Propaganda Friday

on 31 December 2010

Happy New Years, y'all!

Christmas in Review

on 28 December 2010

We had a GREAT weekend, how about you?

We hosted Christmas eve dinner at our house.  We had ham and green beans, sweet potatoes, an amazing potato gratin, roasted potatoes, corn, deviled eggs, and crescent rolls (clearly, it's all about the carbs in our house) and it was all SO good.  Well, I'm assuming the ham was good because I did not partake, if you follow me.  We were crowded but cozy and we sat and chatted and teased Sherry about being a sucker and had tons of fun in general.  This is a tradition we'll be keeping.  It was SO nice to be able to get up Christmas day and NOT have to cook, but to just reheat leftovers and then stuff the dishes in the dishwasher.  It was thoroughly brilliant!

Christmas eve was also the night for the Grandma Presents.  This was our tradition growing up.  And I'm sure it originated with us hounding our parents to open just one present pleeeeeeeaaaaaaase?!  So Mom and Dad always let us open our Grandma presents on Christmas eve.  This is another tradition we're keeping.  It was so fun!  The Boy had a very Thomas Christmas and his Nana and Popper gifted him with a new station, new tracks and a puzzle and some new train cars.  He was HILARIOUS.  He kept trying to hold every single thing in his hands all at the same time.  Which, his little hands just aren't big enough for!

We read the birth of the Christ child and then the Boy went to bed and everyone else went home and Chris and I set about Santa's work.  My amazing Sisters had come through for the Boy on behalf of Santa this year.  Sherry had brought him this very cool marble run from Switzerland and I put some very cool marbles in his stocking to go with it.  And Susie, Susie came unhinged in putting together this box of Santa goodness!  It was filled with Thomas stuff, and a Linus doll!  And playdoh and playmobil and bath toys and big boy pants and candy!  It all wouldn't fit in his stocking, so I made a little Santa pile for him.  We set up the Thomas sets so that they were ready to play with on Christmas morning.  And then, then we collapsed gratefully into bed.

Christmas morning came, but not too early, which was SO nice.  Chris got up to walk Hogan and when he came back we opened our stockings together while we waited for the Boy to wake up.  My people really love me, you know that?  I got 4, FOUR shea butter bars for my winter skin!  Can I tell you how excited I am about that?  They're expensive for soap, but I love them so much!  And my sweet husband filled it up with Dove chocolates.

Once the Boy woke up, I went in to his crib and I said, "Guess what?!  Santa Claus came!  And he brought you some presents!"  And the Boy rubbed his face and said, "Santa C'aus coming?"  So he came out and saw all the new Thomas stuff and CANDY and he was...he was just like every kid in a toy store, he didn't know where to look or what to play with first!  It was so funny and sweet.

We spent the next couple of hours opening presents, because the Boy was not content to open one and move on to the next, he had to open it and then take it out of the packaging and then show it to me and to Chris and then try to hold it in his arms while we tried to get him to open the next one.  After two or three presents it became, "Mama, open it!  Mama, open it, peese?!"  So I ended up opening most of his presents while he exclaimed over them and tried to drive Lightening McQueen on Thomas the Tank Engine tracks!  It was hands down the funnest Christmas morning EVER in Burnstopia.

As for Chris and I, we had a decidedly cozy Christmas.  Filled with wool socks and flannel pajamas, new books and well...this:

Chris' brother Mike, in what can only be described as a temporary leave of his senses, bought us Snuggies.  Chris and I laughed ourselves silly. 

The highlight?  Sherry and my Dad gifted us with emergency preparedness/food storage stuff!  We got a water filtration system, a whole bunch of food storage and a canner!  I can NOT wait until next summer!  I'm doing salsa again and some spaghetti sauce and then some straight tomatoes for chilis and soups, I may even try to do some peaches. 

After a failed attempt to get my child to nap, we headed over to Sherry's for dinner and a movie.  My nephew had gotten Toy Story 3 so after filling ourselves fully of warm, homey food we lounged about and looked at my niece's pictures from her recent trip to Europe (with Sherry) and then watched the movie.  The Boy finally started to crash from his crazy day and he snuggled in to me for the movie.  It was sad and sweet and made me all the more determined to enjoy every minute with my Boy.

We came home to a forecast for LOTS of snow (lots for North Carolina, y'all) and Chris went to bring Hogan over to our place so that he wouldn't have to drive in the snow.  And you know, I think Chris was hoping that it would dampen our desire for a dog, but it really hasn't.  Hogan is such a sweet dog, he's smart and mellow and it's just so fun having him around.  He's laying on my feet watching the Boy as he plays with his trains.

