He’s one.  I can’t help but find myself looking back over this last year and thinking about how much has changed – us, Dylan, everything.  It’s truly amazing to think about all that goes into keeping these tiny humans alive – stuff you could never have known until…you do.

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…And in no particular order, here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

1.  All the cliches are true.  The sleep deprivation is the stuff of legends.  You will fall head over heels in love with this tiny stranger.  You will talk about poop over dinner.  You’ll forget what your life was like…before… There’s a reason they’re cliches.

2.  The best word for how I feel when I’m around anyone but Dylan is:  scattered.  Call it mommy-brain, what have you, but it’s true.  I feel (most of the time) fairly capable when the only thing I have to do is be Dylan’s mom.  As soon as I have to do that and something else, like hold an adult conversation, or even answer a question that requires more than a yes or a no, the neurons start spazzing out.  I later reflect on conversations with friends and wonder if I made any sense at all, and did I remember to ask about them, and their lives?  If I didn’t, I’m sorry.  It’s not that I don’t care, my brain just doesn’t have the bandwidth to remember that I do care.

3.  The hard things keep changing.  Everyone talks about how just when you think you’ve discovered your baby’s schedule, it changes.  Well, it’s not just their schedules.  It’s everything.  Just when you get used to the thing that was hard – breastfeeding, solid foods, massive-blowout-diaper-changes – something else comes along to kick your ass again – now he tries to nurse from acrobatic positions, now he won’t be spoonfed (how do you make oatmeal as a finger-food?), now he flips over with poop on his butt, or reaches down to get his hands in it…while I’m changing him on the couch.  The sooner you lose your expectations about how things “should” be, the easier it gets.

4.  Baby development is not linear. Be it sleep, or “milestones,” it often feels like a case of 2 steps forward, 10 steps…to the left.  I wish someone had told me about sleep regressions.  It would have saved me at least a few weeks of despair and feeling like a complete and utter failure as a parent.  And it seems you often don’t know what they’re going through, until they’re done going through it.  Why is he fussy/whiny/clingy/waking up all night?  Oh, he was getting a new tooth.  Oh, he was learning to crawl.  Oh, he just needed to burp.  Or fart.

5.  My mom was right.  I knew this already, but with so many things, I just tell her, “I get it now.”  I’m proud to be this little guy’s mom.  He’s absolutely the best thing I’ve ever done.  No question.  Nothing changes your life as profoundly as having a child.  Nothing else is quite the watershed moment of …before him, and after him.  I miss him when he actually sleeps well and long, which is rare.  We end up looking at slideshows of his photos after we’ve put him to bed (I’m a big sap, I know, but it’s my husband, too!).  I get teary-eyed thinking about the boy, teenager, young man he’ll become; the day he’ll be taller than me.  So I try really hard, even at 3 am, not to wish away these days just to get to a future where he might be sleeping through the night.  I already know I will miss those middle of the night snuggles, so I just kiss the top of his warm, sweet head, and take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment.

A dear friend told me that the first birthday is not so much for the child, but a celebration for the parents, for making it through the first year.  If so, hurray for all of us!

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In college, my friends could basically be put into one of two categories.  Volleyball friends, and Studio.  Those two categories pretty well sum up how I spent most of my time for those few years.  I feel very fortunate that both categories have established friendships that I continue to cherish to this day.  It seems appropriate, this week of Thanksgiving (a little delayed in posting…having some technical issues with adding photos to this post…argh), to write a post that’s primarily about gratitude for some of the people in my life.

The volleyball friends never really understood where I went when I had to go to “Studio.”  They didn’t have majors that allowed them 24/7 access to their own private workspace.  They usually weren’t pulling all-nighters, either.  So when I said I had to leave volleyball open gym to get back to work in Studio, it was pretty nebulous to them.  Some of them thought I was making up this mystical place.  Not so the 16 other people with whom I shared said Studio.  ASU’s interior design program required that design majors “apply” for upper division in their major after sophomore year.  We had to submit portfolios and transcripts and take part in an all-day design charette.  Out of 50+ applicants, 17 were admitted to upper division for the remaining 3 years (it was a 5-year program).  So for those last three years of college, this group – 16 women and one guy – was my sorority, of sorts.

We realized a year or so into upper division that our little group was unique.  We talked to students in the class behind us, and they were so competitive, they would ask questions during critiques designed to trip each other up…our classmates, on the other hand, asked questions to help the presenter remember what she wanted to say, but in her state of sleep-deprived delirium, had forgotten.  We were competitive, but in a way that raised the bar for everyone, and made you proud to be part of the group.  We had studiomates that helped each other put together the last-minute touches of a presentation board, or lent a hand to glue together a model that had fallen apart right before the crit.  We celebrated holidays together with massive pot-lucks.  Even before graduation, we started the circuit of weddings, and then shortly after, babies – all of which made great excuses for reunions.

