Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tiny Pumpkins- In the Fall- Make Me Happy- It's Fall Y'all!

I splurged today on some of these guys. They are called pumpkin trees. I saw them for the first time at Whole Foods Market in October right after we first moved to St. Louis. Every October they turn back up (And somehow I end up making one of maybe two annual trips to Whole Foods Market during this time. Well, that's curious!) and every October I remind myself that $10 is a lot for flowers; especially because I want to arrange them with other flowers. Last night I was at the Shnucks with the really good floral department. I love this Shnucks because it has Shnucks' prices with better than Shnucks' flowers. I am not sure how that is, but anyway, they had some nice "autumn arrangements." Usually I would say that grocery store prearranged flowers are among the most gaud awful tacky things known to man. I have a friend, bless her heart, who gets these arrangements and puts them directly into vases- no trimming stems or rearranging, just right into water with one stem of about seven tacky yellow mums, a giant smooshed pink carnation, one of those hideous fern thingys they usually put with roses, and a couple of stems of purple alstroemeria. Anyway, these were not like that. There were at least two stems of each variety of mum. And mums are fall flowers and are therefore tolerable in autumn. There was a nice rusty red variety, a yellow, and a nice almost on the pink side dark red. Also, there were carnations. As the white carnation is the Chi Omega flower, I find them somewhat acceptable despite ugliness and vivid memories of green dip dyed carnations being sold for a dollar a stem on game days in elementary school. Anyway, there were several stems of these as well so we were already heading toward a nice variety. There were also some of those pretty stalky things with the teeniny yellow flowers on them. I have no idea how to describe them besides that- um, they look somewhat like goldenrod. Anyway, kind of a fun harvest hue to the bunch and only $6 so I decided I needed some harvest decor. But when I got it home and put it in the vase, it just kept screaming "Sparse!" and "Cheap!" at me. And I kept thinking of pumpkin trees at Whole Foods.

Also I had seen Rachel Ray on TV yesterday morning. Now that Harry is gone I have nothing to do while folding laundry and Rachel Ray was what was on yesterday. Incidentally, could daytime TV be any more boring?! But Rachel Ray had sunflowers and red roses on her set. And I would never have thought to put those two together, but they looked really nice. I think the autumnal bouquet was actually meant to be sort of a consolation prize because I remember now that I priced sunflowers and roses at Shunucks. Sunflowers were $8 and roses were $15. Put it together and whoa, $23!

So anyway, because of the failure of the prearranged grocery store bouquet I went to Whole Foods today and I bought the pumpkin trees! I was delighted and excited and got compliments from everyone else in line. But the whole sunflower roses thing was really getting to me. And I had already thrown caution to the wind so I swung by Trader Joes' and found roses (all different colors of orange, red, and yellow- so pretty!) for $7 and sunflowers for $3. So in the end, I probably just should've gotten no harvest bouquet and no pumpkin trees and just the sunflowers and roses. But I have to say that I made two overwhelmingly huge arrangements that are now screaming "Adorable!" and even more importantly, "Happy Fall Y'all!" from my kitchen table and living room shelf. I do things like this, crazy things where I have been worried sick about money and then nickel and dime it away on flowers. I can't say it was the wisest decision, but I am so delighted anyway. I do plan to share. I hope I can run one of the arrangements over to Steve and Jen tomorrow. They haven't posted about Amelia in a while and I would love to see how she is doing. I will pass on what I learn to y'all.

Anyway, I was telling George that I should have a flower buddy, someone who wants to go in with me to buy all the different bunches and then we can arrange them ourselves. Because I spent way less on two arrangements than I would at a florist, and they look tons better than they do coming from the grocery store. If you're interested, let me know. But bear in mind, I do have somewhat expensive tastes. In the end though, how often do I really buy flowers? It probably adds up to very little over the course of time. Well, I can tell myself that if it makes me feel a little less guilty, right?

So what are pumpkin trees anyway? This is what George and I were discussing at dinner. They grow on stems and the stems have thorns like a rose's. The pumpkins themselves are glossy like peppers, but are shaped like very small pumpkins, though the leaves on top of the pumpkins look more like the leaves on top of tomatoes. I remember how sharp and thorny feeling pumpkin stems can be, but I just wasn't satisfied that these really are related to pumpkins. George decided they must be a rose and pepper hybrid. Well, we were both wrong. They are a member of the eggplant family. One site says it, Solanum integrifolium, starts out as a star shaped white flower and then becomes little pumpkins after pollination. It says it is called "Turkish Orange" in the Middle East and "Hmong Eggplant" in Asia (so if you're ever shopping there, you'll know what to ask for). Whatever, they are super cute!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Homesick for Hogwarts

Wow, my 300th post!

