Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pancakes & Parties & Knitting Like Crazy

Well, it's been an eventful week. I thought I'd share a few key moments with you. First, I spoiled myself by whipping up some tasty pancakes on Saturday morning. My favorite, fluffy recipe (not useful when the boys are around, as they prefer thin, crepe-like pancakes) that are absolutely delicious served warm or cold with raspberry jam and sour cream. I'm actually drooling just thinking about it now!

Because I love y'all, I'll share the recipe:

Make It Happen Mama's Favorite Fluffy Pancakes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoon melted butter
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk

Directions
1. Spray a frying pan and heat it over low-medium heat
2. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, then mix in the wet ingredients until it is smooth.
3. Spoon about 1/4 cup for each pancake
4. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side
5. Serve with raspberry jam and sour cream - yum!


Saturday night was fantastically exhausting. My dear friend Anne and I have known each other since about 1990 through Highland dancing. Anne is now married with two beautiful children and is ridiculously crafty and creative. She is also a Scentsy representative and has her own custom refinished furniture & home decor store. You may have heard me mention the monthly knitting nights Anne sponsors during the school year - she decided last year she wanted to learn to knit and figured it would be more fun with friends! In keeping with her many talent, this past Saturday, Anne threw a ladies' night crafty/knitting night in celebration of her birthday the day before. I have always loved the fact that Anne is 3 months older than me; it's nice to have a friend who can charge ahead into the next year and report back on what to expect! The party was fantastically fun, and though I chose to sit and happily knit this time, next time I will definitely need to try some of the fantastic crafts my girl had prepared. My favorite was the transferring photos onto wood blocks - so cool!

I left the birthday party a wee bit early to head over to my friend Angie's CD Release Party at Sellwood Public House in SE Portland. When's the last time you had two social events on one evening? It's been at least a couple years for me. Mind-blowing for this mama, seriously. So my husband had asked me to call him back as I left the birthday party. Imagine my surprise when he announced he was in Portland, waiting at my tiny apartment, and could I swing by and pick him up on the way to the CD Release Party - wow!! What a fantastic surprise! Of course we managed to get lost (Sellwood Public House seems to be our personal Bermuda Triangle, seriously) but managed to catch the last 4 songs of Stoneface Honey's set and spend some quality time with some good friends at the party. Angie's music is so fantastic - I wish I were half the talented songwriter she is, seriously. 


Monday I attempted to get a photo of little Monkey Boy catching up on Men's Health on his way to a Highland dance lesson. Sadly, Monkey is much faster at avoiding his mama-razzi than he used to be, hence the closed eyes and semi-closed magazine! Oh well, it was cute seeing him in the rearview mirror, anyway. Monday was also momentous because this particular Highland dance lesson was Monkey's first time taking a lesson from a MAN teacher. The excitement was palpable! Monkey came away with some great tips on having strong boy jumps, manly arms, and trying his first tidbit of the Seann Triubhas - brushes. In super-slow motion and without changing feet, of course, but you gotta start somewhere!

Finally, I've been in crazy knitting mode for the past few weeks, thanks to the arrival of my newest nephew (my sister doesn't like her kids' names on the internet, but I will give you the hint that this one is named after a   body of water - an improper noun), the revival of monthly knitting nights, and the aforementioned crafty/knitting birthday party. Anywho, one of Monkey's teddies helped me out by modeling one of my new little creations for the nephew-who-will-not-be-named. Full pattern link to come later, along with more photos, but let me just say for now that I added about an inch of width and length to this little striped number - new nephew was a whopper at 9 pounds, 10 ounces! Not quite as big as Monkey was (10 pounds, 9 ounces) but I had a cesarean. My sister did a home delivery with this baby, #4, and no medication. Ouch!

I sense this hat will stretch out a little more when placed upon new nephew's head... 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's Not All Bad. Really.



Since it tends to pop up in conversations, I’m assuming most of you already know my husband and I have been living 200 miles apart for the past 17 months. If this is news to you and you are like most people I know, there are probably at least a few questions running through your head, the first of which is likely to be something about the health of my marriage. Good news: Despite what the church mothers at my mother-in-law's church think (secret divorce), we’re happily married. Celebrating 7 years next month, actually. But my job is in Portland and his job is in Tacoma. So now, assuming all of this information has not completely blown your mind and you’re still paying attention, how about this tidbit that makes most folks’ mouths drop open: this is not our first time living apart, it’s our third. In fact, in the 10 years we’ve been together, Mr. MIHM and I have spent a total of 2 years and 9 months living in separate states. Yes, I said states. The first time was 12 months with him in Washington and me in Virginia (approximately 2,700 miles distance) – I tackled my first year of grad school while he finished up his undergraduate degree; the second time was 4 months with him & Monkey in Washington and me in Texas (approximately 2,200 miles distance) – I completed my clinical internship at a children’s hospital in Dallas while he & Monday set up shop in Tacoma, where I was supposed to join them post-internship…until my husband visited me and fell in love with DFW, as I had; and now there is the (relatively) short distance of 144 miles that we take turns traversing almost every weekend. As one of my friends joked, at least we’re headed in the right direction, with the miles apart getting smaller each time. 

So guess what? Although all of my friends and families are co-habitating with their spouses (as far as I know), apparently, Mr. MIHM and I are not alone.  Apparently, there is a name for couples who are together but live apart, whether due to jobs or by choice: Living Apart Together, or LAT for short. So how does one use that knowledge in conversation? As a noun, like, “My husband and I are LAT-ers”? Or is it more verbish, as in, “My husband and I LAT due to our careers”? I’m not really sure, but it seems worth doing some casual research. Another term I’ve found for people in our situation is being in a Commuter Marriage, and more than 3.5 million couples in the US do it. My husband and I join the ranks with traveling salesmen, migrant workers, the incarcerated(!), and soldiers on deployment. 

