Monday, December 31, 2012

The unicorn egg

We have developed a mystery. We got a unicorn egg for Christmas with no return address.

It's a white egg about six inches long that splits open to project rainbows. I think it works on a principle of LED lights and a curved mirror, and I never knew such a thing existed. Did we need a unicorn egg? No. Is it awesome? YES. It is especially awesome in connection with Meg's new star projector nightlight. I will treasure it always. Jonathan, on the other hand, started singing about Strongbad and his crystal fortress.

However, I do not know who would have mailed us one all the way from China. (Naturally, China would be a final refuge for unicorns, where else?) We guessed it was from Jonathan's parents' business partner, but he doesn't know anything about it.

So, my friends, if you sent us a unicorn egg, please let me know so I can thank you.

Happy birthday to Meg!

We have a three-year-old in the house! Happy birthday yesterday to Meg. She has made our lives much fuller and more interesting, and we love her lots. :-)

She got two celebrations this year. On Friday her grandparents came down, and we had presents (and presents, and more presents) and made a chocolate cake and ate it. Then yesterday, her birthday proper, she took a four-hour nap and then she and Jonathan and I went out for chicken nuggets and finished up the evening at the new SweetFrog's. An excellent time was had by all.

Friday, December 28, 2012

And get over it

We had a pretty emotional morning, ending with a heart-to-heart chat on the importance of wearing big-girl underwear.

Ah, potty training.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Everybody clean up

I just discovered the best way to make sure you get through a pile of junk on the same day you create it. Put it on your bed. At least you'll have to look at it again!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Jack shall have Jill, and naught shall go ill

The sauce for the orange chicken tonight didn't taste quite as orangey as usual and seemed to be slightly darker. But I just figured Trader Joe's had changed their recipe and ran with it. It tasted fine.

All was normal until I was cleaning up afterward and discovered the orange sauce packet still in the box. We had tossed the chicken in the egg roll dipping sauce!

Apparently all our frozen convenience foods are interchangeable. I know, to test this idea, when we have fish nuggets, we'll dip them in the orange chicken sauce and have pineapple on the side. It'll be fun!

I draw the line at serving egg rolls with tartar sauce, though.

I laughed; I cried; it moved me, Bob

Tonight I got onto the World Magazine site and went back through all of Chelsea Kolz's articles because, obviously, you need to read about a parasailing version of James Joyce on a snowy Christmas Eve instead of filling stockings with care and putting French toast into the crock pot. G. K. Chesterton would have painted a big blue James Joyce on a guitar box, too.

Dr. Libby turns up in this particular story, incidentally, being very Dr. Libby-ish, and I do like coming across stories about old friends. It's like finding a new story by an old favorite author.

The best things happen when it's snowing

Merry Christmas Eve! It's actually snowing here, with big fat flakes that are even sticking a little bit. I kind of can't believe it. Jonathan is off playing games with friends, Meg is watching a movie and eating candy, and I did a last couple bits of shopping this morning. Just now I came home and downloaded songs from White Christmas, and we're expecting a girl friend to come wrap presents with us in a little bit. It's just about perfect, in my opinion.

Any of you doing nice things today?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

That was my day

I woke up this morning with a sore throat, so that was pretty much that for the day. I did a little crocheting and a little mending and took a nap. I got absolutely no Christmas prep or grocery shopping done, though I did turn on the tree lights. It was cold and windy out and I'm sure the crowds were awful, so a slightly peculiar dinner was totally worth not having to leave. In fact I didn't so much as poke my nose out the door until nearly Meg's bedtime, when I opened the front door and poked my nose out. Then I pulled it back in. It was still cold out.

I'm developing a theory. Christmas stress seems to be catching. Even though I don't have to go anywhere, buy any more presents, or cook anything unless I want to, most people do have to and it makes me really tired by proxy. And, it makes me feel slightly guilty that I don't spend all my spare time baking cut-out cookies and elaborately styling the decor in my apartment. Because clearly Meg will have a warped childhood because I didn't make bizcochitos with her before Christmas Day. Now I'm getting cranky, so I should wrap up this blog post. Either Christmas is in honor of the Lord Jesus and His incarnation, and the low-hanging mommy guilt can go jump off a cliff, or else the mommy guilt really is what it's all about. I will therefore choose to rest in Christ and his finished righteousness, and go to bed.

Good night!

Friday, December 21, 2012

But I did get a phone for Christmas, early

The rice didn't really help my poor phone much. I don't know if it could have saved the display from shorting out if I'd tried the rice solution earlier, but the display never did come back on and the phone started developing... quirks. It beeped randomly during calls, and when it wasn't making calls, and it sent a ghost text message to a friend.

My mother-in-law, bless her, stepped in and told me she was getting me a new phone for Christmas, so go pick it out already. So I did. :-)

I chose a Samsung Intensity III, which has been out a couple months. It's got a "ruggedized" cover, though not a waterproof one, and it definitely looks like the best non-smartphone available for Verizon right now. I'm pretty excited.

Verizon, I'm convinced, truly believes you should feel honored to pay them another thirty, fifty, or seventy dollars for services that (in some possible worlds) would be considered standard, or else unnecessary. And if you don't want to pay extra for them, you're weird and probably un-American. But today I exercised my awesome mommy negotiating skills and listened to the sales rep's entire effort to sell me lots of things, anything actually - monthly-payment, one-time, discounted, or bundled! - to go with the phone, and I said no to all of them. I win. As long as I don't drop the new phone in apple juice... in which case I will lose. But that's just a chance I'll have to take.

Another house we aren't going to buy

We looked at another house this week. This one would have a been a really great option. It was in our price range and had a yard and had just been redone inside, and it was cute. Really cute. I completely fell in love with it. There wasn't actually anything seriously wrong with it - just some minor changes. 

We were this close to putting in an offer, when we realized that our working budget was no longer accurate due to Obamacare's rates and some of the prospective changes Congress has going (or not going). Changes like, we don't know if the mortgage tax writeoff is still going to exist in January. And, we thought, budgeting the same amount for utilities and repairs and whatnot for a house as for our (not maintained by us) apartment is probably not realistic either. At this point we were talking hundreds of dollars difference, which would be hard to squeeze out of the grocery budget. Drat.

I had really hoped to get a house for Christmas. But I glared at the numbers and they didn't care a bit. So we're kind of glum at the moment.


Meg was protesting as Jonathan got her dressed, and I heard her yelling, "No, no! These aren't the socks I'm looking for!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The great apple juice flood

Sometimes a sippy cup's lid gets a little warped. Sometimes a mom in a hurry will stuff a sippy cup into her purse, in her rush to get down the stairs with a girl and all their paraphernalia. And sometimes, a warped lid comes off.

I had a pretty good flood of apple juice yesterday. My checkbook and calendar and all wiped off just fine, but the phone went insane, turning on and off cyclically, and then it sang its musical little beep until I took out the battery, discovering more apple juice. Today it found itself able to take and send calls, but couldn't display anything. It's all dark. No texting for me.

I went to the Verizon store, hoping they might be able to fix it, but they don't fix things there without insurance. They also weren't quite able to let me have a new phone, though apparently it's time, but I was welcome to buy a new phone if I wanted. Not, of course, that they had any phones in stock, exactly, but they had lots of snazzy little internet devices that you can also talk on. I think technology has evolved beyond my mere voice-texting-and-photos. That's so 2010.

Upon that note, I went to Target to buy more apple juice. Floods or no floods, the Meg needs her juice. I ran into some friends there, who recommended setting the wet phone in a bowl of uncooked rice for the night, to see if it would suck the moisture out and get it working. It worked for her brother's Ipod. I bought my juice and came home and tried that very thing. I'll let you know if it works.

I also learned, the friends got to see an advance showing of Les Mis! They say it's fabulous and we should definitely see it on the big screen. There you have it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

That's a wrap

I am pleased to announce that, after a full day's effort, I have prepared three (3) packages to be sent through the mail, and actually gotten one of them sent off. The crafts are done; the presents inside the packages are wrapped and tagged; the boxes are the right size and not the $40 express postage kind; and they even all have the right address on the front.

Oh, and we ate dinner tonight. That's good too.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Many hats, part two

Meg has been naming her headgear again. Right now she has on her "kingdom hat," a truly smashing statement piece which the uninitated would think was a red dotted plastic cup. She also now wears a "gloria hat," which resembles a pink sippy cup with princesses on it, and a "soccer hat," which does a good imitation of a handled snack cup. Sometimes it even holds snacks.

The Unexpected Journey

Jonathan and I went with friends Tom and Sarah to see the Hobbit. We saw it not only in theaters, on the opening day, in costume, but in Imax 3-D. We were hard-core, y'all.

We absolutely had the best costumes at our showing; we had the only costumes at our showing. My cloak was completely successful, in my opinion, because it kept me warm in the letting-out-at 2 am frost. I never did come up with a good interim cloak pin, so I used a couple of diaper pins. That's keeping it real, right there.

