Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

Cookies and Kittens and Other Cute Stuff

Hi all. We’ve been busy around here the past week or so.

First before I do anything else, here is Agnes’ grave marker! It was installed in time for us to visit on Memorial Day. It is so pretty. We are very happy with it.

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Octopus and shark cookies, with interested facial features.

Octopus and shark cookies, with interested facial features.

Okay. Since I made those cute lamb cookies for the Holy Ghost parish Easter dinner, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to make more cute cutout cookies. Finally this week I found an excuse: the celebration of Stephen’s baptism day! He was baptized on May 28, 2011 when he was just barely three weeks old. We want to celebrate these sacramental anniversaries in our family, so we took the opportunity to throw a little party, complete with cute animal cutout cookies. I wanted to do octopuses and sharks because those cutters appealed to me this time. If you are interested, the set of cutters I bought is this one from Wilton. It has any animal you could ever want. Any. Animal. The cookie recipe I use now for these cutouts is the “Glazed Butter Cookie” recipe from The New Best Recipe Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. I haven’t talked about those guys for a while, but I want you all to know that they are still a big part of my life. Especially now that I can’t live without these cookies. I like this recipe because the dough is easy to work with, you don’t have to chill it for hours before you roll it out for cutting, plus the directions say to roll the dough between two sheets of parchment which is pure genius. Nothing sticks to anything and the dough rolls out perfectly even with very few tears. That’s “tears” rhymes with “pears” not rhymes with “beers,” though this recipe certainly cuts down on that kind of “tears” as well.

Nap time

Nap time

Also this past weekend we went to visit my Aunt and the new kittens one of her cats recently birthed. There were four kittens in the litter and we wanted to adopt one of them! It was a fun trip. Stephen enjoyed playing with all four kittens, who were all energetic and very adorable. We decided relatively quickly that we wanted to take the fluffy one, the only kitten that has long fur. We had been discussing potential kitten names for a while so it was pretty easy to decide on a name. At this point in the story I would like to stop the narrative in order to fill you in on a bit of history. As you know, we already have a cat named Sashimi. We adopted Sashimi a few years ago when we lived in Billings, MT, and we thought it was funny to name him after the Japanese raw-fish appetizer “sashimi.” Ha ha. Aren’t we funny and so witty. Anyway so. We wanted to continue the ethnic food theme with our new cat as well. We tossed around some ideas like Pakora, which is a chickpea flour fritter from the East Indian culinary tradition. We considered Cannoli. Taquito. Nori. Ramen. As you can imagine it gets ridiculous very quickly. Frijoles Refritos, “Frito” for short. Combo Plate #2. Gravlax. Wonton. I refer you back a few lines [ha ha aren’t we funny and so witty]. We named the fluffy kitten Pakora and vowed to bring her home with us.

Oh, but all the other kittens are so cute and look at that one, he really gets along well with Pakora and my Aunt says he’s even more snuggly and I really wanted to get another snuggly kitty. But then, if we get another kitten, what should we name it? Gravlax? Jeremy said no way. I quote directly from Jeremy’s mouth: “That is the worst name for a cat ever.”

Gravlax (left) and Pakora (right)

Gravlax (left) and Pakora (right)

Guess what we ended up naming the kitten? Gravlax! I’m so happy we did because every time anyone says the name Gravlax everyone in the room kind of titters. It’s hilarious. Also, it’s very much in keeping with Sashimi’s name, since Gravlax is a fermented fish that is also eaten raw. I think the name is awesome. Pakora and Gravlax. It rolls off the tongue so well. And they really do get along well with each other. Sashimi did take a few days to get used to the idea of two new kittens, but I think they have already worked out their differences. They have all played together a few times, and they can all eat in the same room without a throw-down occurring.

stephen and iconsFinally, we hung up our icons in our new house. It took awhile to get around to it, but I’m so happy we finally did it. It looks great! There is plenty of room to continue adding icons as our collection grows. So long as add to it symmetrically! We plan to have icons for each of our children’s patron saints, as many as that may be, plus whatever else we decide to add. I’m excited for the possibilities.Gravlax likes Mary!

