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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Season

I'm off to see family and celebrate the rest of Christmas and the New Year. I'm looking forward to lots of eating, talking, laughing, game playing, present opening, and just general family wonderfulness.

Jeremy and I celebrated with a quiet, restful 4-days at home over Christmas. We watched lots of movies, ate tasty food, talked, read, and enjoyed each others company. And, I was thrilled to finally receive Helene Hanff's book Apple of My Eye. I've read the rest of her better known works and this was the final one to add to my collection. And may I suggest to you again, read Helene Hanff? Start with 84 Charing Cross Road. You won't regret it.

If I have a chance, I'll post my final reading round-up before the year is out. Otherwise, I'll see in 2010 with reading updates and perhaps a few book suggestions.

I hope you all are enjoying holiday celebrations with family.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's Been Cookin' in my Kitchen

Can I just say that I've been suffering from severe lack of inspiration/interest in the kitchen? The creativity well dried up and I was left with no new ideas and not very good remakes. This problem has been fueled somewhat by infrequent trips to the grocery to restock the pantry and fridge. (I'm to the point of having almost no fresh or frozen veggies, so the grocery store is calling my name.)

Last night, after a very frustrating day at work, I had a burst of kitchen interest that I quickly acted upon using the spare ingredients I have around. I made Dijon lemon salmon, baked potatoes, herb roasted carrots with onion, and creamed spinach (which I made my own white sauce for!). Jeremy loved the creamed spinach (recipe from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food. A most wonderful cookbook!), so I think that will be repeated sometime.

I may win Jeremy over to being a soup-guy one of these days just because I keep making them. When I don't know what to make, I think soup. It's usually easy and it's comforting. Two new soups I've tried recently are Vegetarian Black Bean Chili with Orange and Cumin and Italian Chickpea Soup (from Bon Appetit and Vegetarian Times). For the chili I cut way back on the cinnamon called for in the recipe and if I made it again, I'd cut out the orange peel that was added at the end, otherwise, quite good. I was pleasantly surprised by the chickpea soup, which also has sweet potatoes in it. I did add some mushrooms and broccoli.

To send in Christmas gifts to some family, I made a batch of gluten-free Double Chocolate Mocha Biscotti from this recipe. Because I didn't have agave nectar, I substituted with other sweetener and added an egg for some needed liquid. It turned out very tasty!

Even though it's snowing outside, I think I have to go food shopping. Tomorrow I work all day and I don't want to wait until Christmas Eve.

I do hope you all are experiencing more creativity in the kitchen. If you've made anything brilliant lately, please feel free to share!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Traditions Old and New

Why is it raining outside? It's December. It's a week and a half until Christmas. Isn't it supposed to be snowing?

Our tree is trimmed. Most gifts are purchased. Christmas cards need to be addressed and sent. I listen to Christmas music nearly everyday. If the weather won't cooperate, at least I'll create the atmosphere inside.

I love Christmas. So many happy childhood memories revolve around the holidays. I imagine some of that is because my parents were amazing at building fun traditions. Like our tree trimming party, a new ornament every year, lots of Christmas baking and sharing of those goodies, Dad's highly anticipated stockings.

Sometimes I miss it. Somehow Christmas, while still wonderful, is a little bit different when it's just you and another person. Jeremy likes Christmas, just not the way I do. (I hypothesize that this is because he spent some Christmases on his own and therefore fell away from participating in a lot of traditions.) I'm trying to instill in him my love of the season. The vote's still out as to whether or not that's working. :)

As for my own Christmas baking, I've felt quite at a loss this year. With Jeremy's Celiac disease diagnosis back in the summer, it's left me without much in the way of recipes I can make. It's a bit sad to let go of childhood favorites. I still eat them when family makes them, but I think I'm going to have to find new recipes to build my own Christmas baking traditions. For our tree trimming evening, I baked up a mix of gluten-free brownies and made some impromptu chocolates by dipping chopped almonds and dried cherries in chocolate. And a few with rice Chex and craisins in the chocolate. They were surprisingly tasty. But that's all I've tried my hand at. Maybe someday I'll have more inspiration in this new realm of baking. For now, I guess I'll take what I've got.

What's your favorite Christmas tradition?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Flavor Memory

When I was much younger I sucked my thumb. (Unfortunately I can't say, "When I was a baby I sucked my thumb." I mean I did. But the thumb sucking far surpassed baby and toddler years. Um, you might say I had quite a habit going. It wasn't easy to stop. My parents may have despaired that I'd ever stop. They might have tried every trick in the books to no avail. Okay, but that's not the point of this entry...) Sometimes I sucked my thumb in front of people, like relatives. And I distinctly remember my grandpas asking me what my thumb tasted like because it sure must taste good if I was sucking on it.

My answer every time? Chocolate ice cream. Apparently chocolate ice cream held the highest delicious flavor award in my mind (followed closely by chocolate cake, I imagine).

I'm still very much a chocolate loving kind of girl. Dark chocolate in particular. However, chocolate ice cream faded into the background years ago (perhaps when the thumb sucking ceased?) in the face of other flavors like moose tracks and mint chocolate chip and cookies 'n cream and cookie dough and French silk.

This week I picked up a pint of Breyer's chocolate for $1. Thought I'd give it another chance. And I'm so glad I did. It was delicious! The simplicity of the flavor and the creamy texture were a pleasant change from those fancier flavors.

I'd say, chocolate ice cream may be making a comeback in my books. But, I will leave the thumb sucking behind. I kicked that habit once; don't want to try to again!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Please pray for my little niece, Sienna. She broke her leg yesterday and is in quite a cast. Also pray for her parents, Tim and Kathleen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Snow

December arrived and with it some 50 degree weather and no snow. Although I'm not a particular fan of snow, I always look forward to the first snow of the season (and I have to admit to enjoying white Christmases when they happen). However, when I wistfully and nostalgically pondering the first snow, I wasn't anticipating the actual first snow. Today.

Jeremy went out to drive to work. He returned two minutes later, "Steph, I need you to drive me to work. My car's broken. The clutch is stuck down." So I quickly scrambled to put clothes on and out the door we went. Now, up here where snow is fairly regular, the snow plows do a pretty good job of keeping the street ice and snow free. I don't know what happened today, but the roads were icy! We only have a smattering of snow on the ground, but those roads were pretty treacherous. I drove between 10-25 most of the way. Traffic was heavy. And we were late to work.

On my drive home I missed a turn because of ice. My wheels were turned. I was going straight. And this was from a stop at a stoplight...not from taking it too fast. I made it home without mishap (on days like this I truly feel God's protection). Then I waited on hold with AAA to get J's car towed in. Now I'm going to be late for work as I wait for the tow truck to arrive.

And, if that's not enough, this weekend we had our ATM account shut-down because someone got in. As well as a credit card shut-down because of online purchases that weren't ours. It's been a weekend and start to the week!

Here's to hoping the week looks up and that the car repairs aren't costly!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gratitude

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family! Everyone was able to make it. There was plenty of amazing food, lots of talking, laughing, and game playing.

I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of such an awesome family (check out the photo of the bunch over at my sister's blog!). And on top of that, I'm thankful for a husband that loves them too!

It's been a challenging year, but I was reminded of God's many, many blessings as we shared our "thanksgivings" with one another last Thursday. I wish I could change my attitude so I'd always remember the awesome God I serve. That would do much for my ingratitude. But alas, I am human. Therefore, I'm thankful for the moments that I am reminded to stop and ponder the blessings, provisions, and faithfulness of my God.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Heading Home

Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite holiday. I love Christmas as well. But there is just something wonderful about Thanksgiving. Perhaps it has something to do with the spirit of gratefulness. And all that food! You can't go wrong with food. :)

Yesterday I was having tea with a friend and she asked what Jeremy and I were doing for Thanksgiving. I told her we were heading back home to spend time with family (only 6 hours until we're there!). Her husband was in the room and he said, "I suspected that." I laughed and said, "You suspected we were going? Why?" And he replied, "Well you guys have really great food." Now, no one in my family has even met these friends. So, they've never eaten any of our food, well except mine when they come for supper. I said, "How do you know?" And he said, "We must have talked about it this time last year and I just remember that it sounded like you all make a particularly good Thanksgiving meal." Well, in my opinion, we do. I just never thought we'd get a compliment from someone who's never enjoyed our sumptuous feast.

