Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar Night

Last night I had an Oscar party, which is not something I’ve ever done before. Nonetheless, it was TONS of fun. I invited a few of my bookclub friends to bring a snack, enjoy the show and the company, and hang out. The party was exactly the kind of party I like, just a few good friends who all know each other so I don’t spend all night introducing people and getting people talking, I just get to hang out and enjoy the party. Did you watch the Oscars? Were you happy with the winners? For once I had actually seen almost all the nominated movies (you know, except things like “Foreign Language Film” and “Live Action Short” because, puh). As a fan of movies, I of course had my favorites, although my fav was a long shot at best. I liked The Fighter. I told you about the afternoon I saw it over New Year’s. Perhaps it’s because it was the first of a series of Oscar bait that I saw, but even now, months later, it’s still my favorite. I loved the cinematography (not even nominated), the acting (won best supporting actor and actress, but Mark Wahlberg wasn’t even nominated), the directing (nominated, but lost to The King’s Speech), and the screenplay (nominated but lost to The King’s Speech).
I enjoy Anne Hathaway’s movies and I had a great time last night. But I lay my enjoyment completely at the feet of my friends, because Anne and James were terrible Oscar hosts! I sort of hated that intro video of Anne and Hathaway inceptioning their way through the Best Picture nominees, I didn’t think they were funny or even truly interesting, and I don’t think they did the job of hipping up the Oscars. Jon Stewart did a better job. Super fun night anyway. Also, I’m so excited that my bookclub is going to go see The King’s Speech.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Painted Wine Glasses

Kristin and I are throwing Jamie's bridal shower in June. Despite the fact that a few people HATE our plan, we're it in a local restaurant and asking people to buy their own lunch, because we are both pre-school teachers and thus have very little money to spend. Our invitations are made (and awesome), and so we've moved on to making our favors. We decided we wanted something nice since we're asking people to pay for their own food, so we decided to fill wine glasses with pink and silver Dove hearts. We also decided to decorate the wine glasses, to give them a little pizzaz. We thought what we bought to do the glass was glaze, so we thought it would be fairly thin and we would just splatter paint them and call it a day. The paint turned out to be fairly thick, so we actually painted each of 25 wine glasses today. And they turned out COOL!
The enamel we used is Folkart Enamels in metallic silver, engine red, and wicker white which we bought at Hobby Lobby. We had to make our own pink which we did by combining one jar of red with two jars of white. This took longer than we had anticipated and involved some trial and error. What we eventually decided was that it wasn't really worth putting the enamel back in the jar after we mixed it. Also, we achieved peppermint pink after about a 1/2 jar of red and couldn't get it much darker even when we added another 1/2 jar of paint.
We flipped the glasses upside down and painted them with fairly small paint brushes (liner, 1 and 2 point brushes mostly). Once they were all painted, we let them set for about an hour, and then started baking them to make the enamel set. To prevent breakage you put them in a cold oven and then turn it to 350 degrees. Once the oven achieves temp. bake for another 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow the oven to cool before removing the glasses.
Overall, I think the enamel was really easy to use, and worked out if not exactly how we thought, exactly how we wanted. What do you think?

