Monday, April 14, 2014

Blooming









Spring is here for real, now.  The flip flops have appeared and I have gone bare-legged in public--I usually try to wait until Easter, but with temperatures in the 80s, there was no way.  Of course, as I am writing this, dark clouds are filling the sky and a threatened cold front is bearing down bringing rain.  But, it will pass through and wash away the pollen, so I am ok with that.

I finished my skirt, and it was so much easier than I had anticipated making it with no pattern.  I followed this tutorial, changing it only to add a lining to the skirt and interfacing to the waist band.  I am happy with how it turned out, although the zipper was a bit of a debacle.  I had learned a long time ago to put in zippers using a regular presser foot, but it isn't ideal--usually lumpy and puckered and messy.  So, I decided I would buy a zipper foot and do it properly.  I've had my sewing machine since I was 10, and if it ever had a zipper foot, it is long gone now.  After trying to determine what on earth I needed, I finally ordered one off Amazon.  Only to discover when it arrived that it was definitely not what I needed.  Apparently, my machine was one of the last made with screw on feet, and what you mostly find now are snap on feet.  Of course, what I had ordered was a snap on.  So, I ended up putting in the zipper with the regular presser foot anyway.  I think I can get an adapter though, so hopefully future projects will be a bit more smooth.  Otherwise the skirt is pretty nice--it is fitted in the waist, has pockets, and a side zipper.  More zipper craziness--the tutorial calls for cutting down the side of your skirt so that you can add the zipper in behind the pocket--I don't think I'll be doing that again.  I would rather have a seam up the back and put the zipper in there.

Of course, I had to make Nathan something for Easter, as well--it's probably a good thing he isn't a girl, or all my time would be devoted to tiny dresses.  As it is, boy clothes are bit too challenging, so I settled for making a tiny bowtie, which was so easy, using this tutorial.  There will probably be a lot more bowties in his future.

Besides the sewing, we've been spending lots of time outside, taking walks at the park.  The dogwoods and redbuds are blooming, and clouds of pollen waft through the air.  My allergies are the worst they have every been, and I am chalking it up to postpartum-ness--I am wondering how long I get to blame everything on having had a baby.  Still reading Sarum--just finished up the chapter on the feud between Stephen and Matilda, which is also the time frame for Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth.  Planning on making Hot Cross Buns for Easter, using the Pioneer Woman's recipe.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Staying Home and Making Bread








When I was in graduate school, I told someone once that if the whole academic career thing didn't work out, I would like to just stay home and make bread.  And while I am not saying the academic career hasn't worked out--it has just taken a different route--I am currently staying home and making bread (Strawberry Banana Bread, to be specific).  And I am sewing.  And planting a garden.  And watching a sweet baby grow each day.  My house is filled with trays of seedlings, fabric scraps, and stacks of burp cloths.  While this new life has its challenges, I am reveling in the activities that I love, but haven't previously been able to tackle as passionately as I would like.  

And, lucky, blessed girl that I am, I still get to pursue that academic life as well.  I know that the role of adjunct is absolutely fraught in the academic community, but I am thankful for the flexibility that it provides.  I I am lucky to have a husband with whom I have planned our budget and expenses to allow me to work like this.  I am lucky to have a department chair willing to work my schedule around Jordan's.  I'll be teaching online this summer, and then going back for a main campus class in August.

In the meantime, I am happy to have grading disappear from my to-do list.  I have a new planner/notebook that I am loving and have spent way too much time making customized planner pages and meal-planning/grocery shopping lists.

Friends coming for dinner tonight.  Homemade pizza and apple crisp on the menu.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Waiting for Spring








The weather lately is enough to drive anyone crazy.  Saturday was gorgeous--low 70s and sunny.  We worked in the yard (more on that in a bit) and generally enjoyed ourselves.  Yesterday, it was snowing (again)!  It didn't lay, but the rain, sleet, snow mess was rather depressing and made the doctor's appointment/ grocery store run fairly miserable--I don't like being wet and cold and I certainly don't like for the little fellow to be wet and cold!

He has been getting so big!  He is holding his head up more and more and reaching during tummy time.  We have begun to let him sleep unswaddled, and when I go in to him in the morning, he smiles (his smile is just like Jordan's--minus the teeth!) and puts his hand on my arm, and I am left a melted puddle in the floor.  When he yawns sometimes he lets it out as a little yodeling coo.  And he sings.  I kid you not.

