Sunday, December 26, 2010


Christmas is over, the presents are all unwrapped, the recycling bin in full of brightly colored paper, and we are feeling content and overwhelmed with good things in our lives.  I really love some of the gifts in our family this year!


First off, I sewed some little mermaid dolls for the girls.  These are from the Mermaiden pattern by Wee Wonderfuls, and I am sooooo happy with how they turned out.  They were very fun and rewarding to sew and used up just tiny scraps of fabric.  The only thing I bought for these dolls was the embroidery thread for the faces. (Doing the faces, by the way, was just. too. fun. seriously.)

Two little mermaid friends

The black hair and the blue hair are from felted old sweaters; the black hair was from a merino wool sweater and it turned out an especially awesome texture, sort of squishy.  (The blue hair was from an old cashmere sweater and turned out more soft and fuzzy, as you might expect.)  The original pattern has you do hair flowers from rickrack, but that didn't work at all for me.  I used some lace and regular ribbon for two of them, and then did little beading embellishment on the other two.

Two more little mermaid ladies

I used three different fabrics for the body/skin and they turned out pretty different from each other.  They each had different amounts of stretch, so the dolls each turned out slightly different sizes.  The medium brown skin was a woven with no stretch (what the original pattern calls for), so that doll turned out petite and little (also, kind of wrinkly because there is no stretch-- she is a blue-haired granny mermaid). The fair skin is a hemp/cotton French terry that has a medium amount of stretch, so those two dolls turned out medium-sized (and I think this was the most appealing amount of stretch; I'd love to find it in more skin colors or dye it or something).  The dark brown skin is very stretchy and that doll turned out, well, a bit on the plump side.  In hind sight, I should have sewn her a bit smaller to start with.  Also, the next time I sew an African-American doll, I will use a darker red for the mouth.

I really love how they all turned out different and quirky and individuals, and I am DEFINITELY going to buy her new book.  Also, I may buy this pattern from the same designer for future doll sewing.  I have never really sewn little toys or dolls before this and I am feeling a little obsessive and addicted right now because SQUEEEEEE THEY ARE SO CUTE AND FUN TO SEW.  Also, the girls really like them; Grace's are in the bottom picture and she has named them Aubra (left) and Princess Tail (right).

A subversive necklace

I got many lovely gifts myself, including this necklace from Rob.  It is made from a vintage dictionary page; isn't that the most wonderful, appealing idea?  You get to choose what word you want in the necklace, so Rob decided it should be a subversive necklace.  LOVE.


And then here is what I gave Rob (actually for his birthday, which is a few days before Christmas).  It's an oil painting done by this artist as part of a project he did for small, affordable commissioned art.  He did 100 little oil paintings based on photographs that we sent in; Rob's painting is based on this photograph of Grace when she was about 18 months old. Again, LOVE.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Once in royal David's city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two Years of Violet

Two Years of Violet

Today is Violet's birthday and she is two whole years old.  She has changed so much since this time last year; I don't I will ever become accustomed to the whiplash-inducing rate of change of these first years of life.  She says more words than I can count, identifying herself as "BIOLET" and stringing together little proto-sentences.  She runs full-tilt when the fancy strikes her and in the wee small hours of the morning sleepily toddles from her little bed in the room she shares with Grace to our room to cuddle for the last hours of the night.  She sings recognizable if hilarious versions of "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" and "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel".

She likes using forks and spoons and pushing buttons and eating blueberries and nursing before she goes to sleep, and she dislikes having her teeth brushed and sitting at the table to eat and being thwarted from her adventures.  She's pretty much grown out of babywearing, except for very rare special circumstances, and protests at anything that restrains her unfettered independence, from the Ergo to the stroller to the grocery store cart.  She is so daring and fearless, approaching the world around her with confidence and curiosity.

Violet is much more assertive than Grace was at this age, insisting that it is "BIOLET'S TURN!" and clasping items to her chest and declaring them "MINE!"  She is generally a laid-back, easygoing individual, though, and is philosophical about the ups and downs that life brings her way.  She loves being around other kids her age, calling them "OTHER BABIES!", although she doesn't get as many playdates and dedicated Violet-oriented activities as Grace did at this age.  The plight of the second child...  I do think I am going to do a gymnastics class or music class or something with her after the holidays.

Yesterday was Rob's birthday and I think it is just this year sinking in that their birthdays will always be intertwined and linked.  I hope she doesn't resent it later, when her birthday comes at such a busy time of year and won't ever really get a lot of undivided attention, despite how hard I may try.  At some level it makes me happy, though.  We are all tangled together forever, even our birthdays.  And then I think I will always associate this time of year with the joy of bringing home the amazing tiny new person that Violet used to be.  I was dreamily in love with that milky Christmas newborn, but now I see how everyday she is becoming more herself.

Happy birthday, my sweet, intrepid, even-tempered, beautiful girl.

Happy to be out of the stroller

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Life has been a bit full lately.  I see this largely as a good thing because I think it means that we are settled in here and are building relationships with people and finding our place and whatnot.  We are doing church stuff twice a week and MOPS has turned out way better than I feared it might, and then there's always stuff for Grace's preschool and storytime at the library and adoption paperwork and so forth.  The holidays are, of course, a contributing factor in recent weeks. Rob and I try hard to be deliberate in cultivating peace and avoiding insanity for our family during these times, but even when you try for mindfulness, there is still so much going on this time of year!  For whatever reason, this is the first year that I decided to really make gifts for the girls, a decision which brings with it its own brand of busy-ness.  (By that I mean frantic sewing whenever the girls are asleep.)  This afternoon I finished Violet's birthday present, though, and it turned out so cuuuuuute that I feel another burst of motivation to finish my last bits of work on Christmas presents for the girls.  Violet is getting a baby doll for her birthday from my parents and the rest of us are all giving her things to go along with it/her. (I wonder what the appropriate pronoun for a baby doll is...)  Here's what we (well, really I, I suppose; Rob's role was being supportive and nodding appreciatively) did:

Violet's doll bed is finished!

The bed itself is from IKEA (the DUKTIG bed, in case you are in the market for a doll bed); it comes with some linens but they are pretty second-rate so it was time to break out some fabric.  The mattress is foam from Joann's that I wrapped in cotton quilt batting and then covered in white flannel. The quilt, which took probably 90% of the time of this whole project, is just a scrappy pattern I made up as I went along (mostly strip-pieced but cut up to make it look random).  And the little pillow is covered in sweet doll fabric that my grandmother gave me.  I bought the foam for the mattress and the pillow form, but everything else was stuff I already had.  This probably says more about my fabric stashing than about my frugality, sadly.