An Epiphany

Wednesday evening I got to see Sarah and Jeff. I was so glad to be able to hang out with them and to see them laugh. They are very frank about their pain. Naomi IS their daughter, and they feel just as any parent would after losing a child. They are no longer hoping to become parents, they ARE parents. They are grieving parents who have lost their only child, but they are parents. It’s all gut-wrenching and leaves me not really sure what to say to them. I want to say I’m sorry, but when people said that to me when my dad died, it just made me mad. I want to act normal, but I know it’s hard for Sarah when people seem to be continuing their lives. I want to give hugs and try to make them feel better, but Sarah has blogged about how that just makes her more sad when people want to hug and comfort her. I only held that little girl for a few hours in Target, but she is so clearly a special girl, and I so very much wanted to see her grow up and become a special woman. Just holding her while she slept gave me a new perspective on my life and my drama and I was crushed when I learned what happened. I literally had my laptop on and Sarah’s blog up for the entire time, from when I learned this might happen until she was gone, grieving for my friends, for that little girl who may not get to know the two FANTASTIC parents she was supposed to have, praying and asking my Christian friends to pray. I hope there’s someone in the birth parents life, who is reminding them right now, of all the reasons why they gave Naomi up originally.
Last night I went to the wake for my SIL’s grandmother. There was some minor drama about whether I should go or not, because Mandy’s sister and I have some unresolved drama of our own. Years ago, she and I were best friends. I won’t go into everything that went down that resulting in our eventual separation, but suffice it to say I hadn’t even seen her in two plus years, and hadn’t really talked to her in at least five. Once, we were so close we joked that we would each be like aunt’s to the other’s kids. Now I saw her seven month old son for the first time last night, and I hadn’t seen her two year old daughter since she was just a few months old. You know, there was a time when my vision of my future was very clear. I would finish college, become a high school teacher, and at some appropriate point (preferably around my 25th birthday) I would marry a delightful man who loved history, then we would have a boatload of kids and settle down to living life. My future is no longer as “clear” as I once thought it was, but I’m glad. Back when I knew where I wanted to go, life was about the destination, getting from point A to point B with no concern for how I got there. Now, life is about the journey. I stop along the way to point B to pick wildflowers, I meander down unexplored paths to see if I really want to go to point B. And somewhere along the way, point B changed from “marriage and kids” to something else. I don’t know where I’m headed, I don’t know what I want. I’m not living the traditional life, but I’m living the life that makes me happy. Standing in the funeral home last night the distinction between who I was then, and who I am now was made remarkably clear to me. The person I was then wouldn’t have known Naomi, because that person let other people decide who should be her friends. Someone in my life got mad at Sarah for something stupid, and I didn’t talk to Sarah for years because of it. In the past I’ve talked to Sarah about how high school was rough for me, because some of the people we knew made fun of me, and that I don’t really want to reconnect with those girls. And I think that Sarah has taken some blame for that, which I never meant for her to do. I made the same mistakes, I just didn’t recognize them until this convergence of events. I’ve let Sarah take the blame for not standing up for me when her friends made fun of me, or whatever, but I didn’t stand up for her either. I don’t want to make that same mistake again. I can’t stand up for Sarah and Jeff to the people who hurt them, but I can stand by them and I can hope that Sarah can forgive me for being as much a punk as she ever was, maybe more.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stupid Cliffhangers!

You want to know what I hate? I hate cliffhangers. I don't mind when shows do two-part episodes so they can handle a topic that couldn't be covered in the shows normal running time. But when it's a season finale or the ending of a book? I know that the writer(s) only did it to "force" me into returning when the show comes back (or when the next book comes out). Here's the thing- if I watched your season finale, or read your book, I'm probably interested in what I'm seeing. I'm probably invested enough in the characters I would come back anyway, so why leave me hangin for months (or if it's a book years)? Especially because I will probably forget the danger you left your characters in months (or years) ago and you have to spend the beginning of your new installment reminding me of the danger?
I just finished the penultimate Vampire Academy book, and it was fantastic! The drama is very dramatic. The romantic tension is tense. And also romantic. The court politics are as insane and twisted as you might expect from a culture where the politics of two groups rests in the hands of thirteen people from only one of those groups. But the ending!! Richelle Mead clearly has a thing for the cliffhanger ending. The first four books it was all about the Rose-Dimitri relationship, so at least this is different, but HOLY JEEZ lady, write a proper ending! Ummm, in case I didn't make it clear, Spirit Bound ends on a cliffhanger. Which I promptly ruined for myself because the last book is out, but I can't get my hands on it for like two months. So I googled the answer (and people, it is GOOD!!). So, I guess that's on me, but I'm still annoyed at Mead.

Monday, February 21, 2011

To top it all off...

...the basement started leaking. Right in my doorway. Made up of bookshelves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Mandy's grandmother passed away today.
I have spent most of this evening feeling useless. A good friend is wounded in her very soul and there is nothing I can do for her. I can offer no comfort, there is nothing I can say or do to help.
I can't bring GiGi back. I can't convince the birth family to give Sarah back her daughter. I can only offer the smallest comfort; a hug, a reassuring word, a collection of pictures...
Neither loss is my own of course. I had no real connection to Naomi. Yet before she was a week old, she made me really think about my own life, the places I want to go, the things I want to accomplish. She made me reassess my emotional maturity, and emotional decisions I've been making for twenty years. I came home from my one evening out with her and wrote her a letter just like I write for Nick and Naty, she affected me as much as either one of them did.
I feel so bad for Sarah right now. I don't know what to do, or how to help. I just hope there's something someone can do, someway to help Sarah and Jeff heal from this.

