Jun 8, 2015

mother's day

I know Mother's Day was a little while back, but I was looking through some photos, and remembering a day that was just right. 

Mothering is one heck of a tough job. It is ceaseless, and 24/7, and at times, I think I will lose my mind completely if I have to cook one more meal or have to be on the receiving end of yet more toddler attitude. There are certainly days that I want to curl into a tight ball and let go of all responsibilities for even five minutes. 

But it is the job I wanted more than anything in the world. I dreamed about being a mother for years, and desperately prayed to become one, when it seemed that fertility was not in the cards. When I found out I was pregnant, it was a joy unspeakable. Now with my daughter here with me, my heart continues to expand infinitely every day.

We spent our Mother's Day first with my wonderful in laws, and then as a little family of three. We played in local gardens, had some incredible vegan food, and I got to have some coveted cuddle time. It was simple and sweet and perfect. 

Julie, I love you more than I ever could have imagined. Thank you for making me a mother. I am so honored to be yours, little one. 

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May 18, 2015


"A Portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Why hello there, little mouse! Ready and oh so excited to go on her first visit to Disneyland.

May 10, 2015


"A Portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2015."
Mother's Day explorations, bunny sidekick in hand.
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May 6, 2015


I'm so honored to be a part of the new HERITAGE series on the Indi Moonrose blog. I wrote about my experiences growing up bi-culturally, and the struggles of coming home again after thinking you have lost yourself. Here is an excerpt:

"At sixteen I made the decision to return to America, to my father who was now a stranger to me, and to old friends who were no longer children. It was a terrifying prospect to return home to a place that was pieced together from memories, and film and TV scenes, but sometimes leaps of faith must be taken. Sometimes the scariest choice is truly the right choice. So I said goodbye to my mother, family, to friends who had grown to be irreplaceable extensions of my heart, and flew fifteen hours to a new life. Reverse culture shock was waiting at the other end, and it’s true that it never gets easier, but I’ve found that life is made meaningful by such challenges."

Please visit Bri's beautiful blog to read more.

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May 2, 2015


"A Portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2015."

The bangs make her look so much older...My baby has been replaced by a full blown little girl, and I'm feeling all sorts of bittersweet. Of course, her bangs will stay put for only a minute or so, before they spring back up into a mess of wild and untameable curls.  

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May 1, 2015

wanderings of a vegan foodie-donut friend

When I moved from Tokyo to LA in 2007, the vegan options in Tokyo were still few and far between. Most of my favorite places were somewhere in the Omotesando vicinity (If you're ever planning a trip to Tokyo, let me know! I can recommend a few amazing places.) I made a trip back back to Japan this past winter after eight years of living in LA, and it was a completely different place! There were so many juice bars, and the ease with which I could find vegan food offerings blew my mind. Tokyo is constantly re-inventing itself, and I love that about that city.

Being that the options were still few in Japan eight years ago, coming to LA was like moving to a vegan paradise. Whole Foods was my new Disneyland, there was vegan fast food, and being plant based was totally accepted by most people I met. It was an exciting time getting to try out all of these amazing restaurants.

I'm happy to say that LA is still a vegan paradise, and the options are even more endless. Now that I have a toddler, its's important for me to go to places that have kid friendly options, as well. I'm always excited to share great finds with others, so I thought some vegan restaurant/store reviews were in order. Having yet another excuse to visit some of these eateries didn't contribute to this idea at all... ;-) So, to kick things off:

LA now has its very own almost vegan donut shop! In the heart of the ever hip Highland Park, this donut shop takes donuts to another level altogether. You can either customize your donuts, or choose from a vast menu of concoctions that range from your traditional cake donut with glaze and sprinkles to creative donuts filled with coconut cream and and glazed with vanilla glaze and lime zest, such as my favorite "Coconut of Conformity".

Most donuts can be veganized, there is a gluten free option, and they informed me that they have plans to go all vegan in the near future! Pure music to my ears and taste buds :-) If you are a donut lover and happen to be in the area, or feel like making a special trip (it's worth it.), I cannot recommend this place enough.

P.S. If you feel like making a full meal of it, Town Pizza is a couple doors down with a stellar vegan pizza on menu. (Review to come.)