A tiny quilt

I am not a big quilter normally.  I usually think, "So we take whole fabric, cut it into little pieces, then sew it back together in to a big piece?!" However, occasionally I get a hankering for the geometric mathematics and patterning of it, and I really enjoyed making this tiny quilt.  And those pieces really are tiny-- about 1" on a side.  The batting is Warm & Natural, which is my faaaaaavorite; I don't preshrink it and then laundering the quilt when it's finished makes the whole thing shrink up and get that fabulous vintage-y puffy texture.  I quilted it pretty heavily-- free motion wavy lines on the solid light pink and a decorative leaf stitch from my sewing machine on the pieced strips.  I had so much fun making all this, although it has taken up all my sewing time recently.  Busy Santa's elf, that's me!

Of course, being busy is not entirely a good thing.  For starters, I am not the kind of person who thrives on having too much scheduled activity going on.  I like my free time, and honestly my most favorite kinds of days are the ones with no places to be and no tasks to take care of.  There is a strong hermit streak in me, and I do get a bit de-centered and off-kilter when there is too much activity in my life.  And then there is exercise; I am sad to report that I do not still work out 6 days a week like when we were living in that rental house this past summer.  Rob and I joke that we exercised so much then because it was so unpleasant to be at that house.  The beautiful gym at the Jewish Community Center where Grace goes to preschool was a much nicer place to be.  Now, between our lovely new house that is just so darned comfy and hard to leave and the full, busy days, I am doing good to exercise 3 times a week.  Hopefully I will get back on that after the holidays are over.

Looking back, I am realizing that I never really was busy in Dallas.  This is partly because I had a baby during those years and it is hard to get super involved in anything in the outside world when life is so absorbed by the urgency of a newborn, but I don't know that I can wholly attribute it to Violet because the same thing did not happen when I had Grace in Connecticut.  The couple of activity/social things that I tried went rather badly and the dominant culture there is just not the best fit for my personality and interests and values and whatnot, so I kind of gave up eventually, I admit.  It is such a relief to see my life here now rich in relationships and full of things that make me happy, and I am very grateful.

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!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Look! It's Our House!

Almost 100 years old

Our new house!

Gosh, I love it.  We are really feeling settled here in the house as our first month here draws to a close.

I think the girls are settled and feel stable again, which is quite a relief.  Moving (and moving twice in 3 months, no less) is kind of disruptive when you are a small child, it turns out. Who could have guessed?  Ironically, Grace has recently developed a fixation on apartments.  I am amused by this because I remember doing the same thing as a child; I loved the idea of the stairs and living up high and being all squashed up with other people's homes. (Heck, we would have loved a condo/townhouse thing NOW because we don't like yardwork and we are ideologically in favor of denser housing, but neither Dallas nor Salt Lake City has many with 3 bedrooms.)  There is a specific apartment building that we pass on the way to and from Grace's preschool that has particularly captured her imagination.  When we drive past it, she declares that she will live there when she grows up.  She says she will live on the top floor and she will invite me over for dinner and she will make me chicken nuggets and cupcakes.  I can't wait.

I have finally been motivated to get some pictures taken of the house for our adoption paperwork.  We are starting up that process again here in Utah with a new agency, which is exciting.  (To recap, we have always been interested in adoption and planned to adopt; we started the process with an agency in Texas and got started on the homestudy but then decided to move away from Dallas so put the process on hold until after we were settled.)  We are pursuing the same kind of adoption as before, a domestic newborn adoption. We are saying we are open to any race so we will probably be matched with an African-American child.  I think we've found the right agency for us and we are filling out paperwork and we have the first homestudy visit scheduled (a social worker! coming to our house! to see if we are fit parents!), so things are moving forward.  We'll see how it all shakes out.  Anyway, I like these exterior shots but I am still working on the interior ones; I need to switch out a lens or something.  Soon you will see the paint colors and pretty hardwood floors and my new dining room chairs that I just love and the shiny kitchen.

One fun thing I've done in my shiny new soon-to-be-photographed kitchen is turn this:

I really like your peaches

into this:


And oh, how delicious it is. I did applesauce this harvest season too, which is also quite lovely.  Rob says we need to buy some kind of wagon before the farmers market starts up again next year because he is tired of trying to carry these awkward, big boxes of produce home.  Home preserving is so rewarding; I really like it.  It also always makes me think of my friend Emily, who partnered with me in my first-ever canning experience back when we lived in the same neighborhood in Connecticut.  Having a little cabinet filled with glowing golden jars is such a homey, wonderful feeling as autumn winds down, especially since yesterday we woke up to this:

First snow!


Monday, October 25, 2010


My mornings have been revolutionized lately by this nifty innovation called a "carpool".  It turns out that some of the neighbors on our new street send their 3-year-old son to the same preschool where Grace is going.  She has room in her car for Grace, in addition to her little boy and her 2nd-grader, so most mornings I walk Grace over to their house and watch them drive away for the school drop-off run.  I guess it is not technically a carpool if she does all the driving and I never help, is it? (And a minivan really is in our near future, isn't it? Bleargh.) Anyway, it has been such a help, and it feels great to be making friends in our neighborhood.

I realized the other day that fully half of the new friends I have made here in Salt Lake City (I am just counting adult women in this) don't eat gluten.  There is a gluten intolerance epidemic!  It is a very trendy way to eat (obviously) and its trendiness makes me chuckle, but I do have sympathy for such issues since my mom has been off gluten for, gosh, 10 or so years now and it has made a big difference for her.  I sometimes suspect if I myself could lay the blame for some of my (rather mild) chronic stomach issues on gluten.  I have been joking with Rob lately that I sure will miss macaroni & cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches and such when I discover I am lactose and gluten (oh, and probably yeast and fructose too) intolerant.

Speaking of making new friends, remember how I was saying, "Oh, I haven't really met many LDS people at all," and saying how typical everyone in Utah seemed?  Well! It turns out that one of the mom friends I've made at MOPS has actually been part of a fundamentalist polygamous sect her whole life until 18 months ago!  I did not see that one coming, I tell you.  She is a sweet, funny woman with a regular haircut and regular clothes, and obviously very brave and determined for leaving her lifelong community with her children.  She left because her oldest children (both girls and boys) started having a lot of trouble in that community in their teenage years and is divorcing her husband (she was the first wife so CAN actually get a divorce and all the legal rights that entails).  A surprise around every corner, I tell you!

