Weekend in Review: 1/17-18

This weekend was…long-awaited.  I had a crazy work week (seriously – I’ll be telling stories about it over drinks for years, and mine will always beat yours).  So, I needed a little more decompression time than usual and didn’t get as much done as I would have liked.  Still, it was not entirely unproductive.

1 – I finished my freezer clean-out and inventory.  I was actually very pleased that I didn’t find anything ancient and/or unlabeled.  I went so far as to actually wash out the inside of the freezer (not as bad as you may think; an advantage of having a small one).  I have a friend who keeps a current freezer inventory on the outside door, and it always struck me as a good idea, so we’re going to give it a try.

The inventory included 5 pounds of freshly-chopped onions, which is part of my meal-prep plan.  As you can see, we don’t have a ton of space for complete freezer meals, so instead, I’m trying to stock up on individual ingredients that will save us time and effort.  So far, I’ve got onions and chicken stock.  That should get us halfway through a lot of recipes, right?

2 – Well, unless I’m not seeing it up there, I skipped #2 in my photos.  Freebie!

3 – Also on the freezer inventory was 7 dozen peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  I made a double batch of the Joy of Cooking recipe (which I had never actually used before).  The pattern on the top is courtesy of the plunger from my food processor – much easier than forks!  The “samples” we baked up were fantastic, so this will be our new go-to recipe.

The rest of them are now in a big bag, waiting to be baked fresh whenever we feel the need for a lazy dessert.  Johnny’s a great cook, so I know we’ll never starve, but dessert is my domain and I’d hate to deprive him indefinitely.

4 – I love having a reliable go-to recipe for things I make on a semi-regular basis, rather than searching my cookbooks and internet history trying to find one that looks familiar.  The cookie recipe I mentioned about will go in that file, as will the French toast recipe I finally found and loved on Saturday morning (I have to admit that I did alter it a bit by using half-and-half rather than cream).  It had the perfect amount of sweetness and was perfect with our day-old Costco baguettes.

5 – Saturday was just a little warmer than the few days, so I was able to make progress on an ongoing craft project.  It’s a (now-belated) birthday gift, so I’m not going to share any pictures yet except to point out that I’m dealing with something apparently explosive at this point.

6 – It was warmer, and then yesterday dawned with a nice little episode of freezing rain.  I’m grateful for my Costco-sized ice scraper, and someone else to do the work.

7 – Aaaand, I had to share this because while it may look like any old phone call, this is one of two grown men who went from talking about football championships to hashing out Downton Abbey plots.  I believe they Lady Edith was the topic when I took this photo.  Love you, dear!

8 – Thanks to an awesome giveaway by Caitlyn, I am now the proud owner of a few bars of handmade soap from Durham Soap Shoppe.  I only just got it in the mail, and put it out last night, but I’m already pretty sure it’s going to be part of the solution to my chronically dry hands (thanks a lot, housecleaning + winter + pregnancy).  The one pictured is Eucalyptus-Lemon, which smells completely heavenly.

Normally, I might have saved them for a “special occasion” that never actually arrived, but I had just read a post called “Burn the Candles” (via Art of Simple), and well, I think I’ve got some nice gifts to start using up.

9 – My getting-stuff-done companion this weekend was the audiobook of Pontoon by Garrison Keillor.  I was trying to describe it to Johnny, and got as far as, “Well, I’m 8 chapters in, and we’ve progressed about…5 minutes, plot-wise.”  Basically, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Garrison Keillor, and you’ll either love it or hate it.  I think it’s perfect to have on while working, but fair warning: if you fall asleep while listening, you will never find your way back to where you left off.  You would just get lost in sentences that last 7 minutes, and tangents about the time Evelyn drove to Minneapolis.

As you can see from the Goodreads widget on the sidebar, I’m juggling a lot of books right now.  With some of them, I’m up against library deadlines, and there are others I’d like to finish before the baby comes.  My goal is to make time to read everyday without feeling guilty for not doing other things.  I’ve been fairly successful at doing it at lunchtime, or right before bed.

I’ll leave you with a photo I call View Through the Windshield on a January Morning.

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Weekend in Review: January 10/11

This weekend’s activity brought to you by my realization that at any moment (not really, but kind of), I could unexpectedly have to leave the house and not come back for several days (and then, pretty much domestically useless).  It’s like believing in a half-rapture.

