Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Cheer


This post is for everyone except Jayme. You heard me right, lady. You are prohibited from reading any further. Just stop right now! I promise, it is only because I love you. I'm looking out for your general health and well-being. Your heart may not be able to take this one. Please heed my warning.


For everyone else: This is my little guy, circa Christmas Eve, 2007. He was 2 years old and got up on stage to sing in front of our whole church. I was sweating bullets. He also sang last year, but he has decided that he's too embarrassed/cool to do it this year. sniff sniff.

Let the Christmas season commence!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rangeline Road

It's time to dash off to bed - up the familiar stairway, into the cooler air, behind the door that still falls open to precisely the same place.

I don't know what it is about being Home (the home of my youth) but it always brings my heart to its knees, at some point or another, with nostalgia as thick as honey.

It's a good thing. It's a bad thing.

It's a good thing.

Truth is, if "it" is left behind when this house sells - along with the floor creaks and the scent that is ours alone, I will miss it.

I am convinced that there is truth to be found in contemplation. I like attempting to unravel the mysteries of my life...the fact that there are mysteries about my life that even I cannot place in the proper columns.

My past and my present collide only here and it makes for a mind-spinning blend, especially when today's hour creeps into tomorrow's. I should know better than to stay up so late in this house that is so quiet. But honestly, this is where my night-owlish ways were born.

Is it possible that the girl who grew all gangly and bookish and opinionated and proud is the same girl sitting in this chair? Can the girl sitting in this chair, so pensive and and tender-hearted and stubborn and searching, really be the one who knows these walls by heart?

I am so different, and so unchanged. I hope the years have sanded off the edges and shined me up as to make the eyes of my heart clearer. I hope I have learned.

For now, I am warm from hot tea and the fireplace. My fingertips are still tangeriney. It's time to climb the creaky stairs, tiptoe past my beautiful babies and fall into my too-short bed where the man of my dreams is fast asleep.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

You Wanna Know What I'm Thankful For?

This little sweet-cheeked fella.

Seriously, Silas, you're killing me with those eyelashes.

Enough with the suspense - Get here already!

We missed you today on Thanksgiving. We showed everyone your picture.

See you soon, baby boy.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just Because

Because life is too short to wear uncomfortable under-britches.
(And they were having a sale, and the cute, teenaged checkout girl sprayed the tissue paper with scented body spray, then informed me that I qualified for a free miniature bottle of "Katie", then gave me a giftcard redeemable after Dec. 1 for an undisclosed amount, then asked me which ribbon I wanted tied to the handle of the bag.)

Because sometimes it's good to keep it simple and state the obvious.
(And I had the chance to take a real lunch break today with my flea market soulmate and she's even more fantastic than I thought, and we took turns talking nonstop so that we could actually eat our meal, and we both dropped food on ourselves during the course of our hour-or-so together.)

Because faded brick and paned windows with green vines are no-fail.
(And dark red works for me more than ever, this time of year and it had been too long since I had taken a picture out of my window whilst driving.)

Because all our days are numbered.
(Run, wild turkeys, RUN!)

Because holding a real dollar all the way from Kohls to The Dollar Tree is a pretty big deal.
(And Papaw will love the paint roller and generic brake fluid they chose for his birthday gifts.)

Because he has heard his Mama say one too many times that it's good to "Mix It Up" when it comes to fashion.
(I drew the line at his blue mesh basketball shorts worn atop the grey pants. I just couldn't do it today. I think the tie dye did me in.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, Monday

Today was a good day.

Well, except for the comments I received from all you crazy cats telling me how charming and sweet it is that my husband covertly stalks me with his Canon.

12 a.m., people. Ain't nothing charming about that hour.

I feel that the photo of my attire might benefit from further explanation... I discovered something today. It felt a little epiphanetic. (Is that a word??? I thought I was making it up, but it's not underlined in red! It's a word. The English language is so zany.)

So, I was pounding away on my laptop all morning - working. I was dressed to the nines in my grey sweats and green robe. I hate to play into that icky stereotype of work-from-homers, but for me, it holds true. I work mostly in my pjs. I know, it's gross. I know. But it eliminates the temptation of galavanting around town when I am supposed to be working. You do whatcha gotta do.

The time finally came to appropriately attire myself - I was in a rush. I chose the striped sweater because I felt sorry for it. I hadn't worn it in a couple of months and I do really like it. But it's a thin weave and come October, I'm concerned primarily with warmth. I grabbed a pinstriped button down for underneath. It was SO bunchy. It took me a good 8 minutes to smooth out the glitches. I hate the feeling of tight bunchiness. It's why I try my dangdest to avoid wearing a bulky winter coat. It's too restrictive. Too confining. Makes me feel trapped.

