Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A cooking journey...

I have a confession to make. For the past 2-3 years, I have started to dislike cooking from scratch. Ok, nobody fall on the floor. Growing up with a mother who didn't know that spaghetti sauce came in a jar, I was trained to shun all convenience foods. I tried to stay true to my heritage. But time, and small kitchens with no counter space, have been wearing me down. Terri, I know you're feeling me here. Keep the faith, sister.

And so, I present a timeline of Ellen's kitchens:

Sept. 2001- July 2002- Ahh, married student housing. Ellen is learning to cook. And she's doing it in a small galley kitchen with no air conditioning. There is no dishwasher, and if she opens the oven, she can't open the fridge at the same time. She has counter space approximately the size of a large cutting board. On particularly hot days, she makes dinner for David, and then eats popcorn because the thought of hot food makes her want to gag. Despite all this, she is excited about cooking, and attempts many made from scratch meals. She is newly married and wants to try the Susie Homemaker apron on for size. Heh, heh.

Aug. 2002-July 2003- The young couple moves to the D.C. suburbs. The apartment model they have seen has a much larger kitchen with more counter space. Ellen is relieved and excited. Her days of struggling are over! She gets to her new apartment, walks in the door... and sees a kitchen approximately the size and shape of the one she just left. She immediately dissolves into tears. Dreams dashed, she bravely picks up and moves on. She moves a table into the kitchen, and finds some additional counter space. She keeps cooking.

July 2003- June 2006- They move to Alabama. This apartment kitchen is much more open, and there is a little more counter space. She is encouraged. She makes an entire Thanksgiving dinner, including brined turkey ala Alton Brown, one year for her husband's family. Her husband carves it on top of the dryer in the laundry room, as she has, once again, run out of counter space. Her enthusiasm is waning...

June 2006- July 2007- Back to the DC burbs. Tiny apartment, even tinier kitchen, with a sink that qualifies under the Guinness Book of World Records for Smallest on the East Coast. Tiny wall oven. She's pregnant, big, and the kitchen has killed what was left of her cooking joy. She embraces convenience foods. She can't remember chopping anything after the baby is born.

July 2007- Oct. 2008- Small kitchen in Raleigh. Definitely better, but still, plagued with counter space problems. Not much cooking going on. Baking is out, except for special occasions. She can't remember the last time she make homemade rolls or pulled out her breadmaker. Maybe easier is better. Time to buy "Dinners made from 5 ingredients or less"?

Nov. 2008..... Ellen finally has the kitchen of her dreams. She decides she's glad that she didn't throw out the cookie cooling racks 3 moves ago. She finally has a place to put them to cool cookies! The long, spacious island is like a dream come true. She has room to spread out and do everything right there. She has made two different types of cookies in one day, jambalaya, multiple homemade soups, etc. There will be homemade bread dough in the new house tonight. She's back...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Homeschool Song...

I gave my talk today on homeschooling for the MOPs panel on school options. They had a private schooler, a charter schooler, a year round schooler, a magnet schooler, and... me. I was supposed to tell what I liked about being homeschooled, since I have soooo much experience in doing it myself. .. =)

I was struck by how much time and worry and energy traditional schooling families put into trying to get their kids the best of that kind of education. There are endless fights with districts over redistricted kids, long waiting lists for charter schools, frustrations about year round calendars, second mortgages taken out for private school, etc. It seems like a lot of time and energy spent on doing something where you could get the flexibility, small class size, and yearly school schedule that you're seeking if you homeschooled. You would have a lot more everyday work, but you'd have a lot less worry about what your children were being taught and when. This is just what I thought as I was sitting up there today. I'm guessing that maybe one out of the 50 or so women I saw in the room will choose to homeschool. It doesn't seem to be a choice of my generation, from where I sit right now. Maybe I encouraged the one of those who will.

And in honor of that, I send you to this video. Very funny, guys.

Before and after...

And finally, we have some before and after shots. This is the living room that we saw when we made a bid on the house. Here it is after paint and crown moulding (generously put up by friends) and the removal of the other people's furniture. Martha Stewart I am not, but I like this better...
Oh yeah, the top picture is after we took off the wooden stripping from the top and sides of the fireplace. We replaced the stripping with something thinner and painted it to match the walls.