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What I Wore Sunday: November 24 Stephen is Chrismated!

Hi, linking up with Fine Linen and Purple. This week I worn a long black dress from Liz Lange Maternity for Target; black sweater from Old Navy (it was a gift a few years ago), my Clarks boots. Sorry I don’t have a full-length photo. We were taking pictures of more important things.

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After the Liturgy.

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Stephen and his chrismation sponsors. They are Agnes’ godparents!

This Sunday was very special for our family; Stephen was fully initiated into the Catholic faith by receiving the Mystery (sacrament) of Chrismation, and Holy Eucharist. In the Eastern tradition of Catholicism, infants receive baptism, chrismation, and Eucharist at the same time, but Roman Catholic babies receive only baptism as infants. Stephen was baptized as a baby, and yesterday he received the other Mysteries. We are so happy for him! We had planned for Stephen and Agnes to do this at the same time, so Agnes’ godparents were already planning to visit for the weekend and sponsor Stephen for chrismation. When Agnes went back to the hospital, we decided to go ahead with Stephen’s chrismation. He actually had already received his “first” Holy Communion on Thursday: Fr. Sal gave communion to his own small child at Liturgy, then Stephen was next in line. Fr. Sal offered to Stephen out of habit and Stephen actually took it! So yesterday, Stephen made his “second” Holy Communion. Oh well, it worked out fine in the end!

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Stephen’s sponsors remove his footwear, and unbutton his shirt.

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Fr. Sal anoints Stephen very quickly!

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Stephen receives his “second” Holy Communion.

I don’t know if you have ever seen a two year old child receive an anointing on forehead, eyes, ears, chest, hands, and feet, but I can tell you it goes very quickly. Fr. Sal started saying “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” or whatever the exact words are, kind of hovering his hand and when he spotted an opening, he swooped in and anointed everything super fast! It was kind of funny. Stephen was in shock. He was bewildered at the speed with which his sponsors removed his shoes and socks and unbuttoned his shirt, then all of a sudden Fr. Sal was attacking him with fragrant oil. He took communion again, which I was a little nervous about because toddlers are capricious, so all in all it was a wonderful event for our family!

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Turkey cookies, idea from Pinterest.

After Liturgy, the parish hosted its annual Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the trimmings. I had asked last week if they still needed any contributions, and I was told to bring a dessert that would appeal to children because I guess kids don’t like pie. So I found a cute project on Pinterest and it actually turned out really well! That doesn’t happen so often with those cute Pinterest ideas, but this time it worked!

The special thing about this dinner was the parish donated all the proceeds from the raffle contest to Agnes! Jeremy and are so blessed by Holy Ghost, and we are overwhelmed by the generosity and caring of the parishioners. Because of the raffle money, we now have enough funds that we can go out this week or next week and buy a van for Agnes with cash. We cannot express enough how grateful we are for our parish family. It truly was the working of the Holy Spirit for us to end up at Holy Ghost.

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The Phenomenon of Recipe Rotation

I think Recipe Rotation is a real thing. The other day I was thinking about the foods I’ve been cooking lately, and they are not the same sorts of foods I used to cook last year, or even four years ago. I think my repertoire of recipes is shifting. It’s not that I don’t know how to cook those old dishes anymore, but they aren’t the first things I think of when I need to come up with a plan.

In the past week or so, I’ve made some version of oven-roasted vegetables three or four times. I made squash and carrot soup that started with roasting the veg in the oven before simmering and pureeing. This was served with crackers and cheese.

I made taco-stuffed sweetie peppers. This was served with rice on the side.

I made a squash and potato dish with bacon and cheese. This was served on it’s own as a complete casserole, but I would have done well to serve a salad or green beans or something.

