05 March 2013

No TV...No Rest...for Me

So last week I decided to try an experiment with Carter. No tv and no iPad Monday-Thursday. It's not like his usage was out of control but he has the tendency to "forget" to go to the bathroom whenever he's watching "Team Umizoomi" or a "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" video for the five millionth time on YouTube. Well, I was so happy with the results that I decided to keep it going this week.

Update: it's only Tuesday and I'm exhausted. This whole no tv and iPad thing has the indirect effect of creating a lot more work for me. Now that Carter no longer has his tv friends to keep him company, I'm his new favorite playmate. I have read more kids books, played with more puzzles, and sang more nursery rhymes in two days than I care to repeat. Last night, after I put Carter to bed (at 7:30 pm mind you) I was so pooped, I was ready to climb into bed myself. In fact, I can barely keep my eyes open while I'm typing this. Man, being a parent is a lot of work. You'd think I would have accepted this by now but I keep getting reminded of the fact in new and different ways. And the scary part is I'm just getting started (laughing...no crying hysterically)!!!

How apropos that our pastor's sermon on Sunday mentioned how selfless mothers are with their children. His reference involved new moms getting up for night time feedings and how this is not because it's something we want to do, but rather, it's completely for the best interest of the child. Well, I'm going to borrow that sentiment for what I'm trying to do by reducing Carter's tv/iPad time. Clearly, doing so is not good for me (at least not in the short term) but I believe it's in his best interest to explore different activities and find some enjoyment outside of technology.

I'll let you know how we're doing in a few weeks. Pray for me...please.

29 January 2013

Apple Cinnamon Muffins-So Good I Had To Post

I made some apple cinnamon muffins this morning for a play date. They were so yummy and easy to make. Here's the recipe:

Muffin Batter

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil


1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold butter, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or line 12 muffin cups with baking cups.

2. For batter, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a large bowl. Once combined, add eggs, milk, and oil, and stir until a smooth batter forms. Fold in apples and stir lightly.

3. Spoon batter into muffin cups.

4. For the topping, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon in small bowl. Add slices of butter and then use a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers to mix ingredients together until crumbles are formed. Distribute crumbles evenly on top of muffins.

5. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when middle of muffin is pierced.

02 December 2012

The Cabo Journal

Here are the rest of my journal entries from our Cabo trip this year.

Nov 4, 2012

We woke up bright and early this Sunday morning still not adjusted to the new time zone. We had our coffee and sweet bread and enjoyed the sunrise from the balcony. The day before we scheduled a timeshare presentation for this morning in exchange for a car rental credit, a dinner cruise, and free breakfast. We were told the presentation would be 90 minutes. In the end, it was more like 5 hours from the time we got in the car to head to San Jose del Cabo (about a 25 min drive) to the time we retrieved our car from the valet. We all felt like we had been beat up and remembered why we don’t sit through these presentations. Our salesperson, Debbie, was great and gave us a fairly good expectation of how long everything would take. When we got down to the end and said “no thank you,” she went and got her manager, Alex. Alex, of course, came over to give us his “best offer.” When Jimmy continued to explain why we were not interested, Alex very abruptly said, “Well, this is by best offer. If it works for you great. If it doesn’t fine.” And then he turned to Debbie and said “tell them this is my final offer,” got up and walked away. This is when Jimmy started to morph into his alter ego: Mr. I WISH A MF WOULD DISRESPECT ME! As soon as Alex disrespected us all, any chance of them making a sell went out the window. Instead of recognizing this and letting us go, in walks a second manager to again give us their best offer. When Jimmy gave him the “I would not buy anything even if it were free” speech because Alex disrespected us, this man still continued to talk. This enraged Jimmy, and all of us quite frankly, and we started to zone out. We were finally sent to what was supposed to be our final stage where we were given a survey. Can you believe they were still trying to sell us a vacation program. At this point, I had to get up and wait outside because I couldn’t listen to anymore sales pitches.  What’s crazy is that the original price they gave us was approximately $125,000 and by the time we made it to the 5th person, it was $3000. True, it wasn’t for exactly the same product but that price swing is insane and leads me to believe that some folks are being ripped off and are actually agreeing to a $100,000 plus price. Crazy!

