Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Bliss

I wish I had taken a picture of my living room 20 minutes ago. It was a complete mess made by my beloved daughter in the hour and a half it took me to wrap all my gifts. She had so much fun playing with the papers and bows and wrappers and bags. She even found a tissue box in her reach and went to town pulling out tons of tissues. Everything was everywhere and she was in complete baby tornado bliss. Ah, to be a kid again.

So one of her presents happens to be a sparkly box of tissues... and it will probably be her favorite gift too. I tried not to go overboard since she is only 10 1/2 months old and really won't remember her gift opening (or lack there of) but I guess when you have only one child and you want to relive your childhood through them, it is hard not to get carried away. I made myself divide her gifts in half so she will have some for her birthday in a month, and I won't have to buy her anything else.
Atleast that is the plan...

I have been super busy sewing and baking and sewing and baking this week. Everyone tells me to slow down and take a break... but I just tell them that I will come Saturday morning when I am in the Jeep on the way to Indiana. I am just pushing myself until then, and then I can relax to the fullest extent for the entire week we are there. I can't wait!

On a very exciting note (at least for me) Anastasia took her first steps a little over a week ago and is now walking everywhere. I love it! I dreaded her becoming mobile for so long as my parents house is the least childproof house in the world probably but a mobile baby is not so bad. She is so much happier now that she can get around! I always cuddle her and wish she wouldn't get any bigger, but at every age I say that this stage is better than the last and I hope this will continue until she is 14 or 15. Then we will have to lock her in a dungeon. :)

Until next time, Merry Christmas. And all of you in or near Chicago, you must go to the Christkind Market in Daley Plaza! I hope to go the 23 or 24!! We went 2 years ago and it was WONDERFUL!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Its Christmas in Washington

My mom and Anastasia at the Botanical Gardens.

One of the model trains

I spy the president
The lit Christmas tree

So I defiantly have the cold from Hell. One day I feel great, and then I wake up the next feeling like crap, barely able to speak. That was today. Maybe part of my prolonged sickness is from sitting out in the freezing cold at the lighting of the National Christmas tree. It was fun but freezing.

My mom, Caitlin, A and I went to DC for the day before the main event-- the so called, "pageant of Peace" although the cold that eats you alive is not very peaceful. And perhaps singing Christmas Carols in the cold (by our own free will) is lovely and all, but it seems somewhat hypocritical having a Peace Pageant celebrating Christmas while others are in Iraq fighting... and may be on Christmas day. I am not completely for or against the war... it just makes me sad that people are fighting abroad and people are buying into the consumer madness here during this Christmas season. It seems the meaning of the season gets so lost between empty bank accounts and people almost hitting your car for the closest parking spot at the mall (this happened to me a couple weeks ago!!!) We as a society have forgotten the Reason for the season... the baby in the manger.

On a completely other note... if you want to have a wonderful (and practically free) Christmas DC experience I highly recommend checking out the botanical gardens. They are completely decked out with poinsettias and model trains and georgeous Christmas trees. They also have a really neat hunt for kids to learn about different Christmas plant-derived items (eg. peppermint and vanilla). We had a total blast there! Then for a treat take the metro or a car to Union Station and check out their awesome model train and go to Vicaros for delicious cannolis. That is what we did (except we did it in the opposite order) and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with limited funds (except for the $4 cannoli and parking). So that was our big day and now I am paying for it. I don't know about anyone else but I LOVE the city at Christmastide... I am getting super pumped for Chicago in two weeks!!!

Monday, December 3, 2007

How I Feel About Santa...

I am so in love with her pout! AH! So we had a great holiday-style weekend. I have been fighting a cold... and felt better over the weekend but lost my voice. But that didn't stop me from having a jolly old time. Saturday we went to see Santa for the first time... and Anastasia went to him but then when I backed away to take this picture she had second thoughts (hence the pout)! She thought Rudolph was pretty cool though. We took a stroll through old town Fredericksburg (possibly my favorite old town of all) where we picked up some espresso and a hat from a great little consignment shop. We also found this awesome kitchen store with this candy castle in the window:

I totally recommend going downtown and seeing it up close... its stupendous! It is inspiring me to make a gingerbread house of awesomeness (or lack there of). We helped a friend decorate a tree and headed over to the Fredericksburg parade that lasted more than 2 hours! Anastasia loved all the marching bands and Christmas light covered floats and was given a bunch of mardi gras beads and candy (I guess cuteness counts for something)... so even though it was cold I had a cup of hot tea and a bundley baby to keep me warm. It was great!
Finally we finished off the day with a trip to Nick's Aikido party (he was at a siminar all day) which Anastasia could hardly stay awake for but charmed everyone in that special way that babies do. Sunday was a little more chill for us but involved a trip to DC for a church artifact sale (for Nick's job) and an estate sale and a quick drop by Guabe's house. It was quite a packed weekend which probably accounts for why I woke up feeling like crap this morning and took my dad up on an offer to take the baby errand-running with him so I could sleep it off. I want my voice back!!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turkey, Pie, Espresso and Tea

....these are a few of my favorite things...

