Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Husband Does Not Appear to Understand Texting

There are just some things that warrant a phone call...

I would begin by suggesting that if one's text includes the word "urgent" in any context, a phone call might be the better choice. Though actually pretty much any of these words should suggest a call rather than a text. Seriously; "urgent" "inflamed" "lung lining" all seem pretty call worthy to me.

Monday, September 16, 2013

You Know You're a Booklover

Last week I got a little carried away on our employee ordering site (I get 60% off Penguin books!) and ended up spending about 3 times as much as I intended. I eagerly awaited the package and when it arrived on Wednesday, it felt like Christmas morning!

But here's the thing, not a single one of the books in that box was over 25 pages...they were all for Eleanor. And she's FIVE MONTHS OLD. Kid can usually manage to enjoy one whole book in a sitting, sometimes two if she's in the right mood, but I'll level with you and admit that I realize she doesn't care what we're reading. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, she seemed just as enthralled when I read some of my Dublin Murder Squad novel out loud to her (it was very enjoyable for us both. Nothing like getting to read a tough Irish guy's speech patterns out loud. Sometimes cursing can be really fun. No, Eleanor, that's not true. It makes us look cheap. Don't curse. Unless you can do it with an Irish accent.)

However, as I pulled book after book out of the box, positively cackling with glee, I realized I may have an addiction. A serious addiction demonstrated by the full two shelves already dedicated to books for Eleanor. But I'll tell you this-we read every one of those books aloud that afternoon, and Eleanor did not pull her usual shriek/freakout in the middle of any of them.

Some of the best ones that we acquired:

Secret Pizza Party (This one even got a thumbs up from Daddy, and he's a hard sell. The running commentary of asides from him when he's reading to Eleanor is the stuff of comedy routines. "Holy cow, that beard in the costume shop is almost twice as much as the hat. No wonder he went with the hat and trench coat as his disguise..." "Look, Eleanor! That guy bought the beard!")
The Day the Crayons Quit
Lost and Found
This Moose Belongs to Me

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just a Minute: August 2013

August was a learning month for me. I had to learn to let go as Eleanor started daycare, I learned that I really can't prepare for Leisure Games by myself anymore, and I learned that Miley Cyrus has a lot of tattoos. I try not to watch her somewhat disturbing video, but that song is so catchy.

reading...I just finished the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French. They are incredibly good. A lot of people were probably turned off from her later novels because her first one, Into the Woods, didn't ever solve one of the mysteries. Her later ones tie up all the loose ends, however, and they keep getting better and better. This one, Broken Harbor, left me incredibly unsettled for days afterward. I don't want to give anything away, but it was so well-written that the details of the book stayed with me.

listening...A Ghost in My House by Lucy Schwartz never gets old no matter how many times I listen to it.

adjusting...Eleanor's first day of daycare of August 26th. It was awful. But only for me. She was her usually sunny self, happy when I left her, happy when I picked her up again. It's never going to get easier, I'm told. Preschool, grade school, high school, college. Every time I say goodbye to her as she stands on the brink of a new precipice, I will be a mess. Sigh. Having a kid just tears you open and exposes your tender insides to the world.

Photo by BĂ©atrice Peltre
cooking…I have made numerous batches of Oatmeal Carmelitas this month. It seems they go over well for every occasion. As this is the beginning of zucchini season, I broke out my favorite zucchini recipe, Cherry Tomato, Zucchini, & Goat Cheese Clafoutis, while Sarah was here, and I plan to make it again at least a few more times this fall. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Goodbye Gift

It's hard to let Sarah go back to school. Having a nanny was a short-lived luxury. (She bought me presents just because-better than a husband!) It's probably good that we're putting Eleanor in daycare prior to any possibly shy-around-strangers stage as it will make the transition easier on her and definitely easier on me, but it doesn't make me any less sad to say goodbye to Sarah. As a thank you/we love you gift, I made Sarah a locket with Eleanor's picture.

