7 Quick Takes, Numero Deux

Joining Jen once again.

There is no theme, order, or purpose to these takes. You’re welcome.

1. Ryan’s had a rough week, so I decided to make him a nice treat last night. And, no, not just a smoothie, which I usually pass off as “dessert.” I’m a big apple crisp fan, but last night I took it up a notch and made this. It was amazing. I’d like to inform you that I didn’t make it healthier at all. Not a drop of agave nectar, not a crumb of flax seed. Well, I guess the pears and apples were organic. Next time, maybe I’ll go crazy and use the pesticide ones.

2. This morning I decided to brave the playgroup/Mom’sgroup at my parish. I’ve been on the email list for a few weeks now, but even though I’m an extrovert, new situations are stress stress stressful for my awkward, spazzy self. I decided to be about 10-15 minutes late [that’s still fashionable, right?]. I followed the directions carefully, but there wasn’t a single car parked in the driveway, none in the street in front of the house. I drove past three or four times, one of which a cop car was right behind me. Surely he made note of my plates. Since I was sans iPhone, I called Ryan at work. He opened up my email, and confirmed the address and time. Being the stalker he is, Ryan even opened up google maps and confirmed the appearance of the house. I almost just gave up and went to go find something to eat, but I’m glad I didn’t, because more moms (and even a SAHdad) showed up with lots of cute kiddos. It was delightful. And there were cupcakes.

3. I didn’t want my Miss Grabby McGraberson pawing at my cupcake, so I intelligently handed her a couple little tomatoes. And her sweater was mostly white.

4. Does anyone know how to get tomato stains out of white sweaters?

5. Things are coming along with the house, albeit s-l-o-w-y. I’m really happy with “our” rug choices thus far. For those of you who know me, I think you’ll be surprised at my color choices. Sneak peek:

5.b. Here is a sneak peek at the dining room chairs. They are still drying in these pics, in case you care. At the rate I’m coming with these, I think they’ll be ready for Mena’s Sweet 16 party:

6. Raise your hand if you cried during Max’s election speech this week on Parenthood.

7. On a even more sincere note, my friend wrote this and this. I haven’t been this moved by a Catholic article on the internet in a LONG time.

Happy weekend. Tonight my twin 5-year-old nieces come over for a sleepover. I’m sure it will be a very sophisticated soiree.

 

meal plan: week of Oct. 22

 Sunday- spinach pesto pasta with sundried tomato chicken sausage

Monday- Mexican lasagna, with some sort of vegetable (salad?)

Tuesday- chicken and stuffing casserole; roasted carrots

Wednesday- family dinner

Thursday- homemade black bean burgers with sweet potato fries

Friday- sweet potato soup and homemade mac ‘n cheese [I very loosely follow this recipe, but substitute whole wheat noodles and I use half white cheddar/half chipotle white cheddar cheese.]

Saturday- sweet Moroccan-spiced chicken with braised radishes

why I said goodbye to my iPhone

[Once again, I’d like to warn you that this post gets a little deeper than my typical skim-the-surface-ness, and there is only one picture, which you’ve already seen. No offense taken if you don’t care about my existential angst.]

Before anyone gets into a tizzy, allow me to be clear: I am not a luddite. I think technology can be worthwhile, enjoyable, a means of human connection, and even a tool of evangelization. Also, I am an Apple devotee. I think their products are inventive, user-friendly, and just plain cool. I absolutely loved my iPhone. More than merely for entertainment, it was sincerely useful for me. I have encouraged many to get one, and I will probably continue to do so.

That said, about a month ago, I reverted back to an “old school,” non-data phone.

Why, oh why, would I do such a thing?

The practical reason was money. I wanted to switch cellphone carriers to join Ryan’s plan, and it would have required me to buy a new phone. Plus, Ryan cut himself off from his Droid last year, and we would have had to upgrade his plan to include data. As a one-income family, we’re finding ourselves having to make more sacrifices, and this just seemed like a fairly obvious one to embrace.

However, more than just the monetary aspect, there were deeper motivations to going cold turkey off a data phone. In my couple years of ownership, my use of it varied in both type and duration. Recently, my frequency of use had been dramatically increasing. Last Lent, I didn’t give it up completely, but I was working on being more temperate. I think that went well, but let’s be honest, it’s hard to be temperate with something that is literally next to you every minute of the day.

Even more, it started becoming  more than just something I was checking too often; I had slowly begun using it as an escape. As I alluded last week, these past few months have been very stressful for me. There were some external, concrete reasons for this– moving, Ryan’s work schedule and school, a little bout of sickness, Philomena becoming more mobile. And yet, it was also a deeper stress that I can’t quite pinpoint, but I know it involved some insecurity on my part and my gaze focusing on things other than the Person of Christ. [And really, if we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t that the source of all angst?] Almost unconsciously, when I started feeling overwhelmed, it became almost-habit to pull out my little iPhone friend and check Facebook, blogs, instagram, twitter, etc. Instead of becoming a means of communication and entertainment, it had become merely a diversion from reality.