I made a potato/carrot/beet dish with oil and fresh herbs. This was served with bread and cheese, and fresh cherry tomatoes.

Except for the stuffed peppers, these dishes feel rustic and simple. They are comforting to eat and simple to make despite the long roasting times. The hardest part is planning ahead to get the dish in the oven in time for an hour of roasting before dinner time. Even the fish I made last night for dinner was pretty rustic: slice some veg and make a foil packet, lay fish fillet over the veg and pour some sauce. Cook the foil packet. Easy.

I didn’t used to have a rustic cooking preference. A year ago, I was making a lot of pizzas, skillet suppers, mexican style food, and dishes served with rice. A few years ago I was making a lot of exotic ethnic foods, chili and stew type dishes, and casseroles.

This week when I made the roasted vegetable dish with bread and cheese on the side, I was surprised at how satisfying I found the meal to be, even though there was no meat and nothing complicated in the preparation. Jeremy agreed that he would also like to eat that kind of meal a couple times a week. That got me thinking about other rustic kinds of dishes I might like to sneak into my repertoire. Polenta with a variety of roasted or steamed vegetables. Simply seasoned chicken with fruit and cheese. Crock pot roast with mashed potatoes or rice.

I’m looking forward to exploring these options and making satisfying meals with simple ingredients. I’m happy my favored recipes are starting to shift toward the less complicated end of the spectrum. My life is complicated enough in other areas! Let the kitchen be simple!

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I Heart The Pioneer Woman

If you haven’t taken a gander at The Pioneer Woman’s blog, you should head over and check it out. She writes quite colorfully about her life on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma, her children, her cowboy husband, her menagerie of pets, and of course, her cooking. The Pioneer Woman has a series on The Food Network, and she’s written a couple cookbooks full of delicious and lovingly-photographed food. She got her start blogging, and gradually gained more and more readers, with the cookbooks and T.V. show following after years of plugging away. Her success story is inspiring to me as a fledgling blogger. 

Hands down, my favorite part of her blog is: the food.

Some people like to look at pictures of cats or watch videos of babies and dogs to kill time, but I like to look at Pioneer Woman recipes and fantasize about the possibility that I might make them in my own kitchen.

I have made a few of her recipes, and they were amazing.

 Blueberry Lemon Sweet Rolls.

 Crash Hot Potatoes.

 Patty Melts.

 Perfect Iced Coffee.

But I’ve looked at dozens more, and I can tell you, my docket for cooking projects is filling up quickly! It’s mostly her desserts that get me itchin’ for the kitchen’ (HAHA, I just made that up!) but everything from the burgers to tacos to monkey bread looks amazing. I strongly urge you hop over to the Pioneer Woman and take a peek. If you love to read recipes and look at gorgeous food, that is the place to go. But plan to fix yourself a snack when you’re finished, because it will make you hungry!

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7 Quick Takes: June 7

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for the weekly Friday quick takes. And guess what, folks? Today is actually Friday! Go me!

1. Big news on the pregnancy front: the induction of Agnes’s birth has been scheduled for Monday June 17. Of course, this is contingent on the test results next week continue to be merely moderately concerning rather than like “Oh dear God, get this lady to Labor and Delivery immediately!” Even though I knew the 17th was the date I reached 37 weeks, and the perinatologist told me we would deliver at 37 weeks, Monday June 17 just seems so soon! Even Tuesday June 18 sounds more leisurely for some reason. Well, I guess I’m just happy to know something for sure.