I've had these lockets in my stash but have always been stumped about how to make them feel less unfinished. I'm not sure what they were manufactured to have in those ovals, but a jewel or fitted insert would be hard to track down in the right size if I even wanted to go that route.
However, the other day I was struck by the thought of faux enameling it with a bit of nail polish. A couple of drops and a careful spread to make sure it reaches all the sides and then all I had to do was wait until it dried thoroughly. The best part is that it's pretty easy to wipe it down and start over if I make a mistake. I love how it turned out!

Friday, August 9, 2013

New Fruits

We took Sarah up to Devon Avenue the other night for some Indian food. After dinner, we walked around so she could get a feel for Chicago's version of India (not all that far off, really), and stopped at a few of the grocery stores up there that we like. I found SIX new fruits that I haven't tried yet, so we had ourselves a strange fruit tasting last night.

From the top middle, winter melon, a Forelle pear out of South Africa, guava, jack fruit, dosakai, and a burro banana.

The dosakai tasted like a tangy cucumber (almost pickle-like), the winter melon was the blandest melon I've ever had, and the jack fruit was everyone's favorite and truly almost the weirdest fruit I've had yet. Its deep yellow fruit had the consistency of meat, but its flavor was somewhat like a mango. The guava was lightly fruity, but the hard seeds were difficult to get used to, the pear was very nice with a good flavor and firmness, and the banana was terrible! I decided to pan fry it so it really ended up just tasting like french fries. Looking it up later, I should have let it ripen because it's supposed to be a very lemony banana flavor. I think I'm going to have retry this one with a ripe one.

Also, as I typed this, I had a tasty plumcot that I just picked up from Trader Joe's for breakfast.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Photo Journal: Fountain Square, Indy

Nathan had a bachelor party in Indianapolis this weekend, so we took a quick trip down. While there, we discovered an upcoming part of downtown that I fell in love with. I can definitely imagine living in Fountain Square and having more happy breakfasts at Peppy's.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Just a Minute: July 2013

I've been back at work for a month now. I'm enjoying being back for the most part, but coming up with a work/home life balance is next to impossible. I suspect that if you ever hear someone say they've got it down, then it's probably the husband of a woman going to bed at midnight each night, getting up at the crack of dawn, and eating the crackers she found at the bottom of her purse for lunch.

reading...Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. I thought it was great (many others did too, as it won a host of prestigious awards like the Man Booker Prize). It spans the period during Henry VIII's reign where he was married to Ann Boleyn, "the Great Pretender," and then looking to Thomas Cromwell to arrange a way out of the marriage so he can marry Jane Seymour. I really enjoyed Cromwell as the narrator, a man who is normally portrayed as a bad guy. Here he was very likable (apparently he's even more likable in the first book in the series, Wolf Hall, which I didn't read first). I haven't read Wolf Hall yet, but didn't need to for this book to be good.

listening...My current favorite song, Walking Blind by Aiden Hawken, has been running nonstop through my head this week.

Photo by Melissa Mai, friend of bride and wedding DJ
celebrating...I have a new Brother-in-Law! As of last weekend, my sister-in-law, Jenny, married her new hubby, Brandon, in a lovely and very personal outdoor wedding ceremony at a winery in Michigan. Among the items on the registry, the couple requested a kit of 20 essential Nintendo accessories in their wedding accent color (purple).

Photo by Ben Dearnley,
cooking…I've been planning to make a Apricot Crostata for a couple weeks now. It's going to happen this week for sure though. Love the crostata because I don't have to have a pretty crust edge. I can rock the rustic look.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Finding a Balance

My soon-to-be brother-in-law shared this blog post on Facebook the other day, and as I am newly back to work post maternity leave, I found this section particularly meaningful.

