30 October 2013

End-of-the-Month Surprise Casserole

Mm, sounds delicious, no?

So here we are, end of the month, and I maxed out the grocery budget just over a week ago. And the freezer and fridge are both just about empty, but there's no shopping happening until Friday, because I'm stubborn like that. I'll probably blow the November budget out of the water after visiting Fred Meyer and Sams Club on Friday, but that's another story... then we'll just find ourselves eating surprise casserole again for Thanksgiving!

Not that I would do that. I'll be good.

But tonight, mystery casserole was definitely on the menu. We had half a rope of kielbasa to use, and I enthusiastically suggested sausage with red beans and rice. Matt... was less enthusiastic. Okay; no beans. I looked through the cupboards again.

Little Bear banged pots on the floor, stirring his toy frog around in my stock pot with a pasta fork. Frog soup? No, I didn't have any milk.

Well, there was rice. So I cooked some of that.

And cut up the kielbasa.

And discovered a bag of just-add-water broccoli-cheddar soup mix in the top of the spice cupboard...

...which is definitely not from when I was in college. Of course not. So I cooked up two cups of extra-concentrated soup, and mixed everything together.

Then we went to pick Matt up from work, and wound up hanging out in his office for a little over an hour because one of the student workers who is supposed to take the evening shift was sick and forgot to call in and tell them he couldn't work. When we finally got home, Matt stuck some casserole on a plate in the microwave, and Little Bear and I just ate it cold.

And it was actually good. Little Bear--Mr. Food-is-Not-for-Eating himself--ate more than I did, and Matt even sounded happy about having leftovers to take for lunch tomorrow. It certainly went over much, much better than I expected!

27 October 2013

What I Wore Sunday {34}

Happy Sunday! Linking up with FLAP again today.

It's still fall, oddly enough. This afternoon we are back up in the low 40s, which is very unusual for now. On the way home from Mass today I was exclaiming over the fact that, provided spring comes on time, we won't even have six months of winter this year! That's such a strange thought... And yes, I know that the thought of expecting to have six months of winter pretty much anywhere else would be about as strange as not expecting it here.

In the homily today, Father focused on the passage in the parable where Christ says that the Pharisee "said this prayer to himself." Now I'm curious and have to go check the Vulgate for the Latin construction of that phrase, because it seems like you could understand it different ways: was the Pharisee praying quietly, under his breath, so that no one else could overhear? Or was he directing his words to himself instead of to God? 

Little Bear was quiet for most of Mass, but I had to haul him to the back when he wanted to run down the aisle after the consecration. Matt took over for me after the sign of peace, and then I took him again after communion. I apologized to Father after Mass, and he assured me that Little Bear hadn't been a distraction at all. I'm glad that we sit near the back, so that we can get out quickly without bothering people!

Chocolate top: no tag, thrifted
Blue paisley skirt: Chico, thrifted
Chocolate pumps: Solos, garage sale

Because we had a bit of extra time this morning, I actually managed to put makeup on for the first time in I don't remember how long! It's nice to feel pretty occasionally, and if I wear it so rarely, it may as well happen on Sundays. Some day, when there isn't a little boy hanging on my skirt and chanting "Mamamamamamamama" every time I look in the mirror, maybe I'll be able to "put my face on" more often.

Have a lovely afternoon!

25 October 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 53

Linking up as always, but we are over at Clan Donaldson this week! If you clicked through from the linkup, I apologize for that photo; it's not mine, and I have no idea why InLinkz used it instead of the one I uploaded, and it won't let me delete and retry!

Four times in the past three nights, we've been woken up by Little Bear and diaper unhappiness: wet toddler, wet pajamas, wet sheets, wet blankets, the works. I picked up the next larger size of diapers after the first time, but that clearly hasn't made a difference--possibly because I got the store-brand diapers in an effort to not go over budget this month. I'm not sure what to do from this point; maybe for the rest of the month, I'll change him when he wakes up to nurse around midnight? It would be really, really good if we could avoid buying any more diapers... but I'm definitely tired of doing laundry every day.

Yesterday we had planned to meet a friend and her kids at the public ice skating rink to walk around their second-floor track, letting the kids run without all of the coats and boots and mittens they'd need outside. When I pulled in, the parking lot was suspiciously empty. Little Bear was very sure that it was time to be out of the car seat, though, so we toddler-in-boots-slowly ambled across the parking lot to the doors. Sure enough, they're closed for the week. Getting back in the car was not the most fun thing we've done this week... Going over to his grandma's house to play more than made up for it, though.

Still no snow! It's so odd to hear about places so much farther south, Wisconsin and Ohio and all, getting snow while we still have sunny blue skies and bare ground, and even patches of green grass still in the yard. The temperature is creeping down slowly, but we are still only waking up to 20-something degrees and coming close to 40 by the warmest part of the day. I'm enjoying the prolonged autumn, but we are getting to the point where soon I'll have to agree with those who want it to start snowing; if we don't have a good layer of snow down before the first time the temperature plummets, everyone's water pipes, septic lines, etc. are going to freeze.

Since it's still autumn, I want to make to most of it; today, that means making to house smell like apples! Ten apples got peeled, cored and chopped this morning, and are simmering away happily on the stove as they slowly turn into applesauce. I always used to put cinnamon in it and a bit of sugar, but Little Bear is going through a "food is not for eating" phase and if I know that he will eat straight cooked apples, I'm not going to add any cinnamon to scare him off or sugar that he doesn't need. I may pull a bit out and add the cinnamon just for Matt and myself.

