Holiday centerpiece

OK, so I’m not really into “tablescaping” or fancy place settings when guests are coming over for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I think they look great, but I just don’t have the servingware, the candlesticks (well, I do have four… but they need polishing badly so I’m embarrassed of them currently!), the foufy fouf pumpkin-shaped soup tureens or feather Christmas trees or turtledove salt-and-pepper shakers. (Yes, foufy fouf is the technical term.) I’d like to do more nice table setting for dinners but I usually am more focused on getting the meal ready down to the last second than planning how my table is going to look. And since last time I checked my guests would rather eat food than place mats, I’ll stick with cooking good food.

However! We had some friends over for New Year’s Eve (old people with kids style! which means, eat dinner at 5:30 p.m., everyone goes home at 8 p.m., we’re cleaned up and in bed at 10 p.m.) and I did manage to throw together a last-minute center piece.

It’s a little fruity, with some rustic Montana flair, but I liked it. In my own fruity foufy fouf way.

Center piece 1

I put together the center piece with some things I already had around the house. I used a mule deer antler shed, some pine cones, a red and white snowflake bowl, a ribbon, and some glittery ornament balls.

Center piece 2

 

No nice tablecloth or anything. Just my dinged, scratched, stained, and glass ring-riddled tabletop. Someday I’ll refinish the table or we’ll get a new one. But in the meantime, despite it’s “well loved” appearance, it’s a good table and it was free. And you know what? No one said a word about the table or the center piece (OK, it was a bit weird… but I could totally see something like that popping up in the Pottery Barn catalogue, amirite?), but they liked the food!

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Little pumpkins

For Jonathan’s first Halloween, I picked up a pumpkin shirt for him to wear as a costume. I wasn’t about to spend a lot of money on a baby costume for two reasons: one, cute as baby costumes are, they just feel like a waste of money to me, at least the first year; and two, Shawn and I didn’t have plans to be anywhere, so why spend money when we two were the only people who would see the Peanut’s costume? I did however have some cute photo ideas for his simple costume. And those ideas included carving a pumpkin with Jonathan. He preferred to watch the carving of our ‘Jack. We tried to get him to stick his hands in the pumpkin guts and feel the slimy, oozy-ness, but he wasn’t too into that. While we jointly carved the pumpkin, Shawn and I realized neither of us had carved a pumpkin since high school, perhaps even earlier than that. What a strange realization! We do, of course, have a lot of pumpkin carving in our futures! So without further ado, here’s some photos of our little pumpkin and his big orange friend.

 

A wedding present

One of my oldest and dearest friends got married this past weekend and I was a bridesmaid in her wedding (she was a bridesmaid in mine). Elise and I have known each other since eighth grade. The first time we met was on the bus ride home from middle school. I didn’t enjoy sitting in the back of the bus with the other eighth graders because they were loud, obnoxious, and derived far too much enjoyment from shouting “PENIS” at the top of their lungs during the bus ride (most of those people are now lovely adults who I enjoy far much more than I did then). So I sat in the very front seat with the lowly sixth graders. But hey, I was always the first person off the bus. Anyway, here is the first conversation Elise and I had (keep in mind that until the very end of high school Elise weighed about 80 pounds soaking wet):

Elise: Can I sit with you?
Me: Sure, but just so you know, I’m an eighth grader. (She was so tiny I figured she was a sixth grader. Man, I was pompous back then!)
Elise (all about 4 feet 9 inches of her at that point): Me too! I’m reading “Les Miserables”!

And thus, a wonderful friendship was born. Elise and I spent many pleasant passing periods together in high school because we had many of the same classes (she always did a shuffle-dance impatiently while I took my sweet time at my locker… we were still on time to class, though!). We also got together after school and on weekends for tea and chats and filming the occasional ridiculous home movie complete with costumes (usually involving the three musketeers along with our friend Melissa). “Vive le signe de trois! Un pour tout! Tout pour un!”

Here’s a photo of said ridiculous costumes. I’m on the left, little Elise in the middle, Melissa on the right. This was taken in high school French class our senior year (those are soda bottles!). We all dressed up for, I think Mardi Gras, and throughout the day people in the halls during passing period would say: “So you’re the third musketeer!” or “Where’s the other one?”

Yes, we were THOSE people in high school. But hey, it was fun. We were well-adjusted, not-very-angsty teenagers, which apparently these days is saying a lot.