Donut Friend
5107 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90065
They are closed Mondays, and are open 7 am-10 pm tue, wed, thurs, sun & 7 am-12 am Fri, Sat

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Apr 30, 2015

from the kitchen table (vegan family meals)

I've been working on refreshing my diet--I say "refreshing" because it sounds a little less menacing than "overhauling"... I see an amazing Chinese doctor and naturopath who have been such a wealth of information, and have been the catalysts to this particular wave of change. It's not a bad change. Just less sugar, wheat (sob), with the addition of more healthy fats. It gets a little tricky cooking for the whole family, but we are making it work little by little. Here's our day:

Breakfast-Jasmine rice with natto seasoned with toasted sesame oil and nama shoyu//stewed pumpkin//nori seaweed

Snack-Gluten free zucchini muffin//cashew milk

Lunch-Baked falafel sandwich on sprouted bread (for Julie), home made hummus, and avocado//a large salad with more avocado and carrot ginger dressing//coconut yogurt

Snack-Vanilla chia pudding//rooibos chai tea

Dinner-Kamut pasta with roasted cauliflower, olives, and walnuts//kale salad

*Muffin and carrot ginger dressing from Choosing Raw, Hummus from Oh She Glows, Chia pudding from Living Raw Food and the rest was thrown together willy nilly. Time to get some of these recipes written down!
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Apr 28, 2015

night weaning

We stopped nursing at night a couple of months ago when I was at the end of my sleep deprivation rope. I knew that I needed to honor the warning signals that my body was sending me daily. Sleep, sleep, sleep...I would hear from some inner voice, persistent and regular as the ticking of a clock.

The transition was as gentle as we could manage, although there were scattered tears, and some brutal nights. Now she sleeps through--she of the every 1-2 hr wakings--and my exhausted body is grateful. I feel like a real person again. The little things don't break me into a million pieces like they used to.

One day, during the process, she started asking me to bring her her dolls to sleep with. Now, instead of "ne ne's" she holds her dolls close, kissing their much loved faces and stroking their cheeks. This is how she falls asleep. I'm happy with our decision to nurse when the sun rises, but it is so bittersweet--watching her claim her independence one sure step at a time. Knowing that one day I will wake up and my little girl will be grown, the quiet hours of the night we shared together only a cherished memory.

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Apr 26, 2015

self love

We were taking some family photos the other day, and my love snapped a few of me. Back when I acted for a living in Japan, this was the norm--to stand in front of the camera. I felt comfortable there, and most days I felt ok with how I looked.

I'm almost ashamed to admit how uncomfortable I am in my own skin now. It's all too easy to see the ragged c-section scar, the belly that is softer, fuller, and defies confinement from old skinny jeans, the fuller thighs. I find myself looking in the mirror with anger, and wishing away these new acquisitions.

This body of mind has co-created, carried, and birthed a child. It continues to nourish her with milk. My arms are the safest haven in the world for her. My smile brightens my husbands day, and my legs stand strong on the earth. There is so much to be grateful for. Self love is an ongoing journey, isn't it? For me, it's something I must choose every single day; sometimes every single moment, over and over and over again. To see ourselves the way the ones we love see us. To honor every inch of our souls and hearts and bodies. Truly, what a wild journey it is.

I'd love to see you on Instagram at @ne_neland

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"A Portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Perfecting her duck face. She is way into having her picture taken these days. A little entertainer in the making--which is such a beautiful dichotomy, because she is normally just about as reserved and shy as you can get. Perhaps mama's acting bug got passed down. Or papa's stage loving musician genes. One thing's for certain--she is a unique soul who is so very loved.

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Apr 19, 2015


"A Portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2015."

True happiness is the heart of a (almost) three year old. I would love to see the world through her eyes.

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the village gathering

A few weekends ago, I went to a local gathering of women. One of the founders of the magazine and movement that has inspired these gatherings is someone I met through Instagram-yes, the world of social media! She is inspiring and a truly genuine person. If you haven't heard of her lovely magazine, you can read all about it here at The Village Magazine.

In the founders words, these gatherings are about this: "Bringing back the Village-A place to shake the tired off our face and revel in sisterhood. Where mothers can sit side by side without judgment or fear and simply be. A night to cultivate friendships outside the virtual world, put our children to bed, connect, meet new people, build on friendships we already have, and gather around a table full of good food and even better conversation." Basically what has been missing from my life!