As for the movie, we liked it. It probably isn't the best of the LOTR movies, but it had a lot going for it. For one thing, the Peter Jackson - Fran Walsh - Philippa Boyens team is so incredibly solid. They can make a movie. They got back a lot of the old cast - Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, and of course Ian McKellen - and they're so solid together. Howard Shore's music was excellent as always, especially the parts when the dwarves sang. The ending credit song was one of the best I've seen in any movie, ever.

The script was decent, with a few lines that clunked, but it did a fabulous job working with flashbacks and background stories. We got to see the dwarven kingdom that was, and suddenly all the dwarves had character motivation. It also had some gross parts (troll cooking, anyone?), some pretty scary parts, and some silly parts. Apparently they can't resist chase scenes with everyone out in the open and you have to wonder about those revered orcish tracking skills. Ahem. I was impressed, though, that the movie stuck closely to the book AND had an internal plot arc and everything. It kept everyone's attention despite the late hour. It makes me happy to see book scenes. "To think that I should live to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took's son!"

We got to go back to Middle-Earth. That's really the best part. I was just happy to see our old friends and get to spend more time at Bag End and Rivendell. And I would go back again.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Photographic evidence

The back of the cloak.

The front of the cloak. Adventure, here I come.

Elf cloak is done enough!

The elf cloak is DONE ENOUGH TO WEAR! Woohoo!

All right, when last I updated, one panel of the outside back had frayed badly in the wash. I zigzagged the whole piece to preserve what was left, and was able to absorb most of the loss into the seam allowances. The bottom was about 4" short, but I needed a bottom hem about 5" deep to make it my height, so that worked out really well.

Wednesday night I got the body of the cloak assembled, stitched together, and turned right side out.

I didn't get to the cloak at all yesterday because I had things going on all day, came home, and went to bed about seven-thirty. It was awesome.

Today I was on the clock, so I let Meg watch Elmo while I sewed. I started by basting shut the cloak body and gathering it to a piece of bias tape. That went pretty quickly, so I assembled the hood, too. I got to practice understitching, which I learned in August for that red dress, and it's such a great technique. I love how it turns out.

So anyway, the hood got put together, basted and gathered, and then I attached the gathers on the cloak to the gathers on the hood. That was kind of not the greatest. I completely cut off the bias tape, which was ridiculous and not working, and undid the worst section and re-did it. It's okay now, but there are a couple more sections that I'd like to re-do. Eventually, the raw gathers need to be hidden under a separate piece of lining or a wide ribbon, but I need to repair the gathers first, and it won't show while I'm wearing it.

I also need to order a gigantic industrial-strength yet elvish-appearing clasp for the front, but I'll mock something up for tonight. I can wear it to the Hobbit movie!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Meg narrated as she did the advent calendar. "We'll put the star up there [on the top point of the stable] so they can have light." Jonathan and I laughed, so Meg defended her placement. "And God said, let there be light!"

Then she started using known board book forms. "Mary, Mary, what did you see? A great big angel looking at me!"

I tell you, this is exactly like classical education. You have a scheme of words and make up your own version to that pattern. Meg does it so naturally.

Elf cloak

I worked on the elf cloak some more during Meg's nap. I sewed the cloak lining and got the seams ironed flat and then open.

Then I started to iron the cloak outer material. It's a cream floral damask, very pretty, but cream-colored. So when the ironing board cover started to bleed (?!), you could really see it. So I stopped ironing, of course, and wailed a while. Then I decided I couldn't sew the cloak with a big brownish spot on the shoulder, so I sprayed it with oxy-clean and put it in the washer to soak. Meanwhile, I put a white towel to cover the offending cover and ironed the rest of the cloak pieces.

But when I went back to the one in the washer... it had frayed horribly. NOOOOO!

My washer apparently doesn't believe in gentle, even for just a pre-wash.

Upon closer inspection, the worst of the fraying seems to be along the bottom. I think I can hem it up shorter and it'll be okay. But, drat.

Words of wisdom

"Don't pull sisters' tails, even when you're very grumpy," Meg said during lunch.
"That's right," I agreed. "Are you thinking like in the Angelina book, when the princess pulled her sisters' tails?"
"Yeah," she said. "'Cause pulling your sisters' tails hurts their feelings and their tails."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Elf cloak

I've been slightly intimidated by this cloak I'm making. I call it the "elf cloak," because I bought the fabric round about the time Return of the King came out. It sat in a bin for several years, until I cut it out on the floor of our Richmond apartment by means of removing most of the furniture from the room. Then it sat in the bin for another couple of years. At this point, it's more of a life event than a sewing project.

I don't think the pattern is going to be that hard. It's just there's so much of it. You'll observe that the fabric covers the couch, and this is just the lining  minus the hood pieces. This cloak should fit me for the rest of my natural life and possibly on into eternity, though I admit turquoise chrysanthemum brocade might not be the most practical for adventuring in. Watch me.

And. Since I want to wear the cloak to the opening of the Hobbit movie this weekend, the time had come to do something about it. Wish me boldness.

Monday, December 10, 2012

At least she's well-balanced

"You are a critical part of this balanced family," Jonathan told Meg.
She agreed. "And I am balancing on this pot!"

Talk in a bucket day

We declared tonight Talk In A Bucket Day. My family started declaiming. First, of course, came the quotes from that episode of Jungle Jam.

Meg: "If we serve it, dey will come!"

Jonathan: "I want to be my own bear!"

"And we did leave you a little potato salad!"

Then things started to deteriorate.

Jonathan: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

Meg: "I am a little potato salad!"

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

"Everyone wants to be a cat, is the question!"

"Margaret, I am your father. Search your birth certificate; you know it to be true."

And to end: "If we serve it, dey will come. Everyone wants to be their own bear. We do have a little potato salad. We do have a little sandwich. When there is a bucket on my head, don't twist it, hit it, click it, or ning it," said Meg.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Seen at the mall

Sears had a holiday display up with giant inflatable Peanuts characters. A little girl was happily using inflatable Lucy as a punching bag. Wham - wham - wham - until her dad called her, and she scampered off.

I feel like there's a metaphor or a moral or something in there, somewhere, but I can't quite track it down...

The great wrapping paper conundrum

This evening as I was wrapping presents, I discovered I had no Christmas paper, only Christmas tissue paper. Additionally, we have no tissue paper except Christmassy, which I discovered last time I tried to wrap a birthday present. In the wrapping paper department we're down to the pink flowers, the purple penguins, the little blue trains, and some kraft paper, which clearly sounds like Murphy's Law to me.

But I really did want to wrap Christmas presents tonight, and not in purple penguins because that would be weird, so I used the plain brown kraft paper. I'll tie it up with fancy ribbons and it'll still be pretty. So I wrapped two presents, which were pretty in a brown paper packages kind of way, but then that was the end of that roll too. I did what else I could with tissue paper, and out of desperation put another present under the tree in a plain shoe box until further developments.

If I give you a pink flowerdy-wrapped present with red poinsettia tissue paper, just know I still love you.


Jonathan was explaining his game to Meg and said, "I have been able to make close allies with the Portuguese."

Meg lit up. "Oh, I know the geese!"

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

That's about right

I got a kick out of Meg's Veggie-Tales lyrics update this evening. She sang,
"The Lord has given this land to us
So we can fuss..." (Original: No need to fuss.)

Then Jonathan and I were standing in the kitchen as I gave him his welcome-home kiss. Meg tried to demand a toy, so I paused the kiss long enough to tell her that this was mush and she couldn't interrupt. I felt a stirring by our feet, with some grunting.

"Nnng! Unnng! I'm trying -- to -- get -- IN!"

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


"I'll move all the things that I don't like, off the couch. Oh! I found two mouses!"

Such surprise! Such delight! Such eloquence in the cause of making a mess! What a girl.

Monday, December 03, 2012

It was like ice skating

Meg ice skated this morning for the first time! Kirsten and I took her and then went shopping afterwards. Monday morning is a great time to go, with just a handful of adults on the ice practicing spins and other interesting moves and, best of all, not running us over. The thrift store skates fit Meg just fine with a pair of extra socks.

About a quarter of the way around the rink, she got frustrated and asked to go home, but she pulled it together and we made it around several times. She skated holding onto one of us, holding onto both of us, holding onto the wall, and even, just for a foot or two, all by herself. She's good at getting back on her feet, though she preferred to sit on the ice and watch everybody, and her balance definitely improved while we were there.

"Did you go ice skating this morning?" Jonathan asked.
"Yeah," said Meg.
"What was it like?"
"It was like ice skating," she said.

And that seemed to sum it up.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Worth trying

"Just let me know when it's time to eat candy, okay, guys?" Meg

We've started the Advent calendar, you see. We have a big one with pockets and Nativity figures that you put on the stable, and then we have a little one with chocolate. I think the chocolate is leading to some optimism.

Security plan

We ate at a Quizno's in greater Baltimore, the other day. It was a great Quizno's, but as I was sitting at our table I noticed that the door jamb had a sticker with heights marked off on it like you would to measure your kid's height, only this one started higher up - five and a half feet, six feet, six and a half, seven. The door was seven feet tall, I noticed, and started speculating whether that was standard for buildings in North America. Probably.