We had a very simple and completely relaxed Thanksgiving which made for one of the nicest Thanksgivings of all. It was just us, my parents, Andy, my aunt Donna, uncle Mark and cousin Caitlin which was perfect. Not too much... not too lame. I made two delicious pumpkin pies in successful (and even artistic) pie crusts! Woohoo! I also made a super yummy "Cinnamon, Cranberry and Almond tart" which was a huge hit for the Cranberry enthusiasts in the family. I think my cooking and baking skills have really refined themselves since I married Nick (my toughest critic) and I love cooking (and eating). My favorite response from Nick is, "you could serve that in a Cafe." That is the ultimate compliment. :)

Friday Nick took A. and I to Old Town Alexandria which "Black Friday" sales left somewhat empty. We toured the over-priced antique stores, a nifty toy shoppe, a artsy store with a table I want and our favorite, Coffee, Tea and Spice. Coffee, Tea and Spice is a little shop that has shelves overflowing with large glass jars brimming with loose teas and coffee beans. Other shelves house coffee and tea equipment. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fruity Christmas tea similar to one my friend sent me from Germany. This shop is definately a feast for the senses.

On a final note, Anastasia got her first bump yesterday. She slid on some papers and hit her head on a stump that sits in my parents living room. She screamed bloody murder and has a small line-like bump over her right eye brow. Poor kid. I feel so bad when things hurt her, because she is so used to a pain-free little life. I am sure this won't be the last of her bumps that come as we grow up... but it just serves as a little reminder of how the world changes as we grow older and become more independant. And perhaps as a reminder of how we are people who need a God who will never give us more than we can handle and who will see us through all the bumps in life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Before I forget,

So every so often, I find a really amazing purchase at the goodwill store. Today it was the above pictured Moka espresso maker. I purchased this unique item for 12.50 (which seemed pricey for a thrift store) and it turned out to be a real gem. It was made in Italy by a company called Ancap (which specializes in porcelain products) and I was amazed to see that similar pots are hard to find in the U.S. and in Italy go for around 70 Euros (thats $103 USD!!!). There are some bizarre looking golden sparrows painted on the pot and the two matching espresso cups which I think are totally artsy and neat looking. Nick and I had been keeping our eyes out for a chic lever espresso machine such as this one by Gaggia:

But unfortunately these go for $450 or more. So I was totally thrilled about my new espresso maker and we enjoyed our first homemade lattes this evening (which is probably why I am posting at midnight right now).

I am also in love with some soap I bought at a craft show last week from YumYum Soaps. It is the honey peach, and after weeks of itching from some allergen in my parents house, this soap gave me some much needed relief. It also smells divinely. And it is American made. So if you, like me, have dry skin or just want some luxurious soap... check this out.

Adding to my previous list, Silly Putty and Slinkys are American made. Legos are being made in the Czech republic and Playmobil is made in Germany. One can never have "too many Legos."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Baby Baluga in the Deep Blue Sea...

is Anastasia's favorite song now. We have a book from the library that goes along with everybody's favorite raffi song and A. LOVES it when we sing it to her. It is scary how cute she is (pictures of a cute 16 year old Anastasia give me nightmares! AH!)

So I have come up with some ingeninous inventions this week.

First of all I bought a binder and loaded it with page protecters and made it my cook book. It is the perfect solution to all my pages of recipes floating around from and . I am so pleased with my organized book and its wipe-a-bility (though I still need to get some dividers to organize it). So if you are like me and love finding great recipes online... you HAVE to do this.

Next I have decided to go by fabric paint and paint the bottom of Anastasia's socks and slippery shoes in order to make them skid-proof. I will let you know how this one works out.

I made pie crust dough in the food processor last night (which is supposedly the best way to do it) and being that I have never made a "successful" pie crust, I will let you know how it turns out... I am a little aprehensive being that I used Crisco instead of the recommended Lard (which I felt funny asking for at the grocery store, "Do you have any lard?" lol) so we shall see.

On a sad and happy note (it is really somewhat both) we might be moving to the Chicago region. My mom was in tears about it last night but my parents house is not a safe place for Anastasia any more and it is SO FRUSTRATING trying to ask for small favors to help the child-friendly factor. I feel somewhat bad as we will be leaving a very loving and involved family and the place I have almost always lived. But we need our own place and we need it ASAP and cheap.

So that is the news ladies and gents. We may be buying a little house out there this week. I am scared but know that God ultimately has a decision and goal in mind. He has been very good at closing doors lately. So we will see.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Latte Love

Yesterday I met with my good friend Sarah for coffee. There is the most amazing coffee house in downtown Fredericksburg called "Hyperion Espresso" that dominates all over the place (now who do I sound like? lol). They have a definite passion for a good cup of espresso. First of all, your latte looks like this:

Then it tastes like they imported the espresso straight from Heaven. I mean it is really, really good. Exquisite even. Their mochas blend chocolate and espresso almost divinely... as chocolate and coffee are meant to be... together. So make sure next time you are downtown, to check this place out. I know you are now thinking I am a total coffee freak, but if you think I am bad, look at what some latte artists (can you believe there are such things?) came up with:

For all you Miyazaki fans:

Do these people have a life or what? I love it!!!

For all you dog lovers:

I am not sure whether or not this would make me want to drink the latte or go adopt a puppy...

Nonetheless, I am a total coffee junkie. I am not ashamed to admit it. I worked in a coffeehouse for 5 years and maybe could pour a heart with my milk froth a couple times. I blame the machine I used. ;) It is seriously hard. So this post is to honor all the starving (and highly caffienated) latte artists out there... and the baristas who serve this sacred drink... and to all the addicts who appreciate a good cup of coffee.

