2013 / 13 photos

Nothing like finishing Christmas vacation on New Year's Eve to give a real sense of finality to the year. The last day of the year began at 4:45 a.m. for me, and two early-morning flights/one layover/lots of hate-hate-hate-leaving-family crying later, we're back in our little abode. One grocery store run stands between me and a veggie platter, a 6-pack of Zevia and possibly some spinach dip. Paaaar-tay.

Dwija's hosting a year-end link-up, so I scrolled through the ol' iPhoto events and culled out my winners. Grab a carrot stick and let's go.

1. My little snow babes. Amby now sports the snow suit that little stink-eye Joe's wearing here. I wore a sling wrap for this snow excursion, thinking Amby would be tentative in the white stuff. No. He'll take the highest hill you've got, please. Wheeee!

2. Amby: the original floor-sweeping photobomber.

3. Near the beginning of this year Joe proudly proclaimed GREEN to be his favorite color. And so it came to pass that all things green gradually drifted into his possession. For St. Patrick's Day my Mom sent him some fitting decorations.

4. File this under "stuff my parents have for the kids to ride on at their house, intended or not."

5. Mother's Day. Note our season-appropriate pastels.

6. Even before the green obsession began, Joe loved trains. For his third birthday, my Mom came up and helped throw him a train-themed birthday party. Even though the party got a little rained out and ended up happening in our living room/tiny backyard as opposed to the park, our little engineers still filled their tender cars full of coal and all that. Note Sean's second instance of a yellow shirt.

7. Kids in hats. I cannot get enough.

BONUS. Second instance of "stuff my parents have for the kids to ride on at their house."

8. Weekend lake trip, and Joe's first s'more. I believe he took this bite and said, "But... I'm so sticky."

9. September... highs and lows. Lows: having my gallbladder removed, sending Sean to the Mayo Clinic for 10 days to finally get a diagnosis for his life-long pain. Highs: moving into a new, beautiful home, and a new darling baby nephew for our family. My Mom came up to move us, help us settle in, and take care of all her kids. Like she always does.

10. Being in the new house helped me kickstart this little blog again, hence the homage to my banner photo. A few flowers for my 30th birthday, a sun-filled fall day, an ironed placemat--these are a few of my favorite things.

11. Hosting for Thanksgiving. No turning back from adulthood now.

12. Christmas in California, and the boys with their Poppy. I love this shot because it reminds me of this:

(credit: acartoonchristmas.com)

That's a wrap for us here. You have my prayers and hopes for a blessed 2014. And hey. Go to Mass tomorrow. :)


what I wore sunday / houndstooth unhinged

Linking up with the FLAP gals.

Don't ask my why I jump in my outfit pictures. I get nervous and know of nothing else to do that looks relaxed, confident or chic. So I jump. In heels. And pray I don't roll an ankle.

Dress: Kohl's
Tights: Fleece-lined from Marshall's (perfection when in WA, sweaty when in CA)
Beads: my Mom's
Sunshine: deliriously delightful

Christmas in California, when proceeded by winter in coooooold, cold Washington, is nothing less than heaven on earth. Add to that a few protein style burgers and my Mom's crazy good cabbage rolls (and of course the obvious joy of being at home with my family), and I've been one happy camper. 

My Mom puts so much work into making Christmas wonderful for the grandkids and big kids alike.  This year, my favorite act of Mrs. Claus magic she performed was getting each of the little kids a pair of Converse shoes. She has five or six pairs herself--they're something of a signature shoe for her (granted, that's because they fit her orthodic shoe inserts. But it doesn't hurt that they come in the best colors and are DARLING).

Love and laces.

Amby's the red pair on the left. I'm pretty sure his pants are falling off. He's my party animal. 

Two quick lines from the trip: 

Sean takes Joe to the bathroom on the airplane. Joe gets on the throne, looks around attentively and says, "Hey, is this potty flying?"

During a Christmas homily on St. Joseph, as Sean is whisper-explaining St. Joseph's importance in our lives into Joe's ear, Joe furrows his brow: "Wait. Am I St. Joseph??"

Maybe one day, sweet Joe-Joe!


7qt / but it WAS merry! VERY!


