Today is the first Sunday of Advent!  It is early this year (or it seems so), and I am happy to break out all my awesome Christmas music.  I know the Christmas season doesn't officially begin until, well, Christmas, but there is just too much beautiful music to cram into those twelve days, so I enjoy it now.

I will try to recommend a different Christmas album or collection every week this Advent, since my taste in music is a bit out of the mainstream and most people haven't heard of stuff I like.  My music recommendations for this first week are Celtic Celebration and Celtic Celebration 2 by the Night Heron Consort.  The arrangements are beautiful and prayerful and really do justice to the meaning of the season.

Don't you just hate it when the holiday music on the radio consists of all these people ridiculously oversinging every song?  I mean, seriously, people.  Chill out.  I always thought of Advent and Christmastime to be such a peaceful, hushed time.

A Child born in the still of the night, surrounded by gently cooing animals.

Angels in the darkened sky calling the news to lonely shepherds in the fields.

The three Magi traveling in the darkness, following the star to the stables, then stealing away into the night.

So let us enjoy the peace of the season and save your vocal chords (yes, Ms. Carey, I'm talking to you) for another day.

In conclusion, here is my favorite non-religious Christmas song, sung by the only person who should ever sing it.


Tripping, Turkeys, and Tires

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and hasn't yet gotten trampled in a Black Friday frenzy.  I can't even imagine going out shopping today.  I am running out of some really essential groceries like milk, bread, and Goldfish crackers, but I'm staying home and waiting until tomorrow to venture the streets.

Plus, my car has a flat tire.  Again.  But that story should end yesterday's narrative, so we'll come back to in a few minutes.

Yesterday morning, things were just peachy.  The cherry pie was finished and looked great.  See?  The house was clean, my outfit was ready, we all slept in, and life was good. 

Then, while I was taking pictures of important things, like this pie, Wee Ninja Girl tripped over my leg and totally face planted onto the (hardwood, of course) floor in the dining room.  She bit her bottom lip and scuffed her nose.  She now has a lovely purple mark on the inside of her lip, but she doesn't seem to be bothered by it.  I think it took me longer to recover.

Later, we packed up and went to my Awesome-in-laws for dinner.  We brought WNG's port-a-crib and all her bedtime gear in the hopes that she would take her nap there.

She didn't.  Not one wink.

Luckily, even when she is overtired, WNG is generally well-behaved, although she did hoark down what remained of a cranberry-walnut topping for brie and crackers and then refuse to eat any dinner other than about 3 green beans.  Needless to say, she has been eating an awful lot today!

Dinner itself was wonderful and we had a great time.  The turkey was perfection itself and all the trimmings and desserts were fantastic.

On the way home, in the cold and slight drizzle, we got a flat tire.  It is literally a two-mile drive from the A-i-L's house to our own, but we only made it halfway.  Of course, the trunk of my car was packed full, so we ended up having to put as much stuff as possible (including the tire!) in the backseat next to WNG, who wasn't as cranky as I was by then.

This stupid tire keeps going flat, even though we've had it checked out by tire pros and they all have said it's fine.  We tightened the little metal thingy in the valve thingy and it seemed to work for a while, but now we're going to replace the whole valve and hope for the best.  Or we could just buy a new tire.  Sigh.

Enjoy your leftovers!


So. Yeah.

Lest my faithful reader fear that I have succumbed in the Great Ladybug Invasion, I must put your mind at ease. 

It turned out that the "invasion" consisted of a grand total of five ladybugs.  Five.  I disposed of two all by myself, heroically and with minimal whining.  The others I trapped and waited for EP Dude to deal with as he saw fit.

I have my limits.

In the meantime, Wee Ninja Girl decided to cut three more teeth (including molars!) and is about to cut a fourth.  And as an added bonus, she is getting over another cold which, thankfully, wasn't as bad as her first.

I managed to rake the leaves from the neighbor's trees and create a compost pile in the backyard in between rainy days and might actually get the lawn mowed before it snows.  Except that the forecast has been hinting at snowfall tomorrow and I think it's safe to say that I will not be raking leaves on Thanksgiving morning.

I started to burn out on the knitting and crocheting after I made Wee Ninja Girl and my niece Sweetie-O square pink hats (not that the hats are "square" as in "L-7," but they are square shaped) so I've taken up sewing.  EP Dude gave me a lovely Husquevarna sewing machine for Christmas '06 and I'm finally using it consistently.  I've made myself a knit blouse and wool-blend skirt for tomorrow, and also this apron, which I haven't really used yet because I don't want to get it dirty.

