Petrichor - the smell of earth after it rainsI love the rain.  Love the smell of it long after it’s gone.  Cuddling under the blankets and watching it out my French doors.  I love that it feels like it’s washing away bad days.  But I loved it so much more as a child.  It was rainy days that brought out rainbows.  It was running in the rain, jumping in puddles, making paper boats and following them down the street that I loved the most.  As an adult, it’s more of a nuisance.

I Need Sun

Being a born and raised in Southern Californian, I probably wouldn’t survive in another state.  I need sun.  I need warmth.  So, when the latest set of storms came rolling in causing havoc, I stayed in.  I refused to go out except when absolutely necessary.  Not because I don’t like the rain, but because I’m a spoiled.  My days consist of Ubering people around and as most Californians know, driving and rainy days don’t mix.  Running around in the rain, trying to keep the kids dry, running errands, keeping appointments, dropping off and picking up kids, just isn’t feasible.  It just becomes an obstacle in my already busy day.

I don’t know when I lost that innocent wonderment of the world.  When it didn’t matter if my hair got wet or frizzy.  When I actually looked forward to jumping in puddles, instead of avoiding them.  If that’s what being an adult means, I want to go back to my younger years.  Not for vanity reasons.  Not to relive my youth.  But to enjoy every bit of life.  To be happy again.  To have that innocence that comes with youth.  And to stand in the rain, loving every bit of it, taking in the smell of it, without a worry in the world, before life became so hectic.

But since I don’t have a time machine, I’ll do the next best thing and let my kids bask in that innocence for as long as possible and let them play in the rain.

-Sandra

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gluten-free peach pie

I’m not the greatest cook in the world, but I love baking!  However, I’m not the greatest baker in the world either.  I wish I can say that I bake all the time, but after my little one was diagnosed with Celiac disease, I’ve been at a loss.  The learning curve has been extreme, to say the least. 

When we first found out gluten needed to be eliminated from her diet, we didn’t even know what it was, let alone just how many things it was in.  Our meals became boring and usually just consisted of protein, veggies, and rice.  Label reading was a new concept for me and gluten has so many alternative names.

Long story short, it’s been trial and error baking gluten-free goodies.  Some things I like making COMPLETELY from scratch, which is much easier now that there is gluten-free flour.  Before, I used to have to figure out the right mixture of brown and white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum to substitute for regular flour, for each recipe I was making.  Not to mention, bake times are different and it always left a copper penny taste in my mouth.

Other times, actually, most of the time, I take the cheater route (aka Betty Crocker).  It saves loads of time and between making dinner and helping with homework, I need all the shortcuts I can take.

The recipe below is just one of the quick, easy shortcuts for making Gluten-Free Peach Pie that I love!  Enjoy!

Ingredients for GF Peach Pie:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup Gluten Free Bisquick
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 oz.) can of sliced peaches (“lite” syrup)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter up a glass pie dish.
  3. Drain juice from the peaches.
  4. Mix eggs, sugar and vanilla together.
  5. Add peach juice and while mixing, slowly add Bisquick to avoid lumps.
  6. Pour the batter into buttered pie dish.
  7. Drop peaches evenly onto the batter.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Tastes great with a huge scoop of french vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

-Sandra

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pen & notepad 5 ways to declutter

Before you take on the task of decluttering your life, pinpoint first what it is that you DO want in your life and realize that everything else can go.  Accept that it won’t happen immediately and that’s okay. We tend to put all kinds of pressure and deadlines on ourselves and then get stressed out about it when we fail.  Guess what?  There is no timeline to declutter your life.  You didn’t overwhelm your life with clutter overnight, so give yourself a break.  It’s completely unrealistic to expect to declutter it overnight.

Things to take into account:

-Do I really want this or am I keeping it for sentimental reasons? 

Take into account how many times that precious sentimental item that you love so much is brought out or used.  Is it really all that sentimental to you or is the memory of it you’re holding on to.

