Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Searching of Heart

There's an empty baby bassinet in Don's office. I planned on recovering it with new fabric and making it as adorable as possible, but I don't need to do that now. It takes up space, and I should probably move it into the attic, but I don't want to do that either.

I am waiting.

And thanking God, hard as it is sometimes. Thank you for taking my child before I really knew her, thank you for sparing her a life of heartache and soul-searching. Thank you for letting her be big enough that I know how it felt to hold her.

My hands have been so busy that I know it's time for my heart to be still. Does that make sense? Just like a baby cries the loudest when he is exhausted, my hands work the hardest when they are running from stillness. Because if you take away the innumerable play dates, the lunches, the bakery that is my kitchen, the restaurant that is my dining room, there should still be reliance on Him. And I am sad to say, but saying honestly, there isn't. Right now, there is fear of the unknown, discomfort in waiting, and impatience.

So it's time for me to do what I know I must. What I must because I choose Him, because I believe in Him, because I know so deeply what I am without Him. It's time to seek Him first. Yes, first. First, before my morning cup of coffee, before I check younghouselove, before I turn on the news at 6:30 am, before I plan dinner or go on a run.

I cannot offer Him a knit hat, or a carefully curated Pinterest page. What I can offer him right now is an empty bassinet, hands that keep kneading bread and typing away when really they should be empty and lifted high.

So here goes.

Here it is, God.

Take my empty bassinet and my searching heart and make them Yours.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
-Psalm 51:17

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Baking Nights

Sometimes I let my mind wander through this fantasy of mine. I walk through the front door and the whole house is sparkling clean, everything smells like lemons and freshly baked bread, the freezer is full of meals I prepared by hand, and all the laundry is put away. Then I open my eyes, take a look at the mounds of laundry piled on every flat surface, the half-finished painting/sewing/knitting/writing/cleaning projects that lurk in corners of each room, and I decide to start on the simplest of projects. Baking projects. Cooking projects. Projects that aren't really projects but necessary tasks that can be completed in a couple of hours tops. 

Because if having chocolate chip cookies stashed in the freezer, ready to be baked at any moment, isn't a necessary task, then I don't know what is.

I make the batter, stir in the chocolate chips, and then I use an ice cream scoop to scoop cookies onto a baking sheet. I freeze them for about an hour on the baking sheet, then I throw them in a ziploc freezer bag and store them in the freezer. I can bake as many or as few cookies as I need over the course of the next couple of months, though they never last that long. 

I used to love to carefully prepare meals, and while I still cook daily around here, tossing some meat and veggies together with a hungry toddler running around isn't the same thing as taking my time and enjoying the process of preparing food. About one night a month, I start baking and cooking once William is in bed, and I don't stop until midnight. I love these late night baking sessions. There's something magical to me about baking bread at midnight and waking up to a house that smells like cookies. This week, I stayed up making loaves of bread, cookies to freeze, and tons of whole wheat pizza dough.

I make the bread first so that it has time to rise before the sun sets.

Whoops. I forgot to check on this loaf of whole wheat and it rose and busted out of the plastic wrap. It still turned out fine.

I made up a recipe for some chicken, spinach, and feta mini meatballs for William. They were actually pretty delicious.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Random Fact & He Doesn't Like Hats

First, I think this is funny. On this blog's stats page, I can see google searches that directed people here. Yesterday, someone was directed to my blog after searching for "6 month olds with fat curled toes." I find that oddly amusing.

Second, I finished the hat.
I took my time with this hat. I followed the directions (well not really, but I did use stitch markers!). I counted stitches and actually tried to fix errors I made, but the hat is pretty wonky. I would like to say that I am okay with that, but you know what? I'm not. I'm going to keep practicing and make another hat. I love the idea of and the actual act of knitting. This yarn may not be ideal for the kind of hat I'm trying to make for William, but I chose it because I LOVE the colors and because it's absolutely squeezably soft with not a thread of itchiness to it. Perfect for being snugly folded across a toddler forehead.