Anyhow, I bring all this up not to impress you with my research skills or wow you with statistics (although, I’m hoping you love statistics as much as I do), but to share some of the benefits Mr. MIHM and I have found in living apart while still being together. Yes, believe it or not, despite the many obvious (and sometimes overwhelming) negatives, there are some positives to be found!

      1. When we are together, we are more likely to focus on being together

Because our time is limited, I try not to make other plans on our family weekends. When you hardly get to see your family, even running errands (finding new sneakers for Monkey, going to the dry cleaner, grocery shopping) can make for a fun afternoon. And, as my husband just relayed via text message (it's a Tuesday, after all), "Freshness. Feeling like you're dating again, at times." Indeed, we have been on many more actual dates during the past 17 months than probably the entire 5 years we lived in Texas. Makes me feel like we're going to have to try harder when we're co-habitating again!

      2. Less wife/mommy (or husband/daddy) guilt on the weekdays

When I need to work late unexpectedly or have work events in the evenings, it doesn’t affect my family in the same way it did in Texas. When one of my childhood friends hosts her monthly weekday knitting nights, I can RSVP without wondering what my boys have going on that evening. When I feel like knitting a baby hat and watching Ugly Betty DVDs until I’m ready to go to bed, I do. Yes, it’s lonely. But it’s also led to me attempting to have a social life and to indulge in things I may not have time for when we’re all living together. 

      3. More appreciation for helping out around the house

I got to spend a week with my boys in October. One day, while my husband was at work, I washed, dried & folded five loads of laundry. He was thrilled! In September, my husband spent a long weekend with me in Portland. While I was at an all-day Saturday work event, he scrubbed my bathroom & kitchen until they were sparkling. While these tasks all fall within our usual division of labors when we’re living together, it really makes you appreciate the other person when you no longer take that task being done for granted. As I brush my teeth over my currently less-than-luminous bathroom sink this evening, I will think fondly of my dear, sweet husband and his exemplary sanitation skills – and I can only hope he will feel similarly the next time he runs out of clean undies!

      4. Less dancing around the issues

Family weekends are somewhat of a microcosm of our regular family life when we all lived in the same home. We still share the joys, the sorrow, the happiness, the anger – but in shorter face-to-face chunks. For me, a people pleaser and avoider of confrontations by nature, this means that I have had to step up my communication game. It’s a lot harder to go to bed angry with your spouse when you know he has to go home the next morning. So we say what we both need to say, I cry, sometimes we yell – but is generally gets worked out within a few hours. Or at least we can agree to disagree for the moment and to try and work it out more in-depth via Skype or telephone over the next week. 

      5. Week-long foreplay

I know, I’m pretty G-rated on this blog but, hey, we’ve been together 10 years and we have a 7-year-old. Clearly, we’ve been having sex. And, although living apart limits the frequency of our rendezvous, it has also led to an increase in sexting, suggestive emails, X-rated phone calls – in other words, an increase in long-distance foreplay. The drawback? I have to be careful not to let anyone rifle through the photos on my Blackberry. The benefit? Use your imagination, dear reader, and imagine me with a big smile on my face when I say that!

So what about you? Have you ever lived apart from your spouse and/or have you ever wanted to? Do you have friends or family members who LAT due to jobs or by choice? What do you think about this living situation? Since it’s a weekday, I’ll have plenty of time to read your reply after work tomorrow ;-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm Making the Time

So I may not have this "slow down" lifestyle down pat. After a blissful 10 days up in Tacoma with my family, I arrived home late last Monday night, hurled my bags on the couch, and fell into bed. The next four days were a blur of work and errands, then a big day yesterday with Monkey Boy competing at a Highland dance competition in the morning and more errands and family time with both Daddy & Monkey in the afternoon. My boys headed back North around 9 pm last night, as Monkey is singing at his Granny's church in honor of Veteran's Day this morning. I won't say I'm not sad to see them go (as always), but having today to unpack from my last trip, do laundry, do dishes, mealplan for the week, etc. is necessary, if not the most exciting way to spend a Sunday. So I'm making this my "slow down" day - a little laundry here, a little dishwashing there, all interspersed with some email checking, book reading, paper shredding, receipt scanning, all done to the background of a self-declared Sex & the City Marathon playing on my computer. Am I the only person who still adores that show? I like it more the older I get, actually.

One of my "slow down" goals is to spend more time here, reflecting on what's going on in our little world and trying to keep myself sane and balanced. So I apologize in advance if some of my posts (like this one) are really more rambling thoughts than useful information, projects, etc. What can I say? I'm learning how to put myself first - the ultimate challenge for a working wife & mom. 

 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fine, I'll Slow Down

[Note: This was written in bed a little more than a week ago, roughly 12 hours before I made an unexpected trip to the emergency room due to unbearable pain]

Are you an overachiever? Are you a people-pleaser? Do you put everyone and everything else before your own needs? It's hard to balance life when you are a wife, a mother, and have a full-time job...and when do you find the time to just be a woman? And in the case that you figure out how to make time for yourself, how do you decide what pat of you take priority? Do you focus on your mental health needs? Do you make time for social interaction? Do you process your emotional responses to the hazards of daily life? Do you take the time to connect with your higher power? Do you care for yourself physically, as in exercise, nutritious food, *and* enough sleep? 

