Sunday, November 28, 2010


Happy first day of Advent, everyone!  It is snowing down big, beautiful, fluffy, white flakes outside as I type this and we are beginning this season of expectation and anticipation.  Jesus came once, and is coming again.


Yesterday we drove up north of the city to find a cut-your-own tree place.  We did this in Connecticut at a really great farm near our house in Hamden and always got the most beautiful trees; it was so much fun.  As for Utah, well... I can still say we had a lot of fun.

Off to find a Christmas tree!

Stomping around in the snow

So many to choose from

See all those trees, nestled into beautiful mountains?  You would think we would have found a good one, right?  In our tree's defense, it did look quite respectable outside in nature where it belongs.  We could tell it was a bit sparse looking and probably too big for our living room, but hey, we could just chop some off the top and bottom, right?  Well, as we sawed off bits of it, it veered from solidly Christmas-tree-shaped into slightly tragic Charlie Brown territory.  Oh well, this is what you risk when you eschew a manufactured perfect tree from a factory, I suppose, and Grace is fully convinced of its beauty and perfection.  Here is a very flattering glow-y portrait of our wonky Christmas tree:

All decked out

So bring on Christmas!  I am getting ready for it!  And just for the heck of it, here is a song from what is still my very favorite Christmas album.  Yes, I know I linked to this 2 years ago.  I just can't help myself.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our New House: the Upstairs Edition

It is Thanksgiving weekend and one of the things I am very thankful for this year is our new house. After the upheaval and turmoil of the past year, it is so, so wonderful to be settled in a place that feels so cozy and warm and wonderful, so like home. And I have finally organized some pictures of it, so let's take a little tour, shall we?

Our house is one floor above ground (here's the exterior pictures), and then the basement. It was built in 1917 and the rest of our neighborhood is all of similar age, mostly originally 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom houses with unfinished basements. In the century or so since they were built, people have finished the basements however they see fit, so everybody has their space organized and used differently. All four of us are sleeping in bedrooms in the basement, so our upstairs is now mostly public spaces, if you know what I mean.

Living room

See our front door?  It turned out so well.  It is the original front door (HUGE! WIDE! SOLID WOOD AND THUS VERY HEAVY!) but it was a bit sad-looking when we bought the house so we had it taken off and away to be refinished.  The restoration guy who did it was a bit slower than he originally said (although he did do an excellent job) so we lived with our front door opening boarded up with plywood for quite a while.  Classy! I much prefer it this way, with hinges and a doorknob and whatnot. And see that scratchy orange-ish chair?  I STILL haven't gotten that re-upholstered.  Someday, someday...  I love the glass-fronted bookshelves built in around the fireplace; that's a pretty common detail in the bungalows in Salt Lake City.

Living room

Aren't the windows pretty?  This is the living room looking into the girls' play room.  The paint color through the living and dining room is Metro Gray by Benjamin Moore.  It is a fabulous gray that reads slightly blue or violet or warm, depending on the light.  My mom has it in her guest bedroom and I just fell in love with it when we stayed with them.  We had the floors refinished before we moved in and had the floor guys use a low-VOC environmentally-friendly finish from this company.  It turned out really beautifully and we are happy so far with it.  And if you turn around here, you will see...

Dining room

...the dining room.  I loooooove these chairs.  They are these chairs from West Elm and I like that they have no nasty crevices or food-catching upholstery or anything-- very child friendly.  (And, of course, how they look is very, very nice as well.)  The dining table is the NORDEN table from IKEA and is also new.  That white sideboard in the back is built-in.  Awesome, right?  And a little peek into the kitchen, which I am just now realizing I didn't photograph.  Sigh... Another day.

Play room

Here's the girls' play room.  This color is a Martha Stewart color from Home Depot, Araucana Teal, and I loooooove it.  All our paint is actually low-VOC paint from Sherwin Williams because that's the low-VOC paint that our painter likes the most, and they did a really great job of matching my colors.  That toy storage below the windows is new and is the TROFAST system from IKEA.  This room does not typically look this neat, in case you were wondering.

Print in play room

This print (which is hanging off-camera to the right in the previous picture) is one of my favorite things I bought for the new house.

Now we come to the two little back bedrooms upstairs, which are really hard to photograph because they are pretty small.  This one (painted Benjamin Moore's Claret Rose) is currently our office.  In another year or so, we are going to move Violet and Grace to bunk beds in here and then our computer desk will join the toys and such in what is now the play room.  (Both rooms are pretty empty right now so there will be plenty of room.)