After graduation, Elise went to Minnesota for school and I to Nebraska. We started writing each other letters regularly (snail-mail letters with stamps even! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), and to this day, we continue the tradition. The contents of our letters has changed, but our friendship has only deepened over the years. It is a relationship I profoundly thankful for. It always makes my day when I find one of Elise’s letters in my mailbox.

So for Elise’s wedding, because she is the sort of person to appreciate something handmade, I embroidered a camping scene. She and her husband love to camp and hike and climb. The words on the embroidery are from the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song “Home.”

It took about a month of steadily working on it a little bit before bed every night, but I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. It was a lot of fun to make a wedding present for my dear friend.

To you, Elise! Congratulations! Lutefisk!

 

 

J and J

My beautiful mama and my beautiful son (Jonathan didn’t get those blue eyes from me!).

I really love this photo. It’s important to me because my mom lives 1,500 miles away and we don’t see much of each other (which I hate, hate, hate). We had a lovely visit to Kansas, where she lives, and she got to spend some quality time with her first grandchild. He’s changed so much since she last saw him โ€” Jonathan weighed little more than 5 pounds and was a skinny little dude. Now he’s filled out to an impressive 20 pounds (he has quadrupled his birth weight!).

Chatting with my mom a few days ago, she mentioned how she has walked past the bedroom in her house where Jonathan slept and how she misses seeing him in there in his crib, kicking his legs up in the air. Oh how I hope my son and his grandmother can see each other in the future more often than every six months!

 

Diaper dilemmas and nursery goings-on

There are some things in life I don’t get worked up about. Like fashion/the latest gadgets. Black Friday is wasted on folks like me. Or things like pro basketball/baseball/football. What can I say? I like college sports. There are however some things that I predictably get worked up about, such as politics, organic/local food, people who can’t figure out that driving in the snow is not difficult, and the newest one: diapers. Who knew a person could have a mini existential crisis over something as trivial as diapers?

I’ve known for a while now (even before the unexpected pregnancy) that I wanted to use cloth diapers. I noticed the craze a few years ago and decided to see what the big deal was. Turns out most disposable diapers contain nasty chemicals like dioxins (carcinogenic), sodium polycarbonate (removed from tampons because it was linked to toxic shock syndrome… but it’s OK to put in diapers?!), Volatile Organic Compounds (sound familiar? VOCs are the nasty, stinky chemicals in paint that we’re all trying to avoid!), as well as dyes, fragrances and petroleum. And these chemicals cause issues as mild as diaper rash and as serious as reduced fertility and cancer. Definitely NOT what I want touching a baby’s sensitive skin!

Armed with this knowledge, a few months ago I set out on my cloth diaper search (which are also known for causing less diaper rash and for helping kids potty train faster because cloth diapers don’t wick moisture away so the child knows he or she is wet). Here were my criteria: 100% cotton soaker pads (preferably organic), manufactured by a small and environmentally conscious company, with good reviews from users, and made in the USA.

Well, three outta four ain’t bad.

I looked at a number of cloth diaper brands, such as Gro-Via, BumGenius, Apple Cheeks, and FuzziBunz, among others (I can’t even remember them all, but it’s probably about a dozen). Turns out some of the companies don’t use cotton at all, but rather polyester even in the soaker pads. Not so soothing on baby’s bum. Others didn’t seem to be designed very well. And guess what? NONE were made in the USA. Sigh.

In the end, I decided to go with Gro-Via (though I started out my search a BumGenius fan). Gro-Via diapers are made by a company located in Bozeman, near where I live. They’re made in China, but the company has a commitment to employing women at fair wages in modern, safe factories. And at least some of my money (and the money of friends and family helping me buy the diaper package) is staying in my community. The soakers are 100% organic cotton. But before this decision was made, I felt a lot of frustration about being unsuccessful in finding a well-made cloth diaper made in the USA. But then again I feel that same frustration frequently with all sorts of products. Here’s another way to get Americans employed again: Move manufacturing back to the U.S.

This was definitely not something I thought I would agonize over like I did! But now the diapers have been purchased and they’re in the washing machine (I have to wash them 5 times or so before baby arrives so they become fully absorbent). And it’s a good thing too because we’re getting close to Baby C’s arrival! As of tomorrow, seven weeks!

And something else I’ve noticed is that just about every single one of my friends with new babies have chosen to go the cloth diaper route, as well. My mom and mother-in-law have their doubts, but well, there have only been three generations in disposable diapers and many, many more generations in cloth.