(Be honest, is this not the most intriguing and gripping parcel of my life's minutia I have ever dispensed of?)

Tick tock. It's 12:46. I should have left 2 minutes ago. Pre-school awaits.

I dashed out the door, hair akimbo, face all Pale Gail. But! I was wearing a real outfit. Flats, even. Problem was, it bored me to tears and I'm the Queen of All Things Boring!

Timely pre-school drop-off behind me, I raced back home for a bowl of leftover beef stew (bleh) before my final Nost Job appointment. And that's when it hit me - Put on the polka dotted belt. Oh, I put it on, alright. And it saved the ever-loving day.

This is my truth: I do not feel entirely Shannan if I am not wearing multiple patterns. It defines me. Give me flowers with stripes; plaid with dots. Give me 5 different kinds of stripes - I'll work it out.

I once wore a turquoise flowered skirt with a bright yellow rugby-striped sweater to church. I told my sister about it later and she confirmed that my church friends probably think something might be wrong with me.

But I'm telling you, this is my most important (and only) fashion tip. Mix it up, girls! Just try it.

And report back, as always.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Every Step You Take...Every Move You Make...

Do you ever feel like someone is watching you?

I do.

You would too, if you regularly looked in your photo file only to find a slew of photos of yourself that you did not know existed.

Hold the phone - am I somehow a celebrity?


I have a husband who is teaching himself photography. One never knows where he may be lurking.

Just last night, around 12 a.m., he had the nerve to ask if he could take some pictures of me while I was reading my magazine on the couch. (I know, creepy, right?) "I'll delete them all when I'm done." At 12 a.m. that is just not a risk I'm willing to take.

In retrospect, at least he asked. At least he didn't just start snapping.

Because trust me, that's his go-to strategy.

Earlier today, he tricked me by saying that he would load the kids up in the car while I finished getting ready to go to town. As I was walking out the door, I remembered that I had two rotting gourds still sitting on my shelf that needed to be pitched into the pasture. A few steps closer to the door I realized that the temps were dipping and I would probably need my jacket. But I couldn't put it fully on, what with the rotting gourds in my hand. Oh, and if I need a jacket, my kids probably do, too.

So here I am, my jacket half-on, two rotting gourds in one hand, two little-people coats in the other.

If it were you, would you be feeling photo-oppish?

I hope so.

Is this a joke?

Am I on candid camera?

Am I secretly a celebrity and I don't even know it?

Hmm...Celebrities probably have "People" to toss their rotting gourds for them.

They also have year-round tans and jackets that match their shirts, so maybe not.
When I fully process that Cory is taking yet another picture of me doing yet another mundane task whilst lipgloss-less and, to varying degrees disheveled, this is the look I give him. An equal mix of confusion and angst. 90% of these pictures feature this expression.

Hours later, he struck again, this time under the guise of "I'm just taking a picture of your paintbrushes."

How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on.....

I was working intently on a very fun, covert project.
(I always feel like somebody's watching me...)

My Christmas wish for all of you is a pair of these cushiony socks with rubber treads on the bottom.
(And I have no privacy. Whooa oh-no.)

You thought I was joking about my ugly, blue fleece blanket?
(I always feel like somebody's watching me.)

I wouldn't dream of it.
(Who's playin' tricks on me?)

Honey - It's nice to ask people if you can take their picture when they look presentable. This one I like!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Big Night*

Tonight I have big plans to relax here:

With him:

And drink this:

And watch this:

And then this:

And then take some of this:

And be here:

By 10:30.

For reals - The party never stops around here.

*Also, we watched the movie Big Night last night. A little-known, mid-'90s foodie classic. With Stanley Tucci. It is best watched with marinara sauce dribbling down one's chin. If that's not possible, just light a garlic-scented candle and pretend.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dinner Diaries - Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

First of all, what's UP with all this vampire hogwash? A simple country girl should be able to type "Dinner Diaries" without instantly thinking of "Vampire Diaries". And no, I have never watched the show. Or read the books. Or watched the movies.

I will. not. do it. It's a matter of principle at this point.

Let's band together and put a stake through its collective heart. I'll bring the garlic. (I do carry it in my pockets, after all.)

So. Dinner.