PS-always tip a friendly barista.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Weather Madness

I can't believe it is warm again! I am usually a huge supporter of nice warm weather, this time around however, I am happy about the cooler weather due to my longing to wear my cozy new coat. I suppose I will have to wait. Nick assured me that my coat will get its fair wear when we head to the Chicago region for Christmas (which I am super excited about.) Two years ago we were there for Thanksgiving and attended this neat German-Christmas thing in Picasso Park (I think that is what it was called). So I really hope they have it again because they had so many neat wooden Christmas ornaments, cuckoo clocks, toys and other neat things. There is also a brewery in Munster called 3Floyds with super tasty brews (Pride & Joy is my recommendation.). And you can never go wrong with great Chicago Pizza. One bite and your cares are forgotten. So even though it will be my first Christmas away from my family (EVER), I am still excited. Plus, we are going to have two Christmases since my family wants to enjoy A.'s first Christmas they are just going to celebrate early. As my previous post indicated, I am very spoiled.
On another note Anastasia checked out a-ok for her 9-month Dr. appointment. At a whopping 17lb, 12 oz she is considerably small but I was assured that she is ultra healthy thanks to mama's milk. Perhaps no thanks to the pieces of dirt and dry dog food she has discovered (and thus had a need to taste) over the past week. I better go rescue her from a capless pen before she draws on everything or pokes out her eye.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

So Spoiled

I am fully aware of how spoiled I am, so hopefully that lessens my likelihood of being a brat. First of all, I went to see Nickel Creek last week as an early Christmas present AND I bought an expensive organic cotton t-shirt of theirs. So I figured my Christmas present time was over. Yesterday my wonderful husband told me he had something he was going to get me... and by the end of the night last night I had a violin!! I had asked for one, but didn't believe I would get one so I am STOKED! Now I just have to learn how to play it. Then I saw a coat at Old Navy that I really liked so my mom just bought it for me for Christmas! So there you have it! I am afraid I am completely spoiled. As if having my soul mate and best friend for a husband, and an adorable little side-kick for a baby wasn't enough.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Chef Clare

So I have been pretty ambitious in the kitchen lately. I have gotten several cook books from the library (even a doggie cook book) and have been trying heaps of new dishes. Tonight I am trying Anna's red pepper soup. Currently I am making the chicken stock which I have never done before and seeing as I don't have any celery, it may be chicken gone awry. Yesterday I tried making a minestroni soup with a home made vegetable stock and it turned out way too bean-y. Not really what I was expecting but it tasted good. I am definitely on a soup-kick.

I have been making things for Anastasia too and can get her to eat a healthy balanced lunch and that is all. She turns her nose up at breakfast and puckers her lips so nothing can get through. She loves avacados usually so I try and load her up with those and oatmeal at lunch and at dinner she won't eat anything unless it comes directly from my plate by means of my finger. So after cooking oatmeal, rice, pureeing all sorts of fruits and steaming veggies most of them end up in Leia's dish. And Anastasia gets Cheerios.

Speaking of Leia, she also gets a home-cooked meal. I have been making her stew with meat and lots of veggies to top her dog food and vitamins from the vet. They say dogs who eat people food live much longer (almost twice as long) as dogs on a store-bought diet. I do half and half now and with this cooler weather, Leia seems more vibrant than ever.

We didn't get the home we put an offer on this weekend, which is okay. With three competing offers I didn't think we had a chance and either way, it is the way it is meant to be. I look forward to our independence again though. Its pathetic when I get really excited about having my own shelf in the fridge and using my own plates and coffee mugs again. I guess this is my cross for now... and in the grand scheme of things my qualms are pretty small and insignificant. I constantly find myself needing grace and a spirit of gratefulness.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


So last night was the most amazing night I have had in a while. Nick and I went out together to the 9:30 Club in DC to hear one of my most favorite bands of all time, Nickel Creek. The concert was completely amazing and opened with Bruce Molsky who was a bit more traditional in his blue-grass style but none the less musically amazing. He played a song he wrote called "brothers and Sisters" or something like that... no words... just Bruce and a guitar which was one of the most pleasant things I have ever heard. All his songs were pretty great and he displayed beautiful mastery of the guitar, fiddle and banjo.

After Bruce played several songs, ending with "Cotton Eyed Joe", it was Nickel Creek's turn to dominate the arena... and they floored me. I knew they would be great, but they were truly exceptional. I felt as though I had somehow found a way to get into a room with three of the most musically talented individuals in the world. Their stage presence and chemistry awed me. Thats really all I can say. I was nearly in tears hearing songs that have become such a huge part of me... LIVE. Wow.

In case you missed the concert and won't have a chance to hear them as they are in the final stretch of their "Farewell for Now" tour, the Live concert was recorded by NPR and you can listen to it here. You will be glad you did. Oh, and listen for Nick and I screaming really loudly.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trick or Treat

oooooh scary pumpkins.

The one on the right reads on the other side:

"This pumpkin is insured by glock."
Guess who carved that one?

The trick: Is it a baby dressed as a giraffe or a giraffe dressed as a baby?

The treat: whatever she is, she is the cutest and scored us a bucket full of candy! Hooray for chocolate! What a great holiday!

