Monday, March 31, 2014

"Please be *extra careful* around the electrical wires!!" - A weekend of dancing in small spaces and a Lenten knitting surprise...

Just what a girl wants to hear when she's balancing a tray on top of her head...

Morning all! A Dancing Monday post is always a fun way to start the week, no? I had a lovely, lovely weekend. Settle in with a cup of tea, and let's recount. This is going to be a long one! I probably won't blog for a day or two just so that you won't get sick of me, but this will be a fun post, I promise. ;-)

Your morning cup of tea, courtesy of the Catholic Librarian. :)
Friday evening my dance troupe had the final rehearsal prior to a performance we had scheduled for Saturday night. The event was a fundraiser for the local council for the arts, to be held at an Irish restaurant. In a bit of an eclectic lineup, we were dancing in the midst of a swing dancing night, complete with live band and members of a local swing dancing group. Our plan was to start off with our tray balancing/wings number, modified to use veils rather than wings due to light fixture concerns :0, Claire would dance a solo, and then the troupe would dance our new choreography set to fun Arabic pop music. So, that's what we practiced. The veils were tricky, because we had to drape them around our necks while we balanced the trays, and then slip them off quickly and into the right spot on our fingers for the rest of the number. Our wings hang attached to our costumes behind our backs, easy to grab at a moment's notice. The veils - not so much. You have to find an edge, flip it down in front, slide your fingers to the correct position and then swirl the veil to the back. A bit more time intensive, with a heck of a lot more room for error. But we made it work, and felt as ready as we could for Saturday night.

I arrived at the restaurant Saturday evening to find a gaggle of panicky belly dancers bunched into a corner of the banquet room in which we would be performing. The swing band was playing happily, oblivious to our distress. A slew of new tables had appeared overnight in the room, making the dance space...extremely small. And the band was taking up half of even THAT. Claire told us to just do the best we could with the space at hand. When we had to drop off our trays and then start a veil formation, she said to plunk them wherever there was free space, even if that was on someone's table, and not to worry about making the formation the way we usually do it, with us crisscrossing in front of each other. Just swirl around with veil and get to our places.

We dispersed to change and took over the ladies restroom as our dressing room, twittering nervously about the new plan. It seemed like an awful lot could go wrong with this, but it's not like we had a choice. As we waited to perform, me nervously sweating onto my veil as I used it for a coverup, I peeked into the banquet room nervously. The space seemed to have gotten *smaller*.

All too soon, the band took a break, and they wanted us to start. I fiddled with my veil one last time and we walked out with our trays. The beginning went fine, which is always an ominous way to start a story, isn't it? We balanced our trays. Then it was time to drop them off and begin the veil section. That went fairly predictably with trays being plunked somewhat haphazardly onto an empty table and then each of us trying to look graceful as we got our veils in place and squeezed into formation in the tiny space. Swirly, swirly, the veils looked good from what I could tell at first, but then we had to move into a circle. We did our best not to smother any audience members. As we circled and then spread out, the inevitable happened: there was no room to have your arms up very high unless you wanted to chance accidentally punching someone in the face, and so we kept our arms slightly lower than shoulder level. What happens when you keep your arms below shoulder level while holding a veil?

Someone steps on it.

I feel a tug on my veil and know exactly what happened. I probably should have thought my reaction out more fully, but in the heat of the moment I didn't exactly have that option. I pulled back as quickly as I could, figuring it was like ripping off a band aid (faster is better, right?!), and praying that no one fell. Thankfully, no one did, but as I hip bumped around I could see at least two of my troupemates executing the same veil pull I had just implemented.

It got dicey there, but we all survived. As we completed our final turns I looked at the audience. They were looking back at us curiously, not sure if that's good or bad. :0 Mercifully, that number came to a close, and Claire came in to dance. She was spectacular, as always. Our second group number went much better, since it is prop-less. But all the same, I don't know when I've been happier to finish a performance. :)

After changing back into my street clothes, I hung out for a bit with Claire and a few of my fellow dancers. The band came back and the swing dancers came out. We admired them.

I love, love ballet, it was my first love in dance, and it is the foundation for all other dancing that I do, but ballet dancers have a limited age window for professional performing (which I never did, I just took very informal classes as a child). And there is definitely a specific body type that ballet favors, which eliminates, let's face it, most of the population. Even at a healthy weight for your height, professional ballet dancers are *even thinner* than that! Not a good thing, truly. What I LOVE about other dance forms that I have discovered as an adult is the acceptance and celebration that you see of people of all ages and body types. The best swing dancer of the night? Without a doubt, by a landslide, a man who had to be approaching 60 years of age. He was FANTASTIC!!

I was enjoying my drink, watching the dancers and chatting with my friends when the swing dancers announced that they were doing a short lesson for any interested parties. As I'm sure you would be unsurprised to learn, I normally do not perform things in public that I do not know how to do well. I have never swing danced a day in my life. Karaoke is pretty much my worst nightmare.

Well, one of my dance friends, Amy, is going through a bit of a tough time, and she was interested in the swing dance lesson. I could tell that she just needed a little push and encouragement to do it, and I really wanted her to have a fun night, so I offered to go up with her.

Next thing you knew, we're dancing with men we've never met before who were ecstatic to have new pupils to teach. We were taught the basic 6 step sequence in swing dancing, and then moved on to a twirly turn. We switched partners as we learned a new movement, so that everyone could learn from each other. My favorite partner was a guy named Pedro who clearly knew what he was doing and lead our dancing beautifully. The instant we started moving, he said:

"You are a dancer, no?"

"Yes, a belly dancer."

That earned me the confused expression that I so often see when I tell people I'm a belly dancer. :0

"But something else too, right? Like ballet?"

Apparently there is no escaping that one.

"Yes, a long time ago."

"I can tell. You are very light on your feet."

Pedro has earned a gold star and made me feel not weird, and I found that I actually enjoyed swing dancing. Soon enough, our lesson was over and Amy and I moved back to our table. It was fun.

Then the band comes back out. My favorite 60 year old was dancing again, and so I watched him and his partner dance. It was delightful. I feel a tap on my shoulder. It's Pedro. He asks me to dance.

"Oh, I don't..."

"Oh, it'll be great. You'll see!"

See, this is one of those situation in which shy people so often find themselves. I really don't want to get up there and risk publicly humiliating myself, but you look like an unfriendly bad sport if you refuse. I smile politely and get up. I can see Amy and Claire staring at me, wide eyed and beaming, and I am really, really praying that this goes well.

So, we start dancing. It quickly becomes apparent that Pedro has high hopes for me, and is expecting that I can move from Swing Dancing 101 to Intermediate/Advanced Swing Dancing in the 10 minutes that have elapsed since our lesson. Horrifyingly, I step on his feet several times since we were moving so quickly and I still didn't really know what I was doing. :0 He didn't seem concerned and twirled me around all the more.

Let me tell you, swing dancing is excellent cardiovascular exercise, my friends. By the time the song ended, I needed a serious cool down. I thanked Pedro and meekly headed back to my seat.

Amy is waiting for me excitedly.

"That was AMAZING!! How did you learn how to do that so fast!!"

"Pedro did all the work, trust me." :)

She had captured our dance on her iPhone, prompting me to assure Mike upon my return home that if he sees me swing dancing on Facebook with another man that he shouldn't be alarmed. :0

As I related the story to Mike, he got all excited and said that he has always wanted to learn a partnered dance with me, like swing or ballroom dancing. I showed him the little that I learned and we talked about going for one of the drop-in lessons that this particular organization holds weekly. I have to say that I had a fantastic time and would love to try swing dancing again, especially with my cute husband as my partner. :)

And so that was my dancing weekend. I had an absolute blast. Our next performance is in just over 3 weeks, at a fundraiser for a charitable legal organization. That's the event last year at which I saw at attorney that I used to work with. Yep, as I belly danced up on a stage at a black tie event. Never a dull moment, folks.

And so finally, I promised Cristina a sneak peak at the gift I made her for Lent, and I finished it this weekend. Yes, before you say it, it is only Nerd Catholics who knit special Lenten gifts, but pshaw! It is fun, and I make no apologies. :)

Without further ado, I introduce, da da DAHHHHHH! Cristina's Lenten Socks:


Because we all need special socks, just for Lent...
They are indigo purple tweed and soft pink (for Laetare Sunday) and are so smashing I wish I could keep them for myself. :0 See how cute they look on me up in photo #1?

They are going in tomorrow's mail to head to their new home, and I know that they will be loved and cherished there. :)

All right everyone, I've taken up enough of your time. Have a great day! Are any of you dancers, either now or in the past? Or maybe you've never taken lessons but are jonesing to try a new class? If so, leave me a comment, I'd love to know which style you are interested in!

Friday, March 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 36} Swinging chandeliers, French food and out of control cardigans edition...

