{p,h,f,r}: Spring flowers, little babies, and big troublemakers

Because I’ve got a ton of pictures to post, time to post them, and it happens to be Thursday!



I’m not sure I ever appreciated rose bushes until this spring.  We have several well-established bushes outside our front door, and it seems like every day there are twice as many blooms as the day before.  They’re not wimpy, either; it’s hard to get a sense of scale from the photos, but most of them are bigger across than my hand.  I’m finding myself outside taking photos of them pretty often, and an important part of Maddy’s morning ritual is to go look at the blue sky and the pink flowers.




After some lengthy scheduling delays, we got to take a peek at Baby Spike (so named thanks to all the people who have told us that our first child was so good that our second is destined to be a terror).  Our last ultrasound was a pretty disappointing experience, with a tech who wouldn’t let me look at the screen until the last 10 seconds or so.  This time, we got to go to the fancy imaging department at the children’s hospital, where the whole thing was broadcast on a big HD screen for our viewing pleasure.

Everything looks great, but Johnny was once again unable to determine the gender, try as he might.  He leans toward wanting to find out, and I do not, so our deal is that if he can tell by himself without professional help, he can know.  It’s amazing how the resolution is so good that they could count every individual finger bone, but the two of us totally had no idea if we saw anything or a lack of anything in the gender department.



The new morning calisthenics routine never fails to amuse us (and that ponytail doesn’t hurt, either!).



In case I ever doubted it, it has become abundantly clear that Johnny and I do not dictate all the activity of this house anymore.  Just yesterday, Maddy realized that she could suddenly reach both Johnny’s guitar and the coveted (and full) coffee mug on its formerly-safe shelf.  With the help of those admittedly-cute tiptoes she’s demonstrating above, she can pretty much reach any flat surface in the house, and it’s time to do round two of baby proofing*.

*The lazy kind, where I pretty much just make sure there are no knives near the edges of the counters.


Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter for {pretty,happy,funny,real}


Halfway There?

Here we are, at (a little past) the halfway point of this year!  Today I’m going back over my New Years Resolutions to see where things stand six months (and one baby) later.  Since I conveniently made seven resolutions, I’m linking up with 7 Quick Takes as well.

1 – Have a baby


As predicted, this one happened.  It wasn’t even so bad!

2 – Establish a good housekeeping routine

As it turns out, I was right to have very low standards for this one.  I’m just starting to get back into a post-baby routine, and it’s true that getting one room tidied, plus making dinner, is about enough for one day.

3 – Read at least 15 books

I have a whopping 13 books on my 2015 Goodreads shelf, but some of them were started long ago, and others have been abandoned permanently.  Of those 13, I’m counting 9, plus 2 that are still in progress.  I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting to 15.

4 – Go to Confession at least once a month

I think I’m on track with this one, but I have to admit that I don’t remember much of March and only a little more of April, so I may have missed.  Of course, if I don’t remember what happened, am I really culpable for anything that happened?  (I kid, I kid)

5 – Improve my food photography skills

This one took an unexpected hit, because I didn’t consider the fact that to have food photography, one must first make food.  Maddy has thrown a bit of a wrench into my ability to plan, make, serve, and eat dinner without someone crying (sometimes, it’s even her!).  We’re also stuck in a bit of a rut, and while there’s dinner on the table every night, it’s the same rotation of five meals (and one of those five may rhyme with Schmostco Schmizza).

In any case, when I do take photos, I’m being a little more deliberate with the setup, and pretty pleased with the results.  I’m hoping to step up my game in the second half of the year.

Look forward to more wins like this rice.

Look forward to more wins like this rice.

6 – Run a 5K

Being too cold is no longer a concern.

Being too cold is no longer a concern.

Well…we’re still running, Maddy and me.  I don’t know that we’re making swift progress, but there’s a long time between now and Turkey Trots.  We’ve been getting out 2 or 3 times a week to run, but it’s harder to find a good time as it gets hotter.  I’ve been saving my podcasts for run-time listening.  Thanks for keeping me company Fountains of Carrots and This American Life (and the last couple weeks, Little House Mothering)!  It’s like running with smart, interesting friends who don’t expect me to answer when I’m out of breath.

