31 August 2013

What I Wore Sunday {29}

Joining up with Fine Linen and Purple!

This is actually "what I wore Saturday" this weekend, because moose hunting season opens September 1 and Matt and my father are planning a quick overnight trip down to the lake to take advantage of Matt's long weekend for Labor Day, so we went to a vigil Mass because the only Mass early enough Sunday morning for them to get on the road at a reasonable time is at 7:30 and we are very unlikely to all be up and dressed in time. Whew! long sentence. As a bonus for going to the vigil Mass, we were able to go to Confession this afternoon; Jude unfortunately spent the entire waiting-beforehand-through-praying-after-Confession time 'whispering' "boom, boom, boom," fascinated with the echo. I guess it's not the worst thing he could have been saying or doing.

This whole week has been cold, but today we could see our breath. I'm not even kidding; winter is coming, and quickly. Does this look like an August outfit??

Brown tee: old, old Great Northwest
Jacket: hand-me-down from my mom
Awesome fall skirt: on loan from my sister
Suede boots: Jessica Simpson

Enjoy the long weekend!

30 August 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 44

Linking up over at Conversion Diary; go check out some other Quick Takes!

You know the wonderful feeling when your husband goes into the kitchen to find a snack after getting home from work, and comes looking for you to rave about how the cookies on the counter are the best you've ever made, and you have to save the recipe? Nothing kills it quite like having to look ashamed and admit that you didn't follow the recipe, and you didn't exactly measure the substitutions...so...you don't know if you can replicate it. 

I followed the standard Toll House cookie recipe for the most part, but it called for 3/4 cup each of white and brown sugar and I only had the dregs of the container left of brown sugar. So I dumped in whatever I had, added three not-quite-full 1/2-cup scoops of white sugar, and poured in some molasses for good measure. Did I even look into the mixer bowl to get a general idea of how much molasses I added? Of course not. I guess some experimenting is in order, because Matt is right, the cookies are pretty amazing: thin, chewy, they don't lose their softness over time... Okay, I'm sure they would eventually, but usually my chocolate chip cookies are crisp less than an hour out of the oven, and these have stayed soft several days.

My mother is so generous with her time: more Fridays than not, she goes out of her way to pick Little Bear and me up on her way in to town so that we can go to noon Mass and spend some time with her and the kids. I feel kind of badly about bringing my exuberant child to Mass when everyone else there probably wants quiet, but their parish does have a cry room, and I've really missed daily Mass. Getting out and talking with another adult is so nice, too; even just riding along while she does errands is infinitely more enjoyable than sitting at home with Little Bear as I try to explain to the angry, preverbal toddler that we can't play outside because it is raining. 

It always helps to hear from people who aren't upset by the noisy little one: I saw a friend there last week who is preparing to spend a year of discernment with the Brothers of St John in Illinois. Little Bear had had a particularly spectacular day in the Mass-behavior department, and I felt obliged to apologize for the distraction we caused. "No, don't apologize," he said. "It was the right kind of distraction." Thank you! Words like those help me to keep bringing him, even when it would be so much easier not to.

As an anniversary present, my father gave us a cookbook that I'm very excited about: Cooking Alaskan. Maybe he's tired of me tying up the phone line getting recipes from my mom? Just kidding. But really, it looks like a fabulous resource; no other cookbook in the house tells me what to do with halibut, or is any help at all in figuring out what to put in a marinade for moose or caribou. Even better, it is organized "on the assumption that you already have this meat in the freezer and you have to find something to do with it": instead of the traditional sections like appetizers, main dishes, etc., salmon salad and smoked salmon dip and salmon chowder and salmon filets are all in the "salmon" section. I am looking forward to getting to know this book well!

Speaking of wild game meat, moose season opens on September 1, and Matt and my father are talking about heading down to the lake for the first couple days of the season. It would be so wonderful if they got a moose! We would be set with meat for the winter. I know that it's hard to imagine, but our winter is right around the corner: we have had several frosts, and it hasn't topped 60 degrees all week. We had to turn the heat on the other day! Frankly, I'm disgusted with this August; first it was ridiculously hot, now it's unseasonably cold. I suppose I should be grateful it isn't hailing. But yeah, moose: a moose in the freezer would definitely help with the coming winter.

So would a garage, a heated garage, attached to the house, with a chest freezer in it, if we're being all fancy in our wishfulness... We saw another house for sale Wednesday; the downstairs was remodeled within the past year and was gorgeous, with wood paneling, post-and-beam accents, stone tile countertops, etc., but the upstairs just needed too much work. It certainly wasn't uninhabitable, but it felt... grimy. We would have wanted to replace all of the carpet and repaint everything, and use Sheetrock to wall off some odd nooks in the kids rooms, and it was a very odd floorplan that seemed inconvenient. Oh, and there were four? five? outbuildings in poor repair, and we would have to look into having a well drilled or else burying the massive eyesore of a water tank sitting just outside the bathroom window. All of that could certainly be done, and for the right price it might even have been worth it, but they definitely weren't asking the right price given all of the work and money we would have to sink into it before even moving in. Oh well; the search continues.

Have a lovely weekend!

28 August 2013

Taco Salads

It's been too long since I've done a meal post, and yesterday's dinner was just too fun not to share! My mother lent us her set of Norpro Mini Tortilla Bakers several weeks ago, but with one thing and another taco salad kept getting bumped off my menu plan. We finally got around to using them yesterday, and there is definitely a new item on my wishlist now!