This is a real crazy eclectic collection of topics this week. Generally, my Quick Takes are like that (although this week a bit more than usual) because that is what it looks like to be inside my head. ;-) And it's funny because when I was younger my life wasn't nearly this interesting. :0 When I was in my 20's, I lived with my parents and for fun went to law school. If I have to be pushing 40, I'd rather be a belly dancing librarian who makes her kids eat hidden vegetables and swears like a truck driver at cashmere cardigans. Continue on, gentle reader, for this week's adventures!

-1- "What is that thing and why is it green?!" The 10 Day Real Food Pledge...

I've been blogging about my new foray into cutting out processed food from my diet (here, with some intensive grocery shopping there, and some trauma to the children over there). The 10 days officially ends tomorrow, so I thought I'd post my experience and thoughts. The verdict is in, and it is: extremely positive.

I feel great. The entire family is eating homemade, *real* food. Butter, meat, dark chocolate, oh my!  My lunches have never been so exciting. The kids are (reluctantly) trying new things and we're all expanding our palate to new and interesting foods. I'm in the kitchen a lot more cooking and baking, and I'm enjoying it. I also lost 2 and a half pounds in a week. :0 I know that that pace won't continue, but I can't help thinking that my body is happy with my non-highly processed efforts. I'm only 2 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight (a mere 3 years later, victory is ALMOST MINE!). Feeling super thrilled.

I plan to continue our efforts. I'm eating probably 95% non-processed foods and I think that 90% and above is very manageable. The kids do eat more processed foods than I do, but they've been cut way back. I'm pleased.

-2- Really into this "French thing" lately...

One of the books I read recently relating to food is French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters, by Karen Le Billon.


I finished it a few days ago, and LOVED IT. I highly recommend the read if you have children who are fussy eaters. And really, what parent doesn't?! This book read like a memoir, which explains why I loved it so much. We journey with this family from Vancouver to a small village in France where we experience all of the cultural shocks and faux pas along with the author. Her daughter refusing to eat the school lunches. Tantrums thrown over a denial of snacks. Public embarrassment at dinner parties. I read. I related. I loved.

This book has got me jonesing for Mireille Guiliano's books, such as French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, which was much bandied about when it first came out, and French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, and Pleasure. I managed to snag the first one from the public library today, which I'll come back to down in take #7. :) I've got all kinds of related new cookbooks now on my Amazon wish list.

Catholic Librarian's nutritional status: Feeling all inspired.

-3- "Uh oh, looks like someone ventured too far to the side!"

Speaking of inspiration, we're officially entering spring and summer performance season with dance, and I couldn't be more excited. I have SO much fun with my troupe whenever we perform, it's always an adventure. Tomorrow evening we're slated to dance at a spring party that will benefit the council for the arts in our county. It's taking place at a local restaurant with a new banquet room, which is where we'll be dancing. One of our newer choreographies involves Wings of Isis, and the banquet room is nice and big with plenty of space for our wings to unfurl. Fun, right?

Well, yes, if there are no hanging light fixtures.


We have this problem in the studio, and you can tell if someone moved just a hair too far out of the formation by whether the lights are swaying when we go to leave. And apparently one of the new additions to the banquet room are chandeliers. Fantastic.

We now have to modify our choreography, so this should be interesting. Hopefully no glass will be shattered at this event. I will report in on Monday. :)

-4- "Remind me again of why I EVER pick Syracuse to win ANYTHING?!"

I think this take can be summed up as: every year I get suckered into filling out a bracket for the March Madness college basketball tournament because Mike organizes a pool. Do I watch college basketball the rest of the year, you reasonably ask, gentle reader? Why no, I don't. I pay $10 for this privilege, and then I never, ever win. Mike and I have been married for almost 10 years. Yep, truckin' along all that time, and no winnings to show for it. And yet every year I *look forward* to this. I eagerly watch the games and root for my picks, only for my bracket to go up in flames every single time. It's like some sort of self-flagellation ritual. This year, the two teams I picked to go to the championship game were out of the tournament by the end of the first weekend. I mean, that's a seriously a NEW LOW.

Sucks the joy out of watching the games I tell you. :0

-5- April Craziness

Next month I have all kinds of dance rehearsals for events we have in late April and early May. Mike has been cast in a play with the local theater group. :0 It's very exciting! They're doing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. So he's got lots of rehearsals coming up. Henry wants to play soccer in a new Catholic school league, and his First Communion is coming up - the day of my spring hafla and one of Mike's show nights. When it rains it pours! It's all good stuff, so we're just creating a schedule and organizing it as best we can. It should be a very fun spring and summer.

-6- "Wow, that actually looks like a seam!" Adventures in knitting...

Apparently, Navy Blue Cardigan read my scathing declaration of hatred the other day, and has decided that cooperating with me is in his best interests. After watching a helpful YouTube video, I now have set in sleeves and side seams that I'm shockingly pleased with. I still need to seam the inside of the sleeves, do something with the horrifyingly deformed neckline, weave in a million FREAKING ends from the seams and sew on buttons. But overall things are going a bit better. I feel a bit of hope in my heart this this thing will turn out to actually be a wearable sweater. If things don't go well this weekend with the aforementioned, expect a post on Monday entitled:

The Death of the Navy Blue Cardigan: Apparently cashmere is quite flammable...

-7- The librarian is in the building...

A foray to the public library yesterday morning with Mike and Anne has me feeling very happy. Is there a greater feeling than having new books on your "to be read" shelf? If you don't have a  "to be read" shelf, dear reader, I'm afraid you have no idea what you are missing. :0 I love the anticipation, the quiet expectation of new and interesting things, that comes with having books stacked up on my nightstand. I thought I would share my new selections with you. We have:

Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet, by Jenifer Ringer, a retired principal dancer with the New York City Ballet:


I love reading about any form of dance, but ballet is very close to my heart. That was always my favorite when I took dance lessons as a child, and I considered picking it back up as an adult. But that's when I discovered Middle Eastern dance the rest is history. Ballet is, however, my foundation for the way that I dance now, and people notice and ask me about it. There is nothing more sublime than watching a beautifully executed ballet performance to me, but there are obviously dark sides to ballet. Pressure, eating disorders, injuries, all of that. I just started this, and am dying to get back to it tonight!

French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano.


As I mentioned above, I've been reading a lot about eating whole foods and cutting out processed food. This books looks quite charming, and the French author talks about her year of studying in the United States and the effect the American diet had on her figure. Returning to France, she educated herself on why she never struggled with her weight previously, and how to get back to that simple, but delicious, style of eating.

I'm currently reading on my Kindle (the omnipresent Amish fiction):

A Season of Love (Kauffman Amish Bakery Series), by Amy Clipston.


 I love Amish fiction, I've got about 20 selections queued up on my Kindle at any one time. It's just so sweet and soothing to read. I'm enjoying this book, but one thing about it is really bugging me - the father of the main character. I'm certain he's supposed to simply be acting as an obstacle to our hero and heroine developing a forbidden romance (between an Amish woman and a Mennonite man), but the way he is portrayed is actually emotionally and verbally abusive to his daughter, in my opinion. I'm having a difficult time getting past that. He could have acted as a foil without going to this extreme. So we'll see how this one turns out.

All right, everyone, I need to get back to work! I'll be reporting in on Monday with knitting and dancing updates, and possibly more books. :) Talk to you all then!

Check in with Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Catholic Book Club: Dedicated to God

Hello all! Welcome to the March edition of the Catholic Book Club. Today I'm reviewing Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns, by Abbie Reese.

Having considered a vocation to the religious life myself, I have a huge soft spot for nuns. A life of community with a constant focus on prayer really appeals to me. Like any vocation, it would have its challenges, but this life seems so beautiful to me. Even though I was not called to this vocation, a piece of my heart will always belong to the religious life.

Interestingly, it seems to me that many other people feel this way, too. There is a current popular culture fascination with religious groups who set themselves apart from the world. Most often this applies to Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican religious men and women, as well as the Amish (another group that I myself am fascinated by :0). And that certainly seemed to be a factor for the author of this book, Abbie Reese, a historian and artist who interviewed nuns from a Poor Clare Colettine community in Rockford, Illinois over a span of six years. As a non-Catholic, Ms. Reese acknowledges that she lacked a solid understanding of a cloistered vocation, and had some preconceived ideas of such a lifestyle, many of which turned out to be untrue. She is very respectful in her writing about the nuns' life, and develops an affectionate friendship with the women in the community. She devotes sections in the book to the following, embedding personal stories from the interviewed nuns in each:

"The Call." A discussion of discernment and the decision to come to the monastery. The nature of community life, and the struggle of some nuns to adapt to cloistered life.

"The Life." A more in-depth look at the day-to-day life of the community and how many of the nuns have adjusted to, and contribute to, it. There are also stories in this section of the suffering some nuns experienced through health concerns.

"The Threats." Stories of why some nuns almost didn't make it to the monastery, and how our modern secular culture no longer encourages religious vocations.

