Monday, March 31, 2014

Me Time

a dear, lovely, thoughtful blogger and friend lisa hassan scott wrote a wonderful post about Me time.  i commented on it, as i rarely do (i'm more of a browser than a commenter on most of the blogs i frequent), and i've been pondering it ever since.

lisa wrote, in part:
"We all make choices about the way we live. . . There’s not a lot of room in my life for me time of the sort most people suggest or seem to think a mother is due. . . What I choose to do with my time has changed. I have to be choosy; I have to get the most bang for my buck. I prioritise those things that nourish me the most.
". . . I don’t get large swathes of time. I accept the small morsels that fall from the family table and I learn to savour them. . . I store away these little moments and allow them to nourish my heart. They are gifts that I receive every day.
". . . But I can’t wait around for an hour or two of free time to miraculously arrive. Because it won’t. Me time is reading a book before bed. It’s staring off into space and counting my breaths for a few minutes once the littlest one has finally fallen asleep beside me in the evening. It’s ten minutes of Yoga postures and ten minutes of meditation every day, in spite of the chaos and noise. It’s a few extra minutes of hot water pouring down my back in the shower once my ablutions are complete. It’s watching through the kitchen window as the birds peck at the feeder as I surreptitiously sneak chocolate into my mouth."
i reflected on this post, not just because i love lisa's writing and how she bravely and eloquently shares her experiences, but because i recently celebrated my birthday.  i was asked beforehand how i was intending on spending my special day.  i answered that my time was primarily focused on ander's activities for the day.  he'd been invited to a classmate's birthday party at chuck e. cheese and was filled with anticipation and apprehension for the morning event.  he also had his tae kwon do class in the afternoon.  anyone who knows us knows that each of these things could emotionally encompass our whole day, with the preparations and getting there and participating and coming back and decompressing.  so when was i getting the Me Time "of the sort most people suggest or seem to think a mother is due" as lisa said?

well, i got my Me Time the same way that lisa described , "I accept the small morsels. . . and I learn to savour them. . . I store away these little moments and allow them to nourish my heart.  They are gifts that I receive every day."

i got Me Time when i was at the party with ander.  that was not a chore or a parental duty - it was a privilege to me to share excitement and joy with my son.  the moments when i saw his happy face as he tried out new rides.  moments when he asked me to join him in experiencing a fast-paced video adventure.  moments with other parents who seemed just as pleased to interact with me as i did with them.  the moment i took a silly picture of myself.  the moment in the car on the ride home when ander said, "that was a fun party" and requested the very same location for his birthday in the summertime.  oh, that nourished me.

i got Me Time when i baked a giant chocolate chip cookie as my birthday sweet.  i love to bake and i love to eat and i love the oohs and ahhs as people dear to me enjoy a treat with me. that nourished me.

i got Me Time when i watched with unabashed pride and joy as ander worked hard and persisted and earned enthusiastic accolades from his teacher and classmates in his tae kwon do class.  i savoured every moment of his success and confidence in himself.

i got Me Time when i wrapped the scarf lovingly made by my daughter around my neck, her knitted hug to me.  that was a beautiful gift.

i got Me Time when steve said he would go and get anything i wanted to eat for dinner, even if no one else in my family was interested in that kind of food.  take-out thai for me!  and he took care of everyone else's food needs, too.  i really savoured that.

i got Me Time, too, when neighbor tanya joyfully played with the kids and steve treated me to dinner and took me to a pentatonix concert, complete with a stroll in the drizzle afterwards to catch glimpses of the washington monument and the white house.  small morsels with my best friend and partner that added up to a delightful rekindling of our mutual interests.

i got Me Time on my birthday.

my comment to lisa's post was this, in part:
"i wonder, sometimes, if the *helpful advice* on the necessity and acquisition of the sacred Me Time focuses (incorrectly) more prominently in terms of the *quantity* of time. . . i find people are very willing to offer ideas of how much and what i *should* be doing with my Me Time but are far less likely to want to know what *I* prefer and what works for me.
"sometimes my Me Time includes being in the same room as my husband or children while we separately engage in our own quiet activities. people have a hard time seeing this as Me Time because i am actually With Other People instead of Alone. but if my need for Me Time is fulfilled by being in the silent, comforting presence of those who love and accept me, then who is anyone to say that i’m doing it *wrong*?
"maybe if we abandon offering prescriptions for Me Time in a generalized sense, making the assumption that what works for one will work for all, we direct our attention to asking and listening to, “what do you feel you need? how can i help you get it?”
Me Time can be about being alone, but it doesn't have to be.  Me Time can be a specific length of time or at regular intervals, but it doesn't have to be.  Me Time doesn't have to fit everyone's description, it only has to fit each one's needs.

i love how lisa cherishes and protects her Me Time in the way that she does because it works for her.  she embraces what she has, rather than lamenting about missing what others think she should have.  maybe that's why part of my own Me Time is spent in interactions with her.  she nourishes me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

shari's misadventures (vacation edition)

for those who expect to read shari's highly entertaining and informative writing, i must apologize.  it's not here.  you'll have to talk to her to get her latest edition.