We baked extra shells to have for lunches later this week; we may have gone a little overboard, but they looked so neat! It was unbelievably easy: spray the pans with cooking oil, stick tortillas in them, bake for eight minutes, and voila! Taco salad shells. Some of them got air bubbles in them, which I'm not sure how to avoid, but it wasn't like it affected the taste or your ability to put salad in them, so I didn't really care.

I cooked ground beef with garlic, cumin, chili powder, minced onions, paprika, and...oregano? I think? I make a "taco seasoning mix" and just keep it in a jar, making more whenever I run out, so I can't remember at the moment exactly what is in it. 

We filled the tortilla bowls with lettuce, ground beef, corn, shredded cheddar cheese, and salsa. I was going to chop up more onions to sprinkle on top raw, but ran out of time; it will happen next time. And there definitely will be a next time: this supper was quick, easy, and so good! 

Matt recommends adding black beans or pinto beans next time as well, which is an excellent idea. If I hadn't been counting on feeding Little Bear some of the ground beef, I would have added a chipotle pepper with adobo sauce, in case you want to try this and are feeling adventurous!

27 August 2013

Sniffles and Haircuts

Because it totally makes sense to take advantage of the child being fussy anyway to do the thing that makes him scream more than anything else. Right?

Such a cold this is! Matt has had to miss work two days now, as we all slog through this morass of sinus congestion and coughing and chest congestion and sore throats and misery. He finally started to feel better this afternoon, and since his office is crazy busy with the start of the new semester this week, he says that as long as he feels at least this well tomorrow morning he'll be back to work. Little Bear, who got this crazy cold first, has been doing better since yesterday but still has some lingering sniffles and occasionally coughs. I'm still in the thick of it, but it's encouraging to see the two of them getting better.

This morning, because we've been talking about it for weeks, and because he was whining anyway, and because the hair really was getting tangled up in his eyelashes, we sat Little Bear down and I cut his hair. He cried and cried, and I felt so badly for him, but it's important... Doing what's best for a child when they are just miserable about it sure is an unpleasant part of parenthood, though. 

There are a few long spots yet; I'll have to go back with a pair of scissors at some point while Matt distracts him. We put Bob the Builder on for him while I used the clippers and Matt held him, but it was only so helpful, and I had to finish quickly instead of going over to check one last time. Also, it was in German, because YouTube doesn't have full episodes in English. Oh well; it's not like he noticed.

While the clippers were out I cut Matt's hair too. I think this is my fourth time doing his? It's so nice that I can cut his hair at home; it grows quickly and gets wild and curly, so he used to have to go in to have it cut every month or so. I was surprised by how easy it is to do a simple haircut with the clippers, and the set had more than paid for itself by the time I'd used it twice!

Bedtime. Seriously, the worse thing about nursing is that I can't take DayQuil to relieve my symptoms... hopefully sleep will help.

26 August 2013

Recent Liturgical Planning

Liturgical meal planning, that is. We haven't been doing a whole lot to celebrate feasts and memorials for a while now, but over the past few weeks I've managed to work some slight nods to different days into our menu:

Saturday, August 10: St Lawrence 
Legend has it St Lawrence was martyred by being roasted over a fire and maintained a sense of humor to the end, saying to his executioners, "Turn me over; I'm done on this side." Matt says this makes me a terrible person for having grilled zucchini and sausage for dinner that night... but I'm teaching Little Bear about the lives of the saints! Okay, I'm still a terrible person...

Tuesday, August 13: Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners
Refugiam Peccatorum is an ancient title of Our Lady, dating back to at least St Irenaeus in the late 100s. It has more recently been associated with Our Lady of Laus, a 1600s apparition in the French Alps (approved by the Vatican in 2008), because she asked for the conversion of sinners. With that in mind, we roasted chicken with a blend of French herbs and served it with polenta and a green salad.

Wednesday, August 21: Our Lady of Knock
Irish soda bread, of course, with a hearty soup; I originally planned an Irish stew with Guinness and lamb, but lamb is so outrageously expensive that we wound up with a much less Irish ham-bean soup. 

Friday, August 23: St Rose of Lima
I'm not well-versed in Peruvian cuisine, but we did make something of a production out of dinner that night since St Rose is one of my patronal saints: Parmesan-crusted halibut, spiced carrots, baked beans, and fresh rolls with strawberry-rhubarb jam!

Monday, August 26: Our Lady of Czestochowa 
The Black Madonna! I've always had a devotion to this image of Our Lady, and been fascinated by its amazing history. Polish fare tonight - Polska kielbasa, pierogi, and root vegetables (carrots, onions, kohlrabi) roasted with marjoram and parsley.

Wednesday, August 28: St Augustine
I'm unhappily expecting both Matt and I to still be sick Wednesday, at least me since I got this awful bug last, so I sadly can't count on putting a lot of effort into dinner that night. Fortunately, among his various patronages, Augustine is a patron of brewers: I'm making Italian sausage calzones, to be accompanies by a nice pint of beer (but not for me if I'm still this sick... we will see).

So that's how we've been trying to incorporate the liturgical calendar and the various feasts and memorials into life around here lately. Sometimes it's a bit of a stretch, I realize, but we have fun talking about the feast days and why I came up with what I did, and it brings the saint of the day into our dinner conversation, so that's something, right? 