Something I’ve struggled with for quite some time is being present in the moment, especially to those around me. I have one of those minds that is very cluttered and is constantly thinking about twelve different things. It is an effort to focus on a particular conversation and be fully aware of the person in front of  me. This is a bit easier when the people with whom I’m engaging can actually talk, but as a mother of someone who’s verbal skills haven’t gone beyond nondescript syllables [including the heart-melting “Ma-Ma”], it is so easy to let my thoughts wander and get into my own mental world, instead of being truly present and aware of her. Obviously, this is unavoidable in some sense, but when I had this nice little black box next to me with endless distractions with the swipe of a finger, it made it more and more tempting not to even attempt to be present to her. Or more often than I care to admit, when I’d be with Ryan at home or in the car, I’d numbly nod “uh, huh” to his words, as I was reading something like an in-depth article on the correct method for making ghee.

I don’t want to give this impression that I was some technological zombie who ignored my baby and my husband. I was probably engaged over 90% of the time, but that other 10% is still important: it is time that I will never get back.

While I was making this decision, I had one of those motherly hormone-induced moments in which I tearily imagined Philomena as an older child, a teen-ager, a young adult, and my heart was struck with just how precious these moments with her are [soooo totally cliche and trite, I know, I know…], especially the countless hours spent nursing. It was so easy to feed her while catching up on my overflowing google reader, chock-full of Catholic commentary blogs, mommy blogs, food blogs, pop culture blogs, news blogs. And yet, the older she gets, I am sure I will long for those quiet, intimate moments that will never be repeated.

A while back I was watching a friend’s older children, and I took them to the park. It was a beautiful day, so there were quite a few parents on the sidelines watching the kids play. I observed a number of them check their phones frequently and for long durations. I even saw a few kids yelling and clamoring for their parent’s attention. Surprisingly for my judge-y self, my first reaction wasn’t condemnation [I mean, there really are many legitimate reasons to be on your phones while kids are playing- important work email, contacting someone who you’re supposed to be meeting at said park, a friend in need, etc.], but instead all I could think was, “oh, wow. That’s going to be me some day. Please, please don’t let it be.”

I heard a story on the radio once about how the reactions in our brains when we receive an alert from our phones are similar to when people do drugs. With every beep or vibration with a text message, email, etc., your brain releases certain pleasure chemicals that can lead to an addiction to these alerts. [I am pretty sure this is the interview I remember.] I think that “addiction” is a strong word to describe my reliance on the iPhone, especially in light of true struggles with serious addictions, but I can definitely see how it does affect my mind and the need for instant gratification.

So, basically, I wanted to cut myself off, before I became someone I didn’t want to be. Lest you think I’m a perfect saint, we still kept the phone, and I can use it where there’s wifi (like, um, our house), but I’ve really noticed that I go to it FAR less often than before, because I don’t “need” it near me like a phone. Its primary use is in the kitchen, for times when I haven’t printed off a recipe or I want to listen to music or a podcast while doing dishes. It’s also convenient when Ryan needs to use the computer for homework, and I need to check Facebook. ;)

Okay, I know this is getting long, but I wanted to share some unintended consequences of no-iPhone. For one, I no longer feel “obligated” to all the blogs and websites I visited. I know that sounds strange, but my google reader was almost like my inbox, and I was always feeling as though I needed to “catch-up.” [Yes, I’m rolling my eyes at me too right now.] I don’t know if it is necessarily because of the lack of a data phone, but now because my time on the computer is so limited, I just read what I can, comment when I can, and beyond that I just let it go. [I know, I know, everyone else in the universe figured out this little nugget of wisdom a long time ago.] Another unexpected benefit is that when I’m holding sleepy Philomena after nursing, I’ve actually spent time in prayer and even picked up some spiritual reading.

I’ll admit there have been some downsides to the switch. Mostly, I’ve missed some cool picture or video moments, because I don’t have it with me. [Because I’m obviously such a slacker when it comes to taking pictures of my baby.] And I hate, hate, hate texting with the normal phone. But, really, these are small inconveniences for the pay off in my life.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love me some internets. I will be forever devoted to the filtered-picture crazy of instagram, and most of you know my constant presence on Facebook. And I still read way too much about pop culture, the state of Catholicism in America, and the newest food trends. I will still visit my beloved blogs, and I’ll even try to comment now and again. And, let’s be honest, I’ll probably check my email about a thousand times to see if this post received any comments.

