Life hack: Slippers!

2018-02-14 12.05.53As I’ve previously discussed, I am now embarking on a new lifestyle — the life of hygge, coziness, warm blankets on a cold night, hot chocolate with good friends, embracing winter.

At the same time, lately, I’ve been experiencing one of the absolute worst feelings winter has to offer: When you arrive at a friend’s house, politely take off your shoes because you are an upstanding citizen and your shoes couldn’t bear to part with the outdoor extravaganza, and then, to reward your good behavior, you step in a puddle anyway. In your socks. The only pair you brought. That you have to sit in all night long and reminisce about dry socks, oh those warm, cozy, dry socks that made your footsies do a literal happy dance. But not tonight. Tonight, you get wet socks and despair.

This has happened to me one too many times that I decided to take a stand against puddly socks. The solution: Bringing my own slippers to other people’s houses.

It’s one of those genius ideas that actually makes me feel a little bit stupid because it’s taken me 31 years to figure this out.

But ah, the cozy heaven I’ve walked into now! I arrive at the house and pull out my favorite pair of comfy cozy slippers (that, I’m proud to say, I bought for $3 at Marshall’s — best $3 ever?). They are small enough that they actually fit in my purse so I didn’t have to awkwardly shlep a separate slipper bag. I have them ready to go so when I take off my snowy, yucky boots I can immediately slip on the slippers and enjoy a happy remainder of the evening.

Actually, I’m inspiring myself. Ideas are happening as we speak! I am going to purchase a few pairs of slippers (in different sizes? your ideas are welcome) so that my guests can have the same experience when they come over to my house. And my white carpets can stay white … ish. (Special shoutout to my friend Virginia, who already does this in her home.)

Wishing everyone many nights — and mornings and days, too, if possible! — of cozy, warm feet.

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Let it go — a parental parody

Frozen_Queen_Elsa_WallpaperI hope you’ll enjoy my parody of Frozen’s “Let It Go,” about a parenting issue close to my heart — and my head.

 

“Let It Go”: A Parental Parody
Sung to the tune of Frozen’s “Let It Go”
Lyrics by Lia Goldfarb

The toys spread wide on our living room floor
Not a clear space to be seen
A household of desolation
And as mother, I’m the queen
The toys are piling all around us, far and wide
Cannot keep it clean
Heaven knows I’ve tried

This little child has so much stuff
She’s a good girl but when is it enough?
Despite it all, though it’s not fair
She grabs my hair

Let it go, let it go
Stop grabbing my every strand
Let it go, let it go
It’s time I take a stand

You’ve got books, balls, and teddy bears
So please tell me why
You only like my hairs.

They tell you when you’re pregnant
Your hair grows long and thick
But when you have your baby
It falls out nice and quick
It’s frustrating, makes me feel blue
She tests the limits of my ‘do
Can’t leave hair down, just in a bun
She won ….

Let it go, let it go
Oww, stop, please, why oh why
Let it go, let it go
Babe, you’re gonna make me cry
You’ve got rings, dolls, and rocking chairs
So please tell me why …

The bathtub drains are clogged with all my luscious locks
This makes me want to pack my vacuum back into its box
And one thought fills my head with overwhelming pain
I’m never going back, to my once-perfect mane

Let it go, let it go
Babe, you’re small but you’ve got strength
Let it go, let it go
My hair longs for its old length
But I’m glad I’m with you all day
And though I like to whine
I sure do love you anyway.

A Stanley’s birthday party

fruits-and-vegetables1A friend of mine mentioned that he recently attended a birthday party at Stanley’s. While he actually meant a restaurant called Stanley’s, my mind immediately jumped to Stanley’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, a well-loved Chicago institution for inexpensive fruit and vegetables.

In the few seconds of my mind jumping before my friend’s clarification, I had a funny vision. A birthday party at Stanley’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables? What a great idea!

As 20- and 30-somethings, we still want to acknowledge our birthdays, but the parties of our youth with a magician or at a pottery painting studio or playing laser tag followed by birthday cake might not be what we’re into these days. But a party at a grocery store? How very adult!

I envision the following activities at this healthful foods-themed party:

  • Taste tests of uncommon fruits — the ones so weird that I don’t even know what they’re called (I know there’s an “ugly fruit” but is there also a “stinky fruit” and a “prickly fruit”?)
  • Orange juggling lessons and contests
  • Blind taste tests — you have one lick to identify which long green vegetable you are given
  • Knife skills lessons (taught by an employee named Julienne, of course)
  • “Supermarket Sweep”: Chicago edition
  • Everyone is given a fruit or vegetable at random and then has to describe how that food relates to his or her personality

Okay, okay. Most of us will probably celebrate our birthdays at a normal place like a restaurant. But hey, the idea is out there, for my fruit fanatic friends …

A blog post dripping with shower stall complaints

2a43eb8609207c84949d0dfacf13dd3aFor most of my lifetime, one issue in particular has always left me utterly baffled. What is the appeal of shower stalls in homes?