Fast forward 14 years, and we still keep in touch.  I just got back from a weekend in Arizona where we got 9 out of the 17 together for another little studio reunion of sorts.  It started out as a chance to introduce my 4-month-old son to the group, but was really just a long overdue opportunity to get everyone together and catch up, husbands and children included.  And in typical form, our get togethers are marked by a real show of support for whatever challenges life might be throwing our way – whether it be an ailing parent, a sick kid, or a marriage in trouble – all without judgement.

It was so comforting to be around this group.  I’m one of the last to join the “motherhood” club of our circle, and it was wonderful to feel the support of a bunch of moms whom I trust to be real with me about the challenges of raising a child.  So when I admitted that my son wasn’t sleeping through the night, or anything close to it, I got a lot of reassuring nods from friends who had been there and were willing to admit that their kids sometimes still didn’t sleep through the night.  And when I had to interrupt a conversation with one friend to tend to my crying infant who was outside with Dad, she called after me, “good sentence!” like “good talk!”, and with a shared smile, we both knew that she meant it, and she understood what I had to do, and that we’d eventually pick up where we left off.  Just like we always do.

People talk about friends being the family you choose, but in this case, we didn’t really choose.  It’s like life chose for us.  And for us, the word “Studio” has come to mean something very close to “family.”

Or, the ten best…in Italian.  Here’s our top ten list from our Italian honeymoon.

10.  Our Itinerary:  Milan – Venice – Florence – Tuscan Countryside – Rome – Amalfi Coast.  I received some great recommendations from my cousin’s wife when I asked for her “ultimate itinerary” if she were to have 3 weeks in Italy.  She did not disappoint.  In most cities, it felt like the right length of time; and in Tuscany and Amalfi, we wished for even more.

Venice

A Typical Venetian Scene

9.  Old stuff.  Duomos, cobblestones, the Colosseum, ruins.  What better way to reminisce about all my art and architectural history classes than to see these places and pieces of art in person.

Ruins

Really old stuff, Rome

8.  Traveling by train.  What a way to go.  No security lines.  Watching the countryside fly by.  I wish the US had a train system like Europe (and that SF had a metro system like Milan!).

Stazione Milano Centrale

7.  Cappuccino.  Every morning.  And I don’t even drink coffee.  With only one exception, everywhere we stayed included breakfast, and I just could not resist saying, “Un cappuccino, per favore,” when the nice waiters came by.

Breakfast at Villa Podernovo, Tuscany

6.  Meeting up with familiar faces.  Our friend Nicco took us on a walking-eating-drinking tour around Florence, his home town, complete with childhood stories, and Chris’ cousin Melissa and her Italian boyfriend, Vincenzo, took us out for an amazing dinner in Rome – we didn’t have to order a thing.

familiar faces in far away places

5.  The wine.  Whether it was a Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany or the glass of Prosecco every night before dinner at our hotel on the Amalfi Coast, we were never disappointed.

Vino in Firenze

4.  The food.  I think we ate our weight in prosciutto and salami, more than our fair share of pizza, some amazing Risotto Milanese and a couple kickass sandwiches from the Mercato in Florence, but…we had some standout memorable meals – particularly our dinners at Trattoria Quattro Leoni and Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco in Florence, and our honeymoon finale at Le Sirenuse in Positano.  Huge thanks to our friends for the recommendations!

Happy Hour at Enoteca Gola e Cantina, Florence

3.  Gelato!  Favorite flavors were definitely pistachio for him and hazelnut for me, but we never met a flavor we didn’t like.  It became our daily ritual.  Walk around until we’re hot, get gelato, repeat.

Our very first gelato in Italy; would not be our last

2.  Villa Podernovo in Monticiano, Tuscany.  It was a beautiful villa (found via Agriturismo.it) in a teeny tiny village, but a perfect home base for exploring the nearby hill towns of Siena and San Gimignano.

Villa Podernovo

Villa Podernovo, aka heaven – our apartment was upstairs in this building

1.  The Amalfi Coast, by scooter… When the road is really only about one-lane wide, you definitely want the smallest, most agile vehicle.  We were so glad we rented a scooter for three of our days on the Amalfi coast.  Zipping to Positano or Amalfi for dinner, from our centrally located hotel in Praiano, was not only convenient, but so much fun!