If anyone has any suggestions for coming feast day meals, I'd love to hear them!

25 August 2013

What I Wore Sunday {28}

Joining up with Fine Linen and Purple as usual.

Today everyone here is sick; Matt and Little Bear didn't even make it to Mass with me this morning, and I went downhill fast this afternoon. It's so much harder having everyone sick when there's a little one... If it was just the two of us, we could deal with it, but he doesn't understand why he feels so awful and just cries and cries, which only makes his throat hurt worse...

But, since I did make it to Mass, I at least have a little bit of something for you before I fall asleep. I went to the university parish today so that I could be home faster, and I am so glad I wound up there! Such a good homily: the priest began by explaining that the word "strive" in today's Gospel is translated from the Greek "agonizomai," a cognate of "agonize." Christ wasn't just saying "try;" He was telling us to put every ounce of effort into entering by the narrow gate! Father went on to remind us that we aren't striving when we are making excuses and trying to rationalize our way out of doing what we are supposed to do: You say, The winters here are so long and cold, I deserve a pass to get out and have fun in the summer without having to make it to Mass every Sunday, right? No! If you don't like living here, move to Seattle or California or somewhere and go to Mass every Sunday! Thank you, Father!

And today's outfit:

Funny angle and hidden shoes courtesy of this being the only shot taken since Little Bear was fussing...

Chambray dress & jacket: thrifted or a hand-me-down from back in highschool; it hasn't fit since sometime in college! So glad I pulled it out to try since I was leaving Little Bear with Matt and didn't have to wear something nursing-friendly
Brown wedges: Sarah-Jayne; garage sale yesterday

Have a lovely week!

23 August 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 43

Linking up with Jen of Conversion Diary for the weekly party!

Having a messy house just kills me... but having a sniveling toddler clinging to me 24/7 totally kills my ability to clean the house. So clearly, I'm dead? Or something. I can't wait for my husband to get home for the weekend.

If, in a completely hypothetical situation, you bought meat from the must-sell-today discount rack and put it in your refrigerator and forgot about it until the evening of the use-by date, and then threw it in the freezer because you already had something else going for dinner, would you consider the meat safe to eat? If you used it the same day you thawed it?

My one attempt at a craft project this summer was using up a piece of burlap left over from some other project to make a potato sack. As in, a bag to put potatoes in, because our apartment has some random magical ability to rot potatoes instantaneously; if I buy more potatoes than I will use in a week, even if I store them in the very coolest, driest place in the house, they will be moldy by the time I next reach for them. Will the burlap sack help? I have no idea, because I haven't touched the project since I started it a week and a half ago. That's not true; I've moved it from purse to table to couch to purse to table, picked it up off the floor a million or so times, etc., but haven't actually picked up the needle and done any more sewing. Needless to say, the potatoes I bought a week and a half ago (which triggered this project) are now rotten.

I'm sorry; can you tell I'm not having a day full of rainbows and unicorns? Little Bear has a cold, and was up at 9:30 and 10:00 and 10:30 and 11:00 and 11:30 and midnight, at which point he screamed and sobbed for an hour straight, and after that I decided to stop looking at the clock... but I'll try harder for the rest of these.

We went to see a house for sale in our neighborhood yesterday evening, the first time we've gone house-looking all summer. It was a pretty beautiful summer, and hunting season is starting to open up, and Matt is starting to sound happier about staying in Alaska... so we may be getting back into house-looking, yay! This one was cute and in our price range, but it's old to the point where it needs a fair bit of work, and is smaller than the apartment we are in now. Oh, and the current owners clearly smoked in the house. So no, unfortunately, it's off the table. We will keep looking, though.

I am so thankful that we have a dishwasher. Seriously, I don't know how I would get anything done on days like today, when Little Bear is fussy and clingy and sniffly, without machines that will do my chores for me at the push of a button.

Proper August weather is finally here; we have had a whole week now of rainy days broken up by random hours of sunny blue skies. Leaves aren't exactly changing yet, but more often than not it's in the 40s when we wake up in the morning. Tuesday evening, we had one of the heaviest downpours I've ever seen: even with the windshield wipers going full bore, I could barely see the hood of the car. It's so nice to see the hot weather go! I don't love the cold, but 40-60 degree days are wonderful.

22 August 2013

The New Bed

Yesterday morning, I put together the toddler bed some friends passed down to us for Little Bear. He did a stellar job of getting in the way as I balanced everything and screwed it together, pulling rods out of their slots and pulling himself up on the not-actually-self-supporting footboard. So glad I could find a way to keep him entertained while I worked. The real fun, though, started after I had it all together and put the mattress on.

Up. Down. Over. Under. He climbed all over the bed with a huge grin plastered to his face, laughing and bouncing as he pulled himself up on top or peeked out from underneath. He even laid down quietly and let me rub his back for a few minutes, before bouncing back to his play. I don't know why I was so worried about him disliking the bed -- it's clearly the best toy I could possibly have given him.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure he sees it as just that: a toy. We have been talking for months -- okay, for the better part of a year now -- about transitioning him from sleeping in our bed to sleeping on his own, and it still hasn't happened, and I was hoping that the toddler bed might be the answer. If laying him on it will make him want to play, though... I don't know. He never slept in his crib, ever at all except maybe one or two 15-minute naps, and I'm definitely not interested in transitioning him to a crib at 13 months as he's so confident in his furniture-climbing/escaping skills. We are thinking about laying a mattress on the floor in our room to start, so I can lay down to nurse him and then get up and let him stay there after he falls asleep; that is going to require some furniture-rearranging though. For naps, I fully planned to start trying the toddler bed: letting him fall asleep on my lap, transferring him to the bed, letting him nurse a bit more if he woke partway up... and then he fell asleep on my lap this morning, and I looked at the bed, and I looked at the child who was finally not screaming!, and I looked back at the bed, and I just stayed on the couch holding him through his nap, like I usually do. Sigh.

