how's that eyeball, swashbuckler?

jim was out in the woods walking sydney when he caught a thorn in his eye. thankfully, it happened in the white and not the iris or retina or anything, but still, eye injury equals no fun for sure, especially while we're away during the holidaze. thankfully, my best friend from childhood is an opthamologist, (really!) and she and her parents were on their way over for dinner when it happened.  mariah called in a prescription, and hopefully everything will heal up well soon.

after delicious curry and drunken noodles, my brother josh, sister bethany, mariah, jim, and i went out while while grandma and grandpa watched dylan. we had so much fun laughing, catching up, and running into old friends.  i hate living so far away from my family and cherish the times we spend all together.

yesterday we enjoyed a great visit with my grandma, and today my sister tiffany, dylan, and i spent a lovely afternoon visiting two local wineries. now, oddly, i have the house all to myself, as everyone else has gone home and jim is away. dylan is asleep, and she has been sleeping fairly well here.  i mean she's no "little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes" or anything, but i tend to think that line is a romantic fantasy, anyway;) dylan has been so playful, talkative and busy! it's fun to watch my family take such delight in our little girl.


...and to all a good night

(God-willing.  please, Lord!)

dylan is basically a perfect angel during the day and a werewolf at night.  new molars aren't helping so much in the sleep department, either.  as jim said recently, "i hate night."

it has been a loooooong month.

our two days here have been a little rocky, not helped by late bed-times, skipped naps, and the fact that team paul is sharing a room in a house with creaky floors.

but today, dylan is deep into her second nap, and things are looking up!  we may just all "sleep in heavenly peace" after all.  that is all i want for christmas.  

merry christmas to all...

christmas with a toddler is such a joy.  there were dancers at church last night, and dylan watched wide-eyed and attentively.  she was singing and "talking" during the quieter readings, so i stood with her in the back in her sling until my mom forced enthusiastically encouraged me take her up for the very long children's sermon.  i hadn't been up for one of those in quite some time!  dylan did like being with the bigger kids with a front row seat to the action.

it was fun to be back at the little church i grew up in, seeing dear family friends like lori, who met dylan for the first time with tears in her eyes.  her daughters were babies when she taught my sunday school class, and now her beautiful girls are grown and i'm the young mom.

this morning dylan loved the tree, wrapping papers and ribbons, wonderful books and wooden toys.  she's been delighting her grandma, grandpa, aunt and uncle with her happy smiles and growing vocabulary.

we enjoyed a big breakfast of veggie omelets, belgian waffles, and bacon and have had a restful family day.  we're looking forward to celebrating more with my grandma and sister tiffany on saturday.

joy to the world, the Lord is come.  let earth receive her king!  let every heart prepare him room.

crafty christmas: hosting a craft exchange

the mothers' group i go to hosted a craft exchange for christmas today, and it was such a great idea! every woman made six of something to give away, like jarred cookie mix, candles, note cards, or candy. one of everything was taken to assemble nice gift bags for all the children's teachers, and the rest of the items were displayed up front. someone called people up based on birthday month, etc., and we took turns picking one thing at a time.

no one had to worry about buying gifts for anyone, and every teacher and mom went home with the beautiful homemade food and crafts she liked best. if my camera weren't still missing (booo), i'd show you the gorgeous flower arrangement or lovely tree ornament i picked made from cinnamon and applesauce(!) with a picture of mary and jesus decoupaged to it. (i know, it sounds ridiculous, but it's awesome, and i'm totally filing the idea away for the future.) i also received homemade applesauce, brownie mix, and fudge:) i think the goodies i went home with put to shame the little magnet-backed picture frames i brought!

find more thrifty green thursday ideas at green baby guide.


how to soften stale cookies {ginger molasses recipe}

if you have cookies that have gotten a little hardened or stale, there is a simple way to make them soft again like when they were fresh-baked.  just put one small apple slice into your cookie container and seal it tightly. within a few hours, they'll be noticeably softer, and the next morning they'll be just like when you baked them.  i tried this trick yesterday and had a delicious soft-as-the-day-i-baked-it ginger molasses cookie for breakfast, with a slice of last night's pizza and a strawberry smoothie, cuz i'm healthy like that.

this is a recipe i come back to again and again.  mmmmm.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3.5 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped coarsely

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine softened butter, sugar, molasses and egg. Using a mixer, beat well. Stir in crystallized ginger. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to wet mixture. Mix well. Form 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

three dozen is a conservative estimate. i made literal one inch balls and probably yielded six dozen, but i should have shortened the cooking time (hence them turning hard fast.)

FYI:  don't bother with the over-priced crystalized ginger in the tiny jar in the spice isle at the supermarket.  i've picked it up reasonably at tj maxx and places that sell dry goods in bulk.


'tis the season to be jolly

we had fifty people here last night for our ugly sweater christmas party. it's a little hard for me to believe that we know that many people here, let alone that they could fit into our house! tragically (ok, unfotunately), our camara is MIA, so no pictures, but a friend got some that hopefully we can post later.

some people went all out--sequins, jingle bells, teddy bears, bedazzled christmas trees. jim's sweater had a st. bernard in a 3-D scarf, and mine had bright sequins flowers and shoulder pads. it was awesome. dressing up (down?) set people at ease and gave them something to talk about, which was great, since the crowd was diverse in age.

because we aren't such big fans of disposables, we have an entire house full of wine glasses and dishes that need to be washed, but that will be a task for another hour. after this, i'm going to read the paper love every restful minute.

merry christmas!


created in the image of a creative God

six things that bring the joy:

1. dylan's laughter and cuddles.