-Do I really love it?

Surround yourself with love, people you love, things you love, pets you love, etc.  If you’re putting it out for the sake of putting it out, or hiding it behind something else, you really don’t love it.  And if you don’t love it, you don’t need it to collect dust and waste space in your life or in your home.

-Can I do without?

If you have 6 of the same item, rethink it. Why do you need 6?  Are they all in working order? Do you use 6 at the same time?

-Does it fit into your life? 

If there is a place in your life for it, keep it.  If it’s something that ONCE had a place in your life, but no longer does, but you’re “saving” it, get rid of it.  It’s like holding on to an old boyfriend that once had a place and no longer does.  Why hold on? For the sake of memories?  How about making new ones instead.

-Is it broken or no longer fits?

Definitely get rid of it.  Don’t hold on to “what-if’s”.  No one ever got anywhere with what if’s.  Don’t allow for it to hold you back. Go out and buy “right now’s” and toss those “what-if’s” jeans or whatever out.

So, as you address the following 5 tips to declutter your body, mind, and life, repetitively ask yourself those questions above.

  1. Do it yearly. Who says decluttering needs to be immediate? Every time you pull out a seasonal box to put up decorations, Christmas, Easter or what have you, weed it out. For example, Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I’m not going to lie, my home tends to look like a Christmas boutique around the holidays.  It takes so long to take everything out, let alone put it all away again.  So what do I do, I declutter as I go, both as I pull things out and again, when I put things away.  I set myself a limit.  For every new Christmas chachski I buy myself, I consider it a replacement, not a new item for my collection. So, if I buy something new, I HAVE to weed out something old. By creating limits, you keep the build up from getting any bigger.  This is especially helpful after the first decluttering you do.  I’ve been able to widdle down my Christmas décor to a few boxes and I refuse to let that collection get any bigger.  By keeping it to a few boxes, I keep my Christmas clutter to a minimum and save some money, time, and livable space in my home.  If you can live without it for a whole year, chances are you can live without it much longer than that.
  2. Take baby steps. Start with one thing at a time.  For example, if you have a favorite drink that you know is no good for you and you want to lose weight and declutter your body of toxins, start with that drink.  For me, it’s Dr Pepper.  I’ve done Dr. Pepper mornings (instead of coffee) for as long as I can remember.  It’s not a matter of willpower; I had to stop drinking it throughout both of my pregnancies due to gestational diabetes, so I know I can do it.  If you can get rid of that one thing that you think you can’t do without, than everything else will be a piece of cake to get rid of.  Getting rid of the hardest thing to get rid of for the sake of your health, opens up the door to getting rid of those you could easily do without anyway.  Do it at your speed.  For me, I went without Dr. Pepper for a month, and then slowly started adding other things to get rid of. Am I where I want to be?  No, but am I further along than last month? Hell yes!  I didn’t gain weight overnight and I won’t lose it overnight either. But steps forward, no matter how slow, is still progress.  Don’t beat yourself up if you take a few back along the way, as long as you continue to move forward.
  3. Weed out your social media. If you are public in all of these, I can’t help you out here, other than to suggest making them all private and weeding people out.  However, if you are private and you have collected people throughout the years for the sake of not rejecting their requests, rethink that.  The whole purpose of social media is to connect with people, to be social.  But what I’ve found is that I have more “acquaintances” than friends.  Are you ever annoyed scrolling through your newsfeed?  Weed it out.  It’s your prerogative to surround yourself with those people you CHOOSE to have in your life.  Declutter your friends list.  It’s okay.  It’s your newsfeed; everyone else can do what they want with theirs.  Here’s the deal, negativity or just being annoyed with someone for the content of their posts, even if it’s on their wall, still affects you.  Do you want to see someone constantly fighting with others about politics?  Do you want to see a million pictures of someone else’s pet in sweaters?  Is someone always posting about some sad problem constantly affecting their life and when you reach out they refuse to respond?  Bottom line, if it bothers you to see those posts, get rid of them.  If you don’t have time in your life to connect with them, get rid of them.  If you don’t want to get rid of them for the sake of having tons of people connected to you, but you still don’t want to see all that, filter your newsfeed.  The point is, if you don’t have the time or energy for it, or you just don’t want to see it……get rid of it.  Believe it or not, it emotionally and/or mentally clutters your brain every time you see something you don’t want to see.