It's not that he won't eat, exactly, or that he's a picky eater. He is usually happy to take a bite of anything we offer him, and he will chew it up, but then he spits it out again instead of swallowing it. Maybe he doesn't believe he's able to swallow solid food? We've learned that if we feed him softer foods like applesauce, yogurts, bread, pasta, and we let him help control the spoon/fork, he's much more likely to actually swallow food. It's confusing to see him spitting out foods he used to like, though; last night he wouldn't even eat the bit of cookie we gave him. He's also becoming a bit of a cheese snob, which is kind of hilarious even while it's frustrating: we had a block of sharp cheddar for a while, and he loved it, but since it was finished off we've gone back to medium cheddar (since it's the one that usually goes on sale) and he refuses to eat any. Since he's still nursing, my main response to him not eating full meals like a "normal" toddler is to shrug. Whatever. He's getting everything he needs, and we will just keep sticking food in his face and as he gets older he will start eating more of it.

It seems like at least half of the couples we know are expecting right now or have just recently had a baby. I know it's not true, not really, but why does hearing others' good news automatically make me look at the huge toddler throwing blocks at the lamp ("No! Stop that!") and feel jealous? A cute little baby would be so much less work... But that's totally untrue, and I know it. And I'm happy with our life the way it is, very happy. And I hated being pregnant. And, gosh, giving birth is awful. As soon as I try to think rationally about why I'm jealous it makes absolutely no sense. But it always pops up, right after the "I'm so happy for them!" -- the "Aww, I want a new baby..." And then I feel all guilty for letting my happiness for them be tinged with this absurd automated maternal jealousy...

Tuesday was the optional memorial of Blessed Pope John Paul II! The university parish had adoration and Little Bear and I were able to go, and in the evening Matt and I said a divine mercy chaplet together (the divine mercy message and prayers were approved by JPII). I made a fun supper, although it wasn't terribly Polish: meatloaf, garlic smashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, and brownies. The meatloaf was...unique...because instead of breadcrumbs (Matt's childhood meatloaf) or quick rolled oats (mine), I used leftover cooked rice as the starch/filler/thing to absorb juice. It turned out well, and Little Bear shocked us by eagerly eating all of the rice out of my piece; this is the kid who has refused rice every time it's ever been offered to him. He still managed to spit out most of the meat, but it was good to have the reassurance that he will in fact eat food when he feels like it.

23 October 2013


This week hasn't been exactly normal so far.  On a normal week, I stay home with Little Bear 78% of the time. Maybe, maybe, I'll have the car two days out of the week; Little Bear eats when he wants to, naps when he wants to, tears the house apart the rest of the time and I kinda sorta keep things clean and make supper. It works for us, even if there are days I feel like I'll go crazy with no adult interaction.

This week, Little Bear and I have been all over the place. Errands and more errands and a meeting and adoration yesterday, errands and dentist and playing at Grandma's house today, and Matt has a work function this evening so I get to fly solo during bedtime, yay. More errands and running around with friends and dinner at Grandma's house tomorrow, and maybe if I'm really crazy I'll try to get to Mass Friday. And there's something on Saturday, too, but I can't recall what. How did my week get so hectic? And what happened to me, that a week like this sounds hectic?

We like our rhythms, and right now our home rhythm is a very peaceful one. It's rare for me to have to plan dinner around picking Matt up from work, or to try to time Little Bear's nap so that we can get to such-and-such a place at a certain time. When he's tired, he sleeps. When he's hungry, he eats. Nothing has to happen at a particular time, because no one else is affected by our day. It's quiet, relaxed, lovely.

But even in the unstructured day-to-day, we still fall into a steady rhythm. When he wakes up, he wants to eat. Two to four hours after he wakes up, he will be ready for a nap. If we are out in town in the morning, he will almost always go down for a nap as soon as we get home; woe to me if I try to put groceries away first! After his nap, we will play and read and clean and cook, and Little Bear will get frustrated that I'm cooking and push me out to the couch and bring me more stories.

With all of the extra things we have going on this week, it's anchoring to recognize that organic rhythm still flowing through our days. If we are out all morning, he falls right asleep and we pick up our afternoon as usual. Tomorrow's commitments are in the afternoon, but because we are getting up early to drive Matt to work, I know that Little Bear will still have time for his usual nap. Doing so many things over the week doesn't disrupt our daily rhythm; it stretches it in places, condenses it in others, but the inherit flexibility of not usually caring when anything happens allows even these full days to hold moments of that familiar peace.

20 October 2013

What I Wore Sunday {33}

Stop by FLAP for more great What I Wore Sunday posts!

We are loving this beautiful, wonderful, confusing, oh-so-unseasonably-warm weather! Sunshine and 50s: definitely not normal this late in October. Little Bear has had so much fun running around and playing in the leaves, and we have sure enjoyed being able to leave the jackets inside. There's a part of us, though, that knows it's just too good to be true and is bracing for winter to come crashing down on us. When winter hits this year, it won't be a slow, gentle slide down the thermometer; it's going to be brutal. But right now, everything is beautiful.