I do not remember where I found this recipe. It was in a magazine some odd years ago. It reminded me of the amazing dinner my friend Heather brought us after Ruby was born, so I tore it out and stuck it in my file.

It's a real crowd-pleaser and it's easy like Sunday morning.

(Recipe below)

Best of all? It provides the opportunity for a pasta facial. Forget about La Mer, ladies. Throw your mug over a colander of draining pasta and call it a day. Ancient Amish Secret.

You can be an over-achiever if you want to and make homemade marinara sauce, but please don't tell me about it if you do.

I have full confidence in your ability to not burn the bread. Why in Sam Hill am I always burning the stinking bread? And please, do not tell me that this bread is not burned. I won't hear of it.

Blast it.

You'd think by now someone would have invented an oven with a built-in timer that could be set for a pre-determined amount of time, thereby eliminating the risk of burned bread.

Spinach lasagna roll-ups

1 pk. (10 oz.) frozen spinach, thawed and drained (Wring it out, baby! Feels so...slimy.)

1 c. mozzarella cheese

1 c. (8 oz.) small curd cottage cheese

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

6 lasagna noodles, cooked*

spaghetti sauce

Combine spinach, mozz, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese and egg. (I also mix in a few shakes of garlic salt and oregano or Italian seasoning.)

Place 1/3 c. of mixture on each noodle. Roll up, place seam-side down. Pour sauce over. Bake at 350 degrees (covered) for 33-38 minutes.

* I make 7 noodles so my kids can share the remaining cold, cooked noodle after cleaning their plates. I dare you to think long and hard about that one without activating your gag reflex.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What a Difference Two Weeks Makes

I love all of the seasons. I really, truly do.

OK, some of them I love, some of them I only like.

Fine - some of them I tolerate.

But I love the idea of all 4 seasons and I believe that my life would not be complete without them. I think the thing I love most about The One That I Only Tolerate is that it gives me pause to wrap myself burrito-style in my ugly blue fleece blanket and daydream about the months to come.

I'm anticipatory like that.

It's on my mind - that marginally tolerable one - because, well, I hear the train a'comin'.

It's rollin' round the bend.

And I decided something today. Rather than merely surviving it - rather than using it as a point of contrast to the prettier, cheerier seasons, I will try to celebrate it. I will attempt to hunt for the beauty in it.

Mind you, this is experimental. I'm signing on as the first official participant in the study.

As surely as I type these words, I am signing the waiver and consent. Because experiments can be hazardous. I learned this the hard way in Mr. Short's chemistry lab.

But maybe my earnest commitment to the cause will bring healing to other Winter-weary souls for years to come. I like to think of this as my stout-hearted contribution to the improved, seasonal mental health of myself and those around me. In a way, I am a pioneer, no? I am venturing forth to blaze a trail through layers of ice and the darkest of days. I will probably be wearing my green robe over my clothes most days, but you will be none the wiser.

I, Flower Patch Farmgirl, vow to hitch up my knee socks and live these next 4 months as though they are a regular part of my life and not a scheduled interruption.

In a testament of good faith, I bring you this:

On my way to eat Thai with Sarah and Holly, I happened upon a break in the grey. It was the only break in all of the grey today, of that I am sure. But I was there. I saw it with my own two eyes, and my Lumix FZ28.

It felt hopeful to me. The light is always there. It wants to be seen.

I intend to keep looking.

But I hope you will still love me if it turns out that Winter really is just crummy. With experiments this bold, one never can anticipate the outcome.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Expanding Your Culinary Horizons One Semi-Exotic Fruit at a Time

I have to say, folks, I am slightly befuddled by the number of you who confessed pomegranate ignorance after I gave them a shout-out a few posts back.

I thought now was as good an opportunity as any to usher you into a new era. The moment was ripe for the picking.

What? You aren't amused by my obvious attempts at lame punning?
Shall I remind you that I am in a particularly fragile state today?

So - this is what a pomegranate looks like, in its purest form. They are currently in season, so do me a favor and pick one up during your next produce-aisle shimmy. (Do it, or I just might cry...)

Pomegranate trivia:

* Calvin asked me where pomegranates grow and I told him they grow in really warm places, like California. Turns out, I was mostly wrong. They grow predominantly in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan. They are also being cultivated, of late, in parts of California and Arizona, which means that I was also partly right.

* Have you ever had a Shirley Temple? Grenadine syrup is made from the juice of the pomegranate. Had I not written this most informative post, I likely would have gone to my grave thinking it was cherry juice.

OK, I'll shut up now and let the pictures do the talking...