Wednesday is lunch and time with Jeremy's brother, sister-in-law and niece. Thursday is my family celebration (18 people). And in between times we have a few errands to run and favorite stores that we don't have around here.

I hope you all have a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving holiday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Serendipitous Moment

When I registered for my wedding at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I chose dishes that I thought were casually elegant. They are a red stoneware with squared plates from Noritake Colorwave. Much to my chagrin, shortly before my wedding, I discovered that the dishes were sold-out.

My grandma bought me one 4 place setting, which I was extremely happy about. And I planned to buy another one with gift money. After digging around, I found out B, B, & B was discontinuing carrying this particular color. Of course, because it's the one I chose!

Somehow my mom scrounged up another set that was given to us for Christmas and I was happy with my 8 place settings.

Fast forward to now. Jeremy loves to eat cereal. There aren't many kinds that he can eat, but Chex we keep around in abundance. Out of all the dishes in our cabinet, bowls are in the highest demand. I came home from work Saturday to discover that in the process of unloading the dishwasher, J accidentally broke three bowls (two from the lovely red dishes). I was not livid, I really wasn't. I just sighed to myself and thought, "Why the bowls?

Every couple of weeks my college friend Kim and I get together. This week we ventured out to B, B, & B so she could buy a couple gifts. And what do I find? Another set of my dishes in my color marked down from $120 to $60! Plus, I have a 20% off coupon. So, I snatched up that box of my dishes that shouldn't have been there and $51.35 later I have another 4 place setting, bringing my total to 12 (only 10 bowls, of course). And no, the store isn't carrying them. I believe someone must of returned them from an online purchase. I don't know and I really don't care. I was just so pleased to find such an awesome deal!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday afternoon

Yesterday Jeremy and I were able to spend the afternoon visiting my grandparents. We had a great time talking, eating, and of course playing cards. Liz and Luke came after lunch and we all sat down to 6-handed euchre. Grandpa says, "You want to play men against women?" The men agree. And the women proceed to win 3 out of 4 rounds! :) The cards weren't falling too lucky yesterday for anyone, but we passed a pleasant couple of hours engaged in them anyway.
I looked around me at that table and I felt blessed!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Herbs

I love using fresh herbs and this summer I tried my hand at growing a few on my deck. Despite the November cold, my parsley is thriving (but you know, of all the herbs to thrive, parsley ranks low on the list). However, I've given some thought to indoor herb gardening this winter. Have any of you done that before? Would a sunny window work?
I briefly had a jade plant in the house but it got infested with buggies. Have you had troubles with bugs (I'm assuming aphids)? Currently my only houseplant is a splendid bamboo plant that sits in my kitchen.
Any tips, suggestions, cautions would be appreciate concerning indoor herbs. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

TV

For several years I've not watched much TV. I watch it, yes, I've just not been hooked on shows that I just can't miss. Mostly Jeremy and I just catch the shows once they come out on DVD (The Office being the top one there!)

This summer I once again remembered why I love the show So You Think You Can Dance and happily watched it each week. A new season started up this fall and this week I finally caught an episode and I think I'm addicted again. I love dance shows. However, the real must-see show for me this fall is Glee. Perhaps some of you are cheering at this and some of you groaning. But man, it's a fun show. The girls in my small group (okay, we're really women, but girls sounds better) decided to start a weekly gathering to watch Glee. Tonight was the first time and it was quite fun to watch the silliness with other girls. If you haven't watched the show, you might consider checking out an episode on hulu.com or fox.com. Let me know what you think.

What are your must-see shows this fall?

Follow-up

Mr. Frenchy visited the library again last Thursday, but the feather-bearing son wasn't with him.

I found both the gingerbread latte and the pumpkin spice latte from this crockpot blog. I thought both of the recipes were okay, but could definitely use a little tweaking.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dinner with J

Yesterday before I left for work, I put pork tenderloin in the crock-pot. I found a recipe for honey mustard pork tenderloin that sounded good, and as I was being gone until nearly dinner-time, the crock-pot sounded like a fantastic idea. The meat came out perfectly fork-tender, but the flavor was just okay (which greatly disappointed me!).
Anyway, the real part of this story is that I decided to make mashed potatoes to accompany the meat. Jeremy loves mashed potatoes and I only make them occasionally. To boost their healthfulness, I sometimes add carrots and mash it all together. It's delicious. For real, you should try it.
When Jeremy got home from work he asked, "Are you making mashed potatoes?"
I told him I was.
When I set the plates of food on the table he said, "What is this?"
I smiled and said, "Potatoes."
"Is it sweet potatoes?"
"No, it's mashed potatoes." By this time I'm sort of giggling because of his reaction. I've made them before and he really liked them.
"What's in them?" he's very concerned.
"I put carrot in them. I've done it before and you like it."
"So it's not mashed potatoes, it's carrot potatoes."
"Jeremy, I put two carrots in with five potatoes. So it's potatoes with carrot." (I'm a big fan of leftovers for J's lunches so always make enough for another meal or two, lest you think we ate five potatoes and two carrots for supper all ourselves!)
So, Jeremy eats the potatoes and loves them. But then he dubs them Judas Potatoes. And today he suggested I make Angel Potatoes soon (in case you can't guess, those are regular mashed potatoes with a halo of butter melted on top).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Culinary Adventures

Creativity in the kitchen waxes and wanes in this apartment. Of late I've been pushing myself to lessen my grocery store trips (Meijer is a mere three minutes away and therefore so very easy to "pop in") and really think outside the box with what I have on hands. As well as use freezer and pantry items. I'm down to being pretty desperate to grocery shop--tomorrow's endeavor--but still needed to pack a lunch for Jeremy today. While he was at a meeting this morning I quickly threw together a chicken soup using just about everything left in my crisper drawer (mushrooms, kale, chopped onion, garlic) along with two kinds of leftover rice, broth and chicken from cooking up earlier in the week. Jeremy's not such a big fan of soup, but because I love them so much I certainly keep trying and I focus on making them thick.

New recipes I've tried this week include:
Green Soup (from Love Soup by Anna Thomas)
Pumpkin Spice Lattes (in the crockpot)
Lettuce Wraps (also in the crockpot)
Mushroom Broccoli Risotto (in the rice cooker)

And cooking right now are:
Butternut Squash Soup
Gingerbread Latte (in the crockpot)


Every Friday night Jeremy and I have a small group with church and it starts off with a pitch-in. Tomorrow, since I'm still trying to cook from what I have, I think I'll bring black beans and rice.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Feathers

I never imagined myself working extensively with the public via customer service. But, ever since graduating college, that seems to be what I've been doing. Such jobs are draining, sometimes rewarding, and always full of people encounters (which in my humble opinion is what makes the stories of life).


There is a man who comes into my library about once a week. A few of my co-workers refer to him as Mr. Frenchy. They know he's married with kids, but something about his French accent and his speaking French to his kids, makes these co-workers get a little weak in the knees (I only work with women, so you know...this happens, I guess). I'm not one them, but I get a small sigh of satisfaction when I get to help Mr. Frenchy and his kids at the circulation desk, because I know my co-workers are just a little bit jealous that I get to talk to him. (Oh, that's such a girl fault, isn't it?)

Last week as I was working my usual Thursday night, Mr. Frenchy arrives with his kiddos (two boys and a girl). The oldest boy--perhaps six or so--comes up to me at the desk and holds out a grubby, gray and white bird feather. "This is for a librarian," he says as he hands it me. My mind fights away the pictures of germs and imaginings of where this feather has been as I smile hugely and say, "It is? Where did you get it." He's very pleased and his French accented English is very cute, "At my house." I thank him, holding the feather as loosely as possible without dropping it. Mr. Frenchy smiles at his son and says, "Oh, I didn't know this was for a librarian. Tell her she must treasure it always." The boy says, "You must treasure it always." Mr. Frenchy looks at me and says, "No pressure, right?" I smile, still holding this feather, all those germs held in my hand! Little boy looks intently at the feather as they start to walk past, "Where are you going to put it?" I'm wanting to toss it in the trash can so badly, but I say, "I'm putting right here on the counter." They leave me to go into the children's room and I lay the feather carefully on a tissue and sanitize my hands. I know I can't throw this treasure away until they've left the library. What if the little boy asks for it back or asks to see it before they leave?