In other news, Shawn and I have gotten the nursery nearly finished. It’s still cluttered, but such is the fate of small apartment dwellers who need the second bedroom to pull triple duty as storage space, guest bedroom and nursery. And even though I still have pangs of sadness over the fact that Baby C doesn’t get a beautifully painted room with top-of-the-line furniture in a home my husband and I own, now that we’ve gotten the changing table and crib assembled and pictures on the wall, I like the way things are coming together.

Here’s the nursery to-do list from before:

  • Find hardware for and assemble crib, or purchase and assemble new one
  • Finish mobile, hang (on hold until after finals week)
  • Hang pictures
  • Launder bedding, blankets, towels, diapers
  • Set up rocking chair (second-hand from my step-mother, but in perfectly serviceable condition)
  • Assemble changing table, get changing supplies ready
  • Find curtains to block out light during daytime naps, hang (waiting until I have about $25-$50 just lying around… which is infrequent)
  • Acclimate kitties to baby things (no cats in cribs!) (Haven’t noticed this to be an issue yet… from what I’ve read, allowing the cats to explore the new furniture so they aren’t curious about it helps. If I do notice they’re getting in the crib, we’ll try to vinegar trick. Still kicking around getting a net thingie to put on the top of the crib so there’s no way the kitties can jump in with Junior.)

I had a baby shower the day after Thanksgiving and it was a lot of fun. I loved seeing many friends and family members, especially since we aren’t going home for Christmas and Shawn and I live so far away in the first place. And everyone was very generous. I received numerous adorable kiddo outfits (highlights were the “My dad is turtley awesome” outfit with a turtle on it and the Nebraska-themed “Throw the bones” onesie with crossed bottles on it), soft and fuzzy blankets, beautiful books, money to put toward the organic crib mattress, a Boppy pillow, baby monitor, and some gorgeous blankets made by my grandmother and mother-in-law. Truly, we are blessed.

Update: Here’s a photo of the picture collage above the crib. I’ve had lots of requests to see them!

Clockwise, beginning in the top left corner, the pictures are: A woodcut of a moose in a pond by a local artist, a photo of Shawn as a little boy, a photo of a train in Loch Shiel, Scotland (more recently known for its role in the Harry Potter movies), a print of a kingfisher I picked up in London, a Scottish highland cow, and a photo of me as a little girl. In the middle is a picture of a leafy sea dragon and a weedy sea dragon (in the seahorse family) we picked up at the Monterey Bay Aquarium this past summer.

A thousand words

OK, this post is probably not quite that long. But as the saying goes, that’s what a picture’s worth. Just wanted to let everyone know to check out the Gallery tab (far right, below the banner that reads “The Morning District” on the top of this blog). I’ve finally added some photos (and plan to add more over time). Check them out at your leisure!

In other news, this is my 30th week of pregnancy, and I have another OB appointment later today. Hoping again for a clean bill of health for both baby and me. I have been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for a couple of weeks now, which I do plan to talk to the OB about, but hopefully that just means my uterus is just getting warmed up for the big event and will perform like a champion! I am planning on having a natural child birth (but if I have to have an epidural or an unplanned C-section because Baby C is in distress, well, so be it), so I’m trying to prepare myself. I’ve started doing special stretches a physical therapist at the childbirth class last weekend gave me to get my body open and supple. I’m also trying to find time each day to center myself and practice focusing. I’ve heard from other moms that being able to focus and concentrate through contractions and pushing is super important.

Speaking of the childbirth class Shawn and I took, I have to say that I’m really glad we did. It was six hours both Saturday and Sunday last week, but despite the length, we learned a lot. And I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with labor and delivery and breastfeeding following the class. There were probably eight other couples besides Shawn and me there, most of them due about a month ahead of me, though one lady isn’t due until the middle of February. It was interesting to see the range of bellies present! Mine wasn’t the biggest or the smallest, but right in the middle. Some ladies knew the genders of their babies, while others were waiting for the surprise. No twins in our class.

During the class, we learned about a wide range of topics. We did some physical therapy and were given a number of exercises to do, like I mentioned before. We learned about the different kinds of pain medication (still hoping that won’t apply to me!), about C-sections, about infant care in the first few weeks after birth. We watched a number of videos on the various topics. The dads got to diaper a “baby” (ours was a teddy bear… must’ve gotten mixed up in the nursery ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), and learn to swaddle. We talked about breastfeeding versus formula. I learned all sorts of random little things too; for example, you’re not supposed to clip your baby’s fingernails for at least 10 days after birth because the nail hasn’t separated from the nail bed yet and you will cut their skin! We’ll need to pick up some baby mittens!