I am a huge memoir fan, I adore personal stories, and this book was abundant in them. I LOVED that about this book. I enjoyed every single story of a regular girl going about her everyday life, when suddenly...wham! Something happens, and she feels called by God to give of herself in this extraordinary way. There are also lovely black and white photographs included in this book, which make the stories all the more poignant.

The only thing I found difficult about this book was that I had a hard time keeping track of who was who and which nun was speaking at any given time. For each chapter, the author includes a general discussion, which will entail comments and stories from any number of nuns, and then switches gears to a longer longer story from a single nun. I found myself, especially at the beginning of the book, often confused about which nun I was currently reading about. It got easier towards the middle of the book as I started remembering names and placing them with identifying stories in my head.

I enjoyed reading this book very much, and would recommend it to any of you who are as fascinated with religious life as I am. I found a copy at my library (as the print copy is a bit pricey in hardcover right now), I think it's popular in collection development right now because of the topic. The Kindle book is also priced well at $13.49. Check it out!

Has anyone else read this book? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

In April, I'll be reading and reviewing More Catholic Than the Pope: An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism, by Patrick Madrid. Join me!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Knitting purgatory: A story of Lenten knitting penance...

As I went to enter labels for this post, Blogger helpfully suggested "knitting crises," since apparently I've used that tag before. :0 Yes, this is the story of a project that started out so promisingly and with such love, and has become a way for souls to be released from purgatory.

You know who you are, Navy Blue Cardigan.


 *glares*

I started you back in November, as a Christmas gift for Mike. You are made of cashmere and merino wool and were treated like a king.  I selected your pattern so carefully, a Mr. Rogers classic style that I knew Mike would love and would look adorable on him. I stroked your softness in the skein. I cast you on so lovingly. Then I realized that your pattern called for me to knit you all in separate pieces rather than a seamless style. This was my own fault for not reading your pattern over more carefully, so I let it go. Christmas was coming, I needed to press on.

I tried not to be resentful when I knit your freaking ENDLESS back piece of stockinette fabric. Knit, ppuuuurrrrllllllll, all the way across, for a bloody eternity. I barely finished THAT PIECE in time for Christmas. But hey, you're a sweater. I know that these things take time. I didn't hold it against you and promised Mike I would keep working.

While I recuperated from my dental surgery in January I worked on your right front panel. Since it's smaller, that went faster, but the constant stockinette knitting/purling was boring me to tears. I told myself that it was necessary for a perfect cardigan for my Sweetie and kept going.

When your neckline decreases didn't work out the way pattern said they would, I admit it, I lost it a bit. I was angry. But I improvised (I do that a lot. See? Belly dancing = applicable to real life situations) and I think it turned out ok.

By the time I got to the left front panel I tried to perk up because I told myself the end was in sight. I had to add in buttonholes on this side, which kept you a bit more interesting. I wasn't crazy about the way your pattern had me do them, but I ignored my better judgement. I was making progress, that was all that mattered. I repeated my neckline improvising for this side. Voila! Instant pattern customization.

Then came your sleeves. See, here is where I should have gone rogue. Sleeves should NEVER be knit flat. Why would you do that?! ARMS ARE ROUND. When you knit them flat, you have to seam them. Apparently it is your sadomasochistic fantasy, Navy Blue Cardigan, to force a knitter to knit every conceivable part of you flat and have to subsequently seam. Why? BECAUSE YOU ARE EVIL, THAT'S WHY.

I should have ignored your pattern, yes I should have. Your sleeves would have taken me a *quarter* of the time to knit, but NOOOOOOOO, I was an obedient knitter and listened to your pattern. I knit your sleeves flat, knitting resentment into the fabric every time I got to the end of a row and had to flip the piece over to purl.

By this point, it was February, and I entered you into the Ravellenic Games competition to try and finish you by the end of the Olympics. Don't you dare snort at me, you 5 piece pile of limp fabric!! I figured out pretty quickly that I wouldn't finish you in time, but it was a good opportunity to finish one sleeve and get started on the second.

By the end of February, you were off the needles, not that you deserve it. You pattern told me to block all of your pieces before seaming, which I obeyed and for which I should be canonized someday. I bought buttons for you. Then I attempted to start the seaming.

When I realized that the front panels were a good 2 inches longer than your back piece, well, Navy Blue Cardigan, I'm not ashamed to admit that I lost my temper. I threw your pieces and I said some things, but you know what? I DON'T REGRET THEM. Do you know how many times I measured your pieces and consulted your pattern to assure I followed all directions?! Countless! And yet this happens?! It's *not fair* I tell you!

In a moment of panicked inspiration, I re-blocked your front panels and back piece, placing them side by side this time and stretching the back piece out to match the others in length. This has made you a bit longer than I'd like, but at least you now you don't look freakish. YOU'RE WELCOME.

Then last night I started your shoulder seams. The fact that I had to do a shot during this process should speak volumes, you ungrateful thing. Yes, that's right, I can now see that your neckband will never work the way your pattern says it should and I officially have nothing but hatred for you, Navy Blue Cardigan. I did your shoulder seams, but pulled back the neckband, because it's just all wrong.

You'd better be having a WORD with your designer, Mister., and I'm certain you know which word I'm referring to.

I'm going to have to improvise the neckband, but I left that for now. I worked on seaming up your buttonband, hello, STUPID!! Totally unnecessary, but again, just following the pattern here! And the band is so freaking long that I'm now worried about running out of yarn, and I still have your sides and sleeves yet to seam!

Navy Blue Cardigan: I had to walk away from you for a spell last night because I was so angry. All of the time I have invested in you, and this is how you treat me? I won't forget this. I do plan to continue working on your buttonband tonight and start on the side seams, but I won't enjoy it, and *neither will you*. Placing and seaming your sleeves may require whiskey and become a near occasion of sin. My only hope is that after all of this, you are remotely wearable.

I think I deserve something nice in compensation for my pain and suffering on this one.

*sniffles*

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lenten progress and the continuing saga of new food with picky children...

Hello all! I'm coming off of a very lovely, albeit disastrous March Madness bracket, weekend. :) It feels like a long time since I last talked to you! Although it's only been 3 days. So, let's see, what's happening...

Lent is in full swing, and Easter is less than a month away. How is everyone's Lent going? I always keep it real here on this blog, so I'll admit that mine is going "just ok." :) My spiritual dryness persists, and Mass with the kids has been less than inspiring of late. They have both been super good, no complaints there, it's just so exhausting hauling them there every week by myself. I think part of it is this interminable winter we're having. The routine surrounding bundling up and schleping out to the car with two kids, one of whom is always whining about going to church, is just soul sucking. I also miss *hearing* a lot in Mass lately because of Anne wanting my attention or needing to use the potty. This too shall pass, but right now Sunday Mass isn't the transcendent experience I would like it to be. ;-)

I also haven't been keeping up with my Morning and Evening Prayer. Sometimes I do it, but often I don't. I do pray my rosary in the car, and meditating upon the Sorrowful Mysteries each day definitely brings Lent to the forefront of my mind. I need to get to confession. I haven't been in months, and that could be contributing to my dryness. If I can, I will get there tomorrow. I have been avoiding sweets at lunch, as per my initial resolution, and the discipline involved in that has been good for me.

And so, that's kind of...that. It's not going *poorly*. It's not like I'm doing nightly battles with a forked tail creature or anything. My faith is always an important part of who I am, even during spells like this I just always hope that I don't take it for granted.

In food news, we had a real good weekend. Last night I made pulled pork in the crock pot (this recipe is AWESOME, you must try it!), steamed broccoli, and homemade apple crisp for dessert. It went over BIG. Both kids ate their food with very little complaint. The fresh apple crisp I think would even make a wonderful breakfast dish (without ice cream, of course :)). Very versatile! I used a recipe out of my Betty Crocker cookbook, but it's very similar to this one, I just substituted whole wheat flour. I did use brown sugar, but if you'd prefer to sweeten with honey, you could use this recipe.

So, overall I would say things are going well. There are going to be ups and downs, but on the whole we have made improvements to the way we eat and the kids are adjusting. I'll take it. :)

How was your weekend? I'll be back tomorrow, and Wednesday I'm scheduled to review March's selection for the Catholic Book Club, Dedicated to God!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Mommy! What's...THAT?!" *sobbing* Real food eating plan drawbacks...

We'd been doing so well, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to finally have a bad night with regard to this bright idea of mine. Dinner with the kids is still far from perfect, but we moved from them having "something else" (inevitably, highly processed) instead of the meal Mike or I had prepared, to never asking for a separate meal and at least taking a few bites of the family meal, sometimes even enjoying and eating a significant amount of a healthy new item. There are still lots of complaints and declarations of hating certain foods, but we've made measurable progress. I was feeling good. Then came last night.

I got home from work all gung ho about making my black bean patties with pineapple rice. I set right to work. Everything was going fine until the kids had a disagreement. Next thing I know, Anne is alternately crying and screaming, and then demanding that I hold her. I'm trying to juggle her while cooking and that isn't going so well.