Sunset from Praiano, looking towards Positano

La dolce far niente – “the sweetness of doing nothing” – really the best thing we learned in Italy, and what we hope to maintain, at least a little bit, in our lives back home.

It has been waaay too long since I’ve posted anything here.  Wedding.  Getting back to work.  Holidays.  You know the drill.  And then it started to get intimidating – what do I have to write about?  Well, I finally logged back into my account and stumbled across a draft I had written several months back.  It’s about some lessons learned in the midst of the wedding-planning process.  I figured I’d go ahead a share it, and I can follow up with the post-event lessons learned.  Call it an inspirational cop-out, but it’s something.  ; )

~~~

Sample from a Brides.com To Do List

17 days.  It’s so hard to believe.  When we started this whole engagement thing, we were at 447.  When I think about the “day of,”  I get really excited, even a bit teary-eyed, but when I think about all that’s left to do, I get more than a little anxious.  And I’ve been tested a bit lately.  Would you believe me if I told you that I filed two police reports in the last week and a half?  I know!  Seriously.  The first was for a stolen wallet, whose contents included my driver’s license, every credit card I own, my checks, zero cash (thank God), and several gift cards for stores where we’re registered.  Oh yeah, and our Costco card – and we still haven’t bought our wedding beer yet.  (Wedding beer?  That sounds so much sillier than I meant.)  The second police report was filed just today.  I was leaving for an 8 o’clock meeting this morning (who schedules these?!) when I realized that my front license plate and driver’s side mirror had been stolen.  The very same mirror that had been replaced back in 2001 when it was “watermeloned,” but that’s another story…  Anyway, just when I thought my plate was full, I’m finding a few more things added to it.  It’s causing me to reflect on wedding planning items that I wish I had done differently or that I’m glad I did the way I did…  I’m sure I’ll have a completely different list once the wedding day has come and gone, but here’s where things stand now, just two weeks away from the big day.

So here are a few lessons learned:

1)  I wish I had discovered Pinterest when I started this process.  It’s been so wonderful for keeping track of online inspiration, especially from the blogs that I frequent – namely, stylemepretty, snippetandink, greylikesweddings, and 100layercake.  It’s also much more convenient for sharing with the groom, bridal party, and vendors – as in “Here’s what I’m thinking…”

2) Remember that your groom may not have the same vision that you do.  Ask him what he envisions for your wedding.  Also, set some expectations early.  How much does he want to be involved?  Does he want to give input on everything?  Does he want to see options and then help choose?  Does he really just want to know when and where to show up?  And from my own experience as well as informal surveys of friends…fighting more during wedding planning is totally normal.

3) Delegate.  This one is very hard for me.  There are often people who sense that you may be overwhelmed and want to help.  Take them up on it.  Decide which tasks you are willing to have slightly less control over and gratefully accept the assistance.

4)  Don’t freak out when the “Yes” responses start coming in.  The “Accepts” come before the “Declines.”  I was worried that we weren’t going to be able to accommodate everyone at our venue, but we ended up with approximately 75% of the guests accepting.  (Post wedding note:  In the week before the wedding, another 5% had to decline because of sick kids, travel issues, etc.  The number ended up right where we expected.)

5)  Find a way to “let go.”  You can only do so much.  Prioritize what is really important to you and your fiancé and be willing to let the little things go.

6) Be gracious.  With your higher-than-normal stress level, it’s easy to forget that most people are really trying to help, and that cashier at the store or the person who cut you off on the road has no idea what you’re going through.  Take a deep breath, relax, smile, and say thank you.  Trust me, you’ll feel better saying thank you than if you explode at random strangers.

How about you?  Any suggestions for stressed brides out there?

According to a particular wedding website that I frequent, my countdown stands at exactly seventy-one days.  I was told by a friend that the double digits would be daunting.  Needless to say, I’m in the thick of it.  There’s still so much to do, and I’m starting to worry that there aren’t enough weekends left… But…I’ve discovered the latest-best-thing.  In an era of text messages, evites, and facebook updates, the stuff that comes through the mail slot is typically reduced to bills, catalogs, and pizza coupons.  With one very brief, but very wonderful, exception.  Reply cards.  Now I can’t wait to get home and open the front door, to see if any of these little guys have arrived back at my doorstep.  Thanks for the smiles, friends and family!  You’ve made my day!

reply card envelope

It’s been waaay too long since I’ve posted anything.  Sorry ’bout that.  Blame it on lots to do at work and being up to my eyeballs in the double-digit-wedding-day-countdown.  (Thank goodness for all the websites telling me how many days I have left..as if I’d forget?!)  But enough about that.  That actually isn’t what this post is all about.  It’s about design.  And why we do what we do.  And about finding ways to remind ourselves of that.