But then I noticed that this sticker had their security company's logo. It all clicked.

They put it there to measure robbers on their way out.

I love how crimes were something they were planning on having and took steps to prosecute. So, of course, we had to photograph this character by the door to get photographic evidence. I told him to look suspicious.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Persephone is put to bed, clean and a little soggy

Tonight we let Meg have a little cup of pomegranate seeds to nibble in the bath.* Of course the bath got everywhere, pomegranate cup, Daddy-splashing cup, ducks, Daddy, and all, and it was time for the Meg to come out of the bath.  Jonathan dealt with the bathwater first, and while his back was turned, Meg slipped out to come leap on me and my laptop and generously drip all over au naturel, to the musical shrieks of "Get down! Watch the computer!"

Jonathan came along with a towel, and when Meg was dry, pajamaed, and put to bed, discovered that the Daddy-splashing cup had maliciously covered the tub drain so the water wouldn't drain.

I tell this story, not just by way of personal encouragement that these things happen to other people, but also because I found it amusing that I was pounced on by a girl literally wet behind the ears. Metaphor strikes again.

*Doesn't that sounds luxurious and Romanesque? We're starting classical education early. Obviously.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sounds of the season

You know "Mele Kalikimaka," right? Hawaii's way to say Merry Christmas to you? I had a brilliant idea for a playlist of perky tropical songs centered around that one. So I made my playlist, only to discover that I didn't actually own any versions of "Mele Kalikimaka," not one. Drat!


When I put on Bing Crosby's "Silver Bells":

"Mommy, is that Santa Claus singing?!" Meg

A girl of many hats

Meg, like many small girls before her, has a way with hats. Some of them are actually hats, some are other useful household objects pressed into service, and all of them get a name. For instance, we have a "pumpkin hat" and "mouse hat," which anyone could have.

We also have the "worry hat," a red plastic mixing bowl, the "problem hat," a green polar fleece hat with matching gloves, and finally the "school bus hat," which is a blue measuring scoop from a tub of oxy-clean. Elsa Schiaparelli would be proud.

You should definitely come play dress-up with us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why I haven't been blogging

Thanksgiving is over and we're ready for Christmas decorations! I started trying to decorate Sunday night, but there was too much chaos. So I started organizing.

I organized closets Sunday night. The pile of give-aways took up residence by the front door and started spilling all throughout the living room.

Monday I tidied all afternoon, to no apparent effect. My room is actually much cleaner, but you couldn't really tell, which was depressing.

Tuesday I cleaned all afternoon and evening, also to not much effect. I cleaned Meg's room, scrubbed the bathroom (and lit a candle!), did laundry, and around eleven p.m. got the kitchen mostly clean, except for some residual dishes for the next round in the washer. It was pretty good, except Jonathan was under the weather and no matter where I went, someone was sure to come behind me and make messes. Herds of plastic animals sprouted up on chairs, magically. But I was making headway. Barely.

So this was the score as of Tuesday night: I'd cleaned my room, Meg's room, the bathroom, and the kitchen. That left the hall and the living room. In a five-room apartment, you'd THINK with four of the rooms clean, it would seem clean overall. But no. The house was still winning, just on the strength of that one living room alone, and furthermore it was trying to intimidate me. Bad house. Meanwhile, every day Meg anxiously asked if we could decorate, and every day I had to tell her no, we had to clean more. So I felt like a boring mother, as well as a losing housekeeper. Grr.

But. Today was the day. We finally got rid of that pile-o-junk and vacuumed the living room. Woohoo!  Meg was quite helpful about putting toys back in her room, and even threw away all the acorns that were getting stomped into the rug, which you can now see again and walk on barefoot. Life is good. Mommy, can we decorate?

Oh happy day, we got out the Christmas tree! This is the smallish one, about six feet tall but slimmer than average, that we got the first year we were married, and it's started to shed branches a little bit. I'll be sad when it goes, because it's just right for our smallish house. But, er, in the heat of battle I'd been putting off the question of where to set up this smallish tree. I can't for the life of me remember what we did with it last year, and in any case it probably wouldn't fit there again because now we have a computer and filing cabinets. I discussed it with Emily, and came to the decision that with two computers in the living room, we don't really need the TV in there. So I reorganized the house again, dismantled the TV shelf and put its contents on other shelves, where they don't fit, put the TV in my room where I'd never intended to have a TV, squeezed the empty shelf awkwardly into Meg's room where she promptly started lining up plastic animals, and set up the tree in the living room, all green and cheerful and shedding slightly.

But we're decorating. And we had a friend over this evening, who stomped us soundly at Scrabble. So there.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Red skirt

I did some sewing again last week. This jazzy little piece is part of my never-ending quest to come up with a skirt pattern or method that will really, truly, actually, reliably fit me properly. I do like this skirt, but I'm not sure it's the Ultimate Pattern I wanted.

I got the materials at Joann's. The red lace came from their special occasion line and the beige underlining was a lightweight crinkle poly blend of some kind. The color was "Camel." I also got the zipper there.

I cut the front essentially like a rectangle with the sides tapered in for the waist. The back pieces were like the front, except with extra seam allowance in the middle back to put in the zipper. I inserted the zipper into just the underlining and hand-tacked the lace down around it, but I'm not quite satisfied, so I may rip that part out and redo it. I hemstitched the lining. The side seams of the lace layer are French seams, which I'd been itching to try out and really like. Then I finished the waist with a narrow strip of the beige, and that was that.

This skirt was an inspiration from a magazine. The model was wearing a lace skirt with a great big chunky sweater like the one I got in Scotland, and I thought, "That looks warm for church! I could do that!" I plan to wear it with tights and boots. It's also pretty awesome with a denim jacket instead of the sweater.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

To shop or not to shop?

I think - I think - that I may have arranged not to have forgotten anything this trip, so that we don't absolutely have to go to Target on Black Friday. This has not historically been the case. There was that one year when I was expecting, we left the suitcase in Richmond, our pet mouse died on the way up and we had to bury it in the yard, and someone backed into our car. We had to go out and buy clothes that Friday. I think we avoided that this time.

Just as well, since the stores are advertising hysterically. I like shopping, but I'm just ornery enough to want it to be my idea.

So, loyal readers: what are your plans? Are the sales worth it to you? Have you already got ideas for Christmas presents, or do you shop for inspiration?

I'm thankful

Jonathan and Meg and I came up to spend the holiday with his family. Thanksgiving came off really well here - everyone was thankful, the food was amazing, Meg put together puzzles all day long, and I made the pies. We actually had sweet potatoes three ways (!?). There was a pan of mashed sweet potatoes, half with marshmallow topping, half with Ree Drummond's crumble topping, and then we used this recipe from Guy Fieri for sweet potatoes and apples with a whiskey-pecan sauce. It gave it this great woody kick. Definitely a keeper.

It's always interesting to see how other families do Thanksgiving. I knew that his family put sausage in their stuffing and liked their green beans crisp, but come to find out I take them aback by putting that little letter "s" on the end of "pie," as in, "I'll bring the pies." I thought two or three pies was standard. They're pretty much happy as long as there's pumpkin. Who knew? I did make a pumpkin pie, which turned out very nice indeed, but my usual mad apple-pie skills kind of deserted me today. It came out slightly burned on top and really liquid underneath, with a soggy crust. Oh well. The cinnamon apples in the middle were good.

However. We did have some slight excitement with the nutmeg. Jonathan's mom had a brand-new jar of it, so it was still very bright and fragrant, and I successfully peeled the top off. I thought the danger was passed and was about to grab a measuring spoon when it made a break for it. WHOOSH! FREEDOM! The jar leaped out of my hand and sprayed nutmeg grounds all over everything, counter to ballet flats. (She only thought she'd bought a six-year supply.) Nutmeg was my signature scent for the day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We're still house-hunting

The five stages of house-hunting in Loudoun County:

1. Denial. It can't cost that much.

2. Suspicion. If it's in our price range, what's wrong with it?

3. Adoration. It has brand-new appliances and cabinets? I'll take it!

4. Bargaining. So what if it was literally built on the property line and has no basement or yard? We can, um, have parties in the common area. Yeah.

5. Resignation. We'll keep looking.

Pesky spoons

This is how Meg uses a spoon.

She eyes her fried rice and decides a pea would be acceptable. She picks one up with her fingers, sets it on the spoon on her tray, and then picks up the spoon and eats the pea.

Time for another pea. Since the spoon is in her hand, she uses it to scoop out another pea. But wait! Some grains of rice got onto the spoon too! She picks off the grains of rice, pokes the pea a couple times, and then eats it.

She puts the spoon down and starts eating peas with her fingers. I blow her a kiss. She grins and blows a kiss back. "Can we watch Monsters Inc?"

Monday, November 19, 2012

First time resurrected since graduation

I knew, theoretically, that this day might come.

You get a sewing maching - you start to use it - you start thinking, I could make that. You buy fabric.

And then you start drawing triangles and doing trigonometry before you cut.