And in that moment it suddenly dawned on me what was taking me down. We (myself included) admire the obsessively dedicated. At work we hail the person for whom science and teaching is above all else, who forgets to eat and drink while working feverishly on getting the right answer, who is always there to have dinner and discussion with eager undergrads. At home we admire the parent who sacrificed everything for the sake of a better life for their children, even at great personal expense. The best scientists. The best parents. Anything less is not giving it your best.
And then I had an even more depressing epiphany. That in such a world I was destined to suck at both.
Needless to say it took a lot of time, and a lot of tears, for me to dig myself out of that hole. And when I finally did, it came in the form of another epiphany. That what I can do, is try to be the best whole person that I can be. And that is *not* a compromise. That *is* me giving it my very best. I’m pretty sure that the best scientists by the above definition are not in the running for most dedicated parent or most supportive spouse, and vice versa. And I’m not interested in either of those one-sided lives. I am obsessively dedicated to being the best whole person I can be. It is possible that my best whole is not good enough for Harvard, or for my marriage; I have to accept that both may choose to find someone else who is a better fit. But even if I don’t rank amongst the best junior faculty list, or the best spouses list, I am sure there is a place in the world where I can bring value.
Because frankly, my best whole person is pretty damn good.

I've been struggling with that first epiphany too. In trying to be everything to everyone, I am going to suck so much at overachieving at it all. Thank goodness there's someone out there like

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hello/Goodbye Neighbor

We are close with a number of neighbors who now love Eleanor nearly as much as we do. The bookshelf in her room is decorated with things given to her from various neighbors. She has an antique stork figurine from one, a Japanese doll from another, and rainbow beads from her "uncles." She's so lucky to have them all in her life.

Recently our 94-year-old neighbor, Kathleen, moved to Vegas to live with her daughter. She told Eleanor how sad she was that she wouldn't get to see her grow. It broke my heart a little. Her family is selling her building, so Nathan, Sarah (our summer nanny), and I have been cleaning and cleaning and cleaning to take care of all the things her kids left (such as a refrigerator FULL of perishable food)!? Nathan's even pulling up the carpeting that's been there since the '60's at least.

Maybe a third of the jars she had stored in her cabinets.
This is a full size trash can.
Emptying the huge pantry, we've found some ancient canned goods, a nearly antique box of Club crackers (1986), and lots of really fun items that I will post about later. Kathleen was in the Japanese internment camps here during WWII, so she is very frugal and careful with her things as a result. She is the ultimate recycler, keeping everything to use again and again from the netting from her onions to toilet paper rolls and EVERY instant coffee glass jar she'd ever bought.

It certainly teaches me two lessons, one about how she was able to live happily with things that were decades old, not feeling the need for lots of material possessions (I'm not sure how long that lesson will stick though-sorry Nathan). And the other about weeding out your belongings periodically so you aren't one day pulling 15 bags of dried mushrooms so old they're nearly dust out of boxes in your pantry.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Song for My Daughter

This one brings tears to my eyes every time I play it (and I've been playing it practically nonstop). Eleanor remains unimpressed by it so far.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Just a Minute: June 2013

After a (ok, not so) brief hiatus, I've returned! And here's what I've been doing this past month, during my last month of maternity leave.
Cover image from Amazon
reading...I read Hunting and Gathering for my book club. It was my sister-in-law's pick, and I loved it. I cannot recommend it enough. It's just a bit quirky and one of those books that the word lovely was made for. Finding Nouf was my pick for our next book club read. We haven't discussed it yet, but I liked it. A short mystery set in Saudi Arabia, it was not your average whodunnit and the peek into Arabic life was interesting, but the book is far from deep or meaningful.

watching...Catching up on my Dexter, True Blood, and 
Game of Thrones before I head back to work. I will miss my quiet laundry folding time (while Eleanor naps) interspersed with diving toward the remote to lower the volume due to a suddenly violent scene when I'm back in the office. I knew there was some sort of shocker at the end of Game of Thrones Season 3 so I spent the entire 8 episodes trying not to like any of the characters very much so as to limit my devastation. I think it helped a little, but it was still pretty awful.
Cover image from Amazon

listening...Our girl loves her music. She seems to especially enjoy my favorites: Of Monsters and Men, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, fun., and Freelance Whales. Lucky me! Although I imagine Nathan thinks she especially likes his favorites which are more in the electronic music category. Guess we're just going to have a musically eclectic kid.
sewing...Eleanor's morning naps mean that I finally
have time to myself. Poor thing hasn't herself benefited from my recent sewing, but sooner or later I will get around to making her a dress. I've spent most of my sewing time making baby gifts for my, this is certainly the year of the baby!