Still teething equals still having rough nights equals sleeping in and going to Mass at the university parish. It's so much more convenient, so much closer, and we really like the priest. Our parish is full of young families--that's a big reason we like it there--but it's so far away, and we barely know anyone, so it's always nice when we find ourselves at the university. Little Bear behaved shockingly well, sitting quietly on Matt most of the time, so we both were able to hear all of the readings and the homily. Matt did wind up taking him out back when he got squirmy during the consecration, but they were able to come right back. He's getting better about watching the priest, too.

Blouse: gift from my mother
Yellow tank: thrifted
Skirt: thrifted
Black pumps: Payless (from college)

This morning I grumbled that wearing black with yellow would make me look like a bumblebee. Matt helpfully pointed out that I looked less like a bee and more like a confused person, wearing a springy shirt with a black winter skirt, but then redeemed himself by reassuring me that I was wearing the right colors to be a commanding officer for Starfleet. 

Help me out here: what exactly is a blouse? Matt says that no one has been able to satisfactorily define it for him, and when I tried to hedge that "blouse" is just a subset of "shirt," he disagreed. A nice button-down is a blouse, but are non-buttoned nice tops also blouses? What makes a blouse different than another type of shirt?

18 October 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 52

It's finally Friday! Linking up for the usual shenanigans over at Conversion Diary.

If this is Global Warming, I'm a fan. We've had highs around 50 all week, and it has been amazing. I can't remember ever seeing such warm weather this far into October, and the weathermen are calling for it to continue indefinitely! It has been alternating between rain and sun, which is just so weird: the only thing that's supposed to fall from the sky after October 1 is snow. I'm certainly not complaining, though! The only downside is the dark: usually by this time of year there is a permanent layer of shiny white snow everywhere to reflect what light we are getting, effectively as much as doubling our light. With no snow, but the light fading at the same rate as normal, wow it's dark! The sun is officially rising about 9 am and setting about 6, but it is dark enough to need lights on in the house by 3:30 or so in the afternoon.

Today is looking a little bit crazy: cooking and cleaning to prepare for a dinner party tonight, while catering to the whims of a child who is getting at least two of his incisors in and barely slept last night... so neither did I... but only one of us is getting a nap today! I'm so glad we've just about reached the weekend. Maybe he will cooperate and sleep in a bit tomorrow, so that I can catch up.

Cleaning for company: when do you clean the bathroom? I have a whole crazy list of things to clean today, but the timing of that particular chore has always flummoxed me. If you clean the bathroom first thing in the morning, you're just asking someone to go year it apart and splash water everywhere later in the day. But if you wait until a half hour before you're expecting people, what happens when there's a minor kitchen disaster or the child dumps a glass of water on you and you have to go change again? Running out of time and having a dirty bathroom definitely isn't good! It's times like this that I cannot wait to have kids old enough to help out with chores: one of us older girls was always dispatched to wipe down bathrooms five minutes before company was expected so that my mom could stay in the kitchen.

Happy Feast of St Luke! I always knew that he was a patron saint of physicians, but somehow I'd forgotten that he is also a patron of artists. He's actually believed to have been the first iconographer of the Church, and as many as 600 icons are attributed to him! I will have to see if we have duplications of any of his icons; that would be a good addition to our table centerpiece this evening. In honor of his feast, tonight I'm making salmon with a balsamic reduction, rice pilaf with carrots, a green salad, and an apple pie. If I remember to chill it, we will even open a bottle of Chardonnay! It's been a while since I've done a nice dinner, but it is a feast day, and I'm looking forward to it.

Fun piece of history: scholars believe that St Luke may have lived in the Roman province of Troas, which held the ruins of ancient Troy, because his narration in Acts switches to first person "we" whenever St Paul is in that area.

And Blogger just are my last two takes, and I don't remember what they were. Oh, computers.

Words! Little Bear's vocabulary has just taken off recently. In the past few days, I've heard: Mama, Dada, bear, dog, book, baa (ball/that), nose, mou(th), Ees (Jesus), Mama Maa (Mama Mary), up, bread, peek, pom (problem)... When he feels like it, he will also make the sounds for the cow, goat, cat, dog, bear and monkey in animal books! Being able to communicate makes him so happy, but when he doesn't know how to ask for what he wants it really frustrates him.

Enjoy your weekend!

17 October 2013

Looking Up

All this week, Little Bear and I have had great mornings. He's happy, we play together, I get stuff done or run errands or whatnot, everything goes really well. Then he takes a nap, and I get more stuff done. But at some point in the afternoon, because we are both human, and he's only 15 months old, something happens that makes him sad and he becomes fussy and clingy. And instead of focusing on all of the positive things that have happened, I let his fussing drag me down too; by the time Matt gets home from a long day at work he has a grumpy wife who "had a terrible day." But I didn't, really, I'm just letting the last hour or two's frustration shape my attitude toward everything else.

Well, it's not going to happen today, because I'm going to do my best to start reversing that trend. Why should I choose to be unhappy? We're going to focus on everything that's going right, instead.

So far today, Little Bear woke up full of giggles at 7:00, tickling me until I admitted that I was awake. Matt was wonderful and brought him out to the kitchen while he packed up his lunch so that I could get dressed and fix my hair; he even got Little Bear into his coat and boots so I just had to run out and slip into my own gear. After dropping Matt off, we ran to the store for some hardware and donuts for Matt's office, and Little Bear held my hand and proudly clomped down the hallway in his big boots as we carried the box up to the video conferencing office. He played shy when I opened the door, refusing to go in and see Daddy, but he laughed and chattered all the way home about our visit: "Dada Dada Dada bye bye Dada bye bye bye!"