In a gym locker room, a shower stall makes complete sense. I understand it at summer camp. Seems legit at a European hostel.

But in homes when there is often a separate bathtub, it twists my brain trying to figure these out. To me, the ideal situation is a bathtub with a showerhead over it. You can choose to take a relaxing bath or a quick shower, or even a quick bath or a relaxing shower, but either way you have plenty of space to do it. In these little shower stalls barely (no pun intended) bigger than me, there’s no room to stretch, shave your legs, or even wash your body while letting conditioner sink in. While using these stalls, I feel tight and confined.

In the most modern homes and hotel rooms, this seems to be the trend. And better yet, the doors are glass. Maybe I’m one of a few people who still travels with friends, but with these glass doors, now the entire bathroom is off-limits to a tooth-brushing or hair-drying friend, whereas an opaque curtain would allow for more efficient use of bathroom time.

And another thing! The nozzle and temperature control for these showers are always positioned in the exact place where in order for you to turn on the water and let it heat up, you will inevitably be blasted in the face with freezing cold water while simultaneously flooding up the bathroom with water sneaking out of the shower door. Who invented these?

If it was a space issue, okay, I get it. I’ve been in European bathrooms where there is no stall at all, just a showerhead dangling from the ceiling over a floor drain tightly nestled between the toilet and the sink. But many of these bathrooms also have separate bathtubs that would make spa patrons jealous. I sincerely wonder how often these bathtubs really get used — who has time for relaxation today when people are SAYING things on the INTERNET?!?! — compared to the many cumulative hours spent in a cramped shower.

I really do want to understand this, so please help me out by leaving a comment on my Facebook post about this blog entry.

Until I can figure it out, I guess I’ll just keep contemplating this and life’s other perplexities in my normal-sized, perfect shower.

Hygge: Embracing coziness to make it through the winter

Picture this: It’s snowing outside, but you’re in your living room, surrounded by close friends all snuggling under knit blankets. Everyone is wearing oversized sweaters and fuzzy slippers, and the aroma of chicken stew fills the room. The TV is on and you’re re-watching “Back to the Future” for the hundredth time. And of course, there are candles flickering, turning what could have been a cold and unpleasant night outdoors into a cozy, comfy wonderland.

I bet you just let out an audible sigh there.

We all know this feeling. But did you know it actually has a name? It’s “hygge” and it’s my new obsession.

I don’t know where I first came across this term. It’s possible that my Amazon account knows me so well that after I finished reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” it knew that I needed a little something more. A concept for, when after everything in my home sparked joy, there was something to fill the space with warmth. So I read “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking and became hooked.

A Danish word pronounced “hoo-ga,” “hue-ga,” or “huh-ga” (I’ve heard and seen it all of those ways — can someone settle this for me?), it’s supposedly one of the reasons people in Scandinavia are always among the happiest in the world despite their cold weather and lack of sunlight. People there seek hygge all year long, and because everyone knows and lives this concept, it’s part of their culture, their way of life.

Living in Chicago — or really probably anywhere — I want to embody this concept to make it through our dreary winters. Instead of dreading the cold, I will aim to look for the coziness and even create it myself. As my first steps, I bought some candles and fuzzy slippers to make a normal weekday evening just a little more magical.

Last weekend, Adam and I went to Minnesota to visit his family. I was so excited to check out a special coffee shop that embodies this concept — Hygga Lowertown in St. Paul. Filled with comfortable couches and blankets, candles and dim lights, coffee and pastries, and even a screen displaying a fireplace channel, this coffee shop does a great job bringing hygge (they spell it “hygga”) to our side of the ocean.

2017-11-24 16.56.58

Hats, mittens, chilly temperatures, and seeing our breath will be here before we know it. Other than moving to the Caribbean, we have little choice but to live through it. But embracing hygge in our lives might just be the way we can all make it to May without losing our sanity. It just takes soft blankets, candles, good food, and good friends. Won’t you join me?

What’s in your podcast player?

2017-11-15 10.02.59In high school, my beloved newspaper, West Word, had a section where students shared what they were listening to. The section used to be called “What’s in Your Walkman?” and was then later renamed “What’s in Your Discman?” before becoming “What’s in Your iPod?”

I don’t think this section exists anymore — neither does the newspaper, sadly — but if it did, I’m sure eager young reporters would ask students what songs are in their iPhones. But in addition to songs, I’d imagine many would want to share what podcasts they’re listening to as well.