2. In related news, I had to sign a consent form for the hospital as part of the process to schedule the induction, and on that sheet my OB wrote in the medical reasons why I’m being induced, my bishop score, and the method used for induction. When I scanned the page before signing, I noticed he intends to use Cytotec to start the induction. This drug is used to soften and efface the cervix prior to inducing labor with a different drug. Cytotec’s intended use is for treating gastric ulcers. The FDA has not approved its use in inducing labor, though the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said it is fine on several occasions. Pardon my french, but that shit scares the shit out of me. I know any drug that interferes or alters the natural way of things comes with serious side effects, and the extreme side effects that can occur with Cytotec are not terribly common, nor are they much different from those that occur with similar drugs. The difference here is that Cytotec has a few well-publicized law suits, plus that pesky lack of FDA approval for use in labor induction. All I can pray for is for labor to miraculously begin on it’s own, or for my cervix to do all its own work by the 17th because I do not want that drug even in my hospital room.

3. And I was stupid for signing that consent form, but at the time I thought maybe I recognized the name of the drug but I wasn’t sure it was the same stuff I had heard about. It is. On the other hand, the alternative drug Cervidil is FDA approved for labor induction. However, it has a contraindication for when a prolonged time frame of contractions would be harmful to the baby, which is definitely the case for me. So… And it takes 12 hours to administer the dose whereas the Cytotec takes maybe 90 minutes. So… it’s a tough call.

4. But on a positive note I baked chocolate chip cookies today. They are delicious, “thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies” from The New Best Recipe cookbook.

5. Stephen has this funny new trick where he absolutely adores throwing away “trash.” Banana peels, used napkins and tissues, his own dirty diapers, any random piece of paper he finds around the house. We have to watch him or else he might throw away something that we actually need to keep, but so far that hasn’t happened. So far it’s still a charming, odd thing that he does. It’s really cute at the Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic where I get my ultrasounds. They drape a huge paper sheet over me to protect my clothes, then I use that to wipe off the goo when they are finished with the scan. Stephen is super excited to throw away that paper sheet. “Trash,” he says. “Trash. Trash.”

6. Oh, also Cytotec’s non-brand name is misoprostol. Misoprostol is half of the process for a chemical abortion, being taken 12 to 72 hours after a dose of mifepristone. So that will be nice to think about while I’m lying there in Labor and Delivery.

7. Sorry half my takes are about a scary drug. For my last take, I would like to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for our miracle with Agnes. I also need to thank the saints we have been praying to particularly: Maria Goretti, Agnes, Joseph, and Walburga. Plus we are so grateful for all our family and friends who have been praying, as well as the nuns at the Abbey of Saint Walburga, and numerous priests who have offered masses for Agnes. We are not out of the woods yet, so continued prayer is still appreciated!

Agnes Ultrasound 002

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7 Quick Takes: June 1

Once again, I am doing the Friday Quick Takes link up with Conversion Diary on a Saturday. Because I am totally in control of my own life. Ha. Ha ha.

1. I didn’t do a blog post yesterday because we were really busy getting today’s garage sale together. We spent a large portion of the day rooting through the basement for boxes of shtuff, organizing said shtuff in the garage, setting up tables, drawing signs and figuring out prices, going to the bank to change $20’s for dollar bills and quarter rolls. Oh, wait, the bank doesn’t have rolls of quarters today? Well…uhh…I really kind of needed the quarters…fine just give me more ones. Grr.

2. At least our lack of quarters wasn’t a big deal, because we had a total of maybe twelve customers all day. We made $54 in profits. That includes the sale of a $20 sofa. What a bust. I think it was a combination of factors, not least of which is the more-or-less country location of my parent’s neighborhood. Another factor was probably that we didn’t put an ad in the local paper, relying instead on a Craigslist ad and street signs. Another factor was probably that we were trying to sell a ton of junk. But it wasn’t a wasted effort because that stuff needed to leave the house anyway. We were prepared to just donate it all to the Goodwill in the first place, so any money we make selling items really is a bonus. We are just thrilled someone bought that sofa. That in itself was totally worth all the effort we put into the garage sale project.

