Monday, February 25, 2013

A blind date gone bad (whodathunkit?)

Props to our local library for this month's gimmick to get people to read.  Blind date with a book.  And, as there is a contest of sorts involved, I was all in.

The short and short of it is that the library staff wrapped up some books in red paper and labeled them along the lines of "If you like fiction, then check me out!" but not so cheezily (???) as that.  Then, you simply read the book, fill out a name/phone number form when you're done, and drop it in the contest box when you return the book.  Fun times to be had by all, right? 

I tried 3 times to hook up with a book, but I must be the person on eHarmony with whom no one wants to talk. 

First attempt:  Nothing of interest.  The selection was for those who enjoy technology and something else equally uninteresting.

Second attempt: I like satire, so I came home with a sweet little satirical number and once unwrapped realized that I accidentally tried to date the book equivalent of my younger brother's annoying friend.  Gulliver's Travels, I don't care for thee.  I've trudged through you before in my undergrad youth, and I don't wish to revisit you nearly a decade later.  I even remember (wow, right?!) reading you outside the Admin Building, by the fountain, in the sunshine, late in the spring semester on one of those gorgeous, spring-flirty days where professors who are equally cabin fevery randomly decide to take the class outside and everyone tries to sit comfortably on stone walls and iron benches, though that's relatively impossible to do.  It was assigned reading in Dagny's class (not that we'd ever refer to her by her given name to her face, but given that her husband was also a retired prof, it's easier that way...which reminds me, I should write about my Jan term trip with this dynamic duo sometime), which explains it all.  She chose this completely horrid text.  It's just dumb and ridiculousIt's dumbly ridiculous.  The short of it is turning long.  Needless to say, I returned that one after slogging through one page of pure bile-inducing blah.  "A Modest Proposal" it is not (passive voice...anyone catch that?).

Third attempt:  This is where my blind dating improved, probably because I, obviously, needed my husband to help me with this.  He was going to the library anyway, so he picked up another red-wrapped wonder for me.  Lo and behold--success.  So far.  I'm only about 15% of the way through it.  Metaphorically speaking, we're still making some nervous small talk over coffee while we're measuring each other up, trying to decide if we're going to stick to our dinner reservations.  But there haven't been any deal breaker surprises so far, so I'm thinking a wishful "yes."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Serving size, shmerving size

**I always vacillate about the caps/no caps of the post's title.  Thoughts?**

I'm an eater.  I love me some food so long as it's good food.  Highly processed, coma-inducing fast food garbage isn't good food.  And for me, once I really "got out into the world" and cooked for myself every day, I realized that what I can make is ever so much better than what the dollar menu is selling.  This is not to say that I don't ignore some of what I make, hoping that the boy finishes it instead (which, you know, usually happens).  But now that I have little beans sprouting at my house, I've caught myself thinking a couple of times how "THIS is going to be one of those recipes that I will make for my daughters.  And they will remember it.  And they will request it as they grow up.  And they will want me to write down the recipe for them when they're ready to move out.  And they will try to make it themselves in their own kitchens someday.  And it will not turn out as good for them for some reason.  And they will come back to my kitchen so that I can make it for them.  Yes.  This will happen."

Why is it that those favorite recipes from our mamas' kitchens invariably never turn out the same when reproduced in our own? 

Today, this is a story of one of those recipes that is one of my new favorites, one that always turns out exactly right, one that my kids will, I hope, request someday.  Strangely enough, I don't ever remember eating this growing, ever.  Never.  Not once.  I remember any other kind of dessert being standard fare around my mom's kitchen but never RICE PUDDING.  Now, I heart it up and down.  And this particular version of it is ever so creamy and perfect with a handful of chocolate chips and a handful of pecans thrown on top when it's still warm.  Take away those toppings, and there is not much fat in it and a fairly reasonable amount of sugar given that it's all dessert-y and such.  Here, then, is my Friday gift to you (courtesy of "Erica G." from, who has to be a truly lovely person, no doubt): CREAMY RICE PUDDING.  (Recipe addendum: what the heck do you need to make 2 pots dirty?  You don't.  Use the same pot.  And, if you use jasmine rice, which I always do and so should you, then your rice stays soft and creamy, even after it's been fridged.  Oh, and skip the raisins without feeling ashamed.)