Naomi and GiGi

I have decided against posting my pics of Naomi as a way to respect her privacy. Her birth family has decided they want to raise her themselves and thus are picking her up from Sarah and her husband tomorrow morning.
On top of this situation, I have spent the last several days watching my niece and nephew while my SIL spends her time at the hospital. GiGi is what Nick and Naty call Mandy's grandmother, and she is very sick. Several times this weekend, Mandy has been told that GiGi probably won't make it another few hours.
In short, this has been a terrible weekend.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Prayer request

I don't know how many readers are also "pray-ers", but if there are any of you who read and pray, read on.
As you know my friend has been trying to adopt for many months now, and was recently picked. She and her husband brought Naomi home just over a week ago, and they love her. Sarah told me that Jeff's first day back at work, when he got home he came right to Naomi and took her right away because he had missed her. Sarah will be, without a doubt, one of the best mom's I know. However, there have been some issues with the adoption. The birth parents still haven't signed all of the papers, I don't really know which ones and what all is going on. What I do know, is that Sarah and Jeff met with the birth parents tonight, and now have reason to believe that the birth parents may be changing their minds about giving Naomi up. Obviously this is hard on Sarah and Jeff, and frankly is hard on Naomi. So, if you pray, please pray for my friends. Pray for Naomi. Also, pray for the birth family. Pray for wisdom on the part of all those involved and pray that Sarah and Jeff will stay strong no matter what happens.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Love You?

Honestly? This is going to be a long post, and it’s not going to end with adorable pics of Naomi. However, it is a little bit about Naomi, so here goes.
Yesterday evening, I met Naomi. She is the sweetest, tiniest little thing, and I love her. Which I told her at some length. But that’s actually the issue. She wasn’t even a week old when I met her for the very first time, and I had no trouble telling her I love her. I say it easily to my niece, my nephew, even my cat. But I rarely, if ever say it to adults. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of adults whom I love (or who I loved at one point), but with the exception of my mom, I never say it. I loved my friend Sondi and since she died I’ve wondered frequently if she knew it. After her funeral I promised myself I would make sure that I wouldn’t have to wonder if others know it, that I would learn to say “I love you”. But, I didn’t. I love my best friend. I love her parents. I love some of my other friends. There’s obviously no real reason for me to love Naomi. Honestly, there’s not really any reason for me to love Nataly or Nick, I just do. And I did from before I even laid eyes on them. So, why am I so willing to tell them, but not my friends?
Although I’ve never experienced “eros” love, that romantic love that is so often described as being in love, that’s more because I’ve actively avoided such a thing. But philia love (friendship) and storge love (familial) are both emotions I’m extremely familiar with. I wish the English language had those more precise words (like the Greek ones I’ve used). Actually, it reminds of something I thought about when I read The Giver. At one point Jonas asks his parents if they love him, and they reprimand him for imprecise use of language, that they are proud of him and they take pleasure in him, but that the word love has no meaning. I think, in English, in our culture, that’s actually true. Although people are shocked or outraged when Jonas’ parents say it, what does the word love really mean? People “love” things- new technology, furniture, houses, etc; ideas, the internet, TV shows, etc; activities like going for walks, swimming, etc. But don’t all of those uses cheapen the word? Is the enjoyment that you take in a long swim on a hot day really the same as the feelings you have for your lover, your sister, or your best friend? And why is it that in our culture we assume that if one adult tells another un-related adult “I love you” that they mean it in the eros form? It’s why I wrote the version of “Beauty and the Beast” I’m working on. It’s not done yet, but if you don’t mind the spoiler, Prince William is going to love (philia or storge) Johnny, there’s nothing romantic or eros about it, and the curse (in the original) never says it has to be. Why does our culture so devalue these other forms of love, while elevating eros? Especially considering that until fairly recently (two-three hundred years ago) eros love was the devalued and philia was the most valuable. It was only with the rise of the “love-match” marriage in the 1800s that philia love fell to the wayside. Why can’t we have both?
Tomorrow I promise to post my pics of Naomi. Feel free to come back for that!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sump Pump