I have a terrible weakness for the Martha Stewart Magazine... I don't agree with her morals but I love her magazine. I get it from the library so I don't directly support her. This year's halloween issue was fantastic. There was an excellent section on pumpkin carving (inspiring my deranged cat pumpkin creation). I also made her most tasty gingerbread cookies and pumpkin ice cream (which turned out runny but devine). I also found a soup recipe in a book for pumkin-tomato bisque which was pretty good. So we had a Martha Stewart Halloween.

We also went with my aunt, cousin and her friends Trick-or-Treating. Anastasia and Leia both recieved many comments and enthusiasm. Most people were so tickled to see the baby that I didn't feel like a lame grown-up trying to get free candy... even though that is sort of the reality. Caitlin was a disco girl and I wore my Renaissance attire and Nick was Hagrid and Leia was a wolf. I forgot how much fun trick-or-treating is! Anastasia loved it! She had a ball playing with glow sticks and all the candy.

So that my friends was Halloween for the M Family.

P.S.--Silly Puddy, Slinky and Maglight flashlights are all also made in the U.S.A. (supposedly). Maglights are PROUDLY made in the USA and virtually indistructable. I have had my mini-maglight for over 5 years and it works great! So spend a little extra money and support kick-butt American flashlight makers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Anastasia Puddle Duck

This rain feels so wonderful and refreshing. One of the best things to do in the rain is to go to Ikea. I went there last night on my way to the RCIA class I am taking where Nick works at Holy Family. I wanted inspiration. Each day this week I have took it upon myself to clean one room each day. My parents have heaps of junk and misplaced items. I never want to be like that. Ikea always inspires me to clean out excess "stuff" and their organizational items are so creative! I wasn't going to buy anything but A and I fell in love with a sheepskin from Argentina for $20. I picked out the softest one and A slept on it last night. Hooray for Ikea!
Today I went to the Library and Borders for some coffee as the house supply has run out. I have $6 in fines but I was told if I bring in 6 cans of food next month they will erase them. So now I need to find 6 cans of food for 50cents a piece so I get a good deal out of the deal and help starving people. Giant's sale rack, here I come!!
The best hang out place in the world would be a library with a Cafe in it. They would make a killing between fines and overpriced coffee! I would be there all the time. The public library system would probably be lame about it though and get a Starbucks cafe or just have really cheap, gross coffee. I still think it would be a great place to be on a rainy day like today. Oh, and I would add a neat play area for kids so that mom and dad could enjoy a cafe latte while children play in fun area. What could be better? Maybe when I am rich....
I had best be off to pick up Caitlin...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Orange Elephants and Black JEEPs

My friend Gwen has a new blog. You have to check out her adorable elephants (like the one A. is playing with in the picture above) and other whimsical homemade goodies at her etsy shop.

I have taken to looking through Etsy for little stocking stuffers and cute handmade gifts. I found these dolls that I love. Anna recommended Nova Natural Toys where I found this husky wooden toy. Its funny how we shop for baby toys more for ourselves. I have a feeling Anastasia's favorite Christmas present will be the wrapping paper. My goal is to have all my Christmas shopping done by the end of November. We will see what happens. I don't even know if we will be here or in the Chicago region for Christmas yet.

I am so happy for the rain. Rain makes me appretiate a roof over my head, hot soups, and most of all for MY JEEP!!! which I have back. I have wanted a Jeep Wrangler for a long time. It was my dream vehicle as a kid. My Barbies had a Jeep therefore they had to be cool. Then in high school I thought they were cute and tough. It wasn't until I went to Moab, Utah a couple times that I knew that someday I would have one. Then last year Nick called me up at the Animal Hospital and asked me if I wanted him to buy a Jeep that was in excellent condition with a good price tag. Heck yeah!! So that is my little story. Unfortunately my Jeep eats a lot of gas. I saw a bumper sticker that read "buy a hybrid, my Jeep needs the gas." It is very amusing, somewhat true and also makes me feel somewhat guilty about not having a more eco-friendly car. I feel like since I don't commute in it and drive it a whole lot during the week, it is somewhat okay to have my "toy."

So in honor of my beloved Jeep who I have been reunited with:
Only in A JEEP!

Sunday, October 21, 2007


My title is actually a puzzle that was in the paper today. By the end of this post you should know the answer. My post today is on Fair Trade. My mom just became manager of an absolutely wonderful and uber fantastic store called Ten Thousand Villages. The store sells fairly-traded handicrafts from around the world. They change peoples lives by selling their beautiful items in the United States and paying them a fair wage, meaning a wage they can support themselves and a family with for their crafts. No other store does this. Even Starbucks Fair-trade is not really fair trade as less than 1% of their coffee is fairly traded. Meaning they have wage-slaves in third world countries. Who doesn't though? Walmart, Target, Ikea, every toy and dollar store in the US--the list never ends.

When Anastasia was born, she was given the cutest, fabric blocks made by Baby Einstein that she loves. A little over a week ago these blocks (well a certain batch that didn't include mine) were recalled due to lead paint being on the blue block for infants everywhere to suck on. Guess where it was made? CHINA. Made by wage-slaves. This pisses me off!!! Every toy I ever played with, and Anastasia plays with now is made in China. I started looking at nice wooden, European toys for Anastasia's Christmas presents. Half of them are MADE IN CHINA and are marketed as "fine European toys" (eg. Haba brand) and they have a mighty fine price tag too.