When we finally got out of there, we all felt like we had just done battle. We were exhausted, hungry, and desperately in need of an alcoholic beverage. We had already missed the Colts/Dolphins game and were on the hunt for a sports bar where we could enjoy the rest of NFL Sunday. Thankfully, we found a cool rooftop bar in downtown San Jose del Cabo called Shooters where we enjoyed a good lunch and several cold beers and margaritas. We headed back to Cabo San Lucas after the day games, parked the car, and headed back out to catch the night game at a sports bar in walking distance to our condo. We stopped at a bar with only one person in it so we thought we would enjoy the game in peace. Little did we know, this one person, who we called Island Eddie, talked more than all of us combined. His eyes lit up when he saw us come in and he gravitated to us immediately. He was clearly intoxicated but thankfully he was a happy drunk and provided us with a lot of laughter and two rounds of shots.

We made it back the condo a couple hours later, climbed into bed and called it a wrap for day 2 in Cabo.

Nov 5, 2012

Antwain (Jimmy's cousin) had his mind set on playing golf and was even considering going on another timeshare tour to get a free round on a $300 per person course. After hearing no other takers, I reluctantly agreed to play with him but qualified that since I haven’t played or even swung a club in several years (5 or 6 to be exact), I would probably only be good for 9 holes. I convinced him we should just pay the money instead of subjecting ourselves to another timeshare nightmare. He made the reservation for 1pm and we were set. Because I hadn’t planned on golfing, we had to make a quick run to Walmart so I could get a collared shirt. I grabbed a purple one to match my sneakers (If I sucked, at least I would be cute) and we were good to go. $288 later we were tee’d up at Hole 1. I won’t take you through the play by play but let’s just say that I performed way better than I thought I would. I even got a couple of bogeys and double bogeys. Antwain was shooting for at least one of us to get a par but it didn’t happen. I think at some point both of us had a chance on a par 3 but our short game (namely the fact that neither of us have any accuracy with the pitching wedge which by the end of the game led me to using my putter if I was anywhere close to the green) killed us. I also felt more confident about my game when after the first 3 holes, Antwain had lost about 4 balls. Who knows where they went. I guess the dessert sands and bushes needed them more than he did. 

The course was beautiful and for a quick second almost renewed my enjoyment for the game. I felt like those lessons I took at the Lansing Country Club when I was 8 were finally paying off. Then we got to hole 15 and like clockwork my enthusiasm had passed. I don’t know what it is. Once I get to about the 3 hour mark of hitting and chasing after a ball in a golf cart, I’ve just had enough. I’m sure Antwain could tell when my interest got lost because that’s when I started the serious conversation...marriage, kids, life, etc.  He teased me for it later but I warned him I was only good for 9 holes. I was actually proud of myself for stretching it out for a few more. It was getting dark by the time we got to Hole 17 so we turned on our speed golf skills and decided to skip Hole 18.  On the car ride back to the condo we were hoping that our respective spouses had prepared us a delicious meal but were sadly disappointed when we walked in to a scentless kitchen. Shawntee informed us that Jimmy had just left to watch Monday Night Football and that she was waiting for us to get back with some food. So the three of us headed out to find Jimmy so we could eat. Once we finally found him, he was finishing up the last of his tacos and beer. “You didn’t wait for us” I proclaimed. He showed no remorse and suggested we get the 4 taco + 1 beer special for $7. Typical. We ate while watching the Saints demolish the Eagles and then walked back to the condo and called it a night.