Well, I finished listening to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (the sixth one) at 12am on Friday. By 8:15am I had tracked myself down a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the seventh and last one) to read (Harry and I had to come to a new understanding when the library still has me at 262 on the hold list for the CDs), and by 10:15 I had picked it up and was already reading while sitting at red lights on the way to a playdate. I finally went to bed at 4:00 this morning, 500 some odd pages behind me and 200 or so more to go. I didn't sleep well and woke up ready to dive right back in. Sometime around ten or eleven o'clock this morning I picked it back up and by 2:30 this afternoon I was finished. And now I am so sad. I know I am most definitely tired. But I feel so lonely. This past month or so, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have been like close friends, and now I know I will never hear from them again. It's so sad! And it makes me more acutely aware that I need real friends. Fictional characters are all well and good, but eventually the story has all been told. George and I had a similar feeling of loss after we finished watching the series finale of Northern Exposure. But this is much much worse. It will be nice to have the movies to look forward to, I suppose. And I'm sure there is always some other gang I could join via the small screen or the printed page. But to have real live friends who know you through and through and stick with you no matter what, that would be really cool. A lot more realistic if we ate, slept, and spent every waking hour with our friends, but still, very cool.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Holiday Hullabaloo

I feel that I miss the "spirit of holidays" more and more every year as our crazy retail world moves them up and up. Why do we get New Year's magazines before Christmas and Christmas issues before Thanksgiving, or even Halloween? I have looked high and low for Halloween costumes this week, two weeks before Halloween, and there is nothing left! What I've found instead is a lot of sparsely stocked half price racks shoved in the corners behind prominent displays of mittens and scarves, snowmen and Santa. Santa? Yep. He's here early, folks. I don't believe Christmas stuff is out already! Well, it's not all the way out. But it will be as soon as Halloween is over. Thanksgiving totally gets the shaft. We have thought of sending out Thanksgiving cards in past years, instead of Christmas cards, just to take some of the hectic out of Christmas and to sort of mark Thanksgiving with more than a Turkey dinner. Well, maybe this year.

Anyway, first things first, what to do about Halloween? Maybe this is just so me because I am always late. What is the right time frame though? I have this problem with buying clothes for the kids. In July I think, "fall clothes are not really out yet and we won't need them for months, and the kids will probably grow in the next three months." August rolls around and I realize I missed peek time on Ebay and now everything is selling for pretty near what retail is selling for. So I am buying clothes in September when costumes come out and by the time I am ready to buy costumes in October, they are sold out! So I'm guessing I had better buy Christmas cards next Tuesday! Well, anyway, does anyone have a costume August could borrow? He wants to be a dragon or alligator or crocodile or dinosaur- basically, a large reptile. The one we saw at Target is cute but after going to two different ones the biggest I found is a 3T. The one at Pottery Barn Kids is adorable, but heaven help the mother who pays $60 a piece on Halloween costumes! I was grimacing at a $20 price tag! Fortunately, I am not tempted to go crazy with money I don't have just to make my son happy as they are out of his size anyway. Anyway, borrowing is free; anybody out there who can help me? Oh, and nothing scary; he's a pretty timid child.

As for the girls.... Ugh, yeah, I haven't even started that. I bought fabric for Elspeth and look at me go. I really am going to do it. But I haven't started and I am kind of dreading it. I always dread a new pattern. As much as I love when I have made something for my children to wear, in the end, I don't really enjoy the making itself. That is what I have decided. Kind of sad but there you go. I haven't ever made a costume before. The results could be atrocious. Well, I'll let you know. As for Amabel, asking August what he wants to be has actually proved to be a mistake now that I can't find it. So I am not sure I want to ask Amabel. Maybe I will just encourage her in a direction that I know will work. I kind of thought I would just find her a costume wherever I found August's. But even in places I have looked for August there hasn't been anything for Amabel either. I'm sure we'll think of something. And I will definitely have to remember this for next year! Last year they got costumes for their birthdays (so really early) and the year before that George and I lucked out with matching costumes for them on super sale the day before Halloween. But I guess there will be no such luck this year. Let me know if you have any leads.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fall Break or Breakdown

I have heard that baby Lucy has improved much over the last day- thanks to everyone who prayed, and please continue to do so. Thanks also to everyone wishing me to feel better. I have never felt such a need for a vacation as I do now. Fall Break is next weekend. It seems years away. We are waffling between going to New York and Chicago. George's aunt is in Chicago. My sister is in New York. And no, we can't afford either trip, but I am losing my mind (really, you have no idea), and need to get out of here. So happy birthday and merry Christmas to me; I'm leaving on a jet plane and don't know if I'll be back again! Here's the deal:

We have George's mom watching the kids for two different three day weekends coming up. One is next weekend and one is in early November. I had originally planned to go to New York in mid November with my best friend, Jennie, to celebrate our 30th birthdays. George was going to come with me the weekend before and then I was going to stay the week and wait for Jennie the next weekend. This would involve relying on lots of favors for people to keep Amabel and August during the week; but we hadn't even gotten to that when my sister's husband started interviewing for jobs and it started looking like we couldn't really count on them still living there come November. We decided to wait and just make last minute plans if they were still going to be there. This doesn't work so well with the idea of me staying a whole week and setting up childcare. It also is problematic to gamble away the October weekend to bank on them not trying to move by November. But the reason the November weekend is better is because Jennie cannot go in October. Jennie is very understanding that I just need to go when I can and that it would totally stink not to get to visit my sister before she moves. But the other problem is that the other weekend was to be for a trip to Chicago to stay with George's aunt. She says the best weekend for her is the October weekend. So it looks like the October weekend is the best Chicago weekend and the November weekend is the best New York weekend, except who knows if my sister will still be there.