Anyone else feel like they can recite How the Grinch Stole Christmas in their sleep by now?
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other it came just the same!
There's a space in my head that formerly housed memorized bits of Macbeth and Hamlet. Then the Whos moved in.

We hosted company for dinner twice this week, both on weeknights. That meant grocery shopping, house cleaning and dinner making with the boys underfoot. One dinner went better than the other (as in, one was a total success and one had me banging a head against a wall in self-inflicted failure). I did give my self a good-job-mom high five for letting this happen during one grocery trip:

They did a surprisingly awesome job navigating through the mercifully not-crowded Trader Joe's. Then again, they knew the stop was for their beloved gfree mac-n-cheese, so that might explain their exemplary behavior.

With little shame I admit that my boys watch PBS Kids shows each morning--the Curious George, SuperWhy, Dinosaur Train cocktail. In the afternoons, Joe's favors Sid the Science Kid. A month ago the shows start airing these "holiday specials" wherein the main characters celebrate some version of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. The dialogue goes something like this: "At my house, we celebrate Hanukkah with a menorah! We celebrate Kwanzaa by lighting candles! And we celebrate Christmas with a Christmas tree and PRESENTS!!!!"

This dumbing-down of a religious event to a secular ornament holder--and then equating that secular ornament holder with two other religious events--makes me want to hurl my Advent tombstone at the TV. I usually console myself by just turning the damn thing off and listening to the dulcet tones of my kids screaming in protest. Whatever. Go sell crazy somewhere else Sid, we're all stocked up here.

I made a new side salad for Thanksgiving and I believe it would have been described in Bon Appetit as "a bracing new addition to your Thanksgiving menu." Kale, parmesan, dates lemon honey dressing, toasted almonds. It was so good, I can't seem to stop making it.

Joe, my little pre-reader, carves out little nooks and crannies in this first house of his to sit with his books. I know this is something all kids do, and it's nothing extraordinary. But it touches my heart to see him retreat into the well-worn pages of memory books my Mom's made him or Richard Scary. Always be a reader, Joe.

An awesome and MOST generous friend (and seminarian) surprised us with a box of his home-brewed beers. Never before have I opened a USPS box, squealed with delight, then rearranged the fridge shelves to make it fit inside.

With six varieties to chose from (and a whole sheet describing the notes and flavors of each kind), my favorite thus far has been the the "Dunkelweizen... This is a popular beer in southern Germany and is the favorite type of beer of Pope Emeritus Benedict.... look for notes of banana bread in the finish." A beer that envelops both the Pope and banana bread? Yes please. If the handwritten notes inside my Christmas card this year slant dramatically or make no sense, you'll know momma got into the Belgian Dubbels ("just like the monks made it. Be careful, this one is about twice the alcohol of the other ones").

I asked this friend if he was really making beer in his dorm room at the major seminary he attends. He said "Yeah, and my rector's fine with it. My room inspections just take a little longer than normal."

Snow's starting.

I wish a very merry Christmas to all the other mommy bloggers and friends of my Mother who read this little slice of our life. :)

For perhaps the last time this year, I send you back to Jen and the other merry quick takers.


five favs: (cheaply) stuffing my own stocking

No, there will be no stocking at the fireplace with my name on it this year. Upside: I rationalize all impulse purchases as stuffers for the stocking I don't get to hang. Five things that make my Christmas morning (or any day in December) very merry:

This little guy's been greeting me on Christmas mornings for years. I prefer to eat him before a proper breakfast and anticipate a blood sugar crash by 8:30 a.m.

I don't often buy makeup, but when I do, I buy... bareMinerals. I've been waiting for a killer sale at Ulta to restock my usual powder foundation, so I needed something to tide me over. At $8.98 for 1.0 oz, this Almay CC Cream isn't exactly cheap, but it was one of the cheaper BB/CC creams on the shelves. Using just a tiny bit of it this morning was enough to make me look downright half-well-rested. Ho ho ho.