This is a temptation that knows no serving sizes.  Attack it with a big spoon and no guilt, my friend.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I adore Grisham novels, and I'm not afraid to admit it!

Everyone has their dark secrets, right?  This confession is not one of mine.  My dark secrets are fairly light grey in hue, actually.  I'm usually pretty vanilla. 

Here goes nothing.  I very much enjoy something that I call "book candy."  Admittedly, I enjoy straight-up candy, too.  On a crazy day, I might even enjoy some candy while simultaneously enjoying book candy.  John Grisham novels are my literary Twizzlers. 

Too often anymore, I get in reading ruts where the thought of starting a book isn't even appealing to me.  I coast on my newspapers, magazines, blogs, and Yahoo stories.  Books require a certain commitment that other media do not.  In other words, sometimes I like to date around without entering into a serious relationship with something that takes thought and much effort.  Book candy isn't exempt from this need.  It may not be a long-term relationship but still one that is more than a little flirting.  Book candy is dating but you don't really want to invite him/her along to your parents' house for the holidays.

I'm not a devoted follower of Tom Clancy or Nicholas Sparks, though I've read one or two of the latter.  I'm not rabid about James Patterson or Jodi Picoult, though I hung with it through The Tenth Circle and watched the movie adaptation of My Sister's Keeper.  Regardless, I understand why droves of readers do read all of these authors and others of their ilk.  These are prototypical book candy authors.  (Though my guess is that three of the four authors would disagree with my statement here; Nicholas Sparks knows that his work is spineless drivel that satisfies people the same way that American Idol shockingly continues to fascinate enough people that it's still on TV.)  Their work is long enough for a sweet little beach vacation, cheap in a paperback form, generally devoid of truly disturbing social issues, and paint vivid character descriptions. 

These authors are simply put good storytellers.  And John Grisham is no different.  In fact, that's the primary reason why I dig his work.  A few hours ago, I just finished his latest, The Racketeer.  If you're not clear about the overwhelming majority of Grisham's work (and in the last 20 years, he's been a busy little author bee), he writes about lawyers and legal stuff.  Grisham is also a lawyer  of sorts insofar as he used to be one.  And while I could write a story about a lawyer on the lam or a lawyer who takes on torte reform or even some incarcerated ex-judges who are running a scam out of jail, I couldn't do it like someone who actually studied law does.  Grisham is always the first to admit that he relies on fiction heavily, even at the expense of good lawyer-ing.  But who cares? 

Not me.  I have a couple of English-y degrees and can represent some serious book cred on a good day, but that doesn't mean that I don't like curling up with a comfy blanket, some sort of baked snack (or Twizzlers), a steaming mug of Cafe Verona in the afternoon when the sweeties are asleep, and some book candy

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love for YHL

I don't remember how, but I recently came across the Young House Love blog by Sherry & John Petersik, which is in the list of those that I follow.  I've been reading it, ogling it, and drooling over it for a few weeks now.  It has literally whipped me into a DIY frenzy.  A few things are, unfortunately, posing something of a roadblock in my energetic-ness.

1.  I don't sew.  I don't like to sew.  I want to know how to sew only so far as I want to do projects that require some legit sewing skills.  The only reason that I took a class that taught sewing in junior high school was because it was also the elective that had cooking.  I'm sure that my mom still has my one and only sewing project tucked away with all of my other childhood trinkets and such that she kept from my formative years.  And get was a sewing bag (I think). 

2.  The paint color that would best correspond with home makeover projects would best be termed "extravagance," an egregiously putrid shade of green.

3.  My children like me to play with them an awful lot, the needy little boogers.  Sometimes I can pass off the older one to an accomplice, but the younger one has the most endearing quality of reaching for me and giving me her I-love-my-mama eyes.

4.  I'm not such a big fan of cold weather, and I'm not such a big fan of doing things in a cold garage. 

5.  I'm pretty much inept at visualizing coolness.  (Now that I don't have 100 teenagers at my disposal, I'm not sure what I'm going to do for fashion advice.  True story.)  I very (very) much want someone to tell me what to do about my cabinets and baseboards, which are a certainly adequate and respectable shade of 1990s. 