So, the work in the yard.  We are re-doing the flower bed in the front yard.  It is an oblong island with a lamp post on one end and a bird house on the other.  When we moved in, it contained a crepe myrtle (which we moved a while back), zebra grass, lavender, Mexican heather, blackeyed susans, daisies, Chinese fringe flower, a yellow bell, an azalea, a butterfly bush, a rose, and a camellia.  And it was a mess.  So, we spent Saturday removing most everything--sickly shrubs and weeds were rooted up.  We still have a bit more extracting to do, but in the end, there will only be the Mexican heather (which is thriving--I think it like the sandy soil), the butterfly bush, and the camellia.  Then, we will replant with lavender, peonies, blackeyed susans, cone flower, and irises.  Pretty, pretty.

I am particularly keen to have this bed looking nice because it is what people see when they drive up, but, more importantly, it is what we see when we look out.  I chose flowers in the hopes that our little population of birds will appreciate them.  We have a whole community of cardinals and blue jays (who like hanging out in the Bradford pears), house sparrows (who have taken over the bird house), and house finches (who foolishly try to build nests on our porch each spring--really, we don't mind it, but they knock the nests down themselves when they fly off).  The sparrows are feisty little things--I have seen them defend the bird house against intrusive starlings and squirrels twice their size.  By the way, I found a neat website that helps with bird identification here: What Bird.

Easter is coming, and I am preparing my Easter dress.  Which won't actually be a dress because they are too difficult to nurse in.  I decided to wear a skirt this year, but couldn't find anything I liked when I went shopping--an excellent excuse to break out the sewing machine, and a skirt is so easy.  I am not even really using a pattern--I found so many good tutorials on Pinterest, and some lovely fabric on sale at Joanne's (I couldn't choose one, so it looks like I am making at least three skirts!).

The wrap pictured above is Avocado Egg Salad.  I know that this will disgust most people--Jordan couldn't believe I ate it, but I thought it was delicious.  I found the recipe from Never Homemaker on Pinterest as well.  It is tasty.  And seems right for spring.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Part-Time Nomads















Last week was spring break at the university, so we planned an epic trip--probably not that epic by most standards, but since this was the first vacation with a baby, it seemed pretty epic to us!  We spent the first part of the week in our hometown--we go home at least about once a month, and divide our time between Jordan's parents and mine.  We got to see all of our grandmothers as well as assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins.  

On Thursday, we headed to Hanging Rock State Park.  Jordan and I had visited a couple of times previously, but this time we were going to stay overnight.  The park has several cabins.  In the summer, they are rented by the week only, but during the off-season, you can rent by the night, with a two-night stay minimum.  We had never seen the cabins so we weren't sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised.  They are cute, spartan little affairs, all golden pine boards and high ceilings.  No TV.  No cell-phone reception.  Heaven.  We had expected some bad weather in the form of rain and a bit of freezing rain on Thursday night--we checked the weather report just before we left.  However, just after we carried all our stuff into the cabin, flakes began to fall. And fall, and fall.  It was still snowing when we woke up the next morning and continued for most of the day.  Absolutely beautiful.  We watched DVDs on the laptop, played Rook (where Jordan beat me soundly) and Scrabble (where I returned the favor), and read.  Jordan read Mockingjay out loud while I fed Nathan, and then I snuck in some time with my current book, Edward Rutherford's Sarum, which, judging from its size, I will still be reading when Nathan starts kindergarten (it's too big for me to read while nursing!).  

In the afternoon on Friday, the snow stopped, and the skies began to clear.  We bundled Nathan up as soon as he woke from his nap, and went to hike to Tory's Den--apparently the site of a skirmish during the Revolutionary War.  Since we hadn't been expecting snow during the trip, we had only brought sneakers--not boots.  I solved the problem by wrapping my feet in grocery bags and tying them around my ankles before putting on my shoes--not cute, but effective: no wet feet!  We finished our hike and then drove out to see Moore's Wall and then the park lake as the light was dimming and the shadows lengthening.  

The next morning, we got in another hike at the Lower Cascades, before heading north.  My niece was celebrating her first birthday, and we went to her party where everything was pink, polka-dotted, and sweet.  Nathan did wonderfully considering we traveled a few hundred miles total, slept in three different locations, and saw dozens of people in the course of a week.  He has the makings of a champion hiker, and he already has one state park and two waterfalls under his belt.  We are looking forward to new adventures!  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"They Grow Up So Fast" and Other Truths







A little over two months ago, I had a baby.  One thing I have discovered about being a parent is that all the platitudes and cliches are true.  Everyone always says, "they grow up so fast, enjoy them while they are young."  They say, "The days are long but the years are short."  They say, "It's the best thing you'll ever do; your life will never be the same."  When I heard those things as a non-parent, and even while pregnant, I would think, "Well, of course."  I could appreciate the idea that children grow up fast--my niece and nephew seem feet taller every time I see them.  So, really, I always understood that these things were true--obvious even--and couldn't understand why everyone felt the need to repeat them endlessly.  Now I get it.  Not only are they true, but they are now central facts about my life.  I have a son.  He is growing.  Too fast.