1. Score the outside rind of the pomegranate into four sections. Don't slice all the way through the fruit, cut only through the rind.

2. Gently pull the fruit apart into two pieces.

(Be careful where you do this - the juice is wicked red.)

3. Take each of the two halves and break them in half again.

4. You will see the seeds, though some will be covered in a paper-thin membrane.

(Did I just type "membrane" on my blog? There is nothing tasty about the word membrane.)

5. Very carefully extract the seeds from the rind. The white membrane peels back very easily to reveal more seeds. It's an antioxidant treasure hunt!

6. Some people advise doing this with your hands and the fruit submerged in water, but I find that unnecessary. I do suggest dropping the seeds into a bowl of water, as the small bits of membrane will float to the top.

7. Calvin Lee loved helping with this, although he ate two for every one that he added to the bowl.

He really, really wanted me to take a picture right as he was dropping one. We got it on the third try!

8. When all of the seeds have been removed, drain them and pick off any residual bits of membrane. (Does this picture harken anyone else back to your health class textbook, or am I just psyching myself out with all of this "membrane" talk? Do you see what I'm seeing here? Anyone? Anyone?)

Our single fruit filled a little custard bowl to overflowing.

Now, eat them. You may just fall in love. There is something so enticing about these juicy little gems and their crunchy center.

Cory says the seeds taste like bark, but since when do we listen to his opinions food? This from the guy who hates mashed potatoes.

I, on the other hand, feel rather high-brow when I toss them into a salad. So cosmopolitan! So "Summers in Azerbaijan"!

Fa rills, people, go buy yourself a pommy. If nothing else, it's cheap entertainment.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

PMS Proof

You want proof? Oh, I'll give you proof.

(And yes, male readers, you are officially excused. All 3 of you.)

1. Last night, I was determined to finish The Promised World, even though I still wasn't particularly fond of it. (I was past the half-way marker, and you know how that can be.) Around 12:30 a.m. I became so overwrought with jittery nervousness about the lives of the main characters that I couldn't bear to finish and I had to fall asleep holding Cory's hand.

2. I considered wearing sweatpants to church this morning, but opted at the last moment for sweater tights under a skirt. Same diff. (PMS may make me a tad erratic, but at least it knows better than to mess with my half-baked fashion sense.)

3. I made Kraft macaroni and cheese and hot dogs for lunch. And I liked it.

4. I attempted a nap and though I didn't actually sleep, I also didn't move a muscle. It felt so good to be still and cozy - I didn't even notice that my earlobe was bent backwards. (Does that ever happen to you?)

5. Mundane events following my fitful non-nap caused me to disintegrate into a blubbering heap of despair, which alarmed my kids, who are not at all used to seeing me cry.

6. Soon thereafter, I was engaged in a a post-disciplinary chat with Calvin. He gave his typical apology then paused and reached behind him, pulling "Squidy" (a Beanie Baby squid) out from under his pillow. He handed it to me saying, "Here. This is for you. You can sleep with him tonight." I composed myself long enough to ask him why (he has never done this before...) and he replied, "Because he's very special. I want you to sleep with him tonight. He's filled with my love." I. Lost. It.

7. For dessert tonight I had a slice of apple pie and a slice of peach. And a cookie.

8. I am having trouble typing right now because the keys are covered in greasy salt from the chips and salsa I just inhaled - at 10 pm. (Although let's be honest, this isn't necessarily PMS-related.)

9. I have felt haunted all day by a brochure I spied pre-wart freezing. It said something to the effect of "Parentheses have a place - but it's not on your face." First of all, I am a girl who loves parentheses (you didn't know?) so the comparison was not lost on me. Second, the parentheses on my face beg to differ. They are happy as a pair of clams and appear to have no inclination to head for greener pastures anytime soon. I never gave it much thought Aren't I too young for wrinkles? Should I adopt the plucky attitude that at least they're smile lines and not frown furrows? What if I happen to have both? What would that hypothetical scenario indicate about my general disposition and psyche?

10. I just answered an email to a dear friend using only a semi-popular game show phrase. She probably thinks I'm nutso. She probably didn't even get it. I wouldn't have. Scarier still - I didn't plan it. It just came out and then I hit send. Sorry, Jess. It's not really me. It's the PMS talking.

11. I am so sleepy right now but it seems like way too much work to pick myself up off the couch. Plus, there's the teeth brushing. And the face washing. And I'll be honest, the face washing always annoys me, especially in the cold months. I don't want to splash water on my face right before bed. Water splashing is not relaxing or soothing. It is jarring and bracing. It perks me up, when I don't wanna be perked.