So I have been researching to find American-made products (and some foreign, fair-trade products) for those interested in resisting the Chinese Empire.

1. Ten Thousand Villages (for gifts, some toys and hand made Jewelry, etc)
2. Nalgene: Never buy another water bottle again- they are indestructible, and if by chance they break, you can take it to any Nalgene store and they replace it free of charge. This is the quality you get when you shop American. Available at most outdoor stores.
3. Klein Tools: This is one of Nick's favorite tool companies. All-American tools that last. Available at Lowe's, Ace Hardware and other trade-shops.
4. Smart Wool: maker of the best socks I have ever worn. My oldest pair is 3-years old and will probably last even longer. 10% of all online-orders go to the Smart Print Advocacy Fund (which is helping build and preserve the trail my bro just hiked, the Continental Divide Trail.)
5. Fox News: List of American-made Toys available at most department stores and a few links.

Thats all for now folks. I will find more and post. These were just my favorites that I looked up last night. Send me any links and companies you know of. Join me in my patriotic act of not supporting China.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Merry Christmas to me!!!!!!!!!

I AM SO HAPPY I FINALLY GET TO SEE NICKEL CREEK in 2 WEEKS!!! It is perfectly ok to envy me... because I envy where I will be in 2 weeks and 7 1/2 hours. I just happened to look up where they will be next... and they are playing at the 9:30 Club on Nov. 2nd. Hooray!!! LONG LIVE CELTIC BLUE GRASS AND VIOLINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pumpkins are fun

I have been so lame about updating. Most of my computer time is spent posting antique postcards on eBay. Postcard collecting is apparently a HUGE hobby. I really enjoy looking at postcards from a different time and place. Most of the cards I post are from the early 1900's. It is neat to see pictures of what the world was like back then. Almost every main street has similar mom&pop drug stores and department stores. Its hard to imagine America pre-corperation explosion. The neatest part about the postcards are some of the messages people write. Most of what people wrote were vague or nothing more than a "Hello" but I have seen some pretty neat stuff. There was one woman who wrote a letter (it took up over 3 postcards, but all I had were those 3) to a man she had never met in person. They wrote back and forth and she was commenting on his picture and how she would like to meet him. This was in 1909 or something mind you. Another woman commented on how you could get a gallon jar of apricots in Chicago for 50cents and you could use them to make pies or jam, and her aunt bought 3 jars! Seems kind of silly, but buying a jar of peaches in the store was a new thing. My uncle had even seen one with a civil war camp and a man had written that he had stayed there during the war. He kept that one.

Over the weekend we really enjoyed the Folk Festival in Richmond. It was perfect weather and I fell in love with a band called Vishten which is considered acadian music. I learned that acadian music is French Canadian, Celtic-Cajun music. Whatever it is I love it. Being that I am 1/4 Irish and 1/4 French Canadian (yeah I am a mutt) it seemed like the perfect music mix for me. They had a violin (which I am dying to learn) and even did a little bit of Irish dance (another thing I want to learn). Vishten truly speaks to the Irish in me and connects me to my heritage... something most Americans are disconnected from.

I also saw my good friend Devon after the festival at Cafe Gutenburg... a delightful (and somewhat snobby) Cafe in Richmond with delectable lattes and tasty wines. Who could ask for more?

Sunday we enjoyed a trip to a not-overly commercialized pumpkin patch in the middle of nowhere. Anastasia was more interested in the straw than the pumpkins and we got her (I mean us) a pumpkin. Then we enjoyed the Bonfire at the Hatke's. Anastasia was in her element (as was I) outside beside a blazing fire. Bonfires in autumn are sublime. The hospitality was awesome. Life is good.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

It has been a while, my blog followers, and I post at last! I half expected my life to settle down come autumn and it has somehow been the opposite. Between apple-picking, a trip to Williamsburg with the in-laws, picking Caitlin up from school, selling antique postcards on eBay for my uncle, and reading the 7 books in the Harry Potter series I feel as though I have been non-stop. And perhaps you thought I was sitting around in front of the t.v. eating bon-bons.

Speaking of Harry Potter... I have posted my review beneath these wonderful pictures so if you are not finished with the series... DO NOT READ MY REVIEW. Just look at the pretty pictures.

The Wythe House
Anastasia and her Grandpa
Nick in the Pillary... not a bad sentence for stealing a watch in a tavern, having his mom as his only witness (who was drinking at the time) and having two eight year olds as the Jury.

Leia on her throne.

Growing up with a lot of conservative influence where the general consensus regarding Harry Potter was that Harry Potter is EVIL. So finally, at 23, I have done the unthinkable and committed the eighth deadliest sin... and I read them all. Wahahahaha. Amazingly, I have not converted to Wicca nor have I sold my soul to the devil. In fact, I laugh that this book is so hugely banned. Harry is such a strong character who fights for and even sacrifices himself for what he believes in and those he loves. He constantly fights evil with good. I think Harry's loyalty and love, and love being the conquerer of death in Rowling's world makes the Harry Potter series almost Christian in principal and any child who reads this series (at a reasonable age of course) has much to be gained.