"Can't Daddy hold you?"

"NO!"

"How about you stand next to me on a chair?"

"NO!"

This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening. :0 I got the rice going, and was working on the patties. I even used the food processor successfully.

*gold star!*

About an hour later, I was removing the completed patties from the skillet. They still looked a bit mushy to me, but they were starting to stick to the bottom of the skillet despite my non-stick efforts. I thought my consistency was off, but after talking to Shauna'h, who has also made these, she said they are supposed to turn out more like crab cakes than burger patties, which made me feel a lot better. I think I did everything right, actually. Aside from the sticking issue. Does anybody else use something besides one of those vegetable oil sprays for non-stick purposes? If so, please leave a comment. :)

So then we sit down to dinner. Both children immediately look traumatized.

"This looks disgusting."

"But it *tastes* really good. So try it." And it did. Those patties tasted awesome. Mike loved his.

Both of them ate some of their rice. When I was making that, each ate a bunch of the pineapple as I chopped it. This is an extremely nice perk of cooking with real food. Healthy snacking. But the patties were going over like a lead balloon with the kids. Pretty soon, Henry was crying because we were being so mean as to insist that he at least taste his, and Anne started crying because Henry was crying. The kitchen was an absolute cacophony of misery, and I sat there flaring my nostrils. I spent an hour making dinner after working all day, and this is what I get?

It was just a really bad night. After a night of sleep, I feel a bit better. With any endeavor, every day isn't going to be a good day. You have to take the good with the bad and keep trucking on.

To look at the positives, I'm already seeing some pretty fantastic personal results from this project, which I will detail after my 10 days is up next week. I'm trying new things and am actually excited about what I'm cooking and serving again.

I also love my new tea routine that resulted from all of this. I've always been a tea drinker. Nothing too fancy, black tea with cream and artificial sweetener. I have now switched to one cup of black tea a day, with real cream and honey, and one cup of herbal tea per day. And the herbal tea that I now have is AMAZING.

*angels sing*

I mentioned my trip to Teavana earlier this week. The chocolate based teas they have there are *delicious*. As in, they taste like dessert. In fact, you literally could eat their tea. :0 (ask me how I know this...) I brew one of those in the afternoon, add a little honey, and voila! Happy camper, with no artificial ingredients, and no late afternoon cravings and snacking. I have this precious little teapot to brew the loose leaves:

My teapot and I: in love.
 It's the Teavana Perfect Teamaker. Isn't it the height of preciousness? You just dump the leaves in, fill it with water and let it steep. When you're ready to drink, you place your mug at the bottom and it has this little sensor that dispenses the tea right into your cup while the leaves stay strained in the pot. I adore it.

One final note: My sister Shauna'h recently sent me a gift book for my Kindle:

I'm really enjoying it. It's giving me hope that my children actually CAN come to like vegetables and other foods they currently find repulsive. If her kids can come to like pickled pig snouts, mine can eat asparagus. :0 I'll keep you posted.

I usually rarely miss a 7 Quick Takes Friday, but I'm taking tomorrow off to watch basketball with Mike. He and I are taking Henry out to lunch, since he has a half day from school, and I know I won't get to do any blogging. I will check in with you all on Monday and I promise lots of food and Lenten updates. :) Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Adventures in healthy grocery shopping, Take 1...

Good day, all! Yesterday afternoon I had my first experience of attempting to stock "real foods" in our house for my 10 day real food pledge. How did I do? Read on, dear friend...

I left work around 3 pm, using some comp. time, so that I would have plenty of time to shop and not feel rushed. Those of you with children know what I mean: DIVIDED ATTENTION. It's a wonder I leave the house fully dressed each morning with my kids constantly clamoring for attention when I'm trying to focus on tasks at hand. And in the grocery store, this inevitably means that you get out to your car with the bags and realize you forgot to get 3 crucial ingredients for dinner that very night but you mysteriously have a package of Little Debbie cakes that you know you didn't put in the cart.

So anyway, I was blissfully ALONE with my list and the thoughts running through my own head as I headed into one of the big grocery store chains in this area. This store in known for being fairly "crunchy" in its volume of organic food, so I figured I'd find (most of) the crazy stuff I was looking for there.

*picture me wandering through an aisle muttering "agave nectar?" under my breath*

I can sum up my experience into these simple points. Shopping for non-processed food:

(1) Takes longer. Looking for wheat crackers made with 5 or fewer ingredients? Good luck.

(2) Also takes longer to check out.

"Um..."

"Cilantro."

"Ah, ok."

"Um..."

"Red onion."

"Ok. And, what's..."

(3) More expensive. $9.99 for a tiny container of real maple syrup? Ouch.

(4) Society is working against us. It is not always easy to find even simple things that haven't been processed to the very inch of its life. Ever look at the list of ingredients on a typical loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread? Do it. You will be shocked.

(5) All of the stuff you will read about eating real food will tell you to shop at the periphery of the store. I didn't really put a lot of thought into that, but that is in fact what happened just based on what I was looking for. Fresh produce, meat, fish, and dairy products all line the edges of the store. I've never been particularly adventuresome in this area, but that is now changing:

"Um, excuse me. I'm looking for pork...*consults list* shoulder?"

"Yes, we have some over here."

"Those are all 7 lbs. and up and I need 3-3 and a half pounds. Is there like a...substitution system for pork that I don't know about?"

"We can cut one of these in half for you."

"Really?!"

"Sure, come to the meat counter."

The meat counter. I felt like the next step was to head back to my homestead.

The other things on my list were also fairly close to the edges of the store. Frozen foods, for some vegetables that weren't in season. The baking aisle for spices, bagged tea and honey. The beverage aisle for carbonated water. Cereal aisle for rolled oats. The only time I dipped into the middle of the store was to get shampoo for the kids, and then to the canned food aisle for black beans and pureed pumpkin. Oh, and whole wheat pasta in the ethnic food area.

I was sweating my total, but I did the very best I could to pare back what I got. I selected regular vanilla yogurt to make my overnight oats instead of the Greek that I wanted, and I didn't get any fresh mint, figuring we could grow some this year in our garden and I could experiment with it then in a much cheaper way. My one splurge was pumpkin pie spice ($4.99 for the tiniest container you can imagine) to make Pumpkin Fluff Dessert Dip. My total?

$70.62.

I let out a sigh of relief. I was hoping to come in under $70, but I knew I would certainly be way above $50. I got enough food for 4 dinners (more if you consider leftovers), many breakfasts and some items for lunch that should last about 2 weeks. I was pleased.

When I got home, I had the house to myself for about a half hour. I prepared and put some Spinach and Cheddar Mini Frittatas in the oven, so that I could have those for breakfast on and off for the next several days. I was told that they keep well in the refrigerator. I also brewed iced tea and made the pumpkin dip. I was on fire.

When my family got home, they were very curious about my endeavors. Mike and I were planning to split some leftovers from dinner the past 2 nights. Although the kids ate those two dinners, they weren't overly thrilled about reprising their cooperation. Each child spotted the new bag of apples and asked for one. I was pleased. Then they asked after the frittatas. 

"Eggs and cheese? Oh yes! But what's that green stuff?"

*pause as I consider whether or not to tell them the truth* "Spinach."

I might as well have said that the frittatas were seasoned with Anthrax. They backed away in horror.

"Spinach?! Never mind." 

"It's GOOD, trust me. You can't even taste the spinach in eggs."

They were dubious, but agreed to try a frittata. Next thing I knew, I was sitting down to my leftovers and glanced over at the kids' plates. They were empty. Henry was requesting seconds.

My children ate spinach? Board up your windows everybody, the pestilence must be coming next!!

This, my friends, is a GOOD feeling. We'll see where these 10 days take us, but I'm excited! Tonight, we're having black bean patties with pineapple rice. Mike gave me a look when we realized that we will need to bust out our seldom used food processor for this shindig, but I was not dissuaded. I'm tired of hurriedly throwing together odd-tasting, artificial food during the work week. Next!

This morning, I heated up one of the frittatas and had a piece of toast with, get this, REAL BUTTER! *halo* This is living, people!

I will keep you apprised of how things are going, here in the continuing saga of Life of a Catholic Librarian: The Children Are Forced To Eat Brussels Sprouts.

;-0

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Life of the Catholic Librarian, a Monday evening...

Hello all! Reporting in again with antics from my life, for those who care to read such things. Yesterday afternoon my mind was all awhirl with recipes, plans for my upcoming 10 day real food pledge (slated to begin tomorrow), and stuff I had to do around the house. I left work a bit early to do a few errands on my way home. Given that my mind was awhirl (see supra), it wasn't exactly a huge surprise to get out to my car and realize that:

(a) I had forgotten my knitting bag to work on my project at home, despite it being placed atop my desk as a reminder, and

(b) I had forgotten to change from my work shoes back to my boots. I do this twice a day, every day, and yet...I forgot.