For the first time since Julie was born, I decided to take a day for myself. This was so much harder to do than I would have ever expected. As parents and as mothers, who falls into this cycle of constant giving with little to no thought for oneself? I am so guilty of this. I get into the mindset that I must  be there for my daughter at all times--that no one can give her what she needs like I can. In reality, I have a wonderful husband who is as incredible of a father as they come. He is perfectly capable of meeting her needs, and not to mention, have an amazing time with her. As I had reached the end of my limit from a constant flow of giving without ever giving back to myself, I figured that this gathering could be just the catalyst to begin the novel idea of self kindness. So I went all out and started the day with a Thai massage. I took a solo walk. And to close out the night, I had dinner and shared inspired conversation with other mothers who were all looking to connect in a meaningful way. I love when that gap between strangers gets bridged as hearts get bared. It is such a simple equation, really--when we share who we really are, and open our hearts to one another, if only for a moment--true connection happens. Love rules the day. Authenticity equals peace within and on a larger scale. I am thankful today for opportunities to meet other loving souls, and to truly begin to love myself.

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Apr 14, 2015

little adventures-to the trails

We are blessed to live in a place where the sun shines most days, and the woes of winter (think icy roads and hours of snow shoveling) such as in places like my beloved home city of New York, are nonexistent. There are days that I lament the lack of four defined seasons, but it is more than compensated by the fact that we can run outside to have a hike and a picnic any day we please. Natural Vitamin D makes for happy kids and parents.

This past weekend we decided to go for a hike to some new trails, and to have a little picnic in the park afterwards. I'll admit that it was a little warm out on the hilltop, but the view was incredible, and there was little foot traffic. Julie got to ride snuggled up to her Dad, and he did all of the hard work, with zero complaints. Hiking while carrying a fast growing toddler is no joke. Some days I see her in the morning and I swear she has grown immensely overnight. We walked through the remnants of a field of wildflowers, and a mass grave of snails. It was the most haunting thing to see--these snails of all sizes had all climbed up these prickly plants to pass on. There were snails for as far as the eye could see.

We picnicked under the shade of the tree, stretched out and full of peace. I can't think of a nicer way to spend an afternoon. After lunch, Julie went from tree to tree, hugging them tenderly and planting kisses on each and every one. She is so connected to the trees, flowers, and animals, the breeze that ruffles her hair, the scent of spring. She told me later that the trees are her friends--that she loves them, and they her. I am so humbled that this gorgeous soul is entrusted to me.There are many days that I don't feel up to the job, that I am somehow not enough. The constancy of motherhood can wear me down, and I lose my patience. Am not as kind as I would like to be. Self judgment spirals out of control. But she always brings me back to the moment. She reminds me that this very moment is everything, for all the love in the world is contained here. Through her example, she shows me that we are worthy of love and loving. Just like her beloved trees.

This little reminder was truly the perfect ending to a beautiful weekend.

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Apr 12, 2015


"A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2015.

Pointing out some magic that only she can see. And her smitten Daddy adoring every moment.

I'd love to see you on Instagram at @ne_neland

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Apr 9, 2015


This Easter we had our usual feast (brunch) at my mother-in-law's house. She is one of those people that makes entertaining look effortless. She will sit chatting with us in the living room, relaxed and smiling, pop into the kitchen for a few minutes, and voila! A gorgeous meal is served. It amazes me every time!

I don't know about you, but when I entertain, it is an ordeal (for me, but also for James.) I wake up and am immediately stressed out about all there is to do, so I turn into some sort of drill sergeant, and run through a long list of what needs to be done, as he rubs the sleep from his eyes. There is full blown panic before the guests arrive, and as they settle in with drinks and conversation, I am in the kitchen muttering to myself about all that is going wrong with the food.

Luckily, I only had to partake in the festivities this past Sunday, so all was very well. Julie's grandparents had prepared an epic egg hunt for her, with eggs filled with puffs (her favorite), balloons, little stuffed bunnies, and a little basket filled with a dress and new sandals, and some more stuffed friends. She was in paradise. It's always such a joy to watch her as she delights in an experience, new or old. The excitement that children have for holidays and other special occasions is priceless. I wish I could see the world as she does--to her, the world is full of endless wonder. It was truly a great day, full of magic and family and wonderful food. The best part about it was seeing the love that Julie is surrounded by. She is one lucky kid.

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