This leads me to the other thing I have discovered about parenting--for every emotion, there is an equal and opposite emotion.  I feel my entire experience has become a paradox.  On the one hand, I am delighted that Nathan is growing so well--and by well, I mean almost off the charts.  After each doctor's visit, I call my mom and crow about how much weight he has gained.  I spend his awake time each day helping him learn to hold his head up, smile, reach for things, and we proudly show off his progress to Daddy when he gets home.  On the other hand, this is all entirely devastating--how can he change so fast?  And why can't I drink in each feature of his little person quickly enough, before it's gone and transformed into something else that will be equally wonderful, but not the same?  I wasn't prepared for the confusion of emotion that comes with parenting, and I wasn't prepared for the intensity either.  His sweet, slow smiles bring tears to my eyes, and (again, the paradoxes), his cry, moments after I put him down thinking he was asleep, pierces me like a red hot poker of despair.

Our days are pretty quiet, red hot pokers not withstanding.  Feeding, changing, dressing, playing, reading, singing, and napping (if I'm lucky).  He loves music, so I sing to him constantly--"This is the Day" for when he wakes up, "Alleluia" when he is going to sleep, and "Arky, Arky" and "This Little Light of Mine" in between.  My favorite is "Give Me Oil in My Lamp"--he likes it, I think, because it is quick and has some high notes; I like it because it is a true prayer for me--I need all the oil in my lamp I can get!  For books, we are liking Dr. Seuss and The Poky Little Puppy and Little Blue Truck.

I have been doing some reading myself, since it's something I can manage to do while he is feeding--at first, it took him upwards of 40 minutes to eat and he ate every two hours, so I had to have something to do!  He's become much more efficient now, taking only about 20 minutes, but I still sneak in some reading.  Over the past year, I have been working through my bookshelf, committed to reading all the books I own but have never read before.  In the process, I have made some wonderful discoveries and can't understand how I never got around to some of these books before.  Ironically, three of the books I have read have had to do with the coming of age of boys: Lloyd Alexander's Taran, Wanderer, Forrest Carter's The Education of Little Tree, and the one I finished today, T.H. White's The Once and Future King.  All of them sad, in a way (I read Little Tree just after Nathan was born and wept hot tears onto the top of his head at the end), but all good.

Knitting, cooking, and cleaning (and laundering cloth diapers!) round out the rest of my activities.  The knitting project is a sweater I started at the end of my pregnancy, and is by far the most advanced thing I have ever tried, but it is coming along pretty nicely, with beautiful grey tweed yarn I salvaged from another sweater.  I have been making lots of dishes using rotisserie chicken.  I hate cooking chicken, so having that part already taken care of is wonderful, and it is so easy to shred the chicken and use it in chicken salad or casseroles or soup, like the one pictured above, a new favorite: Moroccan Chicken Stew with couscous and zucchini and sweet potatoes.  We have been eating it with pita bread torn into triangles, slathered with olive oil and salt and toasted--oh my goodness, so crisp and chewy at the same time.

The days are long (and wonderful and exhausting)--but, they are good days.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Some things about pregnancy....

1.  Weird symptoms nobody mentioned before: nosebleeds (hydrogen peroxide is great for getting a blood stain off of a shirt; not so great for getting it off of a book); freckles and splotches; cracks in the corners of my mouth; insatiable hunger.  I have an area on my stomach just above and to the right of my navel that is completely numb, like I got a shot of Novocain.  Apparently, that too is normal.

2.  What it feels like when the baby moves: this was something I was afraid I would miss out on, as I was told at a 17week ultrasound that my anterior placenta would probably hide his movements.  Not the case.  This kid moves constantly, and I feel it all.  I first began to notice the movements for sure around 20 weeks.  They felt like small muscle spasms in my upper abdomen; as a runner, I am used to feeling these little twitches, so it took me a bit to catch on.  Over the next weeks, I could feel the baby getting stronger.  He gives little kicks; sometimes it feels like he is rolling over or flopping about; sometimes thrashing rather wildly.  My favorites are when I can put my hand on my stomach and feel a little hand (foot?  knee?  elbow?) rubbing back against me, in a kind of exploratory way.  He gets the hiccups.  I first noticed these at 29 weeks.  Tiny, regular little blips.  They never last for very long, but he gets them sometimes two or three times a day.

