Five Kids Will Also Get You Black Walls & Appliances

Two weeks ago, Whirlpool invited Jim and me to spend a Friday night walking through a Victorian house in the heart of San Francisco, every room of which had been gutted and meticulously redesigned by a series of interior decorators to showcase the wonders of this bowl. 

The rest of the decor in the house was pretty alright, too. 

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There were gold-flecked rugs that looked like wood floors, creeptastic haunted forest letters crawling up walls, teency nooks for making phone calls or smoking cigarettes or reading books pretty much everywhere we turned. I could have spent 14 hours in the potting shed alone, but the kitchen completely stole the show, as Kitchens of the Year are wont to do. 

Black herringbone backsplash, you guys. 

The whole kitchen was black, in fact. The cabinets were black, the appliances were black, the backsplash was black, the wallpaper was black with shimmering black mica flakes (or something really similar to that) in it. You'd think this would eat a kitchen entirely, but it didn't at all. It worked beautifully, actually. It gave all the natural light in the kitchen something to do with itself, instead of just bouncing off all the pale surfaces and making that room 17 times larger than it already was.

Pics from SFGate.com

My favorite appliances I've ever owned in my whole entire life were my black Whirlpool Cabrio washer & dryer, which I had to leave behind in Texas (and they don't even make anymore, ask me how broken I am about that). I've only ever seen black kitchen appliances in matte, but the Whirpool Black Ice appliances in the Kitchen of the Year were shiny, sleek, and entirely badass.

Our friend and bombdiggety food blogger Stephanie Hua got a picture of the Whirlpool fridge in the House Beautiful kitchen -

Photo snagged from Stephanie Hua of Lick My Spoon

Which is slightly more sensibly-designed than the fridge in our House Cluttered kitchen. 

Still Life with Five Kids #fridgie #cryforhelpie

Still life with five kids. #fridgie #cryforhelpie

We were treated to a live cooking demo with Chef Robin Song, who owns a whiskey, ham, and oyster bar in San Francisco - propelling him to the top of Jim's 'People to Become Best Friends With' list. He prepared a quinoa salad that I not only didn't hate, I am pretty sure I would eat it every day of my life - propelling him to the top of my 'People Who Obviously Practice Voodoo' list. He also made that bowl up there. When you walk through a $17 million home and at the end of that walk have one thing only to say, and that thing is, "Man, I really love this bowl," it's kind of nice to be able to say you met the person who made it. He was a pretty cool dude - not at all pretentious. He gave us a lot of cooking tips that ended up, "Um, well, just do what works for you." Stephanie asked him what he always kept in his fridge and he said something like, 'Errr...does beer count?' Pretty refreshing from someone who's career is kind of exploding right now. 

Speaking of refreshing, this is the recipe for that salad. For real, make it. Once you make it, you will realize that you can change it 5,284 ways and it will still be amazing. I'm pretty sure I'm going with lime and steak and cotija crumbled on top next time, and then tomato and basil next, but this spring veggies one was killer - minus the asparagus, obviously. Jim even liked it, and he'd sooner eat cicadas and chicken fetus' than put a vegetable, or worse, QUINOA, in his face.

What I Do

So I'm driving around in the car with my 13 year old and we're talking about all the random nonsense you talk about with your kids in the car; somehow we got on the subject of college, and he quite nonchalantly informs me that he isn't going to college, like ugh mom. I reach over to take his temperature, just to be sure he isn't delirious with The Fever, and then ask him oh, re-heally? This child looks at me and, with his mouth I spent nine months making for him, actually says, "Yeah, I'm just going to do what you did. You turned out fine."

He then had the honor and great privilege of being strapped into a moving vehicle he could not escape from while listening to his mother talk in very loud tones about exactly what is was that she did, and:

•   how hard it was;
•   how much cheap macaroni and cheese we ate for like ever while i was *doing it*;
•   how many nights I was up until 4am working at a bar and back up at 8am with him and his brother;
•   what it felt like to know I could do something really amazing with my life I just had no idea what it was or how to start;
•   how long I had to wait and how hard I had to look for the opportunity to get out from behind a bar and into the workforce;
•   how lucky I was that the opportunity ever came my way or that I had managed to piece together enough skills to take it when it did;
•   and how much easier my life - his life - would have been if I had ever had the opportunity to further my education.