In much more mundane news, I think that this is the year that Robert and I finally break down and celebrate Halloween in traditional American style.  I refer you to my post from two years ago to explain our feelings on the matter and my history with this holiday.  Everything is changing this year, though, because a) our church here is teeny tiny and isn't doing any kind of fall festival and b) I am told that our street is very trick-or-treating friendly with lots of young families and neighborliness and fun times. (Actually, our street is just very neighborly to start with; I have already had more chats and interactions and glasses of wine with neighbors here than I did in 2 whole years in Dallas.)  We are going to leave our light ON this year and give out candy and everything.  This will be a first for me.  Rob is still very grumpy about the whole holiday (he has stronger feelings about it all than I do, which is somewhat ironic, given the difference in our backgrounds-- or maybe that is to be expected? perhaps we all tend to explore different choices than our parents?) but we bought the candy so we are mentally committed to the whole neighborhood Halloween celebration.  Violet is going to wear the hand-me-down Cat in the Hat costume and Grace is going to be a fairy.  I bought the wings on Etsy and am sewing a matching dress.  I must admit that part of my openness to a more conventional Halloween just might stem from how FUN it is to sew up a fantastical costume.  There aren't just enough opportunities in life to sew a shiny sparkly fairy dress.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Someday I Will Blog Regularly Again

Life has been a whirlwind lately, a whirlwind of moving trucks and boxes and painting and settling into a new home.  We have been in this new house for almost 2 weeks now and I feel like life is starting to settle into a comfortable pattern as the boxes have been cleared away and the various workers have finished their tasks and departed.  It still feels like there is too much to do each day and keeping up here online has, obviously, fallen by the wayside. This is fine and natural, but I have missed it.  I guess I should have expected it, seeing how the last time we moved in the summer of 2008 I blogged a mere 6 times in 3 months.  Until I manage some real time for thought and sharing, here are some bullets:
  • Getting Grace to preschool 5 mornings a week is kicking my butt. Seriously. This will get easier, right? And this would be a bad reason to consider homeschooling?
  • I love the light in the upstairs (non-basement) of our house-- so airy and luminous and bright.
  • I love how cozy the basement (where all 4 of us have bedrooms) of our house is; it feels like a snug den.
  • Grace is going to a little gymnastics class and although she is generally having fun, she gets freaked out by the uneven bars.
  • I have a hair appointment tomorrow and I am planning on doing something DRASTIC color-wise.
  • I really miss sewing.  My sewing stuff is all here and in the room where my sewing area will be, but we need some kind of storage furniture and organization and it is not ready for action yet.  I am just ITCHING to make something.
  • I think my children are not getting enough sleep, what with our new morning schedule, especially Grace. We've got to get them to bed earlier, I guess?
  • Our front door came back this week! Hooray! It's the original door to the house and was a bit the worse for its 93 years of wear.  We had somebody take it off and away where it was all refinished and it looks really lovely now.  Especially when compared to the plywood that was boarding up the doorway for the past few weeks.
  • Last weekend, Rob and I went to hear one of our recent-ish musical discoveries, a band from Portland called Blind Pilot.  I have such a soft spot for the banjo... (They are going to be at the ACL festival, Austin friends!)  It was a really fun show-- all the great stuff from their first album and some new stuff that was so good that it makes me excited for their next album.  All week Rob and I have had their music stuck in our heads.  There are worse things, certainly:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

21 Months

Polaroid Violet

Today Violet is 21 months old, 3/4 of the way through her second year of life.  She is just a few months shy of becoming a 2-year-old.  A 2-year-old!  I can hardly believe it.  One of the most obvious changes in her lately is her language blossoming at an ever increasing rate, which is super-fun and such a joy to see.  She calls her sister "DRACE" and her dad sometimes "WOBBER" and herself "BABY!"  I'm not sure what she thinks the word Violet means yet; maybe she thinks it is a call to attention or what I say when she is supposed to stop what she's doing.  She still says "AT-CHOO" for thank you and if you thank her, she says, "YOO WELCOME." If she is looking for you, she will warble, "WE-AW-YOO?" and if you tell her you love her, she will respond, "I-UVOO."  One of her latest words is elephant, which she pronounces something like "APPLE-FANT".  She puts together little two-word sentences, such as "other eye" and "Daddy shoe".


She is obsessed with shoes and socks, and she has a deep fondness for keys.  She declares things to be "MINE!" with said item clasped to her chest with both little hands.  She sings warbly approximations of songs from our favorite CDs or the alphabet song.  She is such a climber, deeply motivated to scale the heights of the fireplace mantel or the dining table or the basement stairs or whatever else presents itself.  She gets so upset about being thwarted (an unfortunately common occurrence, given her predilections) and sometimes throws herself face-down on the floor upon being foiled.  Strangely, this is not the prelude to a tantrum; she lays quietly face-down on the floor for a few moments, then gets up and wanders off to do something else.

No, they aren't actually sharing a bed

The past few months have been a time of great transition for our family, moving from Texas to Utah, and now from this rental to a house of our own.  One transition for Violet has been moving from a crib to a toddler bed.  Our crib was damaged in the move and rather than buy another one with the money our moving company reimbursed us with, we bought this toddler bed (so cute! I really like it).  Moving to a toddler bed has been so nice; it's so much easier to get her to go to sleep when I can cuddle with her, nurse her a little, and be physically close to her as she is dozing off.  Maybe I am coming around to the realization that we are not a crib family, and perhaps for baby #3 we can get away with moving straight from the bedside cosleeper to this toddler bed.  No crib-- I'm a total hippie, aren't I?  Anyway, we also put Violet in her new little toddler bed in the same room with Grace, which has gone smoothly so far.  It is awfully adorable to see both of them sleeping away just a few feet away from each other.

Lunch outside

Of course, there's not much about Violet -- sweet, funny, adventurous, driven Violet -- that isn't adorable.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Church and Donald Miller and Sleeping In

I think we have found a church to call home, and we feel pretty excited about it.  It is this church, which is a fairly new church plant of Imago Dei, a church in Portland you may have heard of because it is where Donald Miller goes and he mentions it in Blue Like Jazz.  (Which is fabulous! And everybody should read it!)  Anyway, it is a really interesting, refreshing faith community and I feel so enthusiastic about being a part of it.  See this video?  Oh, I just love it.  I've had a hard time with church life for the past couple years because of various cultural quirks of big Texas evangelical churches so I feel very happy to have found a really different kind of place where I feel more in tune with the community.  Speaking of Donald Miller, actually, I read Blue Like Jazz when I was perhaps at my peak of church-y unhappiness and he has a chapter entitled "Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry" that both did and did not help me at the time.  He talked about a lot of things that resonated with me ("it was like going to church at the Gap") but the answer he gave to the question presented by his chapter title was, in the end, to find a church that was a good match for you as an individual and then let go of any bad attitude toward other churches that are not good matches for your personality, priorities, etc.  This was not very helpful to me when I was going to a Dallas mega-church, as you might guess, but I feel quite differently here at the beginning of my relationship with a church that seems like it reflects my interests and values.