Since I’m sure you’ve been dying to know what podcasts this blogger is listening to, I’ll give you a little taste here.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin: This may be my favorite podcast. Gretchen Rubin is known for “The Happiness Project” and uses her research on happiness and human nature to come up with ways to make us live happier lives. She and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, discuss happiness hacks and tips you can try in your life. Finding an oasis, creating a spot of transition, and scheduling a “power hour” are among their many tips to make life a little more fun.

Note to Self: This is Manoush Zomorodi’s “tech show about being human.” I loved her book “Bored and Brilliant,” which she also discusses extensively on the podcast, about disconnecting from phones and technology to allow space for boredom and creativity. She discusses relationships and dating, parenting, work, and more from the perspective of our new technology that may or may not be making our lives better.

36 Questions: It’s a musical! It’s a podcast! It’s got Jonathan Groff! This musical, based on the study about the 36 questions that can make two strangers fall in love, walks us through the ups and downs of a couple figuring out their relationship. Without visual scenery and costumes, this musical does a great job of taking advantage of the podcast medium, using great sound effects and the amazing voices of Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton.

One Bad Mother: I’m several years behind on this one (to be fair, I’m new to the motherhood game), but it’s a great show that jokes about all things parenting. Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn poke fun at topics like pregnancy, mommy wars, body image, birthday parties, and mom friends. It’s like gossiping with my girlfriends — but don’t tell the babies we’re talking about them!

The Longest Shortest Time: This is another show about parenting, but the complete opposite of One Bad Mother. It’s a sympathetic, understanding show in which host Hillary Frank explores struggles of all kinds in early parenthood — breastfeeding, labor, adoption, and all sorts of hopes and dreams that parents share. The stories are interesting and the show helps me look at my own experience under a new light.

Precious Little Sleep: For those of us parents too tired to read the sleep books, this podcast is a good summary of what to do and what not to do to help your little human get as much good sleep as possible, learning from host Alexis Dubief.

Other honorable mentions: Pregnancy Confidential (each week of pregnancy comes with an informative episode), Radical Candor (tips on being and working with bosses at work), A Slob Comes Clean (organizing and decluttering!), and Taking Note (keeping organized and staying creative, with the help of Evernote).

Let me know what podcasts you’re enjoying. As of now, I’m about 200 episodes behind in One Bad Mother and about 100 episodes behind in The Longest Shortest Time, so I best be getting to work!

Chicago parking garages: Gain some confidence in your themes!

A few weeks ago, Adam and I parked in a downtown parking garage (thanks, SpotHero!) near our friends’ wedding venue. The parking experience was easy, convenient, and affordable, and a nearly perfect experience. The missing piece? The parking garage didn’t have enough confidence in itself.

Parking garages seem to be self-aware enough to know that it’s hard to remember what level you parked on. We all have a lot to keep track of, and remembering if we’re in 2 East or Level 5 might leave us wandering all night looking for our car (hmm, that would make a good “Seinfeld” episode). The parking garages have come up with two solutions: 1) A QR code that you can scan into your phone and then will help you reunite with your car (this is very cool, but not the topic of my rant today), and 2) Naming the floors after more memorable things.

Calder_FlamingoThe day of the wedding, we parked on the floor called Calder’s Flamingo. Each floor was named for a different piece of Chicago art — or maybe just sculptures? — I can’t remember because I only paid attention to our car level’s artwork. But the only reference to this piece of art was in the elevator, so it was quite a subtle reference.

I bet you know where I’m going with this. If I were designing this parking garage structure …

You’d drive onto our floor and everything would be red, like Calder’s Flamingo. There would be photos, paintings, drawings, and mosaics from local artists depicting the sculpture. There would be signs with fun facts about the sculpture and the artist. “Did you know that Calder’s Flamingo weighs 50 tons and is called a ‘stabile’ (as opposed to Calder’s famous ‘mobiles’) because it is completely stationary?” “Did you know that Alexander Calder was commissioned in 1972 to paint a full-size airplane?”

And of course there would be an actual miniature replica of the Flamingo, near the elevator. During non-peak parking garage hours, art students would be stationed near the replica to answer questions about the sculpture, Calder, and Chicago art and architecture.

I bet you’d never forget your parking spot again, and you’d have learned something great.

Same goes for the parking garage I’ve used next to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where each floor is named for a singer. It’s nice to park on the Frank Sinatra floor and hear his music playing in the garage, but who really was he? What were his major contributions to our culture? Are there no local Frank Sinatra impersonators who could spend time on that floor giving mini-concerts to parkers?

