Friday, October 21, 2011

The Flavor of Autumn



With crisp air and changing leaves outside, our apartment smells of cinnamon and cloves as we simmer down apples picked during our annual trip to the orchard.  Homemade apple butter tops my list of favorite autumn flavors.  But I'm no food snob: candy corn ranks right after the pumpkin trifecta (pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin bread). 

What food do you savor every autumn?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Waking A Sleeping Infant

In the words of TS Eliot:

"Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."

(From "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" Lines 45-49)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crafting a Better Me

With the onset of motherhood a piece of me feared losing myself between the soiled diapers and the endearing expressions produced by Ramlet.  One thing the best mamas I've observed have in common is they continue a personal identity while adding mothering to their talents.  A quilter shouldn't give up design, a music lover their groovy mixes.

While waiting out early pregnancy's morning sickness (aka all-day nausea/dizziness/etc), I developed a plan of action for my months before Ramlet's arrival.  Some of the items were practical, like finding a new place to live and moving.  Some goals involved art and creations I worried would never materialize with a newborn's incessant schedule.

Counted Cross-Stitch: more tedious than morning sickness.
My month-by-month action plan blossomed larger than essential tasks and tardy creative intentions. I began considering motherhood an opportunity for me to become more of who I am by crafting a better me.  So I pried myself away from the gripping "your growing body/baby" books to reread the entire Bible.  I wanted a refresher on what I believe, on the hope I want to pass on to Ramlet.  I jazzed up this ambitious goal by reading The Message translation supplemented by my trusty pocket NIV.

Do not be deceived.  The smaller book is much, much longer.  Sneaky tiny font.
As I crossed off items on the pre-baby action plan, I realized crafting a better me doesn't end with the Ramlet's birth.  For better or worse, being a mom is being a closely scrutinized example for a child.  And I don't want my child to be chronically late, to use sloppy language, or to slack on developing his talents.

I'm going to fail, often, but I'm not going to let that be a deterrent from trying.  So I'm going to respect other people's time by being on time.  Instead of being lazy with my words I'm going to use precise language (for example: "I hate poopy diapers" when I mean "Poopy diapers stink!").  And, yes, I'm writing every day--even when I only find time to scribble down a few notes.  Someday I may want to finish that novel or simply remember the first time Ramlet hugged me back.

Have you ever used a major life transition to craft a better you?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Confessions of a List-Maker Gone Maternal

Have I mentioned how much I love to organize with notebooks?  I'm guessing my love of lists permeates this blog.  Many scratched down blogpost ideas involve lists.  It's probably a good thing I don't write all of these blogposts--boredom would underwhelm.

Just before Ramlet was born, I reached the point of needing to replace my primary list notebook.  I knew then my list-making days were about to change.

Non-variety: the consistency of life.
My lists these days are short.  I usually only write a one-page weekly list as opposed to pushing myself to accomplish as much five days out of seven.  And, really, my high priority goals are as follows:

1.  Make the bed.  It gives a day, no matter what hours you're keeping, rhythm.
2.  Take a shower.  Refreshing and relaxing ... and surprisingly hard to plan with a newborn's whimsical schedule.
3.  Do a load of laundry.  Between breastfeeding, cloth diapers, and general infant behavior, laundry piles up quickly.
4.  Get out of the house.  Sitting on the porch: not good enough.  Checking the mail: borderline.  Taking out the trash and recycling: technically accurate, but void of spirit.  Strolling Ramlet around the neighborhood or running an errand (gasp) alone when Husband's watching Ramlet: ideal.
5.  Write something.

#5 is one of three personal objectives I determined will make me a better parent for Ramlet.  The other two?  Well, hopefully, I'll get the chance to share those thoughts before this week is out.  Right now I need to go check on the baby.

Anyone notice the irony of me writing about my overuse of lists and then using one in the same entry?  It's an organizational method I can't avoid.  How do you stay organized?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome Ramlet!

We did it!*

Sylvia Plath, in "Morning Song," sums it up:

"Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements."