That's the part that's definitely being neglected for me right now - my physical needs. I feel compeltely disconnected from my physical being and my body is apparently not feeling the love. When I was younger, such blatant disregard for my own shell resulted in the really bas respiratory infections, the ones that incited asthma attacks and led to wheezing that lasted for weeks. Since turning 30, the full-body shutdown source has moved further south - directly into my digestive system. The more time and energy I put everywhere else, the more my guts revolt: cramping, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, tenderness and sore spots, as well as full-body symptoms of fever, fatigue, sore joints, and achiness from my bellybutton to my knees. Standing hurts, sitting hurts, walking hurts. The only semi-tolerable position is propped on one side, stretched out in bed, surrounded by pillows. Which is why I'm writing this on a yellow legal pad with a pallpoint pen. I'm guessing blogging while bedridden is probably much easier with a laptop than a desktop.

I wish I had some insightful, lovely way to wrap up what is really a dismal, gross post - I mean, who really wants to read about my angry guts? It's distasteful enough for me to deal with and write about and they're part of *my* body. My weekend has been spent heating water for tea, motivating myself to chug water, taking acetaminophen as often as allowed, and trying to keep myself calm and physically relaxed during too-frequent trips to the bathroom. You know your body is trying to tell you something when you can't pee without abdominal cramping. So not cool.

But I got nothing. All I know is I don't know what to do, just that I have to do something. It seems like the first step will be slowing down and trying to figure out what I can change. So, fine, I'll slow down.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's 2 am. Do You Know Where Your REM Is?

I'm either losing my mind or elevating it to some higher state of being, one in which sleep is not required. Yeah, right, I know - probably the former. What the heck is going on with my sleep cycles? I'd like to know. When I'm with my husband, I sleep like a baby. Almost too well, actually. As he told me a few weeks ago, he would prefer to spend a few of our short hours together each month with me *awake* - touche, Mr. Make It Happen...touche. Regardless, though, I seem not to be sleeping at all on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday nights. Wednesday often sees a few more hours and Thursday is practically a full night. Friday and Saturday, even when husband-less, are generally decent. Which makes me think, right now this minute, at 2:03 am (a mere 4 hours and 42 minutes before my alarm will go off), what is keeping my brain going for so many extra hours each evening? Wish I could tell ya' - heck, I wish I could tell *me*! All I know if I'll try to keep myself going until Thursday night, when I can begin to catch up again. Sigh. SIGH!

 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crockpot Apple Hot Cereal

Fall has especially begun and thank goodness for that! I am sooo ready for the apples and cinnamon and pumpkins that fill the kitchen for fall baking - yum! My wonderful dad brought me a dozen apples from his "farm" (aka the apple tree in his backyard) last week, so of course I had to whip out my slow cooker and turn these delicious pommes into a breakfast-worthy hot cereal. I give you Crockpot Apple Hot Cereal!

Crockpot Apple Hot Cereal

Ingredients
12 peeled, sliced apples
2 cups granola
1 T cinnamon 
1/4 cup honey
2 T melted butter

 



Directions
1. Spray inside of your crockpot with nonstick cooking spray
2. Put apples, granola, and cinnamon in the crockpot and mix it well
3. Stir together honey and melted butter and mix it into the apple mixture
4. Put on the crockpot lid and cook on low for 5 hours or until the apples are cooked
5. Serve plain or with a dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt on top

Refrigerate the leftovers in individual portions for super-easy weekday morning breakfasts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Full Weekend of Family Time


All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go. Although, unlike John Denver, I'll be catching a train, not a plane, this evening - at least I can thank God for *that* small favor! Regardless, I can definitely relate to the elephant of emotions currently sitting on my chest, weighing down my lungs and making it physically hard to breathe. As soon as my husband gets home from work, we're heading downtown to have an early family dinner and then they're putting me on the train to Portland. I can't even count the number of times I have left my family for work over the past 14 months, and yet it never gets any easier. I'm sure people are getting tired of me kvetching about it, though!


We had a great weekend, lots of family time. I took the evening train up from Portland on Thursday. It had been a long two weeks since I'd seen my husband or Monkey, which felt even longer after spending the whole summer with Monkey and lots of extra time with my husband, as well! Back-to-school is a little extreme at my apartment this year - everybody goes back to Tacoma. Friday I spent the morning volunteering in my husband's classroom, helping each student in turn dress up and take a "Hollywood headshot" to use in class activities throughout the year. Man, I'm going to have to ask my husband to write
about his fantastic classroom decor this year - it's pretty much the best Hollywood theme come to life ever! Friday afternoon was telecommuting back to the office in Portland.

Friday night was frantic, last-minute costume fitting & alterations (did I mention I haven't seen Monkey or his little body in 2 weeks?), all in preparation for getting up super-early on Saturday morning to drive down to the Kelso Highlander Festival (2/3 of the way to Portland, ironically) for Monkey to compete for the very first time as a Beginner - yeah! While I think it's inhumane to have to get up at 5:30 am on a Saturday for any reason, doing something cool with Monkey and my husband is at the top of the list.

Monkey did the Fling for the first time in competition (or onstage at all!) and the Sword for the third time in competition, although the first time he's managed to do it as well in competition as he does for shows and in practice - yeah! My husband and I were so proud that he got a 5th place medal in both dances, that he remembered his manners (stepping back after the sword to let the little ladies next to him walk off stage first - aaaw!), and that he didn't get a "stamp" (Beginners have to place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in a Highland dance in order to get a stamp and have to get a stamp at 6 different competitions in order to move up to the next category, Novice). It sounds strange to be grateful for no stamp, I know, but one of the reasons we have Monkey in Highland is so he can learn discipline and the value of working hard at your goals. Let's just say that his practice habits haven't quite caught up with his ambitions, at this point. We're happy for him to take as long as he needs in Beginner!