I think Rowlings is a very clever author. I came up with half a million predictions on characters and the overall ending and with few exceptions (I knew deep down that Snape was good) I was wrong. There were so many surprises (good and bad) and I was on the edge of my seat through this entire book. Deathly Hallows was much darker than the other six, partially due to the lack of the social life at Hogwarts. I thought Rowlings was a little bit quick to kill certain people off... like Lupin and Tonks!!! With no explanation of their deaths? That pissed me off. I think besides that, my only other qualm with this book was what I felt was a rather abrupt ending. I mean COME ON!!! I just spent the past three-months worth of my free time reading Harry Potter without abandon and it was over in less than a chapter? It was far from the "Happily ever after" that this series required. I thought the story was great and the death of Voldemort was so dramatic and well planned, but UGH!! I just wanted more. I want to know what happened to George Weasley when Fred died. I wanted to know what happened to Hagrid, Malfoy, Luna, the professors... and everybody!! But that is just me. I felt ripped off on the ending. Other than that it was an excellent series and I recommend it to anyone who is 10 or older.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Women's Liberty

I have been dwelling quite a bit on women's rights. How women in the past fought so hard for a right to work at something other than a teacher or a nurse. I feel as though this plan has backfired negatively on the women who long to stay home with their children. Not only to stay at home moms have to deal with the stigma of a stay at home mom, they also often have to struggle financially to do so. Where our society considers a female doctor a hero almost, we stay at home mom's make so many sacrifices (socially, financially, physically) and are seldom recognized for our determination to give our children healthy and emotionally stable lives.

I feel that now that women can do almost all the same jobs as men, men are less valuable in the workplace than they would be if women were at home with their children. This meaning that men make less than I believe they would if there were half the available workers in the workforce. I feel that most blue-collar jobs that would have paid a sufficient sum for a household to live off of 40 years ago, now can make just over half. With two people working full-time as Nick and I found out last year, it is not difficult to live a very comfortable lifestyle. On one income it is exceedingly hard to break even with the bills.

I know for a fact since I stopped working to take care of Anastasia that I have never worked so hard at work, as I do at home. I used to wonder why women would choose to work rather than stay at home. Now I think I somewhat understand. I can see the appeal of wanting to have money instead of just a clean house and happy children to show for a days hard work. Its nice to be able to contribute to the family financially as well. Plus work almost always guarentees some degree of a social life. I know I had loads of friends constantly while working, and now I feel that I only have a few close ones. I also know that there are some incredibly career-minded individuals with rare gifts and talents for specific jobs. I feel though, that because of them, those of us with noble, family-oriented goals are the ones who suffer.

On a study of what stay at home mom's should make it is calculated that at SAHM should make well over $100,000. Now I think that is possibly a little extreme but I sure think it would be nice if we could at least write the cost of daycare that a working mother would, off on our taxes. I also feel that it would be wise for employers to recognize being a stay at home mom as excellent previous work experience as apposed to being laughed at or considered unworthy of being a real job. But they can do that, why? Because there are so many other applicants who did not take the road less traveled and worked! Because they can! Because our grandmothers and their mothers fought for the freedom we have today. A freedom that like all freedom, comes at so great a price.

Because I never run out of cute baby pictures to share

Friday, September 7, 2007


Its so hard to believe it is already September. Autumn is just around the corner! I took Caitlin and Anastasia to Water Works in Dale City last Friday for the last day of summer. We stopped by Dairy Queen for some Milk shakes and delivered on to Nick at work. Unfortunately, on our way home, I was down shifting to make a U-Turn, and as soon as I pressed the clutch in I heard a distinct "CLUNK!" That was the clutch's last word. I couldn't restart it, so we called AAA who sent us a free tow truck (thank God for AAA) while we waited for my mom to come pick us up (as Nick's phone had no juice and I couldn't reach him). So originally we were in the middle of the road (which is not a fun place to be on 234). Luckily the tow truck driver helped us cross the street where we waited along a bike path. We walked to the major intersection and waited for my mom. So summer went out with a "CLUNK" for me. Caitlin and Anastasia seemed excited about the adventure of it all.

My life has slowed down a bit as I just watch Caitlin in the afternoons now. I have much more time to myself. It is kind of nice, except I expect more work (house work) out of myself now. Before I made excuses for my laziness... now I actually have no reason not to get things done! I started knitting a sweater for Anastasia. My most recent creation is the hat pictured above, which isn't perfect but kind of cute anyway. I am almost half way through Harry Potter book number 5!! Nick just finished 6 so we are well on our way through our schooling at Hogwarts. Must buy #7 tonight!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Library Book Reviews

I have been somewhat obsessed with the Stafford Public Library. I think is a great outlet for my consumer-habits. Its great because it is free (besides the fact that I lost a book). I have been reading my heart out this summer with my nose between the pages of Living Simple magazines and chick novels. I have recently come across their Yoga Video selections (for mamas, try Yoga Ma Baby Ga) and the baby section (where I came across "Super Baby Food"). On top of that they have children's books galore and fun programs for all (including knitting groups, scrap booking clubs, chess nights and baby reading time). So that is where I have been, my loyal blog-readers. I decided to provide you with my review of the Secret Life of Bees.