* Back in August.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

13 Ways to Induce Labor

It's been awhile, no?  And, a lot's happened.  While there's almost too much to write about, I'll bring you the highlights from the last (gasp) two months in the next few posts.  Then I'll get back to the adventure found in each new day.

Nine months pregnant: when waddling replaces walking.

This list, originally meant to be a parody of Wallace Stevens "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,"* sums up the last week of my pregnancy.  (*Except when I reread this poem, I realized I remembered liking it more than I actually like it.  Hence, not spending the time giving it a shout out via parody.)

1.  Host an open house party.  (Ours involved ice cream.)
2.  Eat take-out Indian food based on the rumor spicy food kicks off contractions.
3.  Go to Babies R Us and casually park in the expectant mother parking.  Who knows how much longer you'll be able to take advantage of this perk.
4.  Take an extra nap just because you're worried you'll never sleep again after your baby's born.
5.  Make a tray of chicken enchiladas for the freezer and eat the other one.  Mexican food qualifies as spicy, right?
6.  Run an errand to the local baby boutique to exchange one item for the same item in another color.  You must coordinate the baby's dirty diaper bags after all.
7.  At the last minute, host overnight a couple who are friends of friends.  Bonus if one guest is also nine months pregnant.
8.  Spend some, um, quality time with Husband.
9.  Walk to the farm truck and carry all of the produce you purchase home.  Extra points if the bags weigh more than the average combined weight of a newborn and a car seat.
10.  Get up in the middle of the night because you feel "weird" and haven't finished recopying your "Books to Check Out" list.  Nursing will be a one-handed activity, right?
11.  Date night with Husband at a fancy Turkish restaurant.  Come on spicy food!
12.  Go to the grocery store so you can waddle around somewhere with air-conditioning.  Park in the "Customers with Infants" parking spaces because you figure you're close enough to meeting the criteria.
13.  Browse a bookstore looking for the perfect notebook to kick off your next project for all of the free time in your life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Price of Freezer Real Estate

Unless you're lactose-intolerant or out of town, I'm not sure there's a valid excuse to skip a Make-Your-Own Ice Cream Sundae/Shake/Soda Party.  Yesterday Husband & I hosted such an event.  Guests brought their favorite toppings; everyone indulged.  Oh, to snub those ice cream trucks taunting their inane jingles that drive everyone even more batty on these days with triple-digit heat indexes.

The leftovers: 50% left in each tub.  A gap left for the one fully consumed tub of vanilla.
Our freezer, it seems, also feels some excess.  Whereas Husband, Sherbet (who entertained the company in hopes for free licks of ice cream or, preferably, whipped cream), & I would ordinarily find additional sharing venues for such frozen delights, time is not on our side.  In fact, we've been trying to stock the freezer with healthy, homemade meals for after Ramlet's birth.  To facilitate the transfer of chicken enchiladas, swiss cheese veggie quiche, and cheddar cheese with asparagus and sausage quiche from refrigerator to freezer, Husband took three cartons of ice cream to work.  I probably should feel guilty for hanging on to the Black Raspberry Chocolate and the Cookies & Cream, but right now I just wish I had a larger freezer.

Before the ice cream donation.
In the above picture, most of the plastic bags are filled with homemade pizzas courtesy of friends who are new parents and wanted to help stock us up for the first few days (weeks?) of parenthood.  Husband & I added enchiladas, quiches, beef and veggie roasts, carrot apple breakfast bread, and inside-out cabbage rolls to the collection.  If time permits, I'll contribute a bag of French Toast and a pan of eggplant parmesan to our menu options.

Any ideas on what else to freeze in preparation for the little bundle who's eating will take precedence over ours?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Waverly Farmer's Market

Saturday morning at Baltimore's Waverly Farmer's Market in pictures.




The bounty I brought home.  Fried zucchini blossoms for dinner.
What's your weekend's flavor?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ready... Set... Wait....

