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Snapshots: Thinking, Reading, Doing, Snapping and Eating (February)

February 18, 2015

The last month has been pretty consumed with bringing Cody into our family. It’s hard to believe he’s only been with us for four weeks since it seems like he’s already a member of the family. He’s adjusting really well, and so is the rest of the crew. Casey seems to have warmed up and even plays with him occasionally. Tess is no longer afraid of him and will actually come right up and sniff him and be near him. She still won’t come downstairs, but I’ll take what I can get!

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Thinking and Doing …
So the big thing that I was dealing with the last few weeks was losing all my photos stored in iPhoto. Apparently I accidentally deleted them all when I was cleaning out computer files and applications. I have no idea what I did, but when I discovered it, I was in complete panic and cried hysterically. I’m still depressed thinking about it. This may seem trivial, but you have to understand that those photos were all the photos I’ve taken from 2012 – 2014, all categorized and put into months. And so many of those photos I use for my Red Tricycle work too.

I do have some photos from 2012 and 2013 and prior uploaded to Costco Photos and Shutterfly. But I hadn’t gotten around to doing 2014 yet. I had plans to upload the photos and even buy an external hard drive and back up every single photo. I am kicking myself for not doing this!

And before you ask if they still exist on my iPhone, the answer is, no, because I always upload the photos from my iPhone to the iPhoto on the computer and then delete from my phone (except for happy ones I like to look at regularly). So much for being organized and efficient!

I took my computer to a data recovery specialist and they were able to retrieve about 50,000 pieces of data that were on the hard drive. This includes every image that I’ve viewed on the Internet as well as whatever they found that I deleted. A lot of the photos may be there (and many probably are not). I haven’t looked at all the files yet because I haven’t had time, and quite honestly, because I’m scared to see what’s gone and what remains. Since then I’ve been barely able to boot up iPhoto because it’s been so depressing to me. Needless to say, BACK UP, people! Back up everything that’s important to you!

I will say this: I know so many people complain about and hate on Facebook. But I am so grateful so many of my 2014 photos were on Facebook and Instagram. Costco Photo, as well as Dropbox, has a way to automatically upload all the photos from social media sites, which you can bet I’ve done.

book on nightstand

Reading …
In more uplifting news, I feel like I hit the jackpot in terms of finding awesome books to start the new year. I guess it’s been the year of the memoir because I started with Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. I read it in two days. It was fascinating and frightening all at the same time. SO good! I then moved on to Andie Mitchell’s It Was Me All Along. Also amazing! She details her struggles with food and weight so beautifully and heartfelt. Although I never struggled with binge-eating the way Andie did, I could certainly relate to SO many aspects of this book.

I then moved on to two books by Dani Shapiro. I finally read her writing memoir, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, and just finished Devotion: A Memoir. Devotion is a memoir of Dani’s struggle with faith, all set against a backdrop of marriage, motherhood and entering midlife. I didn’t expect to relate so much to this book, but I found myself dog-earing several pages (I never do this!) so I would remember the passages that spoke so much to me.

Here is one passage that jumped off the page at me. Dani is referring more to making the time for yoga and meditation. But this is exactly how I feel about writing for myself.

Writers often say that the hardest part of writing isn’t the writing itself; it’s the sitting down to write. The same is true of yoga, meditation and prayer. The sitting down, the making space. The doing. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Unroll the mat. Sit cross-legged on the floor. Just do it. Close your eyes and express a silent need, a wish, a moment of gratitude. What’s so hard about that? Except — it is hard. The usual distractions — the clutter and piles of life — are suddenly, usually enticing. The worst of it, I’ve come to realize, is that the thing that stop me — the shadow that cast a cold darkness across the best of my intentions — isn’t the puppy, the e-mail, the UPS truck, the school conference, the phone, the laundry, the to-do lists. It’s me that spots me. Things get struck.

And this was scarily familiar to me as I’ve been feeling this SO much lately!

I’ve been having trouble maintaining a sense of solitude. Oh, sure, I have the hours during the day when Jacob [her son] is at school, Michael [her husband] is at his office, the dogs are asleep on the kitchen floor. But solitude – the kind of silence inside of which one can transact some private business with the fewest obstacles, in Thoreau’s words — does not simply have to do with being alone.

There were several other passages, but many will become fodder for a future post or two. Anyway, it’s nice to find a writer whom it feels as if they’re speaking directly to you.

Now to start a new book!

Eating …
I have been eating, just not photographing and creating as many recipes. But if you’re looking for something yummy for Chinese New Year this week, check out my healthy and delicious Chinese fried rice recipe. This is one of the most popular posts on my blog. The post also contains a recipe for moo shoo pork burgers — also delicious. I also shared a recipe for cashew chicken and steamed shu mai. I love Chinese food! I think I need to redo my meal plan for Chinese New Year this Thursday.

fried rice

Snapping …
Here are a few photos I’ve snapped over the last few weeks A.C. (after catastrophe).

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sophie in a crate

dogs in the flower bed

sophie feetThanks for reading! So tell me, how was your January and February? What are you reading, eating, cooking and doing?