The biggest hindrance right now to getting him to sleep on his own definitely isn't him. It isn't the bed, or the mattress, or the location of either of them. It's me.

My fear of trying something different. My reluctance to step away from the thing that I already know works. My unwillingness to take a step or two backward temporarily in the waking-up-crying department in order to make a long-term giant leap forward in all of our sleep. I know it will be better for all of us once he's happily sleeping on his own, but I also know that it's going to take a while to get him there, and that I will get much less sleep in that interim phase. I'm so selfish; why is it so hard to make such a little sacrifice?

UPDATED: I finally got my act together this afternoon; sat on the floor of his room while we nursed, sang him to sleep, slipped him into the bed and so, so carefully tiptoed out... Praying that this works!

19 August 2013

Denali Park Trip

As promised, a recap of our trip. Our weekend wound up being a very different adventure than we had planned, but that's the nature of adventures, isn't it? 

The plan was to head south on one highway, camp Friday night at the lakes where my family used to go when I was younger, drive the unpaved highway through the mountains across to the other highway (yes, there are only two highways coming south out of Fairbanks) and camp at Denali National Park on Saturday, and make it to Mass in one of the small communities we would pass through on our way home Sunday.

That plan was shot to pieces Thursday when a)we learned that it was dipping below freezing in the mountains at night, and Little Bear still won't sleep under blankets; b)I discovered that we didn't actually have the food I'd planned to bring for our dinners; and c)Matt came home from work with a gastrointestinal bug.

Since he already had Friday off, and he was slowly feeling better as the evening went on, we decided to be crazy and adventurous and still go on some sort of trip: we booked a room at a hotel down at the park and put away the camping supplies, only packing clothes, car trip food, and gear for a short hike. 

Friday morning, Matt felt fine... but as we loaded the jeep, I came down with his bug from the night before. We knew it was a fairly short one, though, and the room was non-refundable, so off we went anyway: Matt driving, Little Bear raging against the injustice of a world that would cause him to be buckled into his carseat on a Friday morning, and me trying to keep him moderately happy while trying not to get sick. We stopped for lunch at a campground an hour or so out, and Little Bear was thrilled to be allowed to sit on top of the picnic table while we ate our pilot bread, cheese, and nectarines.

When we picked up and began driving again, Matt put on a cd he'd compiled of Peter Hollens, Lindsey Sterling, and The Piano Guys. It put Little Bear to sleep almost immediately, so we both actually enjoyed the rest of the drive. Our hotel was set off by itself south of the park entrance; most of the hotels, restaurants and gift shops are clustered along a mile or two of highway just north of the park entrance known locally as "Glitter Gulch," so it was very nice to be somewhere peaceful and secluded instead of right in the middle of the craziness. Our room had a little deck with a view of the Nenana River, and nothing but mountains and trees beyond it.

We walked around some gift shops and got dinner at a pizzeria in Glitter Gulch Friday night -- I highly recommend Prospector's Pizzeria and Alehouse. Everything in Glitter Gulch is (over)priced for tourists, but the pizza was nevertheless excellent. We had the Kachemak Bay: a white pizza with onions, fresh tomatoes, and blackened halibut. 

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up and headed to the park visitors center. The new building went in a few years ago, and has a very well done two-story diorama of the area with taxidermied mounts of pretty much every type of animal you could see in the park. We planned to walk around inside and show Little Bear the animals before taking a short hike on one of the trails nearby, but when we overheard that a park naturalist was getting ready to take a troupe of tourists on that hike, we figured we should hit the trail ahead of the crowd. The weather was perfect: sunny but cool, probably in the upper 40s. We took our time on the mile and a half trek down to Horseshoe Lake, enjoying the beauty and the quiet (or as quiet as it gets with the child bouncing and singing in the backpack). Little Bear had a lot of fun when we reached the lake: we took him out of the backpack, and he crawled all over the rocky area making piles of dirt and small stones. He was filthy by the end, but so happy! We spent a good half hour watching the lake and letting him play.

Just as we got back to the jeep, the train went by! We were parked no more than 20 yards from the tracks, and Little Bear stared in amazement at the huge train rushing past. Because he was getting sleepy, we decided to skip the visitors center for this year and start the drive home. That decision wound up being very wise, because apparently a tanker truck caught fire on the highway shortly after we left, and traffic both directions was completely shut down for a while! Meanwhile we had stopped for lunch at 49th State Brewery in Healy, which served the largest burgers Matt had ever seen, and the best grilled cheese I've ever had: my sandwich had gruyere, marinated portobello, roasted red pepper, grilled onions, and avocado! Little Bear had his first French fries, but was more interested in eating the avocado out of my sandwich.