This is the dining room before we turned it into a play room. As you can see, they weren't using it as a dining room, either. And I'm going to replace the flowers in the frame on the wall in there. Eventually. When I get to a place with posters.

This is another view of the living room. I especially like this view now that the curtains are gone, gone, gone. We also replaced the chandelier.

The former owners really loved them some audiovisual equipment. We got a magazine here not long ago for church sound engineers. Hmmm. Now we're letting the sunshine in...

Note: the point of this post is not to diss the former homeowner's style of decorating. It wasn't me, and I really didn't like some things they did or didn't do, but it was functional for their family, and they liked it. I stopped reading a rather popular blog lately because of a post where she trashed decorating that she didn't like, and if the pictures had been of my house, I would've been mortified by what some of the commenters said about those pictures, encouraged by the blogger's snark.

Who knows? Some of your may prefer these before pictures. I can take it. =) I do like how much natural light I get in here in the mornings. This house has a lot of nice lighting. And in case you're worried, our neighbor's houses sit far back up a hill. We can't see in their windows at night, so I don't think they can see in ours.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday afternoon...

We got more pictures up today downstairs. I think we're done with downstairs for a little while, so I'll probably post some pictures soon. The biggest picture that I put in our playroom I got at a yard sale. It's huge and has a nice frame, but the picture in it has to go. I'm going to be looking for a nice poster to replace it with. I think that might be the right size. Other than that, David put up blinds in the half bath and put up a towel rack. I still need to clean Seth's bathroom and rearrange my closet with maternity clothes.

I got our first electric bill today. After I opened it, I cut off every light in the house. =) David got home, saw it, and cut off the light he'd just cut on. Just kidding. Actually, he took a closer look at it and realized there'd been a mistake. Whew! I knew it was going to be more expensive to heat and cool a larger place, but I didn't think it'd be that much.

This morning in Sunday school, one of the guys said that they were still settling into their house. I asked how long ago they'd moved. "Four years," he said. I can't imagine. I would go crazy waiting that long to get things together. My OCD is legendary at this point. =) My goal for this house is to have the closets organized and the pictures all up here before David's brother and his family come to visit at Christmas! That gives me some good incentives and a realistic time table.

I'm been feeling myself calm down and feel more like normal this week. I'm starting to suspect that my frustration has not just been caused by road noise (which, by the way, was the worst the first week and a half we've moved in and has been significantly better since), but has had as much to do with pregnancy hormones and the heaviness of the new burden of home ownership. I tend to sit there and think about all the things that will need to be done in the next several years, visions of crumbling '80s construction looming large, $$$$ signs dancing in my head, getting more and more depressed and thinking, "No more vacations for us. We're homeowners now."

At which point, David and I had a long conversation about the beauty of fixed "rent" that doesn't go up, ever, and a salary that should. We haven't lived in a place long enough for me to see that much in concrete terms, but I know that he's right. It's just hard to wrap my mind around since I haven't experienced it before. When that happens, we will be saving more than if we continued to rent, despite the necessary upkeep expenses. I know it'll be ok. It just feels burdensome at the moment sometimes.

And I guess I miss the gypsy feeling a bit, to tell ya the truth. We're settling down now. I kinda stopped expecting it to happen. I thought I was striving for stability, but after awhile, I got used to life the way it was. For the past 7 1/2 years of our marriage, we didn't know where the wind would blow us next. Usually it was someplace several hours from where we were currently living. We lived in one temporary place after another, meeting new people, having good and bad experiences, but it was all different. Now, we're suburbanites. It's official. The whole buying a house thing put a nail in it, as if the cute almost two-year-old hadn't helped things along tremendously. We have a minivan, a house, a toddler, and another on the way. I just need a Noah's ark necklace and a denim jumper, and I could be my mom in 1981. =)

It's a new experience that I'm trying on, like another skin. It's a little tight and itchy some days. And other days it feels like a perfect fit. I think every stay at home mom probably feels this way some days. Most just don't get to attribute it to a long period of childlessness coupled with frequent moves. Heck, cleaning up the same messes, day in and day out, will do in anyone's good spirits temporarily at times. Maybe we like new messes in different places better. =)

Cool song...