It is a very young church, both in the sense that it has only been meeting since Easter of this year and in the sense that Rob and I suspect we are among the oldest people there.  It's not that there is nobody older than us, but we are definitely on the upper end of the age distribution-- loooooots of people in their 20s.

This church is so new that it doesn't have a building yet so it is meeting at various random places around the city like people's houses and this amazing bakery (closed on Sundays and thus those amazing pastries tantalize us the whole time we are there but we are unable to purchase/devour any) and the student union at the university.  It meets at 4pm on Sundays, which I must say is a huge paradigm shift me.  For my ENTIRE life, Sunday morning = church and it is blowing my mind a little to have Sunday mornings free.  Is this what it is like to not be a churchgoer? Instead of getting up with an alarm clock and scuttling the whole morning to get yourself and your children fed and dressed in some appropriate way and out the door, you sleep in and are lazy and go to a lovely Sunday morning yoga class?  I can see the appeal.  Seriously, though, I have been going to this great yoga class on Sunday mornings now and if this church ever gets a regular building and has Sunday morning services, I am going to miss it.

For the record, there were probably 5 different churches here in Salt Lake City that would have been great for us, one of which is where I am going to MOPS now.  We had a bit of concern about this before we moved here, because all the people we knew here were agnostics/atheists/skeptics/etc and faith and spirituality weren't big priorities for them.  All these people were/are really happy in this city and we thought we would be too because we have a lot in common with these various friends of ours, but we were a little worried that the only church-goers in the whole city were Mormon and we would have a hard time finding a spot for us.  Not the case, however-- the churches here are smaller and newer than what we were used to in Texas (OH NOES <- sarcasm) but they are thriving and vibrant.  So, to sum up, this is not a reason to avoid Salt Lake City.  Nor are the Mormons, really; to be honest, I haven't met many LDS people since moving here.  This is, of course, because of where I've been spending my days since we moved here in July-- the liberal neighborhoods around the university where we live and go to the park and Grace does gymnastics and we go to restaurants and shop, the Jewish Community Center where Grace goes to preschool and I use the gym, various churches we've been visiting.  I hear tell that the suburbs are a vast swath of LDS folks as far as the eye can see, but the only reasons I go to the suburbs are IKEA and In-N-Out Burger.  (Yeah, we are not very good quasi-vegetarians.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Like a Chicken Bereft of Its Head

Whew! Life has been a bit of a whirlwind recently!  I keep getting further and further behind on laundry, and I am not even sure what we've been eating because I haven't planned and cooked proper meals for quite a while now.  It's all been good/fun/important stuff that has kept us in this hectic state, but some calm and peace would be very welcome right now. Violet started developing a runny nose late yesterday and then had a miserable night, so I cleared our schedule today and declared it to be a day of staying home in comfy pants.  Having a sick 20-month-old is pretty wretched (the coughing! the snot! the terrible toddler moods!), but I will admit that I could really use this quiet day after the harried tumult of the past two weeks.

Those two weeks have seen us close on our house (hooraaaaaaaaaaaay...), the sellers rent back from us for a while, and then us take possession of the house.  It is now really ours, and I am super excited.  I started work on the mantel, which I am refinishing, and then this week people came in to refinish our floors.  We're having them use an environmentally friendly finish on the floor, which I am kind of excited about.  It's low-VOC and LEED complaint and all those good things, and I perused the internet to find people who have had it on their floors and folks seem very happy with its durability and whatnot.  After the hardwood floors, we will have somebody come in to wire for the speakers in the media room and then somebody to do all the painting, and I am still working on getting somebody to refinish the front door.  It's probably under 3 weeks now until we get to move in and it is hard to communicate just how HAPPY this makes me.

Back to school!

Yesterday Grace had her first day at her new preschool so there has been much scrambling around to meet-the-teacher and parent meetings and making it to the first morning drop-off WITH all the appropriate items and WITHOUT being late.  I think it is going to be a fun year for Grace; her two teachers seem so sweet and engaged in small children and serious about this as an important and wondrous part of life.  She is going five mornings a week, which is only slightly more hours weekly than she did last year but going everyday is going to be new for us.  It is mainly going to be an adjustment for me, I think; I have to get us all out the door dressed appropriately with a lunch packed EVERY MORNING. For FIVE DAYS A WEEK. Shocking, I know.

Speaking of getting dressed and packed up and where one is supposed to be, I have recently been bemoaning how much time my exercise habits now take up.  By the time I drop off whatever children I have with me at the childcare room after having packed them what they need and me what I need, then work out, then pick them up and drive home and then take a shower and do my hair and so forth, I have used up almost two hours (or more, when I work out for 90 minutes instead of an hour).  Multiplying this by how many times a week I am trying to exercise, I am up to about how many credit hours I was teaching before Violet was born.  So much time!  I wish being in shape wasn't so much WORK.  I am hoping that after we are settled in the new house, more of my time and energy gets freed up so that eventually I can return to sewing and fun things like that and eventually having a job again without returning to my slothful, non-exercising ways.

Rushing water

On Labor Day, instead of staying home and doing laundry and buying groceries as some priorities would have directed, we went on our first outdoorsy outing here in Utah.  It was SO MUCH FUN.  We drove out to Big Cottonwood Canyon and hiked a little trail to Donut Falls.  It was a perfect first hike to try out with Grace, as it was just 1.5 miles roundtrip and there was this great waterfall to see.  There were a lot of people there because of the holiday and the beautiful, slightly cool weather, but it was still fun.  We had an inauspicious beginning to our hike as Violet threw an absolute fit for about the first 20 minutes.  She wanted so desperately to walk and be independent but I had to keep her in the Ergo as she isn't a good enough walker to navigate rocks and a bumpy trail and so forth.  Oh, how she protested! Oh, how angry she was at being thwarted!  Rob said it was like being the one with a crying baby on an airplane, except WORSE, because all these people had come out to enjoy nature and trees and mountains and there we were with our tantrumy screamy toddler.  We just kept moving forward and eventually she calmed down after she screamed herself hoarse and hungry and thirsty.  For a while we thought it was going to be an absolute failure of an outing but Violet calmed down and then shortly afterwards we arrived at the falls and it was just lovely.  I climbed about a third of the way up the falls but turned back when it got too slippery to scramble up the boulders with my balance compromised by Violet strapped on me, while Rob and Grace went all the way up and got to see the circular hole in the rock for which the falls are named.  We had such a good time, and I can't wait to see more fun outdoorsy things here in our new home state.  If we make a habit of such things, I am going to need some appropriate shoes or clothes or something.  I wore my one pair of jeans and was reminded how much I just abhor wearing jeans-- so uncomfortable.  And the shoes I wore (a really old pair of retired running shoes) went into a pile to be donated because they were making my feet numb.  Another benefit to hiking-- I get to buy a new outfit!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Third Refrigerator's the Charm