My life could be written up in a dissertation entitled: The Aging Brain: A Study in Futility.

First, I stopped at the mall. I had a lovely gift card to Teavana from my birthday, and I wanted to explore some new herbal teas in my quest to eliminate artificial sweeteners. One intense and expensive (thank God for that gift card :0) interaction later, I emerged with a big bag. I am now the proud owner of an infuser teapot for loose tea, and 3 small canisters of herbals to try out, and if you know me at all, dear reader, you would know that these flavors had "Catholic Librarian!" written all over them:

Caramel Almond Amaretti
Chocolate Bananas Foster
CocoCaramel Sea Salt

I mean, did you ever? I'm so thrilled. I can drink these without any sweetening whatsoever. They are already happily ensconced in my office.

I wasn't at the mall nearly as long as I thought, so I had time to pop by JoAnn's on my way home. I needed buttons for Mike's cardigan, because THAT BABY IS OFF THE NEEDLES!!! It is DONE! Well, almost. The pieces are knit and blocked, but they have to be seamed together.

*long suffering sigh*

I hate seaming. But there is light at the end of the tunnel! So, buttons. I needed 5. I had previously asked Mike what color he would like the buttons to be:

"Navy blue."

"Ok Honey, but the sweater IS navy blue. Wouldn't you like a coordinating contrast? Gray? Tan? Maybe go wild and crazy and get, oh I don't know, light brown?"

"Brown?" *look of horror* "Navy blue, please."

And so I stopped at JoAnn's and got the plainest, most boring navy blue buttons you can possibly imagine. They were so bland they cost $1 per 3 button package, the least expensive buttons in the display. For a woman who usually buys handpainted buttons shaped like acorns or alpacas this was difficult to do. I brought them home to show Mike.

"These are PERFECT!"

I knew it.

Mike made dinner, dear soul that he is, mustard chicken with rice, and the children gamely ate some of it amidst cries of "What is *that red thing*? A pepper! GROSS!" Kitchen clean up followed, and then Mike left for an audition to a community play he was interested in. I got the kids ready for bed, and wrangled Anne into her crib, no easy feat these days.

"Mommy read me a story!" "Mommy I need my *pink* blanket!" "Mommy can I sleep with Teddy?" "Mommy, I don't want Ernie in my crib!!"

And finally, the piece de resistance:

"Ok Honey, I'm blowing you a kiss, good night!"

"Mommy, I have to go potty."

*collapses*

Finally, she is taken care of and settled. I grab a shower while Henry watches Regular Show. I get dried off and jammied up, and plead guilty to watching an episode of Regular Show with Henry and enjoying it. It is now Henry's bedtime.

"Ok Honey, go brush your teeth."

"Mommy, my toothbrush is all gross and ready to be replaced. Could you go up and get me the new red lightsaber one I got for Christmas?"

"Why can't you go upstairs and get it?"

"I have to go pee." *halo*

I trudge upstairs, wondering why we don't impose a 6 pm bedtime on days when Mommy is especially tired. :0 As I walk down the darkened hallway to the upstairs bathroom, which lies immediately beside Anne's bedroom, my foot painfully hits something. A swear word passes my lips as I realize I am powerless to stop the subsequent loud BANG! against the adjacent radiator.

Mr. Potato's Books.

 
Has she lost her mind, what is she talking about?! I am referring to this little ritual that Anne has devised. Every day, she insists that she has to leave this pile of hardcover books right in the entryway to the upstairs bathroom "for Mr. Potato." Mr. Potato is a character in the fabulous British cartoon Peppa Pig. She loves him. And she leaves books for him. In the bathroom. I'm not sure if Mr. Potato is supposed to *read* them, or manifest on them, or what. But everyday she makes this pile. And now I have knocked them over, injured my foot, and they have banged loudly against the radiator almost immediately outside Anne's door. I swear again, just for good measure.

I grab Henry's new toothbrush and hurry downstairs. As I'm readying his asthma medicine for the night, I hear it: the sound of a monologue coming from Anne's room. My little escapade in the bathroom woke her up.

WHY HAS GOD ABANDONED ME?!

I hustle Henry upstairs, forcing him to tiptoe up the stairs all crazy the way I do, to avoid the squeaky spots in the floor. I get him in his room and read him the story of St. Patrick as he gets into bed, our nightly saint ritual. He reads an excerpt out of one of his St. Joseph picture books aloud, as is also our custom. He's currently reading about Padre Pio.

As I tiptoe out of Hank's room, I press my ear to Anne's door. All is quiet. God loves me again.

I go downstairs to await Mike's return. As he pulls into the driveway, I am waiting with a big glass of wine. :)

ANDDDDDDD, that was my evening! How was yours?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Real food - a Lenten quest



Happy Monday all! Although not technically part of my Lenten resolutions, I've been thinking a lot lately about self discipline with regard to food. Listening to Fr. Roderick talk about his Lenten pledge to simplify his life in terms of physical and emotional clutter, as well as his eating habits, inspired me. I also recently read a book that I highly recommend, Real Food by Nina Planck. While I don't see us moving to raw milk (maybe ever) or grass fed beef (at least not exclusively) the ideas in the book really motivated me. I don't think the extent to which my family (and Americans generally) relies on processed food ever fully registered with me until I read this book. When I thought "processed foods," I thought about Kraft mac & cheese with the orange powder. I didn't realize that nearly everything we consume is from a box or package of some sort, rather than being a food in its natural form. This was very eye opening for me.

I mentioned sometime recently that I was trying to lose about 6 pounds of final baby/weaning weight (don't laugh, I know my daughter is nearly 3 years old :)), as well as improve my cholesterol. I'm at a healthy weight for my height, it's true, but genetics and, increasingly, age are working against me. I want to make some healthy changes, improve my blood work numbers, and feel fitter and stronger.

And so I've been doing lots of reading and research. In the meantime, I've been working on those pesky 6 pounds, and in a month's time, I've lost 1.8 pounds.

*picture me making the "big whoop" finger circling motion*

I mean, that's still good. I've been making some healthier choices, snacking less, and exercising more. And by exercising I mean fun stuff. I'm not a gym person. I walk, dance, and lift hand weights while listening to podcasts. Nothing hardcore over here. And increased exercise is excellent for your cholesterol numbers.

But I'm ready to take things to the next level. I drew the line in the sand with my kids a few months ago, too. No longer are we making dinner for Mike and I, and "something else" for the two of them that usually involves zapping something in the microwave that came frozen from the store. We all eat the same home cooked meal. There has been lots of complaining, and sometimes no dessert for little ones who do not eat more than a forkful of something "so gross!", but they try things now. And they do not expect separate, inevitably highly processed, meals.

So here is what I am going to do: I signed up for the 10 Day Pledge over at 100 Days of Real Food. I start this Wednesday, March 14th. I'm taking time today and tomorrow to do some recipe planning, shopping, and research. I'm not going to eat processed foods for a full 10 days, and my family will come along for the ride as far as dinners are concerned.

What are we talking about when we say "processed foods?" Generally, you want to avoid:

Refined grains, like white flour and white rice.
Refined sweetners, like corn syrup, cane juice, Splenda (and company), and even sugar (though I'll be honest: I'm not completely cutting out sugar. That doesn't seem realistic to me).
Things out of a box, can or package that have more than 5 ingredients listed on the label.
Deep fried foods.
Fast food.

Here are the rules. I'm going to do my very best. I don't do the majority of the grocery shopping for our house, so I have some challenges there, but I'm making my own shopping trip tomorrow and will otherwise work with what we have.

Here is my shopping list (things we don't already have in our cupboard or freezer):

For Breakfasts:

Rolled oats, pumpkin, yogurt, bananas, and chia seeds to make Pumpkin Overnight Oats. Frozen berries to have on hand.

For Lunches:

Greek yogurt. String cheese. Maybe some crackers (made with 5 ingredients or less) if I can find some. Otherwise, going to be relying on leftovers from dinner, and salads (we always have lettuce, tomatoes and cheese in the house, and I make my own oil-based dressing).

For Dinners:

I'm going to buy the ingredients to make these 3 recipes for certain, and hope that we get more than one meal out of each:

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Apple Soup
The Best Pulled Pork in a Crock Pot!
Cuban Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice

I also love dishes with eggs, like frittata, which we always have the ingredients for, to pitch hit. 

For Beverages:

Sparkling water. Fresh lemon and lime. Half & half and honey (for tea). Also going to be exploring some herbal teas with my birthday gift card from Teavana. :0 Going to be brewing my own iced tea with this recipe.

One of the things that I'm really happy about is eliminating artificial sweeteners from my diet. I use those a LOT to flavor my tea and coffee, and they're in the Crystal Light type beverages that we tend to whip up. Not good.

I am SUPER excited about all of this, and will naturally document my experience right here on this blog. :) Who wants to join me?! Leave me a comment!

Friday, March 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 35} Meltage, Lenten failures and fun with colors edition...