 He didn't feel like modeling the hat.
 I may or may not have given him tiny bites of an apricot dark chocolate cookie to distract him from the fact that he was wearing a knit hat in 105 degree weather.
 Notice how he starts pulling the hat off as soon as the last cookie bite is in his mouth?
 Cookie gone, hat off.
 Maybe I gave him more bits of cookie so I could move him into the light from the window. See the chocolate smear on his cheek?
 He ate too fast for my camera.
Cookie in mouth, hat in hand.

Maybe he'll wear the next one I make.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Hat for a Two-headed Baby

I'm thinking of fall. I'm thinking specifically of what clothes William won't outgrow before it's cold outside, and how many pairs of tiny corduroy pants and knit sweaters I get to buy. And I'm thinking of making him the perfect cozy little hat. Of course, perfect should not be a word I use. Remember the last time I tried to knit a hat?
But here goes. I'm trying again. So far, I've only had to completely undo every last stitch three times because of errors that would turn my hat into an infinity circle, also known as a figure 8, or a hat for a two-headed toddler. This time, I've made it farther than ever without a ruinous error, so maybe this hat will actually pan out. I figure since I'm starting in August, it should be ready by October. Or November. At the latest. Are there any projects that intimidate you but you're going to try anyway?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Messy House

Our house is messy on a regular basis. And by regular basis, I mean every day. It gets messy; I clean it up. Repeat 5 or 6 times a day. The other day someone told me she was frustrated because her house is messy and mine is not. 

I felt bad.

Bad because our house is messy and I hide that. I do straighten our house before most people come over. And I do light a couple of candles and wipe off the counters and set out some coffee and cream and margaritas (this is Texas, after all) on a big wicker tray and try to throw some cookies in the oven. And while there's nothing wrong with making your place inviting for other people, there is something wrong with never letting people see the messes, too. Our house is not perfect, and many days I feel like a hot mess of a wife and mother. Some days, I would rather paint or spray glue in a can on doilies or try to make a quilt or go swimming in the river than clean. About an hour ago, our house looked like this.

Clean laundry on the dining table. For two days. Have I mentioned that I HATE folding clothes?

Don made breakfast this morning while I slept in. Mama like.

Beer and puffs? Classy!

Sometimes this counter is just an array of random junk.
Anyway, I don't want to give the impression that we are something other than what we are. We are messy. Just needed to get that off my chest. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sister Wives

When I was a research clinician, I had a colleague who kept me sane. When I was a research monitor, I had a clinical team mate whom I met for lunch on a weekly basis and we laughed at the ridiculousness of FDA rules until we didn't feel so overwhelmed by them. Now that I am a stay at home mom, I am so grateful to have Brandi as my friend and (oh happy happy day!) right-across-the-street-neighbor. She is my co-worker, if you can have a co-worker as a stay at home mom. She's like my mentor since she has a 5 year old and a 17 month old; whatever I'm going through, she's been there and done that. 

Our little ones are on different nap schedules, so when her baby sleeps, William and I walk hand-in-hand (very, very slowly) across the street to Brandi's house, and William gets free reign over his little friend's toys while we talk and confide in and encourage each other. Brandi has a 100-year-old live oak in her front yard with a wooden swing. When William is having a hard time settling down before a nap, I rock him in this swing. One week, the two of us spent a lot of time in Brandi's front yard. An older retired woman on our street asked Brandi if everything was okay at my house since I'd been spending so much time at Brandi's. We joke that the observant neighbors on our street probably think we're sister wives.
See the heart on her drink lid? She was jokingly blowing kisses when I took a picture of her, and the teenager taking orders thought she was blowing kisses at him. Ha!
Here's my sister wife on an evening Sonic run. For me, the true test of a friendship is whether I can do Sonic runs for diet cherry limeades with the person. Sure, there are lots of people who want to meet for drinks during happy hour or for double date dinners. But a run to Sonic in pjs? That's a true friend.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Something I Love

The other day I mentioned that I hit the mother of all doily mother lodes. And even though I've wanted to make a mismatched vintage-feeling table runner for the past few years, once I got my hands on these creations, they were so intricate and interesting that I couldn't stop looking at them. It didn't feel right to lay them flat on a table where they wouldn't get much attention, so I decided to place them center stage.