The third refrigerator we have had at this rental house in the past month was delivered to us this evening.  Refrigerator #1 conked out a few weeks back and after all the organic milk and frozen stuff from Costco went bad, a replacement arrived.  Refrigerator #2 was of the same ilk (old, cheap, seen better days) and Sunday night starting to make a very concerning noise.  The popsicles were all melting and the refrigerator section seemed to be about the same temperature as the kitchen itself so again we called our landlord.  I think the grocery-related financial damage was less complete this time because we drove a bunch of stuff over to our friends' house and then borrowed a cooler from them.  We managed to keep a good bit from being thrown away in another display of obscene waste.  Today I promised these friends (the ones I've mentioned before because they are almost the only people we really know here) that we would soon make more friends in Salt Lake City so that they weren't the only people we had to call whenever we needed any kind of help.  They have been so, so generous and helpful since we've arrived but I can only imagine they would not mind spreading the tasks of helping us out around a bit.

I was talking with Rob yesterday and wondered aloud which would be the better choice environmentally-- to buy one crappy used refrigerator every month or to buy one new refrigerator that would last ten years.  I'm all for buying used items in an effort to keep stuff out of landfills and to not use up so many resources, but I have my suspicions that you may not come out ahead on this one.

Anyway, Sunday night I was just seething with frustration about this rental and was just so, so OVER being here.  I have tried to be careful about what I've said about this rental in general out of kindness to the landlord, who seems like he is having a hard time, but let's just say I will be glad to leave.  Since Sunday, I have achieved a more zen attitude; this house is what it is and not liking certain aspects of it will not change anything or make us able to move out any faster.  Acceptance, contentment-- that's the best path, right?  I am so glad to have had a place to live, and if we hadn't moved to this house, we probably wouldn't have started looking at buying houses as early in our time here and then we wouldn't have ended up in the lovely bungalow we are buying.

I spent most of the afternoon over there today, meeting with hardwood flooring people and painters to get bids for the work we are getting done, and oh, how I think I will grow to love that house...  It is just so charming and gracious and wonderful.  I met one of the owners for the first time and she was super nice; she said her two little boys are so glad that a family with children is moving into it because they thought the house needed kids.  They are quite obviously getting ready to move as the house was all full of boxes and turmoil and mess.  There were workers there doing the last of the repairs that the sellers agreed to do as well; there turned out to be some unresolved permit issues with the renovations they did to the basement and the beautiful big garage they built, but it is all getting hammered (and drywalled and plumbed) out with a great ruckus over there right now.  There were also neighbor children over playing with her little boys (it was a bit of a madhouse there this afternoon, like I said), and I just feel so optimistic about the house and the neighborhood and all of it.

We actually close TOMORROW, which snuck up on me slightly.  I will wire a great deal of money to the title company first thing in the morning and then late tomorrow afternoon we will sign our names a bazillion times and then we will own a house again!  The sellers are renting the house back from us for another week, and then we will start the work we're having done, and then sometime in the middle of September we will get to actually move in.  I'm so excited!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apparently I Blog Once a Week Now

I drove past the house we are buying again, just for fun, and I cannot WAIT to move into it.  The rental here is wearing on me a bit, but mainly I am just ready to really settle down and unpack all our boxes and feel like we've found our home.  It won't be that much longer, as I keep reminding myself.  We got the inspection back and the sellers say they are going to fix everything we asked them to (despite the fact that those other buyers who were competing with put in a back-up offer that is higher than what we are paying-- we find this puzzling, to say the least, but we are grateful).  Also, we have given the mortgage people document after document after bank statement after tax return and supposedly we are all on track to have money with which to buy this house, so that is also good.  We are supposed to close the end of next week, I think, which is very exciting.  After that, we'll start all the floor refinishing and other stuff we need to do before actually getting ourselves into it sometime the middle of September, probably.  So soon!  And so exciting!

We've been working with Grace on her reading skills for a while and we've run into some frustration.  Months and months ago, even before her 4th birthday, she was so interested in letters and sounds and rhyming and how it all went together and I thought, "Wow!  She is so ready to move forward with this!"  She learned all the sounds the letters make quite quickly, but she has been having real trouble with putting the sounds together to make a word.  She will go through a word and correctly say all the sounds, but then not be able to smoosh the sounds together to make a word.  At first, I thought, "OK, fine, she needs more practice and hasn't made that cognitive leap yet and doesn't get it yet."  The letter-sound connection can be a bit of a rote memory thing and sounding out words is more a skill, not just memorizing.  However, it has been MONTHS now that she has been at this stage and she doesn't seem to be making any headway.  I wonder if she is just not ready and we need to put it on the back burner and not worry about it for a while, or if we should keep plugging away a little bit every day on it to help her make whatever connection is not happening right now.  It doesn't help that I lean toward the first option and Rob leans toward the second.  Grace is finding the process REALLY frustrating right now and is not enjoying herself when we do her reading books and tries to put it off and just generally is not having fun with it, and this of course really worries me.  Wanting her to enjoy reading is right up there with my very top desires for her childhood and I wonder if what I am doing is hurting or helping that.

In contrast, Grace IS enjoying her week this week tremendously because she is doing a swim camp at the community center where we go to the gym and where she'll go to preschool and so forth.  We didn't get any swim lessons in our schedule this summer before now, what with the move and all, so these are the first lessons since last summer.  It is 3.5 hours every morning for 5 days, and yes, she was EXHAUSTED yesterday after I picked her up.  She doesn't nap very often these days, but I predict she will nap every afternoon this week.  Oh, how she loves it, and she is doing so well.  I worked out yesterday and today after dropping her off and I could see her little class out the windows while exercising; it is so amazing to see her little self hanging out in the deep end and actually swimming.  She can't figure out how to take a breath yet but she actually swims.