-1-"Is that the sun?! Let's go outside and grill!"

We're all enjoying the 40 degree temperatures here today. In western New York, we refer to this as "a warm up!" We get all excited and put on our spring jackets. It's quite sad really. But I'm hoping that some of the snow melts, since the weekend is supposed to go back to being frigid. There is a LOT of snow on the ground right now. I don't hate looking at it, but I'm tired of not being able to see around corners when I drive due to the mountain that has been plowed to the sides of every exit. Next week will also be more seasonable, so here's hoping for that meltage!

An aside: I once heard a radio story about a town somewhere in Scandinavia that lies above the Arctic Circle. They have that white nights/dark days phenomena going on because of their high northern location, and every year in the spring when the days start to become more normal again they hold a festival to celebrate. I will always remember the comment that the town children DRESS UP LIKE THE SUN to celebrate it's appearance in their lives again. I mean, did you ever? All these tiny suns running around celebrating spring and having daylight again. Precious. I suppose we don't have the weather situation nearly so bad, now do we? :)

-2-"Mommy, my blankets aren't working anymore!!"

If any of you can translate this one, message me please. :0 This is what Anne announced to me this morning when I opened her bedroom door. She's battling a cold, and had a rough night of sleep as a result of the coughing. My suspicion is that she felt chilled, maybe? I'm not certain, but she is absolutely adorable, standing there in her sleeper with reindeer feet and very pink cheeks. Broken blankets. If only this was the main thing on my list of worries. :0 Cutie pie. I do feel badly that she's sick, and none of us slept well last night as a result.

Ugh.

-3-#LentFail

 Offering up the sleepless night, which is needed since I'm doing very poorly keeping to my Lenten resolutions. This is not exactly a new phenomenon. :0 I always try, and some Lents go better than others, but never does it go 100% as planned. I've been doing my Morning and Evening Prayer...sometimes. Which is better than never, right? I have maintained my fasting from sweets at lunchtime, that has gone well, and each time I get to the end of my lunch I remember what I gave up and why I'm doing it. That's a good thing. I've been good about starting my rosary each day in the car, but I don't always get to finish all 5 mysteries. I'm doing what I can, and trying to do better.

In his podcast "The Break" this week, Fr. Roderick talked about this very issue, and said that for him, this Lent is about a fresh start. He's been trying to declutter his apartment and give some things away, so that he can live more simply. I really relate to this message. It doesn't have to be anything major. We are just trying to do good things and freshen up our spiritual lives a bit.

-4- Fish fry, baby!

Fish fry on Fridays is *big* in this area, and fasting from meat has never been difficult for me. I almost feel guilty about that. :) We make fish for dinner at home most Fridays in Lent, but 3 times or so per year we seek out a local fish fry. Parishes have them, restaurants do take out, even supermarkets and the *meat market* get in on the action. There are so many Catholics in this area, they really have to or otherwise risk losing a lot of business during Lent. We're getting a fish fry today, and I'm very excited. Although, inevitably every single fish fry comes with coleslaw, and I've never liked that particular side dish. Who's wish me? :) 

-5-Fluorescent orange is a remarkably versatile color for the form of dance that I perform...

I mentioned last week my love of orange and my hunt for a new dance costume. I love orange. It's just such an underappreciated color, don't you think? It needs some love. I adore orange, but I also adore a bargain where dance costumes are concerned. They can be expensive, and I don't have a big budget for them. I often shop used. And I like it if a costume can be worn more than one way, maximizing the use I can get out of them. This works best in Middle Eastern dance with a bra and belt set. You can switch out the skirt color/type, and voila! Looks like a whole new costume with minimal expense.

And so, this week I put an affordably priced new bra and belt set in a neutral color (brown, another underappreciated color that I love :)) on layaway, and ordered a few new skirts. Chocolate, and dun dun dun!!!!!! Bright orange velvet!! I seriously CANNOT.WAIT to wear it. Expect pictures. :0

-6- "What? Oh yes. This is my natural hair color." *look of innocence*

And so we get to my weekend plans. Saturday the big event is my pilgrimmage to the hair salon, which I make every 10 weeks. Kind people have complimented me in the past on my hair, saying "and you don't have any gray!" Welllllllllll. :) I don't have any gray because I dye the gray out of my hair, and I'm going to be honest: I feel 0% guilt about this. Gray hair is lovely, just not on me. :0 I am a natural brunette, and the gray strands stand out very noticeably when they dare to make an appearance. Plus, their texture is SO different from the rest of my hair, it just looks weird. Thus, I am unashamed to admit that I color my hair and I plan to do so for the foreseeable future. I plan to "not have any gray" well into my 80's.

-7- "One, two, Plie three, four..."

Sunday I am attending a dance workshop on combinations set to Middle Eastern pop music. It should be loads of fun, and also a good workout. I have to giggle myself to think about how growing up, I was this very serious ballet dancer, who studiously kept her pink tights spotless and never dared to perform solo, and now I'm almost 40 and I jangle around belly dancing in public. And I couldn't be happier. Life is good! And festival season will soon be upon us. PREPARE FOR AMUSING STORIES. You know you can count on me. ;-)

All right everyone, the countdown to my fish fry has begun. Check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes! See you all next week!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My blizzardy life - March edition

A wind whipping snowstorm in mid-March - sounds like perfect Lenten weather, no?! PENANCE and SACRIFICE people, clearly God is trying to communicate with us. :0

This was the scene above my head yesterday. I mean it, it really followed me around. :0
So, yesterday was a bit kooky. I do live in the Northeast, and I do live in Lake Effect storm system territory, in a city known for it's snowfall. HOWEVER. The worst is usually behind us by late February. Do we get snow in March? This is certainly not unheard of. But being under an official blizzard advisory in mid-March? Not so usual. Plus, we really don't get as much snow as everyone thinks.

*sanctimonious tangent alert*

The metro area is nowhere near #1 in the country for average snowfall, let that just be said. South of here, in ski country, is where the larger snowfall numbers come into play. But I digress.

*haughty sniff*

;-)

March is certainly a wet transition month around here, with huge piles of dirty snow plowed up and waiting for the sun to work its magic. Spring is on the horizon, but is not yet in the air. Nevertheless, a blizzard is pretty unwelcome. We have endured the winter and are still standing. We're now ready for a change.

But we knew this one was coming, our weather man warned us. Schools were cancelled, and our happy melting phase wasn't long for this world. Except at the university I work for. Since it is part of the state system, it can only be closed by *the Governor.*

How often does that happen, you ask? Not very often, my friend. He's in Albany. We are not. It makes no sense for him to make the call as to whether or not our campus has to close due to weather. But appeals to reason have not changed this unfortunate policy.

So yesterday morning found me headed into work for the early reference shift. It was already starting to snow, and I was feeling a bit mutinous. As my shift began at 9 am, things were looking swirly outside. I fielded a bunch of phone calls asking if the library was open while keeping an eye on the window. Closer to 10:30 am, things were looking a bit Apocalyptic. I was getting worried about the drive home. Refreshing the home page for the university let me know that "University officials are monitoring the weather conditions."

*eyeroll with a nostril flare*

Them monitoring things while hundreds of people are already on campus to potentially become stranded does not help us at all. When my shift ended at 11 am, I immediately packed up and headed out. I did not want to risk having to *sleep in my office.* You think I'm exaggerating, but that has actually happened to me in the past. :0 And if that ever happens again, prepare yourself for an EPIC BLOG POST relaying all of the gory details. Because I'll have nothing else to do. Assuming I have power and Internet connectivity.

Ugh.

Anyway, it was a bit of a production to chip my car out of its icy and snow coated covering, but I persevered. It took me longer than usual to get home, but I made it. Classes were cancelled as of noon, and the library closed at 1 pm. And the world heaved a collective sigh of relief.

And so, Mike and I were marooned at home for the day, with the kids predictably climbing the walls with boredom. Anne is also cutting a molar, adding to the joy.

But we made it. I did some knitting, and Mike and I attended to the house. Our kitchen ceiling was  repaired this week, let's strike up the Hallelujah chorus. The kitchen needed major TLC as a result from drywall dust, so we took care of that. It was nice to be home.

I'm back at work today, and it's pretty cold, so all of the snow is still with us.

"Hello Snow!" Anne would say.

Tomorrow it will be above freezing, here's hoping for some meltage. (new word: officially coined).

Tomorrow is 7 Quick Takes Friday, and I'll talk about how Lent is going so far, some dance stuff, and my weekend plans. Scintillating stuff, y'all! Was anyone else affected by the storm yesterday? Leave me your story in the comments! :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Just a night in the life...

My evening yesterday:

Mike is teaching, Tiffany is making dinner for the kids. Henry is playing a video game in our home office, and Anne is watching him.

"Mommy! I go pee!"

I know she isn't in the bathroom.

!

"Mommy, you be so happy!!"

"Ohhhhhh. I'm sure, Sweetie." *weak smile as I transverse the house* "You are such a good girl."