Our choir, orchestra, and praise team did this song this morning in worship. It was so awesome that I was almost in tears. It was actually better than this video, but this was the best version I could find. I thought maybe it was old, but it looks like its a new thang. Check it out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A cutie and a rug...

I have been extremely remiss in taking pics of my cutie these days. It's pathetic how few I've taken in the last month. Well, we went out to a playground yesterday morning, and I finally took along my camera and got some good ones. It was quite cold for NC. With the wind chill, it might've been below freezing. We were the only ones out there... except for a Swedish family. I mentioned to David that it should say something to us that the only other people on the playground were from a cold, Icelandic country. And the mom of the family didn't come. 'Nuf said. And it may look like I outfit my baby from head to toe in Old Navy wear, but I'm not that trendy. =) The coat is a loaner from Isaac, and I got the hat last week for 50 cents at a church sale. Booya!

After driving all over town looking for a cheap, plain brown rug, I struck out. Even having a remnant bound was going to run me over $200. I went over to BJ's yesterday and got my free trial membership. And they had pretty rugs for way cheaper than anywhere else in town. I wasn't finding plain, ugly rugs with this kind of pile for $200. That's right, folks. $200 for a pretty oriental.
But I'm not sure if its not a little over the top for what I was going for. I think the pattern will hide crumbs pretty well, but I'm not sure. And I know it doesn't go with the thrift store loveseat, but that will go in a few years probably when this room turns into a homeschooling room. Anyway, I'm looking for opinions, and I can take this back for 30 days. I have other warehouse stores I could try, I guess. Maybe Costco.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gotta cold...

Seth and I went to visit Nana and Papa for some spoiling Tuesday through Wednesday evening. They took good care of both of us. My daddy kept a roaring fire going in the fireplace for me the whole time, and I got some great babysitting so I could go and beg some maternity clothes off of Rachel. =) Of course, the munchkin had a great time getting their full and undivided attention. Ahem.

But... I came back with a cold last night. I woke up this morning feeling awful. Hoping against hope that it was just congestion from the heating at their house, I got ready to go to Bible study. I fed Seth, and I ate a bowl of Cheerios. Big mistake. After I found out how mistaken I was to partake of Cheerios and milk, I cancelled the Bible study plans. =( I think I just have a cold and bad congestion. It was a long morning here, as you can imagine.

There are so many things I want to do today, and no energy to do them. Don't you hate it when that happens? But the laundry is clean, and David will help me fold it tonight, and he gave me the gift of telling me that tomorrow is his off Friday. What a blessing! And I'm not having to miss MOPs, where I'm actually in charge. I'm going to lay low, drink a lot of hot Russian tea, and thank God because it could be much worse timing.

I'm settling in better to this house, though it was a bummer to come back because it doesn't feel like home yet. I'm much more comfortable at my parent's than at the place I currently live, but that's understandable after only a couple of weeks of living here. Anybody remember that feeling of coming back from a comfy, familiar place to one that isn't as familiar? Dorm rooms, new apartments, etc.; they all apply. I think changes make me think of all the other changes and feelings I experienced in similar situations. It's kind of a trip down a memory lane of random emotions in random times.

And now I am off to rest. And wish I could take Sudafed... =)

Monday, November 17, 2008

An ode to pimento cheese...

I was doing my weekly shopping today, and all of a sudden, I got a craving for some good ol' pimento cheese. As I am pregnant, these cravings strike without warning and are usually for random things, like gummy bears and all natural white cheddar cheese puffs.

As I ate my pimento cheese sandwich, smiling at the yellowy goodness with the red flecks of pimento, slathered generously between two slices of lightly toasted whole wheat, I started thinking, "Does everyone eat pimento cheese?" Hmmm, I think its a Southern thing.

So I started doing some research. It is. It appeared on the scene in the South in the early 20th century, and was sold widely in Southern grocery stores by about 1915. Every self-respecting mamaw below the Mason-Dixon line had a recipe for it in her card file. The main ingredients are shredded cheddar cheese, mayo, and pimento, and if you want to be authentic, it has to be Duke's.