7 – Write at least 50 blog posts

If I’m counting correctly, this post makes #28, so gosh, I’m right on schedule!  A baby really does make the best content fodder.

Visit Kelly for more Quick Takes – her summer bucket list is positively ambitious compared to mine!

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).



Back when winter was still pretty.



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



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



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



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



Oh, hey there!



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



Back to Minnesota to photograph a wedding!



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


Cheating with two here:


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



Happy Thanksgiving!



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!

7 Quick Takes: Maternity clothes and getting things done


Women of the internet: I need your opinions.  I feel like my maternity wardrobe is kind of hit-or-miss, and I have a feeling that just adding a belt is not the solution to every problem.  This description of different pregnancy body types and how to dress them is really useful – I just know it! – but I can’t figure out what my type is to begin with.  I don’t think I’ll ever qualify as “small all over,” but apparently I still look the same from behind, and high vs. low is a total unknown.  Johnny defaults to “You’ve never looked prettier,” which is nice but not always the kind of evaluation I’m looking for.  I swear I’m not fishing for compliments, so help me out – big all over, small over, carrying high, or carrying low?

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I would just like to take a minute and say that the title of the new Star Wars movie makes me even less excited to see it than I already was.  It just sounds…boring.  Like I’m going to have to watch aging actors yawn for two hours.


This past week, my to-do list started exceeding the brain space I have available right now.  To be fair, I can only keep track of about 1 thing at a time (as long as it involves food), but it was time to outsource.


30 items later, I’ve managed to simultaneously feel like I have a handle on things, and that I’ve got a ton to do in the next little while.  Luckily, there are little things (“put laundry in dryer”) mixed in with more daunting tasks (“finish quilt” and “assemble crib”).  And better still, I shared the list with Johnny, so that he can join me in killing every Saturday for the foreseeable future.


Having made my list, I’m enjoying the satisfaction of checking things off regularly.  I just wrapped up a very big photography project and did some minor website updates (thank you, WordPress, for being so user-friendly!).  Finally, yesterday, my computer was free to get a much-needed memory upgrade.  My various projects would’ve gone better if I had done it before or during, but I didn’t want to risk a catastrophe, so I waited.  My only memory of swapping out RAM involves my dad doing it years and years ago, and as I recall, that’s the weekend I learned lots of fun new vocabulary, and the computer came out pretty much lobotomized.  Things have come a long way since then: I didn’t even have time to take a photo for posterity.  It literally took me less than 15 minutes to accomplish, start to finish, including the time it took me to get my pregnant self on the floor to disconnect all the cables.  And now my computer is so improved that I can listen to Pandora while blogging, which is a big perk.


I can’t believe how long I put off getting an Instagram account.  It’s fast becoming one of my favorite social media outlets (out of the…two I use).  It’s just so easy to post quick things on the go.  Twitter has no appeal for me, but Instagram…Instagram I can do, and have been doing, so check it out.



My swimming lessons deserve an entire post of their own – preferably one guest-written by Johnny (despite the fact that I think he may have snuck a few photos from the bleachers).  For now, I’ll just say that I have not drowned, I’m being taught by a teenager whose great goal in life is to someday get contact lenses (those were the days), and I have learned to propel myself through the water to a small degree.  Also, I’m really enjoying it.  It’s pretty much the highlight of my Monday/Wednesdays, and I was happy to realize that there’s a pool in the gym at work.  Future children: your mother isn’t totally lame!

You may think this looks dorky, but it was taken before I figured out that a nose clip also really helps.

A final observation: the combined age of the four staff members there (2 lifeguards, 2 teachers) is almost certainly less than the age of the other woman in the class with me.