Nov 6, 2012

Election Day! I couldn’t wait to get up this morning and turn on election coverage. I planned on staying glued to the tv. Unfortunately, the only news station we had in English was Fox News. Boo! But I guess it’s better than nothing. We kept it on mute for most of the day so we could read the headlines. When the polls started closing around the country we turned the volume back on and gathered on the couch to see the results unfold. The strange thing about Fox News' coverage initially was that they were very quick to call states for Romney and register his electoral votes on the screen but in the same scenario where Obama was clearly the winner of a state, they would not give him the check mark. Using this tactic, they skewed the results in Romney’s favor for as long as they could; until they couldn’t. Then, after they finally announced that Obama had won Ohio, Karl Rove, who was one of their commentators for the night went on a 20 minute rant of how he thought it was too soon to call Ohio and that he would err on the side of caution after what happened in the 2000 Election. Dude, give it a rest! When your co-commentators say it’s over it’s time to let it go. The fellas went to bed after the results were announced but Shawntee and I stayed up for the speeches. Although, I kept dozing off during Obama’s speech (due to exhaustion not disinterest) I went to sleep thinking happy thoughts. 4 more years!

Nov 7, 2012

We spent most of the day at the pool (and by we, I mean me because the blazing sun sent the others back inside within an hour). I love heat and sunshine! That’s what inspired me to apply to virtually every law school in Los Angeles. I knew the odds were in my favor and I would be accepted to at least one of them. I couldn’t take the dreary gray days of Michigan and 4 months with no sunshine. I don’t think depressed fully explains how that type of weather affected me. But I digress. So, while at the pool, we started talking to a couple of retired guys visiting from Canada. Turns out they were subjected to the same “5 hours in purgatory” timeshare presentation we were. We shared some laughs about how they wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and how they sent all the failed attempts out the back door to get on a sketchy van to pick up our prizes.

Later in the evening we claimed one of our timeshare prizes by going on a Sunset Fajita Cruise. At first we were skeptical because there were more people in line than the boat appeared to be able to hold, but it all worked out. We took some great photos of Lovers’ Beach and The Cove and it was neat seeing how developed the coastline was from a panoramic vantage point. After the servers dolled out the fajitas and bottomless drinks, we headed to the top of the boat where the dance party had begun. We did the Cuban Shuffle, The Percalator, The Wobble, and a couple other line dances I don’t know the name of. In the end, it was a lot of fun (which is usually the case when an open bar is involved). We de-boarded and headed back to the condo for more rounds of margaritas and Uno. I was sleep by 9:30pm. It must have been all the sun I soaked up.

Nov 8, 2012

Thursday came so fast. Including today, we only have 2 full days left. On Monday, it seemed like we’d been here for longer than 2 days but now it feels like we just got here. I can already tell today is going to be a chill day. Jimmy is nursing a hangover after drinking way too many margaritas last night and Antwain and Shawntee are sleeping in. Every morning so far, Jimmy, Antwain, and I have gone for a morning run. By the looks of things so far this morning, I think we’re taking the day off. I was planning on going to the beach today but I might just opt for the pool again. We’ll see where the day takes us.

12 November 2012

Cabo - Day 1

Nov 3, 2012

This was our third annual trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico so I decided to keep a journal of our travels. Jimmy and I invited his cousin Antwain and wife Shawntee this year for a week's stay in a condo near the marina.

We arrived safely to the Los Cabos, Mexico airport at about 11 am Saturday morning. We were in the new terminal which means we de-boarded onto a jet bridge instead of directly on tarmack like we have in previous years. We sped through customs and tried to avoid the throw-up of guys trying to sell or sign us up for something. It’s quite overwhelming if you’ve never experienced it. I imagine it’s like being on the New York Stock Exchange floor but everyone is yelling at you. “What hotel...you need a taxi...you need a shuttle...my friend what activities are you doing on your vacation...and on and on.” Thankfully, we’re pros at this now so we made it through unscathed. We were supposed to meet Jimmy’s cousin at the bar outside of the terminal. However, we didn’t count on them flying into the old terminal which was about 1/2 mile walk from where we were. Instead of making the jaunt, we decided to go pick up the rental car and then swing back over and pick them up. 