3. I’m still pregnant! This is a big deal for me because I’ve already been mentally and emotionally prepared to give birth on three separate occasions. Hopefully Agnes can hang on for another week or two. On the other hand, I had no idea how exhausting it would be for me to live like this, thinking I can be sent to labor and delivery at any moment. I almost want to just get it over with already; at least that we can be finished with the not-knowing-what-to-expect part and move on to the finding-out-answers-and-dealing-with-things part of raising a baby with medical problems.

4. Speaking of still being pregnant, I just have to share this even though I risk veering into the TMI department. Two nights ago I woke up at 1:20am like “Oh my gosh, Jeremy wake up. I think my water just broke.” I was not thrilled to say the least. So I grabbed some fresh p.j.’s and hobbled down the hall to the bathroom, and it turns out my only issue was related to that huge glass of water I drank right before going to bed, if you catch my meaning. I stood around and walked a bit just to make sure I wasn’t leaking amniotic fluid after all, then I went back to bed. So on the one hand, super glad we didn’t have to book it to the hospital in the middle of the night again (like with Stephen’s birth). But on the other hand, embarrassed about reliving early childhood night time bladder problems. I know these things happen when you’re pregnant, especially when you already have an adorable tot to thank for even weaker bladder control. But. Still. Embarrassed.

5. I’ve been baking like a fiend again. I usually do this when I’m feeling stressed about life. I finally baked those peanut butter bars I posted about last week, I did chocolate gelato earlier this week, and I made scones for breakfast yesterday. Tonight still I’m going to bake a pound cake. I don’t necessarily see this habit of mine as a bad thing, but it does tend to fill up the kitchen with more bakery than I should really be eating. It’s a good thing I’m “eating for two” and that I live with my parents, and Jeremy, and a toddler whose fledgling vocabulary does include the remarkably well-pronounced “coo-kie” and “cake.”

6. I’m baking the pound cake for myself because tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 29. Both Jeremy and my mom have said, “Don’t you want someone to make something for you on your birthday? Why are you baking your own cake?” I am baking my own cake because then I can pick what flavor I want, and I know it will taste awesome. Because I bake a mean cake. My family can cook dinner for me or something on my birthday, but I want to do my own cake. It’s going to be Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake with a Lemon Syrup brushed on the cake to soak in. My birthday is going to be amazing.

7. Jeremy and I met with Fr. Sal about Agnes’ baptism, which I am really excited about. The Eastern Catholics do baptism, chrismation, and holy communion all at once for babies, so Agnes will be able to receive Eucharist at Divine Liturgy! The theology behind this practice is we know Eucharist is wonderful and good for people to have. We don’t want to withhold that goodness from children. It’s like a mother feeding her newborn; the newborn doesn’t have to understand how and why her mother is feeding her in order to benefit and grow and be nourished. It’s the same with us and the Eucharist. It is a holy mystery and even adults can’t fully understand the miracle. The Eastern Catholic tradition emphasizes a child’s first confession as the milestone sacrament, whereas the Latin Rite emphasizes first holy communion. It’s a difference, and one that I am excited about embracing. Since babies do receive all three sacraments in one shot, so to speak, there is the possibility we can get Stephen caught up as well! Fr. Sal is going to check for us what we would have to do or if Stephen can even go ahead and receive chrismation and start receiving communion. He’s right on the edge, though, and he might be old enough now that he would have to wait until “age of reason,” but I don’t know what the custom is for Eastern Catholic. I’m anxious to hear what Fr. Sal finds out!

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7 Quick Takes: May 24

Lookee, I remembered to do the Friday Quick Takes link-up actually on Friday this week! Go me. Head over to conversion diary for the rest of the link-up fun.

1. I am struggling a little with coming to terms with the fact that I could have a baby literally at any moment. Seriously, she could arrive next week. I have an NST scheduled for Monday morning, with another one on Thursday afternoon. If at any time, baby’s heart rate fails to elevate the appropriate amount in response to her movements, the doctors will almost certainly induce delivery. It’s a little scary to think about. This weekend Jeremy and I are going to try to get some things in place just in case. Set up the baby swing and a changing station, and acquire a few preemie size outfits for a tiny newborn. Stephen was born into 3-month size clothes, so we have nothing small enough for a midget preemie baby girl.