I arrive at the doorway of the office. Anne hands me a bowl full of pee.

"Look Mommy!"

Anne is standing proudly next to her little pink potty, pants around her ankles. The detachable bowl is what she handed me.

"Oh whew, this wasn't nearly so bad as I feared. Good job, Anne! Can you pull your pants up?"

"NO!"

You can't win 'em all.

"Mommy! Can you watch me do this board?"

"Well, my hands are a bit full now, Honey, just give me a minute."

*struggle to pull up Anne's pants while carefully juggling the bowl of urine.

"Mommy I'm hungry!!"

"Yes, I know, dear, I have to clean up first. Hank, not too much longer on the computer."

*a chorus of "Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes" strikes up behind me as I head to the bathroom to dump out the pee*

So much glamour. :0

Monday, March 10, 2014

A fun dancing recap, amidst some Monday grumpiness...

Hello all! I had a perfectly lovely weekend (about to be detailed), followed by a perfectly mediocre day so far today (I will spare details, but...). I think the following conversation that I had with Mike over Gmail chat sums today up pretty well:

Mike: *makes off color joke* Because he does that very well. :)

CL: *silence*

Mike: "Well, since you're laughing, I do think we should...*gives thoughts on topic we were discussing*

CL: "Sorry Honey, I guess I'm not in a very good mood. I'm not feeling 100% today."

Mike: "Why not come home early then? Why stay and be miserable?"

CL: *silence*

Mike: "How is your leg feeling?" (I strained a calf muscle yesterday)

CL: "A little better. But it's not totally back to normal." *whines* "This is what happens you get older. You get hurt while WALKING."

Clearly, I have my grumpy face on today. But I persevere.

The weekend was really fabulous, though. On Saturday, I spent some time with Mike and the kids in the morning picking out things we needed for the house at Home Depot, and generally focusing on quality time. Anne is really into puzzles right now, and so we've all done the same 4 puzzles with her an uncountable number of times. :0

Later, my friend Amy came to pick me up to drive about an hour south to watch one of our troupemates perform her senior dance project. All of the dance majors at her college have to present a 10 minute piece (either a performance or a choreography; if you perform, you cannot choreograph the piece, and vice versa) prior to graduation, and 3 performances were scheduled for that night. I love watching dance, of any type, and so I was totally excited about this.

Therein followed a full hour of dance chat on the drive down, which was extremely enjoyable. Then we got to the campus and got lost trying to find the theater. But we made it, only to have to wait about a half hour since they were running behind from another show. We paced and gossiped.

Finally, the theater was ready for us. It was a lovely little space with seating in the round, creating a very intimate environment. I excitedly read my program. Of the 3 performances that night, Mackenzie's (my troupemate) was the only one that wasn't modern dance. Hers was a classical Egyptian piece, highly unusual for this senior project.

The first performance was a friend of Mackenzie's, and she was fabulous. Absolutely beautiful dancer, and the music was haunting and emotionally evocative, a gorgeous performance. But can I make a confession? Modern dance: I really don't *get* it. As a child, I studied ballet, tap, and for a shorter time, jazz. I never even heard of modern dance until I was an adult. And to be honest, I really can't fully describe it to you now. :0 It's very, let's see...

Dramatic, to be sure. There is acting ability that needs to be implemented. And this would be one reason that I would be terrible at it, to be sure. You need to be very strong, there are a lot of lifts and leaps. And the dance is clearly trying to "tell a story" with the movements. I didn't always *understand* that story, but alas. There seemed to be some violence and hurt feelings involved, but other than that, I just tried to enjoy the show and not figure anything out. :)

Then Mackenzie came out. She was SUPER FABULOUS! Her piece was divided into three segments: classic, sword balancing, and drum solo. She is always a superb dancer, but Saturday night she brought her A game. It was awesome. And such a beautiful and tasteful demonstration of Middle Eastern dance to an audience that may have never seen it before. My dance teacher is Mackenzie's mom and choreographed her piece. I knew how much it meant to her to see this choreography brought to life, and I teared up at the end, it was just so lovely.

The third piece was choreographed by a graduating student, and so a group of other dancers performed it. It was VERY good. Again, modern dance, so a lot of lost in translation for me, but there was one male dancer who just stole the show, he was that good. It was an excellent piece.

I had SUCH a good time, and I felt very inspired afterward. Watching others dance always has that effect on me. I've been going through my music to plan some future solos, and I'm feeling very happy. Assuming, of course, that my leg starts to feel better. I may whine again.

How was everyone else's weekend? Leave a comment. :)

Friday, March 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 34}, Lent, pee pee resolutions, real food, and dance costume edition...

Happy first Friday of Lent, everyone! Mike and I have been plotting our fish fry outings, one of our very favorite things to do each year, and I've been examining the ways in which I've already failed at my Lenten resolutions, *sighs*. Let's take a look at my week, shall we?

-1- Prayer. If only I could remember to say some.

I am starting off this Lent feeling a bit spiritually dry. Like anybody else, I have spiritual peaks and valleys. Going into Lent, my prayer life felt uninspired and wilty (I just made this word up ;-)). But hope springs eternal, and I set up my Lenten resolutions to act as a springboard to help me feel spiritually stronger. I LOVE Morning and Evening prayer with Magnificat, as well as the other meditations and saint stories therein. So far, Morning Prayer has been a breeze and a blessing. On the other hand, I have forgotten Evening Prayer every.single.evening. I haven't remembered *once*. My mind...I just miss it SO MUCH.

I need to develop a new habit. In the past, I had a habit of bringing my Magnificat up to bed with me along with the book I was planning to read. I created a little stack to take upstairs with me, pulling the Magnificat out of my purse after I got home from work. Up in bed, I'd read Evening Prayer, and then move on to my book. I remembered every night. I'm going to aim for that again.

-2- The tiniest of our Lenten resolutions: "Uh oh Mommy, I am going to go pee on the rug!"

Henry's Lenten resolution is to read through his children's Bible prior to Easter, which is adorable. It's sitting on his bedside table with a little bookmark sticking out of it. Anne does not yet have Lenten resolutions, but I've made her task to be potty trained by Easter. :0 It's still very up and down, but overall it's gotten a lot better. She still wears a diaper overnight, I can't foresee that changing for quite some time. But during the day, she wears underwear. We're doing A LOT of laundry. She seems to not be responding to her first urge to go and getting herself a bit wet, and THEN asking to use the potty. She will in fact go on the potty, but a full clothing change from the waist down is still in order. She has developed a fondness for:

"I do it MYSELF!"

And so she speeds off to the bathroom, wiggles up onto the toilet all by herself, and thinks that this is great fun. Go to town, I say. The prize is getting to flush when she's finished. It's far from perfected, but we're getting there.

-3- March feast days!

Somewhere in the vicinity of St. Patrick's day each year (read: anytime in March) Mike makes Shepherd's Pie for us. We're having friends over for dinner on Sunday, and so this year that is the big day. I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure we'll pursue some Irish beer for the day itself, we enjoy that sort of thing. :) This year, I'd also like to celebrate St. Joseph's feast day with the kids. Has anybody done this before? What is involved? Is there some sort of St. Joseph bread? I want to say there is a market around here that sells such a thing... I know I could Google this, but if anyone has a personal anecdote, I prefer those so much more. :0

-4- Speaking of food...

As if I need more things to be Type A about, I've been all into reading ingredient lists on packaged food these days. I've been reading Real Food, by Nina Planck, and although I don't necessarily see us switching to raw milk anytime soon, I'm quite fascinated with the concepts in the book. I've been taking a look at what we eat as a family, and we've slowly been trying to implement some changes. I've known for awhile with regard to the kids: they need to eat less processed foods. It gets difficult when they get picky and all you want to do is eat your dinner in peace, but that's simply not a good long term solution for anybody. So we're working on this, and so far so good. I know that I *feel* a lot better, as well. Which leads us to...

-5- "Were there always this many stairs up to my office?!" *pants*

I've been trying to get into better shape. My fitness wasn't poor, I do dance at least weekly, and I try to be active where I can (like taking the stairs rather than the elevator. :)). But I had slacked off with my previous daily walks, and I know that last time I had blood work done, my level of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) is not as high as it should be. Genetics are just NOT on my side with regard to heart disease, and the processed foods thing also plays a large role. Exercise can help with this, and I knew that I needed to get back into a healthy routine with regard to exercise. I've been walking again, and it feels wonderful. It's also almost spring/summer belly dance festival season, which is a fantastic impetus to be feeling my best. I am SO excited about all of the dance events coming up. Some things never change from when I was 5. ;-)

-6- Fun dancing stuff

Speaking of dance, some fun tidbits. Tomorrow, I'm going to see one of my troupemates perform. She will be graduating with a BFA in dance this May, and she is performing her senior project on Saturday. It is the first time in the history of her college that a student has been permitted to present Egyptian dance for this senior project. I'm driving down there with another dance friend, and we're all going out to dinner afterward, should be a lot of fun. I love watching dance in all forms, especially solos. Each and every person brings their own flare and style to it, and it's just a beautiful thing to see.