(...and yes, I said all of that without breathing, uphill, in the snow both ways, because that's what mothers do.)

Getting from where I started to where I am was exhausting. Where I am now is exhausting in a way that waiting tables never was; the mental walls I hit every day hurt so much more than my feet ever did, but the pain is so good. I love working in Silicon Valley. I love being an integral part of the virtual revolution. I love science and I love tech and even still, I would not wish the path I took to get here on my worst enemy, or even a teenager.

No one told me to pursue more (or any) education. I never had a parent, or a priest, or a mentor who said I had to go learn more stuff. I had teachers who said it, but I didn't listen because they're teachers...they HAVE to say that. My boyfriend jokes about and/or purposely hides his "useless" liberal arts Ivy League degree but being on the other side of it, I can see in ways he'll never understand how not-useless a degree is. Knowledge, training, education - they are more than tools, they are gifts we give to ourselves. That degree is a gateway to more than just a better job or a career path - it's the gateway to the self-confidence you'll need to go out and find your place in the big wide workplace.

I'm always going to be one step behind my colleagues -- always working that much harder to keep up, to grasp the concepts, to speak the language, to figure out what they know. Even if they don't know it, I will always know it. I want my children to know better. I want them to know every single little thing about that which inspires them. I want them to drive forward, not keep up. I want them to grasp concepts as much as they grasp tasks. I want them to think differently, bigger, broader, and deeper than I did. I want them to have the gift of instruction, of education, of knowing what is out there for them, beyond what they see everyday, more than what I can teach them.

This post was inspired and sponsored by Kaplan University.
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The 2nd Most Inefficient Blog Post About Efficiency

I was supposed to publish this post last week, because last week was my last week as a blog ambassador for simplehuman. (Hi FTC; that's a disclosure statement.) I wrote this post over and over and over, and finally had to stop and walk away, for no other reason than, ironically enough, it was grossly inefficient. I'm sure it was a good post, and will die an honorable death in my Draft Cemetery, but

                   you know how some people are really good at writing an exactly-three-hundred word post with a perfectly optimized-for-Pinterest photo and just enough but not too much SEO keyword inclusion that makes both their hoards of readers and their clients superbly happy? I am not those people.  

My posts all take these Robert Frost Road Less Traveledesque segues into existentialism, my daddy issues, poli-sci, words that aren't even really words, and gravy recipes before I even decide what the point is, let alone get to it. Case in point?  The 147 words I just typed that have nothing to do with the subject at hand AT ALL. 

Ahem. Over the post year, I've been learning and advocating a lot for efficiency. I've toured headquarters dedicated to looking at the things everyone else overlooks and making them the centerpieces of efficient living. My fellow ambassadors and I have tried, tested, and paid forward tools for efficient living, from Jedi Mind Trick trash cans to co-dependent enabler dish racks. And despite all of that, I have managed to make my personal life as completely in/un/not-efficient as humanly possible.

  • I moved to Northern California, so the mid-point Starbucks where I meet my kids' dad for his weekends with him went from being 19 miles away to being 360 miles away. 
  • My commute to work went from being over the dog toys and a left at the coffee pot to 2 1/2 hours. Each way. Uphill in the snow and barefoot.
  • My kids who used to go to schools cleverly-staggered at 45 minute start intervals now attend three different schools each about three miles apart, each which all start within seven minutes of one another. And there are no school buses in this town. And everyone here drives Suburbans to each school at the same time.
  • I replaced my neighbor who used to have an annoying husband and two kids with a neighbor with an annoying tribe of goats and one rooster.  
  • My tiny little entirely too small for us house has been replaced with one so big, I use a pedometer when I am making coffee in the morning.  
  • And I keep not going to the grocery store on the weekends like I used to before I had a commute into work and schools I had to drive kids to and roosters next door to yell at, so now I'm scrambling at 6:30 nightly to figure out something for dinner and going every.single.night which is a really great way to spend all your month's budget at Safeway. 