  4. Stop spending frivolously. Don’t you wish you could spend your money on frivolous things and not bills!?!  Here’s the thing, you can do both if you want.  The faster you wrap your head around the fact that you deserve to make yourself happy, the happier you will be.  Do you need 8,000 channels on cable or can you live with the low easy cost of Netflix, so you can spend some money elsewhere?  Is eating out, wasting money on food that is unhealthy for you anyway, better than investing in a few cooking classes that can help you eat healthier AND teach you to cook?  It’s all a matter of perspective.  Having a healthy view of money goes a long way.  I was raised that no matter what you do in life, there is a cost.  Eating unhealthy food = to being unhealthy.  Owning a home = paying a mortgage…. And on and on.  Prioritize what is important to you and go for it, but always keep in mind what your responsibilities are and find what your balance is.  Bottom line, you’re going to be in debt no matter what you do.  Whether you own a home, drive a car, even if those are paid for, you still have insurance to buy, gas to fill the tank, property taxes to pay, it’s all still a debt.  If you can balance those responsibilities and accept them as part of life, saving money just makes sense and you’ll find it’s so much easier to do.  Especially if you calculate if things are worth it.  What I mean is, is it worth it to work x amount of hours of overtime, so you can eat out every night and save yourself the trouble of having to cook?  Then do it.  But if giving up time away from your family, or let’s say something as simple as sleeping in, is it still worth it?  I don’t have those answers for you, that’s something you have to determine for yourself.  Everyone has their own priorities.  Finding out what yours are, then make a plan and declutter your finances.  You’ll be surprised how much you’ve been spending on things you don’t “need” versus buying those things that you “want”.
  5. Cleanse your Soul.  Decluttering your soul is a lifetime process. Does it mean you have to strive for perfection?  Nope.  It just means, if you think you need to work on yourself, do it.  Here’s how I handle mine, I have kids, I’m their example, and it’s that simple.  I used to live my life as if God was watching.  Being religious, that’s usually what you’re taught, so that’s what I did.  However, I still did things I wasn’t proud of and for that, I had the confessional booth.  However, now that I have kids, I know that I’m their first role model.  They’ll have many throughout their lives, teachers, mentors, friends, spouses, and more, but I’m their very first.  Do I have to be perfect? Nope, I just have to be the best version of me possible.  I don’t know about you, but with my religious upbringing (and the confessional) I still had a great amount of guilt for my mistakes.  I’d have that voice in the back of my mind constantly reminding me that I wasn’t perfect and that I had failed.  I shifted my perspective and those nagging thoughts are gone.  When you realize you just need to be the best you you can be, any sense of guilt for falling short is gone.  Why is that?  Because you’re not being measured up to someone else’s measure of who you should be, it’s your own.  You essentially declutter the constraints of someone else’s image of who you should be and set your own self acceptance, mistakes and all.

Do I have the answers for everything? Nope.  Is my life perfectly decluttered? Nope.  But I’m slowly getting to where I want to be and weeding out what I don’t want in my life.  I make no excuses for my life.  Its mine.  How and what I want in it, is my choice.  What better time to start living life in the manner that you choose to, then right now?  So go for it!

-Sandra

When Uber and Autism Collide

I’ve been Ubering for a while now and I’m use to having all walks of life in my car.  But I was completely unprepared for today’s rider.  It’s not unusual for people to call an Uber for others.   I’ve had guys sparing their date the walk of shame the next morning. I’ve had wives and girlfriends outside giving kisses goodbye as I pick up their spouses and boyfriends. I’ve had kids calling for their non-tech savvy parents and even parents calling an Uber for their kids, which is what I had today.

