#48: Go to the Guinness Storehouse in Ireland

We ended up in Dublin three times during our recent UK/Ireland trip and had four flights in or out of the Dublin Airport! Seattle/Dublin, Dublin/London, Bristol/Dublin, and Dublin/Seattle. That airport became old hat after a while. This might make more sense if I explained our itinerary:

Fly into Dublin
Drive immediately to Galway (2 nights)
Drive to Portrush and the Giant’s Causeway (1 night)
Drive to Belfast (1 night)
Drive to Dublin (1 night)
Fly to London (4 nights)
Bus to Bath (1 night)
Train to Oxford (1 night)
Fly to Dublin (3 nights)

When we vacation, we go hard! The itinerary was ambitious but I never felt like we were moving too fast. We reserved the same Airbnb host for the one night we had to spend in Dublin before flying to London as well as the last three nights before flying back to Seattle. Already knowing how to get where we were staying was really helpful by the end of the trip – by that time you’re getting tired of navigating and feeling lost.


One of the highlights of Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse. Whether you’re a fan of the beer or not, it’s a fun place to visit! The top of the storehouse is a bar with 360-degree views of Dublin where you can enjoy your pint of Guinness. The storehouse is in a more industrial section of Dublin, away from the throngs of tourists. On the way we encountered a teenager whose brogue was SO strong we could barely understand what he was saying. We finally figured out that he was asking us to buy beer for him and had to turn him down. Ha.


#16: Repaint the kitchen

I knew moving into our house that the first repainting job would be the kitchen. Not that it was particularly bad. But I wasn't quite feeling the mid-toned gray that was in there - it made the kitchen unnecessarily dark. We lived with it for over a year while I tried to decide what color I wanted in there instead. A light sandy tan to go with the tile? Classic white?

Here are some terrible cell phone pictures of what it looked like with the gray (after taping).





Then I saw these images on Pinterest.



And my interest in mint was born. The tile in the inspiration pictures was very similar to ours, we also had white cabinets, and I found the mint color intriguing. I worried it might be too trendy but I figured we could always repaint at some point if we got sick of it. I ran it by Mark and he was surprisingly on board. So I bought a few samples and slapped them on the wall and we eventually decided on Breath of Spring by Behr.

For my first ever attempt at painting walls, we definitely chose the hardest room. We had tons of cutting in to do around cabinets and trim, not to mention the taping beforehand. However, since the kitchen mainly consists of cabinets, there wasn't really much surface area to paint. Just lots of prep work! We spent one evening taping, the second evening painting the first coat, and a third evening painting the second coat and removing tape. The whole process was relatively painless, or at least much less of a pain than I thought it would be! 

I love the end result. There is just enough surface area to make the mint a nice focal point, but still subdued. Plus, it's so much brighter in there!


#62: Create a gallery wall

I really love the look of mismatched frames on the wall and thought it would be a great collage idea for our living room, which still had a lot of empty wall space a year after moving in. Frames can get expensive but that's where the mismatched frames come in handy - I picked up most of these from Ross or Marshalls on sale! No need to matchy match when you're going for this type of look.

Here's my gallery wall. Not quite a full wall but you get the point.



The pictures are all from our travels or from our wedding. I like that they all have a personal connection - a story in each frame.

Speaking of stories, funny story: Mark happened to look over my shoulder and burst out laughing as I was writing this post. I said what, one of my 100 list items was to create a gallery wall, so here it is! And he said the reason why he was laughing was because in his cursory glance of the photo, he thought oh, that's a nice living room, not even realizing that it was ours! Made me laugh.

Pregnancy Faves

Pregnancy Faves
 
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens... here are a few of my favorite pregnancy things!
 
I did already mention this in a previous post but of course I had to include it here. The stretches feel amazing and I love how limber I feel afterward. My friend said you can also find these workouts on YouTube! I just got my library copy again but I'll have to return it before the baby comes.
 