He was also telling me about the "problem" with his boots, but since the problem was that he was wearing boots in the car, there wasn't much I could do for him. "Your boots? Mmhm, I know. Here, should we listen to the radio?" We live in Alaska, kid. You have to wear boots. Since Mama wasn't helping, he started telling his boots about it instead.

It's so much fun to watch and listen to him interacting with inanimate objects as his imagination develops! Last night it was the calzone dough: He saw me measuring flour, and came running. "Bread? Bread?" We sat on the floor to knead the dough in the bowl together, him poking it gingerly, flapping his hand to shake off the bits that stuck to his fingers, while I punched and folded. When I tried to set it up on the counter to rise, he protested loudly, so I brought the towel down to cover the bowl on the floor instead. "It has to hide, okay? So it can get big."

He lifted the edge of the towel to peek underneath, then looked back up at me, a huge grin splitting his face. "Bread! Peek! Bread!" He pulled the towel away with a flourish. "Bread, Mama! Ididit!" 

(Yes, "I did it" is all one word, used whenever he's proud of something.)

And he fussed, of course, when I had to drag him away from the hiding bread so it could get big, and I was grumpy by the time Daddy got home, but as they followed me back to the kitchen to start putting supper together Little Bear noticed the bowl on the floor and his eyes lit up. "Dada, Dada, bread!" He laughed and laughed as he kept "hiding" the dough from Daddy, then uncovering it again and shouting "Bread!" How could our days not be made better by preparing dinner to a soundtrack of our little boy's laughter? 

Maybe it takes longer to get things done if I let him help, but I have to remember that if he is happy and having fun, I'll be happier as well.

16 October 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday

Little Bear's all-time favorite book came out today to cheer him up when he bonked his head: volume one of the 1961 edition of Childcraft, Poems of Early Childhood. This book was my mom's when she was little, and it somehow made it through all of us kids mostly intact. Little Bear could listen to it all day long, flipping through the pages and pointing to the poems he wants to hear, looking at all of the sweet illustrations. It gets tucked away in the closet frequently to give Matt and I a chance to read him other books, because if it's out it is the only one he wants.

I know the editors change up what they include in each edition, so I'm very glad to have such an old version! There's nothing "modern," nothing questionable or crass, just classic children's rhymes and poetry. There are even several bedtime prayers, which you certainly wouldn't see today, and the Christmas poems mention Christ! I love Eloise Wilkin's illustrations, and her work is scattered all through the book. It's interesting to see how my taste in illustrations influences Little Bear's: most of the art I've exposed him to has not been full of overly bright colors, cartoony figures, or bold, dark lines, and when we do come to pages (or other books) with that kind of illustration he loses interest very quickly. 

As I'm not finding time to read anything but picture books and blog posts these days, I feel justified in making sure they are picture books that aren't full of cringe-worthy poor artwork! (Not that all modern storybooks have poor art, and the ere are modern stories [Anna Dewdney, Disney's Winnie the Pooh] in our basket of books, but it is heavily weighted toward older stuff.)

Am I risking raising an art snob? A storybook-illustration snob? They say that exposing your children to good art, good literature, good music, etc from a young age will help them appreciate it more as they grow older, and of course I want him to see the value and beauty of classic art. What parent doesn't want their child to love what's good? But there's the objectively good, and then there's personal preference on neutral matters. Homer and the Small Cowper Madonna, and Bob the Builder. How do you explain the difference to the mind of a child, without reducing things too far to a black-and-white so simplified it's no longer true?

14 October 2013

Steak Capers and Monday Adventuring

Yesterday afternoon, we were really excited to be trying out this new technique for making roasts: preheat the oven to 500, bake at 475 for seven minutes per pound, turn off the oven and don't open it for two and a half hours. Poof, roast beast. It sounds so easy, the perfect way to make dinner on nights when I have to turn everything off and go pick Matt up from work!

I coated our moose roast in a combination of garlic, celery salt, basil, marjoram, rosemary, and pepper before going to put Little Bear to bed, and Matt took care of getting it in the oven, timing it, and turning it off. We enjoyed the smells wafting out of the kitchen for the next two and a half hours, and shortly before 6, pulled our room-temperature roast out. And looked at it skeptically. Was that done? Matt cut into it to check.

It appears that our (fairly old) oven is not well insulated! We already sort of knew that it didn't stay hot while baking, but somehow that didn't translate into the thought that "gee, this probably won't work for us." Foruntately, the broiler works fine, and we had wonderful, delicious steaks in five minutes:

Oh, my. That is a spice combination to remember. The long slow par-roasting left the steaks incredibly tender, too. Leftovers will be starring in a moose pie with mashed potato crust this evening.

Provided that Little Bear wakes up in time for me to make it, that is. He must be going into a growth spurt: he's so sleepy these days. Last night he fell asleep quickly, really only half-woke up once (at 4:30) to nurse for a few minutes, and slept again until we had to wake him at 7:30 to go take Matt to work. With so much sleep, he was a very happy child this morning, and I took full advantage of that plus actually having the car to run all over town. Two grocery stores, the gas staton, the kitchen supply store (closed, sadly), the used bookstore, and the university museum where we met my siblings for homeschoolers' day! 