Oh, and speaking of working out, we have now come to the TMI section of this post.  I have been exercising a lot, most days of the week, since settling into life here.  I have been doing a variety of things: running around our neighborhood, elliptical and weights at the gym, and classes at the gym, like yoga (oh, how I love yoga; at the end of a good class, I feel about as wonderful as after a massage) or a resistance/weight class or whatnot.  Yesterday I went to an indoor cycle class, you know, spinning or whatever.  I tried this kind of thing one other time, way back in grad school, and both times I left with really intense soreness from the bike seat.  Not good muscle soreness meaning I'd worked hard, just pain from the seat.  I did like the class otherwise, though, so rather than immediately decide this is not for me like I did last time, I've been trying to figure out what my options are.  This has led me to google things like "spinning class sore crotch".  Apparently, it is something that gets better as you get used to it, although I find this an unappealing idea.  I don't exactly want my lady parts toughened up, if you know what I mean, and perhaps unsurprisingly Rob says he is categorically opposed to the idea.  Many people on the internet suggest padded bike shorts, and now that I know what they look like, I have realized that about half of the women in the class (the class was about 2/3 women) were wearing them.  Another fitness thing to buy...  I see why being in shape and thin is more and more a privilege of the wealthy.  Between what is costs to buy fresh produce (not to mention organic) and what it costs to do most exercise, it's no wonder that obesity problems skew with economic status.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Goings On and Not Goings On

So what have we been doing with ourselves, other than trying to buy a house?  For starters, we have been going to the pool a lot.  I have spent more time at a pool this summer than I have since I was about 11, I think.  The pool we belong to (the same community center that has the gym we're using and where Grace is going to school in the fall) is great for little non-swimming kids with a big zero-entry area that they can walk around in.  Grace is so brave this summer about putting her head in and has enough motor skill to actually kick and pull her arms and whatnot.  Violet likes to walk in to about knee-depth, then turn around and walk out, then turn around and walk in, then wander off and try to steal some other child's pool toys.

I've also been exercising a lot more than I have in YEARS.  I exercised today, making it now a full week with doing something every single day, even if it was just 30 minutes of yoga on Saturday.  I don't naturally like exercising, but hopefully I can make it a habit and find some things I sort of enjoy and feel physically better.  (And maybe look better too?  I weighed myself this morning and I am FOUR POUNDS heavier than I was last week.  I know that there are many good benefits to exercise that are not weight loss but still, that is a bit discouraging after being really disciplined this week.)

I also have been missing Abbey a lot.  Between when she died and when we moved out of our house in Dallas, I kept thinking I heard her nails on the hardwood floors or her tags jingling on her collar.  I didn't think about it all as much during the really insane period of driving and having no furniture and whatnot, but now that things are settled down, I miss her.  It's been over a month now that she has been gone.  I especially miss having her around late at night when the girls are asleep and we would often be petting her or taking care of her.  Sweet girl...

And now I shall tell you what we have NOT been doing.  I have not been cleaning very much, that is for sure.  I have had some huge mental block about cleaning here.  I think it is partly that it is a rental and thus I don't have much sense of belonging here, and partly that it isn't the nicest of houses so I don't feel motivated to try to keep it nice.  This is counterproductive, of course, because letting the house get dirty makes me like being here even less.  I finally gathered some gumption this past weekend and made Rob help me and the house is now clean.  Now I resolve to not let the kitchen floor ever get as disgusting as it was before I cleaned it yesterday.

Also, I have not been cooking much.  The kitchen here in the rental does not really lend itself to grand culinary exertion and then there is the lack of air conditioning.  We had a spell of quite hot weather that was even a bit humid (well, humid for here) and I just could not bear to turn on the stove or the oven or anything like that.  I have been using the rice cooker a good bit, and we've been eating salad a lot, and we've still been going out to restaurants more than we normally do.  I keep trying to check out raw food websites, but a lot of those recipes (at least the ones that aren't just salads) seem to involve a mandoline (which I DESPERATELY want) or a dehydrator (which I do not).  Anyway, today at lunch Grace declared she was tired of peanut butter and jelly so I may have to step up my game here soon.  Hopefully this won't be too painful because the heat seems to have broken and we have more temperate, arid weather which is much more comfy in our non-air-conditioned house.

And lastly, I have not been sewing, which is a bit of a bummer.  When we started unpacking our boxes, we realized that there wasn't really going to be room for my sewing table and all the associated stuff that goes along with it here in the rental.  By that time, we had also adjusted our timetable so that we would hopefully be in a house of our own within a few months so I decided to just leave it all packed up in boxes in the basement, along with half our kitchen stuff and all our books and so forth.  I am missing it, for sure; the latest issues of Ottobre and Burda came and it was sad to realize that I won't be able to sew any of it for quite a while.  The lack of sewing has motivated me to get out my knitting needles, though; knitting takes up much less space and isn't nearly as involved, equipment-wise.  I decided to try to make a Kina for Grace and went to check out a fun independent yarn shop here in Salt Lake City to buy some very pretty yarn.  The sweater is looking really good so far and I feel quite optimistic about my chances of actually producing a wearable garment within a reasonable timeframe.  I am possibly the worst, slowest, most unproductive knitter in the world, but I am here on Ravelry, if any pals out there want to be my friends.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Home Sweet Home

So our real estate adventures have continued in the past week or so.  We were originally thinking we would start house-hunting in the fall, but now that we have gotten here and see the neighborhoods and see what is on the market and see what living in our rental is like, we have decided we would prefer to move sooner rather than later.  It's not even that much drastically sooner than we were originally planning, actually.  We have this rental house until the end of the year, and many of the houses we have been looking at need a good bit of work.  By the time we went through the process of finding a house, closing, having work done, then moving into it, we would be well into autumn, depending on which house and thus how much work.

Anyway, we found a house (a beautiful, beautiful house) that was so lovely that we decided to make an offer.  It was this charming late-1920s Tudor with a gorgeous kitchen and amazing bathrooms, all done with really high quality.  The house had a really beautiful, special feel, full of light and super-high coved ceilings and beautiful windows.  The neighborhood gave us a bit of pause, not because it was not nice but because it was maybe a bit TOO nice.  Seriously, there were mansions across the street, and it seemed like there weren't a ton of kids around.  It was so, so beautiful that we decided we would like to try it, though. The house was at the top of the price range we were considering and thus our offer was low-ish, and it turns out there was another interested buyer who's been hemming and hawing about the house for weeks.  He had told the selling agent to let him know if anybody else made an offer, so when we did, she did, and then this other buyer went and made another offer.  I know this is a bit of sour grapes on my part, but doesn't that seem like a jerk move?  I mean, someone else had to want the house for him to go, "No, wait, MINE!"?  It seems like what small children do with toys.  Anyway, his offer was higher than ours, so no beautiful Tudor for us.