These are the best pregnancy jeans I've found for me, and at a reasonable price to boot. I also tried Old Navy jeans but I found the belly band to be too constricting (even at 20 weeks) and the jeans themselves to be baggy. I never tried Gap jeans but I did try Gap maternity slacks and they were a total fail for me. I then decided I'd try a more expensive pair of jeans, and ordered a nice pair from A Pea in the Pod. They were OK, but if I'm going to spend $100 on jeans, they better be darn near perfect. So back they went. I next tried a pair of Motherhood jeans and the Jessica Simpson jeans, which are also from Motherhood. You can get petite sizing online from Motherhood and the JS line, which I was really hoping would work for me and solve the baggy jeans problem. The Motherhood jeans were STILL too baggy (even in petite XS) but the JS jeans fit me perfectly! And since the JS jeans were in petite sizing, I didn't have to hem them! Joy, let me tell you. They've been my only pair and I'm still not sick of them. There's a serious dearth of maternity clothes for petite sizes - someone should really get on that. I normally wear a petite XS or S and I've run into a lot of petite-maternity XS pieces (usually the smallest size available) that are either baggy on me or fit just fine - but on the spectrum of smaller petites, I fall in the middle. Many non-maternity lines offer petite XXS and XXXS, and these ladies are really left in the dark!
 
This is the most comfortable maternity tee I've found! The only problem with Gap is the color selection. BORING. Old Navy has more fun colors, as does Motherhood. But I could live in my gray Gap tee and probably would if that was more socially acceptable.
 
Supposedly, this oil is supposed to aid in the prevention of stretch marks. Everyone is different and I think genetics play a large part in stretch marks but I've been lucky to avoid them so far. I'm not saying it's my dedicated application of this oil each morning... but I'm not saying it's NOT because of it! It smells incredible and feels lovely. I bought my bottle about three and a half months ago and might be able to get away with not having to buy another one. I may be hooked on it though so I'll probably give in and get another bottle, even after baby!
 
Every woman is different during pregnancy but my first pieces of maternity clothes weren't cute slub-knit tees, but expensive bras because there was no way I was fitting into my old ones. It was a good introduction to the money I'd have to start spending. I couldn't even make it out of the first trimester without new bras! The salesperson gave me a little card with my size on it, saying that some women liked to save all the cards to commemorate how their bodies changed. Meanwhile, I was hoping to goodness these would be the only bras I'd have to buy (I've since learned about nursing bras, so that illusion was shattered). Now that baby is taking up considerably more room in there, my ribs are expanding to fit him. Rather than buy new bras (the cups fit fine), I picked up these extenders that you can clip into your existing bras and thus gain a couple inches of breathing room. They are lifesavers and you can get three of them for about $8! MUCH better than another expensive and awkward shopping trip.
 

On gestational diabetes (or on how I stab myself four times a day)

A routine test that all pregnant women must subject themselves to is the gestational diabetes screening: you drink a bottle of sugary liquid provided by the doctor and get your blood drawn an hour later. The blood draw reveals how your body responds to the sugar by measuring your glucose level: a higher number after a certain period of time means the body isn’t managing the sugar properly. Risks to the baby include a higher birth weight and the accompanying complications (no one wants a 12-pound baby, least of all me) and too high of a blood glucose level at birth, meaning baby’s blood glucose level will plummet after the cord is cut and require some stabilization.

I never thought of myself as at risk for gestational diabetes. Though my dad does have type-2 diabetes, which is apparently a risk factor, I’ve always maintained a healthy weight and a fairly balanced relationship to sugar. I’ve never been one to crave sweets or chocolate, and would generally say I eat a pretty healthy diet: think oatmeal and fruit for breakfast and salads for lunch. So I honestly thought this test was at worst completely unnecessary and at best one I’d breeze through with flying colors. Because look how healthy I am!

You can imagine my complete shock when I didn’t pass the screening. As I told my sister-in-law, I DON’T FAIL TESTS. That just doesn’t happen to me! So I tried to swallow the shock and pass it as a one-off. Surely my next glucose test would show that this was a false positive and I could skip on my way.

The second test is more of a commitment than the first. You have to fast for several hours before testing, get a preliminary blood draw to determine your fasting blood glucose level, then drink a more concentrated sugary drink than the previous screening. Then you had to hang around the doctor’s office so they could do three more blood draws: one every hour. As someone who is mildly afraid of blood draws, this did NOT sound like my idea of a good time.

Nonetheless, like good kids everywhere, I sucked it up and got it done. Good thing they weren’t also taking my blood pressure because my anxiety continued to mount with each successive blood draw. By the last one I felt like a ball of sweat. Correction: a ball of STARVING sweat because you can’t eat anything. Thankfully, the lab techs I had were all very professional and barely had a problem with my veins. I was so thankful! Good experience notwithstanding, I told them all at the end that no offense, but I hoped I didn’t have to see any of them for a long time. Afterward I treated myself to Qdoba.

But as you can guess by the title of this post, the test definitively showed that my body couldn't regulate my blood sugar. And guys, I was devastated. And by devastated, I mean crying in the conference room devastated. Looking back, I'm not sure why I felt so strongly about this (oh wait, hormones). I think it was a combination of the shock of having a condition I never thought I’d have and getting told that there was something “wrong” with me. Plus, the word diabetes is scary anyway!