The rest of the trip home went smoothly, with him sleeping and us talking quietly or just watching the scenery. I'm so glad that it turned out the way it did; it wasn't the trip I was looking forward to, but it was still wonderful.

18 August 2013

What I Wore Sunday {27}

...the "my sisters are so talented" edition. Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple for WIWS!

Our planned camping trip didn't exactly happen the way we intended, which is another post (hopefully tomorrow), but we were back in town for Mass today instead of visiting a different parish. After driving so many miles over the two previous days, though, we just couldn't subject Little Bear/ourselves to a half hour drive to Mass this morning, plus we woke up early (okay, I woke up early and woke everyone else), plus my brother goes back to college this evening... So we wound up at early Mass at my parents' parish. They don't usually have many little kids there so we went directly to the cry room, which I hate doing but goodness, I'm glad we were in there today when Little Bear melted down. Tired from traveling + teething + whatever else... the little girl behind us showing him books and then grabbing them away when he said "book" and reached for them didn't help... It was difficult to concentrate today. Their pastor's homily was quite good, and I recall appreciating how clear he was about doing right in the face of persecution, but I'm afraid I can't remember much at this point.

We joined my family for brunch after Mass: biscuits and gravy, cantaloupe, and apple kuchen. Matt, my father, and my brother sat in the living room talking about guns as we prepared food and the younger kids played with Little Bear, and afterward we looked through the classifieds for house listings that we liked and were in our price range. Why do those criteria so rarely overlap? It was nice to hear what others thought about different places, though. The kids taught Little Bear about stirring today: stirring the biscuit dough with a wooden spoon, stirring the dog's water bucket with a stick... He had great fun, and I am never going to get anything done in the kitchen ever again.

My sister Mel agreed to join me for WIWS today! She always looks so classy...

The outfits:
Pink corduroy jacket: Motherhood Maternity, thrifted
Purple tee: thrifted
Brown microsuede skirt: Sears
Wedge sandals: Fred Meyers
Earrings: made by my sister Kim

Polka-dotted dress: she made it herself! Is she amazing or what?
Belt: thrifted
Slingback sandals: I forgot to ask...

I am always so amazed by my sisters' ability to make beautiful things; even on top of working full time and walking the neighbors' dogs and helping the family when she's at home, Mel's managed to sew this dress and three skirts (at least!) this summer, and they all fit her lovely, classic style perfectly. And Kim... I wish I had a better photo of these earrings to show you, but one morning while she was in town for a visit we were sitting and talking for less than an hour, and she pulled out our old bin of jewelry-making supplies and made me two pairs of earrings during our conversation! They clearly got all of the genes for that sort of talent in the family -- I haven't used a sewing machine for anything other than hemming in years, and I am completely uninspired when it comes to beads. I'm just glad I'm related to them, so that I can enjoy the fruits of their skills. ;-)

Have a lovely week!

14 August 2013

Life in Mitford

A couple of weeks ago, I found the first two novels of Jan Karon's popular Mitford series at a garage sale. I remembered my mother enjoying several of the novels years ago, and decided to give them a try during Little Bear's long afternoon naps. What a treat! By the middle of the first book, I was enchanted.

Life in the small, rural town is presented with simplicity, pathos, and a heartwarming charm that reminds me of Anne of Green Gables and other similar stories from my childhood, but with a focus on adults. The characters are so human: complex characters with strengths and flaws and foibles, which made me feel like I was getting to know real people as the story unfolded. One thing I really appreciate is that Karon allows her characters to make human mistakes, and to patch them up in human ways: Olivia pushes away happiness that she believes there is too little hope for, Father Tim resists taking a much-needed break because he is convinced that the day-to-day is too important, Puny sighs when no men are interested and complains when some are. All of the characters are a little bit weak, a little bit foolish at times: knowing what the right thing to do is, maybe, but not always being courageous enough. But they keep trying.

It reminds me, each time I want to take CJ to task for besmirching the reputation of newspapermen, or walk out of the office with Father Tim after one of Emma's more exasperating remarks, to be more patient with myself and those around me in my own day-to-day. When I want to roll my eyes at Cynthia for jumping to conclusions and refusing to listen to explanations because her feelings are hurt, I have to wonder how many times I've done the very same thing. The books don't come off as "preachy," but have certainly made me reflect on my own foibles quite a few times as I recognize them in the actions of one character or another.

Our local used bookstore had volumes three through eight of the series, and a friend passed on her copy of the final novel, so I am slowly absorbing them. Right now, I'm close to halfway through the third; this one is taking longer, because the interactions of the newly-married couple are making me crazy. I know that some of the problems they've had adjusting are common, or at least stereotypically so, and everyone says that adjusting to married life tends to be more difficult the later in life you marry, but good gracious. Maybe we are just horribly prosaic people? I cannot even imagine any of their problems even being worth wasting brain cells thinking about. They certainly never came up for us. But there you go; I have certainly had my own little "it's supposed to work like this" moments just like Cynthia, even if about very different things, and Matt has just been more good-natured about letting me do things the way that I'm accustomed to.

So clearly, the third is every bit as good for me as the first two, and I'm sure they will finish rearranging furniture eventually.  

13 August 2013

Galloping Grasshoppers

My brain is scattered today, so... forearmed is forewarned and all that.