The first grocery store, he was happy all the way through, looking at everything, exclaiming over the balloons and pumpkins (ball! ball!) and insisting that I bring home some of those tomatoes. Those ones, Mama. The second store, he wanted me to hold him up so he could help me push the cart. I'll only have one little one once, right? The store was pretty empty, and it made him happy, so I let him. Since the kitchen supply store was closed, whether for Columbus Day or because things just open later here in the winter I'm not sure, we had time to pop into the used bookstore and drop off a book before heading up to campus. This store accepts books in trade for credit to be applied to purchasing other used books, which can be a great way to get rid of books I no longer want and not feel too guilty about buying other ones!

Little Bear was a little bit too small for the Children's Museum exhibit, and a lot too intimidated by all of the loud kids running around, but he loved the real museum today! We got there right as they opened, so most kids were still playing in the Children's Museum while we walked through the art galleries and main exhibit hall. They have life size standing mounts of grizzly bear, black bear, polar bear, buffalo, dall sheep, seals, and many species of birds and fish. There are mammoth and mastodon fossils you can touch, part of a triceratops, a whale skull longer than our living room, and many exhibits on Alaskan history and Native cultures. It was hard to get him to hold still long enough to take photos!

A Tlingit totem pole.

Bear! Bear!

Bivalves (right before he shut his fingers in the drawer, and we had to go out in the hall to calm down).

I'm so glad we went--he had so much fun looking at everything, and it'd been long enough since I'd last visited that it was fun to walk around again. Little Bear wanted to walk around instead of being carried as long as there weren't a lot of other people, so he did an excellent job of wearing himself out and went down for a nap as soon as we got home. This morning's rain clouds seem to be breaking up and he is starting to stir, so maybe we will have time to take a walk before starting to make supper and picking Daddy up from work. My Mondays are usually quiet at home; this almost feels like I got an extended weekend!

13 October 2013

Updating Woes

Apologies for the disarray!

As you've probably noticed, we are in the middle of rolling out a new design for the blog and things have become a bit muddled. Hopefully everything will be right again soon! We appreciate your patience.

What I Wore Sunday {32}

"It feels like Thanksgiving back home out there today," Matt remarked this morning. And it does, which means we'd better enjoy the relative warmth while it lasts: a year ago today, snow fell and didn't melt until the following May! Right now, though, we are enjoying mid-40s; it even slipped above 50 yesterday afternoon, and I happily shed my jacket. Time enough for those soon.

Little Bear was a crazy nap-avoiding child yesterday, so we let him sleep in this morning and went to a later Mass. Having a slow, relaxed morning was nice, but it was a shock to finish breakfast after we got home and realize that the day was already half over. He was happy to go down for a nap this afternoon, so hopefully Matt and I will be able to finish up the last few chores on our weekend list.

Silk/cashmere sweater: thrifted
Microsuede skirt: Sears
Brown pumps: garage sale

I wish the photo was sharper and I could show you the detail on the sleeves! The lace flows seamlessly out of the sweater, and it looks like it bells out but it's actually slit, so it lays like a normal sleeve if my arm is straight down but falls outward when I move my hands. Little Bear was fascinated with them.

Tonight we are trying out this Walk-Away Roast from Martha of Romancing Reilly, with a two-pound moose top round. It sounds good, and I'm always looking for ways to simplify dinner prep; being able to turn the oven off and let the residual heat cook the roast sounds like a great idea!

Have a lovely Sunday evening, and don't forget to check out everyone else linking up with Fine Linen and Purple!

Shortcut to Supper

I have a confession to make: the other week, we bought meatballs. Not ground beef to make meatballs, not even meatballs from our local Italian place; frozen, mass-produced, grocery store brand meatballs.

But you know what? I'm not sorry.

Sure, there's a part of me that mourns the bygone days of spending an afternoon handcrafting a mountain of meatballs with my husband to freeze and pull out later for weeknight meals, but I know they'll come again eventually. With a clingy, mopey, teething child requiring my constant attention yesterday, I was so happy to be able to waltz into the kitchen a half hour before dinner, throw a few things into a saucepan, and turn out a perfectly respectable meal.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 green bell pepper, sliced
16 meatballs
1 can pineapple chunks, juice reserved
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine pineapple juice, soy sauce, and vinegars. Mix brown sugar, corn starch, and ginger; combine with liquids and pour into a large saucepan. Add carrots and cook over medium heat until sauce begins bubbling. Add meatballs and continue to cook while sauce reduces, about 10 minutes. Add peppers and pineapple, turning the heat down to low, and simmer another 5 minutes or until peppers soften. Serve over rice.
Makes four servings.

11 October 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 51

Stop by Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes, and Jen's hilarious answers to her author questionnaire. The Intergalactic Federation of Mommybloggers needs to be a thing.

Yesterday was Little Bear's 15-month well child checkup. They never used to do one between 12 and 18 months, did they? The poor boy definitely knows where he is when we walk in the door, and starts whimpering and clinging to me. He got the MMR vaccine and had blood drawn to check for anemia, which if I'd been able to think straight instead of focusing on calming down the distraught child after the shot I probably would have declined; we eat a lot of red meat, and I'm not anemic, and he still gets the majority of his nutrients from nursing, so there's no way he's anemic. We did decline the chickenpox vaccine, and it was nice to have our pediatrician agree that really the main reason to give your kid that particular shot is for the parents' convenience so they don't have to take a week off work when their kid gets sick...