2. family "weekends." jim works most saturdays, and sundays can feel a little crazy since dylan misses a nap at church. this week, we got a dusting of snow and they cancelled church because the roads were slick. we had a wonderful family day at home, including sleeping in, advent readings in bed, homemade belgian waffles, and meet the press. then we spent much of monday together, too:) 

3. christmas trees. ours is fake, since we wanted a little one we could put on a table out of reach of little hands, but it's still beautiful! i love the warm lights and our old and homemade ornaments. 

4. adventurous cooking with jim and reading cook books.

5. e-z pass. cruising past cars waiting in line to pay tolls makes me feel smug happy. 

6. indulging my creative side.  alana at gray matters wrote a post on decoupaging canvas that inspired me to make the project above for my sister-in-love, christie. i've been collaging since middle school, but the canvas really made it look nice, and i'm pleased with how it turned out. i'm thankful for the inspiration to try something new.

when darkness falls

ever since dylan got sick this summer, she wakes pretty much every three hours at night. it's not our favorite, but she needs to gain weight, so i just keep nursing her and figure it's a season that won't last forever.

it just feels like it might, sometimes.

now that she's getting molars, dylan wakes even more frequently (or refuses to go to sleep altogether). she's is in a lot of pain, and the only thing that seems to comfort her is near-constant nursing all night long. awesome.

so, if you'd pray for our little peanut, it would be much appreciated. if i need to, i can get a nap when she does sometimes, but jim is running on empty. dylan could use healing and we could all use some peace and rest.


how to lower your cable bill

when i worked at the housing authority, people facing eviction came to my office every day to apply for assistance with overdue rent. the application required listing income and expenses, and i'd venture that nine out of ten of my indebted clients paid small fortunes in cable tv (and cell phone) bills. i'd try to convince them to get rid of all unnecessary expenses, but none were amenable to cancelling cable, no matter how limited their budget. (the american sense of entitlement and our inability to distinguish needs from wants is a whole other post in itself!) my next suggestion involved down-grading to "below basic" cable, an option many companies don't advertise.

my husband and i have never paid anywhere close to fifty dollars for "basic" cable, the advertised rate for most companies which includes one hundred or more channels. that never sounded very basic to us (or our budget), so we asked our cable company what their unadvertised "below basic" package was, and that's what we've subscribed to for the past six years.

our package is basic, that's for sure--we get ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, CW, and a few others thrown in for good measure. it is no-frills--no MTV, ESPN, or HGTV--but we also pay less than twenty bucks. do i sometimes wish we had more channels? absolutely, but what's good for us about this package is that sometimes there is literally nothing on tv, and then we turn it off! the times when we had free trials of more channels, we watched a lot more junk, and we're honestly thankful to have fewer options.

it has occurred to me that the downside of this scenario is that we are paying twenty bucks a month for channels that, in theory at least, we ought to get for free, but we've never lived in a place where we knew anyone who successfully got much reception with rabbit ears. i'm wondering if that might change with this whole digital switch; my sister-in-law in nashville gets close to twenty channels for free right now with rabbit ears and a converter box. we will probably be trying that out soon, but if we can't get decent, reliable reception, we'll come back to "below basic." it has served us well:)


the one where i try not to trip over the carcasses

jim butchers his own deer. it sounds gruesome, but he gets whatever cuts of meat he wants, there's no waste, and we save a lot of money on processing. he sends some meat off to be ground, but that's the only thing he doesn't do himself.

i ended up dropping off the meat at the butcher tonight, and i'm still reeling from what i saw there. (if you have a weak stomach, now is the time to STOP READING. i'm serious, just stop right now. go to my sidebar and click on something else i wrote, maybe labeled "prayer" or "pop culture." something that has nothing to do with carcasses.)

it was dark and a little snowy when i pulled into the parking lot. my headlights cast an eerie glow on the dozen or more deer, gutted and crumpled in front of my car. it was like nothing i'd ever seen before or hope to again. carrying a heavy pan of meat, i literally had to step over and between carcasses to get to the door, praying i wouldn't trip and drop everything on the one who was missing a big chunk of of his head. the scene was like something out of a horror movie, except that it was just a regular day during hunting season.

to the right, an open door revealed more deer hanging, although they at least had been partially processed and resembled food. to the left was a door marked "deer processing," which is where i was supposed to go. inside were two men and two boys around ten years old, and each one held his own dead deer and sharp knife. dead deer, children with knives, children with dead deer and knives...the whole experience was surreal.

they didn't really know what to do with our meat (what with it not having hooves or other parts to wrestle off), so they called out the owner. he took our meat, and i got the heck out of there as fast as i could. but not too fast--i still didn't want to slip and fall into the pile of death on my way back to my car!


lovin'... husband, who made delicious fajitas tonight, and then washed all the dishes while i was nursing dylan. he's amazing:) sweet baby girl, not usually a cuddler, has taken to putting her head on my shoulder. senior high small group. last night we had a great discussion on servant leadership and Jesus washing his disciples' feet, followed by an equally spirited discussion about the Twilight books and movie. one of my girls is bringing me New Moon next week:) leche league. i went to my first meeting this week and met a group of warm, interesting, local moms of babies.

except for dylan being up at all hours, it's been a really good week.