I got “pinged” and made my way to an IHOP for my pick up.  As I pulled up, I was waved over by a mother and her adult son with luggage.  So I parked and opened my trunk, luggage usually means I’m headed to LAX.  That wasn’t the case this time, just a kid visiting his mom for the weekend and brought home some laundry to wash.  I had a bit of a laugh, as I saw her lean in for a hug and a kiss goodbye and he pulled away as most embarrassed kids do with parental PDA.

He got in and promptly put on his seatbelt.  I confirmed where we were headed and he was very curt in answering.  Being no stranger to riders that just prefer the ride with no conversation, I followed the GPS to his location.  Before we even pulled out of the park lot, his cell phone was out and his music was on.  I was about to ask if he wanted the audio cord to stream his music through the car, but I noticed he started to slowly rock.  I looked through the rearview mirror and sure enough, he had his cell phone, music blaring, up to his ear, his eyes closed and he was rocking back and forth, not uncommon for those with Autism to do as a means of soothing themselves.  And then it hit me.  He’s autistic.  He’s soothing.  He’s in an environment where he is not comfortable.   Change isn’t easy and he was in a strange car, with a stranger.  I understood his anxiety all too well.

Being a mother of an autistic daughter myself, I recognized the signs.  I also knew that once they withdraw into themselves, there’s no pulling them out.  As a mother, my heart went out to him.  My heart went out to his mother.  And my anxiety level went up.  I’ve only ever dealt with my daughter’s autism and being on the high functioning side of the spectrum, I realized just how unequipped I was to address him if I needed to.

He continued to slowly rock, but he opened his eyes to see where we were.  He apparently knew the way to get to where we were going and became more and more relaxed because it didn’t take long for him to turn off the music and stop rocking.  I looked at the GPS and we still had a little less than an hour to go.  Making my way through L.A. streets during rush hour morning traffic didn’t help, but we eventually made it to the freeway.  Once on the freeway, even though traffic was still thick, he was more and more calm.  Most of the ride was uneventful and I started to relax myself.  Occasionally I’d feel him looking at me, or I’d check the mirror and catch of glimpse of him looking away.  Knowing eye-contact is a tough thing for those with autism, I got it, I made sure not to look at him directly, but I was still trying to figure out what it was he was looking at.  Then it occurred to me, he was watching my facial expressions.  If I furrowed my eyebrows in frustration with the traffic, he’d start to rock again, so I was conscious of keeping a smile on my face to keep him relaxed.

The closer we got to his school, the more aware he was of our route.  About a block away from school, he started to mumble repetitively turn by turn.  I asked him which building was his and he answered but again, was very short.  I pulled over, hopped out and opened the trunk.  He quickly got his stuff out, didn’t make eye contact and carefully crossed the street.  I mumbled something to the effect of “have a nice day” and barely made it back into the car, turned off my Uber app and pulled out a kleenex before the tears started.

I felt such heartbreak for his mom that so tenderly hugged and kissed him goodbye and trusted him into my care.  My heart felt for him as he crossed the street and made his way home alone.  I felt relief that my daughter is high functioning and not as severe as this boy was, quickly followed by such guilt, for the same reason.  Autism is not easy.  Not for the person that has it.  Not for the family that lives with it.  I cried all the way back to the freeway and about halfway home.  And then hope kicked in.  The hope that this boy with Autism gave me.  That he had the strength to Uber all the way home alone and self-soothe.  Hope from this mom that I can let go at some point and know that I’ve given my daughter all the help I possibly can to be that independent.  Hope that she’ll be able to go to college someday too.  Hope that her future is as bright as anyone else’s is.

And after going through that roller coaster of emotion on this Uber ride and learning such a great life lesson, I went home, washed my tears away, cleaned myself up, and headed out the pick up the next Uber life lesson waiting for me.