It is date night in the Shifflerhaus! Nothing too fancy going on here, we're just borrowing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and picking up a pizza, but Little Bear is going to go spend an hour or two at my family's house playing with his aunts and uncles so that Matt and I can have a bit of quiet time to talk. It's been several stressful months since we've taken an hour or two to ourselves, and we are looking forward to it.

Well, we are hoping that it happens... Matt has had to stay late at work several days over the past two weeks, trying to solve an on-again-off-again wiring problem in a conference room. If he has to work late today, we will have to put tonight off. Little Bear is also something of a wildcard right now; the MMR vaccine has a high incidence of fevers associated with it, and I don't want to send him over if he will be miserable. Also, he hasn't taken more than one nap a day since well before his first birthday, and he decided that it was nap time at 8:45 this morning. By late this afternoon, he could be pretty cranky. So we will see.

The other day, Little Bear was helping me unload the dishwasher when he got bored and wandered out to the living room. I came out when I finished to see this:

He was stirring the penguin around with a spatula, in the frying pan he'd taken from the dishwasher. Mmm, fried penguins for lunch today!

He's quite the cook; whenever I make bread, he will come running to help me kneed it (i.e. stick his fingers into the dough). This backfired on me the other day when I was making pumpkin bread--I turned around for just a minute after pouring the batter into the bread pan, and when I looked back he had a handful of orange goop and a huge grin on his face! He couldn't understand why I took his new toy away, and tugged on my skirt shouting "Bread! Mama, Mama, bread? Mama, bread!"

Actually, he's reached the wonderful stage where he wants to help with anything I'm doing: sweeping the floor? Give me the broom, Mama, I want to do that. (As my little brother learned the other night, he doesn't like to give it back once he has it!) Unloading the dishwasher? He hands me each piece of silverware, one at a time, and the small pots and pans when he can get them out. Dusting? He will follow behind me with his own cloth. Everything takes a little longer than if I was doing it by myself, but it's so much easier than just a few weeks ago when he would be hanging on me and fussing as I worked! Plus it's adorable.

We have had heavy frosts the past few days, with snow in the hills but none in town. Yet. It seems like half the leaves never bothered to change color this year and just fell while green, which is weird, but at least we now have mostly bare trees to match our 30-something daytime temps. Compared to other places that sounds cold, but it's proper October weather here, and we've acclimated enough now that it feels pleasantly brisk outside. Little Bear gets excited about putting his boots on when we get ready to go outside, and he's really getting better at walking in them. Mittens weren't as much of a struggle as I expected them to be; he seems to like them, and the light pair he's wearing in these relatively mild temperatures doesn't keep him from holding onto things, so I'm sure that helps.

Have a lovely weekend; I hope you have the chance to enjoy some pretty autumn weather!

09 October 2013


That's what you'd call a computer killing itself, right? Don't bring your laptop or smartphone if you visit this week: we're having an epidemic over here.

Now, my husband is an IT guy, and we are both constitutionally incapable of throwing away a computer "in case we ever need the parts," but I'm not talking about the two deceased laptops in the closet, or the many no-longer-working phones from the early days of touchscreens when they would break all. the. time. I'm talking the three pieces of equipment that all failed me today.

First, my decrepit laptop from college--which, in all fairness, is thoroughly obsolete and maybe I should give it a medal just for turning on? Maybe not. But it's the only piece of tech we own that runs the software to upkeep my dad's website, and he needed me to make some updates this morning, so out it came. It took more than fifteen minutes to download one measly photo, twenty minutes to load the web design program, and five minutes each time I tried to switch between the program and my email. Trying to run two programs at once? What nonsense; everyone knows computers can't do that. When I dared think, oh so briefly, about finishing my current freelance writing project, it stuck its tongue out and blue-screen-of-death'd.

When Matt got home from work, he agreed that the laptop has reached the point of no longer being able to reasonably function. He offered me his work iPad to go finish typing my freelance project, which thankfully I'd been working on in Google Docs.

Google Docs is worthless on iOS. WORTHLESS. And awful and terrible and stupid. Or maybe it's just Safari, but I think it was Google Docs. It randomly italicized halves of words, sections of sentences, and certain punctuation marks... and wouldn't let me fix it. It crashed and wiped out my progress over and over again. And it absolutely refused to let me select more than two sentences at a time.

Also it kept autocorrecting Humanae Vitae to "human vitals" without telling me.

I gave up, and typed the rest of my project in Google Drive on my phone, where it had none of those problems but maybe it's because I was in the app instead of in Safari? I don't know. BUT, the app doesn't show word count. So I copy-and-pasted into another app that does show word count every time I thought I was done, and flipped back and forth between the two as I fine-tuned. (Because phones can run two programs at once, but computers can't.) 

And I finished--yay!--but was stuck with a Google Docs file when I needed to submit a Word file, and no way to convert it on my phone. Okay; copy-and-paste the whole text into an email, open the email on Matt's iPad (quick, close Safari before it crashes again), copy-and-paste the text into his Pages app. The only way to export as a Word file is to email it, but I can't email it directly from the app to my contact because this is Matt's work iPad; the email will come from his work address. Email it to myself, open it on my phone where I already have a four-paragraph email to my contact sitting in drafts... except the drafts file is empty, because technology hates me tonight. Tell it to forward the email from Matt--yes, include the attachment--and begin rewriting the email... Little Bear, nursing, flails and hits "send" as I'm in the middle of the second sentence.