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Introducing the Newest Member of our Pack

January 28, 2015
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Please meet the newest member of our family! Cody is a 2-year-old Australian Shepherd mix who has been with us for just over a week, but has already stolen our hearts.900164000701895_Cody

The decision to adopt a second dog was not easy. In fact, we debated long and hard about whether we wanted to go down that road again.

So many questions Bryan and I pondered over the last few months: Was it too soon after losing Romeo? Do we want another dog or a replacement for him? What if we find one that doesn’t fit into our pack?

But ultimately it came down to this:

Giving a loving and secure home to an animal is something we believe very strongly in. Dogs give so much to us, and ask for very little in return. So we feel that if we have the room, the means and desire, we owe it to a dog who needs a home to provide it.

We started looking for the right match last fall. For our circumstances, finding a second dog was no easy feat! With Casey it was simple: Bryan and I wanted a dog. There was 4-month-old Casey. BOOM … we were a family! We got lucky adopting Romeo too. As long as we found a good match for us – and he got along with Casey – it was a done deal.

But when you’re searching for another dog to go into a well-established house with a 7-year-old kid, 9-year-old dog, and a 6-year-old cat, it’s WAY tougher than you think! Some dogs can’t go with kids. Some can’t go with cats. Some can go with dogs, but not Casey because she’s old and not interested in playing. There were SO MANY factors to think about — and so many set-backs we had after meeting several dogs — that we nearly gave up the idea all-together.

But just about two weeks ago, Bryan found a listing for a dog named Devas at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in San Diego. There was something about this guy’s face that drew us to him, and convinced us we needed to meet him.

Bryan, Sophie, Casey and I piled into the car and drove up to meet Devas. From within his kennel, he walked up to us with his tail waging and smiled. We knew instantly he was the one. Luckily the feeling was confirmed when he met Sophie and then Casey. An hour later (and after several long minutes of him too scared to get into the car), we brought him home.

While we’ve since changed his name to Cody, I have to tell you about how he had a curious name like Devas. This Australian Shepherd mix was a rescue dog. And by rescue, I mean that in the very literal sense. Sadly, Devas was scheduled to be euthanized at a local shelter. As he walked down a long hallway to meet his demise, someone from Helen Woodward spotted him and saved his life. We’re talking minutes here! That’s why they named him Devas, which is “saved” spelled backwards.

Cody Monopoly“Why can’t I play? There’s a dog in Monopoly.”

Other than that story, we don’t know anything more about his background. We suspect he may have been a street dog. Although he came to us house-trained (yay!), he’s VERY much a puppy. There are clearly areas in which he needs training (hence coming home to find the feet of Sophie’s Anna doll chewed off). But he is eager to please, is motivated (already learned the “sit” command), is a patient boy, and wants nothing more than to be loved and give love.

The rest of the pack is adjusting. Cody is so respectful to Casey, and has shown no aggression toward her at all. In fact, all the poor guy wants to do is play with her, which Casey will have none of. She is not mean, but indifferent. But to be fair, Casey has never been one to get excited for playtime with any canine friend.

The surprise in this equation has been Tess. The minute she caught sight of him, she took off for cover under our bed, where she stayed for the next 24 hours. While she no longer hides under the bed, she has chosen to stay upstairs and avoid the “beast.” We moved her liter box and food upstairs, which is off limits to Cody for the time being. Tess has ventured onto the stairs and is curious about who this guy is, but she hasn’t set foot out of her comfort zone. I was surprised because she’s a cat who has never before shown any fear of dogs or people. I really hope she comes around and rejoins the family, and I hope she’s not sad living her days upstairs away from the backyard and downstairs. But for now, I’ll give her the space she needs. And I’m grateful she continues to sleep with us at night.

I am so grateful we found such a sweet, loving boy to bring into our pack. I love his exuberance, gangly puppy body, and seeing his quirks and personality come out. He brings a new spark of happiness and humor to the house.

I’m forever grateful Cody was saved. And I’m especially thankful he chose us as his home.

Cody in Dirt“I dug a bed for myself.”

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Snapshots: Looking Back at 2014

December 31, 2014

There’s something refreshing about turning the calendar page to a new month. Even more so, a new year. Each year always brings its challenges, joys and surprises. Of course, some months and days are better than others. And some feel like they’ll never end.

While I generally consider myself a positive person (glass is half-full, lessons learned from everything, etc.), if I’m being honest, the first half of 2014 was  difficult for me. Much of those feelings of unhappiness had to do with the unexpected loss of our dog and cat. As many of you know from reading this blog and looking at my photos, we consider our pets part of the family. So to say I was heartbroken to lose Romeo, and then Bipp only two months later, is an understatement. When I think of the 2014, this is a large part of what comes to mind.

I was also in a place where, for the first half the year, I didn’t feel I was on solid ground. I found myself taking on projects and doing things for the wrong reasons, and I felt like I disappointed people (and myself) along the way. One of the many lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is you can’t work for the month’s paycheck. You always have to think ahead, build your pipeline, and diversify your work. I hadn’t truly taken the steps to ensure long-term success until 2014.