advent conspiracy

check out this video:

we all want to spend less money and more time together at christmas, but it is difficult not to get swept up in the holidaze. advent ought to be a time of worship and waiting and meditation on the significance and mystery of the Incarnation, and instead we find ourselves too busy with shopping, planning, and traveling to be still even a moment.

the tricksy part of the whole "buy less/give more" thing is that it's just not all that consistent if say i want an ipod for christmas and then i get you a goat for a family in uganda, you know? in light of that, i want to let my family know that there is nothing i need this christmas. if you've already picked out something for me, thanks! i certainly don't want to come down against gift-exchanging--there can be so much joy in it.

but, if like my mom, you haven't already been shopping, please don't sweat it! while i love pretty things as much as the next girl, i already have more than i need, and this christmas i also want to remember those who lack basic food, shelter, health care, and clean water. seriously, give what you would have spent to someone who could really use it, and let's do something simple together. i live too far away from most everyone i love, and the only thing i need is time with you. that, and the discipline to be still this advent, receptive like mary to the working of the Holy Spirit:

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Let the Word, I pray, be to me not as a word spoken to pass away, but conceived and clothed in flesh, not in air, that he may remain with us. Let him be, not only to be heard with the ears, but to be seen with the eyes, touched with the hands and borne on the shoulders. Let the Word be to me not as a word written and silent, but incarnate and living...I desire that he may be formed, not as the word in preaching, not as a sign in figures, or as a vision in dreams, but silently inspired, personally incarnated, found in the body, in my body...let it be done unto me, according to your word. --Bernard of Clairvaux



i grew up in suburban philadephia and didn't know anyone who hunted. my dad's hobbies leaned more toward map reading, marathon running, and lawn mowing with a classic push mower. our family and neighbors purchased meat at the supermarket like normal 20th century consumers.

when i met jim he wasn't a hunter, either: he was a rock climber. sexy hobby, no? these days jim is more likely to be found in a tree stand than on belay. (well, recreationally; his job actually does require him to be on belay a good bit.) while camo and hunter orange aren't exactly my favorite look on a man, jim's hunting keeps our freezer stocked with free range, hormone-free, and well, free meat. who wouldn't appreciate that?

yesterday was opening day of rifle season, which around here is akin to a religious holiday. they close the schools. jim got a seven point buck, and he is thrilled. tonight he grilled the most delicious venison tenderloin steaks, and even dylan, our petite and sometimes picky sixteen and half pound baby gobbled them up like the country-born babe she is.

but dylan is no mere country babe; she appears to have a sophisticated palate. our wee one who balked at pureed foods for months savored her aunt christie's cumin and ginger-spiced butternut squash soup this thanksgiving. we are just so thankful she is eating again!


a thankful heart prepares the way for you, my God

Though our mouths were full of song as the sea,
and our tongues of exultation as the multitude of its waves,
and our lips of praise as the wide-extended firmament;
though our eyes shone with light like the sun and the moon,
and our hands were spread forth like the eagles of heaven,
and our feet were swift as hinds,
we should still be unable to thank thee and bless thy name,
O Lord our God and God of our fathers,
for one thousandth or one ten thousandth part of the bounties which thou has bestowed upon our fathers and upon us.
{Hebrew Prayer}

Today I am grateful for: truth-tellers, whistleblowers and prophets; bridge-builders, mediators, meditators and artists; the beauty of autumn; good friends with whom to toast marshmallows.
--Sister Baya Clare

Lord, you lavish us with blessing: time with family, warm homes and loving arms, good food and health, and your compassions, new every morning. thank you for your great faithfulness, grace, and love. open our eyes and turn our hearts outward and upward, that we may we cultivate thankfulness and honor you with our lips and our lives. in Jesus' name.


dress casual

we're invited to a christmas party. the invitation says "dress casual," but jim and i know that is a bold-faced lie. ok, maybe not exactly a lie so much as a glaring generational difference. the party is for jim's men's group and their wives, all members of the episcopal church to which we belong. jim is the baby of this group by probably fifteen years.

the first time we went to this party, under the impression that dress was casual, we wore our nice jeans. i wore heels and a cute shirt, and jim wore a polo. everyone else, in their forties, fifties, and beyond, many owning their own businesses, had interpreted "dress casual" to mean sport coat instead of suit. every single man there either wore a jacket or the sweater/tie combo, and the women were largely dressed in cocktail attire. jim didn't even own a sport coat, and we felt like teenagers crashing mom and dad's fancy party. perhaps not our parents' party (they aren't so fancy), but someone else's, surely. once we got over feeling ridiculously underdressed, we relaxed and enjoyed the good company and wine that flowed.

last year, dylan was just three weeks old when it was time again for the christmas party. at that point in my life, looking nice meant showered and out of pajamas, but nevertheless we suited-up. jim had bought a sport coat by then, and i wore an elegant skirt that pre-baby had fit at my hips and post-baby fit properly at my waist. this time we would look nice and appropriate. we're still the babies in a group no longer of strangers but friends. they probably wouldn't care what we wore, but we've learned our lesson: casual dress at twenty-six is a far cry from casual dress at sixty-two.

live, learn, and buy a sport coat.


happy birthday, dylan!

my baby girl is one today! she has been holding up one finger, and so we've been telling her "that's right, dylan, you're ONE!" (her finger is pretty much a modified point, but whatever:)

her grandma, grandpa, and uncle josh are coming tomorrow to celebrate this milestone together. it really is hard to believe that it has been a year. we're so thankful for our little thanksgiving baby. here are some pictures chronicling dylan's first year:

i loved those naps!