But of course, all of that is happening so that I can live with my very best friend in the whole wide world, whom I can, like, see any time I want now and stuff, so there is efficient balance in the force, I think. 

Still, with my simple, quiet existence gone and this constantly-running-and-juggling one with one commute and five kids and three dogs and a crazy wonderful boyfriend in its place, I am grateful for every small favor which comes my way, any shortcut my three hacker boys-man-children-things in my life read off the internet and try to pass of as their own to me, and any item around my house that makes the rest of life's details seamless and shiny.  

I am glad to know that I don't have to even think about the trash, like, EVER AGAIN, that the kids shower stuff isn't going to collect that inexplicable gunk in the corners of the tub, that I'm not going to have to reach my arm into the dogs' kibble to dig out my 1 cup measuring scoop that I decided I could live without and have regretted deciding that every batch of caramel I have made since, because my dog food container has a scoop that magically or by voodoo hangs from the lid. Seriously, WHY DID SOMEONE NOT MAKE THIS SOONER? I am glad to know someone is out there looking at every single bit of crucial daily minutia and making it work better, so that I can worry about everything else in my life I need too. I'm am excited to see what else they come up with, and really, it needs to be this

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You're welcome, simplehuman

Also, thank you for a really fun, really interesting, and really shiny year.  

Tools for Efficient Winning

My mother always joked that we had eight dishwashers in our house. In fact, we had four children and an in-sink-erator. We grew up in the hood, where no one I knew at all ever had a dishwasher. I once knew someone who had a kitchen sink hand held sprayer, and I remember standing at their sink for hours making lush, soft tufts of bubbles. I still do it today, actually. I am easily amused, shut up. 

I didn't have a dishwasher in my a home I lived in until my first son was six months old, in 1998. I regarded it with suspicious eyes, and used it as a really large built-in drying rack, and occasionally to sterilize bottles (but I always felt guilty about that.) In my mind, if you couldn't feel what you were scraping off, it wasn't getting scraped off properly, and until AI was perfected you weren't going to catch *me* using one of *those things*. 

And then I had another kid. It's scientifically proven fact that all sense of justness and moral integrity a person ever had is pushed out with placenta #2. 

But now my kids are older, and I live in a rental house with a really old dishwasher in the middle of a place where water doesn't naturally occur, and so I have a bit more time and a lot more motivation to hand wash my dishes again. Plus, I have a sink sprayer. 

So I've been hand-washing my dishes exclusively for the past year, and it's surprising how quickly you forget about a dishwasher once you stop using it. It's also astonishing how fewer glasses your kids will use in the course of a day if they know they have to hand-wash them at night.  

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The only problem with it is that this was my dish rack. I had paid exactly $2 for it at a yard sale or something. That's not actually  a photo of my dish rack; I was going to take one, but there's internet judgement and then there is asking for internet judgement. It was gross, that's all I'm saying. 

I have two teenage boys and a daughter. We fill that dishrack in 17 seconds. It wasn't fun.  

I kept using my dishwasher as a built-in dishrack, but then I'd forget the dishes were in there and then totally freak out of my kids for losing all of the [expletive expletive] side plates and spoons, and they'd get all afraid of the side-plates-and-spoons-gremlin who was clearly coming at night and framing them, so something had to be done. 

Something like this.  

I first saw it when I visiting simplehuman HQ a few months back. (Because I'm an ambassador. #disclosure I drooled for a while, then set out to get me wunnadoes. I mean, really, they have a separate wine rack *and* a separate knife block. They completely get me/my inability to unload a dishrack. 