After two weeks of "nesting" (read: "frenzied preparation panic"), the relentless to-do list shrunk substantially.  The fully geared-up crib, dresser, and diaper bag collect dust.  The birth center bags clutter up corners of the apartment.  Anxiety about sudden early labor wanes; anticipation about actual labor and motherhood fill in the gap.

No complaints about a little extra time ... yet.  Each day my belly tightens more, and Ramlet kicks at my right ribcage to remind me he's coming.  Later I'll work on some other project, but for now I'll rest with my swollen feet propped up and sipping some organic pregnancy tea.

Thanks for the nail polish suggestions--I went with the first vote of Chop-Sticking to My Story!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Remaining Me

My due date approaches faster final exams before Christmas Break.  I've taken classes, read books, and practiced breathing/relaxation techniques.  Still, no one knows the exact form of this pinnacle moment until it actually unfolds.

Regardless birthing, and motherhood, will become a part of who I am ... part of my identity ... just like my love for vibrant pedicures.

OPI:  quick-drying, long-lasting colors with bizarre names.
If I hold my breath I can still reach my toes so there's time for a little glamour before the big day.  Line up, OPI collection.  Sound off: Suzi Says Da (chocolate-y brown), Blue My Mind (sapphire blue), Chop-Sticking to My Story (burnt orange), Alpine Snow (crisp white), Java Mauve-A (ballet-y pink), Black Cherry Chutney (dark purple with red sparkles), and Sand in My Suit (iridescent beige).

Which color should brighten the birthing room?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Worse Than Doing Laundry

The one thing worse than doing laundry is having laundry to do.

Old, mismatched machines.
Monday morning I threw the brand new organic cotton cloth diapers in the washing machine (apparently cloth diapers need to be washed/dried a few times to maximize absorbency).  I expected to walk away, feeling maternal, as I listened to the pleasant chug-chug-chug of progress.  Instead, an awful grinding sound begged for mercy from behind the laundry closet doors.  Frantically, I rescued the diapers from the cantankerous sudsy pit.  While Husband rinsed the prefolds in the tub, I marched to the leasing office full of pregnant indignation.  The washing machine is on its third round of maintenance issues.  And, the replacement dryer's setting--like on/off--have never worked.  Note: we've lived here less than two months!

Fast forward a direct conversation with the complex manager about the problems (including a moment of pointedly smoothing my shirt over my protruding belly) and a visit from the entire maintenance team to validate my complaints.  Goodbye old machines.

The icky linoleum under the machines.           Sherbet inspects my rushed cleaning job.

Hello new, energy efficient models.  

All these knobs and settings to learn ....
Time to triumphantly throw in another load.

Have you overcome a challenge lately?  Or, are you procrastinating laundry day?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Synonyms for Adorable

In the midst of the crazy heat wave on the East Coast, I'm falling in love with knitted and crocheted baby clothes.  Confession: I made the denim blue blend hat and booties, but the rest are gifts from friends.  How can you not fall in love with these even if it is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside?

Which one should Ramlet debut first once autumn arrives?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Not "Like New"--More, "Like Me"

My world buzzes with baby preparation.  Some call this nesting, but it feels more like frantic uncertainty.  I've need to arrange Ramlet's clothes in his dresser, reorganize my desk (which absorbed craft supplies from Ramlet's dresser), wash/dry the cloth diapers at least four times (to maximize absorbency--who knew?), pick up a random baby items, and pack bags for the birthing center--diaper bag, my bag, snack bag.  Husband can pack his own bag.  And the countdown until labor begins ... sometime?

Sherbet making her less than 11 pounds seem much, much larger.
Even with the above list, right now I'm stretched out on the couch with my favorite new thing: a sock full of uncooked rice heated in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Ah.  A little relief for the "round ligament pain" (pregnancy side effect #1,969,210).  I would be in the glider, but ... (see above photo).