Tourism in Cabo must be picking up because Dollar was the most crowded I’ve ever seen it. Our tiny commuter bus was packed so we positioned Jimmy right at the door where he could jump out quickly and hopefully get a good spot in line. Despite this strategy, we still ended up being there 30-45 minutes before pulling out of the lot. While I was waiting, I ended up meeting the most interesting young woman. Her name was Lara. She was a 25 year old UN translator, born and raised in Lebanon but currently living in Detroit. She was in Cabo with her husband, a Finnish man, who also works for the UN in Defense Ministry but lives in Afghanastan. Most striking was the fact that this was the first time they were seeing each other since 2010 when they were married. Because he works in the “war” industry, he constantly moves to different war-torn countries. First he was in Egypt, then Syria, and now Afghanastan. 

“We fight all the time,” she said. “Does marriage get better,” she asked me. Since I haven’t been married much longer than she has, I didn’t have much to offer but I did suggest that living apart for their entire marriage could have some impact on how they relate to each other. She also admitted that she bickers with him over little things and with this I offered the question that my godfather Happy Howard often asks: “Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right?” She thought about this for a minute and then said, “I guess that makes sense but does that mean I can’t always say what’s on my mind?” Bingo! “That’s exactly what it means,” I said. “Sometimes you have to pick you battles and realize that keeping the peace is often better than saying how you feel and ending up in a fight.” I also asked her why she wasn’t living with her husband in Afghanastan and this launched us into a new conversation about Women and Islam. 

“In Kabul?” she said as she turned up her nose. “It’s so restrictive there for women.” Lara is a muslim woman but very progressive according to her. She shared her opinion that the restrictions placed on muslim women is more cultural than religious. Her rationale was that all religious sects have failed to explicitly give women rights but that women in history have had to demand their rights before any were realized.  “Muslim women are not demanding their rights and until they do this nothing will change.” We went on to have a very interesting discussion and I remembered why I love to travel internationally. You meet the most interesting people. Lara was very insightful for a 25 year old women. I was impressed. She speaks three languages, English, French, and Arabic, and had passion in her voice. Hers was a passion I feel is missing in my life. I yearn to be passionate about something that will give my life direction and purpose. Yes, being a mother has fulfilled me in ways I could have never imagined. However, I sense there is a greater purpose for me. I just have to discover it; or better stated, it has to discover me.

Hello Again...

I can't believe it's been since August that I've posted on my blog. Wow...time has flown by. I definitely intended to write a post when Jimmy and I spent Labor Day weekend in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with friends or when I watched U of M win its 300th football game in a nail biter agains MSU or countless other times when Carter did something that was just darn cute. While these posts were written in my head they didn't make their way to the information highway.

I have been doing a lot of self reflection over these last few months. Mostly with trying to figure out what I am going to do with the next chapter of my life. Should I ride out being at home with Carter and Jimmy until we make our way back to California, should I go back to work, or should I take this time to explore interests and volunteer opportunities that I most likely won't be able to do once we move back to California? So many thoughts spinning around in my head was driving me crazy. My brain needed an intervention. I decided to add meditation to my life. My father has been meditating nearly daily for many years so I sought his guidance. He encouraged me to start slowly, suggested some readings, and warned that it would be a challenge but to keep trying. Like most new experiences, I started out with conviction. I began waking up every morning at 6:30 am and began meditating for 5 minutes. Believe it or not, that was probably the most challenging 5 minutes of my day. It's crazy where your mind leads you when you're trying to clear all thoughts. I continued this routine for about a week and then 6:30 am became 7 am became 7:15 am became meditating in the evening instead of the morning became not meditating at all. At this point, I haven't meditated for about two weeks. Granted, I haven't been home for the last 4 weekends (or all of last week) but I hope to get to a point where location is not a deterrent to seeking the few moments of solace my brain (and spirit) really needs. Part of the challenge, I believe, is finding the right time and space for mediation. Morning has never been my strong suit. I used to consider myself a night owl but since having the little one (and being married if you ask Jimmy) I'm pretty useless after 10 pm. My brain wants to shut down and veg out in front of the tv. With that being said, meditation is a work in progress for me.