-Sandra

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charcuterie platterI had never heard of a charcuterie platter before.  I’m not fancy; I don’t go to fancy places to eat.  Most restaurants we go to have appetizers, not charcuterie platters.  However, put some cheese in front of me and I’m in heaven.

For those of you that don’t know what a Charcuterie platter is, I did a bit of research and here goes:

  • Charcuterie platters are primarily a variety of cold meats that are salted, brined, smoked, and/or cured, such as pâté, prosciutto, salami, chorizo, and mortadella, just to name a few.
  • Mild red wines are a great accompaniment, as it opens up the flavors of each meat.
  • Because it’s an appetizer of sorts, usually 5 oz or so of each meat should be plated per person.
  • Crackers are not typically invited to the party, as it takes away from the meat, so soft thin sliced baguettes with a bit of butter or olive oil will do and maybe some crunchy bread sticks for variety to balance out the fattiness of each meat.
  • A strong acid, such as pineapple bites, mandarins, or even grapes are great for in between meat tasting to clean the palate before the next bite.
  • Jelly and/or chutney add some flavor for those that like a bit of sweet and salty in each bite.

I’m sure I might be leaving out some stuff, but for the most part, that’s exactly what a charcuterie platter consists of, meats, not cheeses as most people assume.  Considering I’m an “appetizers and desserts” kind of gal, being introduced to a charcuterie board has got me hook!  However, do you know what also goes great with this!?!  A great cheese platter!!!

It’s a proved fact, cheese is addicting.  Long story short, it messes with the dopamine receptors in the brain and violá, you’re hooked!  This explains my need to have cheese with every meal, even if it’s just sprinkled on top.  What’s ALWAYS in my fridge?  Cheese, of course!

My love of cheese has magnified with the introduction of charcuterie platters into my life.  I love to combine the two and make adult versions of lunchables.  There are no hard rules; it’s whatever your little heart desires.  I combine some soft speadable cheeses with slices of others, a variety of salami, chorizo and prosciutto, maybe some grapes, or jalapeño jelly, honey drizzled almonds, and of course some bread and gluten free crackers for my little one.  Try it, enjoy it, fall in love and tell me what you think!

-Sandra

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confessions of an uber momThe view from my office today isn’t the prettiest.  As you can see, I’m an Uber Mom that drives Uber on my mommy down time.  My day consists of dropping the kids off at school and getting some drive time in.  It’s not the most glamorous job in the world, definitely not what I have my degree in.  But sometimes you take what life gives you.

How did I end up here!?!  Especially since I had a nice cushy job and a pimped out cubicle….  I’ll tell you.  Being a mom to an Autistic child in not easy.  Every day, every minute is something new.  As much as kids with Autism demand a routine, since change is hard for them, our day is anything but routine.  There is no planning life.  Unfortunately, the last company (the last 3 companies) had absolutely no flexibility around my daughter.  I hate to say it, even though during the interview process, I did ask if there was room for flexibility and was adamantly told there was…..there wasn’t.  Special treatment wasn’t asked for, I more than pulled my weight, I completed all my work and then some.

No use crying over spilled milk

So, in my search for a part-time position, that had both, the flexibility that I needed and wasn’t a fast food joint or retail store (that I would just end up spending my paycheck at), I went with Uber.  Those that know me, know that this is hard for me.  A few years ago I had a huge car accident that left me in panic attacks every time I hit the freeway and I’m fiercely protective of my personal space (both issues that I’ve worked diligently on).  So needless to say, this Uber mom is completely out of her comfort zone. 

However, here I am.  I Uber on my own time. Take sick days when I need them.  Have a flexible schedule that works around all those school events, meetings, days off, and short scheduled days.  It’s working on my own terms, in my own space, how I want, and when I want.  It works for now.  It won’t be forever, but it’s what we need right now.  Do I have Uber stories? Oh, do I….. But that’ll have to wait for a future post….. stay tuned!