Before: ugly, scary cushions.
Speaking of the glider, I impulsively checked Craiglist one afternoon in the midst of packing boxes hoping for a way to avoid shelling out a few hundred dollars on a new glider.  Rocking soothes me, however Ramlet's preferences are yet to be determined so I'd rather be thrifty.  One advertisement looked promising so I contacted the seller and arranged to a test sitting.  Turns out the seller lived about 10 row-houses down from our old apartment.  Once we verified the glider was a good fit (I'm vertically challenged), Husband carried it home.

The scratchy green cushions begged for replacement.  I'm not fond of used upholstery since there isn't really a way to (1) throughly clean it, (2) de-bug it, or (3) get pet scents out of it.  Enter Mom.  (Do you recall her influence on the sari dress process?)

The off-white and dusty cornflower blue check blends with our touch-of-the-seashore living room theme.  The cushions are soft, but firm.  The dragonflies remind me of summer.  It took two fittings (and countless hours by perfectionist Mom), but this glider is more "me" than the $500 one I lusted after in the big-box store.  Sherbet, too, loves the glider.  She adopted it as her #1 Cat Bed of Choice for Overnight Napping.  Looks like I'm going to have some company for the 3AM feedings.  Hopefully I won't accidentally sit on her!

After: zoom in to see Mom's precision on the corner of the cushion.
Ever found something perfectly "you" second-hand?  Any tweaking involved?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Showered with Love

My shower contribution: Lemon Blueberry Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
Mom outdid herself hosting a baby shower for Ramlet and me this past weekend.  Platters of homemade finger sandwiches, salads bursting with summer's best produce, and enough carrots on the veggie platter so assure all attendees might get to eat one before I polished off the rest.  (Note: I told Husband the other day carrots had a better crunch and a more complex flavor than potato chips.  Conclusion: Definitely pregnant.  Concern: How many pounds of carrots does it take to turn Ramlet orange?)

Friends from all stages of my life attended or sent greetings.  Those present decorated onsies for Ramlet, guessed my belly's circumference (the shortest strings won!), and laughingly remembered nursery rhymes.  My three-year-old niece kept the gift unwrapping moving at a brisk pace.  The generosity of friends and family overwhelmed me as each package revealed something adorable or practical (or both) for this next part of life. 

When's the last time love overwhelmed you?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

$10 Beautification Project

Flowers fascinate me.  Their petal shapes and coloration, their fragrances, and their distinct surrounding greenery.  Their names: petunia, daffodil, gladiola, chrysanthemum, lavender, begonia, black-eyed-susan, gardenia, daisy, tulip, dandelion.  In my dreams of permanence, I long for a yard more than a house.  The backyard will be for grilling, vegetable gardens, raspberry bushes, and room to run through a sprinkler.  The front yard will be reserved for a mammoth perennial flower garden punctuated with walkways, benches, and a gurgling fountain or a mysterious statue.

Impatiens.  My favorite shade-friendly small flower.
Until then, Husband and I are content with our huge, though a tad ugly, porch.  The slab concrete floor and solid wall (instead of railings) make the space feel contained for being outdoors.  One trip to Lowes for a bag of dirt and a few forlorn impatiens brighten the atmosphere.  Now hot pink and terra cotta blossoms invite me onto the porch for early morning tea or late afternoon writing.  Meanwhile the half full bag of dirt promises a future gardening adventure, wherever that may be.

Houseplant refuges from the terrors of Sherbet.
What's in your dream yard?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blueberries on a Hot July Afternoon

To compensate for the lack of road trips this summer, I'm approaching the last few weeks of pregnancy as a quasi-staycation.  My planning notebook, brimming with lists of things to accomplish, contains one deceivingly short list.  The "Fun in Baltimore" list.  Restaurants, art museums, and a few other attractions to check out while I'm not counting down the days until I can take a deep breath again.  Dates with Husband; fun times with friends.  Enter blueberry picking.

Perhaps a few hours in the sun and heat isn't recommended for pregnancy, but I loved it.  Being outside, chatting with friends, and picking about 7 lbs of blueberries (Husband helped).