Finally, we’re at 26 weeks now, or to put it more dramatically:

These days, baby’s favorite pastime is kicking the ipad off my stomach when I’m lying down.  Meanwhile, I’ve moved into “eat all the time” mode.  This morning, I shocked Johnny by telling him that I can eat a full turkey sandwich and apple for breakfast around 9, and be hungry again by 11:30.  And I don’t want to say I’m nesting, but I did stay up until after midnight last night cleaning the kitchen and bathroom.  After I finally went to bed, Johnny was brushing his teeth, and I realized urgently that I *needed* him to change the hand towel in the bathroom before he came to bed.  Whatever this mad urge is, I’ll take it.

To Boston: The New England Tour Continues

We continued our tour of New England attractions last weekend when we were able to (finally) visit Boston at length.  Given that we’ve lived in this very small state for almost a year, it’s a little ridiculous that we hadn’t been able to make the trip before now.  Our first effort was thwarted by a rainstorm of ark-requiring magnitude and our second trip involved a quick dinner in the dark and rain, so I don’t count that.  This time, we had a leisurely three-day trip that happened to include our anniversary.

We were staying near the Prudential Center, so we started off our trip with a stroll through the shops there.  There was a Trader Joe’s around the corner, which was the highlight for me; Johnny’s starting to realize that he could get me to move anywhere if there was a TJ’s within a reasonable distance.


For dinner the first night, we walked through a quiet and pretty neighborhood to Giacomo’s, a well-reviewed, cash-only restaurant.  We started with the artfully-arranged caprese salad below, and then had to narrow down our entree selections from a very large selection of meatless options.  Johnny got lobster ravioli and I had tuna and swordfish over squid-ink pasta.  They were both fantastic, but I wouldn’t have minded just getting a double order of the ravioli…


We were also within walking distance of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, so we took a long walk through that area.  It’s a really beautiful building covered with interesting architectural details. Unfortunately, it’s also neighbored by a truly hideous brutalist building (on the right in the photo below).




We agreed that the comma is really what makes this hilarious.  It’s just begging to read with a long, gravity-laden pause: “This is Christ….scientist.”  And it involves one of these guys:

Anyway, moving on.  But actually, not moving too far, because we saw this the next day.


Unfortunately, my google searches for “Jesus shoe salesman” came up with nothing, so I’ll stick with this:

“Peter, you must get something with better arch support.”

We took in some excellent urban scenery…




…And Johnny got to play a little basketball.

The neighborhood near our hotel is home to several conservatories and universities, and the housing around there is lovely.  We walked several miles through some really peaceful streets, and even I had to admit that this was city living that I could handle.  We even managed to wander into a church with Perpetual Adoration.



Nothing completes an old distinguished apartment building like Comic Sans.

On Sunday, we got brunch at a cafe/bookstore, and then made our way to Mass at the Cathedral.  Johnny ran into an old friend in the entryway, and the proprietor of the cathedral bookstore insisted on pulling Pope Francis out into the open so we could get a better photo.


One whole year down – happy anniversary, dear!


Still smiling on the way home, before he needed three doses of benadryl.


7 Quick Takes – 5Ks, Boozy Cookies, and Book Reviews

Alright, back again with no good excuse except for being busy and not taking time to type things up. Ye old Instagram feed has been busy, though, so anyone who wants to know what we’ve been up to can follow along there.
I mentioned a while back that my first 5K was coming up. Well, that morning dawned cold and rainy, but we got up anyway, bundled up (as much as one can before running), and headed out.

My main, pathetic, goal was to finish in less than double Johnny’s time, and hey, I did that handily. He assured me (truthfully or kindly) that the weather probably kept most of the “wimps” home, so the overall field of runners was better. This made me feel a little better about finishing noooot quiiiiiite last in my age category (which only had 14 people in it!). The run looped around the fairgrounds, which included lots of unexpected mud and running through animal exhibit barns. Very classy. It was sponsored by a local liquor store, so everyone got a beer at the end. Luckily, I knew myself well enough not to drink more than an inch or so. Exertion plus and empty stomach were not the ideal environment for downing a tall cold one.

 Anyway, I’d do it again, but probably not until I’ve actually trained adequately (that is, can actually run the whole distance without stopping).