About a half an hour later, they come to the circulation desk to check out. I scan Mr. Frenchy's card and check out the DVDs. "Do you want to pay your $4 fine tonight?" He says, "How about the feather for the fine?" I laugh a little, "I'd love to, but I just don't think my manager would go for that." He half-smiles and rephrases the question as he gets out a $20 bill from his wallet and hands it to the smiling curly-haired daughter perched on the counter. I say again, that unfortunately we can't barter over fines. Little girl hands me the money and Mr. Frenchy says, "No more feathers for you." We both laugh and he and his kiddos leave to go home.

I toss the feather away and try to imagine what I'll tell little boy if he asks after the feather next time they are in--kids just don't forget those sorts of treasures.

Noticing

I've been having trouble keeping up here. And for that I apologize to my few readers. It makes your trips here unexciting and I imagine increasingly infrequent. Every time I suggest that I'll do better, I don't. So, I'll try not to continue with vain promises and just say, I'll write here, I promise. But I can't say how often. Several time recently I've thought, oh, I'll write about that on my blog later and when later comes, I forget.

I need to collect small bits of interesting from throughout my day. I need to catch small bits of conversation from passersby. I need to notice more around me like I used to. And I need to enjoy those curious noticings by sharing them here, because such observations are usually enjoyed more in company. So, I ask for patience and in return, I'll open my eyes a little more and tell you about what I see.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In-brief

So, camping wasn't as successful as we hoped. But, you live and learn, right?

I had a delightfully crazy, but wonderful supper with my sisters last Wednesday.

Thursday my friend Kim (we went to college together and now live 40 minutes apart) came over for a few hours.

Friday night my friend Maggie, who I hadn't seen in over a year, unexpectedly came for an overnight visit.

Yesterday I saw my sister and nephews for a few hours. They're staying in a state park nearby. I plan to see more of them tomorrow and Thursday.

So, I know I haven't been updating, but that's an in-brief of my last week. Much busier with people than normal.

Have a great Tuesday!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wish us luck!

Jeremy and I are off for a few days of camping. It should be an adventure as I'm the experienced camper and Jeremy's gone once. Also, the weather isn't going to be too warm. :) I'm thinking lots of fires with cocoa and coffee. Hopefully it will be a restful time away from busyness that is everyday life.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Recently added to my vocabulary...

Literary sub-genres:
Steampunk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk)
New Weird (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Weird)

Check out the links and let me know what you think.
Steampunk particularly came to my attention two or three times in the last week and I'd never heard it before. Scott Westerfeld, a popular YA writer, just published Leviathan which is considered a Steampunk book. It's alternative history with steam technology set at the beginning of WW1. Kind of intriguing, huh?

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's October!

I love October! I think I always have.
After the decidedly cool summer, I was excited for fall. I'm slightly concerned that the weather will decide to skip fall and jump right into late-November/wintry weather. Please let me be wrong!
With the coming of fall, all I want to eat is soup and bread. Unfortunately, my husband isn't terribly fond of either. Still, I'm the cook, so I slip them in. It's just a necessity. Last week I made chili, potato soup, and white beans with rosemary and garlic. When Friday rolled around I hadn't been to the grocery for awhile and I just wanted to cook from my pantry, thus the beans (J likes beans, but not really bean soup, but I keep trying!). We both thought the bean soup was surprisingly delicious.

This is the recipe which I took from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food:
Soak 2 c. navy beans in 4 c. water overnight
Drain and cook covered in water until tender (1 1/2 hr or so)
Add salt to taste
Heat 1/4 c. olive oil in skillet
Add roughly chopped garlic and rosemary (I added crushed red pepper flakes as well) and cook briefly until tender
Add to beans and heat through allowing flavors to marry.

The regular cornbread I made last week to accompany the chili was a hit so, I have plans to try an amalgam recipe for pumpkin cornbread this week.

In the vein of food, and also of reading because I must mention something about that, last week I finished Confections of a Closet Master Baker, which was just okay in my books. The amazon reviews were very positive, so I'm not sure what my problem was. Maybe the layout of the chapters which were intended to follow her daily routine, but seemed to jump around a lot? I don't know. The author, Gesine Bullock-Prado, (the sister of Sandra Bullock) tells her story of leaving Hollywood life for her own bakery in Vermont. However, each chapter ended with a recipe--deliciously sweet recipes to be exact--and I've kept the book around to copy down a couple Jeremy-friendly recipes before I return it to the library.

I hope you all are enjoying the early days of October!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Always something new...

As noted a couple posts ago, it's been a year since J and I married and therefore, a year since I moved up here. We would both readily admit that this year hasn't been an easy year. However, we would both admit just as readily, that many--if not all--of the challenges that we've encountered have brought us closer together. I'd say that's a good thing.
One significant frustration this year has been church. Not long after J moved here he started attending a church (granted he was still driving back on many weekends to visit me and so attended only a couple times a month) and when we got married I joined him in going. After nearly a year in the church, we realized that things just weren't right, for reasons I won't delve into here. So, in mid-June we made the difficult decision to spend some time looking around for a new church.
Okay, anyone that knows me very well, knows that church-hunting is indeed one of my least favorite activities! So, I got a little (okay, a lot!) nervous. Just the prospect of visiting churches stresses me out and makes me go completely into my shy-shell (unfortunately easily done in new situations).
** [As an aside, you'd think at 27 I'd be able to get over this shyness, but I haven't found that solid footing yet. And let me tell you, after moving to a new city to live in a new life situation, starting 3 jobs, visiting multiple churches, etc., this year has indeed tested my abilities of adaptation. Maybe I'm a smidgen better? If so, it's most often because Jeremy is by my side. I still internally quiver in fearful anticipation of new places, people, things (all nouns, right?!), but he continually encourages to me to step out of my comfort zone and let people get to know me. I do tell him that I've pretty much been living outside my comfort zone for some time and he reassures me that he knows this. Okay, done with my long aside...back to the church story.] **
On top of the general nervousness I experienced, the main people in our area that I was acquainted with were the people I went to church with. It was a very lonely feeling to strike out once again into the world of meeting people and trying to make connections and build a community here in a city that we often feel very disconnected from. We have remained good friends with one couple, we just don't see them as frequently. But still, it's nice to know you've actually known someone for a year, instead of just a few weeks!
To make a rather long story short, we aren't completely settled, but we have found a church we think we'll stick with. We've been warmly welcomed by several and have started attending a weekly home group. The whole starting over is slow going, but regardless, it's a start. And for that, Jeremy and I are both very grateful to see God at work.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Have I told you about the most amazing burger I ate last weekend? I haven't? Well, you really must hear.
Since I failed to take a photo, this is vaguely what it looked like in words:

Top bun
Crispy onions
Grape tomato jam
Gorgonzola cheese
Beef patty
Avocado mayo
Bottom bun

Delicious! The tomato jam gave a sweet edge, mixed with the pungent of the cheese, and the saltiness of everything else. Mmm, wish I could eat it again!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eggplant

I think eggplant is squeaky. When you eat it, the skin squeaks against your teeth. I don't like that. Therefore, I'm not really fond of eggplant. However, one of Jeremy's co-workers gave us a beautiful little eggplant and I felt compelled to try some dish with it, despite my misgivings about eating squeaky food.

Tuesday night I made an eggplant and red lentil sauce which I served over boiled, buttered potatoes. You know what? It was tasty! The flavor was nice, the texture and look, could be off-putting to some, but overall it was a success. I think part of the reason I liked it, is that the recipe called for the eggplant to be peeled. Aha, squeakiness resolved. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One Year

A year ago today Jeremy and I exchanged vows and became husband and wife.

[LowRes+JeremyStephanie+408.jpg]

We honeymooned in Saugatuck, MI, where one afternoon we did this...














A year later we returned for a weekend to celebrate a year of life together. And one evening we did this...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Said to me today...

woman: "Ain't you never seen a black person before?"
me: "What?"
woman: "Is that why you're staring?"