Staying pale courtesy of my sun hat and lots of sunscreen.
What to do with about 20 cups of blueberries?  Freeze 10 cups.  Eat a few cups over sliced fresh cantaloupe, plain yogurt, or vanilla ice cream.  Throw some pancakes on the griddle.  Bake muffins.  Dream up blueberry banana bread for tomorrow.  Perhaps a Blueberry Lemon Cake to debut over the weekend.  Snacking and baking like this, the blueberries may disappear!

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Have you ever gone on a pick-you-own adventure?

Monday, July 11, 2011

... or Not.

The events of the past few weeks exemplify the not-so-ready side of me.  The side that is complaining more than proactive, tired more than organized, and late more than considerate.  For instance ....

The apartment.  As mentioned before the move went exceptionally well and the apartment seemed ready: cleaned, freshly painted walls, and shampooed carpet.  As a few days passed, Husband & I noticed a growing list of little, and not-so-little, problems.  The hot/cold water reversed on the washing machine.  The bathtub and bathroom sink didn't drain properly.  The washing machine died working halfway through the first load of laundry; the dryer tossed clothes for 45 minutes without drying them at all.  The grease trap fell out of the oven hood (wrong size piece jimmied in).  The dishwasher soap dispenser wouldn't shut to start the cycle.  The seal on the oven door was falling off and releasing enough heat to burn you if bumped.  The kitchen drawer and oven fought over space--to open the drawer, push the stove one way; to open the broiler, shove it another.  The light switch in the living room activated none of the outlets.  The towel bar in the bathroom drooped to one side--no level needed to see the sloppy installation.  Perhaps some of the complaining, specifically to the Leasing Office, was justifiable.  The rest, not so much.

Sherbet luxuriates in the afternoon sunshine, "The apartment is adequate despite my pet parent's whining."
The pregnancy.  Last week also included a spur-of-the-moment trip to the midwives to discover yet another strange phenomena deemed "normal" for pregnancy (for those of you who have never been pregnant, the list of side effects is endless to the point where the medical community treats symptoms with a mildly concerned, but joking, manner).  For those worried, Ramlet (etymology: a baby Ramsey is a Ramlet much like a baby pig is a piglet) and I are dandy minus the whole competing for room in my abdominal cavity.  The reassuring midwife, after checking our vitals, looked at my chart to recommend when to come in next and casually mentioned how many weeks along I am.  Hmmmm.  Somehow I missed a week.  Now, do I scramble to get more things off of my pre-baby list or simply par down the list?  Naps currently outrank accomplishments.  Good or not-so-much?

The sari dress--still fits and quite the compliment grabber.
The wedding.  Due to poor communication and planning, Husband & I left barely enough time to make the wedding of friends.  Long story short, we pulled a "Portuguese."  (Note: Of the three Portuguese-American weddings I've attended, almost no one shows up to the actual wedding while the reception brims with well-wishers.  I've even seen a woman in house-clothes, rollers in her hair, transformed into a semi-formal fashionista by the time the reception welcomes the bridal party.)  Only this wedding wasn't Portuguese-American.  And, the doors were locked once the ceremony started, which may have been a smart tactic seeing how Ramlet demanded another comfort break minutes after arrival despite recent relief.  Yeek--need to realize I do not control the clock.

Despite the my less-than-stellar recent approach, life continues to surprise and bless.  Internet connection at home--finally!  Got back our security deposit--the entire amount--from the last lease.   Blueberry picking with friends--more on that next time.

What's good in your life?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Vacation: Documenting v. Experiencing

Unaware of Husband's documentation.

                    "But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing."

Wallace Stevens, from "The Idea of Order at Key West"


A handful of sea shells, some from the Atlantic and some from the Pacific.