The next steps included meeting with a nutritionist to discuss my diet (ME meet with a nutritionist? But look how healthy I am!), picking up my glucose testing kit, and meeting with a nurse to learn how to check my blood sugar. For the uninitiated, checking blood sugar entails holding your finger to a little lancing device that jabs the fingertip to produce a tiny droplet of blood. Then you hold that droplet of blood against a testing strip, which tells you your glucose (or sugar) level. I was worried my fingertips would get bruised or sensitive but after the first couple of days, it’s really not bad at all. Having to test my levels is more just a pain in the rear since I have to check it four times a day: before I eat in the morning, an hour after breakfast, an hour after lunch, and an hour after dinner. I’m a slave to my blood sugar alarm!

I haven’t had to make huge changes in my diet but I did learn that my breakfasts had been too carby for my body to handle. For example, my breakfast carbohydrate limit is 30 grams, or 2 “carb choices” (1 carb choice = 15 grams). Now let’s take one of my standard breakfasts of oatmeal and fruit. The serving of oatmeal alone is nearly 30 grams. Add in some honey (1 carb choice) and a half-cup of fruit (1 carb choice) and I was consuming double the amount of carbs than I needed, without even trying! Now I’m eating LOTS of eggs. My latest egg concoction have been egg muffins: a mixture of eggs, chicken sausage, spinach, cheese and peppers cooked in muffin tins. High-protein popovers!

Before anyone gets worried, I should mention that gestational diabetes goes away after delivery. It’s a temporary hassle but it’ll be worth it in the end!

The case for hospital tours

There are plenty of things you never think about until a baby is on the way. Like birth plans. Apparently people put a lot of thought into what they want their labor experience to be and outline it in a birth plan. I kind of thought I just show up and they tell me what to do. Speaking of showing up, another recommended task to check off your list is to tour the hospital where you will give birth. Turns out there are very good reasons to do a dry run of a hospital visit before you get to a stage of labor where you can't think clearly because a child is forcing his way out.

Case in point: yesterday.

I had a doctor's appointment after work but the hospital tour wasn't until 7:30. Our plan was to meet up for happy hour after the appointment since the hospital was five minutes away from my clinic and happy hour is a great way to kill some time. Then we'd drive to the hospital. Easy, no? We decided to drive separately from the restaurant so we could both leave directly from the hospital and not have to backtrack to pick up the other vehicle. That was mistake number one. I drove the five minutes back to the hospital but couldn't find the entrance to the parking garage (in my defense, there's tons of construction going on in the area and the entrance is somewhat hidden unless you know where you're going). So I ended up behind the hospital somehow, trying to figure out where the darn parking garage was. After another 10 minutes Mark called, asking where I was. Me: "I'm trying to find the dang entrance to the garage! Where is it??" He led me directly to it, thankfully, and I realized that this was the reason they have you do a tour: so you know exactly where to go. I figured Mark had parked in the garage too and we agreed we'd meet at the designated tour spot outside the elevators at Labor and Delivery, where the email had told us to meet.

I followed the email instructions, entering at the main entrance, turning right and heading to the Pacific elevators. I got to the 6th floor and found the tour group, almost on time at 7:31. But no Mark. Mark is nowhere to be seen. So I pulled out my phone to find out where he was. NO SIGNAL. I checked in with the lady giving the tour and said my husband would be joining me but somehow he wasn't here yet. She said, "Oh don't worry, he's probably stuck in traffic! Just call him and tell him to go through these doors and he'll catch up." I sputtered something about how I knew he was here and he must be lost in the hospital somewhere and my phone had no bars, but by then she had turned to someone else. I tried not to get angry (Where could he be?? He was here before me!) and just hoped he would make it in time. The guide started her spiel and Mark walked up about three minutes in. I think I glared at him while the guide finished her introduction and as we turned to start the tour, asked him what the heck happened. Apparently he'd entered in a different entrance and gone up the wrong set of elevators (me: so... did you not read the email I sent you?) By this point though we were both laughing because of how ridiculous it was that we were both late when we were coming from a restaurant five minutes away! Yet again: this is why you need to do a tour. Don't skip the hospital tour!

Honestly, the parking and orientation were the most useful parts. We also learned the general schedule we'll follow once the time comes, but I'm guessing at that point I'll just be following instructions and going where they tell me to go. I'm now accepting applications for volunteers who want to hold my hand and tell me everything will be alright.