-Sandra

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parent autism oathMy daughter was 5 years old when we got the “official” diagnosis of Autism. We had previously been working with her school that had tested her and found she had Autistic-like tendencies and put her on an IEP (independent educational program), so we had an inkling, not a diagnosis.

I have to tell you, of all the things we wish for for our children, health, happiness, college, to find love, it never occurred to me that she could have that with her diagnosis. You hear the words “Autism” and it’s like hearing Cancer, it almost feels life ending. I felt cheated, I felt like all those things I wanted for her were gone, I cried in anger…..and then I let the pity party end.  Nothing had changed, she was still my sweet child, my gorgeous daughter, and all those things I wished for her future, are still there.

In my intense search to understand what a diagnosis of Autism meant, I found two things:

1. There’s no cure.  She won’t grow out of it.  There’s no magic pill. It is what it is.

2. She may not understand what she’s being taught, but we can alter how she’s being taught to make her understand.

Where there is a will, there is a way.  I vowed right there and then, Autism is what my child has, not who she is.  I vowed to be her biggest advocate.  To voice what she can’t, when she can’t.  I vowed to fiercely protect her little heart from kids and adults that just don’t understand what Autism is.  I vowed to be her biggest fan and cheer her milestones no matter how small they may seem to everyone else.  I vowed to be the best parent I can for her. And guess what?

I remembered I had vowed all those things for my older daughter.  The “normal” one. Of course, we all know, normal is just a dryer setting.  Nothing had changed. I’m just a mom. She’s just my daughter. I’m still her mama-bear and she’s still my baby cub, no matter what.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a label. She’s a wonderfully sweet child.  She has her days, but all kids do. Am I exhausted? Yes, but it’s a different level of exhaustion.  The celebrations of life are so much sweeter with her in my life.  And just like her, we’re altering and adjusting our lives and working on her level.  It’s the things that we do together that matter.

-Sandra

flat face obsessionI wouldn’t be able to tell you where or when my flat-faced obsession started, but for as long as I can remember, gorillas have been my favorite animal.  Aside from being majestic, strong, mysterious animals, they’re so ugly, they’re beautiful.  Granted, I’m an animal lover to begin with, but gorillas have always been the enclosure at the zoo I can spend hours at and feel both sad at their captivity and in awe at just how surreal it is for me to be just a glass width away from them.  It has long since been my dream vacation to visit Africa and safari the jungles, just to be near them, so much so, I’d even face my fear of snakes for a glimpse of them in nature.

Fast forward to adulthood and the reality that Africa will always be just that, a dream.  For now, my life consists of rounding up my own little apes, getting them to school, and making their little dreams come true.  Although, I frequently take them to the L.A. Zoo to visit my friends the gorillas, they usually pull me away to see their favorites, as mine hold no grand allure for them.

My Own Flat-Faced Beasties

So, I’ve contented myself by surrounding my life with furry flat-faced beasties that I can hug and cuddle in my own home.  Yoda (above) is my playful, rambunctious pug, that although much smaller than my other beastie, rules the backyard and keeps him in check.  Below is Angus, our handsome flat-faced stud who is so cool, calm, and collected, that he can let Yoda run around, pull him down by the ear, eat first, lay down on top of him and use him as a doggie bed, and still be patient and gentle with her regardless.

I’m not going to lie, although my heart is full of love for these beasties and in search of more to fill my home, such as a black pug to name Vader (yes….we’re Star Wars geeks), a Frenchie to name 626, and a flat-faced kitty as well, my heart still yearns to see my original flat-face obsession, gorillas.  I usually calm the itch by using my annual pass for the L.A. Zoo, which, in truth, we only got because of me and my gorillas.  That’ll have to do until I can make my dream of seeing gorillas in the mist in Africa come true, ’til then, I’ll save my pennies and continue obsessing over my flat-faced beasties.

-Sandra

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