All in all, it was a very Merry Christmas.  We read the Christmas Carol together as a family, we did morning devotionals all month long to teach the Boy about Jesus Christ and why we celebrate Christmas.  We sang and played and baked and tried to serve our fellow man.  It wasn't a season without worry or care or even frustration or disappointment, but then...well, life isn't without it's share of those things either.

How were your holidays?

42-45 Christmas socks

on 27 December 2010

Since Christmas is the season of giving I thought I'd tell you about my crazy hairbrained scheme and how it relates to my favorite gift I gave this year.

A long while back I made some socks for the Boy.  They were a bit on the small side for his colossal feet, but overall an excellent showing for someone new to knitting.  Approximately 35 seconds after they were done, Chris asked what he would have to do to get a pair.  And I laughed hysterically.

It took me almost a month to make a child-sized pair!  I couldn't fathom making adult sized socks.  So I moved on to other things.

And then came the hat.  The beautiful but ever so slightly too small hat that I made for the Boy.  And Chris renewed his request.  It was by this time late November or early December.  And I thought to myself "Why not?"

So I pulled down a huge skein of undyed wool, I found a simple sock pattern and the went in search of a color work pattern.  (Well, if I was going to all the work to make him some cozy wool socks I wanted them to be pretty!)  Anyway, I found a lovely mitten pattern and after copying the colorwork pattern and then shifting it around I could make it work for a sock.  So I trotted myself out to find a pretty contrasting wool and then set to work.

People, let me just tell you, I worked my fingers to the BONE.  I worked furiously, I had to rip it back on 2 separate occasions, but I did NOT let that deter me from my goal.

Chris would say that here is the part where I take you on M's happy walking tour through all the stuff I watched while I worked on the knitting.  Almost exclusively, I watched Ken Burns' documentary on World War II called simply the War.  I spiced it up with some Band of Brothers and so the 42-45 socks were born.

The upper and arch of the foot is 100% wool, the contrast, heel and toe are a wool blend so as to wear a little bit better.

When I finished the first sock I asked Chris, "Maybe this should be a Christmas tradition in our house.  Everyone gets cozy Christmas socks!"  He tried on the first sock and declared that to be a marvelous idea.

Propaganda Friday

on 24 December 2010

Still Life

on 22 December 2010

I thought you'd all enjoy these vignettes of life in Burnstopia.  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

My darlin' and clementines.

What we are currently up to.  Because the holidays are not crazy enough!  But, and I hate to admit this, it's actually pretty fun.  The Boy climbs up to his only personal throne and then says, "Mama, 'eave a'one."  Because even newbies need a little privacy.


on 20 December 2010

The Boy woke up at 6:30 in the morning.

We don't get up at 6:30 in the morning in Burnstopia unless we have to travel.  So I lay there with my head under the pillow hoping that he would go back to sleep.

He did not, and he was clearly upset.

I padded silently through the cold dark living room into his bedroom.  He was standing in his crib tearfully pleading, "Cuddle Mommy.  Cuddle Mommy.  Cuddle Mommy."  So I sighed and lifted him up to cradle in my arms.

Cradling the Boy is nothing short of comical these days.  He's all arms and legs and lean muscle.  We sat in the rocking chair and his thin little legs dangled over the arm of the chair.

back and forth.  back and forth.  back and forth went the chair.

After 15 minutes I was now cold and the Boy was still pleading sadly, "Cuddle Mommy."  So I cradled him in my arms and we went back to the warm comfort of Bed Sweet Bed. 

The Boy gratefully snuggled under the pile of covers against my chest.  He was still and quiet and so we dozed for another half an hour until the increasing light around the windows prompted the Boy that it was now time to play.

It was a day ordinary, and yet not.  There were diapers to wash and groceries to buy.  There was frustration and discipline.  There were books to be read and a nap for the Boy.  Eventually, Chris made a pot of soup for dinner and I composed some grilled cheese sandwiches to accompany it.

There was a bath for the Boy and lotion and pajamas and scriptures and prayers.  And then there was one last cuddle in the rocking chair.

back and forth.  back and forth.  back and forth went the chair.

As I sat in the dark room, rocking my Boy, I realized that I had been in the exact same situation first thing that morning.  And sometimes it's hard to tell morning from evening, coming or going.  And I was forcefully reminded of another back and forth moment.

When we lived in a podunk little town in western Washington state, I used to run from our house the two and half miles downhill to the sound.  I would sit on a big rock and watch the small waves lapping at the rocky shoreline.  I never could tell if the tide was coming in or going out. 

back and forth.  back and forth.  back and forth went the water.