In the small town where my mother grew up, there was only one pimento cheese, if you didn't want to be ridden out of town on a rail. It was Musten and Crutchfields. They were the local grocer and butcher, and though their store has come down a good bit from its former glory, you can buy their pimento cheese in stores all over Kernersville. And slightly larger towns surrounding it. This is good stuff, y'all. I bought the processed stuff at Walmart today, but I was wishing I could go home and pick up the real thing.

And if you're not Southern, don't knock it until you've tried it. It is the stuff of everyday Southern life, at least when I was growing up. It is the essential sandwich at small town Southern wedding receptions everywhere. And its good on everything, from celery to Ritz crackers. Mmmm.

If you want to read more, go here. =) And this is also a good article. I'm sooo deep on this blog, lately.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A little academic humor...

Surfing around tonight, I came across this. It reminded me of various and sundry class and seminar descriptions posted on the concrete walls of my dearly departed grad school. Anyhoo, I was amused.

And we got up all the living room pictures today! We're hoping to get up the playroom ones during nap time tomorrow. I'll feel better to at least have the downstairs done.

Any ideas on where to find a plain jane, dirt colored, 8x10 rug? We've tried Lowes and Home Depot, and no dice. Buying a remnant is a possibility, but having it bound would cost more than the rug itself. I'm striking out all over town at the moment, and all I want is the cheapest, most dirt colored, but not too thin, rug in town that Seth can destroy over time in his play room. =)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rainy day fun...

It's been a nice, rainy week here. Seth is down for a nap, and I love how he naps better when its dark and rainy. =) I went to Sarah's this morning and received the gift of DVD loaners in exchange for an unused Baby Bjorn loaner. Being able to barter with others is such a blessing. =) We all save money that way.

And things are definitely looking up around this new casa. Tuesday night saw the low point. I left the house at midnight to drive over to the old house, sit on the empty back porch, and cry until I didn't have anything left. And then I started to see improvement in acceptance of my new place. Maybe I don't know how to get over something until I have a dramatic moment. =) We have experienced some less noisy days this week, but it hasn't been all week, so I don't think that's it. I think God is graciously answering my prayer for acceptance and appreciation, and I'm very grateful for that.

I'm meeting my neighbors, and they are sweet ones. The family two doors down has a little boy who is Seth's age, and they have spent some time pushing each other on riding toys in the cul de sac. The mom is German, and the dad is something else European, and the 2-year-old boy speaks a mishmash of 5 languages. Her parents are here for several weeks, and I was talking to the grandmother the other day, and she lapsed in and out of English and French while she was talking to me. Fortunately, I understand some French, so it was ok. I'm just glad she wasn't speaking German. I would've been completely lost. I'm looking forward to getting to know this family better, and I want to be good, living example of the Gospel to them.

And I've gotten two plates of brownies this week. Two of the moms in my MOPs group live right around the corner, and they both dropped by with chocolate. One of them can walk to my house on her way to the local Food Lion, so that's what she did. I don't think I've ever lived as close to people I know as I do now. It's interesting. I'm running into more people at know at Target now, too. =) We all like that sense of community, don't we?

So now I'm off to fold a mountain of laundry, and then do this. We've got friends coming for dinner. I'm trying to ignore the fact that I'm missing one curtain in my living room. Maybe I'll just shuffle some curtains around. I'm praying for it to show up on Ebay one day. =) At this point, no one really expects you to have your house totally together, do they?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Baby steps...

... And today I bring you baby steps in gratitude to help me rise above self pity at all times. Terri reminded me today that there is a beautifully simple command and promise in Hebrews that we often overlook. And here it is: "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'- Hebrews 13:5

Having Him with me should always make me content. And I think its interesting that focusing on God's comforting presence is presented as an antidote to discontentment.

And now a random assortment of things to be thankful for:

- David was supposed to be spending the next two weeks working non-stop getting ready for a trial. That trial just got postponed until January. Disappointing for him; very much a huge blessing for me as we get this house put together. I was really dreading not being able to put pictures on the walls and just not having him around the next couple of weeks. This is a huge grace for me.

- Drinking Dr. Pepper without much, if any, guilt. Hey, the dr. said I could have one a day, and I'm not doing that! =)

- A healthy, happy son who is a great napper.