I'm left flabbergasted because this is the first moment I actually laid eyes on the woman. She really had her hackles up about something. I felt badly she thought I was staring. I wanted to respond indignantly and tell her I've lived in Chicago and Indianapolis and I've seen, talked to, worked with, befriended many black people. However, this would have come across as quite defensive. So, I let well enough alone and didn't look at her again.

My co-worker then watched her walk out with what we think were stolen cassette tapes from our book sale area. Just a very weird moment for me which came at the end of a very long, tiring day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Encouragement along the journey.

I've been a fairly consistent journaler for close to 10 years. I don't hold myself to a writing schedule, but instead, write when I need to or want to. It takes me anywhere from a year to two years to fill a journal. I consider the notebooks very personal and wouldn't want to pass them off to be read at some one's leisure. When I don't feel like talking, these pages are my ears to hear my joys, sorrows, frustrations, and conundrums; a place to keep my memories; sometimes even a place to find clarity.
For the past several journals I've chosen a verse or verses to write in the front cover to serve as a reminder of who I am and what Christ has done for me. Sometimes they are words to encourage during a particular phase in life.
Last week I finished up one journal and pulled out the next notebook to be filled. I pondered what verse I wanted to put in the cover. At church on Sunday, I heard/read these words and knew that they needed to serve as the "theme" verses.
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19
Spiritually I've been feeling a bit in a dry spell and I see these verses as an encouragement and reminder of the awesome work of God. He is our Creator and Sustainer. Without Him, we are nothing. What a wonderful image to "be filled up to all the fullness of God." I want that! So, this is a prayer for myself and a mile-marker at the start of another journal that will be filled with the life lessons of a girl striving to grow more like Christ through life's ups and downs.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Brief reviews...

Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances are the three short novels in a series by Alexander McCall Smith. Each book features the ridiculous troubles of Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, a noted romance philologist and the famed author of the book Portuguese Irregular Verbs. Items of little consequence take on great importance to Dr. von Igelfeld who thinks much more highly of himself than his colleagues or really anyone else. The dry humor employed by McCall Smith wouldn't be accessible to just any reader. However, I did find myself chuckling at the antics of von Igelfeld, especially when following his train of thought which always held himself in highest regard. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs was probably my favorite with the very memorable scene where von Igelfeld is confused with a surgical veterinarian and the result leaves a little sausage dog nearly legless.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer was definitely a more compelling read than Twilight (somehow I couldn't get myself into the whole Edward/Bella/Jacob triangle). This science fiction book is mostly the story of a girl and the people she lives with fighting to help her take back control of her body from an invasive host that lives inside (these hosts are taking over the world). Overall I enjoyed the book. Meyer did a good job of making me feel the urgency of the characters. In general, my big complaint about Meyer's writing is that she is very repetitious. She doesn't trust her readers to remember what they've read several chapters before. Therefore, her books aren't nearly as clean and succinct as they could be. I don't mind reading a 500 page book if that's how long it takes to tell a good story. For Meyer's stories, that's just not the case.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reading Round-up 2

Well, it's that time again. Another third of 2009 has passed, so I'm reporting in with my reading thus far. May 1 I posted about my first 4 months of reading in which I achieved a little over a third of my yearly reading goal (20 out of 52). I've read like crazy this summer and discovered some treasures along the way.

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
The Duggar's: 20 and Counting (yes I know, silly, but I was curious!)
I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
The Seance by John Harwood
Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
The Love of God by Oswald Chambers
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Nursery Crimes by Ayelet Waldman
Kafka's Soup by Mark Crick
Now You're Speaking My Language by Gary Chapman
The Big Nap by Ayelet Waldman
Protuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith
At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Cradle by Patrick Somerville
Note to Self by Samara O'Shea
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
April and Oliver by Tess Callahan
A Broom of One's Own by Nancy Peacock
Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee
For the Love of Letters by Samara O'Shea
A Playdate With Death by Ayelet Waldman
The Wild Trees by Richard Preston (audio book)
Songs of the Humpback Whales by Jodi Picoult
Death Gets a Time Out by Ayelet Waldman
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (audio book)
Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet
The Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

By my count, that's 39 more books bringing me to 59! I'm excited to have reached my goal already since I've fallen short the last several years. I know I'll keep reading some new books this fall, but I'm hoping to spend some time re-reading books I've loved in the past, as well as reading books from my own library (my shelves have been seriously neglected since I started working at the library).
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading some mysteries this summer--Ayelet Waldman, Carola Dunn, Alan Bradley--and imagine I'll pick up a few more before the year is out.
Some favorites from the list are The Elegance of the Hedgehog (noted in a brief review I wrote a couple months back), Now You're Speaking My Language (very insightful, challenging and encouraging book about communication in marriage), The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton, A Homemade Life, and The School of Essential Ingredients.
New Moon is the worst book I read. Seriously, I just couldn't do the Twilight series. I tried. I read the first two and decided it was a complete waste of my time (sorry to all the Twilight fans...I don't know how you do it!).
If there is any book on my list you'd like a further review of, let me know.
Have you been reading anything great? I'm always up for recommendations.
Happy Reading, Friends!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday

I know, I go days, even weeks without posting. I imagine that can't be good for my readership...such as it is. :)

For quite a change, Jeremy and I have been fairly busy. Two weeks ago my parents drove up for an overnight. It was lovely to have them here. Then last week Jeremy's parents came for a couple days. Since they live states away, it was nice to be able to show them our home. Jer and I don't have much to show people around the city, but we introduced our parents to our libraries and showed them a few other spots.

Recently we discovered a great little coffee shop that's filled with eclectic chairs and art. The coffee is perfect and costs less than any other place. The first time we visited we ordered house salads and they were unlike any house salad I've ever tasted. Torn Romaine leaves topped with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, green onions, huge feta chunks, salty sunflower seeds, covered in a light vinaigrette and served with warm rye bread.

I've been experimenting in the kitchen again some. Monday night I made salmon that turned out excellently (not to sound too pleased with myself!). I brushed a mixture of melted butter, olive oil, and lemon juice on the salmon and then sprinkled salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and dill and baked it all. Last night a made two kind of sweet potato wedges. One batch I tossed in a mixture of olive oil, cumin, salt, pepper, and a little allspice. The other batch I tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and a little salt. The sweet and spicy made a nice contrast and we decided we liked both quite well.

I discovered a new classical artist that is simply amazing. David Garrett. By chance I checked out his new CD from the library and loved it. This is some incredible violin (admittedly I'm not much of a violin fan)! When I googled his name I read that he is the world's fastest violinist. He played Flight of the Bumblebee in 1 minute 6.56 seconds (apparently that's 13 notes per second!). So, if you have the chance, check out this musician.

Last week I was asked if I'd be willing to work a few of my hours in the Children's Room. They are short-staffed there and Circulation where I work is sometimes overstaffed. I'm kind of excited to learn something new. Besides, any one that knows me, knows I love children's books. I'll be starting that soon, so we'll see how it goes.

I'll leave you with this update for now. Soon I have much to say about reading, I've been consuming books this summer and I'll have to share some of my favorites.

Hope you all have a pleasant Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A few family photos from Margaret's wedding.









In the busyness of the day, I somehow managed to miss getting a photo of Margaret and Philip together! I'm appalled at myself, but of course cannot do anything about that now. So, if you want to see more wedding detail photos, as well as a great picture of the happy couple, check out Alaina's blog. Enjoy the few photos I have!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

No More J___ Sisters

Margaret, the littlest sister, got married Friday night! It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony and reception. She looked radiant. Not long before she and Philip left she told us that she'd had so much fun and it was exactly what she hoped for. A friend commented that there are no more J___ sisters. Seems strange.

I hope to post a few pictures, but that will have to wait.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Where is my consistency?

I keep telling myself I'll blog more, but then the days pass. I've even encountered some very blog-worthy people (jewelry-making hippie-like woman at a Farmer's Market) and circumstances (observing a photo-shoot for a quinceanera), but they've fallen by the wayside of life.