no, this post is pretty much an excuse to show off more pictures taken of and by our lovely friend who visited us just before and during mardi gras.  the king cake fiasco and snow day adventure i posted were just a few elements of our escapades.

diana selects the precise crawfish she wants me to peel for her, while i am busy taking and tweeting a very bad photo of the whole bowl.

john instructs diana on the proper way of getting at the tasty tail meat

initially, shari declined to eat them with us, having tried them years before when she visited in louisiana. i think she changed her mind when she saw how much fun the rest of us were having with them.

i wanna see you be brave, shari!

one of the many moments of hilarity during the evening. it's probably an accurate rendition of how blurry we were after several choice beverages. ahem. as you do.

evan is easily amused by my purple mishap

i think this piece, a small diversion from the excellent mardi gras playlist courtesy of john and his extensive knowledge of all things musical, was supposed to be something about vikings

at udvar-hazy, investigating a real spacesuit

steve getting an early start on this year's cheezapalooza
in a tradition started so many years ago that i cannot remember when or how it originated, shari treats us to an assortment of cheeses, some classic favorites and some new offerings. the irish swiss was a definite win, and i have plans for tanya to make some delectable dessert with the white stilton with cranberries. yum.
i added four flavors of hummus to the round out the table. neighbor extraordinaire tanya brought a fabulous wine.

shari, my dear friend, who has known me for a time period almost comparable to steve, who comes to visit and vacation with us wherever we move to, who delights in our children and their creative interests, who gossips with me while we scrapbook, who eagerly watches the extended-version-LOTR-with-director's-comments marathons we have hosted, who anticipates writing an original murder mystery for us to host when we make enough local friends to come and participate in it, who is up for just about any adventure we suggest, you are always welcome in our home and in our hearts.  i love you!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

the not-so-silent snow

when our friend shari visited us, she had planned to head to washington, d.c. to participate in one day's events of a bicycling conference.  we convinced her that the winter storm that hit the night before would make it untenable to travel.  the kids' school was closed and steve was able to work from home.  please, would she stay here with us?  and wouldn't she really like to go out and play in the snow with diana so i could stay warm inside with ander?

despite not having packed apparel for such an excursion, shari donned our extra boots and coat and the new hat i knitted up in a jiffy for her and headed outside to take pictures.  when ander saw all this preparation, he changed his mind about remaining in, so that meant i had to get out of my pajamas and brave the cold, too.

i'm sure there are countless quotes about the silence of snowfall.  we did not experience this - rather, quite the opposite.  especially when i got on the sledding hill againwe are i am a loud snow-shoveler, snowball-thrower, snow-mountain-climber, snow-sledder, and snow-eater.  if you know my laugh, you'll know it's loud and high and hearty.  i did not disappoint.

only a few of the pictures on this post were taken by me.  the really nice ones were courtesy of shari and her camera and her mad skillz as a photographer.  shari is one of those friends who makes sure that i get into some of the pictures and she has a special knack for capturing me just as i am.  when i look back on those pictures, i feel beautiful.

ander & i successfully scaled the high mountain formed by the snowplow's work earlier in the day

diana putting the finishing touches on bartleby

yes, in fact, these are new glasses. i opted for a fun new color this year.

having much more fun since i secured snowpants and proper gloves for her

ander could make it down the slope and back up again twice in the same time it took me to slide down once. he's getting really good at this.

realizing i am probably going to crash into something.  which i did.  nothing new, though, for shari.  she's seen how i ski.

this has to be one of my favorite photos in a long time. unabashed excitement for our joint adventure.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

the three little sontarans

this is an original story written by diana to share with her friends at her epic doctor who birthday party.  i don't recall if she ever did share it with them, but she gave me permission to post it here.  i was tickled pink by it and thought others might be, too.

The Three Little Sontarans
            Once somewhere in time there lived three Sontarans. The first Sontaran, Stan the Unconquerable, built a tent of thick, strong leather. The second, Laat the Unconquered, built a shed of solid iron plates welded together. The third, Smaas the Conqueror, built his fort of Dalekanium plates.
            Also on the planet on which they lived there was a Big, Bad Prisoner 0. The Prisoner did not fight honorably according to Sontaran tradition, because it used disguises, and therefore was hated by the Sontarans. One day the Big Bad Prisoner 0 went to Stan the Unconquerable’s tent in the form of a human and said:
            “Warrior, warrior, let me in!”
            Stan responded:
            “Yes, I will let you in so I can crush your pathetic body in honorable battle!”
            He let the Big Bad Prisoner 0  into the tent and the Prisoner took on his true form and bit the Sontaran’s neck. Stan the Unconquerable was dead in dishonorable battle.
            The Big Bad Prisoner 0 went to Laat the Unconquered’s shed of iron, still in human form. He said:
            “Warrior, warrior, let me in!”
            Laat responded:
            “Yes, I will let you in so I can blast your weak form to pieces!”
            So Laat the Unconquered let the Big Bad Prisoner 0 into the shed and the Prisoner dishonorably killed him too.
            Finally, the Big Bad Prisoner 0 went to the Dalekanium fort of Smaas the Conqueror. Now, Smaas had invited an IronSide Dalek to tea at the fort. When the Prisoner went to Smaas the Conqueror, and said:
            “Warrior, warrior, let me in!”
            Smaas responded:
            “Yes, I will let you in so you can be exterminated!”
            The Big Bad Prisoner 0 came in and the IronSide immediately exterminated him. After the Atraxi came to collect the body, they were so grateful that they gave Smaas the Conqueror and the IronSide Dalek some Jammy Dodgers to go with their tea.
The End