I attended this year’s “Pioneers in Design” event a few weeks ago – one of the big four hosted annually by the Northern California Chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA).  The event is about honoring someone (or some group) that is considered to be leading the way and doing something unique as it relates to the world of design.  This year’s honoree was Clive Wilkinson, and the event included a short film about his work, followed by a Q&A session with IIDA Executive VP and CEO, Cheryl Durst.  Cheryl is always entertaining, and this time was no exception, but what I liked best was walking away with a feeling of perspective.  These events tend to rejuvenate my design spirit, and it’s what I like most about them – they force me to back up and take in the bigger picture and remember all the things that are so wonderful about design, what it can do, and how it touches everything in our lives.

Official poster from event

It’s far too easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day routine – putting out fires at work, getting frustrated with the mundane little taks.  At times like these, it’s even more important to reignite that little spark – the one that fuels the fire for choosing this profession over countless others, including all of those less time-consuming and more lucrative.  I know I need the occasional reminder.  Here are just a few tidbits I took away from Clive’s talk that turned me back in a positive direction…

1)  There are no great projects without great clients.

2)  We are extremely fortunate to be trusted to affect the spaces that people use every day.

3)  That urban design and interior design are both about how people relate to and use places; in that respect architecture is the odd man out, since it tends to be more about creating containers for space and is more static.  (I really liked his describing interiors in that way, as it’s so often marginalized by architecture.  It further supports why I switched from architecture to interiors in college – I wanted to influence the parts of space that have a more immediate and intimate impact on people’s experience.)

4)  Don’t offer “options.”  Rather than creating several shallowly developed options for clients to choose from, engage them more deeply (challenge them to be more involved) to create a solution that can evolve into something much more meaningful.  (Apparently Clive doesn’t do “options” and this is why he was fired from Gehry’s office.)

5)  “Turning the mundane into the extraordinary” – Clive was referencing a description of poetry, but using it to describe what we do…many of the tasks for which we design may very well be mundane, but hopefully we can add something to that experience to make someone’s work more effective or more enjoyable.  (We may have clients who talk about wanting to make the workspace more fun, but rarely is it beyond the assorted ping pong tables and bean bag chairs.  We should be looking for ways to enable the enjoyment of the work that actually needs to get done – not the playtime in between.)

And I’ll wrap up with a funny quote Clive shared when asked about his recent fatherhood, that he attributed to an unknown source (the quote, that is, not the baby):  “Adults may make babies, but babies really make adults.”  Cute.

So…what re-inspires you?  What gives you some much-needed perspective?

I have a new obsession.  It’s the biggest computer time suck since Tetris in the early 90s (for me, at least).  And I love it.  It’s called Pinterest.  Slap me if you’ve heard all this before, but it’s fairly new to me.  It is genius.  I’m sure I’m not the only one with a folder full of of inspiration images on my computer (and several binders-full, torn from magazines, on my bookshelves), but this great little website allows you to “pin” your favorite images from around the interwebs, with links to the original location (great for tracking things down later), and you can share them with friends who “follow” you.  You can also sort them into “boards,” which is great for categories like food, clothes, design, etc.  I really wish I had discovered this at the beginning of my wedding planning, instead of near the end, but hindsight…oh well.

Crack – well that’s one way to describe it.  I’d rather think of it as a place for all the pretty things.

Happy Friday!

Spring arrived a couple weeks ago, and then winter came back for a visit.  The wind is blowing like crazy, and the forecasters are calling for hail!  In this in-between-seasons time, it’s hard to decide what to cook.  Last week, I stumbled across this recipe for Fennel and Zucchini Soup on Epicurious.com, and it’s just the right thing – springy ingredients as comfort food.  Yum.  Not to mention, it’s super quick and easy with only a few ingredients.  Double yum.

Zucchini and Fennel Soup

I’ve now made this twice in two weeks.  What can I say?  I like having hot lunches at work, and this is so simple.  The second time, I added a diced yukon gold potato to the mix, and it added a nice creaminess to the texture without the fat of real cream.

Tomatoes for Garnish

Here’s another important thing to note, and I speak from experience…

Let the soup cool a bit before pureeing in the blender, and do it in very small batches, or you WILL be cleaning soup off every surface in your kitchen within a several foot radius.