- The overwhelming grace of being able to have another child. I am now about 11 weeks, and I'm starting to feel myself relaxing a little bit and expecting that there will be a child at the end of 9 months. Past miscarriage can easily steal joyful attachment from early pregnancy if you let it...

- Lots of fall comfort foods on this week's menu. David requested potato soup this week, and I'm embracing the joy of soup making and the delicious smell of baked apples. How often I overlook baked apples!

- Gratitude that I usually enjoy cooking. I heard another mom confess this week that she hates cooking, though she must cook anyway. What a blessing it is to generally enjoy doing something that you have to do daily!

- Getting used to the squeakiness of the upstairs floorboards after such a short time. And learning to enjoy sleeping with an eye mask on, at least until I come up with a blackout curtain solution for the east facing windows. =)

- The fact that I can see green trees and fall leaves in my back yard from any point on the back wall of the first floor of this house. We even have some new squirrel friends to replace the extended squirrel family at the last house. Ok, there aren't nearly enough to replace them. All the squirrels in the neighborhood lived in our last back yard. They made the cat crazy.

- A toddler who is currently waking up in a seemingly good mood. =)

Friday, November 07, 2008


The painters came once again today. They put one more coat of yellow on my living room walls and patched a few things. I am looking forward to the day that this house stops smelling of paint. Anybody know how long that takes? Especially when you've painted almost every room? My dr.'s office tells me that acrylic paint fumes won't hurt the baby, but I don't like the headaches I still get occasionally from them.

My computer desk in the kitchen is a mass of wires hanging over it. I have a Lowes run to make before we cut a hole in the desk to put them all through.

I'm not as grumpy all the time as I sound at the moment. The sun has started shining again, and my new house looks lovely inside in the sunshine. It's really a lovely home. I'll post some before and after pictures at some point.

I think I've nailed down what has been bothering me so much. I think it is the feeling of massive failure that I have. This is the biggest financial decision that I've ever had to make... and I feel like I totally blew it. My self confidence has taken a real beating as a result. I don't even want to decide between two brands of shampoo at the moment.

If I had gone with my gut and said to David, "No, something doesn't feel right here. We should keep looking," that would've been the end of it. He wouldn't have pushed this decision without me. I have no one to blame but myself that I live in a place that I don't like very much at the moment. There is nothing to do now but try to adjust and pray for peace and try to believe that this is where God wants us. After all, I did sincerely pray that God would stop this thing in its tracks if it wasn't what He wanted, and that didn't happen. I meant that prayer sincerely.

Yes, you can call me spoiled and petty. I know that there are much worse things in the world than living in a place with a lot of traffic noise. I know I need to go to Africa and spend a week or two without running water. But I think my main point, however, is that it is hard on a person to realize that they've made a costly decision that they simply can't undo.

Has this ever happened to you? What did you do to get over it? How did you move on and forgive yourself? Are there any Bible verses that were especially helpful to you at the time?

Well, time to get the baby up. We're going to a cocktail party tonight for David's work, so I need to get gussied up. It doesn't start until 8:00! I haven't been to anything that started after the baby's bedtime in forever. =) God bless our wonderful friend, Kim, who is babysitting even though I didn't give her much notice.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Gettin' there...

Y'all are the greatest! The comments section can be so encouraging sometimes. Hearing your stories really helps. I had to laugh at Katie's about the telephone pole in their backyard. And it definitely made me feel less alone. And, Henrietta, I have no idea how you found me either, or why an English mother of 12 wants to read the whinings of the mother of a single toddler, but I'm glad you're here, and that you're praying for me. =)

Today the noise seems a little better than yesterday, and not because it actually objectively is. (I discovered last night that we also have a train near us, which caused a temporary relapse last night, but I am bouncing back. C'mon! You gotta be kidding me... an interstate AND a train? What gives!) And I finally got David to admit that he also wants blackout curtains over our huge, east-facing bedroom windows! =) A Walmart run today also helped quite a bit. Seth was good, and I got to see all the nice, new things that we're near now as I drove on down there.

I'm baking this as my first act of dessert creation in this house. I read the recipe off the computer screen today. =) I love my new ceramic cooktop stove. No more scrubbing spilled black nasties out of the stove wells! And I finally have as much counter space as my heart could ever desire. And I'm finally soaking our disgusting sheets that are long overdue for a washing. That ought to make bedtime a little more pleasant tonight.