Friday, March 14, 2014

how to bake a cake

heyyyyyy, minecraft player

mine some iron ore with a pickaxe.
smelt it into ingots using a furnace.
make a bucket.

find a cow and milk it using the bucket.

time to farm!
till a field from dirt or grass block with your hoe.
make sure it is hydrated and add bone meal for better growth.
plant seeds for wheat.
grow some sugar cane.
harvest the wheat.
craft the sugar cane into sugar.

find some chickens and collect their eggs.

put it all together on a crafting table and what have you got?  a minecraft cake

now that is baking from scratch.

stampy (Ander's favorite minecraft reviewer) would be proud.

i think my king cake escapade was much easier.

note: these directions are from my memory of diana describing what she did.  it is quite likely that i missed a step or explained something incorrectly.  i am well aware that it is also not the only way to do this.  please don't hold it against me if you are not successful at crafting a cake following these directions.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


unless you have been hibernating, you know that we've recently celebrated mardi gras.  we had a party the prior saturday evening with friends, including extended-weekend-guest-longtime-friend shari, whom i would like to thank for providing me with most of the lovely photos for this post.  i thought about ordering a king cake the wednesday before because i got a late start.  when i realized it would cost more to ship the cake than to purchase it, i turned to trusty google to find me a recipe.  "i can do this!" i willed myself to embrace the opportunity to do something new.


my major concern was using yeast.  i do not typically bake things with yeast.  i'm more of a baking powder kind of gal.  my typical breads are sweet and dense and cake-like.  the one thing i have made using yeast is my family's recipe for greek easter bread, and i haven't done it in ages because of moving or weather or mood or personal intimidation, even though my parents have consistently complimented me on my breads.  actually, i also made pan de muerto with yeast but it only worked out well the very first time i made it and subsequent years have resulted in such disasters that i have earned a reputation for failure, as far as diana is concerned.  steve is the bread and roll and pizza dough maker in our family, the master of the bread machine.  (seriously, he makes such an excellent pizza dough that it pains me to purchase it elsewhere.)

i found a recipe that suggested the bread machine would do all the hard work of mixing and kneading the dough, which is really the hardest part for me and takes a toll on my hands and wrists and forearms.  sure, i'll give it a shot.  besides, shari would be with me and help ensure i didn't mess up.

the recipe i used was this one, only i substituted the fresh zest of an entire orange instead of the measured amount from a lemon.  and it worked!  once i understood how to layer the ingredients into the bread machine in a particular order and make the little well for the yeast on top, the bread machine did its part beautifully.  the whole house smelled of orange and it reminded me so much of the heady scent of easter bread dough.

and the dough rose, just as promised.  and i formed it into a twisted ring and it rose again, as promised.


i debated whether to add the egg-white-and-milk wash over the top before baking.  i was concerned it would become too brown.  but, i was trying a new recipe and didn't trust myself to deviate too much.  i know better now.  i took the bread out of the oven after baking and was awash in horror as i saw the utter brownness of it.  my reaction might have been exacerbated by the new orleans hand grenade cocktail i had already begun consuming.

it didn't help that diana came and asked what i had done to it, and ander declined to even try it, though he loves bready products of all kinds.

sigh.  i complained and fretted for a while, with shari trying valiantly to convince me that it would probably taste just fine.  at least, i thought, i could cover up most of the brown with the sugary icing and sprinkles.  i had located green spinkles and gold sprinkles but no purple.  i did have purple icing color, though, and stirred it into the confectioner's sugar and milk.  it was purple.  not lavender or lilac.  it was violent violet.  amethyst with an attitude.

and i made it runny.  too runny.

forget images of purple mountains majesty.  i had created a volcanic lava flow.

to add insult to injury, i sprinkled on the green and gold, which, in the depth of my personal color purple, became muddied and obscure.  no glitter here.  this was a fiasco.  instead of a cheery, happy, confection-of-my-dreams, it was a somber, sad mess.

well, in shari's photo, she managed to make it look a little glittery
all was not lost, however.  evan's grandmother had shipped him a king cake from new orleans, so he brought that, and, when i went to the store to pick up our steamed crawfish, i discovered that their bakery had made actual king cakes.  they knew what they were doing. so i had to get one just in case mine was, well, sad.  perfect set-up for a taste test!

the shipped cake

the store cake

shari got the baby in her slice


diana agreed that this would be a definite contender for cake wrecks because of how it looked.  but shari was right, it did taste good.  and it tasted really good when i made a second one without the dreadful egg wash or the icing.

i win at king cake.  maybe not the first time around, but that's good enough for me.