Yes... I made Jonathan go find my scientific calculator so I could do square roots, and everything. a squared plus b squared equals c squared. And thus it goes. Using that equation was deep in my memory and so even though I kind of forgot, I really remembered. I know because when I checked my work, it came out true. That's good. My math teachers should be so proud!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It grabbed me

Yesterday I was sorting books and came across one I used to read often. I kind of accidentally cracked it open. I read it while I put on a movie, made soup, fed Meg, and ate the soup myself. In fact I read it pretty much all the way through to the last page, which led me to believe maybe I shouldn't get rid of that one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Paper be gone

Closely related, no doubt, to my "I MUST GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS" urge has been my "THERE IS TOO MUCH PAPER IN HERE" urge. Also I think I'm reacting to an apartment I visited the other day, which had - I kid you not - piles of political mailings from the nineties. The horror. For so many reasons. In response, I went home and did a massive filing-and-tossing push.

So everything got filed, but that wasn't enough! There was still excessive paper! We culled our bookshelves and chose some to sell, so they'll be out of our way soon. Books just multiply around here... not sure how that happens. I came to the conclusion that I prefer giving shelf space to Percy Jackson to volumes of mid-century plays. Sorry, lit degree.

The last culprit to die was my magazine hoard. I actually don't have that many back issues, because I don't subscribe to that many and I cleaned them all out a year ago, but they were starting to pile up. So I've been going through them and cutting out the recipes and inspiration pieces I want to keep, and then putting my recipe binders into order. In the process, I discovered one of my recipe binders had never been organized either, so I punched holes in everything and found them a good home.

It feels good to get organized.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Line up those ducks

I went to the washer-dryer closet to do some laundry, only to find Meg peacefully lining up her rubber ducks in front of the door. So I asked her if she'd mind opening it for me. She considered this.

"No. Can't."

How do you argue with a girl getting her ducks in order? I laughed.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

When we were very young

Meg is working through the concept of people having various names for various relationships and at the same time figuring out time and how things can happen when she's older. I love watching this. Sometimes things get a little conflated.

"You get to call him Love but I get to call him Daddy. I don't get to call him Jonathan because I'm not four yet; I'm only two. When I'm four I can call him Jonathan."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Heard from a time out

"Mom! Do not leave me in here where I am allowed to be. Oh, Mom. I wish you would not do that. It is not nice."

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It was funny. This year, about a week before Halloween, a little alarm went off in my mind, saying "YOU NEED TO GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS!" I'm not sure why, since it's not time for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But Christmas shopping is kind of like cleaning house in that you should do it whenever you get the urge because it won't last, so I went shopping today. Would you believe Kohl's has started playing Christmas music? Not every song, just the occasional one, but it's definitely too early for that.

I hope it snows here soon. They were predicting a storm the other day, but it dumped on poor New York and nobody was happy. While it does look all gray and cloudy right now, it's actually about 60 degrees out there, so it's not very promising.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fortune cookie

Jonathan and I split the last fortune cookie like a wishbone, and he got the fortune on his half. When he opened it up, he read:

":-) You have a deep interest in all that is artistic. :-)"

We pondered this. He handed it over. "You can have it."

I read it on the internet

The candle I had in this candle holder had burned down to the nub and left that nasty pile-o'-wax behind. I didn't feel like scratching at it with a plastic knife, so I consulted Google as to a better way of getting it out.

Opinion seemed split whether heat or cold worked better, but the freezers claimed their method had less residue, so I gave it a shot.

I left the glass part in the freezer for a couple of days, and afterwards, yes, the wax popped out in one piece with just a little poking and whacking. However, the glass wasn't all shiny and bright, so I gave a nod to the heaters and ran it through the dishwasher.

Now it looks great. Thanks, internet.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Skinny jeans

This is not going to morph into a fashion blog, not least because I don't care to post pictures of myself up here, but I need to say something. Skinny jeans are not a good trend. I saw a picture of Princess Kate - excuse me, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge -- in a pair, and they didn't flatter even her. She was fine, of course, but not great. And if she can't wear them, there's not much hope for anyone else.

If you want to go buy skinny jeans because they're all the rage this fall, go for it. I'm contemplating getting a pair to set off my stellar boot collection. But if you must indulge, try to wear a shirt with them that won't make you look fat, and if you show your midriff, you need to go re-think your life choices. Always remember that leggings are not pants, and jeggings... have a bad name.

But don't wear frumpy jeans, either. Bootcuts cut slim through the knees, that's my recommendation.

Turquoise and bright red jeans are awesome, though.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The simple things in life, like great words and watching your mother work

Meg handed me her sippy cup. "Wash my lid off, Mommy."
Me: "Wash it? What happened to it?"
Meg: "It got all butterdy!"
Me: "Butterdy? That is the awesomest word I've heard all day. I'll wash it just for that word."
Meg hoisted her tiny rocking chair and hauled it into the kitchen. "I'll watch!"

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A picture

And now, to cleanse your soul after those harrowing apostrophes, here is a pretty mushroom from my sister's yard.

Cruelty to the common apostrophe

I feel like we need to meditate on this sign a minute. Let's try to figure out what the author was thinking. Clearly, they felt like plurals needed an apostrophe, but so did the verb "begin's." Probably they just apostrophized the final s's of words they liked, and so I'm wondering if they have a grudge against small appliances. I bet large appliances would have come up "appliance's."

I also notice that they left off the comma between "electronic's" and "toy's". Maybe they're really talking about the kind of electronics which are toys, as opposed to the strictly practical electronics, and they're not supposed to be separate items. Alternatively, they might feel the line break is adequate demarcation, but in that case you'd also expect "small" and "appliances" to be different items. This sign isn't really presented as a sentence, though the first two words could be understood as subject and predicate, so I suppose you could argue that the normal rules of commas in a list don't apply. But just for consistency's sake, since the other items in the list have commas, I'm not sure I buy that.

It also kind of interests me that there's no punctuation or connecting word between the date and the list of items. I'm wondering: does layaway only begin for the merchandise categories mentioned? Or are they just really excited about those in particular? Now I'm really curious about the sporting good's that aren't select. Who didn't select them and what did they do to deserve being left out?

...This is why I plan to home educate my daughter.

Happy fall

We got to go to our church fall party this afternoon. There's a particular pleasure in hot cider and firepits going on a really cold day. Meg and I went prepared, in layers of flannel and sweaters and puffer coats, but I think to be really warm we should have added several more layers of long underwear and maybe some chili peppers in our shoes.* About dusk our host lit a bonfire at the other end of the field, and nearly everyone went, "Ooh, shiny!" and drifted over to it. A bonfire is another of those very specific fall pleasures, for humans at least: a field mouse disagreed and scurried off. Meg got a whole bag of candy and Jonathan got to talk about books and computer games. It was a great party.

I went home and took a hot bubble bath until my toes thawed out. We're supposed to get our first freeze tonight. I'm trying to be prepared.

*Not kidding. Old ranchers would seriously do that. Watch out for chemical burns, though - that's why you have to wear rubber gloves to prep hot chilis.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The aftermath

We ventured out Tuesday morning to survey the damage. There wasn't much of it. I saw potted plants and signs blown over and a few friends had flooding in their basement, but nothing too unusual. Leesburg was fine. By that time, the wind had died down and it rained a little bit more. By Tuesday evening it was cold and just dripping, and by Wednesday morning it had even stopped that. It's still cold and cloudy, though. Really, if I hadn't known the hurricane was coming, I just would have thought we'd had a heavy rainstorm.

I know not everyone had it so well.

Monday, October 29, 2012

9:20 weather update

We had our first complete power flicker - it went out for maybe a minute. Meg was in bed, but she noticed. "Mommy! It's DARK! Mommy, it's dark!" So we went in and cheered her up. It certainly was dark in there.

But then the lights came back on, including her nightlight.

7:45 weather update

I'm impressed by Hurricane Sandy. It goes from here to Kentucky and Michigan, and Florida to Maine?

Tonight they're anticipating the wind to get up around 40 mph here in Leesburg, with crazy gusts and inches of rain. I can vouch that the wind is getting louder out there. We've still got power, happily, and I fixed a nice dinner.

3:15 update

As soon as I posted, Jonathan got home early and reported that it looks like a tropical storm out there, with the rain going sideways and all. We decided not to go shopping. It's not a shopping day.

Also, someone's car alarm just went off, but that could from flying debris or just because it's what car alarms do.

3:00 weather update

3:00: the wind seems to be picking up. The highest gust I've seen reported for here is 46 mph, and it's still raining. The power has flickered a couple times, but so far it's holding on.

Hurricane Sandy knocking at my window

The rain and wind arrived last night, but we're doing just fine. We went grocery shopping on Saturday night, filled up a jug or two with water, and we're good on matches and candles. I even tracked down my French press and have my camp stove and a couple of Sterno cans in case the power goes and I have a deep need for coffee. I'm thinking we could do the Sterno on our sheltered stairwell, since inside isn't the greatest place. Our friends down the street offered their fireplace and grill in case of more disastrous disaster.