Then, a few days later, we saw another house that seemed like a great option.  (It was not the next house we saw, of course; we've been looking at tons and tons of them.)  This house was built in 1917 and is a bungalow, sort of craftsman-y.  It also has lovely bathrooms and a great kitchen, and it has a very cozy, livable feel to it.  It has this gorgeous fireplace and a fabulously finished basement with a media room and a nice master area.  It's a bit bigger than the first house, and seems more like a family home; it's really easy to visualize ourselves there, even 5-10 years from now with another kid or two.  There's room for chickens in the backyard and lots of storage.  Not unimportantly, this house was priced much lower and even its asking price would be comfortable for us.  To top it off, the street seems like a better match for us; it's just off of 15th and 15th with fun things to walk to, and the street seems less fancy schmancy and there are more kids around.

So we love this house, we can see ourselves in this house, and we decide to make an offer. We make another low-ish offer, hoping to negotiate and get a good deal on it, but a few hours later our realtor calls us back and AGAIN there is ANOTHER BUYER who was considering making an offer and has now decided to, motivated by us wanting the house.  I mean, really? REALLY?!  As Rob said, what is this, 2005? Isn't this supposed to be a buyers' market or something?  We have decided that we personally have witnessed the turnaround in the housing market, right now, right here, in the last week or so.  You heard it here first.

The selling agent came to both of us buyers and asked us to make our final best offer and he would present both to the sellers.  I thought this is a fairly civilized way to do things; we don't lose the house because we made a first offer planning on negotiating.  We made a nice plump offer and changed our dates to what the sellers wanted and last night, at 10pm or something, the sellers got them both and decided.  And hooray, they picked us!  Supposedly, the offers were very close on price but the dates were what decided it for them.  Interesting, no?

So we will have a house, a home of our very own!  I am really excited about this house, with its big front porch and tin-ceilinged-kitchen and beautiful neighborhood.  I don't have any good pictures (the ones online are tiny) but I will try to get some up as the process moves forward.  We will close near the end of the month, and then do a bit of work (refinish the hardwood floors, paint all the woodwork, paint the walls, maybe refinish the front door), and THEN! We will move into a place of our own!  And be settled and unpack all our boxes (half of which are in the basement of our rental) and be HOME.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Furniture is Fabulous

So I have already mentioned this, but our moving truck was days and days late arriving to our house here in Salt Lake City.  It actually didn't leave Dallas until after we arrived here in Salt Lake City, a fact which filled me with regret at not planning a much longer cross-country drive involving the Grand Canyon or something.  Some of the orders ahead of us in the moving company's queue ended up going way over their estimated weights, so ours had to be bumped to a later truck.  The company that did our move paid us $150 per day that they were late and they ended up being 5 days late so we were not without recompense, but given the choice I definitely would have taken getting our stuff on time.

We had with us a couple of suitcases of clothes, the toys for the car, inflatable mattresses, and not much else.  The original plan was for us to be here in our house 3 or 4 days without any belongings but it ended up being closer to 10.  Ten days!  Without a single dish!  Or a place to sit!  We decided that we would make very bad Buddhists.  I am someone who abhors clutter and am something of a minimalist when it comes to furniture and decoration and all that, but this was taking things TOO FAR.  I am also a bit of a homebody (I am not antisocial but I do not regularly go out in the evenings and I have a pretty high need for unscheduled downtime) so it was so weird to have "home" be such an uncomfortable place.  Anyway, our big moving truck finally arrived and it has been such a relief to have real beds to sleep in and bowls for our cereal and chairs to sit in.  I think it has been a big relief to Grace as well; she was definitely showing signs of stress at all this upheaval.  One day when we were eating lunch at a restaurant, she started weeping, saying that she wanted "to lunch at a HOME."  And now that we have our stuff, her bedtime prayers have included thanking God that we have our furniture and our house is "more like normal".

Anyway, my memories of the days without any stuff are already starting to fade; it must be like childbirth where you eventually feel all hazy about the horrible details and thus you do not immediately recoil in horror when the thought occurs to you to move again/have another baby.  It's probably a good thing that I didn't have regular internet access during that period or else there would be whiny, complaining blog posts to commemorate my lack of moral fortitude.

Having our home be such an unpleasant place did give us lots of opportunities to be out and about and do fun things, although the fun did eventually grow wearisome, especially to Grace.  We ate at a ton of fun restaurants and hung out at the beautiful downtown library and visited parks and so forth.  The other thing we did was go see a bunch of houses with our realtor here.  We weren't planning on house-hunting until the fall but, well, we were looking for something to do. :) And now we have found some houses we really like so we might end up moving forward pretty soon on some of this.  As Rob and I were unpacking the boxes when they finally arrived, we would look at each other and say, "Hey, I know! Let's MOVE AGAIN!"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Pioneer Day!

Well, look at me-- I am BLOGGING. On my COMPUTER. Which is connected to the INTERNET. It is a very exciting day. My fancy birthday phone has been my only connection to the internet for, gosh, almost 3 weeks now and although it is pretty amazing to be able to respond to email or use Twitter on my phone, it just isn't the same and blogging was nearly impossible. Now I am sitting in front of this HUGE GIANT COMPUTER SCREEN and typing on this GIANT KEYBOARD and it makes me want to use a lot of capital letters.

So it will be two weeks tomorrow since we arrived in Salt Lake City, and what are my first impressions, you ask? It is really, really beautiful here. We first drove into the city along I-80 heading west from Wyoming, passing by Park City and through the mountains that edge Salt Lake City and I was just awestruck. I have never lived anywhere this gorgeous. We were using the GPS and when it said we were 10 minutes from our house, we were in this lush green canyon with beautiful mountains on either side. I couldn't help but think about where I would be if I drove 10 minutes in any direction from our house in Dallas. Even being in the city is lovely. The mountains are RIGHT THERE, so close to the city, and the valley itself is lovely, with big trees and charming older homes and little neighborhoods with firm identities. (Do you know what I mean? Different neighborhoods here look different from each other.)

We have been spending a lot of time out and about in the city because our moving truck was so, so late and our house was EMPTY and I really like the vibe of the town. Rob and I have looked at each other several times and said, "This is our kind of town." There are lots of little non-chain restaurants staffed with friendly tattooed people serving yummy food (Mexican! Middle Eastern! Breakfast!), and pockets of walkable shops and yoga studios and boutiques. We went to the fabulous farmers market last weekend, and I have been checking out a bunch of the awesome parks to give the girls a chance to run around and have fun.