Tomorrow I'm heading home for my little sister's wedding--which I totally can't believe she's getting married...how can this be...she's my baby sister! This will be my third road-trip alone this summer. Jeremy has to work. So, unfortunately for him, he's going to miss seeing me decked-out in a black dress and he's going to miss seeing all the family. To keep me company as I drive, I'll be listening to Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire. (Did you actually think you'd get through a post without me mentioning something about books/reading?)

Have you ever watched Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds? I saw it several years ago and was reminded of it again this week. Sometimes when Jer and I walk outside our apartment, there are a couple birds that seriously dive-bomb our heads. I don't know if there is a nest or what, but they aren't happy with our intrusion. They screech and fly at our heads, pulling up just at the last second. The even stranger thing is, they're not always around, so some days are much less hazardous than others. Go figure.

As I still have plenty to do before tomorrow, I'll leave you be. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I'll see you next week.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm not an insomniac...

But I am what I call a chronic dreamer. One of two scenarios occurs: either I sleep on the edge of consciousness with the knowledge that I'm doing just that while I'm dreaming or I sleep deeply and dream. Each night as I close my eyes and drift off to sleep I seem to grab a mental stack of stories/books and proceed to skim read them throughout the night, meshing unrelated events together and before the story is concluded I'm on to the next book and another series of unrelated bits of my day and other who-knows-where-it-comes-from thoughts all mixed into bizarre scenes. It's rather unrestful. I wish I could just stop thinking (because I definitely take my serious thoughts of the day into my sleep) for a few hours and completely relax.
I do like to tell Jeremy the parts of my dreams I can remember before the cobwebs of sleep are whisked away and the last particles of dreams gone with it. His frequent response to my dreams is, "What have you been smoking?"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I know, it's been awhile.

I had every intention of maintaining my blogging momentum, but was waylaid by my sudden inspiration for a birthday gift for Jeremy.
Last Friday was Jeremy's birthday. I'd contemplated the perfect gift (last year I bought him a bike, that was a big deal and not something I could live up to) and my burst of inspiration came the Friday night before Jeremy's birthday--a quilt. He loves the quilts I brought into the marriage and at one point expressed in interest in having one. So, Saturday morning directly after Jeremy left for work, I set out to make a secret quilt in a week. Every minute that Jeremy was gone, I'd pull out my sewing machine and the hidden quilt pieces and my ironing board and I'd work like a crazy woman until I had to put it all away before he came home in the evening. I was having fun, but I was stressed. Each day I set a mental goal to reach before clean-up time came. As you can imagine, the household chores fell by the wayside. However, I completed the quilt with just thirty minutes to spare (the finishing details were not up to my standard at all! But it was done!) and J was surprised. So, I guess it was a success!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finally after 17 years...

Back in the days when birthdays were eagerly anticipated and cards appeared regularly in the mailbox for a few days prior to the celebration, Mom allowed us to take the day off school. It was purely a fun day. We rarely had parties, but sometimes a friend was invited over.
The October I turned 10, my best friend lived 40 minutes away (consequently two of my sisters had best friends in their family as well). They came for the afternoon, Mrs. L and their 4 kids. I still remember the gift they gave me, a Dover Publications address book. The bright, blue cover pictured a standing dog slipping a letter in a mailbox for the post-bird to pick up--cute, huh?! I filled it with the names of my few friends and my grandparents.
Throughout my teens, I was an avid letter writer (I still enjoy the process of writing a letter) and despite that fact, I continued to use my Dover address book. Somehow I couldn't bring myself to copy the addresses into a more suitable book.
Well, after 17 going on 18 years, I finally did it! The binding to my first address book is cracked and the spine is fraying. I think it's time for it to be laid to rest. Last night, I copied the names and addresses into a new address book--this one spiral bound.
For the record, the friend that gave me the book, is still one of my dearest friends. Although now she lives like 4-hours away.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

mid-week company and industrious behavior

It's been a wonderfully unusual Wednesday up here in my neck of the woods. I had the day off and Mom drove up to pick blueberries. About 10 minutes from my apartment is an organic blueberry farm with incredible prices. So, not only did I get to visit with my mom, I also was able to freeze blueberries for the winter. In about 3 hours, Mom and I picked 57 lbs of berries. I kept 12. As of this afternoon, I have 8 bags of blueberries, 3 bags of strawberries, 1 bag of cherries in my freezer. Fruit for the winter!
After our industrious picking, we ran some errands. I found a pair of low, black heals to wear in my sister's wedding in about a month. Mom bought a gift for an upcoming wedding.
And together we enjoyed some delicious, homemade meatball sandwiches! I've eaten 3 Italian meals this week, which in my book is pretty amazing since I married a man who doesn't enjoy such foods.
Now I think I might clean my kitchen and work on sorting and organizing my extremely messy desk.
Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Word picture

I have a soft spot in my heart for the movie You've Got Mail. I suppose most of it is because I love the Shop Around the Corner. And I love that Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan's character) knows Noel Streatfeild (the Shoe books) and Maud Hart Lovelace (Betsy & Tacy books), two authors that I read and loved growing up; now no one seems to be familiar with those authors.
However, the reason I even started this post was because I was remembering in the car yesterday this line from the movie when Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) says of his then girlfriend, "Patrica makes coffee nervous." I just love the mental picture of a woman making coffee jumpy.
Ahh well, it might just be me being easily entertained. :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Recent Kitchen Successes

I feel like I'm constantly in a rut with food. Make the same things. My fridge perpetually low on food. So, I try and read cookbooks and cooking magazines and force myself to experiment. In the last couple weeks, I've tried three new dishes. I'm one for tinkering with recipes and ideas and sometimes they are great and sometimes, I still think they need work.
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Citrus-herbed Zucchini (idea from a Taste of Home mag)
julienne 2-3 zucchini
2tsp olive oil
2tsp lemon juice
pepper, salt, herb de provence
Saute the zucchini in olive oil and lemon juice until tender. Sprinkle liberally with pepper and herb de provence.

This was a real success. Jeremy loved it. The lemon juice gives a pleasant zing to the dish.
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Meatball Pitas
Turkey meatballs (made with onion, cheese, salt, pepper, egg, oats)
sauteed peppers and onions (I spiced mine up)
flat pitas
fresh lettuce and plain yogurt
Put everything in a pita, drizzle the yogurt over top.

This was good, but I thought would have benefited from a little cheese and maybe something a little more saucy over it (maybe make Tzatsiki or something).
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Lentils with split peas (basic recipe from friend Cathy, with my additions)
1c ea lentils and split peas
4c broth or water
clove garlic
onion
chopped fresh parsley and basil
Simmer beans in broth/water with onion, garlic, parsley, basil, until cooked. May require more water to keep moist. Serve alone or over rice with a sprinkling of pepper and drizzle of olive oil.

We used a little cheese and plain yogurt. I also made a mushroom curry rice for this. I really liked the flavor of the beans. It got a little thicker than I intended, but can be remedied with more water.
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Hope you all are having successes in the kitchen as well. I'd love to hear about them and get more ideas!

Monday, July 6, 2009

green thumb

This morning I tended to my plants (that would be only four, but hey, it's a start). Back in May I planted parsley, basil, and chives in a long planter on my deck railing. I added two more pots, one with oregano and one with sage (a friend gave me starts from her hearty plants). I feared that my herbs wouldn't get enough sunlight, but decided to try anyway. Let me tell you, my basil plant is very sturdy and growing like crazy. The parsley is not far behind. I'm thrilled to have a little fresh herbs to add to my cooking. The oregano didn't make the cut, but the sage is limping along. As for the chives, they're doing fine, but nothing like that basil!
I look forward to one day having more space to garden. For now, I'm content with my green plants on the deck.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

mental malfunction

In the past few weeks I've done the following:

Used salt to make cinnamon sugar.
Washed a load of laundry without using detergent.
Began to apply body wash to my hair in place of shampoo.

Maybe I'm going crazy...

In my defense, the canister of salt is identical except in height to the canister of sugar; I'd already put fabric softener in and forgot there was a step 2; my body wash and shampoo sit next to each other in the shower.

***

Tomorrow Jer and I leave town for the weekend. But I'll be back and I'm hoping to write a short historical post about Book Ladies. So, my few readers, stay tuned.