Just wanted to let you know (in case you were wondering) that the day after we put in our new sump pump, I plugged it back in and it worked fine. It was almost 50 degrees outside, so I'm assuming there was some ice in the tubes that melted, allowing it to work perfectly. I'm pretty pleased because it's much quieter than the old one ever was, so I'm sleeping a little better :)
Also- I'm going to meet Naomi in about an hour and a half!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Housesitting Dinner

I’m housesitting tonight, which I love. This house is absolutely amazing, there is a sauna. The master closet is TWO stories with its own washer and dryer, it’s unbelievable. Anyway, they have this wonderful gourmet kitchen in which I simply HAVE to cook. Tonight I made one of my favorite simple one person meals, which these people always have the more expensive ingredients so it’s cheap for me to make. It goes as follows…
Chicken and Potatoes in Wine and Cheese Sauce
1 chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
2 yellow skin potatoes (or equivalent of baby potatoes) cut into ¼ inch slices
½ a medium onion, julienned (cut into thin slices)
¼ C Portobello mushrooms, washed and sliced
Just enough oil to cover the bottom of a large sauté pan.
¼ t each Mrs. Dash Chicken, Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb, sea-salt
1 can vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 T flour (I use oat flour, but wheat will also work)
½ C each milk and red wine
¼ C parmesan cheese
1 Mini Baby Bell cheese
1 triangle Laughing cow, garlic and herb cheese

Put the oil in the bottom of a large sauté pan on medium-high. Once the oil is heated, add the chicken, potatoes, onion and mushrooms. Mix with a large spatula, as if making a stir-fry. Once the meat is white on all sides, but before it is cooked through add the seasoning and the broth. Cover and allow to cook until the potatoes are done. Turn the flame to medium and scoop some broth into a small bowl with the flour. Mix until smooth and return to the sauté pan. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce thickens and the cheeses melt.
This whole thing should only take about twenty minutes, and is extremely easy to double, triple, etc. whatever you need for the number of people you’re serving. As written, this serves two (or makes a great dinner and then lunch another day). I served it with a salad of field greens and goji berries tossed in a red wine vinegrette.
Finally, if you skip the salt and use low-sodium broth, it’s still delicious and it’s low sodium.

Fun With Plumbing

Earlier this week I was awakened at the unbearable hour of 4:30 after only making it to bed at about 2:30. What could possible wake someone at 4:30, you might ask. After all it the hour from 4-5 that is the one hour that both morning people and night owls are generally asleep, who could possibly be awake to wake you up? And, dear reader, I would laugh at you for thinking it might be a person. Indeed, no, it was my sump pump. See I live about 20 feet from the blasted thing, and the “wall” between me and it is really just a series of cabinets, open at the top, and with a hole for a “door”. It is, therefore, not exactly sound deadening, and the sump pump was making the loudest grinding noise EVER. My basement leaks with uncomfortable regularity, so I was afraid to unplug it as the weather has been warming and we just had a fairly major blizzard. Also, it was 4:30AM, I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. I went back to bed and put a pillow over my head, trying to get some sleep before I had to go to work in the morning. At 7:10 my mom came downstairs and unplugged it, and I finally fell back asleep (for the less than an hour before my alarm went off anyway). My mom was going to rinse it out, and hope for the best (this has worked in the past, we get a lot of silt that clogs up the sump pump). That was five days ago. She finally rinsed it out today, but alas, nothing happened. Actually, something did happen, the ground fault just turned off. So we headed out to Home Depot to buy a new one, and also to see my SIL. An hour and a half later, our new sump pump is installed and it’s super quiet. Except it might not work. See, it runs, it’s clearly TRYING to work, but the bit of water remaining in the nasty basement hole merely appears to be stirring, not sucked up into the pipe and sent away from the house. One of three things is happening (we hope). Either there is ice stuck in the piping which will need to be removed, but which we can fix; or there is not enough water in the hole for the sump pump to suck anything up, but there is enough for it to think it should work, which we can fix; or the darned thing is not installed correctly/broken, which since my mom has installed a new sump pump every year since my dad died, I think means it’s broken. Fudge!
Also, in case you read my blog, but not Sarah’s, she has a shiny new baby girl named Naomi, whom I have not yet met in person, but looks adorable in pictures. You should probably go check those out on her blog.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eye Exam Time!