Saturday afternoon my husband and I took a much-needed nap. Monkey did not. Two of his cousins were over (granny was watching them while their parents were at work) so Monkey was busy playing. It proved to be a bit of an issue later that evening, though, when we took Monkey to the Puyallup Fair for the first time. Have I mentioned my husband is a Puyallup Fair fanatic? He's been dreaming about this moment, taking his offspring to experience this magical event with him, for *years*! Needless to say, the reality of a tired, cranky, 7-year-old Monkey Boy did not live up to the husband's expectations. Sad times for him :-( I had fun, though! Probably because I went into it with only the expectation of spending time with my husband and son. Low expectations are often the key when dealing with tired children, I find.

Sunday was lay-around-the-house-and-be-lazy day for me, although I did spend some time helping my husband with housework. I also got together a giant pile of outgrown Monkey clothes to take to our favorite Tacoma resale shop, Blooming Kids, this morning. Have I mentioned how fantastic they are? They let me bring in clothes when I'm in town and then pick up the money and clothes they can't use the next time I'm back in town. Very helpful for the mommy who commutes 200 miles to work. It was lovely to get 9 full paper bags of outgrown clothes out of Monkey's room today!

So yeah, overall a good weekend. Except now I have to go. Will this ever get easier?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mmm, Mmm, Good!


You know what I love? When you try a new recipe, not really expecting too much beyond nourishment, and it ends up being entirely, deliciously good. So good that you think, oh my goodness, how have I never made/tasted this before?!? I seriously can't wait to try this recipe on my husband and Monkey Boy the next time we're all in the same city.

So I started out at Food on the Table (sidenote: Have you tried Food on the Table for meal planning/grocery list making? It's amaaaazing! My favorite feature is it takes the budget benefits of meal planning a step further and suggests recipes based on what's currently on sale at your favorite 3 grocery stores - no more searching the sale fliers!). Found a recipe for Sour Cream Chicken & Potatoes and thought it sounded tasty. Hey, I like chicken, I like potatoes - why not give it a try? I decided to mix is up a little tonight, though, based on what I had available in the house and what sounded good. Oh, also based on the fact that I don't currently own a blender or a potato masher. Sad, yes? Que sera, though - here's the recipe:

Emily's Sour Cream Chicken & Potatoes

Ingredients
4 large white potatoes
1 cup fresh or frozen spinach
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 T butter
1/2 cup frozen diced onions
1 clove garlic, diced
4 chicken breasts
1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes w/garlic & olive oil, undrained

You will also need a large pot, a large bowl, a casserole dish, a potato-peeler, a paring knife, a can opener, and a few spoons.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2. Peel potatoes, put in the large pot with enough water to cover, add spinach, and bring to a boil. Cook until tender.

3. In the large bowl, combine Parmesan cheese and sour cream. Blend with a spoon.

4. Drain potatoes & spinach, mix into Parmesan cheese & sour cream. Mash potatoes until fairly smooth with the side of the spoon (um...feel free to use your potato masher, if you have one...just be sure to mash before adding to the cheese/sour cream mix or you'll have a big mess!)

5. In the large pot (which will now smell yummy like potatoes & spinach) saute the onions and garlic in butter. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Add the can of tomatoes and simmer until everything is all hot and bubbly and delicious.

6. Pour the chicken mixture into the casserole dish. Top with the potato mixture. Pop in the preheated oven.

7. Cook in 15 minute increments until the top is bubbly and slightly browned around the edges - you basically want to make sure that the chicken is fully cooked and the cheese is all bubbly. Mmmm...warm cheeeese...anyhow, I let mine cook for 30 minutes.

8. Carefully remove the casserole from the oven (sidenote: I also don't have any oven mitts, at the moment. I never seem to remember this until it's time to remove something from the oven...sigh...) and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

9. Serve. Eat. Burp. Pack up any leftovers for tomorrow. Yum!


This recipe serves a family of 4 for one dinner or, if you live alone on weekdays, like me, a family of 1 for one dinner, as well as 1 container of leftovers for tomorrow's lunch and 2 containers of leftovers to pull out of the freezer when the next cravings hit. Did I mention yum?

Hope you like this recipe as much as I did!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Can't Hold My Own Hand

I just read an absolutely lovely story about a couple that has been married for 50 years. Seems like a long time, doesn't it? I've been caught up in the "10 year-ness" recently - hard to believe that my dear husband and I will have known each other for 10 years this November, and married for 7 in December. Even though we drive each other nuts sometimes, we both know that we balance each other out and bring out the best in each other. You know, when we want to. We're also getting to the point, though, where we're both realizing that living apart for work this year is a lot harder than the last two times we did it. Of course, this is also the longest stretch. It's not so much making time to talk or text or Skype, although those things can be difficult, especially during the school year. The things we miss are really the little things. I love driving around aimlessly at night with my husband behind the wheel, talking about everything and nothing and my feet up on the dashboard and the windows down and just being, really being, just us. No distractions. We are a high consumption couple when it comes to fossil fuels, I'm afraid. We're 13 months in to a 24 month committment. How this journey will progress, I have no idea, but I'm hoping that I have my partner back with me again soon. Who knows, maybe an opportunity will pop up for us before next summer. I just have to keep reminding myself - God's will, not mine.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dress Blue Thompson - Check!