The mother of all pregnancy updates

Now that I'm nearly two weeks into my third trimester of pregnancy, it's high time I updated this sphere of my life with some musings on how growing a baby has been going for me so far. If you aren't interested, that's totally fine - feel free to skip this post!

Last week at 29 weeks
 
Morning sickness: I feel very fortunate to have avoided some symptoms that plague a lot of pregnant women, namely morning sickness. I'm not sure if I'm more sensitively attuned to what's going on in my body and what triggered my nausea (I normally have an extremely strong stomach and rarely throw up anyway), but I figured out very early on what made me feel sick. Just avoiding those triggers was enough to bypass nausea for the most part. One of my triggers was getting too hot, and behaviors like drying my hair on high heat, using the car seat-warmers on max heat, using my space heater at work, and even holding warm objects on my lap like a plateful of hot cookies or a dog had to be avoided for a few weeks. I LOVE being warm (especially in January and February!) but a happy stomach was worth making sure I didn't come close to overheating. Another trigger was any semblance of an empty stomach so I kept snacks around at all times, which was enough to hold the nausea at bay. Everyone has a different experience and I know I'm one of the lucky ones to have avoided spending any time bowing to the "porcelain throne."
 
Fatigue: Honestly, not too bad. I may have been more tired than usual but it was never enough to keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do. A typical afternoon usually looked like this:
 
Mark: "How are you feeling?"
Me: "I'm tired... So, when do you want to go to the gym?"
 
I did however take full advantage of my hour-long lunch break and nap in my car. I do this even when I'm not pregnant though, so I can't really say it was truly necessary!
 
Workouts: I think keeping to a fairly regular exercise schedule helped fight the fatigue. I didn't change much about my routine initially though I did taper my running (first-time pregnancy jitters) until I went to my first doctor's appointment at around eight weeks. I kept up jogging (which eventually turned into walk/jogs) until about April, and then stopped. It got too uncomfortable once I could sense a baby in there. I really wanted to be that woman who ran up until delivery but I don't know how people do it! Maybe you just get used to the feeling of the baby jiggling around inside you? It just proves that everyone's experience is different! I also kept up my weightlifting, but noticed that I couldn't go as long as I could before, especially in the first trimester. My energy did start to return in the second trimester, though.
 
One new workout I tried was a prenatal Pilates DVD called 10-Minute Solutions. I LOVED THIS. I had to return it to the library and am waiting for it again, but the short routines have done wonders for my round ligament pain (the stretching of the tendons around your uterus) and flexibility in general. There are five 10-minute routines on the DVD and you can pick and choose which workouts to do or combine them for a full workout. I never did the full workout; I usually combined two or three of them to personalize it a bit. The movements feel amazing to this pregnant body and I love the focus on flexibility, strength and breathing. I recommend it to everyone and wish I'd found it earlier in pregnancy!
 
Cravings: The only true craving I can really call a craving was back in the first trimester and beginning of the second trimester when ALL I wanted was frozen fruit. I'd snack on it and eat it after dinner. Looking back, I wonder if my mouth was just dry or something? I didn't need much of it -- a ramekin -- but it was honestly what I looked forward to all day. I haven't experienced any weird cravings for certain foods, though. I'm sure they exist for other people and just not me.
 
Aversions: None! People have stories of how they couldn't tolerate this and couldn't stand that during pregnancy but that hasn't held true for me.
 
What I didn't think was true until I became pregnant: Bladder issues are real! My coworker always told me stories about having accidents during and after pregnancy but I always thought (naively) that wouldn't happen to me. For the most part I have been spared but I totally get where's she's coming from now. If I have anything in my bladder, I better have my legs crossed when I sneeze or THERE WILL BE TROUBLE. It's humbling, to say the least. Ladies, do those kegels (hey I warned you -- if you wanted to skip this post, you should have skipped it!) Another issue was mood swings. I consider myself a pretty even-keel gal in general. Perhaps Mark could object to that, but I think I normally do a pretty good job of keeping emotions in check. There were a couple of instances though in the first trimester where I was irrationally sad and emotional -- and for someone who doesn't normally experience that, it was WEIRD. I've never quite understood people who get weepy. But then I became the person on the treadmill in the cardio cinema room trying to hold back sobs (the loud racking sobs) while watching the latest Superman movie. It was a bit pathetic. Ok, very pathetic. Fortunately, my stoic side returned in the second trimester and I no longer had to worry about ebbing and flowing tides of emotion. Hormones: so weird.