best buddies

she looks like such a tiny doll!

getting stronger, learning to play

lovin' her sling

babe in a hat

this is dylan at seven months, the first day she said "mamma"


out for a ride

dylan's second trip to nyc with aunt b

animal ears = awesome

first snow (there is more covering the ground today, but our neighbors were eager to get their sled on;)

at one, dylan says mama, daddy, baby, puppy, hi, bye, no, and "ducky." she can sign "all done" and repeats other words sometimes. she doesn't yet walk but is very active, mobile, and curious! dylan loves people and waves enthusiastically at everyone. (because of this, the grocery store might just be her favorite place) dylan is a happy, friendly baby who so far has no stranger anxiety. even though dylan can be fussy at home and fight us over sleep, it is such a blessing that she is almost always good when we are out. she loves to play games with daddy, knock anything over, and read books about animals. this morning in the car, green day was on the radio, and i looked in my mirrow and dylan was bouncing and waving her arms to the music.

dylan appears to be over her food issues, praise God! she had another vomiting episode a few weeks ago, but it was the only time in two months. i think she associates spoon-fed foods with sickness, so i can't get her to eat applesauce, oatmeal or anything pureed, but she is becoming more adept and adventurous in the self-feeding department. dylan will happily eat most anything as long as she is in charge:) i'm so thankful we made it to a year with nursing, especially since she had so many eating hurdles. we go to her doctor on monday and hopefully we'll learn that she's gained some good weight since last visit.

dylan elizabeth, you are an incredible gift and blessing, and we thank God for you, sweet baby girl.


baby-safe and clutter-free

when dylan started standing and playing at our glass-topped coffee table, visions of accidents and shattered glass made me eager for a "new" piece of furniture. we didn't have the money or desire for something brand-new, so we were thrilled to find a beautiful cedar chest on clearance at an antique store. it makes a perfect coffee table:the magazine baskets that fit under our old table are now hidden inside and out of the reach of little hands. we replaced a potential hazard, saved a bundle, and gave a lovely old piece a new home.

this post is part of "thrifty green thursdays" over at
green baby guide.


social butterfly

typical weekends during this installment of our post-baby, small town life are not, shall we say, thrilling. we've pretty much traded late nights for low-key family time. jim usually works saturdays, and apart from church, our weekends aren't all that different from the rest of the week. we like curling up with a dvd or book, but there is definitely something to be said for going out and time with friends.

this weekend, amazingly, i had actual plans both nights. friday i went to an event with MOPS (mothers of pre-schoolers), and afterward a group of us got a drink together. jim and i have only been out once since dylan was born, and i haven't really had a girls' night in about a million years, so as silly as it sounds, it felt a little momentous! MOPS is at a church in another town, and i've just recently starting going. last night i finally felt like i was starting to connect with people.

then tonight we had dinner again with the two couples we spent halloween with, and it was really fun. among us we had six kids ages four and under, and dylan loved crawling around with the big girls. it was such a great evening.

i feel really thankful for new friends and opportunities to connect. i'm thankful that dylan slept at night for periods longer than three hours twice this week. (little victories!) i'm thankful that today dylan ate carrots, pasta, and cheese like a champ. i'm thankful that jim got off work early, and we were able to just be, without errands or check lists. it was a good day.


gentle on the earth, skin, wallet: jojoba oil as natural facial moisturizer

i started using jojoba oil as a facial moisturizer a few months ago, and i love it. i love that it is a single ingredient, all-natural, plant-derived oil and contains no harsh or toxic chemicals, preservatives, petroleum, or un-pronouncables. i love that it isn't greasy--really! the key is to use a modest amount; just two drops absorb completely and keep my skin soft without shine. i have blemish-prone skin, and while using oil may seem counter-intuitive, it has not caused breakouts at all. if anything, my skin is clearer since making the switch.

jojoba oil is a good buy since a little goes such a long way. i bought mine online for $9.99 but since noticed trader joes carries it for $6.99. these prices are comparable to the drugstore moisturizer i used for years, but since i use a drop at a time, my four ounce bottle will last much longer. jojoba oil is so gentle i use it on my baby's sensitive skin and as an eye makeup remover without worrying about it burning my eyes. it is also supposed to be good for a dry scalp and any dry skin--a bonus during this season of skin-drying indoor heat.

this post is part of thrifty green thursday over at green baby guide. you can find more tips there:)


first halloween

we celebrated halloween last weekend with friends from church, their two little girls, and another family we met there. even though we've lived here for more than three years, we still know few people near our age or with kids, so it was especially nice to have a glass of wine and enjoy the kids playing together.

the older ones went trick-or-treating, and we stayed back with dylan, who waved enthusiastically to the costumed masses. she was a little dragon (dinosaur?), but i forgot my camera and didn't take any pictures until this week. then we had all sorts of computer problems, but i think they are finally resolved, so here is dylan in her costume and jack-o-lantern shirt from grandma:


Let America Be America Again

by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

a new day

dylan in her red, white and blue

see more wordless wednesday offerings here, here, and here


the state of things

life around here has been crazy-like over the past few days with work, halloween, lots of baking for church, making election calls, a trip to pittsburgh to meet an old friend and a stop in at the national youth workers' convention. plus, we've been battling a two-front war with dylan (never a good idea!) involving eating and sleeping. not such a fan of the food, that one. what she is a fan of is waking every 2 1/2 - 3 hours all night long crying and demanding to nurse. also skipping naps. booooo. she used to sleep through the night, in those halcyon days before camp and vomiting broke the good thing we had going.