Check the site out for the eye candy alone...the pictures they take are gorgeous and vibrant.  For a more decadent twist on house envy, try reading it with a mug of Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate.  All around tasty. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Reader warning: If you're sick of me talking about not having a job by now, no need to commence.  There will be no hard feelings from me because.  I'm feeling rather like the over-exuberant new mom who gushes about every cheerio that her firstborn feeds him/herself.  Get over myself already! and all that.  Ah well.  I'm going to write it anyway.

Fiction: Not working and having the luxury to be a stay-at-home for however long you do it is blissful.  There are good naps.  You get stuff done.  You wake up leisurely in the morning and sit at the table sipping one or more cups of hot stuff of your choice.  You wear whatever you want and don't care.  You take the kids on a trip to the mall or out to eat for a treat or what-have-you whenever you get bored at home.  You hang with friends who are also stay-at-homes.  You read a lot. 

My reality:  Some of this is true, actually. 

I do wake up fairly leisurely and just early enough to get a shower in before the spouse leaves for work.  Sometimes Abby is the one who sneaks in as my gentle alarm clock.  ("'s time to get uuuu-uuupppp....")  Caveat:  I've already been up at least once, usually between 4:30-5:30 to feed and diaper Audrey, my soft little snuggle bug who makes raspberries to herself until she goes back to sleep for a couple more hours.

I do get some stuff done.  I rock the laundry train.  We're up to 7 solid loads of laundry a week, usually on 2 days.  I can multi-task kitchen stuff like an Iron Chef, at least in comparison to the hubs who ... doesn't.  I'm pretty decent at planning ahead.  Caveat: I have to.

I do wear whatever I want.  Caveat: I do care what I look like, even when I'm wearing the comfy clothes.  Probably no one else but me noticed that I wore grey every day last week.  Every day.  Caveat: No one else but me ever notices what I wear.  I'm pretty inconspicuous.

But here's the nuts & bolts reality, the part that I'm having trouble adjusting to.  I'm pretty isolated now, coming from a place where I was surrounded by people.  I'm much more happy being in the company of  myself or a small couple of people rather than a crowd, but at some point, you just need to be around adults.  And the real issue, the one that is the purpose here: I don't have an end in sight, and that's just scary; it changes everything.  With my first maternity leave, I was on leave from the very end of May until March 1st of the next year, but there was always an end in sight through the winter blahs.  I'm a 3-steps ahead planning kind of person, and I'm left with nothing but the unknown right now.  It's working and there are no regrets in our decisions, but I'm the first to admit that it's still just scary.  Caveat:  I have so many ideas, and it's liberating to be able to think what if??? for once.

For my fan club president, Crystal, here is a picture that I took this morning as I was trying to dress Audrey and she was trying to hang out with her good buddy, who was coloring her own hand like anyone would do.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Melancholy demise

If you have been a faithful follower for a couple of years on this blog (and really, there might be one of you out there...?), then you might remember a post that I wrote WAY back in the day that I wrote about Abby's various loveys.  This is one of the few posts that I've written that I still remember, for one very important reason.  This is where I first documented Abby's adoration of her pants. 

This little pair of aqua leggings (size 3-6 months) was part of a "Hey! Congratulations on having a's a sweet little outfit!" present when we had Abby from a good college friend.  They came with a couple of cute onesies and an adorable pink skirt.  They were later part of a pile of clothes that were outgrown and in need of being boxed up and stored should there ever be a time when we would need little girl clothes again of exactly that size for exactly that season.  (Hey, what do you know...wishes do come true.)  Suffice it to say that Audrey never got to wear these pants.  Audrey was able to rock the onesies and the skirt (which, by the way, little diaper tushies clad in skirts are drool worthy...I do love me some cloth diapered baby bums), but she never so much as slipped a wee little piggy in either leg of THE PANTS.

