Monday, December 20, 2010

Family life in the US

The United States has it all wrong when it comes to family.

The defaults are as follows:
- Work till you drop:  50-60 hour work-weeks are routine; also common is having only couple weeks vacation per year.
- Long commutes to and from work:  either long lines of traffic or many miles to reach place of work.
- Relative isolation from family:  the concept of extended family does not really exist here.  Many people move around to where the jobs are, not where their family lives.
- Complete disregard to the importance of motherhood:  there exists NO guaranteed paid maternity leave to care for newborn baby, let alone paternity leave.  I was shocked to see the list comparing US parental benefits with other countries in the world:
There are only 3 other countries in our same boat:  Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.  Great company.  It's just sad and wrong, and it makes me want to move to Sweden where new parents enjoy 16 months PAID time to be home with little junior!
- Lack of social support for child care, which is a basic necessity for working parents.
- Premium on material wealth.  Bigger home, shinier car, newer clothes, brand name logos promise to bring happiness and popularity, but deliver on neither.  They just drain bank accounts.

Where does this leave most Americans?  Struggling to make ends meet while fueling this gotta-have-the-next-big thing lifestyle.  Exhaustion.  Lack of emotional support.  Disconnection between parent and child due to the restricted amount of time they get to spend together during those crucial early years and beyond.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Best Cookbooks

How can you not love cookbooks?  They sing to you with their mouthwatering full color covers, pages full of enticing foods, aromatic ingredients, creative imaginings of meals you never had before!

I love browsing cookbooks.  But after years of trying recipes and falling for so-so collections, I can honestly say I am happy with the books I already have.  I'm here to share our collection with you, so that you too can enjoy the fulfillment that comes with knowing your next meal is just a flip of a page away.

And yes, having a cookbook is still very relevant in this age of internet recipes galore.  The internet is a magical place for finding information, but what about when you don't need a million choices but just the ones that work best?  What about when you need inspiration and don't have those search terms in your head yet?  Having a resource you trust will guide you through to the delicious end results is an absolute necessity, don't miss out!

BEST NEW COOKBOOK, geared toward the busy mom (or dad) who wants to put together fabulous meals in the quickest time possible, with the least amount of brainpower and effort possible.
Time for Dinner, by Pilar Guzman and friends.

I love love love the layout of this book!  I didn't think I had any use for another cookbook until I met this one.

They have a section for make-ahead meals, for when you have a chunk of time (Sunday afternoon, perhaps) and want to get some cooking done to spare you for the next few days.  It's brilliant, and wonderful time savor!

There is also another section that's built around the main ingredient you may have already lying around at home.  Why isn't every cookbook organized in this way?  If it's last minute and your stomach is already growling, you just flip to the page with the stuff you have (say fish), choose the variation that interests you (can of tomatoes, etc), and end up with gourmet flavors at a fraction of the time (fish chowder stew, yum)!

I just got this book a couple months ago, and already I've learned the coolest trick for cooking squash.  Just poke a hole in it with a screwdriver, then bake for an hour.  So simple!  And it works.  Voila, tasty squash to use in as many ways as you can imagine (and of course they offer great suggestions here).

The set up is modern, relevant, and absolutely works.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

iPhone apps for babies

Yes it's true, my infant daughter loves my iPhone, and she has her own apps on it.  Pretty much as soon as she could start grabbing for things, she would grab for my phone.  It didn't even have to be on to be fascinating for her, flipping it back and forth to admire it's shiny surface.  But to really capture her attention, I loaded up some apps.  These comes in VERY handy in certain situations when you prefer not to have a hysterical crying baby on your hands.  Such as in the grocery store, in the car, on a plane, or whenever all her other toys have ceased to amuse her.

Going looking for baby apps isn't as easy as you would think.  For some reason Apple doesn't make searching through apps at all easy, or intuitive, or even fun.  So I turned to internet searches.  Even that didn't give me the answers I wanted very easily.  Apparently people aren't seeing the value in a good baby app, and those that do claim to be child friendly are actually geared toward older age that can interact on a higher level (like reading or counting).