dylan also used to eat anything, but for the love of all things holy, she now refuses pears, bananas, applesauce, and most whole foods. i did get her to feed herself pasta and potatoes, which i claimed as a little victory until i started worrying about her becoming one of those white bread kids who eat only hot dog buns and buttered noodles. (i know, i get extra-judgey without sleep!)

the bright spot today was a great hike around camp with sydney and dylan in the backpack, and we got a few good shots to boot:

dylan assuaged some of my fears by eating a few bites of wheat toast, and she actually gobbled sharp cheddar, proving that she is definitely our child. please pray that we can get dylan to eat fruit, veggies, and actual meals so we can take this nighttime waking/crying/nursing thing and "cut it in the butt," as our friend is known to say unintentionally;)


a hymn

i came across these words by G.K. Chesterton today, and they seemed especially fitting during a campaign season filled with much vitriol:

God of earth and altar, Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us, But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches, From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation Of honor, and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation, Deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together, Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation, A single sword to thee.


october snowflakes

snow before halloween in ligonier, pennsylvania

i'm not emotionally ready for more snow than what is blowing around and sticking to that awning! look at those bare branches. (here is the same shot just a few weeks ago.) may i place an order for another day of indian summer, please?


i am a real american {a manifesto}

i believe that we have more in common than we are led to believe

i believe that Jesus meant it when he said "blessed are the peacemakers"

i believe in hard work and a living wage

i believe in compassion, service, and justice

i believe in a free press that isn't for sale

i believe that the common good and what's good for business are not the same thing

i believe in safe, affordable housing, access to health care, and public education

i believe that the health of a nation is inextricably linked to the welfare of its children, elderly, and poor

i believe in giving the hungry a fish, teaching them to fish, and holding polluters accountable for poisoning the water supply

i believe that budgets are moral documents

i believe that humility and admitting mistakes are strengths

i believe that questioning our government is patriotic

i believe that dialogue, discussion, and honest questions trump false choices and easy answers

i am proud of america when she lives up to her ideals and disappointed when she fails to

i am thankful to be an american and thankful for the freedoms we enjoy

i believe that no demographic is more authentically american than any other, and i believe our differences make this country great

i am a real american, and i vote


last night, dylan and i attended an obama rally in pittsburgh. getting out there was a bit of an ordeal, but i'm so glad thankful we could be there. it was at the mellon arena, and it was incredible to be among tens of thousands of different people eager for something new and better for america.

we were waaaay up high (hence my fuzz fuzz photography), but dylan and i enjoyed looking out over so much activity and excitement. sen. obama gave a rousing, inspired speech, but with the baby, i didn't get any notes. you can read TIME's recap here.

even though senator casey and governor rendell spoke, the honor of introducing obama went to steelers' owner dan rooney. i told you football was a big deal in this town!

{this was not miss dylan's first foray into politics. 

see pics from the peace march we attended last spring here.}


little fox went out on a chilly night...

so, that fox i saw last week? it turns out he is our little neighbor, and i see him (her?) most every day. our house is on the edge of a really big field, and he lives out in the middle of it. he scampers all over the field, playing and driving my dog nuts. perhaps this was a bad idea, but the other day jim let sydney out, and she happily chased the fox all the way into the woods. she caught up to him in an instant. i suppose this is fitting, as she may be part fox hound--just doing what she was created to do:) i got a little worried when sydney took off like lightning, but she actually came back when called. unlike this time.

i don't think sydney knows quite what to make of this interloper. yesterday, dylan and i were in the kitchen, and sydney started barking like a mad dog at the front door. i went over, and even with his head start, i saw the little fox running out of our yard. he must have been really close to get sydney so riled.

jim took these pictures through his binoculars. i didn't even believe you could do that, but here's the proof:


look at those cute ears! just past our clothesline
fluffy tail
i like to pounce!
i know i talk a lot about how much i miss the city, but this little fox is way more awesome than the freak shows who were some of our neighbors back in pittsburgh. i'm kind of smitten:)


nose ring girl

i have a nose ring--a small sparkly stud, really, that i got when i was a junior in college as an ode to the waning days of youth. i imagined i'd have to take it out after graduation, when i entered the "real world."

my parents are not fans of said nose ring. one time when i was home on break it fell out, and my mom suggested that its loss was perhaps the result of God's will. i wasn't so sure.

God didn't seem to mind so much, and i found gainful employment as a youth pastor, despite the piercing. it turns out that the Man isn't bothered by nose studs either, and i later got a civil servant job at the housing authority. actually, the only employer who ever minded my nose ring was camp, so i would take it out during the summers, but even they had a change of heart and trusted me this summer to minister to staff and campers, nose ring and all.

i've been in the "real world" for some time. i'm 28, i have a husband and baby, professional experience in government and ministry (ok, and food service), and a life in a conservative small town. but i still rock the nose ring of my 21 year-old-self, and i like it.



in light of yesterday's steelers post, i probably should admit something. i said that i'm not really a football fan, but will wave a terrible towel every now and again. the thing it, that doesn't quite paint a full picture of the paul household and our football proclivities.

what i am about to show you is anathema here and probably means we aren't worthy to call western PA home, but i thought you should know what happened last sunday when we watched the redskins/browns game at our friends' house:

this is dylan as an itty bitty cleveland browns cheerleader, outfitted in love by her aunt christie. oh yeah, and playing with a cat toy.

as to this picture, there really are no words:
except, perhaps, why doesn't my husband own a normal fan tee or jersey? and who else but a cleveland browns fan in the pittsburgh diaspora would include a hard hat in his football-watching wardrobe?

(i should have gotten a picture of their family, too, all six decked out in redskins jerseys. pretty cute.)


thrifty green thursday

my sister is a great thrift store shopper who can sift through the chaff and outfit herself in cute, funky things for very little money. i don't often have the patience to sort through racks and racks of weirdness, but i did recently have great luck getting a few toys for dylan. she loves to play with whatever she can get her hands on--paper, the remote control, the vacuum--and i wanted to find something that would interest her without wrecking too much havoc. this is what i scored: 

the plastic blocks and rings aren't exactly green, but we're giving them a second life (reducing packaging and waste), so i think that counts. and how 'bout that cool wooden tractor? i got the three toys and a little teapot for jim's office all for $5.58! for more thrifty green thursday tips, visit green baby guide.


october, and the trees are stripped bare...

our side yard

i heart baking soda: green cleaning and household uses

i buy baking soda in bulk for washing dylan's diapers and deodorizing the diaper pail, and i'd been meaning to try it for other cleaning tasks. this week i used it to successfully tackle two nasty household jobs--scrubbing our stove top and deodorizing a funky-smelling couch pillow.

let me first say, that jim and i have had terrible luck with our oven/stove. when we first moved in, we inadvertently lit some kid of chemical fire, thanks to previous tenants who left a lil something special on a burner. we found black ash on both floors of the house for quite some time after that so we took out the burner and made do with three. other than that, it was a great stove.

we live at a camp, and our housing is graciously provided. when someone donated their old stove, camp exchanged it for ours, thinking that it would be an upgrade since it had four burners. as it turned out, not so much, because its four burners had just two settings--off, and burn-your-food high. bah!

we made do, and after a while another donation came in. third time's the charm, right?

well, sort of. the "new" stove was filthy. really, really icky. (what is with people donating nasty and/or broken stuff to non-profits and then presumably claiming a tax write-off? booo!)

i set to disinfecting like mad. it wasn't sparkling, but at least the outside wasn't sticky anymore. (i know, ew.)

the stove was usable, but i still hadn't done an intense, remove-all-the-burners and scrub-everything clean. baking soda completely did the trick, without a lot of elbow grease. i thought i'd have to replace the metal dish parts since they were so bad, but after soaking them in baking soda and water, they are also much improved.

baking soda even made our tea kettle sparkle. it always sits on the burner, and then cooking oils render it gross-looking after a bit. scrubbing it clean can be a nightmare, but baking soda cleaned it in under two minutes. perfect!

my other baking soda success story is my couch pillow. it was smelling less-than-fresh, and my first attempt at scrubbing only seemed to push the stink around. i sprinkled it liberally with baking soda, rubbed it in good, and left it overnight. the next day, i vacuumed it thoroughly, and it was remarkably improved. i repeated the process again, and it now smells clean, fresh, and much better if i'd used one of those chemical-filled perfume sprays that only mask odor.

cleaning with baking soda is cheap, green, and easy. it also works wonders on clogged drains. if you have more baking soda tips, please leave me a comment. i'd love to expand my repertoire.


wild living

dylan is asleep, jim is out on property archery hunting, and sydney was just out barking on her runner--not an ideal combination. she's a good dog and never barks in the house, but she can drive me crazy out on that runner. she often will seemingly bark at nothing, but when i went out i saw what was causing the commotion--a fluffy-tailed red fox, scampering through the field!

last night, jim, dylan and i had dinner with the family of camp's executive director. their house is up the hill and from it they can look down on dozens of deer, and last night we saw an albino doe.

we also enjoyed the company of two other neighbors, an intern and the summer camp director, who asked over spaghetti, "do you ever feel that you have to explain to people that we don't actually live in a commune here at camp?"


the one where i freak out about creatures in my basement

when i was a kid, i was afraid of our basement. we still played down there, but it was unsettling--probably due to all the unsolved mysteries we watched and my recurring dreams that our basement was a hideout for a varied criminal element. who knew what might be lurking in the shadows behind all those boxes?

i may be grown-up now, but i'm still scared of my basement--not so much of unsavory characters as unwelcome four and eight-legged creatures. we live in an old farmhouse, and our basement is dark, dank, damp and cobwebby. our dog refuses to go down there, and i can't blame her. it has a low, unfinished "ceiling," a creepy tub, storm cellar stairs, one bare bulb, and lots of corners untouched by light. plus it smells musty and stale.

it doesn't help that when jim lived here before we were married, he was bitten there by a black widow spider.

the problem is, our freezer is in the basement, so i have to suck it up and go there anyway. i always wear shoes, try to get it over with as quick as possible and keep my eye peeled for rat kings.

what's a rat king, you ask? i don't really want to talk about it. i'll will offer you this link, but for the love of all things holy, DO NOT CLICK unless you are prepared to be horrified. i mean it. consider yourself warned.

i'm not technically afraid of encountering a rat king so much as a rat-sized mouse. jim found a dead one down there last spring whose body was, i kid you not, as long as his shoe--not including its tail! i didn't even know mice could get that big.

last night, jim was in bed, i was at the computer, and i heard a loud shuffling coming from the kitchen.