I just have to talk these things out, you see. What should I do in Chicago? I have never been. What should I do in New York? Elspeth will be on both trips, but our family members in both locales will be pretty helpful with sitting. And with that statement, I realize, we definitely need to do Chicago in October and New York in November. I have been to New York once before. I am really not interested in statues or monuments. So what should I do? George and I will be together in both places I hope, and then Jennie and I (and Sara if we can convince her, but I haven't heard from her in a while...) will be two (three?) girls on the loose in NYC. Just writing that makes me think I might really can face the rest of the day!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sick and Sorrowing

Not me. Though I am sitting here with a major headache, stomach ache, and pretty strong fatigue. It is weird. I have no idea why I feel like this or why I have been so tired lately. George said I should stay home and rest yesterday morning, but the kids saw to it that I was wide awake before everyone left for church, and at that point it was too late to get up and try to be at church on time (or more than missed the sermon late). I spent the day (well past wehn everyone came home from church) sort of slopping around in my pajamas, smocking, listening to Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix and feeling really blue. So far today is going about the same except that I finished my book and my dress so I will just probably be listening to a different tale of Harry Potter and smocking in a different color. It's sort of circular isn't it? If you don't feel good enough to do anything then you end up not doing anything which makes you feel bad. Or I'm that way. Anyway, I think my body is fighting illness of some sort. The kids don't feel very good either. Amabel took something like a four hour nap yesterday. She is also having trouble hearing so I think she must have a lot of fluid in her ears either from an ear infection or a head cold.

Meanwhile, I have a friend whose newborn baby is in the hospital in a situation that feels like an episode of House. They are running tests and trying to keep this little three week old stable while they try to figure out what in the world could be wrong. It has been going on for a week. My friend and her husband are praying and asking for others' prayers as well. If you feel so inclined, the baby's name is Lucy.

I have another friend whose mom is very ill. I am not authorized to share beyond that. But please pray for my friend and for her mom to be healed.

And of course, there is Amelia who we hope will quit having surgeries and all the other setbacks and just begin to improve, improve, improve. There is just no way of knowing how much she will improve. I think I have been discouraged after seeing her a few weeks ago. Even though I know what her condition is like, until I saw it, it seemed a tiny little obstacle. After hearing my friend Annie talk about autism this weekend (great job, Annie!) and touch on some of the marvelous things our brains do without us even knowing, it is frightening to think about all the things that may not mend. But we also don't know much about the brain at all, and God designed it, so He can surely heal hers if He wants to.

Cyber hymnal makes all the music really ugly sounding, but I have a link to this hymn, "May the Mind of Christ, My Savior" because I have always thought it was a lovely prayer of sorts. Different parts of the hymn seem foreign to me, or have in the past. I have never known a whole lot of "the lost" that it talks about nor I have I known many "sick and sorrowing."Lately, there seem to be more and more sick and sorrowing crossing my path. Kind of makes me feel better about whatever this petty illness is that is getting me down.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Book Report

Okay, so no one likes the letter game. Your loss. Maybe I should've just waited until my mind was clear enough to write the whole post. Maybe I'll be able to write a better one after I'm finished with the book. It's slow going as I mentioned. Part of it is because of all the tangles I mentioned- sorting through your character and your choices and your gifts, etc. It is a lot to evaluate and consider. Another reason is because I am currently in the thick of the Harry Potter series.

Harry Potter and I have come to an agreement: I am not actually going to read any of the books about him. It started off because I felt overwhelmed. I didn't decide I wanted to read them until all of the recent enthusiasm over the last book's release. So much excitement! And I have missed out! Every day I would walk by the book store in the mall with a big shelf full of Harry Potters staring at me, enticing me to know his story. I just got swept up in it! But "it" is seven really long, thick books. It seemed too daunting. And I already had the gist of the first four, having seen the movies. Well, except I had forgotten a lot of the movies. But I had a friend that said that she had enjoyed them on CD while she was cleaning the house or driving. And wouldn't you know, someone gave us a giant stack of all first six books on CD to borrow as long as we wanted. So I figured what I would do is listen to the first four on CD as a way to sort of catch up, and then start reading from there. Well, I finished The Goblet of Fire this past weekend and did not have a copy of The Order of the Phoenix to start. But I did have The Order of the Phoenix on CD. "And," I thought, "what's the harm? The movie will probably be out (on DVD) for that one soon anyway." Actually, the movie won't be out until December and I am pretty annoyed with the movies, which we have been renting as I finish each book, after hearing the books anyway. There seem to be so many little things they could've done if they wanted to. Anyway, I started The Order of The Phoenix and thought, "Am I really going to only read the last two?" Or was it more "What will I do when I don't have a book on CD to listen to anymore? Housework and carpool won't be the same!" Or even more, a question I still can't answer, "Do I like Harry Potter or Jim Dale more?"

Jim Dale is the reader of the Harry Potter book series. Well, look at his site and you will see he reads and narrates more than that- the Peter Pan books (who knew there was more than one?), a few Jules Vernes books, and the new ABC show Pushing Daisies. I feel like a mooch as Jon has just written a post about this. But I have been meaning to post about it for a while. I was sort of waiting to see if I like the new show. But I wanted to get a new post up as everyone seemed bored with the Dan Allender post, and the only other thing I have going on is Harry Potter and Jim Dale. When I have finished the entire series, I will let you know who I miss most. I have a suspicion it will be Harry in the end, as Jim Dale will probably continue to be out and about but Harry's story will be over. No spoilers please; the rest of the story, even from this point in the book (where Harry has just agreed to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts and held the first meeting in The Hog's Head) is a complete mystery to me, although, unfortunately, in searching for the DVD release date (December 11) I came across the trailer to the most recent movie and am sort of sorry I saw it, though I was pleased to hear Hagrid's voice as he has not turned up at Hogwarts yet in this book.