A great baby app must have these qualities:
- attention grabbing, with colors, shapes, and sounds.
- interactive with very simple (often accidental) swipes or shakes of the phone.
- NOT be easily exited once it's started.  Many apps we've tried seem good until they fail at this point, which renders them pretty useless because if I have to step in and reset the program every couple minutes.
- be free or close to it.  I don't want to spend $5 just to try a program on my phone.  At that point I may as well purchase a real toy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

busy busy busy (and what may Internet have to do with it)

Why is everybody so busy?  All the freaking time!?  And not the good kind of busy, but the stressed out, wishing for more time,  feeling exhausted kind of busy.  I used to think it was just my line of work, medicine, that was founded on the idea that to be successful you have to give yourself entirely to your job.  Day and night, and weekends too.  But no, it's my 40hr/wk working friends as well.  It's my single friends, my married friends, and of course my friends with kids.  And it's not just a particular week, or month, or even year.  It's ALL THE FREAKING TIME.

I have to admit, it's me too!  I'm starting to really want to know why this is so.  What is it that I'm spending my time doing rather than all the things I feel like I actually want/need to be doing?

And I'm starting to think more and more that the answer lies in this box I'm typing into right now.  And the much smaller box always sitting within arms reach.  Could it be my idle hours are being sucked away forever into cyberspace?  Are these hours better spent?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ready made Christmas

I was driving past a garden shop the other day and couldn't help but notice the Christmas trees displayed out front, already decorated with colorful lights, ready to go.
Thomas Kinkade Pre-Lit Pull-Up Christmas Tree: Wondrous Winter by The Bradford ExchangeWhatever happened to the joy of setting up and decorating the tree with your family, next to a roaring fire, with carols playing, and sipping hot apple cider?  Will this become a thing of the past?  Are we in SUCH a hurry about our lives that we don't have time for this, but still want the satisfaction of a fully decorated tree in the home?

Okay then, let's imagine this one step further.  Ready made Christmas family celebration without any of the actual work (for a fee of course)!  You just show up at the designated location and watch your holiday unfold.  Your "family" will already be there (all actors, of course), the loving and sweet Grandma filling the home with delicious smells, the sister bragging about her new job, the uncle busy on his cell phone, the dad arguing politics, the cousin who stands up and announces he's gay, the mother who quickly changes the topic.  It will all be there, completely realistic experience!  You will even exchange gifts, which means you get to have another useless decorative trinket that will hide away in your closet for the next several years before you finally have the nerve to throw it out.  No need to actually plan any sort of Christmas get together, or go through the hassle of rearranging furniture in your home to accomodate a big tree.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Does the word conjure up the palm tree studded tropical beach scene for you?  Why is that the typical answer?  If we could have it, would we really be happiest lounging around on poolside recliners while sipping fruity drinks?  Or is that just what we're told is the best, so we assume it to be true?

Have you ever peeked behind the magic curtain, so to speak, to see how the natives of those places really live?  What I've seen tends to range from deplorable poverty to ordinary living.  Take many of the popular travel destinations for Americans, for example Mexico or the Caribbean.  I often see far more locals in tragically uncomfortable or unhealthy living conditions that here in the United States.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Why blog, why now?

Blogs have been around for a long long time.  There are a gazillion of them out there, just type any search term you can think of and there's bound to be a blog devoted to that topic.  So why should I start one now?

The idea has NOT been brewing with me for some time, and it isn't something I ever thought I would be doing.  In fact I just came up with the thought yesterday, and decided to go with my spontaneity.

What draws me in is the concept of putting my thoughts down, journal style.  I don't keep a journal anymore, it's been years since I've written with any regularity.

[sidenote: I'm fairly convinced it's because of my laptop computer, whose presence is ever demanding of my attention.  It's hard for me to find paper and pen, let alone a suitable journal to have handy.  But these are all just excuses, I suppose.  Perhaps I just feel more comfortable pulling my thoughts out onto a keyboard.  It's faster and it's how I communicate the written word these days.]

This will not be the kind of journal that tries to track my every thought or event that happens in my life.  I find those quite boring even to read about myself, let alone anyone else to find interesting.  Rather this will be a place to put the highlights of what I come across on any given day/week/month.  The topics and ideas that tickle my funny bone, inspire me, make me stop and think, cause me to see the world in a new light.  That, I believe is what make life beautiful and rewarding.

If other folks find the same things interesting and feel like reading along, or joining in the discussion, wonderful!  If not, I will still enjoy the process of doing it for me.

Now for a look at the history of blogging.  The first "web log" came about in 1997, unclear who exactly may have been the first.

Another interesting question is how many blogs are there on the internet?

That too is a slippery question, since so many have been created over the years and very often abandoned.  The answer seems to be "a lot" or maybe in the hundreds of million that are actively updated.
Who knows.  Well, here's one more to add to the list anyway!