Photo via Saveur by Todd Coleman
cooking…I've been cooking sometimes, though my favorite meal these days is one that Nathan made. The marinade and salsa in this recipe are fabulous on skirt steak but equally delicious on any kind of steak. So, so, so good. We've had it three times already since he discovered the recipe.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Clever Little Time Waster

Something clever and fun I discovered via one of my favorite blogs, How About Orange...

Recently, The New York Times developed an algorithm that automatically detects haikus within the paper's front page articles. A computer scans each article in search of them and then they choose the most delightful ones to publish daily at Times Haiku.

This one just rung out to me as some sort of real life truism, though I'm not entirely sure what it would translate to mean. Perhaps something like sometimes it takes a big effort to find a place to fit in. Any better suggestions?

Monday, July 1, 2013


It's a pretty heavy thing being wholly responsible for the life of a human being. You literally hold that little baby's life in your hands (and never do I feel that more than when I'm holding my slippery wet baby over our bathroom's marble floors-I can vividly picture the awfulness of dropping her there.)
At three in the morning I never disliked something as wholeheartedly as my crying baby...only to feel overwhelmed with such an intense love for her a mere three hours later. In the beginning, Nathan asked me a number of times why anyone would ever have a second child. "I will never forget this," he vowed, as she lay shrieking inconsolably in his lap. It's really hard to be a parent. No one tells you that until you're already knocked up; clearly it's a conspiracy.

But now she smiles at us. Big, wide gaping mouth smiles that make her already chubby cheeks puff out as she gurgles a hello to her daddy when he arrives home from work. And I can literally see him forgetting. Everyone tells us that as soon as we begin to feel like we have this parenting thing figured out, when we've developed a routine, that's when everything changes again, so we're just waiting for hell to break out again.

Now I count success as a day with only one incident of spit-up on my shirt, only one outfit change (hers or mine), and 2 hours of freedom while she naps. We're sleeping mostly through the night, breastfeeding is as easy as such an odd thing can be (I am attaching a human to my chest where she gets her entire nutrients from my nipples, a body part that until now has been basically decorative.), and she spends her waking moments staring, wide-eyed and awed, at everything around her.

She can almost hold herself in a seated position, nearly roll herself over, and almost laughs at peek-a-boo, and now I have to leave her. Someone expects me to be able to head back to work and actually work instead of wondering if she misses me as much as I miss her. Someone expects me to be okay with pumping milk into sterile bottles every weekday for the next 10 months instead of cuddling my snuggly daughter as she eats.

But, as awful as all that sounds, I'm actually looking forward to being back at work, to talking to adults other than my husband, to eating lunch with the use of both hands and no need to shovel everything in before my daughter starts to cry, and to being appreciated for my mind rather than feeling like I've lost it as I make up ridiculous words to "Splish Splash I was taking a bath."

It seems that ever since I went off to college, being an adult has meant being torn in half, never being entirely satisfied where I am. In college that meant that I was homesick at school and missing friends and my freedom when I was at home. After college, it meant the word "home" referred to my childhood home and to my apartment. And since having a baby, I look forward to returning to work nearly as much as I am dreading it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Things I Would Never Have Dreamed

Before having a baby, there are a number of things that I would have assured you I would never allow to happen. Then I had a baby and realized that all bets are off.