And lastly here is our guest bedroom, where the beautiful quilt my mom made for us and all our black-and-white photography of Yosemite lives now.  It is all set up and ready for guests so hey! Come visit us!  Well, not if you are a random person on the internet, but if I actually know you in real life, then yes! Come see beautiful Salt Lake City!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Which Comes First, the Omelette Pan or the Chicken Coop?

I've been thinking lately that I wish I knew when my children would start to like spicy food.  Then, you know, I could mentally prepare myself for how long I will have to keep things bland for them.  Poor little children, with their super sensitive taste buds that have not been burned out by a lifetime of Thai food and Tex-Mex...  You can see the horror on their faces when they do get a bite of something too spicy for them. When will that go away and be replaced by the enjoyment of it?  And why do we enjoy spicy food, now that I think about it?  It's one of those pain/pleasure things, I guess.  Similarly, I wish I knew when my children will be able to eat a meal without such a huge percentage of it ending up on the floor.  Violet is, of course, the worst offender, but really Grace is not super neat yet either.  I never noticed this at all until our dear Abbey started to get sick in the last year of her life and quit cleaning up after them; now, sadly, it is my job.  I can last just a couple of days without having to vacuum our dining room rug, at which point I can identify at least 6 to 8 different kinds of food.  Kids! They're messy!

So college football season is drawing to a close and the big college rivalry here in Utah is between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. It is a rivalry rather similar to Texas', where in an SAT-style analogy Utah would be to the University of Texas (liberal, big state university, in a bigger city, etc) as BYU is to Texas A&M (conservative, small town, etc). Probably some fellow Aggie is going to be mad that I just compared us to a Mormon school but IT'S TOTALLY TRUE. We used to joke that A&M was the biggest Christian college in the country. Anyway, BYU's colors are blue and white and their logo is often a big collegiate-font "Y"; if you are a friend of ours from Connecticut, this may sound quite familiar to you as it is very, very similar to what Yale uses. Rob has some T-shirts and a fleece and whatnot from the Yale pediatrics department and he has gotten some funny looks and doubletakes from people when wearing them, especially if he is holding a drink or at church or something.

I've been doing away with the nonstick cookware in our kitchen over the past couple of years.  I try not to be a health/environmental crazy crackpot person but I find the evidence for the dangers of nonstick cookware pretty convincing.  I heard the guys who wrote Slow Death by Rubber Duck talking on NPR a while back and it finally motivated me to find a different way to cook stuff.  I haven't thrown all my nonstick stuff out, but the pieces of cookware that I use the most now are my Le Creuset Dutch oven (expensive but so worth it for me; I use it ALL THE FRACKING TIME) and my cast iron skillets.  I have a little 8" skillet that I have no idea where it came from (I think Robert had it before we were married and I scrubbed off all the rust and seasoned it and whatnot to get it back in working condition; I have a vague memory of it being from one of his grandmothers?) and then last Christmas my sister gave me this nice 12" one.  Cast iron is so nice to cook in; it is so heavy and has so much mass that you can get it blisteringly hot and I love the way it evenly moves heat into food.  When it's well-seasoned it has a naturally nonstick surface that works for pretty much everything for me and it washes very nicely.  I do not follow the thinking that you can't use soap on your cast iron; I wash it by hand with my regular dish soap, then pop it back on the stove to get warm enough to make sure all the water is evaporated (you do have to take steps to keep cast iron from rusting), then rub a tiny bit of oil on it with a paper towel while it is warm to keep it well-seasoned.  I've done it this way for years with my 8" skillet and for one year on my big skillet and they are in great shape and this is working great for me except when it comes to eggs.