Yes, I know that's the point of an apron.  But it's so pretty!

Tonight I kick off the holiday baking season with delicious (I hope!) homemade sour cherry pie with delicious (I hope!) homemade pate brisee crust.  Last year's was awesome, so I have a lot to live up to this time around.

Then it will be time for Christmas cookies and Figgy Pudding!

That's right, I said Figgy Pudding.  I found a recipe on the interwebs several years ago and managed to save it before the site took it down and I make it every year.  If you, dear reader, are very good and eat all your veggies, I promise I will post it for you in time for Christmas.

If you don't believe that it will be delicious, remember those enthusiastic carolers that not only demand that their audience bring them Figgy Pudding, but they refuse to leave the premises until they get some.

It is totally that good.  You'll see.


They're baaaa-aaack!

I think I may have mentioned before that I don't do bugs.  As in, the smallest, most innocuous invertebrate makes my skin crawl, my palms sweat, and my legs to shake.

I blame this weakness on my older brother, The Philosopher.  When we were wee, maybe five and six years old, he told me a story about a bug called a "Stink Bug."  This particular insect was so dangerous that if it got near enough to spray you with its stink, you would DIE.

Of course, every time we saw any kind of a bug, he'd say "Lookout!  A STINK BUG!"  And I'd go running off, screaming my gullible little head off.

Before the Legend of the Stink Bug was imparted, I didn't have a problem with bugs.  I even had a pet praying mantis.  Alas, now I am reduced to a sweaty, trembly mess when in the presence of such creatures.

Therefore, I'm having a bit of a hard time now that we've been invaded by ladybugs.  There is one on my bedroom window and one on the upstairs bathroom window.  *shudder*

We get them every year, and every year I freak out.  I know they are harmless.  I know they are helpful—or would be if I could manage to keep alive any plants that might attract aphids.  But still... there is something creepy about their hard little shells and how they rattle between the blinds and the window, sometimes fluttering, sometimes crawling, always LOOKING AT ME.  *shudder*

Anyway, at least the ladybug invasion doesn't last too long, and then it will be Winter and all the bugs will die.  And we can live in peace until the giant beetle thingys start coming in through the windows in the Spring.

Can't hardly wait.


Blogging Hypocrites Anonymous

Hello. My name is Jess and I'm a Blogging Hypocrite.

Hi, Jess!

I have a number of blogs I follow and if they aren't updated frequently, I start to resent them. I mean, sure, maybe it's written by a mom of half a dozen kids under age 8 who also works full time as a haberdasher whilst running a farm, but come on, woman, it's been THREE DAYS since you last updated! Sheesh!

And yet, here I sit with a sadly unupdated blog.

I think it's just because other peoples' lives are so much more interesting than mine. Don't get me wrong, my life seems interesting as I live it, but when I sit down to write about it... well... it's just not the same.

Some examples of things I might have written about this last week:
  • For the past few days, I have forcibly extracted approximately 7.3 miles of mucus from Wee Ninja Girl's nose while she gets over her cold.
  • After discovering three little mouse poops on my cutting boards over the weekend, we managed to catch two mice in the have-a-heart trap we borrowed from my ever-so-awesome in-laws.
  • My car has a flat tire again. It's the same one that has gone flat twice before, but when taken to the shop, they can't find anything wrong with it. This time it was just in the driveway and we weren't on our way to WNG's baptism or doctor's appointment, or out of town. So... it really isn't that bad.
So... yeah... fascinating stuff. Sigh.

I haven't even been doing much yarncrafting lately. I am going to try my hand at baking bread sometime soon, so you can look forward to the narrative of that disaster in the days ahead.

As a peace offering to my blog reader (Hi, sis!), here is a pretty summery picture of a bee on some wildflowers.

And here is a decidedly unflattering picture of some deer. I tried to come up with a good caption, but to no avail. Feel free to offer your caption ideas in the comments! (Thanks, sis!)



(Distant) Memories of Summer Wrap

With winter inching closer every day (I hear it is snowing in the northern Midwest already!), who wouldn't want to snuggle up in a lovely Homespun ripple-stitch wrap? As a bonus, it's made in two shades of blue reminiscent of Caribbean ocean waters. So, while the blizzards rage outside (or, if you live in an old, drafty house like I do and even crisp fall temperatures cause your fingers to turn blue and you're a big, whiny wimp like I am someone I know) you will get lots of use from something like this.

I won't, though, because I made it for K, my sister-in-law, whose birthday was last week.

As an added bonus, it works up pretty quickly and you can huddle under it while you crochet.

Yarn: 3 skeins Lion Brand Homespun yarn.
I used 1 skein of "Colonial" and 2 skeins "Blue Sky,"
but really any bulky weight homespun-type yarn would work.

Hook: US size P/12

Stitches: chain (ch), no-turn-chain double crochet (ntcdc), double crochet (dc)

For an explanation of the ntcdc, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LxYpo-tyi8

The NTCDC counts as the first stitch of each row. If that stitch isn't working out for you, replace with "ch 3" throughout the pattern.

Foundation row: Chain 62, turn. NTCDC, dc in ch. Dc in next ch. *skip 2 chs, 3 dc in next 3 chs. Ch 2, 3 dc in next 3 chs.* Repeat from * to * 6 more times. Skip 2 chs, dc in next ch. 2 dc in last ch. Turn. (62 sts)

Rows 1 thru 75: NTCDC, dc in dc, dc in next dc. *skip 2 dc, 3 dc in next 3 dc. Ch 2, 3 dc in next 3 dc.* Repeat from * to * 6 more times. Sk 2 dc, DC in next dc. 2 dc in last dc. Turn (62 sts)

I crocheted three blocks of color (Blue Sky, Colonial, Blue Sky) in 25 rows each because I'm kind of lazy, but any striping pattern would work.

Enjoy and keep warm!


Stovetop Pork Chops

To counter the depressing tone of my previous post, I give to you the recipe for stovetop pork chops. EP Dude and I started with a Jacques Pepin recipe and tweaked it to something that works for us when we don't have oodles of time to cook dinner but still want something tasty and not take-out.


4 trimmed boneless chops
~1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
~1/2 Cup Italian Seasoned bread crumbs
~4 shakes dried Oregano
~2-3 tsps Dinosaur BBQ Cajun Foreplay rub (or spices of your choice)
~2-3 tsps fresh ground pepper
~1-2 tsps Kosher salt
1 large egg
Canola Oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Over medium heat, pour just enough oil into a 10" non-stick skillet to cover the bottom. If your stove is anything like mine, it will take a bit of time for the skillet to come to temperature, giving you enough time to prep the chops.

Combine the flour, bread crumbs, oregano, rub (or spices of your choice), pepper, and salt into a bowl.

Beat the egg in another bowl.

Dip the chops into the egg and then the breading mixture one at a time and set them aside until the skillet heats to temp (which for me is when a couple flakes of breading sizzle in the oil).

Arrange the breaded chops into the skillet. They should cook for about 6 minutes per side, depending on their thickness. I time it out by washing up the cutting board and dishes from prepping them while they cook on the first side, then flip them and prep the sides while the other side cooks.

When I flip the chops, I make sure that whichever side or end was on the outside of the skillet now rests closer to the middle, to made sure they cook evenly.

When the chops are golden brown on both sides, remove them from the heat and place in an oven-safe glass dish. Put them in the oven until the side dishes are ready This will make sure that they are cooked through and keep them warm.

For tonight's dinner, I made a side of summer veggies right in the same skillet in which I cooked the chops. The recipe for this is from the Betty Crocker cookbook.

Add about 1-2 tablespoons of oil to the already-hot skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.

Start with one zucchini (sliced 1/4" thick), one summer squash(sliced 1/4" thick), and about one cup of sliced mushrooms.

When the skillet is hot enough, toss them all in and stir frequently for 4-5 minutes

When they look like this:

add one cup of grape tomatoes.

Sprinkle with chives and some garlic powder, and let simmer (still stirring frequenly) for another 2-3 minutes.

Time to plate up!

Oh, I also made a box of Toasted Pine Nut couscous. Yes, from a box.

Who do you think I am? Martha Stewart?

All Shook Up

We've been doing some things differently at the House of Whimsy this past week.

Last week EP Dude and I made the decision to attend Mass at a different parish. It wasn't an easy decision but we are very happy that we did. The parish we had been attending since our wedding is no longer recognizable. We started going there because the ones in our own town were, quite frankly, dreadful. We thought we had found a parish home, something that is very important to us, especially me.

As an Army brat, I moved around a lot growing up. It was always a huge comfort to me that no matter where we went, the Mass would be there. We were always involved in the different parishes, whether in youth groups, choir, lectoring, religious education, etc.

At the parish we just left, I wanted to become involved, but before I felt comfortable enough to do so, things changed. The wonderful priests were replaced. The nun who took over the parish kept interjected herself into the liturgy and even started giving homilies. Scores of parishioners were alienated and left, but for some reason EP Dude and I hung on. I think I just didn't want to let go, to give up. This place that once felt so right was gone.

So, last week we went to a different parish, one that hadn't undergone a similar transformation. (Those parishes are becoming few and far between these days, sadly.)

For the first time in a long time, I was calm on Sunday morning. I wasn't worried about having to hear questionable messages or lay homilies. I was able to focus on the Mass.

Unfortunately, EP Dude didn't quite have the same experience, since it was his turn to wrangle Wee Ninja Girl and she was especially cranky that morning.

Actually, we're all kind of cranky. I came down with some kind of sinus infection on Friday night, EP Dude had it (to a much lesser extent) on Saturday, and WNG was a bit under the weather herself until Sunday. I think we went through two whole boxes of tissues.

The Single Nap Experiment with Wee Ninja Girl went better than expected. On top of her runny nose, she's apparently teething or hitting a growth spurt or just being a total poophead or something, because she was extra cranky this weekend. Still, we're getting the hang of her new sleep schedule. We may be able to put her to bed at 7:30pm rather than 8:30pm, since she's been sleeping in until 9 or 9:30 every morning.

I cannot express the extent to which my life will improve if Wee Ninja Girl starts going to bed at 7:30pm.

We keep a strict bedtime routine with WNG, so she knows what is coming and doesn't freak out when we lay her in her crib. EP Dude brings her up and starts getting her in her night diaper and pajamas, and I follow a few minutes later carrying all the stuff that she scattered about the house during the afternoon and evening. Once she's ready, she nurses (the only time she breastfeeds at all), we brush her teeth, turn out the lights and she goes to sleep. We've been doing this for months and it's worked like a charm.

Sunday night, WNG threw an absolute fit when I tried to nurse her. Clawing, screaming, kicking, the whole shebang. She kept making the teeth-brushing sound (ch-ch-ch-) and trying to throw herself off the bed. EP Dude and I figured that since she was a bit under the weather, that we'd let her brush her teeth first JUST THIS ONCE and then nurse her and put her to bed. She didn't go down easily, but we blamed that on her stuffed nose.

Monday night, same thing. After brushing her teeth and kicking myself for giving in the night before, I settled down to nurse her. Except she wouldn't latch. In fact, she didn't even want to be on my lap. So, I put her in her bed where she fussed for two minutes and fell asleep.

So yeah. It wasn't the cold or the teething. She just didn't want to nurse anymore. Ouch.

I always planned on weaning her around 12 months of age, since she's eating such a variety of food and loves cow's milk, but it just felt so harsh. WNG cut out the other feedings on her own as she ate more "people food" so it's logical that she decided when to stop it altogether.

I knew it was coming. Her nighttime nursing only lasted about five minutes total and she spent most of the time goofing around. It's like slowly peeling the bandaid to make it hurt less, but then ripping it off when it's still good and stuck. (There is your lame analogy of the day, folks. Enjoy.)

So why do I feel so utterly rejected? It's silly of me, but I just can't help it. I actually cried a little bit last night.

I'm such a baby. And my baby is not such a baby.


Okay, I'm totally depressed now. I'm going to go eat some oatmeal raisin cookies I made yesterday and watch another episode of Doc Martin on Netflix. I highly recommend the show, unless you don't like British stuff, because while it is hilarious, it's also very, very British.

P.S. I've even found some time to crochet, but since it's a gift for the next family birthday, I won't post the pattern until after it's been received. But, rest assured, I will post the pattern! (I know you've all been wallowing in despair at my lack of pattern posing. Admit it.)


Are you there, blog? It's me, Jess...

Hi there.

I am still alive.

Tired, but alive.

Busy as all get out, but alive.

Last week, EP Dude and I celebrated our second anniversary. We decided to celebrate early so his aweseomer than awesome parents could watch Wee Ninja Girl, allowing us to dine *gasp!* alone. Our actual anniversary was Tuesday, the 15th, but we went out to dinner on the previous Saturday. Nothing too fancy, just dinner and dessert at Carrabbas and then home early enough to play a couple hours worth of The Secret of Monkey Island. It was our gift to each other.

It was much more relaxing than our anniversary last year, which actually provides a lovely segway into our second celebration we had last week.

Wednesday, the 16th, was Wee Ninja Girl's first birthday!

Thus, our very first anniversary was spent in the hospital with me in labor and EP Dude being the best labor coach ever. He was told by more than one nurse that he should teach the dads' class!

I remember thinking at some point during all the fun that I hoped WNG would be born on her own day so we wouldn't have to share our anniversary with her birthday, and she held on until 2:34am to get her own special day.

Really, though, 12:01am would have been just fine with me, but I guess she wanted to be sure!

At any rate, WNG's little party was lots of fun and she was very good. It took a little while for her to understand the whole "opening presents" thing, but she eventually got the hang of it. The cake... not so much. It seemed at first as though she'd inhale it, but after three smooshed fistfuls, on the floor it went!

More for me, I guess.

What's that, you say? Two little parties don't sound like they could keep me away from my blog for so long?

You are correct. There's more!

On Friday, EP Dude left work a bit early to pick up my little sister from college and then we all drove to my parents' house in Albany for a weekend visit. Relatives were in town for the first time in over a year and we just couldn't let them leave without seeing them.

The trip was... interesting. WNG is a pretty good traveller, but after a couple hours she just wants to run around.

Did I mention that she's walking? She started back in August and is now practically running everywhere. She prefers to dash around in haphazard circles while clutching random items, which she switches out every few minutes.

< /end brag>

Anyway, the trip was a whirlwind of awesome. We had tons of fun with the family, ate way too much delicious food, and I got to shoot arrows and actually hit really close to the bull's eye once!

Then, Sunday morning right after Mass we piled back in the car and drove home. Short and sweet!

This week, I've been experimenting with WNG's naptimes. I know, I'm completely insane a glutton for punishment just plain bonkers ambitious, but WNG has been fighting her late afternoon nap for a long time and her morning nap keeps getting bumped further in they day until she's going down too close to lunchtime. So, I've combined those two naps into an early afternoon snooze.

It hasn't gone well. She's cranky. I'm cranky. EP Dude is not cranky, so we have to make him cranky by the sheer volume of crankiness WNG and I exude.

Fun times.

As for yarncrafting... I hope to pick it up again soon! I have a few things in mind for which I would need to invent patterns, so perhaps I'll have some downtime soon!

The birthday girl!


Switcharoo Skelt

The Switcharoo Skelt (Scarf/Belt) (Yes, I know it should TECHNICALLY be spelled "Scelt" but I like the way the "k" looks and it's my pattern and I can name it whatever I want. So, ner.) can be worn as a scarf, a belt, or a headband. I made it for my niece, the Energizer Bunny, who turned eight years old in August.

One of these days I will send them their gifts on time! Honest!

Yarn: 1 skein Serenity Sock Yarn (Premier Yarns; 50% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Bamboo, 25% Nylon; 230 yards), or superfine yarn of your choice.

Hook: US size C/2

Stitches: chain (ch), no-turn-chain double crochet (ntcdc), double crochet (dc)

For an explaination of the ntcdc, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LxYpo-tyi8

The NTCDC counts as the first stitch of each row. If that stitch isn't working out for you, replace with "ch 3" throughout the pattern.

Foundation: Chain 22.

Row 1: NTCDC, dc in last ch. Dc in next ch. *Skip 2 ch, 3 dc in next 3 ch. Ch 2. 3 dc in next 3 ch.* Repeat from * to * once. Skip 2 ch, dc in next ch. 2 dc in last ch. Turn. [22 sts]

Rows 2 thru desired length: NTCDC, dc in first dc. Dc in next dc. *Skip 2 dc, 3 dc in next 3 dc. Ch 2. 3 dc in next 3 dc.* Repeat from * to * once. Skip 2 dc, dc in next dc. 2 dc in ntcdc. Turn. [22 sts]

This works up quickly despite the super fine-ness of the yarn.


On the road again...

Well, it seems that two road trips with Wee(py) Ninja Girl in tow just weren't enough for the summer, so now I am in Albany with her visiting my parents and family. Extraordinarily Patient Dude is stuck working in Rochester, but will be up on Friday afternoon.

Wee Ninja Girl is usually pretty good in the car, but 3.5 hours is a bit much for her, despite being the shortest trip yet. We only had to stop once since my youngest sister (Ms. T) and I were sitting in the backseat with WNG entertaining her the whole way. EP Dude will come and pick us up and we all return home Sunday morning.

I have been doing lots of knitting, crocheting, and beading lately, but most of what I've made have been from other patterns. Ms. T's birthday gifts were fingerless gloves and a little cell-phone sock. I made up the sock, so if I remember to jot down the pattern I could post that. I really like self-striping sock yarn.

My younger brother's (The Engineer) birthday gift was a cabled hat from Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation. It came out really nice in a lovely dark brown wool.

My mom's birthday gift was a black and white beaded necklace. It came out nice—she didn't think I had actually made it myself. I'm not sure if I should be insulted or complimented. I have a hard time photographing jewelry, but if I can get a nice shot I will post it.

I was so proud of myself for finishing gifts for ALL the August birthdays in the family when I realized that my oldest niece, Energizer Bunny, turned 8 today. Sigh. One more late present to go and then I think I'm home free until October.

Then it's time to think about Christmas...


A mere flesh wound!

Okay, so I don't have a flesh wound. I do, however, have a bruised foot.

"But wait," you cry. "How can someone as graceful and nimble as you do something like that?"

Sigh. It was late and I was tired.

I was going up to bed and carrying a large basket full of clean, folded laundry. The stairway was dark except for the eye-grating glow of the little fluorescent night-light in the upstairs hallway. When I got to the third step up I noticed something lurking in the shadows along the baseboard above the fifth step. A house centipede.

I'd post a picture, but just looking at them on Google has freaked me out, so I'll spare you. Feel free to Google it yourself.
Anyway, I slowly stepped down one step (backwards, with a loaded laundry basket in my arms, mind you) and thought I was off the stairs entirely. So I lunged a step backwards.
I'm not good at math, but I can tell you that three steps up minus one step down equals two more steps down. I landed hard on the ball of my right foot and almost careened into the moulding around the dining room door.

I didn't drop the laundry, however.

Extraordinarily Patient Dude looked at me like I sprung a second head, but when I explained about the bug, he lived up to his name and disposed of it without complaint. It took him a while to find it since it was deep in the shadows. I must have some sort of Spidey-sense (Centi-sense? Pedey-sense?) because it was very obvious to me.

So, after limping around for a few days, it seemed this morning that the bruise was healed. (Notice how I could have made some sort of pun with the word "heal/heel" since the injury was on my foot. You're welcome.) I rejoiced and took Wee Ninja Girl for a walk in the town park.

So now my foot hurts again and my Achilles tendon is sore for some reason. I guess I'll just have to put it up and sit around for a while.

I'll try to offer it up.


Not quite back in the groove.

I have a very normal routine. Laundry is done every three days. Diapers are washed after Wee Ninja Girl goes to bed whenever we don't have enough clean ones to get through the next day. Every Monday I dust and vacuum the first floor of the house. Every Thursday I dust, dry mop, and vacuum the first and second floor of the house. One Thursday a month I wash the hardwood floors and the kitchen linoleum. Two Mondays a month I clean the bathrooms. All other cleaning is done on an "as needed" basis.

When my house is a disaster I can't concentrate or focus on anything. My mom and dad would laugh at that, since I wasn't exactly tidy when I lived at home, but it's true.

And yet, ever since coming back from our three-day vacation, I have had a rough time getting back into the swing of things. We're also in the process of re-organizing our study/computer room and cleaning out my craft room and the upstairs closets. Oh, and the dungeon basement, too.

Fun times.

So, once all the junk is cleaned out of everything and the house is back in order, I might get around to posting a new pattern for the Mountain Girl hat I made a few weeks ago. Here is a picture of it.

I know. I'm such a tease.


Saint Anthony, personal assistant

Saint Anthony has been working overtime for my family lately, and we are all eternally grateful.

A few weeks ago, I lost one of my diamond stud earrings, given to me by EP Dude before we were married. (I actually got my ears double-pierced just so I could wear them all the time.) We found the back to it by the front door and after a while, I gave up looking, but kept sending little pleas to St. Anthony when I thought of it. Last Friday, Wee Ninja Girl was playing on the floor by the bookshelf in our study when I noticed that she got really quiet. That's usually the signal that she's about to put something small in her mouth. I called her name and she jumped and looked at me with a big ol' guilty look on her little face. In her hand was my earring.

Last weekend my family went to the Sterling Renaissance Festival, near Syracuse. My younger brother, The Engineer, somehow lost his $300 digital camera. He reported it and after a few days probably gave up as well. Still, St. Anthony was pestered by all of us. Yesterday, The Engineer got a call from the Festival staff saying his camera was found.

Today I went to the DMV to renew my registration. I didn't get the notice in the mail, even though I thought I changed all my information when I got married in 2007. I must not have changed the registration. I stood in line for 20 minutes or so, with my forms all filled out only to be told that they wouldn't renew it without the title to my car. Yeah, I had NO idea where that was. Frustrated, I took Wee Ninja Girl home and did what any other reasonable adult would do.

I cried and called my mom.

She looked in her strong box, I looked in mine, no title. I called my dad (who works for the DMV--behind the scenes) and he thought maybe I could still renew it anyway. Armed with that information and shooting prayers to St. Anthony, I put Wee Ninja Girl down for a nap and decided to search through the disaster that is my craft room. I went through about 7 boxes and in the 8th I found a medal. A St. Anthony medal.

The title to my car was in the very next box.

So, thank you, St. Anthony! You can put up for feet for a little while and enjoy a much-earned rest. Have a beer. I know I sure want one. Maybe I'll wait until after I get back from trip two to the DMV.

And when you are finished, do you think you could maybe find a Fall co-op for The Engineer? He really needs one...


Random thoughts of summer

If I had to summarize the Rochester summer in one word, it would be "soggy." It's rained almost every day since the beginning of June. We can't go hiking anywhere without wading through ankle-deep swampland. So much for my plans to hike in Mendon Ponds Park three times a week.

All this rain has made my yard the home to about 35,678,345,637,887,435,890,001 mosquitoes. And every single time I step my big toe outdoors I get bitten.

Yesterday was the last day for our organist at our church and I am very sad. I know that when people think of music in a Catholic church they often think of shawled old ladies hunched over a little organ in a dark corner, singing Gather Us In in a shaky, off-key warble. That may be true in some places (*sigh*), but our organist was probably the most phenomenal musician I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. His fingers and feet danced across the keyboard and pedals. He accompanied the cantor and choir with grace and made the church ring out in praise of Our Lord. This past Easter, he came into the Church, much to the joy of the congregation. He will now be the new organist at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California. They are so lucky!

I am also terrified that the lovely, traditional hymns we've been enjoying since joining this parish will be replaced with things like Digo Si, Senor! or Up From the Earth. *shudder*

I crocheted an adorable mountain hat for Wee Ninja Girl for our trip to the Adirondacks last week and I'm just waiting for a warm, sunny day so I can get some pictures of it to post along with the pattern.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from our vacation to Hoel Pond, near Tupper Lake.

Not sure if this is Hoel Pond or Turtle Pond. I think it's Turtle pond. Doesn't it look so peaceful?

Wee Ninja Girl trying not to get blown away on the back deck. It was really REALLY windy that day. And she kept taking her hat off and throwing it on the ground, so the Dude let her go bareheaded for a few minutes. (I promise it was just a few minutes, mom!)

Her hair is very random, too. She has three cowlicks, so I can never do much with it, but the windblown, messy look works for her personality.

This very hungry hummingbird sipped nectar from the feeders all day long, despite the wind.

Extraordinarily Patient Dude and I have been trying some new recipes lately, since we eat the same eight meals all the time. Sometimes it's worked out for us, sometimes we've had to hold our noses just to swallow the results, but it's been fun overall. My favorite place to find recipes is AllRecipes.com. The best part is that others who have tried them out will post corrections, variations, and other helpful commentary. I just made a yummy fresh sweet cherry cobbler and am eternally grateful to the comments regarding the overabundance of sugar in the recipe. I cut back on it and the results were amazing. And delicious.

Which is why all this summer rain and gloom is bad for me. I can't go out and hike or take walks, so I stay home and bake.

And now we've come full circle.


Happy Birthday, Grampa!

My grandfather, my father's father, lives in the same house where he has spent most of his life. Grampa loves to tell stories of his childhood and youth, and he always has an eager audience in his grandkids.

When he was very young, he and his older brothers would spend afternoons in the movie theatre where his father ran the projector. I always pictured three little Italian-American boys in chairs against the wall under the projection window, enraptured by the flickering images on the screen. Their favorites were the westerns, and they'd spend hours recreating the stunts they saw.

Grampa tells of mixing sugar water into shot glasses at his kitchen counter and pretending it was whiskey. Sometimes, one of the brothers would climb on top of the icebox a huge desert boulder to leap down onto the heads of the unsuspecting passers-by. Then there was the time Grampa's older brother leapt through a plate glass window in the dining room during "saloon brawl."

Oh, their sainted mother! Such patience!