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But I didn't have to get one because see mysterious floating finger in the picture? That is Mr SimpleHuman himself and he MAILED ME ONE. I swear, I love it more than I love hand sprayer bubbles - and I think we've established how much I love those.

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And we want to send you something, too. Because presents are nice, and life should be simple, and your trash can should totally match your dish rack. Or is that earrings and chonies? Either way, my fellow ambassadors and I want to give you whatever simplehuman product you you find the most innovative or efficient or just plain crazysexycool. Whether you are into apocalypse/puppy-proof bulk food containers, or soap pumps that squirt soap out faster than your dirty kids can dodge it, or paper towel dispensers that give great hugs, or a laundry basket that makes you like laundry again, we (and simplehuman) got yo back. 

Go poke around the simplehuman site and let me know in the comments which item would rock your world, and you'll be entered to win it. If you want extra entries, you can tweet about it to, just be sure to @simplehuman and me (@mrlady) so we see it! You can enter on each of our sites (click the links above to visit Clay, Kristen, Sarah, and Tim's posts.) We'll choose winners randomly, so you don't even have to be clever or anything. You can just say WANT and a link. 

Happy exploring, and good luck!

 Updated: Congrats to Casey who loves disgraces and wins a dishrack!

Mmm Mmm Mmm, For the Smell of It

Way back in the 1900's, my family had splurged on a pizza. (This was a re-heally big deal for us.) The pizza came, a big, greasy, Philly- which- is- close- to- New- York style beast, and in the middle of it was that dollhouse table thing they started using in the 80s' (which are only 67 years away, have fun with that one tonight) that keeps the cardboard box from sinking into the middle of the pizza. This was in no way remarkable except that instead of calling it a dollhouse table thing, they called it a pietrod. 

I fell in love with that pietrod right there on the spot, partly because I am dyslexic but no one knew it and that word felt right in my head the way no other word ever had before, but mostly because it introduced me to the radical notion that the words I was so reliant on for stability and sanity were simply a bi-product of complacency, that language itself was being created as it dripped from our lips and fingertips - and that I could, if I really thought hard about everything I knew about words without breathing or blinking or anything, break almost any rule and do anything I wanted it to.

Pretty powerful stuff for a kid growing up at the bottom of a patriarchal cult. That was my Frankenstein moment, the moment we all have that pivots us and changes everything to come after it. I think it may have been a Domino's pizza.  I also think this guy totally gets what I'm talking about. 

Photo and epic level of obsession credit: http://brndnwdy.wordpress.com

Photo and epic level of obsession credit: http://brndnwdy.wordpress.com

[Domino's isn't paying me to write this, but Clorox is. Beating Jim at disclosure statements is hard, but I'm giving it my best shot. ] 

I just like to make up words, making up words is my favorite. In fact, I think my last site had a category called Is Too a Word.  However, aside from the few cute kid-words my then-babies made up, I have been hard-pressed to find new word as witty, necessary, and just plain perfect as pietrod.   

Until this.  

I know, right?  I have a few words in the Clorox Icktionary, and I was going to add some more, but really, I think it's over. Shoop just dropped the mic and gangsta-stomped offstage. Next time your kids come in from playing outside, you can do a Shoop-check. If you smell something at a restaurant, you can check the carpet around you for Shoop stains. If you go on a horrible date, you can tell them they make you wanna shoop, shoop ba-doop, shoop ba-doop, shoop ba-doop ba-doop ba-doop at the end of the date and mean it.

Shoop is the perfect word, and it gives me the same tingle in my both my Broca and Wernicke that I did when I was a kid getting my mind blown by some marketing copy taped to a cardboard box surrounding an extra-large heart attack with pepperoni.  It makes me want to play with words again, to see what I have missed because I've been too lazy to look for it.  

It also reminds me that I need to mop my floors in the worst kind of way. Bygones.

What's your favorite not-word-but-should-be? Tell me in the comments, and if it has something to do with ickiness (most of the best ones do, really) you should totally submit it to Clorox's Icktionary at www.icktionary.com