Sometimes I think the days are almost indistinguishable from one another.  They blend into a cycle of meals and naps and bedtime routines.  They  become these round robins of tasks to perform and errands to run.  And yet.  They are so liberally sweetened by moments like these.  If we just sit still long enough to taste them.

Propaganda Friday

on 17 December 2010

Birthday Meditation

on 16 December 2010

I would like to wish Jane Austen a very happy 235th birthday today.

If I could, I would thank her for 6 classic novels of sheer brilliance.  I would thank her for inspiring countless other writers to create more works of brilliance.  I would thank her for inspiring some pretty decent film makers as well.

And then I would ask her what the heck is up with all the spin-off writers who think they need to complete the 6 novels that she ALREADY completed.  Also, what the heck is up with all the writers writing horror/monster spin-offs of her books?  Yeah, I don't get that.

As for today, I shall spend it listening to some of my favorite film adaptations of her novels and work work working away on a Christmas present for Chris and also some hemming I need to do for me.  It's cold and wet here (sleet, anyone?) so it's the perfect activity for this the 235th birthday of Jane Austen.

Also, I've been thinking about genius a lot lately.  And how it seems that great Gifts require great Sacrifices (think Beethoven being deaf and all...), in and around my work, I might just do some meditating on that.

3 out of 3 in Burnstopia approve!

on 15 December 2010

Once upon a morning, Christopher woke up and declared,

"I want sweet.  I neeeeeeeeeeeeeed SWEET.  NOW."

So, like any good wife, M asked him,

"Well.  What kind of sweet do you want?  Cookies?"








"I'm out of ideas, man, what kind of sweet do you want?" M, bless her, she was still trying to be a good wife.

After a thoughtful pause, Christopher burst out with, "Rice Krispie TREATS!  Or s'mores bars!"

After laughing at him for this bizarre little whim, we trotted off to ScmalMart for the requisite ingredients.  (We don't keep marshmallows in our pantry.)  And while we were there we had the brilliant idea of having a week long celebration of the cereal bar and trying different kinds of cereal out to determine which is our favorite and thus the BEST cereal bar the world can offer.

So we bought 3 bags of marshmallows, Rice Krispies, Chocolate Cheerios and a box of (NEW!) Cinnamon Chex.  I've been curious about a cinnamon cereal bar for a long time.

Chris made the Rice Krispie treats first.  And they were ok, but not as good as I remember them being back in the days when I was decidedly addicted to the things.  (Those are OTHER stories that require their own posts.)

Next we made the Chocolate Cheerio bars.  Now, Chris wanted me to tell all of you that he is otherwise disgusted by the idea of a chocolate cheerio.  And this is the SECOND time we have made these (I made them once for a family night treat). 

Christopher is too SCARED to try  a cinnamon cereal bar so those didn't happen--besides we had made up our minds after the cheerios.

It's OFFICIAL.  The cereal bar of choice in Burnstopia is the Chocolate Cheerio bar.  The texture is infinitely better than the Rice Krispies, and dude--CHOCOLATE.  They taste like S'MORES.  They are all things wonderful and delicious.  They are just enough to transport you back to your childhood and satiate your craving for SWEET.

We ate them while watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  Which the Boy calls, "Cha-cha Bwown!"  It's hilarious.  Go and make them today. 

In Rememberance of Ms past...

on 13 December 2010

Every once in a while I get this morbid craving for tacos. 

Not the good kind of tacos that you get in authentic Mexican food establishments, the kind that are just meat (or FISH!) and red onion, cilantro and lime.  Those are REAL tacos.   My morbid craving is always for Disgusting Tacos.

Like Taco Bell tacos.

As in a soft taco shell with beans and faux meat and grated cheddar cheese and nasty shredded lettuce and tasteless tomatoes and hot sauce.  Look.  We're ordinarily very healthy.  Every once in a while we get these morbidly bad cravings and they simply MUST be obeyed.

Such a craving came upon me last week.  So off to SchmalMart I schlepped to get the requisite shredded iceberg lettuce.

I came home and heated the faux meat and taco seasoning and beans and grated some cheese and made up the tacos and proceeded to dive in head first.

Chris asked me if they were as good as I was expecting.  And I had to admit that, no, they weren't.  And he asked what was wrong and I gave a think.