For the 2 weeks I meditated consistently, I did see a change in my actions. I completed my application to the Indiana State Bar (which I had been putting off for no good reason), I began searching for jobs, I sought out volunteer opportunities, and overall, I started feeling more secure about where I am in life. This feeling hit home yesterday while I was in church. The pastor did a sermon on Revelations 6 and 7 and discussed how "salvation belongs to God." What this meant to me was that I need to stop worrying about willing my life in a certain direction and trust that God is leading me in the right direction. Now, that doesn't mean that I'm going to sit on my couch and wait for God to send me a subliminal message in a promo for The Voice (shout out). I am going to continue to be "in action" and put myself in situations where my next step may be revealed. If I say I believe in God, then I should also consider that I am where I'm supposed to be right now. I am ok with that. My life is GREAT and if you hear me complain (about anything) please remind me of that fact.

18 August 2012

Pool Parties

We went to two pool parties today. The first was for my mommy group and the second was for a birthday party. I was able to time it perfectly so that we left the first party with one hour to spare before the next which allowed Carter to sleep nearly the entire hour in his carseat while I drove to the locale and stopped for gas. His nap was long enough to recharge him for the birthday party and ensure he wasn't in a cranky mood. Both went off without a hitch and we had a lot of fun. Needless to say we were both exhausted by the time we got home. I hurriedly gave Carter a bath, got him into bed, and then took liberty to have my own relaxing bath and am now watching a movie.

Here are some picks from today's fun.

16 August 2012

Another Fabulous Girls' Weekend

This past weekend I met up with my three roommates (April, Freddie, and Ebony) from my Sophomore year at the University of Michigan for our annual girls' trip. This year we found our way to New York City. City of Lights, City of Dreams...City of Too Much Trash on the Street, City of Raw Sewage Stench, and City of Too Much Exhaust from Taxi Cabs if you ask me. Nonetheless, I always enjoy myself when I'm there and this trip was no exception.

April and I experienced flight delays on Friday due to thunderstorms on the east coast but luckily we both arrived in time to avoid any major upset of our plans. Freddie was heading up from D.C. on the commuter bus and Ebony was already in Long Island and was going to meet up with us later, so April and I decided to grab dinner. We stayed at the Doubletree in Timesquare so we were centrally located to almost anywhere we wanted to go. After dinner, we rushed over to see the Broadway production of Porgy & Bess but to our disappointment the star of the show Audra McDonald was not performing. Bummer! The show was still pretty good; although I liked it a bit more than April who didn't care for the musical arrangements. When the show was over we walked a couple of blocks to meet up with Freddie, our friend Russell, and another college classmate Paul for drinks at Havana Central. Next, we headed downtown to a club called Crimson where a childhood friend of mine was hosting a party. Luckily he was at the door when we arrived so we didn't have to pay a cover. Thanks Elkhair! Despite the DJ being a little suspect on his mixing and musical selection skills we still had a good time and partied like it was 1999 (that year is actually relevant to us since we were in college at the time). April and I finally called it quits at 3:30 am but Freddie and Ebony continued to party until at least 4:30 am. We were sleep by the time they made it back to the hotel.

Needless to say, Saturday was a slow morning. My eyes didn't open until around 11am and that was only because April left the curtains open and I was blinded by the sun. When we finally pulled ourselves together it was 1 pm and we were headed out the door to grab some lunch. Now, the place we choose was in SoHo which was probably about a 10-15 min cab ride from our hotel. But nooo...me being the adventurous person I am suggested taking the subway instead. Why did this little excursion turn into an hour lost from our lives. We had to walk three blocks to the subway station and then took the train uptown instead of downtown so we had to get off, cross the platform, and head back downtown. When we finally got off the train 20 minutes later, we had to walk another 3-4 blocks to the restaurant. I promptly apologized to everyone and promised not to have anymore bright ideas during the trip. The food at the restaurant called Jane was delicious so all was forgiven.