Husband's shrewd eye for pictures, my selective pocketing of sea shells and ticket stubs--innocuous documentation of time well-lived.  A certain amount of capturing and collecting optimizes memory keeping, but I'm skeptical of the frenzied photographer and, especially, the fanatical videographer.  Too much time behind the lens shifts the focus from reveling in the moment into an abstract editorial mode.  If extreme, this disconnect blushes inauthenticity over everyone else's experience.  Still, a little proactive documenting makes for scrapbook pages to savor when vacations are distant, for a pocket full of sea shells to discover while running errands.  

How do you balance experiencing your travels with documenting them?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vacation: Plotting v. Exploring

While I preemptively tackled my primary vacation inhibitor, achieving instead of playing, I easily escaped the snare of the second vacation squelcher.  Over-planning.

Let me clarify.  First, I'm not your backpack-it type of vacationer, but I do like investing extra time into packing--striking the balance between thorough and light.  Secondly, preparing travel food and securing overnight housing seems vital to a comfortable trip.  Some planning makes vacations more relaxing.  Over-planning takes organizational preparations to the extreme.  Perhaps it would be better defined as plotting.

Not getting lost in Cardiff, Wales a few years back.
Plotting.  Like that time before I visited to Chicago.  I read three travel books, photocopied pertinent sections, created my own information packet, and developed a personalized must-see list of attractions.  I hustled around the city while Husband attended a conference.  Each night over dinner I rambled about my sightseeing until exhaustion seeped into my veins like an invisible sedative IV-drip.  

Since our recent mini-vacation took place in an familiar location, I'm more of a "seasonal" than a "tourist."  Without thinking, I know where to go and what to do, come sunshine or storm.  (In case of hurricane: go home.)  I navigate the town without a map.  I even know the areas I don't know.

And this is where exploring begins.  Besides leaving ample time to relax, vacations ideally flaunt a touch of adventure.  Like randomly choosing a restaurant, perhaps ordering an unusual menu offering.  Or, wandering down a quiet side street only to be amazed at the vibrant, fully-restored Victorian Era houses.  Or, eating lunch on a boardwalk bench so you can watch tourists parade by in garish--in stunning--beach attire while catching hints of accents.

A random street.
Sometimes adventures turn into the travel stories we love to retell--the hidden cathedral in a nondescript English village, the hung-over Scotsman who entertained us with his life story for hours on a train, the public art too new to be documented by the travel guide.  Sometimes adventures are a quieter type of discovery, something stories and photographs can't convey.  Both are worth leaving plotting behind and exploring.

Do plot your vacations? Or, do you explore--ready or not?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vacation: Achieving v. Playing

And it all fit an a small blue library tote bag.
Once again I violated my "Year of No Travel" policy when Husband & I snuck away for a mini-vacation the other weekend.  Four days in borrowed accommodations, down the shore, somewhere we've frequented almost annually.  Even though we moved earlier this same week, we quickly dove into the bliss of no agenda.

Except I nearly strangled this relaxation before we even left our new apartment.  Well, technically, my over-stuffed activities bag almost ruined the leisure true vacations imply.

I like a variety of engaging activities to dabble in when there's no "To Do" list.  So for this vacation I piled on books (2 memoirs, 3 nonfictions, and 1 escapist YA novel), 1 cooking magazine, 2 writing projects, and some drawing supplies (a small sketchbook and a pencil box).  I even considered throwing in a new crocheting project ....  Then, at some point, a sense of needing to use all of these items snuck itself into the tote.

Proving pregnancy isn't an impediment for SkeeBall.
Husband's laughter, as he lugged my heavy bag to the car, cued me in.  I often struggle with validating my day-to-day existence by how much I've created or completed.  Sometimes this mentality of achievement tags along for my vacation.  This, I realized as Husband took another load down to the car, is the opposite intent of a beach trip.  Nothing in the tote needed immediate attention; I needed to play and relax.  Instead of repacking the bag with a more reasonable entertainment selection (because that's the real purpose of an activities bag), I decided to use things when inspired and not worry about taking a few extras.

Spontaneity and playing trumped my false sense of achievement.

What's your approach to a vacation?  Achieving or playing?