So I have my request in at the library for the last one- 285 requests on 42 copies so we'll see how that goes. And while I can't really say much about the Pushing Daisies show, only having seen it once, I did like it. It is hard to catch much TV on purpose. If something good happens to be on, great. But we never know what we'll catch. Anyone enjoying something on TV we should try to catch? Any books I should start thinking about for after I'm finished with Harry Potter (or while I wait for the last one?!)? I guess I have a ways to go. But speaking of, I think I'm ready for the next chapter right now!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The One Question Quiz

I tried to write a post about a book I am reading and the whole thing feels like I am trying to write in a foreign language. Am I really that tired? Tired, yes. And overwhelmed too. I'm learning about myself. (Hence the obsession with quizzes lately!) George is in a class right now that is supposed to help him hash out what type of ministry to go into. It really delves into both pastoral personality type and church personality type. He comes home with all these cool insights and I am getting to learn about him but not much about myself. I'm not the one going into ministry, really. But I also sort of am. We're a package deal, George and Abby. So I've been reading a little Dan Allender. Because I do so enjoy Dan Allender. Except that he prompts you to deal with tangles. And ugh, tangles! The book is called To Be Told, and you think about the events of your life and who you are and the choices you've made to sort of see what God has been doing and get an idea of where He is leading you- the "story" God is writing with your life. Kind of helpful when you are in the midst of trying to relocate and start a whole new career and ministry with your husband. But the tangles!

Anyway, he was talking about seeing the common thread in the way people describe you. He says there will always be things that contradict because we're complex and human and even sinful, but there are probably some general qualities(both good and bad) you would hear again and again if people were telling someone about you. He was giving an example of how he stumbled upon some of his own traits that he was unaware of when he and his wife and one of their close friends were on a road trip. His wife made up a game to pass the time, "If you were a letter of the alphabet, which letter would you be and why?" He thought it was dumb but the friend thought it would be a lot of fun. But the friend said first they should pick a letter for the other people in the car. Both Dan's wife and his friend picked the exact same letter for him and for very similar reasons. Kind of strange. So I told George the story and asked him which letter he would be and he said G for George. He didn't seem like he wanted to play. But I told him what I picked for him(and why) so he said he wanted to pick for me. While he was thinking I picked for myself. And we picked the exact same letter for very similar reasons. Any guesses what it was? And your homework is to ask your husband or your best friend or your mom or whoever what letter they pick for you. And tell me what letter you would be too, 'cause I think it's a fun game.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Smocktober and Sewvember

You laugh at my headline, but that is a name George gave October a few years back when I made six dresses for Amabel in one month. (Gone are the days of having just one child who takes two naps a day!) Things have a changed a little, you might say, and so I don't quite have the time to do as much as I like. I haven't even had too much of a chance just to explore these sites with sewing ideas, much less put them into practice! But I found these links on my friend Renae's blog today and I just had to make a note of them so I will go back and look more closely sometime soon. The first is of this lady taking an Old Navy sweater she found at a thrift store for $4.99 and turning it into a little outfit for her baby. It shows step by step exactly how to measure, cut, pin, and sew! I mean, I am really excited to get just a teency taste of pattern making. I know it's the tip of the iceberg, but that's how I roll. I will be diving into an only slightly similar project with no other inkling of what I'm doing any day now. Meanwhile, the pumpkin appliques for Elspeth's fall Frannie are cut, but I forgot to buy orange thread, the vintage chenille continues to sit in its neat little pile of 11 inch squares (I think it's been what? two and a half? three years now?), not to mention the six cut bishop dresses I have that I am committed to pleat, smock, and sew into dresses for friends and family. Rebekah Fitts, I beg you, please have a boy! (Just kidding!) The second link appears to be a lady who makes things like the baby outfit out of the sweater all the time- aprons, shirts, dresses, pillowcase dresses, etc. Some are cute. Some are not. But again, I only looked for a second. Speaking of pillowcase dresses, my friend Jennie sent me this link to show me what a friend of ours from high school is up to. I cannot believe how cute! So many great ideas for kids' clothes (if only the kids weren't in the way so I could sew for them, right?). Well, there's always the grandkids- I'll sew when I'm old!

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Better Babysitter

I will admit that since becoming pregnant with Elspeth, my "mothering standards" have lowered quite a bit. Before, I had ridiculous standards. I was so legalistic. And while it was powered by a form of pride, it wasn't like I thought I was the perfect parent; but it was that I thought I should be. I want so much to end up with well adjusted and mature children, children who are ready for life and who feel good about themselves. And I think almost all parents are motivated to that end. (But some just make poor decisions.) I was going to be the person who really invested, who did my research, who asked all the questions, who always picked the best choice. Well, that is just crazy isn't it? First of all, I didn't know what questions to ask. And anyway, that all depends on who you ask doesn't it? (And how many children does that person have? And do those children still nap?)