Have a wonderful 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Maybe my world is a little small...

Yesterday when I walked out to my car, my back passenger tire looked quite low. However, I hadn't allowed myself adequate time (because I didn't know to) to find a gas station and air up the tire. Have you ever tried to find air? It's not at all gas stations. On my way home, I stopped and filled up the tire and I was pleased to find a gas station that has free air! Jeremy thought I was silly for being excited about that, but I was was. Normally it's like $.75.
Is free air a silly thing to get excited about?

a Healthy Morning Start

6:30-7 prepare husband's lunch, eat breakfast with husband (homemade granola with organic berries and yogurt!)
7:05 leave for gym
7:15-8 workout with hubby
8:10 back home to shower and get ready for work

I hope I'm ready to take on the day, because I have to whether I'm ready or not. :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ahh, Life's Little Serendipities.

Recently I picked up Requiem for a Paper Bag at my local library. It's a compilation of stories and essays written about found items (notes on the ground or pictures tucked inside books kinds of things). It's also in association with Found magazine--which I've never read, but have heard of. So, I'm perusing this book the other evening and there's an entry from my city and I look at Jeremy and I say, "What's ____ last name?" And lo and behold, he works with the person who found it! Small world, huh?! On top of that, I appreciate that the address for the magazine is on Charing Cross Road; one of my favorite books, as I've mentioned before, is 84 Charing Cross Road.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What's the big deal about French food?

I'm no expert on this subject, so I'm just going to pose the question: Why such a big deal about French cooking?
I've never knowingly cooked French food, so I plead ignorance. However, I have noticed that memoirs of French cooking and eating proliferate. Every time I check what new books are being released, inevitably nestled among the other cookery-type books, there is a My Time With Food in France kind of book. I'm a sucker for food writing. And, I did read Julie and Julia a couple months back and rather enjoyed the story of Julie cooking through Julia Child's Master French Cooking Vol.1. But the elaborateness of the food definitely didn't entice me to want to try my hand at French cooking. Maybe it's just that the French care more about their food?
What's your opinion?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have written the previous post. I open my blogging mouth and the summer heat comes rolling in! It's definitely pool kind of weather! After I go to the gym, I think that's where I might be headed with my new read The Well and the Mine.
Hope you all are enjoying the summer weather.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How can it be...

that it's nearly summer solstice and it's still in the 60s outside? I sleep with multiple covers on at night and I'm not hot. We've run the air conditioning a few evenings, but that's it. Summer seems to want to stay in the April showers phase as far as I can tell.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend

Friday evening after work, Jeremy and I climbed into our packed car and drove an hour and a half to join my sister and brother-in-law for a quick weekend camp. The weather was very mild (quite cold in the evenings really) and for a day and a half, we lazed around eating, talking, playing games, sleeping. It was a refreshing retreat.
This was J's first camping experience and I think he mostly enjoyed his time. I suppose it is more work than a hotel retreat, but there's something incredibly satisfying about being outdoors, cooking food over the fire. I told Liz that Mom and Dad would be proud, they trained us well to be campers and we're carrying on that tradition.
J and I rarely get more than a 2-day weekend, but I'm hopeful that we'll have a few more weekend camping retreats.

Today I don't have to work, so I'm packing away the camping gear, doing laundry, cleaning, etc. I was hoping to go to the pool for a bit, but the weather looks uncooperative. So, we'll see if that happens.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reviews

This last week I just finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog which I picked up partly because of the particularly intriguing title and partly because of reading positive reviews about it in Bookmarks magazine. I wasn't disappointed. I was delighted when I discovered the reason behind the title, this tidbit appeared about halfway through the book. Recently translated from French, this quiet story is told from the viewpoint of a 50-something concierge and a 12-year-old tenant. Themes of Art, philosophy, beauty, literature, and meaning of life run throughout this book.

Yesterday I finished Brooklyn which is another kind of unassuming book like Elegance. I believe this is written by an Irish author. The book follows the journey of Eilis Lacey from Ireland to Brooklyn and the people she meets along the way. Ultimately it's a story of growing up and finding home. It's a gentle, flowing story with unique characters.

Plumb is one of my favorite Christian singers. I'm picky about such music. Last week I checked out Plumb's newest CD Blink and it was beautiful. Ultimately, most of the songs are lullabies that she wrote for her two young sons. But the messages and lilting melodies kept me listening. Her other CDs are much more upbeat, but I love them as well. She very often tells stories in her songs which I love.

To any of you looking for something new to read or listen to, I highly recommend these items. I'd love to hear opinions from anyone that has read/listened to these already or from those who pick them up as a result of my reviews. I don't have much opportunity to talk literature with people right now (this is my outlet), so I hope you don't mind that books come up frequently in my posts.

Happy reading and listening!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Birthdays in my family come around so quickly.

I will have more time to post life-moments tomorrow. For now, before I hit the bed for some sleep, I just wanted to wish a Very Happy 30th Birthday to my big sister, Alaina!!! I was able to spend about three hours with her today and so much enjoyed seeing her. Love you so much, Alaina.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reading Monopolizes Woman's Time

The woman reveled in her freer days after the conclusion of one job. She finally had time to keep up on her laundry, ironing, cooking, and cleaning. But one problem stood in her way. Books. The stuffed shelves and piled table called out to her and like the pull of the sirens, she succumbed. Whenever a spare minute could be grabbed (or sometimes stolen from the "clean the bathroom" section of her to-do list), she would pull her legs beneath her in a comfy chair and with anticipation open her book and read. Carried into those worlds, she didn't notice the passing of precious minutes. Before she knew it, her husband would be home soon and the dishes were still piled in the sink and dinner wasn't prepared. Just one more chapter and she assured herself that she'd close the cover and go be a responsible wife.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday

Jeremy and I decided on Monday that we were going to throw a party tonight. We assembled a modest sized guest list and sent out a specially designed invitation (as you might imagine, if you know Jeremy, the invite included Batman). The day has arrived and only one couple is able to come. Now it's not so much of a party, as just a relaxed evening with a couple friends. So much for our grand plan! We'll have fun anyway, I am certain.

^^^

This morning I ventured to church to help in the garden. Um, it's huge! I had no idea how big of a plot; it's really more like a small field. We have our work cut out for us. I was there nearly 2 1/2 hours working with others. There was still much to be done when I left, but we did get 30+ tomato plants, 7 watermelon hills, and 3 rows of corn planted. I imagine there will be many more hours spent there, but think of all the produce!

^^^

Today is Old Navy's $1 flip-flop day. As I was driving to the gym this morning I thought I might swing by and pick up a couple pairs, but there was a horde of people outside of ON and I just didn't feel like standing in line. After my time at the gym I drove back through the parking lot and there was still a horde of people outside, now accompanied by some police. I decided to skip it. I had a brief break in work this afternoon so thought I'd pop over there (lest you think I'm just flip-flop crazy, ON is at most 5-minutes from my apartment). I talked to Jeremy as I was pulling into the parking lot and he said, "Don't go there. It's not safe. There was a riot there this morning and people were fighting and the police had to come." Now those are some flip-flop crazy people! It was calm when I arrived and I departed some 15-minutes later, unscathed. The woman's flip-flops were completely picked over, but I did buy one pair of black. Now I'm back and ready to tackle the rest of my to-do list.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gardening

I would love to have a garden. But since Jeremy and I are still in a middle-floor apartment, this isn't particularly feasible. So, this is what I'm doing instead...

I finally bought a few herb plants to put on my deck. I don't have great sunlight, but I so much wanted to have some plants. I bought parsley, chives, and basil. One of my friends is going to give me some oregano and sage from her plants. Have any of you ever grown stevia? I almost bought a plant, but didn't know how difficult it was to get the sweet powder from the leaves.

Jeremy and I's church is doing a community garden for the congregation. It's their first year, so instead of giving people their own plots, it's just one giant garden that everyone is to help with. I think I'm going to try and participate. I would like to have the access to fresh, grown produce.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

There will be no more kid anecdotes.