Eventually the whole email got written and sent, along with the attachment. And a huge apology for the accidental first email. I guess I can't really fault my phone for the stress and jumping-through-hoops of getting the project sent; it's a phone, for crying out loud, and it certainly outperformed the computer and tablet today. But I think we established tonight that I simply don't have the equipment I need to be able to do my freelance work anymore, so we are going to have to take a field trip to Office Max this weekend and test drive some laptops. Matt is happily making a spreadsheet of all of the different models that would meet my needs without being too expensive, so hopefully we will find something soon!

06 October 2013

What I Wore Sunday {31}

I knew I'd missed a week or two here, but it's really been almost a month? Goodness! Linking up today with everyone at Fine Linen and Purple.

After a late night last night, I was naively hoping that Little Bear would cooperate and sleep in, and we'd just go to a later Mass. No such luck. He was up--very angry about it, but totally unwilling to go back to sleep--by 7:30, so we all rolled out of bed and threw on dress clothes and made it to our usual 9:00 Mass. I think he may be teething again; I can't come up with any other reason for all of his yelling today, and he's been biting recently.

Little Bear and I were in and out of the cry room and the social hall for much of Mass. Why does he sit still quietly on my lap in the cry room, behaving perfectly, and then melt down again as soon as we go back out to sit with Daddy? I don't understand. 

Polka-dot blouse: Sears
Black tee: JoAnns
Red pencil skirt: thrifted
Black Mary Jane wedges: thrifted
Scarf: gift

...And I just realized that you can't see the shoes because there's a little monster clinging to my skirt, but you've seen the same pair many times before. I am so glad that it is fall-becoming-winter; dark reds just don't seem right on me in summer, and I really like red-black and red-black-white combinations. This outfit probably should have waited for another week, though, given how fussy Little Bear was: halfway through Mass he became convinced that he needed to eat, even though he'd just eaten before we left the house, and nursing was pretty much impossible in this! I'll try it again on a happier morning.

05 October 2013

Culture of Life Guilt

We've probably all experienced it at one point or another, the confounding certainty that we can never possibly represent the Culture of Life well enough. No matter what you do, what choices you make, some Good Catholic is just waiting to tell you why you're all wrong:

If you don't have children right away after marriage, you are selling out the Culture of Life because no one will see any difference between you and secular couples!

If you have children right away after marriage, you're selling out the Culture of Life by sending the message that the Church says everyone has to have lots of kids and be miserable!

If you don't have lots of kids, you're selling out the Culture of Life by not trusting God!

If you have lots of kids, you're undermining the Culture of Life by showing people who are skeptical of the Church's teaching on contraception that NFP doesn't work!

If a woman wears pants instead of skirts, she is tearing down the Culture of Life by blurring the line between masculinity and femininity!

If a woman wears skirts instead of pants, she loses the ability to build up the Culture of Life by setting herself apart and being seen as unrelatable by secular women!

If both husband and wife work outside the home, they represent the Culture of Life badly because they aren't supporting the traditional family division of labor!

If a wife doesn't work outside the home, she is allowing feminists to mock the Culture of Life and equate it with oppression!

If a stay-at-home mom takes the time to dress nicely, fix her hair, and wear makeup, she doesn't really support the Culture of Life because the family clearly has the time and resources to take care of another child!

If a stay-at-home mom doesn't take the time to dress nicely, fix her hair, and wear makeup, she is hurting the image of the Culture of Life by confirming people's prejudices about parenthood ruining your life!

If your children misbehave in public, you're undermining the Culture of Life by reaffirming others' decision to avoid having children!

If you don't take your children out in public to avoid public tantrums, you're undermining the Culture of Life by giving in to the secular culture's desire to not see children!

If you let anyone else see that you are ever exhausted or frustrated because of your children, you are tearing down the Culture of Life by supporting the popular belief that children are a burden!

If you paste on a smile even though your children are making your life difficult, you aren't doing the Culture of Life any favors by sugarcoating the truth!

Am I wrong? 

Sad to say, I've heard all of these statements before. Some directed at me, others related by other moms struggling with the impossible task of raising a family while conforming to the crazy, contradictory demands constantly being placed on us. There are days that we all need a big red Mute button to carry around with us and block out the people who feel the need to share their enlightened views with us poor uninformed peasants.

Look, I just undermined the Culture of Life again by speaking of them in a manner inconsistent with their infinite dignity as human persons. You can never win.

What does it really mean to live the Culture of Life? Does the 1950s housewife intrinsically do it better than the modern CEO? The family with seven kids than the family with three? There is a reason that the Church doesn't dictate exactly what circumstances do and do not make avoiding pregnancy with NFP legitimate, and I think the principle applies well to the question as a whole: every family is different, and so the manifestation of the Culture of Life will look different in every family.

In a society where traditional moral structure is crumbling, circling the wagons can seem like the safest, maybe even the only, way to maintain Catholic values within our families. Circle them too tightly, though, and you lose the catholicity you are trying to protect: from apostolic times, the Church has sought to not burden people with more rules and restrictions than are necessary (Acts 15). There are an awful lot of things the Church doesn't take a formal stance on! When in doubt, check the Catechism or canon law. 