2. On a related note, Agnes is baby girls’ official name. We have been telling people in person, but it was never revealed officially on the blog here until my husband’s guest post earlier this week. She will be named Agnes Maria, in honor of Saint Agnes and Saint Maria Goretti, both of whom were young martyrs. Agnes is often pictured holding a lamb, and the name means “lamb.” It’s been kind of cool so far, when I tell the medical folks she’s named for Saint Agnes, I actually meet a lot of other Catholics. I’ve chatted with at least three nurses who are Catholic. It makes me feel a little better about my sticky situation.

3. Also on a related note, I have been feeling physically less well the past couple days, and the only difference in my condition that I can tell is my new knowledge about what’s going on with Agnes. It’s all in my mind, and it’s annoying. There is too much to do; I can’t just be moping around feeling heavy and out of sorts. I know I do need to take it easy, but my body’s limitations are really starting to bug me.

4. These are the cookies I intended to bake today:

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5. These are the cookies I bought at Costco today:

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Maybe I’ll bake cookies this weekend. Ha. Ha ha.

6. This morning I went to Divine Liturgy at Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church. I was feeling the deep desire to attend something liturgical and sacramental, especially since this weekend might be my last chance to beef up on graces before Agnes arrives suddenly. I was a little nervous to go since I’ve only been to Divine Liturgy one other time (last Sunday) and I know a daily service is not the place to hang out if your requirement for participation is to follow the people in the pew ahead of you. At a daily liturgy, there aren’t any people in the pew ahead of you. Luckily, there was one guy who looked like he knew what to do, so I followed him. Fr. Sal was pleased to see me there, since the last time he saw me was in a hospital bed. He said he’s been praying for me and Agnes which is really nice. I think Jeremy and I are definitely going to attend that church as our parish. I really like the Divine Liturgy and the icons and the singing. And the people I’ve talked to at the church are very welcoming and friendly.

7. We found some supposedly “ready-to-eat” beets at Costco today. Since Stephen loved beets the other night when I served them, we bought the Costco beets for baby food. We served some to Stephen for dinner. He ate a bite, gagged and choked on it a little because it was hard or something, then refused the rest of his place. Including the chocolate pancakes that were on the plate. Now I’m afraid he won’t eat another beet for the rest of his life. Thanks, Costco, for your hard “ready-to-eat” beets that probably killed my toddler’s appetite for beets.

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7 Quick Takes: May 18

1. I’m linking up with Jen Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary for the weekly Friday quick takes. Even though today is Saturday. Because I keep forgetting to do the quick takes link up and this week I decided, “better late than never.” Which is not ever the way I think in real life, but when it comes to blog posting, why the heck not? And yes, I did use this as one of my takes. neener, neener.

May 18 2013 0022. I baked a chocolate cake today. I was super excited to bake this cake because I got a cool cookbook at the public library called Vintage Cakes and it is just full of awesome cakes like ladies used to make in days gone by. This cake is called “Grammy Cake” because the author’s grandmother used to bake it all the time. It sounded really awesome. See, my cake probably tastes really awesome, but it looks really dumpy because I didn’t sufficiently grease the flutes of my fluted tube pan. I think all cookbooks should be updated so that where they currently say, “grease a 10-cup fluted tube pan,” it would be updated to say, “grease the buh-jeezus out of a 10-cup fluted tube pan.”

May 18 2013 0043. We have a couple rooms more or less finished. The family room on the lower level is all tricked out with our brown sofa to replace the 80’s upholstery sectional that was in there before. We also moved the daybed in and set up some of our attractive matching bookcases. See the vintage 1960’s wood paneling? Classic.