The running of the grand race was, of course, in honor of my birthday. Johnny insisted that I open his gift early, and when I did I was greeted by this message, so typically sentimental:

Such a romantic. But inside were two cookbooks from my wishlist, which was great. The first was The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, which is a must-have for anyone who enjoys chinese food. The other was this baby:

We love this book so much that we’re on a first name basis with it. The first week of ownership was full of “Marcella says…” and “What would Marcella say?” (The answer, by the way, is that Marcella would say never to use any herbs other than fresh, unless all European vegetation has been rendered inedible by a nuclear explosion.)  It’s a delightful book – Marcella earned a doctorate in Biology before she started cooking, and the writing is intelligent and delightfully pretentious. Last week we celebrated “Fresh Pasta Friday,” which may have to become a tradition, if for no other reason than that it’s so photogenic.


While we’re on the subject of cooking, I’d like to point out an article that was making the rounds this week, about the science of the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s very long, and pretty interesting, but I’ll save you some potential effort and tell you…meh. We tried them last night, and were not overly impressed. They were okay and all, but for our money, the winning recipe is still the Cook’s Illustrated browned butter version.  Or, for something different…
Brown butter bourbon cookies.  I made these last weekend to give to a priest friend we visited (it was Kentucky Derby day, after all), and it was very hard to get Johnny to let go of the bag at the end of the day.  Okay, I had some separation anxiety too.  Luckily, I have a Costco-sized bag of pecans, and roughly a gallon of Jim Beam at home (long story).  My only note is that they don’t spread at all, so either make them small or flatten them slightly.
Spring came! We’re still waiting on our first 80 degree day, but the trees have started blossoming. Allergies be damned, I went out and took some pictures, just to remind myself that hey, I’m pretty good at this whole photo thing.

At long last, it’s good to see some color.
Here’s my view as of right now.  Cookbooks all over, iPad, laundry folded but not put away.  My copy of Something Other Than God is there because I finished it on Tuesday but can’t bring myself to shelve it yet.  I’ll get to that later, though, because first I want to address something that kept me awake last night.  On the TV in background is Nazi Mega Weapons on PBS.  It involved several reenacted scenes of strategy meetings, which got me thinking about the aspiring actor whose agent called him and said, “Hey, I’ve got a great part for you in a miniseries!…Yeah, PBS…Well….they’re wondering if you can grow a mustache.”  Is there a group of five or six guys who just keep running into each other at the same auditions?  Do their mothers know what they do for a living?  Anyway, such are the things that keep me awake at night.
And finally, about that book on the coffee table.  I pre-ordered Jennifer’s book a few weeks ago, and started reading it on Monday.  I should’ve just stayed up all night to finish it, because I spent all day Tuesday wishing I was at home reading it.  It is, of course, very well-written, and compelling stuff.  It combines memoir with a dash of legal drama and medical drama; I can’t remember the last time I read a book in so few sittings.
For more Quick Takes, visit the authoress herself at Conversion Diary!


My Fill of Philly

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m at a professional conference in Philadelphia for a few days. I got in earlier than necessary yesterday, so I was able to walk around and do a little sightseeing. I’m blogging from my phone/iPad, so apologies for any weird formatting.

The flight was on a little turboprop, which is not my favorite way to fly. As predicted, it was loud and bumpy, but everyone survived (just barely, in the case of the poor woman in front of me).

Boarding on the tarmac. Just like Air Force One.

My hotel room is pretty excellent – my first four poster bed! Before I was married, I would’ve sprawled all over. Now, I couldn’t help but contain myself to a plot the size of half a queen size.

20130908-113436.jpg That said, it’s an insanely comfortable bed that I became pretty familiar with after being struck by a bizarre 12-hour bug.

Before my temporary infirmity, though, I walked past Independence Hall and through Redding Terminal Market, which was quite fun.






Chocolate lungs, kidneys, noses, and hearts

It was a tough place to be on a day of fasting.

Lesson learned: I could definitely not take my current shoes on the streets of Rome. I was wearing a pretty sensible pair and still had several near misses for my poor ankles.

And finally, a view near my hotel: