Monthly Archives: December 2009

Look What I Made!


Every year around October or November, I get all ambitious about making Christmas presents.  I scan articles on crafting and sewing.  I pore over patterns and comb the aisles of Joann’s in search of ideas.

Every year around December, I give it up and hit the stores with my debit card to buy presents, like every other year.

Except this year.

This year, I stumbled across some pillow covers online that I knew Paul would love.  Space Invader pillow covers.  Not having $135 to buy the set, I thought to myself: “I bet I can make those!”  Thinking about making them might have been the end of it, if I hadn’t happened to show the design to my friend, Marci, who persuaded me on the spot to go to the craft store with her and pick out the fabric.  I decided to make throw pillows instead of pillow covers, and selected fabric to go with the colors of our family room.  Newly energized by having the materials in hand, I set to work immediately.

On Christmas Eve (not a moment too soon), I finished!

They’re far from perfect, but, needless to say, Paul thinks they’re awesome.  I’m just proud I finished them!

(If you have no idea what these are, click here.)

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men


In movies, it usually happens right after the hero says something foolish, like: “Well, this isn’t so hard!” or “What could go wrong?”

Nothing tempts the powers of chaos like smug self-satisfaction.

This year, our first year in a home of our own, we hosted Christmas dinner for the first time ever.  I didn’t start out feeling smug, but as the finely choreographed ballet of food preparation played out on the pristine stage of my freshly scrubbed kitchen, pride swelled within me.  The turkey, stuffed with apples, was tucked tidily into its roaster pan and lovingly anointed with oil before going into the oven at 9:30 sharp.  The sweet potato casserole and Yvie’s special recipe dressing followed two hours later.  The potatoes were boiled and mashed, and the bread, the green beans, and the cranberry jello mold all took their place on the table like planets of kitchen conviviality converging miraculously on a single point.  Everything seemed to be ready at the same time.

That’s when I said it.

“Wow, I can’t believe everything is turning out so perfectly my very first time!”

The last thing left to do was to sprinkle baby marshmallows across the top of the hot sweet potatoes and heat them to a bubbly, delicious golden brown under the broiler.


In actuality, I turned my back on the broiler to put the bread in the bread basket, only to hear Paul, who was carving the turkey, ask, “Why is that back burner smoking?”

He opened the oven door to check on the potatoes, and was nearly engulfed in a ball of flames.

“F-f-fire!  It’s on FIRE!” he sputtered, and looked around for something he could use to put it out.  His dad swept into the kitchen, grabbed a potholder, and quickly moved the flaming pan to the bottom rack before closing the door on it.

It turned out that I had set the top rack in the oven too high when I moved it to make room for the turkey.  As the marshmallows swelled in the heat, they made contact with the glowing red heating element and burst into flames.

When the fire finally subsided, the whole top of the casserole was charred black and crisp.

Thankfully, the fire had spent its rage on the sugary topping while leaving the potatoes themselves unharmed.  I was able to scrape off the entire barbecued top layer and start over with all new marshmallows.

Clearly realizing that I needed more supervision in the kitchen, Paul’s dad watched over the second browning attempt himself.

It’s a good thing he did.  The second try turned out just right.

Behold!   The (Almost) Perfect First Ever Notes on a Napkin Family Christmas Dinner:

My favorite Christmas gift: NOT burning down our first home less than a year after moving into it.

Now I just have to endure a lifetime of family jokes about my Twice-Baked Sweet Potato Casserole recipe.

Club Rulez


Overheard from the backseat as I was driving the kids to school this morning:

Katie:  Hey, Caleb…let’s make up a secret club!  You and I can be the members.

Caleb:  Okay!  (He’s always game for just about anything his sister suggests.  I wonder how long that will last.)

Katie:  First we need to make up some rules for the club.  What rules do you think we should have?

Me (totally eavesdropping and interrupting, but thinking of my own childhood secret club experiences): How about “Don’t be mean”?