Well, aren't we out of sorts this evening. Monkey enjoyed a record two hours of playtime on the Nick Jr. website, which was then followed by a massive, emotional, tear-stained expulsion of emotion. Why is life so hard all the time...I'm not good at anything...I want to play compuuuuuteeeeer...and so on and so forth. Daddy headed back to Tacoma yesterday and Monkey spent the night at his grandma's last night, so this is our first evening at home without Daddy again. I can't say that I don't miss him, as well. Hopefully, I'm coping outwardly a little more gracefully, though. Maybe.

In other news, I'm happy to report that I have completed the new Monkey kilt. It does need to be dry-cleaned & pressed before it is ready to go, but I'm feeling
pretty good, considering Monkey won't need it until September 8. Here it is, in my totally classy style of staging:


Not very impressive just laying there, is it? I also managed to wrassle Monkey into it for a few test shots. It doesn't look quite right in these shots, of course, since the pleats are basted in preparation for being dry cleaned & pressed.


As you can see, we're still living among some boxes in the new apartment. Nice, yes?


Note that the shirt & vest he is wearing are waaay too small, like absolutely skin-tight. Like a tiny Scottish stripper, really. So inappropriate! Good thing I tried them on him and good thing I have a month left to shop for replacement costume pieces!

Finally, I'm going to toot my own horn and say it's noon on Sunday and I have finished my meal plan for the week and am ready to go grocery shopping and get ingredients sorted for feeding me & Monkey this week. Maybe I will even go crazy and get a few more boxes unpacked - woohoo! Yeah, probably not, especially considering how hot it is in Portland today. Add air conditioning to the list of things I really miss about Texas :-/

Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's So Much Better With Three

My husband and I had a plan on Saturday: take Monkey Boy to dance class, after which we would proceed to keep him busy and (hopefully) amused for as much as the afternoon as possible. On Friday evening, my husband announced that Monkey got to pick what we were going to do Saturday afternoon and asked for his preference. Monkey decided he would give us options (such a sweet boy!) and listed McDonald's, Redbox, and Old Chicago Pizza as his top 3 choices of things to do on Saturday. Two eateries and a movie - yes, perhaps we need to keep working on expanding Monkey's horizons. McDonald's is a NO from me 90% of the time, Redbox he & I have done a couple times this summer (plus one important part of the plan was to keep Monkey out of the house!), so Old Chicago Pizza won by default. Very scientific, no?

First up was dance class, though. While Miss Hilary put Monkey through his paces (I'm happy to report he has entirely remembered his whole Sword and is hard at working learning the first step of the Fling!), my husband and I headed for the nearby Edelwiss Sausage & Delicatessen, or "the German shop", as my mother referred to it when we were growing up, which has been a Portland landmark nearly as long as I've been alive (they opened their doors in 1982, when I was barely a year old).


Though he's heard about it for years and enjoyed their sausages on multiple occasions at my dad's house, this was my husband's first visit to the hallowed aisles of Bavarian yumminess. We picked up a few fresh pastries to take home, a process that involved m
y husband asking many questions and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the heavily accented answers from the dear German woman assisting us. I was not at all surprised that, by the end, she was cooing over him like he was her own darling son! Once the pastries were packed up, I led him over to the lunch counter, where I ordered a turkey & havarti sandwich and my husband got a bratwurst on a fresh roll - yum! Did I mention that, technically, this was our breakfast? Sometimes it's good to get all continental on a Saturday morning, I think. I remembered to ask for no butter on my sandwich and my husband did the same with his brat's roll. The woman seemed startled by the request, but politely complied. If my dad needs only one big sign that his daughters have acclimatized to American culture, I think that would be it - no butter on my turkey sandwich, thankyouverymuch!

After picking up a slightly stinky Monkey Boy (Highland really makes you sweat) we headed over to the Scottish Country Shop, where a fellow dance boy-mom had told
me she'd taken her son to try on various sizes of Balmoral hats. Can I just say, after 20+ years of being first a Highland dancer, then a Highland teacher, and now also a Highland mother, I literally have no idea where to start with outfitting a 7-year-old boy for competition? The male dress code is sooo much harder to figure out! Case in point: I assumed that the clerk at the Scottish Country Shop would know exactly what we needed when we arrived, Monkey in tow, and explained he was a competitive Highland dancer who had just aged out of Primary and was now a Beginner - wrong! Good thing I had taken a moment to look up the name of the hat style (Balmoral) before we left the house that morning, or we would have been completely out of luck. As it was, she left us on our own to figure out sizing, color, etc. My husband and I managed to find a hat that was just barely too big (several ladies in the know have advised me to purchase a hat with a finger's-space between the brim & Monkey's head, then take a stitch in the back so it will fit now, but also fit longer as he grows - brilliant!) but got stuck when it came to checked or plain. See?



...and assuming we can figure that out, then there will be the matter of the crest. What crest, exactly, is appropriate to display on the hat of a small boy who is Swiss/English/Irish/Welsh on his mother's side and African/Creole/Native American on his father's side, for the purposes of competing in Scottish Highland dancing? Does the United Nations have a crest, perchance?

For the time being, as he has at least a few years as a Pre-Premier dancer in his future, we've given him the choice of wearing a hat or not and, while Monkey enjoyed trying on the Balmorals and prancing in front of the mirrors, he has decided to go hatless for now. Phew!