Things really started coming together for me in the summer months, and by the end of the year, I was back to feeling on solid ground. I’m happy to have ended 2014 in a much better place than where I started it.

One of the reasons I love making these photo collages (below) is it gives me a chance to reflect on all the memories during the year. I noticed quickly that my photos from January through May were quite sparse compared to the later months. And while 2014 conjures up thoughts of sadness, looking at all these photos, I see how much joy and love there was too. It also helped me realize the time we have on earth and with each other is very much a gift worth enjoying.

2014 Collage 12014 Collage 22014 Collage 32014 Collage 42014 Collage 52014 Collage 62014 Collage 72014 Collage 8Thank you for reading Leah’s Thoughts and being a part in my journey. Happy New Year, and here’s to a great 2015!

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It’s a Holiday Baking Extravaganza

December 22, 2014

I love baking during the holidays. I have so much fun coming up with a list of cookies and desserts to bake — new recipes and old favorites. In case you’re looking for a few treats to bake this week, I thought I’d compile my favorites and share them with you.

holiday cookies

Sugar Cookie Bars — My absolute favorite Christmas cookie is a cookie-cutter sugar cookie with icing. However rolling dough, using cookie cutters and frosting individual cookies is just overwhelming to me. So this recipe – Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars – is the perfect solution!

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Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

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Fantasy Chocolate Fudge

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Cranberry Bliss Bars (my favorite Starbucks treat)

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Pioneer Woman’s Christmas Cherries
Christmas Cherries

Magical Candy Cane Kiss Cookies

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Toffee Squares (also from Pioneer Woman)

Toffee SquaresChocolate Mint Brownies

012511Candy Cane Fudge

candy cane fudge

Peanut Butter Balls (aka Buckeyes)

Peanut Butter Buckeyes

Sparkling White Chocolate Lemon Truffles

lemon trufflesPeppermint Swirl Cupcakes swirl cupcakes

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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What’s your favorite holiday dessert to make or eat?

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Snapshots: Thinking, Reading, Doing, Snapping and Eating (November)

November 30, 2014

The days are escaping me! Every day I tell myself I’m going to sit down and write on my blog. But then life happens — client work, Sophie, family activities — and then it’s been weeks and I haven’t posted. I feel badly about this since I love this little space and all of you who have followed me through the years. I’ve always said that as long I have things to say and a space to write, I plan to keep Leah’s Thoughts alive. So rest assured, I am here! Just not here as much.

Thinking and Doing …

November always feels like a short month with lots going on. I celebrated my 39th birthday in November. And I want to thank you so much for all the lovely comments about my 39 things about me post. Since I posted the 39 things, I’ve come up with more pieces of trivia about myself. Fodder for future posts!

Sophie turned 7-years-old in November. 7, people! I started this blog just after her 2nd birthday! She’s become this little person that I love and admire so much. I need to write about all these feelings and thoughts about her growing up and how motherhood changes so much as they grow.

November also brings Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. It was even better because my sister and her family (two little boys) visited from Iowa. She and I were always close growing up since we are four years apart. I miss having her close to me, especially now that we both have kids. So I cherish the time we do get to spend together. It’s a different feeling to see your little sister — the kid who used to tease me to no end — as a mom (and a great one at that)!

This fall I’ve had the opportunity to teach a marketing and communication class at the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising. For nine weeks, I teach second-year fashion students about all-things marketing — web marketing, public relations, advertising, social media, blogging, newspaper and feature story writing, direct mail/email. I never pictured myself as a teacher. And this gig was quite ironic because fashion is something I’m keenly aware I don’t have much of. But I have to say that I really enjoy teaching this class and interacting with the students. I’m so impressed with their writing and how they think. I’ve learned a lot from them, and about myself. I’m so glad I challenged myself with this new endeavor!

Reading …

I think this photo sums up what I’m reading (or NOT reading). My TBR pile is so big it stretches across my king-sized bed! (In other news: poor cat!)

books on the bed

I’m currently reading The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’ve been waiting years to read this book, so when I found a hardback copy at Goodwill for $3, I grabbed it. He also wrote The Virgin Suicides (didn’t read) and Middlesex (loved). I just finished The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis. It was a bit predictable, but I enjoyed it.

Eating …

What am I eating? Thanksgiving leftovers!

thanksgiving sidesSausage and apple crockpot stuffing, creamed corn, cranberry Zinfandel sauce, Parmesan smashed potatoes, and sauteed green beans with almonds.

Snapping …

Yay for November!

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True to their personalities, Casey is looking to please me and Tess could care less what I want.

casey and tess

Sophie’s 7th birthday!

sophie is 7

Candy, color and cookbooks …IMG_8163

Sophie won an award at school for achievement in science. It was also Halloween day!

science award

There are certain authors I always hope to meet because I love all of their books. Tova Mirvis was one of those writers (The Ladies Auxiliary, The Outside World and Visible City). I was so excited to hear her speak at the San Diego Jewish Books Fair.  Tova Mirvis

Autumnal …

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So how was your Thanksgiving? Are you ready for the holidays? What are you reading, eating, cooking and doing?

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