Katie:  Yes.  That’s a good one.  What else?

Caleb:  No smoking!  (I stifle a giggle.)

Katie:  Okay…  So we’ve got “no being mean” and “no smoking”.  Can you think of any  more?

*both think in silence for a while*

Katie:  Well, I guess we don’t have to have anoth–

Caleb (triumphantly):  “NO CARVING ON THE WALLS!”

Katie (after pondering for a moment):  How about “No destroying the house in any way”?

Caleb: Yeah.


I don’t know if I should be scared that he thought of that rule, or just relieved that it made the cut.

It’s a Major Award!


As you might remember, after slaving over a hot keyboard for thirty days in pursuit of that most noble of goals–completing NaBloPoMo 2009–I was pretty jazzed about the possibility of winning one of the fabulous prizes being offered on the official NaBlo site.  Alas and alack, whoever performed the random drawings utterly failed to pull my name out of the hat.  No prize for me.

Until today.

This morning, Kathy walked into my office and, with much fanfare, presented me with this bag, festively festooned with this garland of…disco balls.

My very own NaBloPoMo prize!  Isn’t she awesome?  Inside there were two splendid things.  One: Kathy’s famous chocolate-covered pretzels.  These did not make it home to share with the rest of the family.  Oopsies.

Two:  this book, which I’ve been dying to read ever since I stumbled across it on some geeky website months ago.  (Get it?  “Dying” to read?  Or maybe I should have said “undying” to read.  Hahahahaha!  I slay me!  Get it?  “Slay”?  Am I hilarious, or what?)

Thank you so much, Kathy!  You…complete me.

(Okay, maybe not.  But you certainly know what I like!  I think this might even make up for that little King incident a few weeks ago.)



“For what we need to know, of course, is not just that God exists, not just that beyond the steely brightness of the stars there is a cosmic intelligence of some kind that keeps the whole show going, but that there is a God right here in the thick of our day-by-day lives who may not be writing messages about himself in the stars but in one way or another is trying to get messages through our blindness as we move around down here, knee-deep in the fragrant muck and misery and marvel of the world.  It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want, but the experience of God’s presence.  That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get.”

–Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Heart (not the 80’s femme rock band)


I can finally give you an update on the heart palpitations I experienced a few weeks ago.

Last Monday, I was fitted with a 24-hour Holter Monitor to allow my doctor to monitor my heart activity for erratic behavior.  There were electrodes stuck to my chest and ribs, and wires trailed out from under my shirt, connected to a small box that I had to carry around in my pocket.  Unfortunately, the wires were a yellowish color that didn’t go with anything I was wearing.  It seems whoever orders the medical supplies for the practice isn’t very fashion forward.  When I got back to work, the school kids were very interested in what was going on with all of that hardware.  I told some of Caleb’s classmates that I was being wired for bionic arms as part of a secret government experiment.

Tuesday, I met with the cardiologist.  He asked me for my personal health history going back to my first cell division, and then ordered a chest x-ray and a blood draw to check for artery blockage risk factors.  The x-ray tech told me my bones were very photogenic.

Thursday, I had to go back to the cardiologist for a stress test.  More electrodes were plastered to my chest (right on top of the rashes the first ones gave me); then a nurse and an ultrasound tech made me run on a treadmill until I was about to throw up.  Just when I had forgotten the feeling of having oxygen in my lungs, they tipped me onto an examination table and jabbed me in the ribs with an ultrasound wand to make sure all the blood was freely pumping.  It was.  If someone had punctured me with a pin just then, I think I would have emptied like a balloon in five seconds flat.

Today, the verdict is in.  Clean bill of health.  The cardiologist could find no evidence of any underlying heart problems.  My palpitations were most likely caused by a combination of too much caffeine and poorly handled stress.

I’ve cut caffeine completely out of my diet, which has helped a lot.  And my stress levels have receded since the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations have calmed down.

However, I’m still a little disappointed that I’m not really getting bionic arms.  I sure could use those around the house.