Finally, it was time for the main event (in Monkey's mind, anyway) of the afternoon: Old Chicago Pizza on Stark Street, a mere stone's throw away from Mall 205 and my teeny little apartment, as well. Apparently, Monkey had heard about this place from one of the other boys in his theater camp last week and was eager to try it. My husband and I were pleasantly surprised to learn, as we were seated, that Happy Hour was mere moments away. At 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon, the bar looked like it was buzzing, but the restaurant itself was nearly empty, except for several friendly servers, a few other patrons, and several television screens showing live Olympics coverage. It was awesome.


My husband thought it was strange I took a picture of the Happy Hour menu, but I figured it would be good to keep on file for those evenings Monkey Boy & I really need to get out of the house. For less than $20 before tip yesterday, we were able to get a massive plate of nachos & a lemonade for my husband, a personal pizza & a lemonade for Monkey, and a frozen strawberry margarita & artichoke dip for me. Granted, the margarita tasted virgin (which is fine at 3 pm, honestly), but the artichoke dip was hot and delicious and came not only with toasted bread, but also with crudites for my dipping pleasure. Who knew carrot sticks and articho
ke dip tasted so good together?!?

The day came to a perfect end when, after running errands that evening, we came to a halt at a stoplight behind this car:


The "BAGPIPES: putting the fun back in funeral" bumpersticker was perfectly accented by the ubiquitous "Keep Portland Weird!" down below, don't you think? It certainly was a nice place to spend a relaxed Saturday with my boys.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Perhaps the Beef will Heal Me

I've managed to make something fairly tasty in my slow cooker today, despite feeling half-asleep, disoriented, and generally just plain still sick today. My electric wife happily accepted a small beef roast (about 1 lb), a large can of cream of chicken soup, a packet of onion soup mix, and liberal amounts of frozen spinach and onions. Cooked for about 7 hours on low, then let it simmer on "keep warm" while I took Monkey to his Highland class this evening, et voila! Tasty, tender beef, the delicious scent of which drifted out the door to meet us when we returned home. Monkey is refusing to eat it, so I'm currently boiling water for macaroni and cheese, as well. Sick mommy is permissive mommy, I've learned over the years. I just don't have the energy to argue the merits of protein over carbs. Sigh. Oh well, I figure my beef will be even more delicious with a side of Spongebob mac & cheese, no?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Raise Your Hand If You Can't Sleep

After a good...what has it been, 6 weeks? Seven? I have finally succumbed to another nasty respiratory infection. Ugh. Or, as my husband said, "When exactly are you going to get your septum un-deviated?" Okay, yes, my doctor did recommend it a couple years ago. So sue me, I've been busy doing things like moving across the country, working full time, and commuting 200 miles every other week to see my family. Yes, I'm bitter. And cranky. And craving sugar and lots of hugs, which seems to be how my body tries to keep me sick and spread the germs to everyone around me, as well. Well, that and incorporating the dreaded chesty asthma cough that only seems to happen when I lay down and try to sleep. Aargh.
What do you do when you can't sleep? I texted with my husband tonight until he fell asleep. Or maybe lost interest. Hard to tell when you live apart, so I'm just going to assume it's the first reason. I worked on the kiltie I'm trying to put together for Monkey Boy. By worked on, I mean pressed the pleats (which have been pressed and tacked, but not yet cut) and cut the material for the lining. Monkey chose bright red broadcloth for the lining. Raise your hand if you're not surprised. Anyhow, I made sure not to actually sew anything this evening. I realized a couple months ago, during a spell of insomnia, that can't-sleep-sewing rarely leads to anything good...like spending an hour the next day ripping out stitches, for example. Sigh.
The red lining looks pretty awesome with the Dress Blue Thompson tartan, though, don't you think?
...too bad the only people who will see it will most likely be me & Monkey as he's getting dressed to compete, huh? Oh well. See how that picture is sitting sideways up there? Totally tried to turn it. Gave up. Tired. Ha! If this kiltie turns out even halfway decent, I will be very pleased. It's actually an upcycle project - the wool came from a long, pleated skirt donated to a family friend of one of our dancers in Dallas.
I'm also watching trashy television on YouTube. Thank goodness Comcast got me connected before I came down with this respiratory nastiness! Trashy choices of the evening include Real Housewives (any city, not picky), Little Miss Perfect, and Dance Moms. Oh yeah, I am digging my drama tonight :-)
So how about you? What do you do when you can't sleep?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Recipe Run - Hoisin Chicken & Broccoli

I'm getting back into the swing of things with meal planning and freeze-ahead cooking and figured it would be nice to try out some new recipes - giving 'em a trial run, so to speak. So Friday night, I made Hoisin Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry for Monkey Boy, one of my favorite gal-friends, and myself. I'm also trying out www.foodonthetable.com, which touts "Easy weekly recipe and grocery lists based on sales at your store. Start meal planning today using easy, kid friendly, recipes and live stress free." Since I've only used it for a week, it's too soon for a review of the site, but I will say I think we have potential working together. I especially like how the site makes a shopping list for you, based on sales at your local grocery stores and your chosen recipes for the week. Here is the Hoisin Chicken & Broccoli recipe that foodonthetable printed out for me:


I did make a few changes (surprise, right?). I used chicken stock instead of broth, as that's what I had on hand. My local Safeway didn't have hoisin sauce, so instead I picked out Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste & Glaze with Honey & Pineapple. Sounds good, doesn't it? I used broccoli florets, but will confess we used frozen, 'cause that's how we roll in this teeny apartment. I also added water chestnuts because I *love* them! Never bad to have a little extra crunch, too, I think. I cooked it all up as directed and served it over freshly cooked jasmine rice. Yum!



See? Even the leftovers look yummy! In fact, I may go eat some now for breakfast. 9ish am isn't too early for dinner, right? ;-)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let's Get This Desk Together!