Also, please please please don’t let my silly ramblings make you feel guilty about your data phone. Seriously. Like I said, the iPhone is awesome, and I’m glad you have it. Truthfully, I’ll  probably get another one some day. And really, it’s not just phones that take away our being present to those whom we encounter. If we allow it, practically anything can disengage us from the reality before us.

However, for this season of my life, it’s best that I said au revoir to my frenemy, Mr. iPhone.

7 Quick Takes {delicious new recipes}

Instead of using my naptime freedom to watch the latest episode of “Nashville” [oh, Tammy Taylor Connie Britton, you rock my world], I thought I’d grace the internets with my first 7 Quick Takes installment. I’ve been meaning to get on Jen‘s bandwagon for quite awhile now, but well, we all know I’m a lazy blogger.

One of the stresses of moving was the time it took to get our kitchen in order. I know meal planning and preparation can be a big stress for some, and this might change when I have a child who eats more than little bites of our food, but for me making dinner is often the best part of my day. I feel like with a destroyer of everything in her path crawling baby, I never really get anything “accomplished” [other than forming her soul and mind, of course]. However, when I can bring together the chaos of ingredients to create something that makes sense, it just puts me at ease and makes me proud. I know this sounds idyllic: trust me, it’s not. I often let out quite a few profanities as such-and-such is burning on the stove or I realize I’m missing a key ingredient. And, let’s not talk about the fact Ryan and I ate at 10 PM on Monday, because I was a wee bit off on my timing.

ANYWAY…I’ve tried some amazing new recipes these past couple weeks, and since I’ve been slacking on actually posting my weekly meal plans, I thought I’d share them now. You’re welcome.

1. Pork Loin. This recipe came from an ah-mazing book that Ashley recently gave me. Thankfully, it’s also online. I substituted cran-apple juice for pomegranate juice, because, well, it was way cheaper. Still delicious. With aforementioned pork loin, I served this beet and sweet potato hash. It was so pretty! And yummy.

2. Speaking of sweet potatoes, I was daring and tried this sweet potato pizza. Definitely a keeper. I didn’t include kale the first time, but I think I’m going to make it again tonight with the kale. I’ll let your inquiring minds know how it goes. Oh, and I added some garlic with the olive oil on the crust. A must.

3. The first “real” meal I cooked in the house, eaten on a card table, no less, was this fantastic sweet potato pot pie, compliments the book I already mentioned. Yes, I was an over-achiever and monogrammed it too. Evidence here.

4. I don’t know if you could tell, but our CSA share has been laden with sweet potatoes… Both Karen and Erin were raving about this sweet potato and pork soup on the Facebook, so I had to get with the trend. Gotta be honest, it is an ugly dish, but the taste is anything but ugly. [Note: I only used half of a pork loin for recipe #1, then I used the other half for this soup. I know, I know, I am a meal-planning savant.]

5. So, I’ve tried whole wheat versions of focaccia bread time and time again. They always turned out “meh.” However, I trust Erika, and she posted this focaccia bread a while back. Well, I substituted all whole wheat pastry flour, then added two tablespoons of vital wheat gluten and an extra tablespoon of water. It was fabulous.

6. I’ve made this pumpkin bread quite a few times before, but this time I tried maple syrup instead of honey. Yum.

Aaaaand, if you want to make a healthy bread UNhealthy, try this pumpkin spread, compliments the pumpkin fairies: half a block of cream cheese, softened; half (or a little less) stick of salted butter, softened; about 1/4 to 1/3 cup pumpkin; 1/3 cup powdered sugar; 1/4 teas cinnamon; 1/8 teas ginger and nutmeg; pinch of ground cloves. Mix it with an electric mixer until smooth-ish.

7. Oh, you want more sweet potato recipes? Alrighty then. This sweet potato shepherd’s pie was quite tasty. I didn’t put egg in the potatoes, because that seemed weird to me, but Rachael Ray probably knows more than I do, so you should probably listen to her instead.

Happy weekend, y’all. Go eat some sweet potatoes.*

[*This post was sponsored by the American Council for Sweet Potatoes…not. That group doesn’t exist. Or maybe it does. I’m too lazy to google it.]

 

hello, are you out there? it’s me: sarah

Let’s all agree upfront that people who blog very sporadically, then apologize at the beginning of every post for not blogging are just plain annoying.

Sorry for not writing for a while! [I never said I wasn’t annoying. Quite the contrary.]