Do grasshoppers suddenly appear in August everywhere, or is that only in Alaska? We go most of the summer without seeing any, and then it's the middle of August and BAM! grasshoppers everywhere. I noticed that the hordes had descended yesterday afternoon, as Little Bear and I were walking up to the university to meet Matt after work. On just one grassy half-mile hill, we saw well more than 50 grasshoppers! They're all about an inch long, but come in every shade of green and brown imaginable, and have subtle differences in their markings. Little Bear, of course, was enthralled by the tiny things moving so quickly around us, and kept trying to lunge out of the backpack to get to them.

Last night as I was showering, Matt and Little Bear came into the bathroom to brush their teeth. Matt looked at the heavy condensation on the mirror and flicked on the fan, saying, "I'm going to turn this on so we don't get all woozy-headed. That's a technical term, Little Bear."

It's getting close on a year now since we've been Outside, and with winter coming on, it can be tempting at times to think about booking a trip somewhere. Hawaii is ridiculously cheap to get to from Alaska... even in February when it's -50 F... "ridiculously cheap" in comparison to flying anywhere else in the US, at least! And yesterday, a flyer came in the mail for Homecoming at our alma mater. Ohio is still warm enough to have grasshoppers in October! What a concept. Fortunately for our bank account, the accompanying wave of nostalgia was countered by the other item in the mailbox; the visa bill. Priorities. Right.

The university has a lovely botanical garden which we haven't visited yet this summer, and since our supper plans are very simple tonight, I'm thinking I'll try to talk Matt into going this evening. We said we'd go for a walk tonight... Why not do it while wandering around admiring all of the flowers and vegetables? When I was little my family went there several times each summer; my parents would be looking for new plants to try in their garden, but the kids were more excited about watching the koi in the elaborate pond, playing in the willow maze designed by some architecture students, and in August, catching grasshoppers. Little Bear would be so excited if we could actually set him down in the grass where they were hopping around!

I'm still trying to get in at least one walk per day, two if I can, while it is summer. Little Bear and I took an early walk this morning before it got too warm; it was only 63 F when we left! This August has been unseasonably hot, though, and today doesn't look like it'll be an exception: we were only out for an hour, and the thermometer climbed almost ten degrees! August is also normally our rainiest month, and I don't think we've gotten more than a couple of half hour cloudbursts so far. It's pretty, but it's sure not helping with the wildfires. More than 1.2 million acres have burned so far this year, and fire officials have our part of the state classed as "extremely high risk" right now because of the unusual extended hot, dry weather. Fortunately there is nothing too close to town, but smoke has been blowing over from some  of the closer fires, making spending time outside fairly unpleasant to downright unhealthy some days. Not every day, thank goodness! On the bad days, I keep Little Bear inside and don't tax our lungs by going for a walk, but thankfully there haven't been too many days like that.

11 August 2013

What I Wore Sunday {26}

Joining up as usual with a bevy of beauties over at Fine Linen and Purple this afternoon!

This has been a crazy Sunday --weekend, really-- in the sleep department. Little Bear had an okay night Friday, but we had to wake him up earlier than he wanted to get up, and then he only napped 40 minutes total Saturday. We went to bed early last night and he slept 11 hours, which is more than usual, but he still woke up earlier than usual... which left him tired and cranky halfway through Mass. He was pretty well behaved for being an exhausted, teething toddler, and fell asleep in the car on the way home, but that nap only lasted a half hour; here's hoping he can get a several-hour stretch this afternoon to put us back on schedule!

I didn't catch much of the homily today because I was walking with Little Bear, but I did like the beginning: When we look at life as an adventure, we prepare for what is ahead but are still surprised by each minute of it. I'm not sure what that had to do with the bits of exposition I later caught on Spielberg's Pacific, but maybe Matt can explain later. It was a good thought, nonetheless; as in today's Gospel reading, we're supposed to be preparing for the future, but we never know exactly what or when the things we're preparing for will happen.

The outfit:

Coral blazer: thrifted (Forever 21)
Cream tee: thrifted
Pink paisley skirt: thrifted
Wedge sandals: Fred Meyers
I'm so glad we are starting to get cool mornings again, so that I could try this outfit! I found the skirt and blazer during the same thrift store run, and I really like them together. The blazer is lightly lined, though, so no way was I wearing it in summer temperatures! This morning we woke up to 48 degrees Fahrenheit, though, which was perfect. I'm not usually one for this much pink, but it was just too fun to pass up.

09 August 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 42

Linking up with Jen & Co!

I missed last week's Quick Takes with a migraine, and will be missing next week's for a much better reason: we are finally taking our first camping trip as a family! We're planning to spend one night at a lake in the mountains and one night in Denali Park. I am looking forward to it so much!

Thirteen months is too young to be throwing tantrums. Isn't it? Little Bear is definitely starting to make a scene when he is displeased, though. He yells when I take the wrong cereal out of the cupboard, when I offer him a bite, when I don't offer him a bite, when I put him in his chair, when I take him out of his chair, when I set him on the floor, when I set him on my lap, when I don't let him play with Daddy's computer cables, when I decline to sing "Rain Rain Go Away" for the seventeenth time in a row... Because he's so little, though, I'm not sure how to teach him that he can't do that. Timeouts aren't effective yet, because he simply doesn't understand.