These pants became something of a legend with my oldest.  All of her other loveys fell into and out of her affection, but she unwaveringly remained faithful to the end (foreshadowing!) of the life of these pants.  By the time this pair of pants died as a torn, knotted, discolored, disgusting little scrap of cloth, Abby still thought of them as #1 in her world, trumping anything and anyone. 

This is something of a requiem to Abby's pants, a eulogy a few months late.  They've been back in my mind as I accidentally discovered one of the cuffs of these pants stashed, for safekeeping perhaps, in part of Abby's carseat a few days ago.  A suspicious blue thread was sticking out and I quickly pocketed the scrap before Abby's eyes should find it and set her mind to longing for that which she can no longer have.  And for a proper sendoff, here are a couple of pants stories that would wrench any toddler's loving heart.  And as my final memory, a secret, which may or may not be revealed at the proper moment in approximately 20 years.

Memory #1: Abby took her pants with her EVERYWHERE.  This, I assure you, is no exaggeration.  Abby also enjoys going to cross country meets with Daddy.  One lovely fall day when Abby was 2, she set out on one such adventure, pants in tow, and returned home sans pants.  There was no napping that afternoon.  There was much longing.  There was a frantic call to the groundskeeper of the park where the meet was held and a return trip by the errant papa to retrieve the pants.  And that kindly groundskeeper, bless his soul, must have been a grandfather, for who else would go out on a golf cart in search of a pair of blue infant leggings for one sad little 2-year old, wandering around acres and acres of empty grass?  (Cross country meets are usually held on extensive acreage, mind you.)  The pants were shockingly found and returned. 

Memory #2:  Abby stashed these pants in a good amount of "safe" places around our house, and we got pretty good at finding these on the quick when we needed to be out the door and the pants were nowhere to be found.  She preferred such hiding places as in between couch cushions/chair cushions, in her bed, on the floor beside daddy's side of the bed, and inside her monkey backpack.  Yet the crafty little toddler sometimes utilized the washing place indeed.  And speaking of the washing machine...

Memory #3:  Have you ever tried to wrestle a lovey away from a toddler who is sick after the lovey has been puked upon and is in immediate need of a washing?  It takes some tactical maneuvering, a word play two-step, if you will.

Memory #4: Abby has had a lot of ear infections and subsequently, has been to the doctor's office and the walk-in clinic a lot.  The same doctor remembered Abby over the course of a couple of months because of her pants, her safety blanket that were not to be relinquished while being poked and prodded. The nurse at her regular doctor remembered her for the same reason. 

Memory #5:  Her pants were accidentally left at church once.  The organist found them, knew they were Abby's, and kept them safe at church for her until Daddy could return and get them.  Friends looking out for friends.

Memory #6:  The final demise: Shortly after Thanksgiving last November, we couldn't find Abby's pants anywhere.  We looked in all of the usual places, including the hampers and trashcans.  And Abby still took a nap that day despite occasionally asking about/talking about her lost pants.  Daddy was informed of the problem when he returned home from work, but nothing was found.  By this point, the pants really were nothing more than the seams knotted together with a couple of frayed scraps of the legs yet intact.  Both cuffs were missing, and the elastic of the waistband had long been showing through.  The pants gods were with us again as they provided us the perfect, couldn't-have-scripted-this-any-better ending to the saga of the pants.  I found the "pants" shortly after Abby was in bed and asleep for the night.  I found them...and I DIDN'T GIVE THEM BACK.  And Abby has never asked for them again.  She lost them at just the right time when she didn't need them anymore, I guess.  Her affections continue to stray from stuffed animal to stuffed animal, mostly settling on "kitty," but not always by any means.  She's a cuddler and looks naked without having a lovey in her hands, vulnerable and also rather grown up.  And despite the burden of the pants (and the grossness), always having to be aware of where she may have dropped them in a store or storing them in your pocket for her, they were indelibly part of her personality for almost 3 years.  She still just doesn't look right without them.  And here's my secret, which you can probably guess: I still have the pants, hidden in one of my dresser drawers.  I fully intend to keep them and give them back to her someday, if only to give them to her to throw away.  In fact, I have the last skeleton of the pants as well as the cuff that I just found and a couple of other large chunks that were ripped off of them at various points.  I have them all, and I want to present them to her if for no other reason than to give her ONE tangible memory of "Abby's pants," for which she was so well known for such a major portion of her life so far. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Recognizing wealth

Within the last month, I read something in a newspaper about education/schools, and the article mentioned the amount of household income for a family of four that qualifies the children to receive free/reduced meals at their school.  Given my lack of a paycheck at this point, our family income is right around that amount.  That made me think.