I've wanted something big and dramatic to hang in our dining room for awhile, but I hadn't been able to find or think of the perfect thing. I decided to adhere the doilies to a large piece of painted plywood to make a big bold statement. Our style is very transitional; we have one large antique in almost every room of our house, but we like bold prints, black and white trim, and saturated colors. I love the contrast of these doilies against the dark background.

The Dons (my husband and father-in-law) built a framed piece of 1/4 inch thick solid plywood for me that measured 4 feet by 6 feet, just slightly smaller than our farmhouse style dining table. They attached mitered pieces of 1X4 plywood to the back of the front piece of plywood so that the wood won't warp over time. I painted it with black enamel, and once that dried, I painted over it with a coat of Martha Stewart's Metallic Glaze in Black Coffee, which I bought at Home Depot for less than $6. Painting this massive piece of plywood only used about 1/3 of the paint, so I feel like that six bucks was money well spent.  I hadn't planned on putting a metallic sparkle over the black paint, but I happened to see it when we bought the plywood and I thought it would give the background a nice sheen.

The picture above was taken close to midnight last night, and I think the paint definitely has more sparkle after nightfall. It's barely noticeable during the day, as you can see from the pictures I took this afternoon that are posted at the top of this post.

I let the glaze cure overnight, and this morning I adhered the doilies to the painted wood using 3M spray adhesive, which you can find in the spray paint section of Home Depot. I completed this step outside because the spray adhesive gets in the air and it's not safe to breathe in. It's also super tacky, and I ruined a bath towel making this project. I was in a rush to complete this and didn't take the time to find our drop cloth.

I have to say, I love it! I plan on eventually covering the entire surface with doilies and lace, and then using a light gloss spray to give everything a subtle sheen and tie it together, but I love it as it is, too.

In other news, William wanted to sit on my lap as I finished typing this post, and I realized that I can take pictures of us using Photo Booth. They're not as great as with a manual camera, but who cares. I just want proof that I raised this kid!

Just Real Quick

I finished my massive doily project (6 feet by 4 feet to be exact), but before I post it I just wanted to share something. I came across a blog post that really resonated with me at Handmade Recess, a blog I just discovered on Friday (thanks, Mom!).

Her metaphor of steadying the rigging for other women hits home with me. On a personal level, I've been struggling with how to handle subtle insults from other women lately. Not since junior high have I encountered so much smugness from other women, but I come from a social circle where no one leaves their career to be a stay-at-home mom, and I find myself dealing with a zinger of an insult on a weekly basis because of my choice to stay home. My struggle lies not with what my old friends and colleagues think of me, but how I choose to respond to their bitter words. My inclination is to sting back, or to lay out my education and resume like a proclamation that I am feminist, I am educated, and I choose to raise my child full time, too. Hear me roar, huh? But I want my responses to other women to lift them up, not shove them in return.

I want to help hold other women steady, not punish them for having a moment of unkindness towards me. I don't want to have bitterness in me, but it can grow so quickly. Like a dandelion weed.

If you ever feel the same, maybe you would like this post, too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Doily Motherlode

My mother-in-law hit the motherlode, on my behalf. Several years ago when Country Living published an article on ways to use vintage doilies, I was smitten with a table runner made by stitching mismatched doilies together. Since then, I've been on the hunt for a massive amount of old and cheap doilies. My MIL found a box of over 40 doilies and vintage napkins and linens for $7 at a garage sale this morning. She knows how to haggle, and I am so glad she did it for me! (Thanks, Billye!)

As I sorted the doilies and began to arrange them in a pattern I liked for a table runner, I noticed how intricate some of them are. Some are handmade, true works of art, and others were probably purchased from Marshall's in the '80s. 
5 points if you can find William in this picture.
Looking at the arrangement of these doilies down the center of our dining table inspired me. So scratch the idea of making a table runner. I'm putting these guys to better use. I'll post the pics as soon as it's finished, but I can't get started until tomorrow, since I'll need to borrow my father-in-law's truck to complete this doily project. No, seriously.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Leftover Summer Veggie Pizza

I am not a fan of veggie pizza because the steaming chunks of onion, pepper, and black canned-tasting olives tend to fall off the pizza in chunks, leaving big cheeseless craters behind. And a cheeseless crater is not my idea of a good time. But tonight, I made pizza and realized we had some extra fresh sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli we needed to use.