But we don't lose power here that often. Our house seems to be on the same line as the fire and rescue station, so they take care of us. Also, despite the dire warnings, we're pretty deep inland and up on the shoulders of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I don't anticipate much trouble. I am probably failing to panic properly.

Meg and I are staying home and cleaning house. Jonathan went to work - a whole five minutes' drive away. So please pray for other people, who don't have it so well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A fuller world

Currently I'm in the middle of Timothy Zahn's Allegiance, which is a Star Wars book. The more I read Zahn the better I like him. He is one of the few male sci-fi/fantasy authors I can think of who seem aware that their worlds are going to have culture, art, fashion, and non-scientific things going on, and then makes that relevant to the plot. In Allegiance Mara Jade is eighteen and still posing as a Countess as she moves through the elite Core society. I like how Zahn describes her court dress and shoulder sculpt and how she transforms it into weapons. It's so Mara Jade.

Also, there's nothing quite like finding a book by a favorite author which you thought you'd read, and then discovering you haven't. :-)

Sunday, October 21, 2012


My sister's cat Izzy really gets along well with Meg, but sometimes she goes a little far and he nips her. We saw her rubbing her hand and scolding him.

"Ouch, kitty! You need to be careful. You hurt me with your teeth."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mold, one point

We looked at another house on Saturday. This one was a short sale here in town, and we really liked it. It had three bedrooms on the main floor and a reasonable amount of living space, then a basement. You went down and found a pretty good sized living room down there, and opened a door and found a humongous room with a ping-pong table and groovy bar table, and then you opened another door with an even more humongous unfinished room with the washer and dryer, a door up to the yard, hanging racks for clothes, stacks and stacks of boxes, and the heater and hot water heater. It just kept going. It was phenomenal. Also, the people had a cat, which was definitely a mark in their favor.

The mark against them was that the basement was overrun with mold. One wall had been torn out, and the carpet really should have been. Our realtor did some digging, and found out they'd had a mold inspector in back in MAY who recommended massive mold remediation which was never done, and warned of possible structural problems. I get that it's the responsibility of the bank that owns it. But why wouldn't the bank try to, you know, preserve its investment? Nobody is going to win if they have to tear down the house. And if I lived there, short sale or no short sale, I think I'd invest in $5 worth of bleach and start scrubbing. I'd also knock down some spiderwebs. There were a lot of happy spiders.

Our realtor says it's always an adventure looking at houses with us!

I hate to see a house neglected like that. On the strength of it, I washed my strawberries in vinegar water today and bleached a moldy window frame.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Meg saw my new big painting on the table. "So what are our options on this map?"

You think we've been playing board games, maybe?

Doing things

We all woke up sick, so we stayed home and watched Felix Baumgartner ascend to space for his skydive. So cool! It struck me as a very Mandalorian thing to do. Here on earth, we had a crafty day.

Meg and I made salt dough. I wanted those starfish for a project, and they turned out pretty well. Then we made a bunch of beads, big ones and small ones, and rolled some of them in glitter for extra beauty.  The big ones didn't bake so well. I'm thinking I might line the crevices with contrasting glitter and pretend we did it on purpose.

 During naptime I finished up this painting. Yikes - I hadn't realized it had been a whole year it had been sitting there unfinished. I still want to add a little bit, but there aren't any gaping patches of wood. I call that a success.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Welcome, James!

Congratulations to my darling sister on her first baby! She delivered James Alan today, and he's the most wonderful nephew ever. I get to go out in a few days and visit. He arrived precisely on his due date, 10/11/12, and we can tell he's going to be a very punctual child.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Those holey socks

It shouldn't surprise me, but clothes actually wear out sometimes. They really do. Sometimes my toes even poke through the ends of socks. 

For a while I carefully preserved all these odd and holey cast-offs. You can't give holey things away to the thrift store, like you can for the outgrown stuff, so they had their own laundry bin. I mean, Laura Ingalls Wilder would have made quilts and dustrags out of them. I'm sure someone on Pinterest is putting their child through college with sock crafts.

Then I discovered I had a laundry bin of holey socks and hopelessly stained t-shirts. I don't have room for my wedding dress, which is currently at my mother-in-law's house, so really?
The Lord will provide. If I really, really need more decrepit clothes, I am positive He will find me some. In the meantime, I acted in faith, risked the wrath of eco-bloggers, and threw them all away. Hello, nice dumpster.

Fall salad

I came up with a nice fall salad today. It's a good way to use up leftover acorn squash, and it just tastes fresh and kind of cozy. Since I'm not really a salad person, I'm always happy to find one that works.

baby spinach - big handful
1/2 cooked acorn squash, scooped into bite-size pieces
1/2 pear, diced
oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Ah... yes.

"What are you doing, Mommy? I have poopies in my diaper."

I'm kind of looking forward to the day when this is no longer my business.

That's why we're potty training.

Monday, October 01, 2012


"Carry me, Mommy!"
"I'll hold your hand."
"No, carry me!"
"I'll hold... the top of your head."
"No!" ::giggles::
"I'll hold... your knee. Can you climb stairs with me holding your knee?"
"No! Carry mine whole self, Mommy!"

So I did.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pantry thoughts

Canned goods are way better for stacking and lining up than blocks.

What do you get if you combine coconut milk and an Andy Warhol edition of tomato soup? A tiny can of diced Hatch green chile, of course.

"Here's the daddy can, here's the mommy can, and here's the Meggie can!" Meg

Now you know.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Parental wisdom

"Stop! Do not rock forward. You will fall over and I will be too far away to catch you, and it will hurt and be embarrassing at the same time." Jonathan

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A confusing quote

Also, the other day Meg was chattering to herself in the back of the car when we hear these words coming out of her mouth: "To be or not to be, that is the question."

I swear, I have no idea where that came from. That is, it must have come from a live person she hears, since the VeggieTales version is in the context of playing Battleship and goes "2B?" "Not 2B." But I don't... quote Hamlet. That often. At least I didn't think I did.

Clearly it must be the nursery volunteers at church.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


About half an hour after bedtime, we heard a little voice.

"Mommy? Mommy?"

"What is it?"

"Umm...." We waited. "I didn't do anything."

"Glad to hear it. Can you go to sleep?"

"I am asleep already."

"I love you, darling. Sleep well."

A minute later: "You're pretty funny, Mommy."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We looked at some more houses

Yesterday we did some more house-hunting. It was a gorgeous, cool, sunny Saturday, and pretty much perfect weather for driving around Western Loudoun.

The first was a townhouse. All we had to do was drive down the street and we were like, "Can't live here." It was one of those really crowded and kind of old developments. Just... no.

The next was a foreclosure fully half an hour out of town, on an acre and a half with a pond. The house itself is a renovated log-and-stone cabin from the early 1800s. We didn't have accurate square footage for it or much to work with, but peeking in through windows it looked pretty small. Apparently there wasn't central air conditioning. It did have a sunporch and a couple of out-buildings with electric lights, though. The land actually smelled a little like Scotland, very fresh and sweet.

The third was a "cupcake" of a duplex right in town. It had quite a nice yard, bigger than any townhouse, and it had been exquisitely maintained and upgraded. We got to go inside this one. Full wood floors, three bedrooms, everything very clean and freshly painted and just beautifully laid out. The owners had very sensible ideas about storage and fixtures appropriate in size to their space. I actually liked the kitchen, which I never do, and the bathroom had really cool original black-and-white tile.

So. I'll give you one guess which one we fell in love with.

Yup. The foreclosure!

There are times I think perhaps I'm not a very practical person.

Friday, September 14, 2012

We certainly wouldn't want an uncongenial habitat

"The cathedral was supposed to be a setting in which humans could glimpse heaven, thereby experiencing a taste of the hereafter. It served to draw people toward heaven. Durkheim's ideas about the sacred, however, suggest a different, almost opposite view of the cathedral's purpose -- in which the cathedral is a place designed to draw the divine down among people. We might say this is done by creating a congenial habitat for the divine."

The Gothic Enterprise by Robert A Scott, pg 153

I'm thoroughly enjoying this book on Gothic cathedrals and highly recommend it. Scott is working with a lot of the same ideas as Lewis' Discarded Image and is very interested in the connection between politics, medieval theology, and cathedrals. He gets into Scholasticism and Bishop Suger and all kinds of interesting stuff. For all that, I laughed really hard when he described cathedrals as a habitat for the divine. It's so... contemporary. He makes it sound like they were building hamster cages.

Also, he's kind of off-kilter due to not coming from an informed Christian philosophy himself. I would argue that one could, actually, describe the Tabernacle and the Temple as a "habitat for the divine" (if you dared!), but not so much churches anymore. The veil was torn in two, and now the Lord is building a new house out of living stones, which are His people. For that matter, the cathedral builders were off-kilter themselves on occasion.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


We put her in her crib for a time out, and sternly forbade a number of things, including climbing out. At the end of it:

"I'll just jump in my crib if that's okay, parents, Mommy and Daddy?" Meg

I love the way she addresses us as "parents." And asks permission to jump on her bed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I know he does wills and trusts, but....