And the Evanston Hospital parking garage does a great job playing the theme song to Big Ten schools on each floor (if I get there at the right time, I can get a spot on the first floor, the coveted Northwestern University floor! GO ‘CATS!); but how hard would it be to have each school’s marching band make periodic appearances, and have admissions officers on-hand to answer prospective students’ questions?

Parking garages — you’re so close to being so great, just amp up your confidence level and really own your themes.

With love, a Chicago driver

Candlestick holder designers: You had one job!

2017-08-29 19.31.05

It has taken us many, many years, but Adam and I have finally made an important purchase: Our Shabbat candlestick holders.

We got them while on a trip to Minneapolis this past weekend, in a little boutique shop. We loved their uniqueness and look forward to the sparkle they will add to our Shabbat table.

They are absolutely perfect — except for one thing. We bought them with full knowledge of this, but we were surprised by the candlestick holders’ warning label: “Caution: Do not allow the candle to burn within one inch (25.4 mm) of the candle holder otherwise this may result in damage to the candle holder.”

I know this is not unique to these candlesticks holders — many have that same warning. But why oh why do candlestick holder makers make products that do not successfully perform their one task? As the internet likes to say, you had ONE job.

I understand when pajamas say that they are not fire resistant; they are designed to be sleepwear for babies who sleep in cribs and do not double as firefighters. But candlestick holders have no other purpose. There’s no other reason you buy them. They are made for you to put candles inside of them and let them flicker and sizzle and burn. Is there some kind of dark magic that engineers haven’t yet been able to crack that would allow for candlestick holders to do this one thing?

And yes, I know about those little inserts that go inside of the holders to be our little Shabbat heroes, and I will be collecting those for us to use. I just think that some inventor somewhere along the line overlooked one crucial functionality detail.

Well, anyway, end of rant, and I wish everyone a Shabbat filled with light and very little damage to your candlestick holders.

What does my jaw line even look like?

IMG_7999I am definitely enjoying parenthood more than I enjoyed being pregnant. While pregnant I had to deal with fun things like nausea, acne, food aversions, and gestational diabetes, and my body definitely was not my own.

Now, being a parent, my new little creature is on the outside of me! This is great because, well, I can keep my food down, but also because I am spared from the comments from friends, family, and strangers who loved to comment about my body size. “You look so small!” “You’re getting so big!” “You’re carrying low/high/big/small/an alien!”

Instead, people admire and compliment my obviously gorgeous, ready-to-be-a-Baby-Gap-model baby. “Serena is so beautiful!” “Look at that hair!” “Love her little toes.”

Once the initial once-over is completed, everyone wants to comment on who she looks like. Does she look like me? Maybe like Adam? Or a little bit of both?

And then … back to the weird stares at my face and body.

“Well, I think she definitely has your jaw line.” “I think she’s all Adam from the forehead up.” “Her nose sort of reminds me of her great-grandmother’s nose.”

Never in my life have I had so many people stare at me to determine the shape of my lower lip. In fact, in my 30 years of living I don’t think I’ve ever even paid attention to the shape of any of my facial features. I don’t even know what I look like!

I look forward to seeing you all in person, dear readers, and having you analyze mine and Serena’s nostrils.

 

Checking out other parents

2017-07-26 15.53.12When our new little family of three walks down the street in our neighborhood, we get lots of nice reactions from passersby. Children see us and say “baby!” and peek into the bassinet. Little old ladies say, “Oh, so lovely! What a blessing!” Even a group of skateboarding teenagers nicely moved away from the sidewalk so my stroller and I could pass by.

But the parents? They check us out in a different way.

“Oooh, that’s the Uppababy Cruz stroller, honey. We were thinking about getting that one.”

“Oh look, Mark, do you see the brand of carrier they’re using?”

“I didn’t know you could fit that carseat with that stroller and top it off with that toy on top of the toddler skateboard in the lime green version with the extra large wheels and the calming lavender scent that continuously plays ‘It’s a Small World.’ We should have gotten that one!”

It’s so fascinating, because we all clearly did a lot of research (or copied a trusted friend who did a lot of research) onto what gear to buy. Seeing it pass us by in person tends to be way more interesting to us parents than the actual living human inside of the devices.

Except for our little human. She’s obviously the most interesting.

 

UPDATE: I wrote this blog yesterday (Tuesday) and posted it Wednesday morning. Just a few hours after I posted it, I went to brunch with a friend, and an expectant mother awkwardly approached me at the table. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said, “but can you tell me if you are happy with your stroller and carseat combo? I was thinking about buying the same one.” I seriously cannot make this stuff up. Here’s to you, parents and parents-to-be who love to talk to strangers about baby gear!