I have to get new glasses. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my prescription, but my lenses are getting scratched up. Also, I want contacts back. I had to stop wearing them a few years ago because I wore them to long (18-20 hours a day) and my blood vessels were growing into my pupils which can cause blindness. I was told to give my eyes a rest for two years and then I could have them back, but to get glasses as well and not wear the contacts so much. Anyway, as you may recall, I’m going to be in a wedding in a few months and I want contacts before that. So today I did a little research on how much an eye exam (for glasses and contacts), a pair of glasses, and a set of contacts should cost me. I made an appointment and I kind of love eye exams and new glasses, so I’m pretty excited. The problem? I can’t actually see my face if I take off my glasses, which means I’m fairly useless at picking out my own glasses! My mom is even worse than I am. Last time I had to get glasses I took her and I explained I wanted a pair of brown or gold and a pair of black or silver (two pair for $99). I wound up with gold ones I can’t wear because they’re just a little too small for my face and I can see the shiny bits in my peripheral vision thus giving myself a headache, and a red pair that I have worn every day for a year and half.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dancing, Adoption and Soup

So, I guess there was some big game today? I don’t really know, all I know is Kristin and I went out for dinner after English Country Dancing (yes again!) and while the bar was PACKED, the dining room was completely empty. Whatever I had a lot of fun dancing, it’s way more fun to exercise surrounded by people laughing and having fun, not even realizing I’m exercising, than to go outside in three feet of snow to take a walk, and workout videos in my house aren’t really an option. I can’t wait until next month!
On another note, I went out with my friend Sarah on Thursday and she told me all about the birth-parents that picked her and Jeff this week! If all goes according to plan, they’ll have a tiny little one keeping her up all night by this time next month!! She is going to be a great mom! Also, I gave her some low-sodium split pea soup which she said was amazing (and which I really like to). The recipe is out of the cookbook I wrote several years ago for another friend who was getting married, and I decided to share it with you here.
Split Pea Soup

1/2 large onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, grated (or the equivalent of jarred minced garlic or dried garlic, but if it's dry add with the peas, not the onion)
1 bag baby carrots, chopped into 1/4 inch carrots
1 C smoked pork chop (you can get them at Super Target or the Fresh Market by my house), fully cooked*
2 C dried peas sorted and rinsed
8 C water
seasoning to taste (I used Ms. Dash original and Ms. Dash stead seasoning along with some pepper)

Sautee onion, garlic, and carrots until onion is soft (about five minutes). Add peas and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook until the peas are soft (about an hour) stirring as needed. Add pork chop and heat through.

*I bought my pork chop already fully cooked and just had to cut into bite size pieces. If yours isn’t', I would suggest cutting and then sautéing before you do the onions so you can cook the onion in the pork fat.

1 serving = 1 cup of soup (150 mgs of sodium, which is all I kept track of nutritionally speaking)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snow Days

So, we had a blizzard Tuesday night/Wednesday morning that resulted in two days off work for me. Can you see why?
This pic is me beside a drift of snow. I am 5' 10".

That pile is shoulder height.
I really enjoyed my snow days. I managed to
  • finish the boring book I was reading
  • bathe my cat (she has these scabs on her hindquarters and the internet suggested a warm bath with canola oil)
  • watch a documentary on the Inquisition I was dying to see
  • help shovel out my drive
  • go shopping (on the second lesss crumby snow day) and buy new pants (most of mine were like three inches to short)
  • go to the local park to take some more pics
  • finally get around to watching The March of the Penguins

Here are some of my snow day pics, hope you enjoy them.

This is the lagoon by my work, that creeping grey over the water is ice. On a lagoon that literally NEVER freezes over.

I should have taken my good camera, because those snow caves above the water are cool, but the camera I took has no zoom.
This is the church where I work. Isn't it pretty?

This is my neighborhood. There is a lot of snow!
This is the view from my front porch.