I had to work on Saturday morning, and am on Day 10 of a head cold that won’t end, but I was still pretty pleased with what I managed to accomplish.

Not pictured: 18 dish sponges, a 200-load bottle of laundry detergent, cans of Comet, Baby’s First Garbage Can, and various other purchases that somehow make me feel better.

Quote of the weekend: “I thought you were insane for buying wipes, and then I realized…we kinda actually need that stuff.”

Small11 – Lately I’ve been in the mood to use up and clean out random things from our pantry and freezer.  Last night’s sacrificial lamb was cranberries (probably from Christmas 2013), which I used to make Cranberry Whole-Grain Muffins.  I went to bed without mentioning them to Johnny, so when I woke up this morning and noticed one missing, I asked him how it was.  Verdict?  “The cranberries were the funnest part.”  They’re noticeably heavier than regular muffins, and not at all dessert material, but I’ll certainly get through the rest of them on my own (and then use up the rest of the cranberries on something a little cakier).

2 – Laundry weekend!  At this moment, all of our laundry is clean and folded.  Someday, I really need to document the terror of the steps that lead to our laundry room, but for now, suffice it to say that it takes some real motivation to go downstairs to change one load, let alone every sheet, towel, and sock we own.  We also washed all of our newborn-sized clothes, also known as: 40 items that only filled half a hamper.  The event was capped off by a game called Black and Blue Sock Sorting.  I can never tell if I’ve won or not.

3 – As part of the deep-cleaning rampage, I scrubbed parts of the kitchen that haven’t gotten cleaned for…a while.  I was just glad no one witnessed the physics-defying moves it took to get myself within reach of the window behind the sink.  I wish I had taken a photo of the finished room before I ruined it with cooking, but trust me – it was a bright, shining moment.  We capped it off by buying a Costco-sized pack of sponges, with the resolution to actually switch them out on a regular basis.  Lots of big things happening over in Casa Gerardi.

4 – “Be careful cutting the tomatoes,” I yelled from the living room.  Then the yell of horror came.  I have to say, we were both shocked at how much mess could come out of one grape tomato.  Incidentally, this was the moment when we decided that it would be laundry weekend.

5 – We spotted that carton of heaven at Costco a couple weekends ago, and I managed to walk away.  Not so this time.  I planned ahead, made a space in the freezer, and have no other dessert ambitions for the next few weeks.  At 150 calories per 1/3 serving, all I need now are the tiny little spoons.

6 – Finally, I’m ending this post with a complete vain observation that I made over the weekend: pregnancy has slowly made my formerly-curly hair almost totally straight.  Obviously, there are a million more significant things that have happened, and that happen to other people, but I have to say, this kind of bummed me out.  If you need me, I’ll be off trying to figure out how the other half lives.

7 Quick Takes: Goals for the New Year

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for my (semi-regular) Quick Takes.  This week, we’ve got a theme, courtesy of the fact that I happen to have seven New Years Resolutions.

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1 – Have a baby

Starting off with ambition here, listing the one thing that is certain to happen.  It’s also the first thing that’ll get crossed off this list, and everything else kinda depends on its aftermath, so I feel okay giving it top billing.  We went to our first childbirth class yesterday, and thanks to a scale diagram in the workbook, January 8, 2015 will go down in history as the day Johnny discovered how big 10 cm actually is.  It was at that point that he looked at me and whispered, I’m really sorry.”

This is not the same diagram, just the first thing that came up on Google Images. I’m never eating another bagel.

2 – Establish a good housekeeping routine

Will this be the year I finally stop auto-deleting my daily FlyLady emails?  Just maybe.

It was really nice to spend my Christmas break getting things done and feeling a little more on top of the housekeeping.  I was less stressed about things, and I know Johnny appreciated coming home to a house where dinner was usually ready and *something* had been accomplished.  It felt like a much more complete fulfillment of a vocation when I was putting forth a little effort to make a home rather than dealing with piles of chores only when they got too tall and fell over (figuratively and literally).

This goal is going to take a while with a new baby, and I’m okay with that.  Once I’m home from work all the time, though, I’d like to start with at least a one-item checklist of chores each day.  For my own sanity, I need to get in the habit of doing all the dishes before bed, and its high time someone started making the bed regularly.