4. I picked up a gelato cookbook at the public library the other day, too. I’m totally going to make some gelato with my counter-top ice cream maker machine. I need to go buy the rest of the ingredients but I’ll probably make some gelato next week. I can not wait. I think I’ll make chocolate flavored gelato. I’m so excited!

5. This past week I’ve been scoping out area rugs at the local discount groceries-and-more store. The rugs were really cheap and if you decided you could go home with one of the limited selection of patterns, you could snag a super deal. I actually tried to purchase one of the remaining rugs yesterday, but apparently the store only takes cash or Discover Card, and I didn’t have quite enough moolah in my wallet. So I had to leave it behind. I went back today, and just as I had feared might happen, all the rugs are sold out, except for one natty looking brown rug that might actually be too big for my needs anyway. Double bummer. So it’s back to the brainstorm. We need a rug for the office, and we don’t want to spend a lot of money…

6. Baby girl hasn’t been quite so active today during my official kick-counting time blocks. Each time has been fewer than 35 kicks. But that’s still more than 4 kicks, which I guess is the magic number for the okay/not okay changeover.

7. We went to the local Farmer’s Market today and it was extra special neato. I even got to buy some tokens with my EBT food assistance card which meant I didn’t have to shell out actual cash for anything we bought! We bought a bunch of kale, some beets, a loaf of artisan bread, a dozen multicolored eggs, and some tomato plant starters. I’m really excited about the market; there is a great variety of merchants and the offerings are only going to become more prolific as the season continues.

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My Baby Boy

Today my baby boy turned two years old! Now we can officially stop counting his age in months. “Oh, how old is your little boy?” people would say. “Um, well…he’s…[counts in head] 22 months,” we would awkwardly respond. Or we would just say, “He’s almost two.” And now we can simply say he’s two. What a relief!

To celebrate his birthday, I baked a cake. We have been running non-stop getting ourselves settled, so in my exhaustion I only managed to put together a sheet cake from a box mix. I figure it’s good enough for a toddler. I did make the frosting from scratch though, because I wanted to do at least a little something special for my big boy’s second birthday. He really loves the Nickelodeon show Yo Gabba Gabba, and the character Brobee in particular. He even says “Brobee” [“boy-ee”] as one of his choice dozen words that he regularly uses. So I managed to decorate his birthday cake with Brobee:

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I used Stephen’s Brobee toy as a model. I whipped up the frosting and tinted some of it green with food coloring, then I bought a can of red frosting and some black writing gel. The last time I tried to tint frosting red at home, it just got pinker and pinker and never went toward red. So I cheated this time. I used dark green sugar sprinkles to make the stripes. Stephen liked the cake. He definitely recognized the picture and of course he tore into his piece with gusto. I did get pictures of Stephen with his cake, but the cable I need to upload pics from the camera is upstairs and I’m feeling way to lazy to go get it. I will post them soon, I promise. For presents, Stephen got a card full of money from Uncle David, which we took to the toy store and used to buy a fancy toy. I’ll post a picture of that soon, too. We haven’t unwrapped the new toy yet since Stephen needed to be thrown in the bath right away and giving him a new toy right before bath time ranks right up there with Really Bad Ideas.

Stephen is really enjoying hanging out in our new home. He gets to play with two kitties [“Ki-ki”] and Quinn the Dog [“Wouf-wouf”]. He gets to run around in the large yard and feel the grass tickle his ankles. He gets to sprint up and down the driveway and get boo-boos on his chin from tripping and falling. He gets to see Grandma and Grandpa every day and then be very heartbroken when they leave for work in the morning without him.

We are trying to establish a new routine. I do apologize for not keeping up my posting schedule, but it’s being hard enough for me to remember to take my medicine every day and make time in the morning for our family rosary, much less remember to write a blog post in the evening. We have been super productive around the house since the last time I posted, though:

We’ve nearly finished painting our room. All that’s left is the final coat on one of the window frames and the other half of the closet door.