Yes, finally! We are back online at home again! It feels like years since I've been able to just sit down at my own beloved computer and visit with you all, even though I know it's only been 6 weeks. Much has happened since last we've seen each other, but I don't want to bore you with details of the past. Let me just say that I had a fantastic time in Dallas, I'm loving having my son down in Portland with me, and overall things are going well. My teeny-tiny apartment is feeling lovely, even though I am still sadly living out of boxes & climbing over things due to not fully having moved in yet. It's a process, though, right?

This is definitely the quintessential Portland apartment, I think. The closets vary in size from teeny and almost hidden to walk-in with writing on the walls and shelves that curve around heating pipes. The back wall of the bedroom closet has
visible siding underneath the plaster, as the bedroom itself is an addition to the most original part of the house (built circa 1920). For the same reason, there is a one-of-a-kind step from the living room into the bedroom, as well as a step down into the shower, which boasts a curved, tiled floor and a wonderfully high ceiling. All the doorways are different sizes, slightly different heights, and not necessarily plumb with the ceiling. To me, it's like living in a dollhouse - I love it!

There are definitely challenges to living in such a teeny, oddly-shaped home, however. Today's challenge is going to be figuring out how the heck I'm going t
o organize and make the most of the fantastic built-in open shelving/desk that is going to become my little office space. Things right now are pretty much just shoved in wherever they fit, which is definitely not the way to make a functional office! Or any other space, actually.

So here's where we are now:

I've had a little lunch, I've turned on some Housewives on the net (LOVE being back online!) and am going to start at the bottom, going through the contents of both file cabinets (4 drawers in all) and *hopefully* figuring out how to weed enough things out that one of the file cabinets can go out in Freecycle this week. Keep your fingers crossed for me!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mine

I had a moment of pure, unadulterated joy as I left my office yesterday evening. A bout of early morning wakefulness (so unexpected and irritating, at the time) led to me arriving in my office at 6:15 - a wee bit earlier than I generally arrive, I'll admit. Amazingly, I had no trouble staying awake all morning and was actually quite productive. On my lunch break, I discovered a very interesting book in the communal bookshelf in the coffee shop upstairs and spent close to the entire hour lost in a gripping storyline. So, overall, not a bad day, but at 5:05, when I walked out those big double doors and breathed in the fresh Portland air, I was sooo happy. Why?

In my purse, I had a shopping list and my debit card. Waiting for me, after a luxurious stroll through Safeway? A kitchen. Large? No. Tricked out? Not really. Mine? All mine? Yes.

Mine.

All mine.

:-)

They weren't fancy recipes, the 3 that I chose to make last night, just a few of the freezer recipes I used to make so often for our little family in Texas. Normally double batches (although when divvied up for feed just me, they ended up being quadruple batches), made to feed us after busy days at work and school. But last night, it was more than that. It was chopping and stirring and seasoning and simmering and knowing that the combination of a prescribed set of ingredients, prepared and combined in a prescribed method, will almost always result in the same resulting dish. It was feeling the simple joy of doing something I used to take for granted and haven't done in so long.

It was home.

It was love.

It was, for the first time in many months, me feeling like myself, despite my location, my job, or being away from my boys.

Mine.

All mine.

:-)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Operation Closet Begins!

Okay, I gotta say: I'm pretty darn proud of my moving efforts today. Well, this past weekend, too. I headed out to our little storage space all by myself and dug out the kitchen boxes, sorted out the necessary from the extra, and loaded up my car with the former all by myself. I had forgotten my iPod in Portland, too, so it was a very quiet endeavor. Then, even though I spent an extra night in Tacoma, I managed to wake up on time and leave bright and early this morning to head back to Portland. Traffic was decent and I made it to the apartment a full hour before I needed to be at work - meaning I had time to unpack the entire car full of boxes, yes! Then work was going so well this afternoon that I put in an extra 2 hours, arriving at home just in time for dinner a la Dad (there are crazy-awesome benefits to having a former chef as a father!) and then putting in another hour to moving, going through a large chunk of my closet and loading up a duffel bag and a garment bag with "keeps" - did I mention that I then put those in my car so that they're ready to be unloaded when I swing by the apartment tomorrow during my lunch break to work on painting the dressers? And yes, now I am watching Real Housewives on YouTube and blogging and browsing Pinterest but, hey, I have to settle down for bed somehow, right? Keeping fingers crossed tomorrow will be another successful step toward the end of the move-across-town-that-never-ends!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Measure Me in Moves

When semi-strangers find out how much we have moved over the course of our adult lives, the first question is generally, "Is your husband military?" Nope. Even once I explain that my chosen field of work is fairly specialized and not offered at many universities, there is still that look of consternation that can't easily be explained away, other than to shrug, laugh, and close the topic with something along the lines of, "Yeah, we both come from pretty nomadic families and seem to have inherited the wandering spirit."

It's true, actually. My husband's parents were born in rural Louisiana and lived, by way of my father-in-law's military career, in many different homes (including a stint in Germany) before settling in the Tacoma area when he retired while posted at Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis-McCord). Pretty far to travel when you both grew up as poor black kids in the country pre-Civil Rights era. A couple generations before them, my husband's ancestors were slaves. We haven't been able to trace his lineage past his grandparents as far as given names go, and documentation is scarce. Even my father-in-law didn't have a birth certificate; we think he was about 70 when he died but, since he picked his own birthday, that may be off by a few years.