I never would have thought I'd

But she's pretty sure she'll NEVER
do any of these things.
Say that 26 hours of labor was honestly not that bad. Boring, definitely, but not as bad as it sounds. I would even (no joke!) do it again.

Seriously contemplate sending out a picture of my boob to in-laws, family, and friends. (But she looks so adorable when she breastfeeds! I haven't actually done it, but I've been tempted, which is horrifying enough).

Go without ANY makeup in public.

Go out in public with vomit on my shirt (in multiple places).

And, in the same vein...Laugh as someone vomits down my cleavage.

Cheer every time someone burps, poos, or toots. (After many nights of intestinal distress, you too would cheer when your child FINALLY lets them rip.)

Consider an uninterrupted four hours of sleep "a full night's sleep."

Witness yet another reason Nathan gets attention from strangers. He's already had perfect strangers walk up to him on the street and say that he and his daughter are "so cute." Sigh. No one tells me that we're adorable when I'm out with her.

Feel the need to avoid putting mustard on my food. I just can't do it. It looks scarily like what we find in our newborn's diaper after each change.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Guess What I Did in April?

On April 15, at 2:19 PM (after 26 hours of labor--I'm so going to use this in our future arguments, Ellie) Eleanor Sinclair McArdle joined our family!

Needless to say, due to lack of sleep and general fogginess, I will likely not be updating the blog for awhile. Hopefully once she's on a bit of a sleep schedule I might start regaining my brainpower and general clever remarks, but I'm not counting on it (the regaining what brain I've lost AND the sleeping normally soon).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Just a Minute: March 2013

I'm remembering these later and later each month. I would not be surprised it I skip April's all together (not that I won't have a good reason for it). 

reading...I finished The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, which I've been reading pretty much the whole month of March. I finished it with the same feeling I had when I read The Forgotten Garden by Morton. I didn't dislike it, but I wasn't really sure that I'd count it among my favorite books. I don't know if it's a product of the author's English literature vein of writing, but I have a hard time truly liking her main female characters so then I find I'm not very attached to them. I can't figure out what kept me from really liking this though because looking back, I liked all of the author's plot decisions.
watching...After the Downtown Abbey season ended, I left my DVR recording of PBS's Masterpiece Classic on and accidentally recorded Mr. Selfridge with Jeremy Piven. I watched Part 1 the other day and liked it overall. It's another good period show with fun costumes and set design. My only complaint is the weird smile that Jeremy breaks into anytime his character is uncomfortable (at least six or seven times in Part 1). It rather makes him look like a mangy werewolf. all those old wives tales on how to bring about labor. Sadly, doubting that any of them are effective. Eating the hell out of spicy foods just in case.

finishing...trying to fit in all of those last minute things (eye doctor, dentist, buying birthday presents) that are easier to do now while bringing the baby along is still somewhat simple and contained. Still need to get that car seat installed though (or we may be tossing it in the car on the way to the hospital for Nathan to tackle in the parking lot).
sewing...I bought fabric to make this dress in two sizes as a baby gift for a friend at work. She's having a second daughter, so I'm making matching dresses for both girls. Unfortunately, that fabric has sat next to my sewing machine for more than a month as my time sans baby has dwindled down to single digits (slight exaggeration, as single digits starts day after tomorrow). Maybe working on them this weekend will help me keep my mind off the beached whale feeling I am now living with constantly.

cooking…One of my new favorites to make with dinner is cauliflower puree. It basically ends up tasting like mock mashed potatoes, but is healthier so you don't feel as guilty for the pat of butter that goes in. Here's how to do it: take a head of cauliflower and separate it into florets. Steam florets until their color becomes slightly more translucent (about 6-8 minutes, depending on size of florets). Throw drained florets into a blender and blend with a tablespoon of butter and a little milk. Salt and pepper to taste. It will be a little less thick than mashed potatoes.