Speaking of being outside, the weather has been something of a revelation to me. It is dry here and the high temperatures since we've arrived have been between 90 and 95 degrees, but at night it is in the 60s. I have always been rather dismissive of those who claim, "But it's a DRY heat!", saying that 95 degrees is hot no matter how you slice it, but really, it is not too bad. We have eaten lunch outside multiple times and been totally comfortable, and our rental house doesn't have air conditioning and we are coping pretty well despite the fact. Don't get me wrong; I would love to have some AC here because it can get uncomfortable at times, but to give you some context, living in this house with no AC at 95 degrees is way, way better than living in our house in Connecticut with no AC at 85 degrees. Remember how much I complained about that? I now readily admit that humidity does in fact make a difference, not least in the state of my hair. Good hair days, hooray!

There is a certain cultural wackiness due to the influence of the Mormons, I will admit. The majority of people I see around town and have met are not LDS (Salt Lake City proper is about 40% Mormon) but the LDS church has a big impact on the politics and the culture and whatnot here. For example, today is Pioneer Day, which it turns out is a bigger deal here than July 4. There are fireworks and a parade and everything shuts down and so forth. Today some new friends here (the ones who had us over for dinner when we were visiting in April and have the awesome garden and streak of orange hair and adorable 3-year-old daughter and chickens and so forth) invited us to their mimosa-and-bloody-mary-fueled ironic Pioneer Day party where we had a lovely time at their fun house and then walked down to see the parade. There were Mormon-themed floats and a lot of people in from the suburbs (the suburbs ARE dominated by LDS folks) and marching bands with modestly-attired baton twirlers.

So anyway, there is all that Mormon stuff, and then we joined the Jewish Community Center because that is where Grace is going to preschool in the fall, and also what we're going to use as a summertime pool and a gym and all that. We have only been there once so far, but on that visit we got a tour and orientation and everything and it is a very Jewish place-- more Jewish than the YMCA is Christian, for context. Rob and I were talking and we realized that in our first days here it has seemed like everyone here is of a different religion than us and there are different holidays and so much is just DIFFERENT... It's kind of like we moved to a different country. :)

That can be Utah's new slogan-- kind of like a different country.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Things We Saw on Our 4-Day Drive from Dallas to Salt Lake City

  • 1250 miles spin by
  • 5 states
  • 3 hotel rooms, 2 of which had the same number (Freaky!)
  • innumerable cows
  • many horses
  • 1 prairie dog
  • a lot of deer
  • a herd of buffalo
  • some truly amazing sky
  • my friend Sharon, who fed us a delicious non-restaurant lunch with ACTUAL VEGETABLES as we made our way through Colorado (Hooray!)
  • wind turbines (One of them was really close to the freeway and I realized that although I've seen them pretty frequently, this was the closest I'd ever been to one and these things are HUGE.
  • snow fences (I did not know such things even existed.)
  • the Continental Divide (We are now flowing toward the Pacific, I suppose.)
  • many wee tiny towns, and a few bigger cities
  • so, so many Cracker Barrels (I never realize how many of these there are until I drive cross-country; our dinner there one night was Rob's first time to ever be in one.)
  • prairie, mountains, and high plains (So, so beautiful. This was a really beautiful, amazing road trip.)
At the New Mexico/Colorado border

Monday, July 5, 2010


So yesterday I pretty much fell apart. I started the day with a migraine that kept us from our last Sunday at our church here in Dallas, then by the afternoon I was shivering with chills even though I was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie and our thermostat was set to 80 degrees. If you have spent much time with me, you know this is REALLY weird because I am very hot-natured and am almost never cold. My head was spinning and I felt nauseous and I couldn't hold Violet without falling dizzily and oh my gosh, I thought I was going CRAZY. I really thought that it was all psychological and I was just crumbling under the stress of Abbey dying and moving and all that. I finally took my temperature in the evening and found I was running a significant fever, which I've got to say came as something of a relief. It is much more bruising to my sense of self to think that I am incapable of coping with the stress of life than to think that I have a virus. I am doing better today, although trying to do our packing and getting ready for the movers tomorrow is pushing the limits of what I can handle today. I am taking a lot of breaks to lay on the bed.

Anyway, the various circumstances of life have conspired lately to put me in great need of some escapist entertainment. I also have felt like I could really go for a) eating an entire container of ice cream or b) getting roaringly drunk, but both of those are not very healthy coping mechanisms for stress and sadness, now are they? Watching more TV and movies than usual seems like a better option. And of course, I've been working on getting my sewing stuff packed up so I haven't been doing my normal amount of stress-relieving sewing. So there you go-- yay for TV and movies and other various forms of entertainment!

I was almost an entire season behind on LOST, but I recently caught up and then finally watched the series finale. I know I am MONTHS late to this party but I enjoyed it so much. I really like how they ended the series, and I think that is up there for one of my very favorite TV shows ever, with The X-Files and Gilmore Girls and Battlestar Galactica. Have you seen this explanation of the plot? I find that pretty satisfying, although I will admit that there are some plot issues and confusion that make it not as perfect a show as it might have been. I think it really succeeded when it comes to character and tone and telling a story, though, so I am a pretty happy fan. What a unique, creative show; they are in obvious need of an eyepatch. (The eyepatch is around 7:20 of that video, but gosh, the whole Tyra Banks interview is HILARIOUS.)

We recently watched Whip It, which conspired to make me miss Austin a lot and also for Rob and I to talk again about how much I dislike sports but how much I enjoy sports movies, especially if they are about some slightly offbeat, not-quite-mainstream sport. We have had this conversation before, and it is a corollary to our conversation about why watching sports doesn't seem very entertaining to me. There is no plot! You don't know that it is going to end the way it is "supposed" to! We most often have this conversation during college football season when it seems to me that Rob uses his precious leisure time to watch games that make him more unhappy than he was before he turned on the TV. (Thanks a lot for that, Texas Aggies.) In contrast, sports movies DO have plot and end EXACTLY how they are supposed to. Examples that I have enjoyed to various degrees include Strictly Ballroom (I looooooooove it), The Cutting Edge (a girlhood classic), Blue Crush (OK, not an actual good movie), Bring It On (guilty pleasure), Wimbledon (what is with all the Kirsten Dunst?), Bend It Like Beckham (so good, and about an actual normal sport to boot), and Drumline (perhaps the most quintessential sports movie on this list, and also awesome).

Speaking of Drumline, we watched that sort of recently and also within the space of a few months The Wood (very enjoyable) and I'm Through With White Girls (FABULOUS) and now, judging by the suggested movies, I'm pretty sure Netflix thinks we're black.

And now for your entertainment, here are a couple more shots of my adorable children from that photo shoot we had back in May.