Tonight as Jonathan walked in the door:

"Welcome home, Daddy! Welcome back to the land of the living!" Meg


Meg: "Do you have an off button?"
Me: "An off button? I don't think I have one."
Meg: "I think you do. I'll push your off button and you'll stop singing."

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Today is a red-letter day. I might even write it in red pen on my calendar.

It finally got cool!

It's been so hot for so long. We didn't really have much winter or spring here, and it started getting up into the 80s in March. It's been in the upper nineties or hundreds most days all summer, and suitably humid. Jenny takes pity on us and we go melt by her wading pool. I really do like summer, usually, but this year I am just done.

But today, as I was mentioning, it was clear and sunny and actually felt cool, and I was glad I took a blazer to church with me. We had the windows open all afternoon. Meg napped well.

I celebrated by making a very nice risotto for dinner. I put in sweet onions and sage and some cooked butternut squash. We had butternut squash risotto in Scotland, so it feels special. I made lots, since if you're going to stand and stir something for an hour there better be leftovers!


Thursday, September 06, 2012

The new Pippi, again

It's really weird to go back and watch movies you knew well as a kid. Right now Meg is seeing "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" for the first time. It was one of the ones I could recite pretty much word-for-word, but somehow it doesn't sound like it did back then. More eighties music, for one thing. And suddenly the camerapeople seem to have stopped using a tripod. It's still pretty fun, though, and I still want a pair of scrub brushes with foot straps!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I emerge from the sewing table to report

My marathon sewing weekend has lasted all week. So far, I've finished that red dress (yes!), made a skirt, hemmed a pair of Jonathan's pants, made a fuzzy bright blue elf coat for Meg that only needs about 5 more inches of pompoms sewn on, started revamping a clearance sequined shirt*, and boldly attempted a nightgown. The nightie failed pretty epically, like one of those legendary Pinterest fails, but one's artistic vision must be allowed to bloom, to range freely! The true chef must be willing to try things that do not work. Anyone can cook - only the fearless can become great!

Ahem. I fell into Ratatouille there for a minute. It's been a pretty productive week, sartorially speaking, except for the nightie. I have also schemed up about four more projects that I may or may not get to before I have to put the sewing machine away. We might decide we want that table for eating or something ridiculous like that.

*This shirt is a really darling turquoise with silver sequins in a chevron pattern (trend alert: check, check, check, and check), but it's one of those cropped swing tops that are enormously wide. It would cover about two of me... call it one and a half. Me and Meg.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Meg quotes

Meg was describing the picture on the card to me. Jonathan was halfway across the room on the computer. "And I believe that is an ostrich. He's turning the light on and off! He's using his nose since he doesn't have no hands."

Reflexively and in unison, despite the fact he wasn't even paying attention, Jonathan and I both said, "Doesn't have any hands." Some corrections are so deep-rooted we don't even need to rehearse. :-) Incidentally, DRAT that Mr. Lunt. I don't care what VeggieTales thought they were doing: they are teaching my daughter lousy grammar.

Then tonight I was putting Meg to bed. She yelped, "No! Not yet! I need--" and looked wildly around the room for inspiration! I enjoy these iconic parenting moments.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I was noticing Black Widow

On Saturday we got to go on a date and see The Avengers again. This time I noticed that Black Widow's character was subtler than I'd realized. She's actually quite feminine, especially considering she's a spy and assassin who beats people up regularly. I think you could say she has weaponized her femininity.

She always conducts her interrogations from a posture of vulnerability, making her target think he's in control, and finding out exactly what she wants before regaining control of the conversation. She did it to the Russian arms dealer in her first scene (so funny), and she did it again to Loki, leaving him gaping like a fish. "Thank you for your cooperation."

Do you remember in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, how Mrs. Smith always seemed so insecure? She just couldn't bear to let Mr. Smith have a bigger gun. She couldn't let anyone else be or even feel in control. She refused to follow anyone's orders. She had to prove that she was just as good and better than any man, at any cost, and to the point that anything traditionally feminine was a very serious threat. I feel like a lot of female superheros have a similar problem.

Black Widow has a very similar "specific skill set" to Mrs. Smith, but she really didn't have those issues. I wonder if it has anything to do with her Russian background? She usually carried a small gun. She didn't make a fuss about it, but she tended to cooperate with other people's battle plans, even when the other person was male. She made peace within the group. She persuaded whenever possible, instead of starting with violence. She was willing to hostess people around the airship and perform secretary-ish jobs that could have been considered beneath her dignity. She let other people do their thing, and she accomplished her thing very well, very creatively, and not remotely the way a man would do it. Also, she was a lot of fun to watch on-screen. I think Joss Whedon did a great job with her.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The white ice skates of happiness

Of all things, the thrift store had a pair of little ice skates this morning! They're white with red edging and a double blade and are about two sizes too big for Meg, which in my opinion is just about perfect: she might get to wear them for two winters. I already have a pair of white ice skates which I haven't used since Meg came along. Now we can both go.

There's a rink in Ashburn which has free admission for the three-and-under crowd. Skate rentals are usually $4. According to my calculations, since we've both got skates now, we can both get in for $8. I think her 20%-off-$7.50 skates are going to earn their keep very quickly.

I love finding treasures.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Green means go!

Meg has been paying close attention to traffic lights, and always tells us whether it's time to stop or go. But tonight she was very disappointed. The light turned green instead of pink.

Weekend doings

This weekend we went adventure camping on Assateague, almost looked at a half-a-duplex that sold in about 24 hours of coming on the market, and (just now) discovered that the line between a fancy French cream sauce and a not fancy at all Western white gravy is really, really thin. It's good, whichever it is. I put sage in it. I hope someday to have a house of our own to make it in. Or, of course, I could take the fixings and make it over a Sterno stove while camping, but that doesn't sound very probable.

Also today I was brave and got back up on a horse. Charlie's a good horse, but he doesn't believe in "slow" and he's not as smooth and short and, well, slow as Navarre. But all went well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Munch, munch, said the black hole

As a star gets sucked into a black hole, it sends out an oscillation or "quasiperiodic wobble" that we can pick up on earth.

"You can think of it as hearing the star scream as it gets devoured, if you like," says the astronomer who co-authored the paper. The scream was an ultra-low D sharp.

The illustrated Dante

Someone has gone to the trouble of illustrating Dante's Divine Comedy as a manga. You too can now read it as a comic strip with the dialogue of Cary's and Longfellow's translations. It's kind of... helpful, actually. Also odd.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Meg meets the LOTR characters

"That's Sauron. He looks upset. He must be out of coffee." Jonathan

"No, Uruk-Hai, not Mordecai. Trust me, they're different." Jonathan

"A man with a sword... an elf with a shield... and three brave hobbits." Jonathan
"Let's count them! One, two, three!" Meg

However, I am slightly heartbroken, because after seeing Lord of the Rings pictures she started singing songs from the VeggieTales "Lord of the Beans." We have failed her.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The eggs

Also today, I was amused at the difference between my and Meg's approaches to putting the Easter eggs away in their carton.

I arrange them in rainbow order in matched pairs and then go hunting around the house for the missing yellow one.

Meg comes behind me and fixes them so they're all turned right side up. Then she moves them around, puts smaller toys inside them, and might add in an egg from another set (heresy!). She also makes sure that the stuffed animals watching are in straight lines.

Then I come behind her and put them back in color order.

We deserve each other.

Breaking news: not going to offer on that house

It was a nice possibility but not, we think, for us. When we considered the numbers, there seemed to be a lot of zeros and eights. In the wrong places, I mean. We don't object to the number eight per se. Also, the kitchen didn't have room for a dishwasher, and I'm kind of spoiled that way.

Thanks for your interest and concern, everybody! Keep sending us possibilities, but don't mind if I take one look at the price tag and laugh. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Sweater and skirt

I've put the red dress on hold for now and have been finishing up other projects that have been lying around.

This first is a sweater I crocheted for Meg. It's kind of got a crocheted-afghan vibe, no doubt due to the use of the classic afghan double crochet stitch.  I made it in four pieces, front, back, and sleeves, and then whipstitched it together, single-crocheted around the neckline, and embroidered a mouse. Done.

The second project was a full purple skirt for myself. I made it last winter, but it was too big and I didn't like it, so I partly disassembled it and left it in pieces in my mending pile.

It's a simple dirndl pattern, with pockets and belt loops, and I was able to just rip out the zipper and entire back seam, fold back the excess skirt and waistband on both sides so it was more my size, stitch it up, and re-insert the zipper. It was a little awkward because part of what got folded back was, in fact, gathered fabric, but I decided I didn't care. I hemstitched the loose flaps down and reattached the belt loops. Done.

It feels good to have those finished.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A possibility!

A couple weeks ago, we looked at a little bungalow in P-ville. I'd fallen in love with it, hard, and when it turned out to be in truly lousy repair (mold to the eyebrows, water damage, the works), I cried all afternoon.

Yesterday I cried all afternoon too, because it was a hard day. Meg was sick, so we didn't get to do anything fun, and she didn't feel good and she wanted to watch Winnie-the-Pooh again, and I was bug-bitten and discouraged and about three-quarters convinced that I wasn't going to get a house ever. I was going to be grown-up and realistic in the current market and be doomed to townhouses until I'm forty. It will be awful. Mom said she'd pray.

