Monday, October 29, 2012

Frankenstorm


Something about this time of year and massive storms. Remember last year? Well, we're at it again. This time it's Hurricane Sandy, and it's being called "Frankenstorm" due to its manufactured nature (3 storms colliding into one) and the proximity to Halloween.


All employees in my Philadelphia office have been advised to work from home. Mass transit is closed through Monday and the kids are off school today and tomorrow.


Which leaves lots of time for lounging in pjs and drawing and coloring. Pray for safety and electricity!


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Power of Technology

Sunrise over Lake Conroe - Montgomery, TX

I just got back from my final trip of the year -- this time to the greater Houston area. In all, I've been to 5 new cities this year. In my soul I am a wanderer so the travel has been an unexpected pleasure of the job. But there is always that tug on my heart with three little ones at home who need me and my best friend who effortlessly keeps it all running smoothly while I'm away but is usually very tired and ready for some relief when I get home.


As you know, I work for a software company. Technology excites me. It is one of the few industries that, even in this abysmal economy, has continued to thrive and grow, and while I am by no means a hardcore "techie", I hover somewhere between "you don't scare me" and full-on enthusiast. One of the things I love about technology is how it unites us and creates new opportunity. Case in point, while I was at the trade show last week, thousands of miles away from home, Trey texted me that Genevie was having a blast riding her bike up and down our driveway.


Last week she really discovered how to do it all by herself and has spent hours now enjoying this timeless childhood past time.


And so while I sat in a stale exhibit hall with rain pouring down outside far from my sweet girl, Trey sent photos to my phone of Genevie basking in the sunshine and the glory of her new-found skeelz.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Saturday Sagas


Saturdays have not been very kind to me lately. At the end of August while cleaning out the garage in flip flops (by the way, never do this), I managed to step on a bent, rusty straight pin. It pierced the back of my heel, and I knew immediately and with total dread that I was long overdue for a tetanus shot and would need one right away. Commence anxiety attack. I was torn between my fear of my last tetanus shot experience weighed against extreme guilt at the thought of irresponsibly ignoring the injury and risking far more serious consequences. Having children puts the need for taking care of yourself in a whole new light.

The last time I had a tetanus shot -- at the age of 16 -- it was terrible. First they jabbed a huge needle one inch into my arm to get to the muscle. Then I ran a high fever the next day and couldn't move my arm at all because of the serious muscle pain it caused. I can only describe it as feeling like I had been punched at full force while my shoulder muscle was tensed. On top of that I experienced extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and other flu-like symptoms. It was awful, but as is often the case, childhood memories can seem worse in retrospect than they probably actually were at the time. Our immaturity has a way of growing our fears without the reason and cognitive framework that comes with adulthood.

I have to admit that I was so irrational in my memory of the experience that I lost my nerve while waiting in line at the CVS Minute Clinic (where else are you going to get a tetanus shot on a Saturday?) and left. Trey could see how agitated I was when I got home and offered to come with me, all three kids in tow. Genevie was so sweet and told me not to worry because Jesus loved me. Wow, if that didn't convict me. Live out your theology, Becky!

Well, as it turned out my name was still on the waiting list at the Minute Clinic, and I was seen very quickly after my return. Genevie accompanied my into the exam room. I explained the situation to the PA, who reassured me that in the 15 years since my last tetanus shot the needles had been vastly improved and that she had a kind and gentle touch with them even though the needle did have to go all the way into the muscle. Unfortunately, the side effects of the vaccine that I had experienced previously were probably inevitable this time as well. I just had to keep reminding myself that natural childbirth on a living room floor is far worse than a silly little needle stick and some flu symptoms. Genevie sat on my lap and held my hand. And sure enough it was all over before I knew what had happened. I didn't feel a thing. Then I felt really silly.

The next day I slept pretty much all day. I was exhausted and achy and could hardly move my arm, but within a day or so it all passed, and the good news is I didn't develop lock jaw and I'm set for another 10 years (bonus, I was inoculated against whooping cough, which is making a resurgence -- who knew)!


Fast forward to this past Saturday. I woke up with a plugged up feeling in my right ear. I couldn't hear a thing. After vain attempts to clear the wax out, I knew I'd be revisiting the Minute Clinic. I've had this happen a couple of other times in the past and had to have my ears irrigated by a doctor at least once before. Apparently, among other things, I inherited my dad's wonderful overproduction of thick ear wax, which occasionally gets the better of my hearing. Davis has it too, poor kid.

Well, as it turned out, not only was my right ear completely clogged and very irritated but my left one was almost completely clogged as well and I didn't even know it. Thankfully, the PA was able to get everything cleared out without too much trouble. They use this amazing ear irrigation contraption that squirts warm water at a high pressure into your ear canal to break up the thick wax (I know it's gross, sorry). And wonder of wonders, I could hear again. And then it dawned on me as I listened to the gentle whooshing of the airflow in the ducts above my head that I had probably been experiencing incremental hearing loss for a while without even realizing it. Suddenly there were so many more sounds around me.

Hopefully this is my final visit to the Minute Clinic for awhile, and, in the meantime, can someone explain why these things always happen on Saturday?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Linvilla Orchards


Monday I made a very good decision. I took the day off just because. So often vacation time revolves around things that have to be done -- holiday preparations, appointments, going on a trip. It can make it hectic and hardly relaxing. Rarely do I take a day off just because. But Monday was Columbus Day and all three children were off from school. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to just spend time together doing something fun.


We met up with a long-time, dear college friend of mine and her three girls and went to Linvilla Orchards for some autumn festivities.


We kicked it off with a good romp in the playground. Lots of climbing and getting muddy.