Today was my last day of LEAP. I felt relief as I contemplated this approaching day. I looked forward to working only one job. But, a little part of me wondered if I'd feel a twinge of sadness in saying good-bye. We didn't do our regular tutoring today, instead we had a celebration for the kids. So, today turned out to be just about as chaotic as the first day back in January. And I can honestly say, I didn't feel melancholy in leaving the school. I felt relief. Jeremy told me we needed to celebrate this day. He's been looking forward to this job ending almost more than I have been!

^^^

A program is offered at my library once a month that is called Yak, Snack, and Read. Basically it's a book club and by the name, I'd assume there was something to eat, wouldn't you? Well, tonight I saw the reference librarian that leads the group bring a snack of Life-Saver mints. Um, is that a snack? Made me smile. It also made me think of my sister Margaret. If she'd been in the group as a girl, she'd have been thrilled with that snack because she loved all candy, including Star light mints.

^^^

A man that comes into the library has a mostly shaved head, except for what appears to be about 1/2-1 inch wide strip of hair that runs from ear to ear around the back of his head. Originally I thought it was a strap for his glasses, then I realized there already was a strap. Strange.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Little bits of life

I am pleased to update and say that for the past two nights we've slept in our bedroom peacefully. The apartment people finally came through and some work was done upstairs on Tuesday. It's not completed yet, but they made remarkable strides in the sound adjustment in the bedroom. Unfortunately their work in the living room area that was getting noisy, actually made the noise level worse. Sometime they are supposed to return and work on that. But, it's been wonderful to sleep in a bedroom and feel like I have living room again.

One of my LEAP co-workers asked me today how old I was (in the context of a conversation about having children). I told her I was 27 and she said, "Are you serious? I was going to guess 21. You look great for 27." This was followed up by her telling me that I should probably get a move on in having children. :)

My hubby works late tonight and I should probably be doing some productive things around here. But I'm shushing those "I should" thoughts and just reading. I'll more than likely follow that up with watching a couple TV shows--Parks and Recreation; The Office--and that will be my night. Lazy, I know. But I did stay up until nearly 11:30 last night making granola and cleaning my kitchen.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sleeplessness

We've had quite a bit of sleeplessness in this apartment of late. It's really a combination of several things including Jeremy's sleep troubles anyway and the fact that we've been sleeping on an air mattress in our living room for the last month and a half because of the apartment upstairs.
The whole air mattress thing bothers me more than it bothers Jeremy. I'm tired of having our living space being taken up with our sleeping space. And truly, we have a very nice bed in our bedroom that's not being used. You're more than likely asking yourself, why in the world are you doing this? Well, here's the deal.
There is something wrong with the ceiling in the bedroom. When the people upstairs walk into their room, our ceiling creaks so deeply, that it can wake me from a dead sleep at 2 a.m. Maybe this wouldn't be a huge deal if the people kept regular hours, but I can't figure them out. They seem to like to walk in and out of the bedroom when we're trying to fall asleep, thus making it nearly impossible for us to sleep(J even wears ear plugs most nights and the creaks go right through them). But, they don't seem to be going to bed then because they're walking back in long after we've finally gone to sleep. So, being tired of that we resorted to sleeping in the living room. But, that has its troubles to, including the fact that there are some rather bad creaky spots out here too. And these people walk! Plus, they play their TV loudly enough that we can hear it. Last night they decided to clean their entire apartment somewhere around 9:30 or 10. This included vacuuming the whole place with long pauses between each section, for who knows what. Jer was very tired and had headed to bed in the bedroom rather early. I was up reading. We both ended up in the living room and not falling asleep until more like midnight. It wasn't just the people, but they contribute a great deal.
Your next question is probably, what are you doing about this? Well, we contacted the apartment office going on 3 weeks ago (after I realized that the creaking was getting worse and having visions of someone falling through our ceiling). Supposedly someone that deals with structure is going to be tearing up the carpet in the bedroom upstairs and doing something to the floorboards. Well, that hasn't happened yet. I'm not even holding my breath that it will fix the problem. But, I really want my bedroom back. We're uncertain what our next step should be if they can't solve this problem.
Sleep goes a long way towards productive, good days and we'd like a little more of it around here.

What I enjoyed most from my reading this year.

For those who are curious, I'm sharing my favorite fiction and non-fiction reads from the list in my last post.

Fiction--
I've never been good at just picking my very favorite, so here's my top three: A Beautiful Blue Death, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Thursday Next First Among Sequels. The first is a mystery set in 1800's London, written by a new British writer. I read both of his books and enjoyed them both very much! The second book is written in letters and set around the time of WWII. It reminded me a bit of one of my favorite books, 84 Charing Cross Road. The last one is the fifth book in the Thursday Next series. I've enjoyed all those books, but have yet to really convince anyone that these crazy books are a great read! It's hard to even put them in a genre because they are somewhat fantasy/sci fi and somewhat mystery. They're just fun. I'd definitely recommend any of these books.

Non-fiction--
My top two: The Taste of Sweet and Praying Backwards. I'm fairly certain I mentioned the first one in a previous post. This was a fascinating read about our connection with sweet foods and the science behind sweet. The second book was an excellent book about prayer! I read it from the library, but am seriously considering buying a copy. Prayer is a weak point in my life and I felt encouraged through this book and have been trying to practice some of what I learned. If you can get your hands on a copy, consider reading it.

My sister asked how The Last Lecture was. Honestly, I didn't really like it all that much. It seemed very common sense to me. And I felt that the author was incredibly self-centered. So many of his sentences began with I. I was hard pressed to know why it's all the rage. But, maybe I missed something. Have any of you read it? If so, what did you think?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Reading round-up.

Since it's May 1 and a third of 2009 has already passed, I thought I'd post my completed reading list thus far (I've read parts of several other books and I'm in the midst of about three more). I'm still looking to get through 52 books this year; we'll see if that happens. But 20 books in the first 4 months shows a little promise to actually reach my goal.

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir
Dewey by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter
A Stopover in Venice by Kathryn Walker
Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart
The Taste of Sweet by Joanne Chen
The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles
The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan
Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell
The Magician's Book by Laura Miller
I Like You by Amy Sedaris
Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris (audio book)
Wonder Woman, Love and Murder by Jodi Picoult (graphic novel)
The Novel by James Michener
Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Thursday Next, First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kids say funny things.

Today was a gray and rainy day. I decided to wear my contacts to avoid the rain-speckled glasses lenses. Wearing contacts is unusual for me and the kids at my after-school program noticed.
I pick up all the second-graders from the classes and one cute little Hispanic boy who always smiles said, "I don't know you. Are you a new teacher? Are you a Chinese teacher?" I returned, "I look Chinese without my glasses?" His reply, "With your glasses you look French. Without your glasses you look Chinese."

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Happy Birthday yesterday! (Didn't she look amazing at my wedding?)
Mom, I feel very blessed to call you both Mom and Friend. I love you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My weekend

Jeremy and I were supposed to be out of town this weekend, but after careful consideration of the past month and of the coming few weeks, we realized that more than anything we needed a weekend at home together doing nothing. And you know what? It was wonderful!
Saturday morning we went to the local Farmer's Market and had breakfast and walked around. Bought a few veggies, honey, and coffee. We followed that up with some tennis. Um, well, we served the ball to each other, but the making it back across the net didn't exactly happen much. :) However, it was fun and something different and free for us to do together. A heavy rain shower sent us packing early, so we went to the gym to finish getting our exercise. After a snacky lunch at home we went to Barnes and Noble and sat and read for an hour or so. I made a veggie packed stir-fry for dinner which we ate while watching "Reign of Fire." Sunday morning we had church, but the rest of the day was together, very relaxed, and involved lots of reading.
We both felt refreshed and think the time helped us prepare for a few more busy weeks.
I love my husband and love spending time with him, even if it's just sitting next to him sipping coffee and reading a book (thankfully he loves to read as much as I do, so this scenario--while not done all the time--is mutually enjoyable).
Hope you all had relaxing weekends as well!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Daily lessons in humility

Here is my question, can a wife (let alone a mother, which I'm not, obviously) really be all of these at once: working outside the home (20+ hours), keeping a clean house, cooking healthful meals, maintaining a frugal budget, and being the best help-meet to her husband? I may be new at all of this, but I'm falling short. I wish I was Wonder Woman around here and had everything under control. I sure don't. I try. But I don't seem to succeed. Ah, humility.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another birthday!