There are some issues like homeschooling or breastfeeding that people just never will agree on. I mean, yes, breastfeeding is best, but just how far do we go? I have known of people doing the tube with pumped milk down the daddy's finger to avoid using formula or bottles at all while Mommy is temporarily out of commission for whatever reason. I completely support and admire that, but it is probably really only realistic for the first born, and certainly not for all parents. At what point do we just say, there's a bunch of other kids that need me, I can only spend so much time on breastfeeding? I don't know, really. I nursed Elspeth every two hours for seven months. I think that was a little ridiculous considering I had two other children who needed me. I put everyone else's life on hold while I nursed. On the other hand, everyone else was older and could help themselves to a degree and she needed help with everything. (Plus, she was an absolute pill all night long if she did not get to nurse when she needed to during the day.) I also have a friend who had such a hard time maintaining her milk supply with her first that while she expecting the second she just went ahead and made the decision to not even try nursing when new baby came. I think that was a great choice. I think her entire family benefited from that- everyone was spared a huge amount of stress! So it depends on who you ask. If you look at person number one, she clearly thinks nursing is important enough to bend over backwards for. Look at person number two and she thinks it is relative to what else is going on. But if you actually asked both of them, they might agree 100%. They might both say that nursing is really important, but you can only go so far before you just thank the Good Lord there is a great and nutritious alternative available. And we'd probably all agree that that alternative sure beat the old one. Can you imagine hiring someone else to nurse you baby? I can't bear to think of the heartache.

And the homeschooling thing is much the same. There are some people who think homeschooling is a black and white issue. These people are wrong. They just are. Homeschooling is great. But it isn't the only way. Again, everyone won't always agree. Even the nursing thing would be much easier to get a unanimous consensus on. I don't know if you know people like this. I have to say, everyone I know who homeschools is wonderfully generous. I have had a lot of conversations about it because I was so disappointed that it went so badly for me. But Amabel loves school. She says often that she wishes school lasted longer. Just call her Hermione! She loves homework when she gets home and she reads two or three books every day. I don't want to keep her from something that gives her such a great love for learning! On the other hand, if I didn't have such a great school available to me, or if I wasn't blessed to have access to such great scholarships, homeschool might be something we would have to make work. Some people seem to think everyone should make it work. For others, it works best in every way. And for people like us, it does not work! But it's silly to take it beyond that, to make it a black and white issue, when all it is is what works best for your family.

Why are we so uncomfortable with that? Or I am. I am becoming more comfortable with it. But it is scarier to have to be wise. It is scarier to have to pray and evaluate and use discernment. It is scary if the Different Strokes theme song is right on the money, "what might be right for you may not be right for some." Is this because people associate this with relativity? It it because it smells like secular humanism and Christianity requires absolutes? That doesn't mean everything has to be absolute. But it is so much easier to make absolutes and plug your life into that formula. And man, I had a formula. I am never going to be precise. But I had a general idea about how all kinds of things, and one was TV. That's what this post started to be about. But I got sidetracked with thinking about my "rulesy-ness." I used to be really good at reading to the kids. We read all the time. We used to drive to Panera Bread at least once a week and read the Little House on the Prairie Books and eat muffins. I wish we still did something like that. I have gotten worse at sitting and reading, possibly because I was sitting so much to nurse that I couldn't wait to jump up and get back to work. Anyway, I went from having some bizarre idea like "no TV except a few days a week and only one movie length once a week at most" to TV a lot. I am not proud of that, even if I did get off my rule soapbox. And it has gotten better since school started back- we are watching less than we did during the summer. But I gotta say, TV is a good babysitter. It keeps people quiet when they have been chattering for quite some time. It keeps people busy when they are trying to be all in your business and you can't get anything done. And there's nothing wrong with that. Except that it was out of hand at our house.

Today we had a friend over to play. She got into the books and found one that had a CD with it. And I thought, "why don't I ever put the CDs in for these books?" So we spent a good amount of time going through books on CD while I was able to sweep and straighten. The kids loved it, and I was so glad I wasn't turning on the TV. The ones we have are Thomas the Train ones and John Lithgow ones. If I haven't said before, I love John Lithgow. He reminds me so much of one of my best friends from high school. Our favorite is Marsupial Sue Presents The Runaway Pancake. It is a variation of the classic Gingerbread Boy story. He reads the books himself on the CD and tells them with such animation. And they are such funny stories. I highly recommend them. We moved on after our books to some nursery rhymes. That did not go so well. We have a family member who frequents the bargain books section at Barnes and Noble. This bothers me as I do love books, but I love good quality books and most of the bargain books wouldn't be bargains if they were selling well at regular price. Some years back, this family member bought us what I can only assume was a "bargain" nursery rhymes CD with a nursery rhymes book to accompany it. There is no way this person could have known, but the voices on the CD are horrible. I wish there was a special reserved word that means horrible that is almost never used that I could use to describe this so that it would really emphasize how horrible they are. The man's voice is as cheesy as you can imagine. He sounds like he is pretending to laugh while he sings. (I saw a "Jesus movie" one time where Jesus was portrayed this way- terrible!) The woman is worse! She has the most nasal squawky voice and can't even carry a tune! I had forgotten how bad it was until we put it in today after we got through our books on CD. And after about four songs, which was very patient and generous of me I assure you, I told the children they needed to pick another CD and tossed that one into the trash. I don't regret it either. But can anyone else recommend a good, classic nursery rhymes CD? How about some other books with CDs? As babysitters go, I feel a lot better taking this route than turning on another Wiggles video.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Pumpkin Post