Today, I was half watching an episode of a favorite TV show that was addressing equal rights between men & women (the Equal Rights Act) while Audrey was climbing around and over me on the floor.  I looked at her sweet baby head and chubby limbs going non-stop and thought about the privileged life that she was born into by grace.  That made me think again.

In various ways, I've been wrestling this past month or so with contradictory illustrations of what constitutes wealth and poverty.  I find that context dictates the definition, of course, but degrees of wealth can co-exist with degrees of poverty.  I use these terms for lack of any other that signify what I mean while also knowing that neither of my examples truly illustrate how society defines "wealth" and "poverty," especially the latter. 

The importance of the issue for me lies completely within the unknown of my career and future.  It's a completely different issue to take some time away from your job and forsaking a paycheck for a finite amount of time, knowing that you will have a paycheck again beginning on X day rather than taking some time away from your job indefinitely.  And once my situation became no paycheck indefinitely, I freaked out a little.  I'm still a little on the freaking side of it all, I think.  Thank heavens for the boy who tempers my anxiety. 

I intrinsically know that "wealth" is evidenced in a variety of ways and is not something that can be pinpointed on a tangible wealth-poverty continuum.  But I am both learning and remembering how we enjoy wealth and what we believe it is.  In January, Abby and I put together a meal for a family that has become very important to ours.  They bought a new house and are feverishly working on it from the proverbial top to bottom.  This was our service project last month, to serve our friends and allow them to take a moment to enjoy their family amidst all of the chaos of the move.  The thank-you note we received from them was honest and sweet, and I love that feeling of how I had an abundance that I was able to share.  I know that I would like some more of that wealth. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Can't wait to get to Heaven

Abby and I have some good chatting time in the morning after Ben takes off for work and before Audrey wakes up for the day.  We usually have an hour, sometimes longer.  Inevitably, that means a long, leisurely breakfast, maybe a game or two of Memory, perhaps a book or Highlights magazine perusal, and hurriedly getting teeth brushed and clothes put on before my hands get more tied up with a smaller bundle.  Abby gets us for about 2 solid hours to herself before Audrey wakes up in the morning, and that's pretty vital for her happiness.  She must have good one-on-one time everyday.  (She's also like a frisky puppy and must have good running playtime everyday.)

Every once in a while, Abby brings up some God talk.  My favorite is when she is trying to be tricky.

Abby: Hey Mommy, who made the bathtub?
Me: I don't know.  Someone in a factory, I guess.
Abby: Nooo....God did.

I know that lots of these random little snippets come from Sunday School and pre-school alike.  But since I'm never part of those discussions, they come out of the blue.  Toddlers are fantastic at transparency.  There's no filter, so you get to hear about everything they're thinking.  In that respect, talking with Abby is a lot of fun, and I take that for granted. 

A couple of days ago at breakfast, Abby started in on--Heaven.  She even pulled out references to angels in robes (that didn't come from us!).  She matter of factly stated that "I can't wait to go to Heaven and see God."  And it made me think a little...why not?  Adults are probably likely to swoop in and think about how this poor young child has her whole life ahead of her and what a tragedy it would be, but why not?  What an interesting perspective for a kid to have, I think.  As a parent, I don't think that it's my job to stifle the curiosity of my kid by imposing my own sheer horror at the thought of Abby going to Heaven before me.  Heaven is interesting, different, and new for her.  It's something to be interested in and explore.  Not only did she say that she can't wait to meet God, but she can't wait to see Audrey & Daddy & Mommy in Heaven, too. 

Death hasn't been an issue that we have had to overtly face with Abby yet.  It's a sweet gift to explore the topic with her before pain and sorrow are introduced.  And I, for one, am glad that she wants all of us to come along to her Heaven-playground to join in the fun, someday.