Life has been seriously crazy. We bought a house, which among the back-and-forth price negotiations, repair negotiations, and the moving process itself, I have been one big ball of crazy. Seriously. It’s ridiculous. I think stressful situations bring out the best in Ryan and the worst in me. He stays very calm, focused, and decisive, whereas I have complete break-downs about things like ceiling fans. This is no exaggeration. No one should shed as many tears and spend as much time researching online as I did. And let’s not even talk about paint colors. I have honestly blocked out most of the self-inflicted trauma from this endeavor.

Being the very sane people we are, two days after closing we went to Minnesota for my cousin’s wedding. The twelve-hours-each-way car ride with our (then) 8-month-old was not nearly as terrible as I anticipated. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was classy and a lot of fun. Good thing I took lots of pictures of the important details. Nope. Nada. However, my over-achieving sister made coordinating-but-not-perfectly-matching duds for the female cousins. Of this, pictures abound:

[It’s only been a month-and-a-half since the wedding, but man, Mena looks *so little*]

And before I show you this next picture, please understand that I am NOT pregnant, but for some reason this picture puts me at about 27 weeks. I couldn’t figure out why it looks this way, but Ryan and I re-created this picture in front of a mirror later on that day [vain much, Sarah?], and apparently the culprit is the angle at which I was holding the baby on my hip. Needless to say, I don’t pose like this anymore.

Anyway, after the trip is when we began the packing/furniture ordering/painting process. And this is when I just kind of lost it for about a month. Seriously. Even the mere thought of blogging made my heart race, so I gave it up for awhile. However, this morning while the 9-month (!!) babe took an epic nap, and as I was sipping ridiculously strong/amazing black coffee with left-over pumpkin bread and pumpkin spread [recipe forthcoming some day, I hope], I thought, “huh. blogging sounds like a good idea.”

——

So, the very moment I typed the above-paragraph, the baby woke up. I kid you not. It is now A WEEK later, and I am longing for that pumpkin bread again. I don’t know why I never finished this post. A few times this week when she was taking a good nap, I thought, “you know, I should blog.” Instead, I chose to undertake heroic acts like catching up on Parenthood[Can we talk about how amazing this season has been?! Even though I repeat to myself over and over again, “this is not real life, these are just actors” I still find myself tearing up with every episode! It’s ridiculous. And one of my fav things about this show is that lots of actors from Friday Night Lights make guest appearances. When Luke Cafferty showed up, I just about lost it with excitement. And, um, *Ray Ramano*? I’ve always been kind of “meh” about him, but he has been so incredible.]

Okay, so basically, the perfect storm of moving, Ryan’s demanding work and school schedule, a VERY active baby, and a Mommy who apparently doesn’t deal with stress very well, it’s been a tough couple months. And I hate complaining, because we are *so blessed.* Seriously. God has provided for us in ways unimaginable. Our family and friends have helped us out more than we could ever thank them.

I have about a million posts marinating in my head. Here’s hoping I get to one sometime in the next month.

In the meantime, I’m going to dump some of my (not so great) camera-phone pics up here. [I guess it’s not a “phone” anymore. More on that later.] Most of them I think I’ve put on instagram or Facebook. Sorry to bore you with the ‘peats. Also, I was having some formatting issues, but I just wanted to get this silly post up, so just deal. Thank you.

First meal in new house (Chipotle); Philomena exploring.

More exploring:

Making hotel bed very very safe for the youngin’:

Fell asleep on dance floor. Is Ryan singing or screaming?; paint angst:

Baby helping indecisive mother; generous sister:

I swear the walls aren’t *that* yellow (it’s the photo-filter), featuring a rare cameo of shorts on the old man:

These heads have made many appearances on the driveway of our new next-door-neighbors. Yes, we lock our doors at night. [Apparently, said neighbor is preparing to put her house on the market. Anyone out there want to live next to us? I’ll make you cookies.]

Best feature of the new house is a skinny mirror, downside is I now lack the motivation to exercise; oh yeah, I had a birthday and my sister made me a decadent mocha cake:

baby loved the balloons tied to her wrist; no idea the context of this pic:

Attempt #4 at this self-portrait. I decided to call it “artsy.” On our way to date night to see “Sleepwalk with Me.” It was a decent flick. Within the audience there was definitely a disproportionate amount of unnecessary scarves and statement glasses. I would expect nothing less from a “This American Life” crowd. We fit right in.

Mother-in-law loves me a lot:

Classy:

First meal in new house. Sweet potato chicken pot pie. [Recipe forthcoming. Maybe.]

Bib o’ drool, no socks, missing one leg warmer. Hot mess.:

We’ve finally embraced the solid food bandwagon. Spaghetti is a fav:

This morning she fell and upper-lip swelled to three-times its normal size. Motherly guilt abounded:

p.s. Ryan posted the worst picture of me ever on his blog. I am sharing this as your little treat for making it this far.