After lunch we met up with a law school classmate of mine who led us through the retail streets of SoHo. Living in Los Angeles for 10 years I just have to say that SoHo puts Rodeo Drive to shame. Between the streets of 6th Ave and Broadway on the east/west and Houston and Broome on the north/south there has to be more retail stores than in any other singular locale. There was just about every store I've ever heard of and some that I have never heard of or rarely see. Higher end designers included Louis Vuitton, Ana Sui, Chanel, Hugo Boss, and Dior; mid-range stores included Banana Republic, J. Crew, Adidas, Puma, and Express; and lower range stores included H&M, American Apparel, Topshop, and Aldo Shoes. Some of the more uncommonly seen stores included countless private boutiques, a Beats by Dre (only one in the nation) and a Chobani Yogurt store where we were served chilled plain yogurt in glass bowls filled with toppings of our choosing. It was definitely retail overload. I was so overwhelmed that I wasn't even prepared to shop. I did buy Jimmy a couple of shirts from Hugo Boss but I was only successful at that because I already knew exactly what I was looking for. So that I'm better prepared next time I find myself there, I am going to start a SoHo shopping fund, save up several thousand dollars, map out my shopping course, and wreak havoc on the streets of New York. Who knows how long that will take but mark my words "I'll be back."

Our feet were tired after walking around so we took my friend up on his offer to visit the bar he works at in the East Village. The bar is called Please Don't Tell or PDT and won the first ever James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Bar Program. Upon entering the bar you can tell you're in for a cool experience. In order to get in you must first enter a hot dog shop called Crif Dogs and then enter a phone booth in the corner. Once you pick up the phone in the booth a secret door of sorts opens up and you are greeted by a host. Now, there are only 13 bar seats and 5 small table tops in the entire bar so in order to maintain a private feel once those seats are taken no one else is allowed in. As you can imagine, reservations are highly recommended. Walk-ins are accepted, however, you may find yourself waiting a while before getting in. Once in, you are greeted by very friendly (yes, there are friendly people in New York) and knowledgeable servers and bartenders. The menu contains various cocktails inspired by prohibition era spirits all of which are $15. It also contains a small food selection of hot dogs using ingredients from notable New York restaurants. We had a great experience there and would recommend a visit to anyone in the area. As an aside, it was kind of weird stepping back into the daylight after being in a dark speakeasy for an hour so make sure you have your sunglasses.

From there we quickly headed back to the hotel to freshen up and get dressed for the evening. We met up with yet another college classmate Daria at Tillman's, a lounge known for good music and a chill vibe. The DJ was late setting up so by the time we had a couple of drinks we were ready to check out another place. We taxi'ed it to Beauty and Essex, an upscale restaurant that converts into a lounge/club late night. Once there we met up with even more U of M classmates so this really was turning into a reunion of sorts. We partied even harder at this spot than we did the night before. The DJ was on point and the crowd was a lot of fun. Unfortunately for Freddie, she missed the fun because she was at the hotel in the bed. Apparently, she can only handle one night of partying at a time. The rest of us stayed out until about 5 am and then headed back to the hotel to crash. Freddie served as our wake up call later that morning since she woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed.

We managed to pull ourselves together enough to meet my uncle, his wife and daughter, as well as a friend I went to high school with at Melba's in Harlem. I was looking forward to a good soul food breakfast and had seen Melba on The View marketing her Fried Chicken and Egg Nog Waffles. I decided to get Salmon Croquettes and taste someone else's waffles. I was not blown away by the food. It was good but not great and the waffles she is known for tasted a little heavy to me. There were also reports from the table that the chicken was dry. My uncle said we must try Amy Ruth's next time we're in town because it's much better. Nevertheless, I had a great time catching up with family and my old (but still young) friend.

To close out the trip April and I had a farewell glass of wine at Blue Fin overlooking Timesquare.  All in all, we had a fabulous time and I can't wait to see where we're headed next year.

P.S. I think I over did it because not only was I sleep on the airplane before my flight took off but I woke up Monday morning feeling something kind of awful with a sore throat and nasty cough. This is exactly why I can only party like this a couple times a year.