Daily. I wear mine daily. My Mom buys three or four of these at a time at her local Catholic bookstore. And when a friend, or a coworker, or even the clerk at the grocery store sees hers on her wrist and exclaims "Wow, that's the coolest bracelet," she just slips it off and hands it to them. Evangelizer, that one. Grab one for a cool $2.85 (and free Prime shipping) on Amazon.

So apparently every celebrity wears or wore these last year and they were THE thing. I have no idea if they're still popular but the idea of a hair tie that's both colorful and looks somewhat like a bracelet seems awesome. And if anything can be both a) useful and b) add some color to my daily attire that usually consists of jeans and t-shirts that are gray/beige/faded beige/beige that used to be white, I'm all for it.


Don't have either of these? Just stop reading this drivel right now and go order. I use one of these three daily, and for once, I am not exaggerating. Uses: scraping the dregs of the peanut butter jar, scrambling eggs in a non-stick pan, mixing the sugar topping for the Christmas crumb cake. I feel like I'll have fewer dishes to wash later if I just use miniature tools. But really. every. day.

These things are all fine and lovely, but Eartha and I'd also take:
a) a duplex
b) checks (sign your x on the line)
c) decorations bought at Tiffany's

but I did say this would be a cheaply filled stocking. So oh well.

o Wisdom, come Lord Jesus

December 17. We're only a week away from Christmas Eve, and my little clan is only a few days away from getting to see their Babcia and Poppy for the most wonderful time of the year.

When the O Antiphons begin, I feel like our Blessed Mother's painless labor is beginning, and it's time to begin closing out the world--finally finishing the online Christmas shopping; finally just deleting all those store emails screaming sale! Sale! SALE! in my inbox; getting all the boys' dress shirts pressed and ready for the Masses and celebrations to come. These little retreats from the modern world and surface preparations help me remember the reason for all the hustle and bustle.

Today it is the Prophet Isaiah begins preparing our hearts to receive the greatest Gift:
O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.


what I wore sunday / Christmas photo

Linking up with the fine FLAP ladies. It's Gaudete Sunday, y'all: give it up for pink. Err, rose.

Sweater: thredup
Skirt: passed down from my Mom
Heels: old old Target
Earrings: clearance at Nordstrom Rack, and my holidayish favorite
Hair: un-shampooed, so up in a clip, a ponytail holder and about 45 bobby pins

I feel a little like a pink Advent candle in this getup, but it seemed appropriate. And thank heavens for the probably too-long skirt, because the velcro on Joseph's shoes snagged my nylons above my knee during the homily and a silver dollar sized hole ensued. Modesty for the win.

Also, our shutterbug friend came over to snap some shots to include in our Christmas cards. Here's my frontrunner for favorite:

At the height of frustration I shouted WHAT'S THE POINT OF HAVING CHILDREN IF THEY WON'T SIT AND SMILE FOR A CHRISTMAS CARD PICTURE?!?!?  And everyone in the room took a few steps back from me so as to not get zapped when the lightning struck.

It took a youtube video playing on someone's phone, eight mint M&Ms, and endless pretend sneezes but we did get one with both boys looking forward and slightly smirking.

And everyone's welcome to join me at confession next Saturday.


7QT - - gifts, to and from.

I'm tempting fate by beginning a post when 1) Amby has about 12 minutes left in his nap, 2) we're having guests for dinner and 3) I haven't done my dishes yet. But away we go!

From: Me
To: Joe-Joe

We spent one weekend in August renting a little cabin at a rustic resort on a local lake. The main office had a bookcase of 30-year old board games to rent, so we grabbed Candyland and played with Joseph. No little boy has ever had so much fun not getting the point of a game AT ALL but loving the little cupcakes and lollipops.

I'm hoping he's as excited to unwrap it on Christmas as he was to play it in a dimly-lit cabin full of bugs. Probably not. But a mom can hope.

From: A dear friend
To: Me

Do I have any quibbles over receiving a Christmas present early? Why no, no I don't. My dear friend went to Spain over Thanksgiving and brought back these beauties. I love that they're neutral enough to wear with almost every outfit, but still have such charm and detail. Did I sound like Stacy and Clinton at all there?

From: My Mom (Babcia)
To: Me

Waffles are personal to me. I don't eat that Belguim stuff, with cavernous divots that puddle syrup like potholes. No.