This combo of veggies was delicious. Even William approved.
The veggies were small enough not to weigh down the pizza, and the addition of basil pesto gave the pizza a richer and fuller taste.

I started with one ball of freshly made whole wheat pizza dough.
Then I layered it with tomato-basil pasta sauce, herb-marinated mozzarella, parmesan cheese, tiny broccoli florets, fresh sweet corn straight off the cob, and halved cherry tomatoes. I drizzled lightly some basil pesto over the top.
I always assemble my pizza on a flat sheet pan covered with heaps of corn meal, which allows me to slide the prepared pizza straight from the pan onto the hot pizza stone in the oven without tearing the dough or spilling the ingredients on the oven floor while transferring it.
I bake it at 420 (our gas oven runs extremely hot, but if yours doesn't you might want to bake it closer to 500) for about 12 minutes. Let it cool a minute before slicing and eating. Yum!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Help & I Tried

Two things.

First, I am trying really hard not to eat a lot of sugar. Sugar is one of my top five weaknesses, right up there with new bottles of Essie nail polish, Pottery Barn pillows, lipgloss that isn't sticky, and anything with caffeine. But since William needs to eat dinner before 5 pm, I now eat dinner around 5, which means I am fantasizing about mint chocolate chip ice cream by 7 pm.

As I sat and finished The Help, I needed some sugar. I was desperate. We have nothing unhealthy to eat in this house. I stared at the open fridge, poked around the freezer, and stood in the pantry with my hand on my hip for a full five minutes before I remembered...PEEPS!

I still had some peeps in the pantry from Easter. Don't judge. I ate them up as I finished the book. They were kind of dried out and chewy, and I liked it. Remember? I said don't judge!

Have you read The Help? It took my breath away, largely because the world of the characters is not far removed from our world, especially the parts about caring for other people's children. I read it in two nights, and I want to start right back at the beginning.

Second thing.

Pictures of William and me together are extremely rare, especially since he learned to walk. It's odd because I am right beside him practically every moment of the day, guiding him, removing the remote control from his grubby little hands, wiping yogurt from between his fingers. But none of this is documented.

Today, I tried my best to get a picture of both of us. I really did. I did not succeed.

This is me protecting my lens from the tiniest hand of doom in existence.

Well, we're both in the frame. Kind of. 

The lighting was so nice. I was so close to taking a picture of both of us.

Almost! You can even see the little drool rash on his sweet cheeks. He sucks his index and middle fingers at the same time, which results in a pool of drool accumulating on his crib mattress. Did I mention that he sleeps face down while sucking on his drooly fingers?

Agh! He ducked down just as I took the picture.

Wrong focus. It's hard to control the zoom when you can't see what you're doing.

Oh em gee.

At this point, he was frustrated with me trying to confine him to the window area.

And then he pulled my hair. I think he did it out of love.
 At this point, I gave up.

And then this afternoon, after a hand washing break, I realized that taking a picture in the bathroom mirror may be the only way William and I are in a photo together. Even though you can't see either of our faces and my child is not dressed. You can see his tiny fingerprints all over the mirror from when he tries to grab that dang baby who is everywhere we go!

This mama needs a tripod and a camera remote.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New to Sewing: Happy Imperfect Ruffles

I live with all boys, so I will take some ruffles any way I can get them.

I guess technically these are more like pleats, but I choose to see them as ruffles. Ruffles on a kitchen towel. Because, let's be honest, I am the one cleaning the kitchen 99.9% of the time, and I would like some ruffles to be present for the ever-present task of wiping down a certain someone's high chair tray. I used scraps from William's crib bumper to sew a very long strip of fabric, hemming both the top and the bottom of the scraps. I joined them together in a very imperfect seam, as pictured above.

 Then, I pressed the strip of fabric into slightly irregularly spaced pleats and ironed them down.
 I sewed along the top and bottom seams, and now I have a pleated towel. Let's call it a pleated poppy towel, because the flowers printed on the fabric could possibly be poppies, right?
I am undisturbed by the fact that this towel looks like a seventh grade boy might have sewn it. I love knowing that I can SEW, even if it's just crooked lines. I'm off to find an incredibly complex pattern for some swanky Christmas stockings.