12. I am supposed to get groceries for the week tomorrow and I think it might be a terrible idea. So far, the only items on the list are chocolate cream pie, green tea, guacamole fixins and a jar of banana peppers.

13. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pre-Sleep Debrief

It's been another smooth-sailing day around here, complete with finger-painting and fort-building. And tangly hair. And chips and salsa. All the regulars showed up today.

Only bump in the road - I've been stinking tired.

I wondered today if I have ever gone an entire "day" without yawning? Nope. Here's how I remember it: I was plagued with insomnia as a young'un. I had serious trouble falling asleep. I come from a long line of night owls. Plus, I always preferred a Sweet Valley High paperback to catching zzz's, anyway. In High School I officially discovered that sleeping was overrated (at least night-time sleeping, that is). Then along came college and I was in heaven! I could scrape by with minimal sleep during normal hours and catch up in various 50 minute increments throughout the following day. It was...dreamy!

One year post-college and it all caught up with me, in the form of Mono, which morphed into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. (That's what they call it when you test off-the-charts for mono, then you turn around and do it all over again 6 months later.)

So, what can I say? I'm chronically fatigued. And I'm a dope, because one hour ago I set off for an early bedtime, only to be overcome en route by various thoughts that demanded action and attention.

1. I'm giving water for Christmas.
2. I miss my P. Hill friends.
3. I must finish The Promised World, but quick. The St. Joseph Co. public library loaned it to me, by way of Sarah. I/she has (have?) already incurred a late fee. I want to love the book, but so far, I only kind of like it. To be continued...
4. My oldest kid said to me today, "I feel very...tired today. No! No! I feel very pensive today." Swoony.
5. My girl said to me today (as she does roughly 187 times a day, 7 days a week) "Mommy, I love you so much in the whole special wewld." Swoony-Swoon.
6. I see more brown skinned babies in my future. (I don't know what to say - I'm tired and with sleepiness comes honesty.)
7. I feel change in the air around here. The fantastic kind. Some of the reasons are obvious, and others, I'm not even able to pin down.

Final thought:

I am so thankful to live the life that I live. I'm so blessed to live in this country, where I want for nothing. I am lucky. In my house, growing up, "lucky" was sort of a bad word. My Dad doesn't believe in luck, yadda yadda. I guess I don't really believe in it either, in its common form. But I use it frequently because for me, it feels true. I feel like I was plucked up and deposited into the most splendid life and to say that it is a blessing (which it is, I know) just seems kind of hoity-toity to me. It seems to imply somehow that I in the remotest of ways warrant what I have. And I certainly do not.

I could have been born in remote Africa, struggling each day to keep my children alive.

But I'm here. Because God heaped a big load of lucky on me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Today

Today was a home day. No work. No sitters. No pre-school.

We stayed in our jammies a little while longer and played.

Some of us spent a few moments in time-out, but whatever.

This cannot be overstated: Save the big boxes. Today it was an office/clubhouse.

Last week it was a canoe.

(Homes can't get enough of his dinosaur jammies.)

These recent days have been gorgeous. The exact kind of days you'ns pined for back in late August.

Sunshiney and gilded and with a touch of crisp.

It's bike-riding weather, but you'd better grab your jacket.

I took this curiously-angled photo of my Salvation Army color-by-number.

Then I lounged on the couch for a spell.

But only for a spell, because Holy Cow! Something is ablaze outside my kitchen window!

Turns out, our Ornamental Pear is also a late bloomer.

Golly, I love Fall.

The rest of our day included:

* Lunch at Jimmy Johns with Daddy (One of us caused a scene -the one with the puffiest hair)
* A quick jaunt into Joann's (I was half-way out the door when a lady ran after me with my envelopes. The envelopes. And it's not even the middle of the month, so ... whew. )
* A fierce round of Jennifer vs. Velociraptor (Calvin's brain child)
* A trip to the dermatologist (both kids in tow) to have two warts frozen off (I have a slight anxiety issue with doctors. I asked him if I was going to cry. It can't be helped. He thought I was a moron. I did not cry.)
* Steaks on the grill (superb!)
* Slightly crunchy rice (Boo.)
* Little people bedtime hijinks
* A lapse in judgment involving white craft paint
* An argument with Cory over the computer mouse (we compromised, ya'lls)
* A visit with Andy Bernard and Co.

It's been a good day.

Good, but long.