My dad is from Zurich, Switzerland. His parents both came from large, farming families, but moved to the city to find work as young adults. Even now, 30 years after leaving home, my friends describe my dad as sounding "like he just fell off the boat from Switzerland!" So funny when they ooh & aah over his accent except, you know - Switzerland is a land-locked country. After completing trade school, my dad moved to Toronto for a job, where he met my mom. She grew up in Saskatoon, but her father was an English immigrant and her mother a first-generation Canadian who was raised in a boxcar. We've been able to trace back several generations, enough to know that my grandfather's father died in World War I, there is a strong streak of Irish on my grandmother's side, and I am without question the tallest woman ever in my family at 5'9" - most of my female ancestors hovered around the five foot mark.

So perhaps wandering & moving is in my blood, but it's still a pain in the ass. Every time we move, I swear we'll never do it again. Even now, as I pack boxes, yet again, I know that this is merely a resting point, not a final destination. You know, unless all three of us want to squeeze into a teeny one bedroom apartment at some point in our lives. It's part of my personal history, I suppose: college dorm shared room to college dorm private room to junior year off campus house to senior year off campus house, all in Washington; third story apartment, basement apartment across from Mormon missionaries, townhouse, rent house, all in Virginia; crappy apartment, third story apartment, run-down apartment, nice apartment, all in Texas; my parents' guest room, my new teeny apartment (with my boys at my mother-in-law's), and then...? 14 moves in 13 years - ugh! And yet, the memories created in each of those homes? Irreplaceable, indescribable, beautiful. So I'll keep packing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

In Transition, Yet Again

After what seems like many more months of waiting for the apartment to be ready for me to move into, enough construction has been completed that we were able to move my couch and other big pieces of furniture in today, before the doorway between the office and the apartment is walled up. Now don't get overly impressed when I say big furniture - that consisted of a couple dressers, my bedside tables, and a rolling-deskie-thing I purchased at a garage sale last summer for $10 that will be my microwave & other small appliances holder at the new place. I'm still loving the fact that it's on wheels, especially since my new little kitchen is, well, little.

The team was assembled by 8:15 this morning - me, my husband, my dad, my intern, and two handsome fellas from her ward. Have I mentioned that having a twenty-something, single intern definitely makes me feel like a thirty-something, old married gal? Ha! Good thing she shares my affinity for cupcakes. The U-Haul truck was loaded up by 9 am and we headed over to the new place. Nothing like driving a big ol' truck over the Marquam Bridge at a mere 50 mph with a stupendous view of downtown Portland in gorgeous sunny weather! Can you believe it's nearly 90 degrees in Stumptown today, after weeks and weeks of yucky clouds and rain? Thank goodness Spring seems finally to have sprung!

So after unloading the truck & bidding our new LDS friends farewell (they had to head home and get showered for church at 1:00), my dad & husband headed over to my mom's house to pick up the table she has been putting off taking to Goodwill. Don't let the intended fate of this table fool you - it is *gorgeous*! Seriously, though, if my mom says the words "table pad" to me one more time, I may fly off the handle. This table has lasted nearly twenty years in your house, but suddenly it needs to be protected in my apartment? Picture me rolling my eyes...

While they were gone, I got busy hanging curtains and installing the lamp in my unwired bedroom. The ruffly shower curtain and clear liner went on without much issue, but halfway into the kitchen curtains I realized the power drill/screwdriver wasn't fully charged, so they will remain partially-installed for the next few days. I was happy to see that my pink & white fleur curtains looked right at home over my wide bedroom windows, though, even if they're not yet earthquake-proof. My husband oohed and aahed over the office closet curtains and the living room window curtain, this being the first time he'd seen them. I'm so excited to get everything installed and unpacked and to feel settled in my own place - it has been a *long* year of feeling like we're always squatting in someone else's home.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gotta Motivate Myself


I'm going to do some serious packing this evening. Really. I am. After a long, bananas day at work, I pretty much just want to curl up and go to sleep. But I also want to be done with the business of moving (which you may recall was supposed to happen in early April) and, honestly, if the place were ready tomorrow, I definitely would not be ready to move. Sigh. I'll be honest, this year is starting to feel like it's kicking my butt. I'm not feeling awesome about my performance at work, at home, with friends, with family, anywhere. I'm not working out enough, I'm not sleeping enough, I'm not spending enough time focusing on a healthy diet...double sigh. Where do I start? Step one appears to be packing. The sooner I'm packed up here, the sooner I can settle in the new place and start to try and make it feel like home. All the curtains are done, so the sewing machine, fabric stash, and patterns are going to get boxed up tonight, not to be seen again until they are firmly in my new home. Wish me luck!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Loves on Fire

Today is one of those days where I simultaneously have a thousand things and nothing to say. Deep, I know. I'm sitting here in my mother-in-law's family rooming, watching my darling husband and my precious son watch American Idol and thinking about how lucky I felt to attend the 1st grade music performance & open house at my son's school tonight. Last year, I would have taken such an evening with my family for granted. This year, I feel lucky just to be in the same state with them. I feel thankful to touch my sweet baby's chubby cheeks, to hug him tight and kiss him (you know, when he lets me). I feel safe to reach out my arm at night and feel my husband sleeping next to me. I don't even mind when either one of them wakes me up early or lets a smelly fart or inhales 3 bowls of spaghetti, leaving just a bit for me. Did I mention how much I love cooking for them? Love it :-)

So I'm just sitting here, uploading the videos I took at the performance and feeling blessed. Blessed beyond the garbage that flies at us. Those are the distractions, this is the purpose, this is the point, this is my family, this is my love.

These are my loves

I am on fire for them