3 – Read at least 15 books

2015/01/img_0448.jpg15 is a low estimate for me, given that the last four years have seen totals of 23, 26, 25, and 22, respectively.  I’m building in some room for a tired brain, though.  So far, I’m off to a good start, with an emerging theme of Memoirs/Biographies.  It wasn’t a conscious choice, but I’m enjoying them all.

4 – Go to Confession at least once a month

This has been my resolution for several years, and it’s a good one.  Somehow, it still hasn’t become a habit, but I usually make at least 10 out of 12 times.  I don’t get any more specific about what time of the month or anything, so all I have to remember is, “Did I go to Confession yet this month?”  It’s also handy to know I’m correct just saying, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned; it’s been about a month since my last Confession.”

5 – Improve my food photography skills

This one should be fun.  I like to think I’m a pretty decent cook, and a good photographer, but I have never been able to get those two skills to work in harmony.  I know that part of the problem is our yellow dishes, which are cheerful and lovely but don’t compliment too many foods.  One of my first steps will be to purchase just one set of neutral dishes for photography.

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I’ve also got a couple of food photography books on my to-read list (this one and that one, specifically).  I’m really looking forward to devoting some time and effort to this project – I can’t wait to look back at the end of the year and cringe over my old photos!

6 – Run a 5K

Well, I ran one last year, so I know it’s theoretically possible. I have this vague idea that my desire to start being more active will coincide with warmer weather, and I’ll bust out the Couch to 5K plan again (possibly starting at whatever comes before “Couch”).  Bonus points for doing it with a stroller.

Getting Mom a Fitbit for Christmas may have been a genius terrible idea, because I’m just competitive enough to feel the need to make a respectable showing.  The weather has made it tough to get any outdoor exercise, so I’ve been getting creative.  One night this week, I tried snaking through every aisle of our local library, but the aisles are so short that I just got dizzy.  Now, I’ve devoted myself to finding the longest, most inefficient route through my building at work, and then going to the gym after work and walking for 45 minutes or so.  It’s pretty much like this:

7 – Write at least 50 blog posts

Hopefully all of these resolutions will give me plenty of writing material, because I’m also hoping to write at least 50 blog posts this year.  Posting less than once a week doesn’t seem like much, but 2014 saw a paltry 24 posts (due in part to the Lost Summer of Sickness, but still).  Hopefully I won’t resort to wordless baby photo dumps (or wordless photos of baby dumps, for that matter), but I make no promises.

Here’s to a year filled with food, baby, reading, and blogging!

Visit Kelly (and her cute new logo) for more Quick Takes!

Home Altar: Christmas 2014

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Happy almost-end of Christmas!  A little late, here’s a peek at how our home altar is dressed up this season.  Advent candles are put away and the wreath is now a backdrop.  I’m nervous about the candles near the dry pine needles, so we still haven’t lit them.  The garland over our Madonna is from last year, and I’m not sure it packed well; next year, I’m going to consider something fresh.

The white frontal was purchased and sewn just in the nick of time on Christmas Eve, and once it was up, Johnny and I both agreed that gold would be a better choice.  I had looked and not seen any ideal gold fabrics, and the fabric store employees were literally waiting for me to leave so that they could close early, so I went with white.  There’s nothing wrong with it, really – it just makes for a very monochrome area.  It’s up for a good portion of the year (now till Candlemas, then all of Easter), so I’d like to find something we both really like.

As a wedding gift from a seminarian friend, we got a copy of Dear Newlyweds, a compilation of Pope Pius XII’s addresses to newlywed couples.  I’ve been working through it slowly, mostly just on Sunday mornings before Mass while Johnny is rehearsing with the schola.  Yesterday, I got to the chapter on making a home, and it’s my favorite section by far (which is saying something).  Among the excerpts I highlighted for later sharing:

“See to it that from the very first day your home is manifestly Christian – that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is its King, that the image of the Crucified Savior and of the Most Gracious Virgin Mary have the place of honor there.” (Nov. 8, 1939)

Our Sacred Heart prayer card from Cardinal Burke is back out, and with that, our devotional trifecta is complete.  I’m always on the hunt for a slightly bigger print of that same image, but for now, it’s complete.
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Weekend in Review: January 3/4

Well, the end of my 10-day break is nigh, and it’s going to be hard to go back in the morning.  Not just because I’ve got the start of a cold, but also because I’ve gotten a taste of freedom and domestic productivity, and it was glorious.  I knocked out the vast majority of my to-do list, rearranged furniture, decluttered, and anything else I could manage before getting totally worn out.