When we judge people according to whether or not they do X, when the Church doesn't take a position on X, we are trying to make them feel guilty for something that we don't have the authority to declare wrong. And that doesn't contribute to building up the Culture of Life at all.

04 October 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 50

Linking up, as ever, over at Conversion Diary this week.

I'm going on three weeks now of crazy insomnia, so I apologize in advance if this week's takes are completely boring, uninspired, repetitive, etc. I really need to start sleeping again. It was never this bad even when Little Bear was small and yelled a lot at night... What never fails to help you fall asleep?

Little Bear's favorite toy recently has been blocks, and yesterday, he decided that it was fun to put them into the box. Hallelujah!

I know it won't last, but it's so nice to have him happily helping to pick toys up instead of flinging them everywhere. He likes being the one to put in the last block, too: he'll twist it and turn it until it slips into place, then he will beam up at you and start applauding for himself.

Yesterday afternoon was gloriously sunny and 48 degrees, so I took advantage of what was possibly the last warm day this year to get in a good walk. We had to loosen up the straps on the ergo a bit to fit Little Bear in wearing his coat, and I put him in loose enough jeans that he could wear a pair of my wool socks pulled up over his thighs underneath. What with the construction on campus (which I forgot to factor in to planning my route), we walked about three and a half miles up to meet Matt after work.

Thankfully he got off work on time yesterday! On Wednesday, he had to stay late to troubleshoot a video feed problem in a smart classroom. He, his boss, and a coworker were there trying to fix the problem until 8:30 pm, when they discovered that it was a problem they couldn't fix without new hardware that has to be shipped up. That certainly threw off our usual bedtime schedule; Little Bear didn't fall asleep until after 10:30.

At the grocery store this week, I accidentally bought a 5lb bag of onions instead of the 3lb bag. We like onions, and they wind up in dinner at least three times a week, not even including the days I use dry minced onions... So it shouldn't have been a problem, except that we have a small kitchen with no pantry, and no basement or similar cool dark space to store foods that don't like the refrigerator. I had a small spot in the rounder where--if you were very careful and balanced things just right--a 3lb sack of onions would fit. The larger bag? Not even a little bit. It is currently stashed in a wooden bowl on the floor-level shelf of the bookcase in our dining room, which holds pots and pans instead of books, while I try to use enough onions to make it fit in the rounder before Little Bear discovers it and scatters onion skins all over the house.

I've already had to buckle Little Bear into the car and drive to town twice today--right when he woke up to go take Daddy to work, and again a half hour later (after running home to feed him) for a meeting about a freelance project that I'm really excited about. He fell asleep nursing within ten minutes of getting home from that meeting, and I'm trying to decide whether or not to wake him up, stuff him into a winter coat, and buckle him back into the car to go to noon Mass. It's a first Friday, and the feast of St Francis, and the Catholic homeschoolers are having a potluck after Mass. But waking a sleeping toddler? And putting him directly into the coat he dislikes, into the car seat he dislikes? He pretty much never takes more than one nap anymore, so giving him less than two hours is just asking to have a miserable late afternoon/evening. I don't know. This was an unusually early nap; maybe he will wake up on his own in time for us to go?

What immunizations do kids receive at 15 months? I know it varies a little from state to state, but apparently here it even varies within the state. The state government health office sent us a nice colorful chart of their standard vaccine schedule, and it doesn't list anything between 12 and 18 months, but I got a call from our pediatrician's office the other day reminding me that Little Bear is just about due for his 15 month shots. They didn't give him MMR at 12 months, so I would think it'd be that... I suppose I could call and find out, if I ever thought of these questions when Little Bear wasn't asleep on my lap... I need more sleep, then maybe my brain would work better.

Have a restful weekend!

01 October 2013

Skirtember Wrap

It is October! And I have to say, I was inordinately happy to pull out a pair of jeans this morning instead of a skirt. The idea of Skirtember--wearing a skirt every day for the month--was fun, but the execution definitely wasn't.

I didn't expect it to be a challenge. There have been many months that I've only worn jeans once or twice, and haven't even thought about it. I like skirts: how they fit, how they feel, how they look. I have many more skirts than jeans, and none of the skirts are really languishing in my closet neglected and unworn. When I step into a thrift store, the skirt rack is always my primary destination. How could it be any harder to consciously wear skirts for a month than to have it happen that way naturally, like it often does?

Well, I found out that it could be a whole lot harder. It got cold, blustery and snowy, and skirts became both inconvenient and chilly. Little Bear got sick, and showers long enough to shave became a whole lot less frequent because he wanted Mama, only Mama, right now all of the time. He learned that tugging on long skirts would get my full attention right away--because the darn things don't stay up anymore after I wore them through pregnancy--and took to whining and skirt-pulling every night while I made supper. Just a couple of weeks in, I was staring wistfully at the dresser drawer holding my jeans and humming Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends" each morning. 

I don't think that Skirtember was a bad idea, exactly, but it wasn't a good idea for me. I already liked wearing skirts and wore them frequently. Now, I can still say those things about myself, but there's a hesitation; I like wearing skirts--sometimes. I wear them frequently--but definitely not today. Moderation in all things, right? Forcing yourself to do something that goes against the grain every day for a month, when there isn't even a good reason for it, is likely to end in frustration and burn-out, and that's definitely where I am right now. I'm glad it's over, and probably won't be wearing too many skirts for a while.