We ordered a couple of things from Cabelas for our upcoming camping trip, and in the box there was a promo code for a company called NakedWines.com. They seem like a legitimate company, and $160 of wine for $60 sounds like a pretty good deal, but there is the little problem of the note on their FAQ page: "Alaska and Hawaii are really far out so they're used to the fact that paying a lot for shipping is the cost of living in wild serenity." Ouch. I mean, yes, we are used to everyone charging an arm and a leg in shipping, but most people aren't that blunt about it... So I don't think we will be using our code, and I'd be happy to let someone else have it!

Hypothetical scenario: You have the opportunity to go to daily Mass today. Your child(ren) should be napping, but since that's not happening, you load up and head out. By the time you are halfway to the church, the traffic is backed up, the child(ren) screaming, and it is obvious that you are going to be late. Do you go anyway, knowing that you need the grace, or do you turn around and go home, reasoning that no one wants to see your screaming offspring at the church anyway?

The other weekend at a garage sale, I picked up the first two Mitford novels for fifty cents. They aren't quite my usual genre, but I'd heard them spoken quite highly of, and I'm so glad I have them a try! The best words I can find to describe them are "comfortable," "cozy" and "charming;" they chronicle the everyday adventures of the quiet, rural southern appalachian town of Mitford, experienced by the older Episcopalian rector. I picked up the next six at a used bookstore this week, and a friend passed down her copy of the final book, so I have the whole set to work through during Little Bear's afternoon naps.

Matt came home from work early today -- which never happens, so it scared me half to death when I heard someone opening the front door -- with a great deal of pain in his mid back. He's spent the rest of the day laying down with heat on it, taking ibuprofen every few hours, and would sure appreciate some prayers that it clears up soon!

And... I have nothing. Um, camping food? I'm supposed to be working on a menu for our three-day-two-night adventure; if you have any suggestions for camping meals that don't require a whole lot of preparation or clean-up, I'd love to hear them.

Have a lovely weekend!

08 August 2013

Cooling Off

This morning, Little Bear discovered that by turning on the bathroom sink and clamping his hand over the faucet, he could make water squirt everywhere. Cold, cold, icy, frigid water. Oh, child, no! He shrieked with laughter as I scrambled to pull him away from the sink and mop up the mess.

If we'd been outdoors, I wouldn't have begrudged him his fun; it has been hot here, much hotter and sunnier than is usual for August so far, and playing in cold water is pretty much the best way to cool down. (Okay, not including the grocery store's sale on Ben & Jerry's this week, but they are clearly trying lure me away from my diet.)

One of the things I'm most looking forward to about someday having our own house is setting up a sprinkler in the yard on a hot, sunny day for Little Bear to play in. Better yet, having a garden and letting him play with the hose while we water plants. When I was younger, watering was definitely the most coveted of the garden chores: you got to keep yourself cool, and could splash unsuspecting siblings, too!

We don't have any outdoor water to play in at our apartment, but we've come up with some other fun ways to keep cool: Taking walks first thing in the morning with a neighbor lets us get outside and exercise, but be home again before the day warms up. Yesterday, after Matt got home, we took advantage of a rare windy evening to have a picnic at a park, and rode their historic train during a quick cloudburst. Sunday evening always sees us taking a walk to the boat launch about half a mile away, where we watch boaters on the river and Matt teaches Little Bear to throw rocks into the water.

It's hard to imagine as every other day we set a new high temperature record, but winter will be here before we know it. Last year it snowed and stuck the first week of October! I keep trying to remember that whenever I want to moan about the heat: soon enough it will be snowing, and I'll long for another week of this weather.

07 August 2013

A Good Wife

The other day, I cleaned the kitchen after breakfast, did the laundry, took out the trash, and fed Little Bear when he was hungry. We made the trek across town to feed my parents' dog and water their garden. When we got home, Little Bear and I played in the living room until he wanted to eat, and he fell asleep on my lap for three and a half hours. And as soon as Matt got home from work, I started apologizing for being such a terrible wife.

A good wife would never let you come home to such a messy house... A good wife would have cleaned the grill and trimmed the grass around the front step that the mower always misses... A good wife would have supper underway and a drink waiting when you get home... A good wife would time the child's naps better... A good wife would do everything perfectly all of the time, and I'm so sorry I'm such a bad wife.

Where does this come from? Matt has never, ever, asked me to do any of those things; never, ever, expressed disappointment, even nonverbally, about the state of the house or my progress (or lack thereof) on dinner, or anything else I do. He frequently tells me that I have the harder job, and that he's so appreciative of everything I do to keep the household running. He isn't the one piling expectations on me; I'm doing it to myself.

It's so easy to see that everything isn't perfect, and interpret that as a direct personal failure. Instead of seeing toys on the floor, I see my failure to keep the room neat. Instead of saying that dinner will be a little late because the meat didn't thaw as quickly as I expected, I say that I failed to plan properly and won't be able to have the meal on the table when the clock displays some arbitrary number. Little Bear isn't having a fussy day; I'm failing to do my job of keeping him happy while accomplishing everything else. And even if I'm at the end of my rope with the child, and the house, and the heat, and freelance deadlines, of course I will encourage my husband to go do something fun with his friends in the evening, because a good wife wouldn't be feeling overwhelmed right now, so I shouldn't ask him to stay home.

When--and how--did the '50s-housewife caricature that modern feminists love to hate become my image of a good wife? Not even a perfect wife, but just good? From the fact that I compare myself at my worst to other women at their best, yes, but I think even more than that, it ultimately comes from the mantra you hear so often among moms--particularly homeschooling moms, it seems--who are so bent on 'doing it right': "Mary is the perfect model of a wife and mother."