So the new color is supposed to be pumpkiny. Frankly, I think it looks a little rusty. Once George gets some time, I am hoping he can add a pumpkiny picture. Remember last year when we had a picture of one year old Amabel in the pumpkin patch? So cute! Anyway, the only thing I know how to do is upload pictures off the internet. I figure pictures of actual pumpkins is boring, but then I got the Crate and Barrel catalog today, which is chocked full of pumpkiny delights! Of course, that is nothing compared to what Williams Sonoma offers. A few years back, George got me the pumpkin pan that makes the big pumpkin cake on the left. I sort of don't like the cheesy ivy in the picture, but isn't it a fun cake?! This other from Crate and Barrel looks a little less complicated- but then of course, when it comes to baking, I like complicated.
Sorry, Crate and Barrel pictures won't upload. How annoying! There's also a mini pumpkin cheesecake pan if you're a cheesecakey person (which I am not), a cute little pumpkin trivet, a pumpkin teapot (which doesn't look so pumpkiny to me), pumpkin dessert plates, and various other pumpkin serving pieces. Williams Sonoma has some similar, but more festive pieces like those on the left. They also have their own pumpkin dessert plates which match the serving ware, salt and pepper shakers and place card holders too! All of the bakeware is available on Sur la Table's website which also has a neat molded loaf pan with pumpkins on top (they used to have it at Williams Sonoma too as it is made by Nordicware who also makes this fall pan- though not pumpkin, it is fun). While we're running through this, I might as well include the link to Wilton's Autumn page, lots of goodies there too.

While all of this is super fun, what I really want, since y'all are all so good at keeping an eye out for me, is something with pumpkins or leaves on it that also has blue. I said this before, I think. My dishes are these clunky Pottery Barn dishes with a cobalt blue stripe around each piece. They are not delicate or formal at all. And I love them. If I ever do chance to find something blue and fallish, it is somehow cheesy or delicate (or both). Something similar to what I posted from the Coton Colors Pottery website is the style I would like, but none of their fall stuff has any blue in it. Anyone know where I might find something similar (and less expensive!)? I have thought of making it myself at a pottery painting place, but 1) I don't trust my skills and 2) the places I know about have a beige color to the pieces and I like a crisp white. Then again, this is turning more gimme gimme, and less autumnally celebratory. One more pumpkin picture (hooty hoot! how to here) and a recipe for y'all should any of you choose to get one of the pumpkiny pans for the season! I have never found a good icing for this cake, but it is nicest just with sifted powdered sugar (and sometimes cocoa and/or cinnamon too) dusting the top.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

2 1/2 cups plus 2T all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2T good-quality cocoa
1T baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. fresh-grated nutmeg (please! just open the jar!)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs

-Prepare cake pans with butter and parchment (or cupcake liners for cupcakes).
-Preheat oven to 350 (or 375 for cupcakes).
-Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside.
-Combine buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla in a medium bowl and set aside.
-Beat butter and sugar together in a large bowl at medium speed until fluffy.
-Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until mixture is smooth and light.
-Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, blending well after each addition.
-Divide batter among the pans and bake until wooden skewer inserted into middle comes out clean- about 35 minutes (or 22 for cupcakes).
-Cool the cakes in the pans for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Late Night Links

10:30 pm and I feel much better. Thank you tender, loving friends. Thank you Bailey's Chocolate Bar. Thank you George. Thank you twenty minute nap that helped the sore on my eye (sorry, I know that's gross) stop hurting. Thank you Joe's New Balance Outlet for fast shipping and for carrying shoes that light up. Or should I thank August for loving his shoes that light up so much and stomping around excitedly to make them shine (blue lights, not red. Better, don't you think?). He is the cutest!

I have links, y'all.

First of all, you may notice the reinstallation of the Mumblety Peg (George's group blog) link. I was pretty sick of the contention over there for a while, but they are nicer about it lately. So I am giving them another chance.

Second and third, two of my oldest and dearest friends have started blogs recently. They are very interesting to me, but maybe not to y'all as they are mostly pictures of their sweet children, who none of you know, and stories of the same. You never know when they'll start rambling about something else though. Rebekah and Jennie both went to high school with me and to Auburn where they also both pledged Chi O (hooty hoot!). We lost Rebekah to UT not long after, but we have always kept in touch. They were both in my wedding and are both still wonderful friends even after all this time. Now you can get to know them too!

I also found out just today that another girl from church has a blog. We have a pretty "bloggy" church, but this one slipped by me somehow. She seems to post every day, which is way better than I can say. And she reads a lot. I think some of you will really dig it! Here's Lori's link.

After Bailey's, George and I went to Barnes and Noble for a spell. I picked up a Real Simple and found these websites that seem kind of fun. The first one is a search engine that tells how many people in the US have your name. Kind of boring for us Edemas, there were none. But there were 14 Abby Hawkinses. Absolutely no Elspeths or Amabels, but it also said no George Edemas and George is named for his grandfather who is still living. There are 15,148 Augustines. I was kind of surprised by that! Search to see how unusual your name is, or the name you are thinking of for a baby, here. There is also this website, which I just know about for some reason and think I may have mentioned before, that is done by Social Security; but it only has record of the top 1000 names in any given year. It does go back to the year 1880 so that's fun.