3.  Clothes.  This is so hard...well, relatively, I know there are much worse things in life than trying to dress yourself and a 30 lb protrusion in the middle of your torso.  At the moment, even maternity tops are not fitting--nothing is quite long enough, so I am constantly pulling on the bottom of my shirt, hoping that I am not exposing baby belly while trying to teach Modern British literature.  The horror, the horror.

Maternity jeans, I found, are a joke.  At least for me.  Most are made so that they are real jeans, but instead of having a waist band with a button, they have a stretchy piece with elastic that rises anywhere from 2 to 6 inches.  My problem is that I can't stand pulling this fabric up over my stomach--I feel squished and uncomfortable--so I bunch it up around my hips, just under the bump.  However, this leads to the issue of my jeans then sliding uncomfortably down my hips.  Denim is heavy; gravity works.  My solution (you'll never believe this): Pajama Jeans.  Remember the commercials when they first came out?  They were incredibly cheesy, and I remember thinking the whole thing was a joke.  I am not joking now.  These things are seriously great.  They are lightweight and stretchy, so they put up a better fight against gravity.  They have an invisible drawstring waist.  They have pockets.  They are dark with gold stitching down the side, so they actually pass for real jeans--at least no one has yet seemed to notice.  And, they are comfortable.

Why am I not wearing dresses?  Well, I am, but more rarely.  These were great over the summer and early fall.  I had several in stretchy jersey that fit beautifully.  But, since it has gotten colder, I am faced with the dilemma of determining what goes over my legs.  Tights are no longer an option.  I got them on a few times, but the last time I tried, I got them all the way up one leg and half-way up the other before I fell over on the bed like an overturned turtle.  Jordan had to help pull them back off.  Leggings are better--for some reason, getting them on is not as much of a hassle.  But, I have never quite figured out what to do about my feet.  It looks weird to wear socks with leggings, but going sockless makes for some chilly toes.

Only three more days of dressing for work--then I am unashamedly embracing the Pajama Jeans, sweatpants, and Tshirts.

Nevertheless, this whole thing has been a wild but pretty fantastic ride.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Morning Routine: How I Start My Day


Now that classes have started again, I have tweaked my morning routine.  Although I am a morning person, getting going can be a challenge (I prefer to piddle about aimlessly, instead of diving in).  However, I know that my day will go much better if I get off to a good start, so I have been rather ruthlessly disciplined about making this routine work.  I have found that the best way to get things done in the morning is to not give yourself options.  Don't decide, don't think about it.  Automatically get up and do it.  When something becomes a habit, you can circumvent the deciding process, during which you might talk yourself out of doing something that you know you need to do.  (I read a rather interesting book a while back that talked about this very process: The Power of Habit)


In order to achieve this, I do a bit of prep work the night before.  I lay out the clothes I will need first thing (on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, this means running gear).  I have my alarm set on my phone (I know, I know, an ancient flip-phone, but it works) and I leave the phone with my clothes on the bathroom counter.  When it goes off in the morning, I have no choice but to get up and walk over to turn it off, and there are my clothes, ready and waiting.  I don't even think about it--I just put them on.  I also have my nook out, and I do a quick check of email, Facebook, and the weather.  Even a couple of minutes of the bright screen time helps to wake me up, then I am out the door.  I love this.  The early morning run is something I savor.  No one except other runners and walkers are out at the park, and the sun slowly comes up as mist burns off the pond.  Fantastic.


On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, I have an 8am class, so I get up, turn off my alarm, and head straight for the shower (after a quick check of the internets!).  When I get out, there are my clothes waiting for me.  I get dressed and fix my hair and makeup.


Once I am finished getting ready, or once I get back from my run, I eat breakfast and have my quiet time.  Bible study and prayer are habits that can be difficult to form, but I know they are crucial.  The best trick I have found is to tie them to something I know I will do without fail--which is eating breakfast.  Recently I found a resource offering different daily Bible-reading plans that could be sent to your email.  I chose the "Every Day in the Word" plan, which sends passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.  This works well for me as a daily supplement for my more intense Bible studies that involve commentaries and lots of note-taking.

For breakfast, I try to eat a combination of complex carbohydrates (high-fiber cereal, oatmeal, or whole-grain waffle) and protein (scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, yogurt, or kefir), with some fruit or veggies as well.  I also almost always have a cup of decaf Earl Grey tea.

I love my morning routine, and it works for me.  I know that this is subject to change.  Recently I have been thinking about how different things will be once the baby gets here--he'll have his own ideas about when things will be done.  But, for now, I am enjoying my peaceful (if predictable!) mornings.