I like my waffles semi-dense with grids just deep enough to catch a little butter and Log Cabin syrup in each square. When registering for our wedding gifts, I came across no such waffle maker in all of Macy's or Crate and Barrel (two places at which I no longer shop, but that's a separate and unrelated story). I told a very dear grandpa-figure at our church about this problem. And a few weeks later, he arrived at Mass with a waffle maker in a bag, a waffle maker that checked all my boxes. That dear man passed away on All Souls' Day in 2010. A few months ago, Sean was rummaging through our pantry in the dark looking for something and crash... no more waffle maker. Tears. But now, Mom's replacing my beloved one with something just as special: the same exact waffle maker that she and my Dad have at home.

To: Sean
From: Me

My man's tracking his steps these days, and I've heard this is the best thingamabobber to do that with. (That was a terrible end to a sentence.)

To: Amby 
From: Me

Amby's in the knock-down stage. Joseph's in the build-up one. Match made in screaming toddler fight heaven. And with this set, they can do it 100 times!

To: Joseph
From: Me

I wouldn't say that Joe's train obsession is waning, but I do sense some new preoccupations on the horizon. He's equally scared and fascinated by the idea of dragons and knights, and this little book seems like a charming introduction to the theme.

To: My sister
From: Me

My sweet autistic sister? She likes the slots. And man, when she gets hot on those nickels, she makes it rain. I'm feeling like she'll also get five dollar bills to go with this.

Hop over to Jen for more quick takes or Mary Kate's gift lists.


five favs - - inexpensively gluten free at trader joe's.

"Sassy!" "SASQUATCH!"

I still don't know what the deal is with kids finding that damn Big Foot thing in Trader Joe's. But I do know they carry cheap gluten free macaroni and cheese. And it's darn tasty. Here are my top five gluten free pics from TJs. 

1. Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar

If I were smart and wanted to save gas, I'd buy a case of this stuff so that I wouldn't be running out every week. But no. It's only $1.99, and if I bought more than two boxes at a time, it wouldn't feel as cheap. Compared to Annie's brand of gluten free rice pasta mac & cheese which retails for upwards of $3.59 (!!!) at most other grocers, this is a major steal. 

2. Brown Rice Tortilas

Going gluten free means giving up soft, chewy, pliable flour tortillas. I've filled that gaping hole in my life with these rice flour substitutes. Nuke 'em for 30 seconds in the microwave and they're an acceptable alternative--plus they're only $2.69 for a 6-pack. Savor the pleasure of eating a cheap vehicle for cheese + anything else. 

3. All-Purpose Baking Flour

I hate gluten free baking. Hate. With a passion. Replace flour one-to-one? Use a store-brand gfree flour mix, xanthan gum or not, potato starch or tapioca based... ugh. Gag me with a measuring cup. I keep this stuff on hand because it's cheap (sensing a theme here?), only $3.99 for 16oz. It makes disappointment taste a little better. (For the record, lots of people bake gluten free things successfully. I am a fine person with many skills. This is not one of them.)

4. Gluten Free Brownie Mix

As much as a hate gluten free baking, I love, love LOVE love gluten free baking mixes. This one? It's a no-fail. I add about 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and bake it a little less than the directions recommend. There's no easier or more delicious dessert to serve company. At $3.99, it ain't cheap, but the ease of preparation and the impressiveness of the taste make it worth it. Brownie or cake mixes at other grocers easily cost .50 cents to $1 more. 

5. Envirokidz Peanut Butter Panda Puffs

Envirokidz somehow snuck in under the TJ's private brands barrier and sells on their shelves for $2.99 a box. Joe, Amby and I all eat this in the mornings. Unfortunately, Joe now thinks that panda bears are truly called panda puffs. I'm reluctant to correct him. 

So, those are my TJ's winners. What are yours? I give an honorable mention to the new Gluten Free Joe-Joe's sandwich cookies. But honestly, I think we gluten free folk may have to concede that no one will ever produce a gfree sandwich cookie that tastes as good as its gluten-full counterpart. Just stick with these and make everyone happy. 

Now go find a Christmas gift for your hubby at Moxie Wife