The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd *****

This is definitely my favorite read of the summer. It is about a white girl named Lily who runs away from her abusive father (T-Ray) and rescues her black friend from being beaten to death in prison which is a big deal in 1964 South Carolina. She is on a search for information about her dead mother and ends up working for three black women who are bee keepers. She is hiding from the law, and more so from her father and becomes enchanted with keeping bees and their colorful keepers. This book is absolutely charming and will draw tears and spark smiles. The non-traditional faith of the bee keepers and their group "The Daughters of Mary" are very controversial with regard to the Christian/Catholic Faith, but their devotion to Mary is quite endearing. I would recommend putting aside any harsh religious criticisms and indulge yourself into the sweet world of honey bees.

On another note, I CAN'T BELIEVE IT IS AUGUST!!! Summer is almost over!! We have been spending our evenings watching Harry Potter and are totally hooked... like the complete nerds we are!! (We are just a little behind the times). It is getting me pumped for autumn but I will miss the sweet summer time. Thats all for now... until next time... Ciao!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Life's A Beach

We had and awesome weekend at the beach. We camped at First Landing State Park which is on the Chesapeake Bay adjacent to Fort Story and 10 minutes from Virginia Beach. We had perfect weather... a cool ocean wind accompanying the warm, sunny sky. I love the taste of salt in the air and the stickiness of it on your skin. Ah... the beach. Leaving was really hard.

Above is a picture of the newer Cape Henry Light house. Nick climbed to the top of the one built in 1792 for a great view. Babies weren't allowed so Anastasia and I waited below. The one pictured above is still in use today. I pity the man who has to climb to the top everyday to light the lamp!
Anastasia LOVED the ocean! She dug in the sand and we made a hole for the waves to fill with water like a tiny pool. She totally dug it. No pun intended.

Here is Nick looking out at the Chesapeake Bay. The wind on Saturday made larger waves than usual on the bay. The water was very refreshing. There is nothing quite like a dip in the salty sea.

First Landing State Park is the only place in Virginia where you can find this awesome Spanish moss hanging from trees. And the murky looking swamp water was drank by pirates because it was fresh water, cleansed by the boric acid that turns it murky black. This forest is very magical and was home to the Chesapeake Indians. Nick lead us on a 5 mile hike after 4 hours of sleep. I don't know how Andy can hike up to 36 miles in a day! Ugh!

Anastasia is a true adventurer. Camping is definitely on the top of her favorite activities list. She is happy so long as she is outdoors.

We also saw these people Kiteboarding at the bay. Now I want to go live at the beach and learn this really, really cool sport. The people we saw were getting about 6 feet off of the water and it looked as if they were swinging from the kite about 20 feet or so distance-wise. I have never seen such an awesome looking sport... perhaps this could even top snowboarding and kayaking (my beloved pastimes). This all coming from the mother of a six-month-old who can't even save myself 30 minutes in the morning for a short jog. haha.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Just had to share....

Yes I am a proud parent and have to share Anastasia's cuteness with everybody!! I hope she doesn't hate me for posting the following picture on the internet someday...
A very kind person thought Anastasia was such a scary pirate... he had to take her picture for the "Wanted... Dead or Alive" poster. We just happened to get in the picture somehow.
So two posts in one day... now that is a record... especially since I have been so neglegent of my blog. I have been crafting my butt off for a craft fair on the 4th... so hopefully I will be rich in a few days... or atleast come out even and be able to take my dear husband out for our aniversary next week!!


It definately feels like summer! It has been a long time since I last posted. My cousin Caitlin, who is 10, comes over every day during the week while her mom is at work now. She and Anastasia love each other! I must say, it truly feels like summer as we spend our days watching cartoons, playing cards and swimming in our cheesy 10 x 3 foot blow-up pool as well as taking trips to downtown Fredericksburg and Washington DC. I am also teaching Caitlin how to sew. Thursday we drove to DC for the Folk Life Festival (which is free) and we had a great time. These awesome people from Ireland taught us how to do Clay Animation total Wallace and Grommit Style! I really enjoyed it and it was so hot it melted our clay so we were covered in red and green slime... what fun!

Hanging out with Caitlin all day makes me feel like I stepped back in time to be 10 again. Life seemed so simple and sweet and oh so dramatic. When life consisted of friendship bracelets and sticker albums, secret worlds and polly pockets, roller skating and sleep overs (especially cool were the back-to-back sleep overs). I was so fortunate to have one really great best friend... Tara. We met in third grade under the rule of Mrs. Eric, who was very possibly the meanest teacher at Park Ridge Elementary. We had a mutual friend, Victoria who invited both Tara and I over to her house for a sleep over. Tara and I became great friends instantly and remain the greatest of friends to this day. We had a secret world called TarabithaClare (after the book "Bridge to Terabithia") in the woods beside Tara's house that had a creek running through it. That was the first and possibly the only place I ever saw fairies as well as a momosa tree... the kind that troll hair grows on. We would spend countless hours in those woods, the pool, Tara's backyard hammock. We caught frogs in her small goldfish pond and found magic wherever we went. We played Tic-tac-toe until there was no more room on her front porch for any more chalk drawings. What a life eh? I guess the beauty of being a parent is that I get to do it all over again so long as I don't waste all of my time on housework and "getting things done."
Tara and I with popsicles. Summer, 1993