I also found this in Real Simple: virtualbubblewrap.com. Self explanatory and mildly entertaining.

I also have the link for Bailey's Chocolate Bar, where we dined this evening. You can actually download a menu. I had "Chocolate Inebriation." Sure I did! What else would I have had?! I have to say, it was a ten. Mmmmmm...

And Joe's New Balance Outlet. You need that. They even have extra wides!

And I found some interesting links in my whole "It's Fall Y'all" fixation. Nothing turned up that helps my front door, but I did find some cute-ish looking blogs. I may decide I hate them later. I haven't read any of the text on this one, I just like the pictures. But yeah, it is a "pretty life." She seems to be fairly preoccupied with stuff. And also, with her dog. Yuck. Why am I even putting up the link? Because I like the pictures. Oh, and it plays music while you look. Old 40s kind of music. It makes me think of Nannie. It's called Daisy Cottage. I'm sort of embarrassed, but I wrote out my disclaimers. There's another that has some nice pictures, I guess, though not quite my aesthetic. I mostly was intrigued by the Jane Austen heroine quiz in the sidebar. Y'all know I love a good quiz. The last question was one I couldn't decide one. I got a different answer every time by picking between three answers, Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse, or Elizabeth Bennett. In the end, it's kind of a lame quiz. But I like the way the results look when you post them. I couldn't very well post three though, could I? I think I'm more of a Marianne than anything else; the quiz is not really very well done. Anyway, credit to this other blog that led me to the quiz.

Speaking of quizzes, I like the one Jandy has up right now about right brain vs. left brain. I didn't know which was which and got results that were very lopsided. So I did a little research and took a couple more quizzes. It is true; I am lopsidedly right brained. Oh well.

My Two Taboos

I have this lingering feeling of impending failure. How's that for a first line?! I am not sure what it is over. I definitely feel like I am not "keeping up." And I am tired of trying. I worry sometimes that I may perpetuate some idea that seems to be out there, particularly in the South, that you have to be perfect. You have to look cute all the time (well, I'm totally not perpetuating that idea), as do your kids (guilty), as does your home (guilty, unless you come when I'm not expecting you and then you would see what it really looks like). You have to work out, eat right, cook every night and for those in need- actually, I don't have a problem with any of those unless it's a rigid, "you must obey this law" approach; those are good things if you're someone like me who likes to cook. You have to keep your kids from too much TV, read to them and read often yourself... I wish I had the sound effect of a record scratching, that sound on TV shows that sort of implies "wait a second!" Because I am so tired. Do you just feel like all you do is to meet the status quo? All you do is just to do what you're supposed to do? Maybe you don't. But man, I am burnt out.

As y'all know, my big love is baking. I mean I really love it, y'all, to the point that I have a bakery menu that I ever add to and even have it named. I am always telling my sister we will open it one day. But I have not lost any weight since having Elspeth. And I know I didn't gain much with her, but it was all there before I started. Part of this is nursing. Or I hope it is. I have never lost weight until I quit nursing. But I still have never gotten back to what I was. You people who do not have to worry about this have no idea what an exhausting thing it is. I have quit baking. I just quit. Because I eat stuff I make. And I upped my mall walking to 4 miles, which is just so time consuming. I run around all day doing errands or working at Amabel's school or whatever with barely enough time to get laundry done. I'm a pretty active person. And you would think that all these work outs and taking all these calories out of my diet and being always on the go would do something. But it never does. I should not be surprised. It never has before. I used to do Tae Bo every day. I have a friend who is ultra athletic that thought I was joking. But it's an hour long workout, you know. And you can't just go out and run when you have kids all over the place. Anyway, Tae Bo never made a difference either. I make myself feel guilty- "well there was that one day you ate some ice cream at 9:30..." or "you only work out four or five days a week; you have to work out every day!" It's emotionally exhausting, y'all. And the thing is, thin people are just going to be thin. My husband, my best friend, my sister, none of them work out. They eat what they want. They will never have to worry about it. Meanwhile, I'm over hear busting my butt and I look like I had a baby yesterday, not a year ago, and worse than a lot of people do when they're having a baby tomorrow.

Ugh. I don't want to talk about it. That's why I never do. Or do I and I just don't realize it? You people are all thin. I know you all and you all are, and I know you don't understand anyway. So, moving on. Except I can't. Because it's October. And I will be thirty in December. And I want to have another(my last) baby before the next December. So that leaves me four months to slim down enough to be able to pork up all over again! Yeah, I really don't want to talk about it. I will just go back to silent agony. Thanks. Moving on, really this time.