The most helpful part of the class for me was the breastfeeding information. I’ve been worrying about having trouble learning to breastfeed, and who knows, I may still struggle, but we went through ways to help the baby learn to nurse and nursing techniques. We even talked about proper breastfeeding posture! If anything, I’m more comfortable with everything now because I know a lot more than I did, even with reading books and chatting with moms. Plus the nurse who taught the class was a riot! She was so funny and made the class go by quickly. A definite talent!

The weekend before that, I got together with the ladies from my crafty club for some applesauce canning! It was a hoot! We canned about 40 pounds of apples, which came to about 40 jars of sauce. We divided the jars between us as well as the remaining apples (local Macintosh).

Here’s Camden showing those apples who’s boss! Camden and Sharie spent a long time chopping apples to toss in the pot to cook.

After the apples cooked down for a while, we transferred them to the chinois (a marvelous tool โ€” pick one up!), where one of us ground them down with a pestle, which separates the skins and errant seeds from the sauce. Katie demonstrates below:

It’s messy but satisfying! To the sauce we added a little sugar (one or two cups, depending on the batch) and a some cinnamon. Then we filled mason jars with the applesauce and processed them in a boiling water bath for 15-20 minutes. We ate homemade pizza for dinner while listening to the pops of sealing jars. A great day spent with friends.

OK, according to my word counter thingie, this post is 797 words. See? Not quite 1,000.

Big news

I’m sure those of you who follow this blog semi-regularly have found that I’ve been posting pretty rarely this summer (this post is long enough to make up for that, trust me). And it’s not because I’m so busy there’s not enough time for blogging. Quite the contrary, actually. But there’s a different reason I haven’t been doing much blogging: I’ve been adjusting to my life’s new normal, to some very big changes.

Big changes like I’m pregnant.

I found out I was pregnant while in London in May. I’ve always been the girl whose periods you could set your watch to (sorry if that was TMI), so while overseas I had a growing dread, knowing I was late. So I popped down to a Boots pharmacy around the block from the apartment where we were staying one day mid-trip. I didn’t have much cash on me, so I opted for the cheapest pregnancy test. I was probably just freaking myself out, right? I’d missed a period before from stress, so it could happen again, right? Anyway, I waited an agonizing 24 hours to take the test (you’re supposed to take the test in the morning right when you get up). The instructions said to wait for three minutes for results. Well, my results were immediate. No theatrical sitting on the toilet in the bathroom waiting for the test to confirm or deny my fears like the movies. There it was, the pink line. Oh. My. God. I hurried back over to Boots and bought another pregnancy test, praying for false positive. The test I bought was twice as expensive and boasted of a “conception counter.” I didn’t wait until the next morning but took the test right away: “Positive. 3+ weeks.”

From the beginning, my thoughts have been conflicted about this new development. This is not an opportune time for me to get pregnant. I’m going back to school at the end of this month for a bachelor’s degree (my third… it’s ridiculous, I know) in sustainable crop production. I’m shifting my life away from a career that wasn’t working and I’ve been so excited about it. I spend my free time reading books about organic gardening and homesteading. I fantasize about the CSA I hope to operate one day, planning out the little things and dreaming big. And Shawn and I have been married less than a year. Our big plans included having children in about five years. On top of this, to say money is tight is an understatement. Shawn and I are relying on loans for this round of schooling and the bill at the end is not going to be pretty. I’ve been unemployed for three and half months. The Phil Vassar song “In a Real Love” has been playing on endless loop in my head since May: Continue reading

Get in my belly

This past weekend Shawn and I made a trip to Polebridge because the ever amazing Polebridge Mercantile, owned by the lovely and fabulous Stuart and Flannery, was opening back up for the summer. Hubs and I just had to go get a huckleberry turnover, which was, as always, fantastic.

Here’s a cherry turnover. I bet your mouth is watering.

Yum, yum, yum. Always worth the drive up the bumpy North Fork Road.

And here’s a photo of Stuart, followed by one of Flannery and Jake, the year-round awesome staff/owners of the Merc.

We had a great weekend, complete with fun time at the swell Showcase event thrown by First Best Place in Columbia Falls. It was nice to see friends and get some work done. I’m putting together a brochure for the Bad Rock B&B, followed by one for the Merc later in the summer.

But now it’s off to unpacking (yes, still) and taping the walls to get ready to paint!