And as I thought it over I realized something.  That what I really wanted was a moment in time...not really the tacos.  The tacos were a part of that moment, but what I was really craving was the moment.  I wanted to be 16 again.  Sitting in a Taco Bell in a small, podunk town in western Washington.  Surrounded by my friends, thinking we were the coolest things since sliced bread.  I wanted that moment of feeling supremely confident in my ability to be witty and intelligent and even a little bit cruel.  (They laughed.  It was mean, but it was funny and as a kid I assumed that made it ok.  I know better as an adult.)

In chatting with Chris later, that's what I realized.  But how are we to satiate that kind of craving?  You couldn't pay me enough money to ever repeat the whole year--but that one moment of being admired and lauded--that feeling of captivating.  That's what I wanted back.

It's not in our cards to get moments back.  I suppose that's why we should be enjoying the ones we get.  In the end, I had some really good tacos.  

Propaganda Friday

on 10 December 2010

I'm so glad.  I really was worried there for a minute.

Happy Families

on 08 December 2010

Tolstoy is famous for having said that "All happy families are the same, all unhappy families are uniquely unhappy."  Thus arguing that the only interesting family is an UNhappy family.

I beg to differ.

(Incidentally, I'm not the only one to beg to differ.  There's a whole book out there called Tolstoy Lied--it's quite good, and funny and happy and sad and all the things you want a decent book to be.  But we're not talking about that, we're talking about my odd little happy family.)

I have these moments on a fairly regular basis where I'm doing something totally normal and banal and something happens, some cosmic shift in perspective and I can see my own little family with out-side-my-own-little-family eyes.  And when that I happens, I find myself thinking..."What an odd little family."

For example.

The other day I was making some macaroni and cheese for my Boy. 

(Yes.  I know.  It's not the healthiest thing he could be eating, but he LOVES it and I love him.  And so once a month or every other month I indulge him with a batch of homemade macaroni and cheese.)

So I was making some macaroni and cheese for my Boy and I was stirring the plain white pasta in the boiling water and it was just another quiet evening making a quiet dinner for my quiet little family.  When the cosmic shift happened and I saw myself cutting up velveeta cheese and pouring in ORGANIC milk into the pot of cooked pasta and I thought to myself.

"We really are an odd little family.  Velveeta cheese?  It's not even REAL cheese!  And organic milk?  Was ever such a combination imagined?"

And then I remembered what Tolstoy said.  And I started to examine my little family for signs of unhappiness to equal our signs of individuality.

And you know what?  There really aren't any.  The things we're not crazy about (unemployment, infertility) they're temporary things.  They'll change eventually.  I guess when I think of unhappy families I think of a chronic unhappiness.

And so in closing, I bring myself back to the original point of this post, which was (other than revealing the more embarrassing parts of my pantry) to inquire--what are your happy family eccentricities?


on 06 December 2010


You know what really peeves me?  Annoys?  Irritates?  Disgruntles?

When I work away making an oh-so-adorable hat for my child and it turns out 1 inch too small.

And even when you can sort of stretch it over his adorable head, he screams and wails "OFF OFF OFF!"

And then when you're peeved, annoyed, irritated, disgruntled and yes, IRKED.  He LAUGHS at you.


on 04 December 2010

It should come as no surprise that snow is like CATNIP for me.

I told Chris this morning at 11:33 when it first began to fall from the cloudy heavens that it makes me feel like a kid again.

We took the opportunity to take our own certifiable child out in the lovely powdery snow this afternoon.  And the pictures (while I have not done my hair and have not a stitch of make-up on my face) are so full of joy that I had to post them here.


Sorry the sledding ones are so out of focus, but you know, I was laughing so hard it was a little hard to concentrate on taking the pictures.  We used an old diet coke box and tried to get him to sled down the little hill behind out apartment.  Chris and I were alternately cracking each other up and the Boy was hooting with laughter the whole was rather giddy.

Propaganda Friday

on 03 December 2010

Overheard in Burnstopia

on 01 December 2010

Chris was sorting laundry for me on Monday morning when he came in to where I was working on the computer.

Chris:  So I ordered a book from the library.  It's about being happy.
M (giving him a shocked look):  Are you thinking about trying to be HAPPY?
Chris:  Well, I'm just thinking about it.  I'm going to see what the book says.
M (stunned silence)
Chris:  Well, it's no guarantee, I just want to read the book...
M (hysterical laughter)
Chris:  Don't you want to know what the book is called?
M:  Sure.  Hit me.
Chris:  It was on NPR, it's called Thrive Something Something Something.
M:  Wow.  That's quite a title.  What did they say about it?
Chris:  I don't remember.  But it sounded interesting.
M:  Evidently.