It just goes to show, you should always have your mother pray for you. This morning a house popped up on the market in the neighborhood we like best. It's older than I am and pleasantly eccentric, with a nice yard and three enormous maples and minor repair issues of the kind I can actually tackle myself, like repainting and pulling vines off the metal siding. I was actually ready to buy it just from the outside. But I didn't. That is, I waited for Jonathan and our realtor and we looked all through the inside and the basement, and then we decided to pursue buying it. It will need a lot of work and some de-weirding. The kitchen cabinets are all really short. The next step is for our financial whiz to do whatever it is she does and tell us whether or not we can afford it.*

In the interest of not crying all afternoon tomorrow, I'm trying not to crush on it too hard. I do think it could be quite cute and I could make the best garden ever on that land. We'll see. I am trying to practice hope and contentment and wisdom and not leaping before I look and so forth. House-hunting is exhausting.

*She did explain. And I paid attention and understood most of it. But I feel it would be selfish to take numbers away from people who actually like them, which is why I was a lit major and now I write about laundry and hyperdrives. This is called Division of Labor.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Upright and clean

I've just been meditating on how great vertical surfaces are. When you clean them, they don't immediately attract clutter the way a table, countertop, bookshelf, or ironing board does.* And, they're often dirty for real, because one naturally focuses on the clutter-ridden flat surfaces. But if you wipe all the drips off a door frame -- the frame looks clean! If you wipe the dust off a shuttered ventilation door -- the dust is gone and it looks clean! If you clean a baseboard or kickplate, miraculously, it looks clean! 

It is my fond hope that if a room's vertical surfaces are clean, the room will somehow read as really, actually, metaphysically clean even when the flat surfaces are all covered with old mail and disdained yogurt containers. It works in the kitchen with pristine cabinets and appliances. Kind of.

*I will never understand how the ironing board always, always turns into the mail receptacle. We HAVE a mail receptacle. But the mail seems to prefer the ironing board. Maybe the reason I never get the ironing board out except for sewing is to keep the mail away from it.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Actually dead

I feel like I owe you readers an explanation for the terrible pictures I've been putting up. I do know they're bad. My new (not quite two years old) camera is dead, as opposed to dyed or even dying, and apparently it's more expensive to fix than replace. Power inverters, pshh. I'm using the camera phone until then.

I've been going to Best Buy and drooling over the DSLRs. Metaphorically, of course.

Dyed, not dead

 I thought I'd try dyeing some capris. These started out a peculiar lavender.
 I used powdered Rit dye in fuschia.
 You dump the dye into your hot water and get it boiling.
 And you soak your capris before adding them. My helper thought they should be scrubbed also.
 Add salt according to the directions.
 Drop in the capris and stir them until they look pretty. I thought half an hour was good.
 Run hot tap water over them until it stops leaking pink. Dye something else in the pot if you like. Then put your newly gorgeous clothes through a washer and dryer cycle. Resist your frugal urge to fill the washer load; I would definitely not recommend adding anything else, unless, of course, you want it pinkish. On the other hand, pinkish underwear could be cute.

UPDATE: This is also true for subsequent washes. I feel silly.
This ombre progression shows how much the dye vat got depleted for each pair of capris. The ones on the left were lavender denim, the middle ones were lightweight khaki cotton, and the left were white knit leggings. Now it's ALL PINK. I would have dyed something of Meg's, but it all seems to be pink already.

I was pleased. They came out a little streaky, but not bad. I think I'll dye again sometime.

The hardest part of the whole process was clearing the stovetop, countertop, sink, washer, and dryer beforehand.

Quote of the day

Jonathan: "What are the three meals of the day? There's breakfast, and lunch, and what comes after lunch?"
Meg: "Hot dogs!"

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

I'll keep watching for leopards, but this'll do for now

New matelasse bedspread

 The bedspread issue was getting ridiculous, so I got a nice, normal, classic, washable matelasse coverlet in cream. It was on clearance. The sham I already had - the pattern is different, but the color is the same, so they blend quite happily. It looks good with hot pink sheets, and it'll be useful for the next fifty years.

I'll keep an eye out for leopards. I'm thinking a leopard-spotted throw might be pretty folded across the foot of the bed. Or, of course, someone might produce a leopard-spotted bedspread.

Or I might learn to quilt. :-)

Matelasse in its natural habitat. Observe the bust of Bismarck.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Meggie's grammar

Meg is not yet aware that the word "my" exists, preferring "mine" in all situations. This results in "I need mine apple juice!" So Shakespearean. I'm certainly not going to correct her.

She also has a stock response to "How are you?", which is "Doing well." It's charming when you ask how she personally is, funny when you're asking about a toy, and hilarious when you ask how her blueberries or chicken nuggets are. "They're doing well."

Monday, July 30, 2012

The cabbage

I hate it when I buy a cabbage and can't remember why. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. In any event, there's an accusing, lonely cabbage in my fridge.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What is a young hyperdrive made of?

That's what you are
What you will always be
Made of my dreams
Close as my heart to me
Bright as a star
Of love's sweet mystery
Here in my arms
Where you should always be
(Egregious Beach Boys lyrics brought to you by this page)

The question is what a hyperdrive is made of and how it works. I'm speaking from within the Star Wars world and its physics, incidentally, assuming it's like ours only more convenient from a narrative perspective. There are two main scenes I can think of dealing with hyperdrives within the canonical SW. The first is in Empire Strikes Back when R2D2 was repairing the Falcon's and there were wires everywhere. The other is in Zahn ("Heir to the Empire," chapters 16-17) when Luke's X-wing gets caught by a tractor beam, jumps free by backfiring the accelerator compensator, but the maneuver fries his hyperdrive and breaks down half a lightyear out.  Luke discovers that the hyperdrive motivators superconducting shields are each full of hairline fractures, and the parts inside are worthless without a shield.

What do we know about hyperdrives? They carry ships from point to point in space and the trips have duration relative to the distance, so it's not like L'Engle's tessering. They have a motivator with a shield and parts inside. Apparently it does not have miles of superconducting wire - R2 has to scavenge wire from the sensor jammer. And above all, hyperdrives don't work in gravity wells.

One of the few things we know about gravity is that (as far as we can tell) it extends everywhere at the same time, which is faster than the speed of light. This bears a striking resemblance to that other phenomenon, hyperdrives which move ships faster than the speed of light. So assume, for the sake of discussion, that gravity occupies a half-way dimension, partly in realspace and partly in hyperspace. And assume that there exist exotic particles which resonate with gravity and the gravitic dimension and can be harnessed to "jump" matter such as, oh, spaceships, between hyperspace and realspace. It's not a question of making your boat engine go fast enough. It's a question of getting into the right river.

Imagine a fluorescent light. It's a tube full of particles. When you excite the particles, they change states from off (off) to on (glowing). Suppose a hyperdrive is like that. You've got a superconductor, and inside is a tube full of exotic gravity-friendly particles which shift states. The motivator must be the thing that energizes the particles. There would be other parts that tune its frequencies and organize the emissions into a go-that-way stream vs. a random stream. Those are technical terms.

Gravity jams, or dampens, or messes with the vibrations of the exotic particles. It doesn't matter what the gravity's source is, whether it comes from a black hole, a planet, or a tractor beam. And, theoretically, there could be a whole nebula of similar exotic particles which you don't want to jump through in hyperspace because they might start resonating with your hyperdrive and change your vector, or stop you cold, or perhaps send half the nebula with you to your final destination. Or your very final destination, depending.

What do you think of the theory?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Macbeth rises (in discussion)

Lars over at Brandywine is talking about Macbeth. Somebody tried to reconcile the Scots and Viking chronologies, but he doesn't buy it.  I'm inclined to agree with Lars because the odds of Macbeth dying in bed are so very, very low, but I know nothing whatever of the Orkneyinga Saga or Jarl Thorfinn, so there you have it.

I am, however, always happy to talk about Macbeth.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I'm on the lookout for a leopard-spotted bedspread for Meg's room. I'd like it to be classic brown spots, not black, purple, hot pink, or rainbow, though colorful trim might work. This season everyone seems to have zebras. It also needs to be machine washable. And not... ugly. I've been haunting Kohl's, Target, Wal-Mart, Ross', Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, Ikea, and HomeGoods and haven't found one, so if anyone comes across a promising specimen, I'd love to hear about it.

I've considered making one myself out of two leopard flat sheets, or a leopard and a pink one, but I've never quilted* and that would be a lot of trouble. I would really rather buy one if possible.

*I did make a quilted potholder in fourth grade, but I knew more about sewing than my teacher and the potholder doesn't have enough stuffing to be used for holding hot pots. I don't think it counts. It makes for great padding between glass bowls, though.

Falling off a horse

I fell off a horse yesterday.  Poor Navarre spooked just as I asked him to trot, and he went one way and I went the other. I was wearing a helmet and Navarre is pretty short, as horses go, so I don't think there was any damage, but I'm here to say, landing on your backside is not romantic. It's a life experience -- hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime one!