-7- "Oh. This costume bin is getting a bit *full*..."

And in that spirit, I've been spending a lot of lunch hours poring over dance costumes. :0 I do have several dance costumes, it is true. One is our official troupe costume. I have 3 others that I use when I dance solo or when our troupe decides to be colorful (we do this a lot in the summer, fits the mood) and everyone wears a different colored costume from each other. I'm certainly appreciative of all of them, and I use them plenty. After some time though, you crave something new to add to the repertoire. I always hunt for bargain basement deals on swap meets and such, and save my pennies. And so I've been having a good time with this. I don't have a red costume, and that seems like a lovely color to have. I also have a real affinity for the color orange. Exhibit A:

This is my purse. It hurts your eyes to look at it, and therefore I think it is perfect. :)
I would love, love, love an orange dance costume. Let's see if this dream can become a reality, shall we?

And so that's my week! How was yours?! Leave me a comment! And check out more 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lenten life with a toddler...

"Anne, can you ____________ {fill in the blank with any request: pick up your toys? eat your dinner? not yell viciously at your brother? hold Mommy's hand while we cross the street? stop breaking all of your crayons in half?}

Answer, 100% of the time:

"No!"

"I knew you were going to say that."

I mean, it *was* her very first word (so sweet?!), so this isn't a huge shock. I'm offering it up. :0

But at the same time, after the priest traced the cross of ashes on her forehead yesterday afternoon, she announced:

"Thank you!!"

I mean...precious.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday 2014...

Morning all! I hope that you are having a blessed Ash Wednesday. And I *am* having a very nice day, after a lovely evening yesterday. A huge relief after my challenges of the other night.

I am going for ashes at the 4 pm scripture service my parish is holding, this is when I go every year. It's become quite an enjoyable tradition. I used to always take Henry with me, but now that he is in Catholic school, they have Mass with ash distribution during the day, so I just take Anne. This year I think she's going to really get a kick out of the process, since she really enjoys being blessed by the priest in the communion line each week. This past Sunday she even thanked him. :0

I bemoaned recently that next year, my birthday falls on Ash Wednesday, and it's a milestone birthday. Since it's a milestone most women people ;-) decidedly do NOT enjoy, I found this bit of trivia fairly unpleasant. I mean, I've been dreading it for like the past 10 years. :0 However, the other day I was sitting waiting for a meeting to start with a colleague, and something brightening happened. She wished me a happy birthday, and I mentioned this little birthday/Ash Wednesday evil tidbit. I know that this colleague is not Catholic. And do you know what she said?

"Oh, but that will be so nice. You will get a blessing on your birthday."

I mean !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How lovely!!! I realized how silly I was being about the whole thing, that I should look at it in a much more positive light. An ancient, beautiful, and meaningful tradition will fall on my birthday. I so appreciate her interpretation of this, which, let's face it, is the most positive interpretation POSSIBLE, ha! But I love it. She also commented that she has passed this age milestone, and that to her, it's a *good* thing.

"You appreciate and enjoy things so much more, without the insecurity we all have when we're younger."

Amen, sister.

I broke out my Magnificat this morning and read Morning Prayer. It is my resolution to keep this up twice daily for all of Lent, and I'm hoping that it sticks even beyond that. Mike is at home with Anne today, and he's planning a meatless dinner for us all, bless him.

It is a *very* cold Ash Wednesday here, especially given that it falls so late this year. A ton of snow still on the ground. But to me, I prefer that the weather still be somewhat wintry when Lent begins. It reminds me that the freshness of spring is still to come, at Easter. That's what we are preparing for now, and we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.

Tell me about your Ash Wednesday plans! Leave me a comment. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ash Tuesday? A painful lead up to Lent, in 10 easy steps...

That sounds so much better than "the day before Lent starts," right? At any rate, I am exhausted today due to my children and my job sucking the very life out of me yesterday. Things went down somewhat like this:

(1) I have a work day involving back-to-back morning meetings, a chat reference shift, and then an afternoon meeting at *3:30*. It should be illegal to have meetings that begin at 3:30. I'm barely breathing at that point of the day, especially after having already endured MULTIPLE OTHER MEETINGS.

Total Tangent Alert: I had to laugh a few weeks ago when we received an email from a large faculty organization on campus. Apparently, there were complaints that the committees formed by this organization were "inefficient," and generally "not getting anything done." Their solution? To create a steering committee to discuss this issue at length and then oversee and supervise all of these other committees. SOOOO... People are already on so many committees that they get out of meetings at every opportunity due to a diagnosable condition called Committee Overload (this needs to be classified by the Centers for Disease Control. The symptoms are upset stomach, piercing headache immediately above your left eyeball, a twitchy foot, and paranoia that you may have an undiagnosed case of Attention Deficit Disorder), leading to the committees having a difficult time getting anything done, and the Powers That Be think that to fix this, they should create yet *another* committee?

Welcome to academia.

Anyway, back to my life, for those of you who care and are still reading. :0 Where were we? Oh yeah, my 3:30 meeting. I had to leave early, because Mike teaches on Monday evenings, and I need to be home by 5 pm at the absolute latest so that he can leave. So I do. I have to walk farther than usual to my parked car because the meeting location was moved somewhere even LESS convenient than originally planned. Rushy, rushy.

(2) I drive and pray the rosary. As I go to turn the corner to our house, I am blocked by a "Road Closed!" sign. Something apocalyptic involving a large digging machine and a construction crew appears to be happening two doors down from us. Water main break, perhaps? Not sure, but whatever the reason, I now have to drive around a few more minutes to approach the street from the other end to access the road and get home. I make it by 4:55 pm.

(3) The children are handed over into my care and Mike leaves for class. Everything goes fine. At first.

*doomy music plays*

(4) I make dinner for the children. I warm up leftovers for myself. Henry goes off to play a game for a short spell while Anne colors and I wash dishes. Then Anne announces that she has to go potty. We head to the toilet, and the irony is not lost on me that that is also where my evening went.

(5) Anne uses the potty without my assistance:

"I do it *MYSELF*!"

As she flushes, I tell her to wash her hands.

"No!"

"Anne, everyone has to wash their hands after using the potty."

"NO!"

"Mommy will help you."

"NO NO NO!"

"You cannot watch Dora until you wash your hands."

Wherefore we begin an epic temper tantrum, interspersed with throwing of self on floor, screaming, and general misery for the entire household. AN HOUR LATER, she complies with the hand washing request amidst much sniffling. I let her watch a little tv and contemplate my upcoming drink options.

(6) Anne gets to bed late due to the tantrum situation, but I read her a book and we have a good cuddle session. By the time I shut her bedroom door near 7:30, I'm absolutely exhausted and just want to go to bed. I put on comfortable clothes and prepare to wait for Mike to return. I head downstairs.

(7) Henry pounces.

"Mommy, I'm bored."

I offer a long suffering sigh. This is a *constant refrain* in our house these days.

"Why don't you read?"

"I don't want to."

"How about do a puzzle?"

"I don't want to."

Picture this going on for another two minutes with increasing attitude on Henry's end. He gets whiny and I get annoyed. Finally, he asks if I'll play War with him, and I agree although I really don't want to. All I want to do is read a book on my Kindle and drink my drinky drink.

We play, and he starts out strong, but as this stupid game often does, the tide turns. I see him try to hide a card.

"Hank, you can't cheat, other kids won't want to play with you if you do that. It's called 'being a bad sport,' and it's dishonest. Let's clean the cards up. We can try again tomorrow"

"No!" *look of horror*

Too late. I already have the cards half cleaned up, and I've had enough. This starts the second hour long set of sobbing to be heard at my house in a 2 and a half hour time period.

WHY IS GOD SMITING ME?! What's next? Locusts?

(8) Requests for Henry to get ready for bed are met with belligerence and more crying. He is beyond overtired at this point. My bringing him his nightly asthma medication results in the pill being thrown across the living room. I've about reached my limit on what I can deal with without losing my own temper. I leave him to stew in the living room until Mike returns.

(9) Mike returns and I hear Henry tearfully giving a partial accounting of the story. Mike gives him a talking-to and puts him to bed with the promise that there will be no television watching tomorrow. Henry sobs loudly some more.

(10) I'm so tired I can hardly work up the energy to even read. I eventually have to intervene in Henry's misery, talking to him about the consequences of making choices we regret and moving on. He's a sensitive soul, he doesn't like attention called to himself, he's just like me. He asks me to read him the saint story of the day, and I do. It's St. Katherine Drexel.

I go downstairs and manage to perk up enough to chat with Mike and read a bit. When we head to bed, I read some more but can't sleep well, despite my exhaustion. Which brings us to today.

Lent hasn't even started yet? It seems like it's already been going on forever. :0