Same summer, modeling out matching
outfits and sticker-collections

Monday, June 18, 2007

Running with horses

I woke up to go for a jog with Leia, and Leia made friend's with the neighbor's horses. I don't know that she has ever seen a horse up close, and she dragged me across the road to see the horses that were grazing in the pasture. I was a little worried she would freak the horses out and they would trample down their fence and stomp on us... or more likely that the owners would hear their horses freaking out and come out with a shot gun and shoot my dog. To my great relief the horses didn't freak out and Leia is still a living animal. Instead, the horses ran up to us... which was really awe-inspiring. The ground shook as the horses trotted up to us. There was one regular horse and two small horses (maybe ponies?). The two smaller ones ran up to Leia and sniffed her as she sniffed them. When they shook their manes she lept back two feet, a little unsure about these large non-dog animals. Then I dragged Leia along and the horses followed us inside their pen... shaking the ground with every step. Leia woo-ed at them in her native husky tongue and then we went our seperate ways. So I started my day running with horses.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The High Price of A Good Deal

In a book I read of a little old woman purchasing the holy grail at a thrift store for fifty cents. The next day a knight showed up at her door, wishing to trade magical artifacts for it. What is it that drives us toward a purchase? Perhaps the thrill of getting a good deal. Who doesn't applaud themselves when they save ten dollars by buying something second hand? It is a feel good feeling. But when is saving money not really saving money?

I stopped by Goodwill last week looking for accessories for my pirate costume, and left the store with a pair of pirate-y pants and a belt, and a bag full of clothes for Anastasia for less than $15! I was so pleased with myself and vowed not to buy any more clothes for her full price. Everything looked brand new, some items, including an adorable organic cotton outfit, still included tags. Does Anastasia really need an entire month's worth of clothes so I won't have to do laundry all the time? No. But boy is it fun dressing her up like a little doll, in my bargain clothes. I suppose this is my vice.... crafting and goodwill shopping on dollar day where all items with a certain color tag are $1. This is seriously better than the dollar store, and I feel as if I am doing the earth and my community a favor by recycling clothes instead if purchasing new ones. Why waste our resources on new clothes, when so many clothes already exist. This also keeps me from supporting large chain stores which pay people pennies in third world countries to make fine clothes to sell at outrageous prices. Goodwill on the other hand is run by Americans, some disabled, and sends most, if not all of their proceeds back into the community. This my friends is my reasoning for spending $15 on items that I could very well live without.

My dad loves Sam's Club. He swears he could not afford to eat healthy at regular grocery prices. His beloved bargain strawberries are over ripe, his Bananas turn from green to brown missing the perfectly yellow stage, and his tomatos are mushy, therefore hard to cut, and threaten the well being of my fingers. He buys everything in bulk in the name of saving money. Perhaps he gets the same thrill at Sam's club as I get at Goodwill. Instead of spending $15 for high quality items, he spends $200 on sub-par groceries. He shakes his head in disbelief when I buy fresh blueberries at the Farmer's Market for twice as much as his from Sam's Club. But when half of his groceries rot or get wasted as mine are fresh and eaten before they become spoiled, I am reminded of the price of "a good deal".

I am not trying to brag about my shopping abilities, and denounce my father's in any way. He is happy with his purchases. I am happy with mine. This is just a constant issue in my current living situation, and I am venting about why I am a food snob. Sam Walton is filthy rich and getting richer every day. Animals are living in scum, and pumped with antibiotics and hormones. Our fruits and veggies are saturated in chemicals for growth and pesticides for protection. Mass produced produce lacks flavor and freshness. People are living in poverty all around the world, and major corporations are employing them and allowing them to continue their poverty-stricken lives while they are getting richer and richer. But its okay, because we are all getting "a good deal".

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Chicago and back again.

Chicago was awesome. I miss it now. I miss the pizza. We had such a blast! Here are some pictures Nick and Anastasia at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Nick driving in his native Chi-Town. Need I say more?
The oh so cuddly polar bear at the zoo...
It doesn't get any better than Ethel's chocolate Lounge. Even Anastasia agrees!

Cutest moments from our trip:

1. One night Anastasia was awakened as Nick and I were looking for our shoes when Snow (my in-laws crazy Samoyed) ran away. When we got back and comforted her, Nick looked at her and said, "ok now back to bed" she looked at him, her eyes teared up and she gave him a big, sad pout and a very for-lorn cry. I think she knew what he was saying. He apologized to her and told her she could stay up and she was ok with that.

2. We went to Gaety's Ice Cream, a homemade chocolate and ice cream shop with chocolate ice cream to die for. There were actual chocolate shavings in the ice cream. Anastasia was eyeing it, so I put it up to her mouth to see what she would do. She loved it. She kept grabbing for the cone and opening her mouth as wide as she could. I could hardly eat it as she was lunging for it practically. I gave her a few more tastes which she ended up wearing but didn't want to overdo it due to her milk allergy. When Nick finished his shake, he took her, and she started crying because she wanted more ice cream so we had to leave.

Ok, those are the only really cute moments on the top of my head. A great time was had by all.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Some pictures...

We are leaving for Chicago tomorrow, so I won't be posting for a while. We went camping last weekend... and it was great! Anastasia loved it! She definately loves the outdoors. There is nothing like waking up at daybreak to a cup of perculated coffee to the refreshing sounds and smells of nature. Here are some pictures:
Nick and Anastasia by the river

Anastasia- roughing it

Yay for camping!

View from our campsite, early in the morning

The waterfalls at our campground.

Anastasia's newly inherited swing... I think she likes it!