I did get right back up and rode some more. I didn't want to, but it would have been too embarrassing to admit I hadn't. I've read books! I know what you're supposed to do!

Since I'm too sore to hoist her around today, Meg has had to take responsibility for things like crawling into and out of her own carseat and not leaping into the middle of my lap. She's doing an excellent job. She doesn't think much of it and so asked God to heal me, which I appreciated, but I think she was disappointed her prayer didn't take effect immediately. I kind of was disappointed, too.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quote of the day

As Meg was packing her animals into a shoebox: "It's okay, Sukey. It'll just be a short trip. Squish! Squish!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

A reflection on parenting

Many things change after you have kids, which I expected, but one thing I did not expect was a multiplication of tubs of wet wipes. Wipes are wipes, yes? No.

No, we actually have four kinds of wipes at the moment. There are your common or garden wipes, useful for diaper changes and sticky hands. There are the flushable wipes, which help with potty training. There are the antibacterial Clorox wipes, which also help with potty training as well as more mundane things, like wiping up the sink after raw meat. And last but not least, I have some rather exotic makeup-removal wipes. That's new.

I could use cloths and cleaning solution for most of this. But frankly, I don't want to. Wipes don't generate extra laundry. Wipes are genius.

Life is weird.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

There goes that idea

The other day I was telling Jonathan I "needed" a particular kind of corset and speculating as to how hard it would be to acquire the supplies and make one.

Come to find out one of my bloggers has been making a corset all week. She's a much better seamstress than I am, and the short answer is: making corsetry looks really hard. It requires particular equipment with intimidating names and apparently requires a really long attention span, too. You probably even need scissors that cut in a straight line. Drat.

How not to fix a cowboy boot

Cowboy boots: good.
This is actually a two-parter post. A two-step, if you will.

Part One:
These are my cowboy boots I got in Amarillo back when I was in college. I outgrew them while Meg was on the way. This made me sad, because they're great boots.

Then I came across a thing on Pinterest claiming that if you use a little alcohol and a hair dryer, you can stretch out a too-small shoe. I thought it was worth a try.

Whiskey: bad.

I had a few drops of this Scottish whiskey left from our honey- moon and thought it was just too awesome not to try. So I put on two pairs of socks, my boots (with Jonathan's help), whiskeyed them up, and hair dried them.

And yes! It did help! The boots are a little snug, but much better. I can take them off all by myself now.

Part Two:
I went to my sister's baby shower and sat next to the Pink Pixie and her mother. They're shoe professionals, and I thought they would be interested in my cowboy boot fix.

Actually, horrified would be closer to it. Come to find out, you should NEVER put alcohol on shoes, especially leather - that way lies crackage and destruction and all bad things. You shouldn't bombard shoes with hot air, either.

The correct technique for stretching a shoe is to hit it with a hammer. Literally. You work the leather maybe while you're watching a movie and it softens up. Or you can just wear the shoes around the house with extra socks every day until they're comfortable.

When I protested, the Pixie assured me that good things come to those who wait.

Let that be a lesson not to believe DIYs you read on the internet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to fix a halter-top dress

Halter dresses annoy me. Probably it's just my girlish figure, but no matter how snugly it ought to fit, the back slides down and the strings dig into my neck and the skirt hangs asymmetrically in a not at all fashionable way. And, to top it all off, if I wear a tank or something underneath, the layers get tangled up whenever I try to adjust it.

I am therefore pleased to share my cure for the common halter. It involves safety pins.

1. Put on the dress. Untie the strings.
2. Pull each string over its respective shoulder, crossing them in the back.
3. Adjust until the length is right. Have your assistant/husband safety pin the strings to the back of the dress.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dressing for the occasion

Due to a creditable threat of takeover by the dirty dishes and trash, I thought a spot of housewifery might be about due. So there I was scrubbing pots and growling at the jammed-up disposal, which hummed uselessly back, when I decided that this was ridiculous. Either I should do the thing cheerfully or not at all.

So I put on heels, a striped apron, and red lipstick, and started fishing. However, the disposal was unimpressed and stayed jammed. I think it's got a peach pit in its depths.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"A house... a brick residence adjoining the palace... et cetera"

Right, about house-hunting. We have talked to a realtor and talked to a financial whiz loan person. We know our price bracket and are getting regular emails, and basically we're waiting for a suitable house to show up.

It can't be a townhouse or condo - it needs to be big enough to have family come stay with us without anyone sleeping on the couch or behind a pile of books - it needs enough yard for a patio and a garden and running around in - and I have to actually, you know, like it. I figure that's only fair, if we're going to be paying for it for the next thirty years. I'm also attached to functional roofing, plumbing, and wiring, but I hear this can be arranged, depending on your type of loan.

We also have a long list of wishes, starting with a Great Room suitable for banquets and impromptu plays and ending with a stream at the bottom of the garden.* I really want a house older than myself. Eccentric is good. I have an irrational prejudice against split-levels, and would actually prefer the kitchen not to have been remodeled recently, since I don't particularly care for current kitchen fashions and suspect it would just make it more expensive. But our wishes are more flexible.

The nice thing is God provided our current very nice apartment, and no doubt He will also provide a house in good time. I'm actually not worried about it. So we're waiting hopefully... and trying not to think about real estate prices in cheaper parts of the country!

*Unfortunately from a house-hunting perspective, I was raised on The Secret Garden and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and somehow enormous English manor houses keep hovering on my mental horizons. There are a lot of them around, too - a whole enclave just off Route 7. I think they all belong to DC multi-millionaires. I'm trying to fend them off with more realistic(?) visions of The Incredibles' tract house.


Mending is much easier than sewing from scratch. I love the whole instant-gratification thing: you sew about an inch, and whoosh! you can wear the whatever again. Today, for instance, I took up the shoulders of a too-long tank top, fixed a seam on Jonathan's suit pants, and reattached a button to a blazer. (It was an ugly button which I would like to replace someday, but it works.) Then I cut off a pair of too-short hand-me-down khaki pants, hemmed them, and created a pair of shorts. All this took about half an hour.

Patterns traditionally confuse me, so I've been experimenting. There was the Miami Mod dress, a hot pink and turquoise color-blocked little tent dress for which I figured out how to do a bodice lining. There was the Tilted Layers dress, which took about 11 hours and turned out accidentally Forties-esque, but cute. (Though Mom did ask, very kindly, if I'd like her to show me how to insert a zipper properly. Yes, but unfortunately now we're half a continent apart.) Then over the weekend I imitated a shirt I've got and made a little lined voile bat-wing top out of a very loud orange print.

I'm finally good enough, I think, to try a real pattern.

I've got about three yards of red broadcloth, a chunky zipper, and a pattern for an A-line sleeveless dress. Visions of Kate Spade and J. Crew have been dancing in my head.

So far, I've read through the pattern, looked up three technical terms I'd never heard of, and cut out the pattern pieces I need. At about an hour in, I'm about to unfold the fabric. I have high hopes that if I can make it once I'll be able to make it again... more quickly.

Monday, July 09, 2012

In everything give thanks. Literally.

Poor Tigger's tail got caught between Meg and the scissors. He had to go away and recuperate on a high shelf until I got a chance to make repairs. Last night I stitched up his lacerations and tucked him in with his sleeping lady, and when she woke up this morning there was much delight.

"Mommy stitched up Tigger's tail. That's kind of nice. SANK 'OO, LORD!"

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Fourth of July doings

Small-town fourths of July are a lot of fun, and they do them right in northern Virginia. We started by walking (!) over to the parade down King Street. It had the usual floats from the police, fire department, cub scouts, and Corvette clubs, plus a few from political campaigns. We noticed the same thing as Veith - some cheering for Romney's float, and dead silence for President Obama's! They also had some Celtic dancers, who were unfortunately not dancing, and some Bolivian folk dancers, who were. Meg contemplated their masks and headdresses and referred to them as "the monster dancers" for the rest of the day. I think the best one was Heritage High School's marching band. The bass drummer bringing up the rear danced all the way down the street. He was just having a great time.

That evening we joined my sister and her in-laws at the Purcellville fireworks. Their pre-show music was a swing band, a real live swing band run by a friend's father - fabulous. I actually got to dance with my husband. So cool. It was extremely muggy out and nearly a hundred degrees, but so worth it. I didn't quite talk him into practicing any aerials, though, because we saw some old friends were about to catch up with them.

Some other friends came over and told our group that they were predicting hail that evening. My immediate reaction was that they were talking crazy talk, but then the MC made an an announcement that a storm was blowing up, so they were going to start the fireworks a little early and recommended everyone go back to their cars to watch in case it started pouring.

We sat on the hood as they shot them off quickly. A cool breeze hit, bringing the temperature to very pleasant levels, and clouds started boiling over the horizon. Lightning strikes lit up the sky. Between the natural and human fireworks, Meg may never see a more dramatic display. I don't think she appreciated it properly. :-) The main storm passed to the south of us and never did pour. Or hail. It just gave us great fireworks.