Once they were told to kill a chicken for dinner. Not knowing any other way to kill anything, they attempted to hang it. I will spare you the gory details from that escapade; it's a story much better told at the dinner table while eating chicken. Or so that's how we always heard it, much to my grandmother's chagrin.

As a young man during World War II, Grampa was finally able to enlist, only to find that the war was over. He was sent to Japan as part of the occupation. One night, while out past curfew, he and some friends were about to be caught by the MPs. Thinking quickly, Grampa just ran into the nearest house and shut the door. The family inside didn't say anything, but served him a plate of their dinner and then he went on his way.

Later he thought that he may have been just a tad intimidating, what with bursting through their door at night, armed to the teeth.

Grampa has always been a kind, gentle, and loving man. He loves to talk to people, always coming home from the grocery store with a story about meeting "this guy" next to the watermelons or "this guy" in the checkout line.

These days he putters around his house and yard, always busy with some project or other. He'll probably take it easy today, although I'm sure my family that lives nearby will make sure he gets a cake and some presents.

Happy Birthday, Grampa! Wish I were there!


Adventures in Pittsburgh and Poopy Ice Cream

Last week Wee Ninja Girl and I travelled with my parents and my youngest sister (Ms. T, age 12) to visit my Big Brother, his wife K, and my three nieces: Energizer Bunny (age 7), Sweetie-O (age 5), and Newbie (age one week!).

I will spare you all the details of the car trip. As someone who travelled by car frequently as a child, I am used to my parents' grueling ambitious methods. For example, when we stopped (once every four to five hours), we used the bathroom. It didn't matter if we "didn't have to go." We just WENT. Because it would be a long time before stopping again. We were given small treats every once in a while as we passed a milestone—usually smarties or a travel game. I hate to think how much smartie dust my poor dad vacuumed out of cars when we were young.

Their methods certainly worked, though. They drove from Albany, NY, to Fort Leavenworth, KS, in three days with five kids in an '86 Volvo station wagon. In the winter. As an added bonus, at least three people in the car were sick at any given time. Fun times!

Unfortunately, Wee Ninja Girl is not quite conditioned for that sort of torture regimen, so we ended up stopping more than I would have liked.

Anyway. As expected, we had a blast visiting everyone. My sister-in-law was amazingly spry and energetic for a woman who just gave birth naturally a week before we arrived. What's that? Green isn't a good color for me?

On Thursday, my mother decided to treat us to some ice cream. She and my dad had seen a sign for an ice cream place as they took a stroll that morning. Never one to be left out when there is ice cream involved, I strapped Wee Ninja Girl into her new umbrella stroller and headed out with my mom, Ms. T, Energizer Bunny, and Sweetie-O.

It was hot. And humid. And the umbrella stroller turned out to be too short for me and a huge pain to push uphill. Because they live in Pittsburgh and one can't seem to take three steps in any given direction without going uphill. Needless to say, I was less than cheerful by the time we saw the place, although I'm sure no one could tell as I cleverly masked my displeasure.

It turned out to be a Greek lunch counter that "Now Serves ICE CREAM!!!!!" according to the hand-scrawled sign in the window. Our choices were Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry. Apparently, the freezer burn was included at no extra charge. It took the guy at the counter about 20 minutes to scoop and serve five orders. I had hoped there was frozen yogurt for the Wee Ninja Girl, but she was happy with the bag of cheerios I always carry around. I know, she's awesome.

At least we had entertainment. Next door was a tattoo/piercing parlor with a giant window facing the little patio where we ate. Lots of shiny, colorful people to watch!

Energizer Bunny and Sweetie-O couldn't wait to tell Big Bro and K all about the poopy ice cream. We did clarify that "poopy" described the overall experience, not the flavors.
And at least the walk home was mostly downhill.


Please allow me to introduce myself

I'm Jess. Nice to meet you.

First off, before I disappoint any theoretical physicists, let me make one thing clear: I probably won't ever write about the actual science-y string theory. I will, however, write about some of my creations with string. Okay, with yarn, but all the good yarn puns have been taken by better blogs.

I may sometimes write about my family and the antics of Extraordinarily Patient Dude or Wee Ninja Girl.

I may sometimes write about things happening in the world.

I may sometimes write about music, books, movies, or television shows.

I may sometimes write about completely random thoughts or topics that make little sense to most people. That would be the "whimsy."

I may often write about food. Especially cheese. I really love cheese. I buy a two-pound block of Extra-Sharp White Cheddar cheese every week. Mmmmmmmmm.... cheese.........

So there I am. Ta da!