Zucchini and Fennel Soup - ready to eat!

Happy Spring!

As predicted, the wine club theme was just a jumping off point, and while everyone asked about the theme when they arrived, we all quickly settled into eating, catching up, and deciding which wines were our favorites.  I had four to compare – a burgundy from France with a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, and a French Bordeaux blend with a Napa Valley Cabernet (see the end of the post for details on the wines*).  I think the California wines won out, but there were a few girls pulling for the French terroir. There were also a few favorites among the recipes.

Here’s the menu –

~ miso-glazed bacon wrapped asparagus (From Tyler Florence’s book, Family Meal, which I picked up for 20% off at our local Borders store that’s closing) – everything’s better with bacon, right?

~ sauteed Brussels sprouts with carmelized shallots, pecans and lemon zest (my own recipe)

~ “pigs in a blanket” – mild italian, spicy italian, and spinach & feta sausage with tarragon mustard (Also from Tyler’s book.  We’re on a first-name basis now, you see.)

~ macaroni and cheese with swiss chard (From Bon Appetit) – this one ended up being much better the next day, and the next…

~ jamaican banana bread – an old favorite that is, surprisingly, a Cooking Light recipe.  Not so surprisingly, I prefer to make it with real butter instead of margarine, real rum instead of extract, and about twice the amount of topping.

~ bittersweet chocolate pecan tart with bourbon whipped cream – from thekitchn.com.  I made it with pecans and Sharffenberger Semisweet Chocolate (62%).

The definite winners were the Brussels Sprouts, the Banana Bread and the Chocolate Pecan Tart.  The other big winner wasn’t edible or drinkable, it was our new sweatshirt!  Our “Director of Apparel” (we’re trying to come up with titles for everyone) came through with our new hoodies.  I must say, they’re so soft and comfy, I’ve already worn it several times.  Thanks R!  And thanks to all the girls/ladies for being what really makes wine club so great.

*  Here’s the list of wines:

1)  2008 Domaine Chicotot Bourgogne Rouge, $16.99

2)  Cazar 2009 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $18.99

3)  2008 Reignac, Bordeaux Supérieur, $18.99

4)  Textbook 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon “Fin de Journee”, Napa Valley, $18.99

I bought all of them from K&L Wine Merchants here in San Francisco.  The gentleman there was SO helpful and very knowledgeable  – he could rattle off the details of just about everything in the store!  I explained what I was trying to do with my theme, and he had my wines selected within minutes – all while the power was out!

I have this great little circle of friends.  It’s one of a few circles, as I’m sure we all have.  The one I’m talking about tonight is one I call “wine club,” aka, SIP.  (Fear not Studio, I’m sure I’ll write about you someday.)

A few years ago, my friend M decided to start a monthly get together of women – like book club, only without the books. There are twelve of us, and each of us only hosts once a year.  So for eleven other Thursday nights, we just have to show up, no pressure, and enjoy some good wine, great food, and even better company.  It’s really evolved into such a wonderful event that I look forward to every month, with an extremely supportive group of smart and funny women.  The conversations always vary widely, and I never feel “stuck” talking to any one person, because there’s no one with whom I feel “stuck.”  It’s comforting.

There are only a few rules to help keep things running smoothly – like sending out invites two weeks in advance, and rsvp-ing at least a week before – common courtesy type things, but when it comes to the theme and what to serve, it’s wide open, as long as you can somehow relate it to wine.  We’ve had organic wines, specific varietals, specific regions or AVAs, sake, bubbly, France vs. California, wines all from one winery, blind tastings, South American, Italian, Eastern European, “Pink,” …the list goes on and on.  We’re in our third year, so it has become increasingly difficult to think up a new theme.  In the end, it really doesn’t matter, as we all just talk about which ones we each like best.  And, as we’ve discovered, it’s not really about the wine anyway, but still…I guess the designer in me likes to have a concept around which to organize myself.  Last year, I chose wines purely based on labels I liked.  Judging books by their covers, if you will.

This month is my turn again.  I first considered a “party like it’s 1999” theme, where I’d buy wine all from the same year.  If I couldn’t find 1999 wines, then perhaps we’d be partying like it’s 2004, but then I read on wikipedia that the concept of good vs. bad vintages may be up for some debate.  I suppose I could try a blind tasting of a good year vs. a bad year, but oh well, maybe next year.  What I’m leaning towards now is more like “everything old is new again.”  I can compare a specific varietal from an “old world” style with the same grape or blend done in the “new world.”  The food can be new twists on old favorites.  It seems to fit well with the current atmosphere of reinvention – doing more with less…

My goal this year is to actually photograph some of the process and the festivities.  If all goes as planned, I’ll be back with a follow-up.  Cheers!

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