I'm very glad that David and I did early voting last week. Today is gray and nasty and rainy. I hope that that keeps all the Obama voters away from the polls. I reluctantly scratched my plan of letting the air out of the tires of all the O. bumper stickered vehicles in the neighborhood, on account of bad weather. Heh heh. I really am just kidding. But a girl can fantasize... =) North Carolina is going to be close this year...

Monday, November 03, 2008

I have internet again!

Hi, everyone. I am sitting in my kitchen at my newly hooked up computer. The cable guys came today and hooked me up at the kitchen desk. I am psyched about my new location! From here, I can monitor laundry, cook dinner, and listen to internet music all at once. I can look up a recipe and leave it up on the screen while I make it. Sweet!

And having an internet connection makes me feel connected to my life again. I swear, my blood pressure went down a ton after I saw my Yahoo account. =) I know, I know, it's very sad, but I'm addicted. Being able to get on here and connect in so many ways to local and long distance friends is so important to me.

The move went remarkably well. Ok, well, I knew it would go well with my hard working bro, sis-in-law, and mom and dad on board. They have moved us many times, and the house is always mostly unpacked by the end of the day we move in. They're amazing. This time, however, I think Vance broke a new record. He put up my curtains before the end of Saturday. We all ate Mom's spaghetti bake together around the kitchen table that night.

This is the first day of real settling in for me. I always have a hard time, every move. Those who are helping us probably realize that I'm very mentally fragile during the early days of moving house. =) I'm still grieving the old place and getting used to the sights, smells, and sounds of the new one. It's hard on me, and I have to fight not to be completely overwhelmed. I don't know why this is, but it just is, and though I'm working on becoming a person who is more adaptable, I fight my basic unadaptable personality quite a lot.

Seth, however, is taking to the place like a duck to water. =) He loves walking around the circle of the first floor over and over again. He's rediscovering his toys in his new toy room. The only mishap we have had so far is that he rode his little car right over the step down that separates the living room from the rest of the first floor. No blood, though.

We have been so blessed. We've received so much help from our family and friends. I really should have absolutely nothing to complain about. That only makes it harder when I fight not to complain.... This is a beautiful house. It's far nicer and larger than our other place. It's been freshly painted from top to bottom. The Christian couple who sold it to us have gone above and beyond to make this a good experience. The back yard is large and green and tree covered, and I can see the whole thing through most of the glassed back doors. It's a great house. I am hoping that I'll stop wanting to go "home" soon. Please, no comments about how I should be grateful. I already know that. That's where the guilt is coming from.

It's cold and a little wet here. The wind has shifted or something. The road noise has been the worst the last couple of days that I've ever heard it. My parents both noticed and told me they probably would've told me not to buy the house if they'd known it would be like this. I wear earplugs at night in my bedroom. You hear the interstate the worst there. In the morning, it sounds like the tractor trailers are coming for me. I have been running the washing machine and playing CDs so I don't have to hear it. The noise makes me cringe, and it makes my shoulders stay stiff. I don't enjoy spending time in my bedroom. I made myself sit in there this morning and do my devotions.

I'm telling you this because I want you to understand why I want to go "home." And why I feel like a fool who bought a house in the summer that sounds like its next to the highway in the winter. And I have to move on! I have to! We bought this house. It's ours. There's nothing wrong with the house itself...

Please pray for me. I need it! I don't want to notice this anymore! I just want the traffic to fade into the background. I want to want to take my little boy outside. Not all days are like this... But I've GOT to be able to rest in the Lord and enjoy the blessing of this house every single day, not just on the less noisy days. I've got to find a way to enjoy spending time in my huge, pretty bedroom. I am sick and tired of being an unadaptable person. It's hurting me, and I've had enough of it.

I'm sure I'll write in a few days and say that things are better. Ok, mostly sure. =) My new kitchen is fantastic, and I'm going to enjoy making beans and rice in it tonight. If I can find everything wherever Terri put it. =) And David wants to have an election party tomorrow night. Can I pull together a homemade dessert in this house with no pictures on the walls? I hope so... =) It'll be a nice challenge.