We had to sample the local cuisine. Hot apple fritters hit the spot!



While we made our way to the hayride, we checked out some of the trinkets for sale.



We hammed it up with funny looking gourds.


And then it was time for the hayride.





We finished the day with a round of apple slingshots.


As close to three smiles as it's going to get. All three children promptly fell asleep in the car on the ride home with bellies full of treats and legs tired from running around. Definitely worth taking the day off!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Pot Roast


I don't do a lot of recipe posts on here, but when I find one that is delicious and easy, I have to share it. Believe it or not, I have never made a pot roast. I'm not sure why. I love pot roast, and I've made plenty of beef stews, which, when you get right down to it, are awfully similar. I have a feeling that somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I thought pot roasts were fiddly, difficult dishes that I had neither the patience nor the budget to destroy. As a full-time working mom, the slow cooker is my friend, so when I found this recipe for slow cooked Sunday pot roast, I had to give it a try. The results were wonderful. My only suggestion is put some marsala or other red wine in your gravy. It really does jazz it up!

Without further ado I present you:

Slow Cooker Sunday Dinner Pot Roast and Gravy (from Six Sisters' Stuff)

2 1/2 - 3 pounds beef chuck roast 
1 pound (16 oz) baby carrots
4 medium potatoes, cubed (I use whatever I have on hand- red, Yukon gold, or Russet)
1 large sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes (optional- I make it with and without this and it tastes great either way)
2 cups beef broth
1 chicken bouillon cube (I omitted this. Too salty and an unnecessary flavor addition.)

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Pat beef with paper towels and season all sides generously with salt and pepper. Sear beef in the saute pan until a nice crust forms (about 3 minutes on each side). Place beef in crock pot. Don't drain the drippings.


Add carrots, onions, potatoes and garlic to the pan and saute for about 3 minutes. Pour in the diced tomatoes (with juices) and stir to combine. Arrange vegetables over the beef in the crock pot and pour in the beef broth with the bouillon cube dissolved.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours. (Becky's note: I did mine on high for 4 hours because I was short on time and it was perfect!)

Pot Roast Gravy
Pot Roast drippings/liquid
2 Tablespoons butter, cold
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 - 2 teaspoons cold water

Pour all the liquid out of the crock pot into a small or medium sauce pan. Let simmer over medium low heat for about 5 minutes. Mix butter and flour together in a small bowl and mash together with a fork until well combined (kind of like a buttery paste). Slowly whisk in the mixture into the liquid until starting to thicken and combined. If you like thick gravy, add the cornstarch as an added thickening agent. Just combine the cornstarch with cold water until dissolved and stir into the gravy, whisking until smooth. Season with freshly ground black pepper (I don't normally need anymore salt).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Drapes


One of the things you learn quickly when you buy a house is that the home improvements list grows at a faster rate than you can keep up either from a time or a financial perspective. Since we moved in over two years ago we have been wanting to paint the whole house, finish the hardwood floors, put hardwood floors in the kitchen, get all new drapes or plantation shutters throughout, and remove the drop ceilings in the study and kitchen -- and that's just the interior projects.

Some projects require other things to be done first. For example, while we have beautiful thick pine flooring in the original part of the house, there is a slight dip in the floor between the living room and family room. Before we finish the floors, currently underneath generic carpet, we need to jack up the floor and put in a support beam in the basement, making what would have been a relatively easy and inexpensive floor finishing project much more involved.

So in the meantime, we've learned to prioritize our "to do" list. The first year we were in the house, we power washed and painted the exterior of the house. Last year we painted the entire upstairs. This year we put sod in the front yard, you will of course recall.


But the other important upgrade in the home this year was the addition of custom made drapes and a roman shade (thank you, Etsy!) with crucial blackout liners. We have finally graduated from what I liked to refer to as the "Breaking Bad" home decor principle of thick beach towels over the windows. It's embarrassing to admit, but I'm doing it here. Although totally ugly, it really was a necessity. The back rooms face north west and get some pretty intense sun in the afternoon and evening, especially in the summer. Since those windows all allow light into Trey's study, which contains numerous antique and rare volumes dating as far back as 1654 (yes, that's a 358 year old book) and since light is kryptonite to books, we had to protect them.


For a long time we thought we would do plantation shutters for the windows but decided against that for a variety of reasons. Then I found a wonderful woman on Etsy who does custom drapes and bedding. We picked a very classic black and white toile fabric which will work well in both the kitchen and the study. Our plan is to repaint in both rooms probably next year, so the color you see now is going to change. We are still waiting on one of the panels for the kitchen and the set for the study, but in the meantime it's a vast improvement over the purple Hawaii towel that hung there before. And then little by little we will get drapes for the rest of the house.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tales from the Pool


The boys have had two swim lessons so far, and I'm pleased to report that this week was better than last week. Unfortunately, last week at the very end of practice Davis inhaled some water up his nose while they practiced blowing bubbles. He panicked and started crying. It was a shame because the rest of the lesson had gone really well, but that ending clouded the entire experience.


I did not want to give him the opportunity to back out though, so Trey and I focused on helping him understand and practice blowing out of his nose during the week so he would be prepared the next time and not be scared.


Thankfully our strategy worked and at the end of his second lesson, he was beaming.


Both boys have really been enjoying themselves and the instructor says they are doing well. There is only one other little girl in the class, so it's a very focused instruction experience.


And I'm really grateful they are getting lessons because it will make me more comfortable with them in a water environment.


While the boys get their lesson, I've been keeping an eye on all the swim teams practicing in the adjacent lanes. It's so impressive how young some of the swimmers are and it makes me wonder if Addison and Davis will have an interest in continuing with it competitively once they master the basics.