We rehung the closet bar and brought our clothes dressers up to the room. We filled the closet with our clothes, so now we don’t have to live out of suitcases and wear the same outfit three times in one week! Woo-hoo!

We cleaned out Stephen’s room and assembled his crib. We assembled our bed. We laid out area rugs in both our bedrooms.

We unloaded two of our four U-boxes and started replacing the contents with items my parents have consented to sell at a yard sale. Jeremy and I hope to hold the sale Saturday May 18. Sorry, no antiques, just old stuff.

We are well on our way, working furiously. Hopefully after the next couple days we can slow down a little, because, man am I tired!

 

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Happy Birthday! Surprise Party!

I was so proud of myself this week. I managed to plan a surprise birthday party for Jeremy’s 40th birthday, and I didn’t give anything away, and he didn’t suspect anything was up, and he was surprised. I’ve been working on it for a week, emailing our friends and shopping for party supplies, and cooking extra food all on the sly. Shazam.

100_1530At least Jeremy already knew I was baking a super-fabulous cake, so I didn’t have to be sneaky about that. I ended up making a coconut cake from a recipe in The New Best Recipe (that book again. I’m not linking it again). Jeremy wanted chocolate frosting, so I took the coconut frosting in the recipe and added two squares of unsweetened bakers chocolate. Then I toasted some coconut and sprinkled it all over the cake. So pretty. So delicious. O my gosh o so delicious it was so good and so delicious and coconut chocolate it was amazing.

100_1553Let me just lick up the drool. Sorry. I didn’t actually run into any major problems when I was baking this cake. I think the cakes did fall in the oven because I opened the oven to rotate the pans and they weren’t quite baked as far as they should have been at that point. They firmed up well after that, but the damage was done. They still tasted great, but they looked a little flat. And because they were a bit on the thin side, it was really difficult to split the layers to make a four-layer finished cake. The first cake I tried to split almost fell apart; thank God for frosting repair. So I just put the second cake on un-split. A little unconventional, but still acceptable.

100_1534As for the rest of the party, I didn’t try to go too fancy on the set up. I just had some friends come over and congregate on the lawn outside our building. Then at the appointed time, I had Jeremy “go outside to take a look at this” and the group said, “Surprise!” He was surprised. Then everyone came up and we had dinner. I was agonizing how I would explain to Jeremy why I was preparing two pounds worth of chicken taco meat, but it turned out I never had to lie. He took the car to the shop and to the carwash this afternoon so I had plenty of time to cook the chicken in the microwave, chop it up, and hide it in the oven where it kept warm for the rest of the afternoon. During that crucial time frame, I also stuck the secret pop two liters in the freezer to get them a head start, then hid them in the cooler we keep under the kitchen sink, chilling with a bag of ice cubes and a couple sacks of frozen veggies.

One of our friends suggested we do a pinata, so she graciously brought one along. The kids had a lot of fun beating the heck out of it.

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100_1535For Jeremy’s birthday gift, I got him a six pack of exotic Italian beer I remembered that he liked, but we never buy it normally. Actually, the gift was supposed to be from Stephen but I forgot this handy fact on the trip where I took my opportunity to buy the gift. How did Stephen know Jeremy likes Peroni? Huh. And the other funny thing is, one of the families I invited to the party also got him the same kind of beer. I guess it must be good stuff. I tasted it, and it is very nice. Too bad I can’t really help him finish his Peroni before we move…

So Jeremy was technically the star of the show, but Sashimi the Cat was actually the true guest of honor. All the little girls in the families we invited were obsessed with the cat. He is super cute with long, luxurious fur, and he does tolerate being petted by strangers and picked up, and he walks around with big blue cat eyes saying “Meow.” I can totally understand why they were obsessed. It was pretty funny. And it gave us adults some opportunity to just chat with each other, so I guess it was win-win, except maybe the cat didn’t win, but I don’t think he cares.

All in all, we all had fun, and Jeremy will definitely remember his 40th birthday fondly!

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