"sydney?" i whispered. (sydney is our dog.)


"sydney?" i whispered a little louder.

still nothing. the lights were off. i tiptoed back to the kitchen, turned on the light, and saw that everything appeared as it should. i looked over to the mudroom and realized that sydney was in her kennel with the door closed, asleep for the night.

the noise was definitely not sydney, and it was coming from behind the basement door.

i knocked quietly to silence whatever beast was scampering in my basement and intruding in my home.

i'm not a kid, and i'm no longer worried about criminals in my basement. as freaky as they are (DON'T CLICK!) i'm not really afraid of rat kings, either. but there is something lurking down there, and it sounds a heck of a lot bigger than your run-of-the-mill mouse. if it's not a serial killer, and it's not a rat king or mouse, what the junk is hiding out in my basement?

update: as it turns out, mice really can't get that big. a morning show on sunday had a segment on rats which can have mouse-like tails. our illusions are crushed!


grumpy monkey

dylan may be a wisp at 16 lbs, 7 oz, but she is less a baby and more a toddler every day. it is hard for me to believe that she will be one next month! dylan recently learned to wave and point, and she exercises her voice by enthusiastically identifying every baby and puppy she sees. dylan sings, talks, repeats words, and laughs loudly and often. she actively plays with her toys and delights in knocking stacks over. she is becoming steadier on her feet and navigates the coffee table and living room furniture with increasing ease. dylan will pull up on anything, and i have to make sure she's not using the recycling bin or the dog:)

toddler dylan is playful and so much fun...except of course, when she's not. sleep is a resurging battle, and she's taken to getting up several times a night. my ordinarily easygoing baby has also been throwing fits when she doesn't get her way, making diaper changes a predictable disaster.

she is not throwing up (thank you, Lord!), but eating is still a bit of a struggle. after two weeks of a least a few bites a day, dylan has repeatedly refused everything but cheerios this week, and even then just a few individual pieces. maybe she's over the mushy stuff? tonight i pulled some carrots out of our lentil soup and broke them into bits for her. i'm not actually sure she ate any, but she was pleased to pick them up and put them in her mouth without making faces, so i figure we're making progress. i hope so!

i wish i could post pictures, but blogger and my picture software are both malfunctioning, so another day...


got a gun, fact i got two...

as i left town this morning, i was bombarded with this larger-than-life sign:
my husband, like many of our neighbors, is a hunter. i'm thankful that he keeps our freezer stocked with enough meat to feed us all year, but something tells me that this aspiring politico means something else by proclaiming himself to be "100% pro-second amendment."

this sign makes a few assumptions about the core values of my neighbors and me, and while i can't speak for them, i'll certainly speak for myself. when i read the constitution and the bill of rights, no where do i see that americans are endowed with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of military-grade automatic assault-style weapons for personal use. nor do i think that requiring background checks or even waiting periods encroaches on anyone's constitutional right to bear arms; instead they serve to keep our children and communities safe and prevent weapons from getting into the hands of criminals and people like the mentally ill virginia tech shooter.

food for thought from the children defense fund's 2008 report, Protect Children, Not Guns:
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,006 children and teens were killed by firearms in 2005, the first increase since 1994 and the first rise in gun deaths since Congress allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire in 2004.

The number of children and teens in America killed by guns in 2005 would fill 120 public school classrooms of 25 students each.

In 2005, 69 preschoolers were killed by firearms compared to 53 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Since 1979, gun violence has snuffed out the lives of 104,419 children and teens in America. Sixty percent of them were white; 37 percent were black.

The number of black children and teens killed by gunfire since 1979 is more than 10 times the number of black citizens of all ages lynched in American history.

The number of children and teens killed by guns since 1979 would fill 4,177 public school classrooms of 25 students each.
so to mr. russell, aspiring congressman, i sincerely hope that my neighbors send a message on november 4 that while we may love our guns, we love our kids, families, and communities more.


fort daze

i biked into town today, which was an accomplishment on two fronts:

1. i rode my new bike for the first time, post-vacation.

2. i was entirely baby-free. (jim worked from home with dylan.)

where was i going? to work! it was my first day at mommy gear, a store owned by a woman at my church that sells nursing clothes, breast pumps, and baby gifts. the store is the official breastfeeding and baby changing site of fort ligonier days, the giant fall festival that started today, turning our little town into and absolute zoo, except with fewer animals, more crafts, and a lot more food. (mmmm, gyros and blackberry pie.) and sometimes a little of this:
(this is me "paddling" camp's float in the parade two years ago. it also featured a climbing wall and mini zipline.)

the plan for tomorrow is to check out a little of the parade and festivities (unless dylan is napping...), and then i'll put in a few more hours at the store. i'm just going to work a few hours one day a week, but i'm looking forward to it, especially since they are such a great resource in the community for nursing moms.

hopefully i can get some good pictures at fort days. i wish i had my camera this morning when i stepped outside the shop and noted a costumed older gentlemen in a tri-cornered hat wrestling with a port-a-john. welcome to my world:)


pumpkin coma

i know i said that i'm not such a big fan of fall, but i have a little confession: i forgot about my mild obsession with everything pumpkin.

today was a day gloriously full of pumpkin. my sister bethany and her friend laura are visiting, and after shopping at the salvation army and an antique store for all things vintage, we stopped for the first pumpkin gobs of the season. then we came home and baked vegan pumpkin custard and cooked up pumpkin soup. the best!