Here's the other thing stressing me out, another thing that I talk about a little more than the other but cringe every time I do. I really do not like money. I cannot even begin to tell you how stressed out I have been since George and I married. Yeah, for seven years, stressed out. I know, I totally need to get over it; George tells me that (gently) all the time. I want to. George says he feels sorry for me because I was so spoiled growing up. And I really was. But I was so unhappy too. And money was always the consolation prize. We would share how hurt we were by my dad never being around and always being angry when he was, and my mom would talk about what a great "provider" he was and how his "love language" was just to give us stuff (which actually was only sort of true. I have two things that my dad ever picked out for me: a jewelry box that plays "Edelweiss" and a tee shirt form Philip's Deli, my favorite place to eat in Nashville. On the other hand, I can't tell you how many checks he's written over the years). So I thought I would be fine with being poor and happy when I got older. It was actually sort of my plan. But having an anxiety attack every time you leave the grocery store or get a bill is not happy. And dipping into your kids college money is frightening to say the least. I know George is in school. But I gotta say, it seems like it will be worse when he's out. Right now, his student loans are deferred, we have free rent, my mom buys all the kids' clothes (which she says will stop when George graduates), and we have sort of a little light over our heads that says "we're poor; help us," that causes various people to give us hand me downs or send money or give us a discount. Of course, we also have no income. Still, I am freaked out. The real world is out there, y'all, and it is a pricey place to be. And I don't want my parents' help. That's another thing. I don't want them to have to help us. This whole getting married thing was supposed to get me out of that. I even dropped the Hawkins name.

I am not sure about posting this. I still have two more taboos that I am really not going to blog about so I haven't completely bared my soul to the world wide web. I talk things out though. I just have to get it out there. You people like that about me don't you? Maybe not all tacky like this. Well, you don't have to say anything, I'm already feeling better for having written. Except that I just went upstairs and saw the same board books all over the floor, the same toy basket emptied, the same clothes needing to be ironed, the same dishes needing to be washed, and I remember that it is more than the two big nagging stresses of my weight and my wallet. It is just the daily, tiresome, actually bringing me to tears right now job of being me. Maybe you feel the same way sometimes? George has a date planned for us tonight, for the first time in over a month. If I can actually get over how much it will cost, I might feel better tomorrow.

Monday, October 01, 2007

More From My One Track Mind

I think it is pretty clear that I really do dwell on things. Obsess is really a strong word, but maybe I'm okay with that. Anyway, it seems I throw myself into things pretty hard and neglect other things just as much. Lately, I have been very much neglecting my blog. I have been reading this past week. I read a 400 page historical fiction work about Josephine Bonaparte whose name, it turns out, was not Josephine at all, but Rose. Napoleon gave her the name Josephine when he started spending time with her when she was already 32. She spent a lot of time correcting him- "My name is Rose." - before finally deciding that the way he saw her, that Josephine, was actually someone much better than Rose had been. Rose had had a sad, horrible life, and at the end of the book, the first in a 3 novel series, Rose has just married Napoleon and is ready to move on, ready to be his Josephine. Were it not for that decision, a decision she made on the very last page, I would not even think of reading the next novel. But I am hoping things for Josephine go better than they did for Rose. I am thinking that you may have been interested in reading it yourself and that perhaps I have spoiled it for you. Only if you like reading the very saddest, most disturbing things should you read this book anyway. I cannot tell you the nightmares I have had this week. Nightmares is another strong word; I mean that I have dreams that are greatly moving that wake me up and keep me from wanting to go back to sleep. It is part of the whole dwelling thing.

Before the book, I was watching House on DVD with George. We crammed all three first seasons in less than a month. What is that, like 70 episodes? Needless to say, I had many medical dreams. I have also been listening to the Harry Potter books on CD. I think I felt so far behind that I decided to catch up on CD, just to the point where I haven't seen the movies anymore. I am listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire right now, so after it is over I will have to start reading. During Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets I had many dreams of giant spiders.

But aren't we all a little bit that way? Remember when you would go to a skating party when you were a kid and come home and go to bed and it was as if you were still skating? Or later on, I remember lying in my bed playing imaginary Tetris with my eyes closed when Gameboys first came out. When I started my first job at a pediatric clinic, I would dream of never ending stacks of charts to file. And lately, when I was on the prayer list for Amelia, I found myself dreaming about her nightly. These dreams were actually so hard to shake off, sending me creeping into Elspeth's room to make sure she was still breathing and then down the stairs to check Amelia's blog at every hour of the night, that I had to take myself off the list. I still dream of her often.

I was able to actually hold Amelia for the first time this weekend which was very sweet after months of tears and prayers. I know so many of you would like the same opportunity. She is making slow progress, but it is a long long road she would have to travel to be anything like normal. She is a beautiful baby. Her hair has grown back very very dark after the chemo, and her eyelashes are long and curl beautifully. But she does not have any expression in her face. She cannot even look at you. Her eyes are always looking upward and her muscles are stiff and tense. Please continue to pray for her. Keep linking to their blog to see how. I don't know the science-y stuff very well, even after asking questions and seeing pictures they pulled up for me on the internet. I understand some, but I think even they, even brain surgeons, have a lot of unknown. If she could only look at them, if she could only smile when her mother kisses her, even that would be such a huge blessing! God can do anything, but I can see why it must seem hopeless sometimes. She may have a second shunt put in this week to relieve extra fluid that has built up on the other side of her brain now. Please pray for that.

Well, this sort of went in a different direction than I had intended. I was going to say how I plan to obsess more on smocking and sewing next and maybe even blogging! Well, check back to see. I have gotten the shopping for winter clothes done, which was also very time consuming, so I may really be able to do some of this stuff. It's getting nigh on pumpkin time though, and that always draws me back to the kitchen! We shall see what unfolds. And I have not forgotten about the birthday recipes, just forgotten to get my film developed which has pictures to accompany said recipes. Someday...

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