Oh, eggs, you are so darned sticky...  I can't seem to do anything to my cast iron to be able to scramble eggs in them without ending up with an awful stuck-on mess at the end.  I have a little nonstick pan that's good for a single serving of eggs but I'm not sure I want buy a bigger nonstick pan to do eggs for a whole family breakfast, given the aforementioned issues.  On the other hand, you don't cook eggs at very high heat (which is where nonstick is really bad for you) and this thread is making me think I should buy something nonstick really cheap at IKEA and just use it for eggs only, thinking any bad chemical exposure will be pretty minimal.  Or maybe enameled cast iron or enameled steel is the way to go?  I am full of uncertainty...  I need to figure this out, though, to prepare for when I convince Rob to get our backyard chickens.  Chickens!  Hooray!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Flying Solo

Rob left this afternoon for several days at a national allergy meeting so I am doing the solo parenthood gig for a while.  Violet was terribly sad when we dropped Rob off at the airport, mournfully wailing "DADDEEEEEEE! DADDEEEEEEEEE!" as he walked into the terminal and we drove away. Sad!  Grace, thankfully, is now old enough that a) we can tell her about these types of things ahead of time and prepare her and b) she can understand that in such-and-such number of days he will be home.  My biggest challenge with her today is that she thinks the city Rob has traveled to is named, not Phoenix, but "Penis".

The thing I am the most worried about while Robert is gone is that Violet has been KILLING me lately with the bedtimes.  Blech.  She has been fighting going to sleep like you would not believe, crying and thrashing and refusing to stay in bed until, usually, my bedtime.  I think we are up to 6 nights or so of this, and believe you me, I am ready for this little phase to end.  Ironically, this miserable phase came on the heels of her sleeping so so well for a number of weeks, even finally breaking the 8-hours-of-undisturbed-sleep mark that had been her previous highest achievement to the elusive, heavens-breaking-into-song, honest-to-goodness sleeping through the night.  Oh well, what's a mama to do? It'll all be different a week from now anyway.  It's like kids change really fast or something.  In this case, thank goodness, because these evenings have been rough.

Speaking of Violet, she recently has discovered the alphabet and can identify almost all the letters.  She still confuses b and d and the like, but the cockles of my maternal heart are warmed by her glee about the letters.  It does surprise me a bit to sit in the car with my not-quite-2-year-old and have her read off "U-P-H-O-L-S-T-E-R-Y" or some such group of letters, especially since I know Grace didn't know her letters by this age.  I give all the credit to Word World. I also think that TV show may deserve the credit for Grace finally starting to understand the smooshing of letters/sounds together to make words.  She is not really reading yet, but something has cognitively clicked in her brain so she gets it at some level and her motivation has received some kind of boost as a result.

My most recently completed reading was Rethinking Thin; here's what I wrote on Goodreads:

Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of DietingReally interesting. Kolata (a New York Times science writer) follows several overweight people as they participate in an academic weight loss study and explores why they do or don't lose weight and do or don't keep it off. There's a section on the history of dieting, which is wacky and interesting, explorations of what research has shown us about why we weigh what we do and cultural attitudes toward obesity, but the section I liked the most and found the most challenging to my preconceived notions about weight and dieting was about the biochemistry of satiety and appetite. She succeeded in convincing me that most thin people are thin because they are hard-wired that way, that being overweight is not really much of a health risk for otherwise healthy people (people with regular exercise and healthy diets), and that permanently losing weight is just not as simple as "eat less, exercise more", thermodynamics notwithstanding. Kolata doesn't give advice about what to do with this information, either on a personal or a policy level, but it does put how I choose to eat and live and think about my body in a new light.

So anyway, when I first finished the book, I felt so liberated and content and like my eyes had been opened to a new understanding of my body. (For context, I've lost a lot of weight since Violet was born but for the past number of months my weight has not budged, still a nonnegligible amount above what I had thought of as a good, happy weight for me. I am overweight according to my BMI.)  I then had some in-real-life conversations about the ideas in the book with someone who dismisses these kinds of rethinking of weight issues. These conversations have really affected me and made me feel kind of awful; now I cannot quite seem to recover my baseline equanimity, not to mention the new contentment I had right after reading the book.  I feel like my confidence has somehow evaporated and I'm actually feeling worse about my body right now than I have, I don't know, ever.  I've got to somehow snap out of this.  I've been rereading some different thoughts on body image, and staying far away from any fashion magazines, and reflecting on where my security/value/identity really come from.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween

Well, Halloween may not be our favorite holiday around here, but there's nothing to be grumpy about in a winged 4-year-old fairy and a happy Cat in the Hat.

A 4-year-old fairy

The Cat in the Hat

Time for trick-or-treating


I went trick-or-treating for the very first time in my entire life, handed out candy to lots of cheerful neighborhood kids, and went to a party across the street with a dozen sugar-crazed children and their parents. Hope you had a fabulous weekend too!