pumpkin soup is a go-to favorite of ours. it can be made in under a half-hour with mostly pantry items. first i sauteed garlic and onion with various spices and a little flour. tonight we used cumin, curry, nutmeg, and garam masala, but you could use anything, really. then i added a small can of pumpkin, a can of coconut milk, four cups vegetable stock, two peeled potatoes and three carrots sliced thin. bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for twenty minutes. it looked thick, so i added another two cups water, and pureed it all with my absolute favorite kitchen appliance, my immersion blender. it's easy, healthy, and so full of of pumpkin-y, autumnal goodness that it might just make a convert out of a harvest-time naysayer like me.


grammy and the party dress

wordless wednesday

grammy and the party dress



my baby girl is under the weather. (this is a weird phrase, so i looked it up. it comes from when seasick sailors were confined below the deck, or "under the weather." now you know, and knowing is half the battle, after all;)

back to dylan. the good news--no vomiting, and she ate pears or squash five days in a row last week! God is so good. i know she is gaining weight, and this is all a huge answer to prayer. so no throwing up, but she is running a fever along with her little nose.

we went to a family wedding this weekend. it was lovely, and dylan got to be snuggled by lots and lots of family. i feel super neglectful and guilty though, because not once did i wash her hands, and now she is sick. but she's in good spirits, and medicine seems to be doing the trick.

now if i can just get her to take a nice, long, restorative nap...


30 days of nothing recap

our "30 days of nothing" ended september 30, and it was a great month.

this summer we ate all our meals at camp, and since we only had one day off a week, we often ordered in. it had been a loooong time since we were in the regular habit of cooking for ourselves, so the 30 days of nothing was a big adjustment!

it was great to return to cooking, which we both love to do. we experimented with lots of new recipes, shopped the farmer's market, and ate out of our freezer and pantry. it was a very healthy month, in addition to being a frugal one.

i'm not typically a big shopper, so the thing i missed most was stopping for a quick bite while i was away from home; there were lots of long, hungry car rides that i wished i'd planned ahead better!

we officially took a "break" while we were on vacation, but even there the disciplines carried over. we brought snacks so as not to buy much on the road, cooked meals, and window shopped. of course we spent money and enjoyed some meals in restaurants, but we were decidedly conservative on the whole.

it was good to grow in the discipline of carefully considering every purchase and differentiating between needs and wants. it was also really powerful to be reminded that our money isn't really "ours" after all and to learn to be satisfied with what God has blessed us with.

to read more from other challenge participants, see owlhaven.

a goodly investment

bad church signs can be cutesy, trite, smug, antagonistic, or theologically unsound, and they pretty much drive me crazy. this is the most recent "offender" i've noticed:

the economy is bad, people have money on the brain, and i understand the desire for the church to be "relevant," but this is not a good metaphor. think of it: money is valuable, Jesus is really valuable, so Jesus is like money, only better! it's crass.

the idea of God as treasure is a popular motif in praise songs, and as Christians we certainly value Christ above all, but the comparisons to gold that i found in scripture were certainly more nuanced than the sign:

God's law
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold (Psalm 19:9-10)

The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalm 119:72)

I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold (Psalm 119:127)
God's wisdom 
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold (Proverbs 3:13-14)

our faith—of greater worth than gold (1 Peter 1:7)

the blood of Christ 
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19)

what i found most off-putting in the Jesus-as-investment metaphor is the suggestion that Jesus exists to enrich us or to provide us with security like our IRA. of course scripture promises blessing to Christians, including salvation, grace, forgiveness, peace, and joy, but the call to discipleship is a call to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Christ. it's a call to die to ourselves, our desires, and our sinful natures. the true Christian gospel is not the "health and wealth" gospel that is sometimes preached, where faith in Christ is an all-access pass to prosperity, riches, and wordly blessings. it may just be the opposite.

the incredible truth of the gospel is that it is only in dying to ourselves that we are able to experience life to the full, abundantly rich with all the goodness that God wants to give to us. I don't "invest" in Jesus hoping for big returns; it was Jesus who paid the heavy price for my redemption with his own life and "bids me come and die and find that i may truly live."

(can't look away from bad church signs, either? check out crummy church signs.)


baking and back-to-school {rustic pear tart}

while i love to cook, i'm not much of a baker. i'm not really one for measuring, and baking can be so time consuming, not to mention messy. but the farmer's market on saturday had pears, and i was inspired to make a rustic pear tart. honestly, i don't know exactly where i came up with this idea, but i must have seen one somewhere. i googled it and found a recipe on the lovely blog bread and honey, and let me tell you, it was amazing. i would definitely make it again, and if it interests you, click over and get the recipe. yum.

(the recipe calls for dried lemon zest, which i sure don't have on hand. i did however have a bottle of lemon essence; i used a teaspoon and it turned out great. you could zest a fresh lemon or omit it altogether for something a little different.)

last night was the first night i was back volunteering with the high school youth group. last year was kind of disappointing attendance-wise, but this year, not only are there a ton of new freshmen, i had seven upper class girls in my small group! (last year we were lucky to get two girls, total.) this year there is an entirely student-led worship band, and one of the guitarists is female. i'm always happy to see women in leadership roles at church and all-the-more to see teen girls recognizing and using their gifts to glorify God and build up the body of Christ. i'm excited to see what God has in store this year.

let us lift up our hearts and our hands

wordless wednesday
"Let us lift up our hearts and our hands" (Lamentations 3:41)
gooseberry beach, newport RI
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