Please don't tell me that I should want to be more like Mary. I know that I should be more like Mary; I spent four years at college hearing that at least once a day on campus, I hear it all the time online, and from other moms in person. I tell myself that I need to be more like Mary all. the. time. But Mary was perfect, y'all. Perfect. And I'm not. I am sooooooo far from being perfect... and I think that's where this "good wife" problem comes in:

Being more like Mary is the ultimate goal, but because she's perfect and I am so far from perfect, I need to become a "good" wife and mother before I can aspire to being a "perfect" one. Which means (in my head, mind you) that Mary isn't the right role model right now; she's too far beyond me, too unattainably perfect. I need some intermediate goal, an intermediate role model. Enter the 1950s housewife: cheerful, loving, organized, pretty, a good cook. If the vast majority of women sixty years ago could do it, and I have so many labor-saving devices they didn't (a dishwasher, for crying out loud!), surely there's no reason I can't at least meet that ideal. My mother still does, every single day. And once I've solidly mastered this ideal of a "good wife," I can start working toward being more like the perfect wife, Mary.

But I can't, and I don't understand why, and it frustrates me... while my husband gets frustrated that I'm even trying, when all he wants is to come home to a minimally-chaotic house and a minimally-stressed wife. 

And I'm sure that Mary always had dinner ready on time, too. But maybe her Child didn't spend the hour before Joseph came in for dinner clinging to her knees and fussing...

06 August 2013

What Day Is It?

Wow. I feel like I lost a week there... First thing Thursday morning a massive ocular migraine hit, and I'm still feeling it a little bit today. It started with wavy lines of light blocking my vision, and was shortly followed by the most painful headache I've ever had -- I'd heard people talk about something being "painful enough to make you throw up," but I'd always thought it was just a figure of speech. It's definitely not. I spent the day laying in a dark room with my eyes closed, while my mom and siblings, bless them, took care of Little Bear. Looking at screens or other lights for any length of time is still triggering headaches, so this won't be much of a post, but I'm so much better than I was and it's been a week since I last posted...

...and today's our anniversary. Thank you for two wonderful years, Matt! I'm theoretically cleaning the grill this afternoon so that we can throw on some steaks and zucchini, and maybe if we're feeling fancy we will pick up a bottle of wine after Matt gets off work. We aren't very good at making a big deal out of things over here, but that's the way we both like it.

[I would put a photo of the two of us here, but I don't have any... We're also bad at taking photos, apparently.]

04 August 2013

What I Wore Sunday {25}

Joining everyone for WIWS at Fine Linen and Purple this afternoon! Oh, and today is the last day of Jen's 7 posts in 7 days challenge; what a week it's been.

Planning today's schedule was complicated, and like most things that you try to plan around kids, it didn't really work. Our parish's annual "pignic" (pig roast + picnic) is this afternoon at 2, so we had to find a Mass that A) would let Little Bear get a nap and B) was at a parish we are comfortable attending. B automatically limited us to two, ours and the university parish; our parish is far enough away that driving there twice in one day (going home for his nap) is just too expensive, so we wound up at the university. On paper, it looked perfect: sleep in, 10:30 Mass, home for his nap, 2:00 pignic. 

But then he decided that we weren't sleeping in. And despite being sooooo sleeeeepy that he couldn't sit up nicely during Mass, he continued resisting a nap until 12:30. Best-laid plans, and all that. I guess we will be playing the pignic by ear.

Mass went well, though, and I really can't complain about his behavior; I took him to the back to nurse when he started getting loud during the homily, but we were back with Daddy by the offertory and aside from some soft whining and squirming, he behaved himself for the rest of Mass. Father Sean's homily was great, what I heard before taking Little Bear out, and he had a perfect present-day example of a child talking to his father to relate to the first reading.

Having a longer morning at home than usual was nice, too; I managed to make a fruit salad for the pignic. I call this "what do I have in the fridge? salad with blueberry-poppyseed dressing":

Watermelon and kiwi and bananas, oh my.

So, the outfit.

T-Shirt: thrifted
Eyelet skirt: gift from my mom (thrifted)
Sandals: Payless
Scarf: thrifted

 My mom found this skirt for me at the thrift store several weeks ago and I loved it immediately, but I hadn't worn it yet because I had no idea what to pair it with and was afraid of the wide flouncy-ness... I've put enough work into trying to lose baby weight, I don't even want to look at anything that will make me look bigger than I am! I know that everyone is wearing them these days and that they look good on everyone I've ever seen them on, but it's still so hard to try any new style because I still see myself as overweight and squishy postpartum. But as I was laying in bed this morning trying to decide on a Mass outfit, thinking about this skirt and wishing I was brave enough to try it, I remembered  Sarah's post about skinny jeans the other day. Was I just prejudiced against this style because I "know" it's going to look bad, without even trying it? Yes, yes I was.

So here it is. I quickly scrolled through Pinterest to see how other women style this shape of skirt, and I think I was actually happy with the results! Hopefully I've learned my lesson about fashion prejudice: If there's a style I like on other people, I can't just say, "That's so cute, but I could never pull it off," unless I've actually tried. That's why they have dressing rooms! Trying it on gives me a 50/50 chance of being pleasantly surprised, but just wishing guarantees I'll never wear it.