Mr. Calvin is 4 today! He was one of the ring bearers in our wedding. Happy Birthday little man!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A birthday...

Yesterday was my niece's 3rd birthday! She was the flower girl in our wedding. A big Happy Birthday to Sienna!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dinner

I concocted a dish for my dinner this evening that turned out quite well. Jeremy works late, so I cooked up something for dinner that he might not have enjoyed as much as I did.
I sauteed fresh asparagus and fresh mushrooms in olive and garlic. I made a light cream sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese. I served this over whole wheat spaghetti. It was delicious if I do say so myself!

I know it's been awhile since I posted. Jer and I were out of town for almost a week and a half. Then we came down with colds and it's been a slow return back to normal. Hopefully I'll be back to posting soon. And, I plan to put up a few photos from our Denver excursion.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Creature Photos

When I arrived home from work yesterday, a drizzly, gray rain was falling. I saw this happy couple enjoying the elements out my back window. Aren't they cute?



For art yesterday during the after school program the students were supposed to sculpt an animal or character from a book using model magic (they were an unimaginative bunch and even with that direction couldn't think of anything to make). I sat down at a table with some of the kids and made Wilbur and Charlotte, those timeless animal characters from one of my absolutely favorite books (I realize that their sizes are quite disparate, but after I made Wilbur I had so much left over that Charlotte grew into quite an overwhelming size).
Jeremy finds the spider somewhat repulsive. :) What do you think? I find her rather friendly looking.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

With the changes in my work schedule because of the new job, Jeremy and I frequently have differing days off and therefore more alone time than together time. Lately I've worked Fridays and he's worked Saturdays. While we both enjoy being able to have some alone time, I find myself missing him (kind of silly, I know, since I see him at night). To combat that creeping loneliness, I've gotten out the last two Saturday mornings and gone to the gym, followed up by an hour or so sitting in a Border's cafe drinking iced coffee while reading and writing. I find myself somewhat refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Striving to learn

I love learning. There are many moments I imagine returning to school for the mere fact of learning and reading and discussing pieces of literature and writings I wouldn't pick up on my own. However, as that is unlikely (and really I don't crave the pressure of homework or tests), I pick up books from the library. It's not the same as a classroom environment, but it's what I can do. I suppose that might be partly why I enjoy reading nonfiction books so much. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good fiction read, I just typically gravitate towards the nonfiction section. Right now I'm reading The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller; The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8 Lee; Take Joy: a Book for Writers by Jane Yolen; Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table Edited by Amanda Hesser. And waiting in the wings are Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir; Why Read the Classics? by Italo Calvino; Birth by Tina Cassidy. It may be said that I try to read too many books at once (I believe in this I am my father's daughter). It does fragment my attention a bit, but I just find so many interesting books I want to read! My eyes grow heavy too quickly at night.
I suppose the real reason I sat down to write this post, though, is actually the book I'm listening to as I commute between jobs, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris. I'm not even a quarter of the way through this book, but I'm fascinated by this theological memoir. Norris examines her relationship with acedia (a demon of bad thought recognized by early monastics), a slothful, soul-weary indifference. I may not agree with all of Norris's theology, but I appreciate the careful way she is navigating through what could be a touchy subject. I'm learning of people and ideas I'd never heard of prior to this.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sighting

On a sunny 50-degree Wednesday, man seen crossing busy street using two ski poles as walking sticks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Because my husband decided that dressing in green for St. Patrick's Day was unnecessary, I decided I'd bring the Irish in a bit with dinner. I stopped home between my jobs and put corned beef and cabbage in the crock pot (with potatoes and onions...sadly, I was out of carrots). It was a tasty St. Patrick's Day dinner which I enjoyed in my green-striped top!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

One more thing I can mark off my mental check-list.

I am relieved to have our taxes done for the year. And, we don't have to pay anything! We had several unusual (to us, at least) additions to taxes this year, so decided to have them done by someone. We are blessed to have Jeremy and I's, sister-in-law's mother (how's that for confusing...) living in the area and working for an accountant doing taxes! So, we went there yesterday morning and got all squared away.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Settling in yet again.

I am still here. I started my new job on Monday. That first morning was complete with my manager leaving because her mom had a stroke and with the whole computer system being down. Because there wasn't much that could be done, I read manuals and observed co-workers (which was interesting and I believe insightful...at least one person appears to be one to be wary of sharing anything personal with, if you get my drift). The last couple mornings have been better. I must admit that I don't feel very warmly received, I think everyone was pretty content with how things were, but they are being kind enough. It's a positive thing there that I'm quiet and can keep my own counsel. Regardless, I am thankful for the job and I'm sure that with time I'll find my niche. It does make me miss my bookstore days and all the great people I worked with there.
My house now seems to be in a continual state of untidiness. My kitchen needs a dish fairy. And every night when I go to bed, I have troubling dreams about work. It's just the adjustment period, right?
I make no promises to update with regularity, but I'll try to keep up when there are things to be said and I have the chance.
Happy Wednesday!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Appreciating a local business

I don't think I've ever mentioned the jeweler that Jeremy bought my engagement ring from (and our wedding rings). They are fantastic! Very professional, but personable and they are a local establishment. Plus, Kelly, our preferred salesperson worked with Jeremy when he was picking out the most exquisitely perfect diamond ring. I've never seen a ring I liked more! And she helped us as we chose our wedding bands.
Last week I noticed that my engagement ring was catching on my clothes. A closer inspection revealed that the diamond had slipped down a bit from one of the prongs. I stopped wearing it until we could go in to the jewelers. Yesterday we popped in and Kelly was there. She took the ring back, resituated the diamond, tightened the prongs and polished the ring. It came back sparkling. We were talking to her about white gold rings needing re-plated, which is something I learned about only recently. She said usually every 6 months or so. I'm not sure if I would have chosen white gold if I'd known that, but I do prefer the silver finish. Regardless, that's what my wedding band is made of. Kelly took one look at my ring and said, "Can I have that please. Usually replating is $20, but I know you bought these recently and you're newly married." And she replated the ring at no charge. I left with two shiny rings at no cost to me. How nice is that?

Fact: Elvis had a ring designed by these jewelers for Priscilla. (The things you can learn from TV.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quick update

Mr. Flower was very gracious about my abrupt departure from his shop. I'll stay through next week. I still feel badly, but he too acknowledged that it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

I mentioned at my school job that I'd gotten this library job and one of my co-workers said, "Which library?" I told her and she exclaimed, "I interviewed for that job! I wondered why I never got a call back." A little later she said something about how competition is healthy for everyone. Can we say, a little awkward? And also, we weren't in any sort of competition because everything happened before we ever even knew we both interviewed?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

God's timing confuses and fascinates me.

I was very excited to receive a job offer today to be a part-time circulation assistant at a local library. I really wanted this job! It's far from prestigious, but it fits more into my interests than say, the flower shop I've been working at. I sent in my application for this job on Christmas Eve. I got a call for an interview later on the very day I "interviewed" at the flower shop and accepted a position there. I interviewed the day before I started at the flower shop and then I heard nothing. For several weeks now, I've waited. I'd hoped I might hear something by the time my trial period at the shop lasted. But I didn't. So, I stayed on. And now, this. I accepted this new job for several reasons, but I must admit I'm feeling a bit guilty about leaving the flower job. I'm kind of dreading going into work tomorrow morning and talking to Mr. Flower. How do I break it to him gently and not make it seem like I was deceiving him?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sweetheart Day

This is Jeremy and I's first Valentine's that we've celebrated. Although we were dating last year, unexpected circumstances took him out of the city and we just never celebrated the holiday. We aren't doing anything too big this year, but he did take me out for a lovely meal at the restaurant we went to the night we got engaged. With my work schedule taking me away from home more, I've missed him (I know, I get to see him more than many women get to see they're husbands...but we've only been married 5 months) and it was so pleasant to spend the evening together.
Tonight he works until 6, but I'm hoping to have a romantic meal ready for him when he arrives him. Our apartment's a bit of a disaster, so I've got a lot of work to do in the next few hours.
 
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