Monday, April 8, 2013

"I Don't Understand Why A Muscle Contraction is so Painful"

or Just One of the Entertaining Things My Husband Said During Birthing Class

Nathan and I had our 2-day parenting class this weekend. Though we did learn some useful things, they could easily have fit in a two or three hour class rather than the 12 hours we spent in a basement at the hospital. It was just short of torture because the weather this weekend was positively gorgeous.

To add salt to the wound, on Saturday, the second our car pulled into the garage, it began to rain. Nathan did some general yard work anyway. I stood on the covered porch and watched most of it.

One of the obnoxious openers to the class was that we had to say one interesting thing about ourselves as an icebreaker. Nathan told the class that he planned to bike up to the hospital for my delivery (jury's still out on that one), and that he was packing his clubs in the back of the car so that in case the delivery was a long one, he could head out the back door of the hospital onto the course for a quick round of golf (straight up no on that one). I pointed out that he was clearly in need of the parenting class.

Needless to say, we were probably the most entertaining couple in the class. (And likely also the most disruptive...) Many of the videos and pictures we were shown of couple interactions during labor and what to say and when to say it were so effusive and over the top touchy-feely that we did some quiet giggling and eye rolling picturing Nathan trying to do that in the midst of my labor.

We were chosen to demonstrate a position on the birthing ball to the class that required me to be sprawled across it with my behind to the sky while he molded my hips for what felt like an eternity. I suppose that may have been payback for the giggling.

I did come away from the class feeling confident that I can make it through most, if not all, of the birth naturally, which is what I had been leaning toward initially...(I cry when the dentist gives me gas, I can only imagine what a semi-paralyzed lower half will do to me emotionally!), and feeling very confident that Nathan will be supportive and keep me laughing in the delivery room (that is, if he makes it on his bike in time).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Confessions of a Craft Addict


So yes, Eleanor may be born any day now, but I still may have just signed up for this:

Every month's box comes with instructions for an actual project that uses the craft supplies in the box, but you can always go off book and make something completely different with your supplies. Whimseybox's blog is full of DIY Craft Projects that people have shared. Love this idea!
How could I turn down the opportunity to not only get mail, but mail that would be a random collection of fun craft supplies?

PLUS, I got $5 off! You can too, even if you only sign on for a single month.

I have received two out of my three boxes for my 3-month subscription (April's just never came), and I feel compelled to mention that I'm relatively unimpressed. In theory it's a really cute idea, but in practice it does not feel worth the money. The supplies are minimal, the projects are dated (lip balm and a ceramic planter, both popular on the craft blogs and Pinterest ages ago), and the service is unreliable (though the customer service after is polite and does fix things). Also, make sure to note that even if you sign up for a limited subscription, it will automatically renew at the end and charge your card. (Why have a subscription period option then? I don't understand the automatic renewal.)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Conversation #18

Me:(Always tearfully these days): Nathan, I need you to say that I'm beautiful even though I have elephant cankles...
Him: You are.
Me:...and that you love me very much even though my face is fat.
Him: But no, it's not very.
Me: (Pause. Less tearfully.) Close, but that's not exactly what I was hoping for.
Him: Sorry, I think you're beautiful, and I love you very much. I hope you don't have to do this much longer.
Me: Me too.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Showers

My family threw us a baby shower last weekend, and it was marvelous! Not only did I have all of my family around me for a long weekend, but friends came from quite a distance away to help celebrate Eleanor's imminent arrival. We had a book theme, which contributed to us receiving a whole shelf of fun books (with surprisingly no duplicates!), but we also received many other wonderful gifts.

I made a few book illustration garlands, one appetizer, and the shower favors, but other than that my mom and sisters did everything. Nathan and my dad even found time to build some gorgeous bookshelves around the top of the baby's room and the sunroom before the shower.

I am a lucky gal.
Some of the guests busily decorating onesies.
Finished onesies

A few of the decorations.

Some of the gifts we received...

Nathan and Maybe testing out the baby carrier.

The spread of goodies...

The farthest traveling friends
(though my sister-in-law, sisters, and
cousin win for longest distance overall).