I’m hoping to make these little weekend reviews a semi-regular thing; not every event of every weekend deserves a whole post, but we do enough that I think they merit a compilation.  Without further ado, here’s the roundup of this weekend.

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1 – Inventoried baby clothes (I never promised that this would be thrilling).  I realized that between various gifts we had gotten, and sales items I picked up, I had no idea how many clothes we actually had.  I also realized that hey, we’re pretty much to the point of needing to have things ready, so it was time to inventory and fill in the gaps.  I’m still pretty sure that we’ll be taking advantage of Amazon Prime to have some things meet us at home when we get back from the hospital, but we’re off to a pretty good start.

2 – Fancy brunch recipes.  Runny-yoked eggs have never been my thing, but a few weeks ago, we saw this recipe for Mollet Eggs Florentine and decided that we needed to try it.  It turned out to be a really easy Friday dinner, and it was so worthwhile.  A half recipe (with half the spinach) was sufficient to make both of us sigh contentedly for the rest of the evening.

3 – Cherry cobbler.  Just three words: Midwinter cherry sale.

4 – 34 week baby.  My doctor thought it was hilarious that my response to “How are you feeling?” was just: “Ungainly.”  That pretty much sums it up, though.  I feel pretty good overall, except when I try to stand up, bend over, or roll over.  The doctor was also nice enough to confirm that baby’s head is exactly where it should be, which was a relief after the last one told me it was 90 degrees off.  Baby’s moving around a lot, and we swear that he knows when we’re talking about him.  No more hanging upside down off the couch.  Also in this photo: the dress I made for Christmas that wasn’t ready until New Years.

5 – Craigslist score.  We bought something off Craigslist yesterday and didn’t get murdered!  I found a listing for a “like new” co-sleeper, and we were all too happy to save $100 on something that our baby may or may not even tolerate (which is what happened with the seller).

6 – NYE.  I’m cheating a little bit and counting New Years Eve in with this weekend.  We had a very low-key evening: cheesecake and champagne at midnight, and then we realized that the women on the ball-drop were less dressed than the chickens on PBS, and switched to watching Julia Child.  Wild and crazy, here.

7 – Receiving blankets.  On the list of things we have surprisingly few of was blankets.  I can’t quite bring myself to pay $10 each for the ubiquitous safari animal muslin ones, but I’m also unwilling to go completely without.  I picked up some flannel and muslin at the fabric store and whipped up a couple simple blankets.  The flannel ones are done, and the muslin ones are pending.  Lessons learned: using the pattern on the fabric as a cutting guide only works if it doesn’t have a subtle shift.  Let’s just say I will not be using the grey one to teach the baby about right angles.

8 – Crepes.  Breakfast this morning.  In my old edition of Joy of Cooking, they’re listed as “French Pancakes,” and every time I make them, I just think of this.  “Oh, thin pancakes?  I love those things!”

2014 in Photos

2014Well, it’s been a heck of a year, that 2014.  Overall, pretty great (except for the 6 weeks this summer that were a complete blur of exhaustion and nausea, but well, it’s even hard to complain about that).  It was hard to narrow the year down to one photo a month, but here’s my best attempt.  I’ll spare you the belly shot slideshow (I know, disappointing, but it’ll make it’s way up someday).

January

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Back when winter was still pretty.

February

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Snow day?
If you insist, but we’re really getting tired of this winter thing.

March

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NYC!
Johnny was ready to move there; I’m just glad it’s close enough for a weekend trip.

April

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Happy 25 to me!
Next year, skip the cake.

May

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We spent our first anniversary in Boston.
Photo credit: stranger in the restaurant who was baffled by my camera
Awkward hand placement: all me.

June

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Oh, hey there!

July

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I came through on the other side of morning sickness in time to make it to vacation weekends in Montreal and Maine.

August

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Back to Minnesota to photograph a wedding!

September

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Hey, baby! This picture is getting old; we’re anxious to see you again!

October

Cheating with two here:

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I fulfilled a lifelong need to learn how to swim, and actually enjoyed it!

November

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Happy Thanksgiving!

December

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Guess whose stocking was fullest. Yep, the nameless one. Thanks for your excitement, family members!

So, that’s the quick year in review.  2015 will, I predict, be the year of baby photos and other “little” changes.

Check out other people’s photos at House Unseen!