kids do that.

I'm not sure how much she really understands and they say the first birthday is more for parents than for the kid, but the fact that somehow all that stuff was for her seemed to have come through just fine. She really had fun opening, or I should say helping me open her presents.

And this is what picture time looks like with a bunch of little ones. Some kept running away, some kept moving and turning. Out of some 20 shots this is the best one we got! Unbelievable!
When it comes to parties, let's be honest, it's ALWAYS about FOOD! I mean, really, would you be happily going to a 'party' knowing there will be no food? Who does that?

The fact that any gathering of people with the purpose of having fun needs to be accompanied by food is widely accepted. It is in our human nature I suppose. Good hosts always try to honor their guests with good food. So did I.

What was on the menu you'll ask. This time I went with the finger food buffet style. So here's the list: a cheese platter with english cheddar, baby brie and stilton with apricots, a veggie platter with creme fraiche dip, sausage and bacon quiche, spinach artichoke dip and a selection of mini sandwiches (barbecue chicken, mascarpone bacon, baba ganoush, salmon & egg, wasabi crab meat). Everything was home made and delicious. I did most of the cooking myself and of course I got lots of help from the closest family, that's what they are for, right?

So all in all the party came out great and even though planning and preparing for it took much time and effort it was all worth it in the end. So, there, happy birthday, my sweet Amelia!
A few people asked me how we got our daughter to show her age with her finger. Oh, I had a good laugh. There is no having her do anything you want, btw, unless she wants to do it. I don't think she knew what she was doing with that finger though :) She likes to point at things, that's her recent thing. It turned out pretty smart though in this picture, I like it. So there she is, our little cupcake.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Conquering the Cold

It has not exactly been snowing in LA but we did get a share of rain storms in the past few days. Some people may not believe it but it does get rather cold in California. It is almost winter, after all. Last night I was quite terrified to see the bright lightening flashes and to hear the thunder roars hitting so close around us. The temperature went down to low 40-s last night and it was barely in the 50-s this morning.

Our northern neighbors got their snow already. So did most of the east coast. Last weekend my friend from Connecticut called with a strange request... She asked me to look up a phone number for her car insurance company. Turned out that they got over 15 inches of snow over one weekend, electricity was cut off in the whole neighborhood, so they had no heat, water or internet for that matter. Then to top it off a tree fell over onto one of their cars. How is that for a disaster? They got their electricity and heat back on only four days later. Poor things had to stay at their friends house those few days.

Speaking of disasters, we have been having our own challenges. The heating system in the house we are renting broke down. Again. This time for good. Last year an electrician came out an fixed it even though he wasn't quite supposed to. Thing is that the actual heater unit has been recalled 15 years ago and the company that made those went bankrupt a long time ago too. The problem with those heaters was that there was some manufacturing defect that made them break often and there was some kind of ignition issue that posed serious fire hazard so that is why all of those units were recalled. Since the one in this house seemed to operate no one bothered to replace it. Well, now that the winter is approaching promptly, as luck would have it, the heater broke. Same thing happened last year with the only difference that the kind electrician mentioned above gave it one last chance. And it seemed to have worked... Until a year later, almost exactly to the date!

Our landlord is going through some decision making times and there are a few issues about this property that have been unresolved and up in the air indefinitely. Because of this situation he is unwilling to invest a solid chunk of funds to replace the heating system. And so we are the ones to suffer the consequences. Another option would be to find another house but it is not that easy to find a suitable place for our needs in a short period of time. Besides, moving right before holidays does not necessarily sound appealing either. So we are sort of stuck. At least for the next few months.

We did come up with a temporary solution - portable electric heaters, well, in each room. They seem to do the job quite well. The only problem is... electrical. It is rather an old house and the wiring is not made for a number of powerful appliances all working at the same time. So, if we have the heater on, no tea kettle or dryer or washer can be used, otherwise it blows the fuse. When I need blow-dry my hair, I must make sure the heater is off, otherwise it blows the fuse. If I crank up the heater in the baby's room,  yes, you guessed it - it BLOWS the stinking FUSE!

So it looks like this would be a fun challenge for the winter. I just pray that the weather takes it easy this year. If anyone has any creative ideas as to how we could conquer the cold in our home this year let's hear them! Given the situation I am open to pretty much anything :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Yarn and Hooks

Today as I was paying some bills online I looked at the calendar and freaked out a little bit. It's November already!  Where did the time go? It is so hard to believe that not so long ago we celebrated Christmas and it's going to be that time of the year again very soon. This week officially begins the turkey shopping season and I am very excited to engage in planning my Thanksgiving family dinner. With my daughter's first birthday party just short of a week before Thanksgiving this month will be a very busy time for me. Exciting too, I believe.

So tomorrow I'm going turkey shopping and it will be a busy day but tonight it is my time to relax. I want to share a little about one of my latest passions which also appears to be one of the most relaxing things for me. I am talking about nothing else than simple old-fashioned crochet.

I have done some crocheting back in high school days as part of home economics class but I never took it seriously. Not until recently that is. When I was pregnant I saw a few crocheted baby items on  that I thought were very cute. To a frugalista like myself paying a pretty penny for something I could make on my own was not an option. That's how my first crochet project was born. It turned out I enjoyed the process even more than seeing the result of my work. So I came up with more projects.

Now as far as ideas and patterns, there are countless books, magazines and plenty of information on the internet. What I found especially helpful was YouTube! Seriously, there is no telling what you can learn just by watching some videos. My most favorite ones are by Teresa. She has her own channel - Crochet Geek. It's all about crochet and it's AMAZING (this is where you sing this word out to give it some emphasis).

I found crochet to be a great outlet for my creativity while being very practical at the same time. This kind of handmade stuff seems to be quite pricey and who knows, maybe one day I can make some side income by doing something I love. Meanwhile, my passion for crochet has served me well because these things make wonderful gifts and the possibilities are endless!