Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The News from Kentucky

(Taken from today's Courier Press Newspaper, of Evansville, IN)

"A fatal traffic accident in Ohio County, Kentucky.
(Editor's note: This is not a full sentence.)

It happened when a vehicle slammed into a bridge culvert on Highway 69 between Fordsville and Hawesville.

Highway officials say the crash took out much of the railing but the culvert is structurally sound. No word yet if the crash was weather related."

(Some guy died...
but don't worry, folks, the culvert's fine!)

I love living here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Twenty-first Century Bonding

Every morning at 8 AM sharp, baby Jed has a date. With my computer. As soon as the computer starts to make that trademark beep, he immediately crawls over, eyes eager, and stares up at the screen.

Because Mommy's computer, in Jed's mind, is actually Granny Zo'An.

Yep, my baby has bonded with my computer. Every morning Granny and Gampa Dowdle have a video chat with Jed, complete with hoots, growls, peekaboos, and giggles. And he LOVES it. I mean he totally eats it up.

The thing that scares me, though, is that, well, you can't really TELL it's Gampa. Their camera is so blurry that you can't much make out any details of their faces. And Jed loves it just as much when the video is off. He grunts and squeals and woowoos back at the computer anyway. I think he's truly convinced that his grandparents are, well, a computer.

I'm sure he'll need all sorts of counseling for this someday. But in the meantime, it's hilarious.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Podcast Addict

Turns out that being a mom you spend a lot of time doing pointless tasks, like picking up big lego blocks and putting them back in the wagon for the seventh time that day, washing yet another load of dirty diapers, or scrubbing the cuisinart bowl for the third time in an hour. My mother in law was the one who clued me in that the salvation for at-home-mom-brain-dead-itist is PODCASTS.

I love them. I devour them. I listen to them for probably at least three hours every day. It's just so easy to plug it in, push play, and be entertained and edified for hours. Here are my favorites (in no particular order):

1) Book of Mormon Roundtable Discussions. I know, I know. Boring old guys sitting around talking about scriptures. But I've always loved wise old grey haired BYU curmudgeons and this is my only way to hang out with them anymore. I download the episode that corresponds with our upcoming family scripture study, and then I sound really smart and thoughtful when I bring up their discussion points. :c)

2) Intelligence Squared. Our friend Reece introduced me to this fantastically thought-provoking debate podcast. Some highly charged topic, like "Has the time come to end Affirmative Action?" or "Is Russia becoming our Enemy?" is brought up, six experts in the topic, three from each side, are brought together, and they go at it in a (generally) moderated debate. The program's stated purpose is "to raise the level of public discourse on our most challenging issues," and boy, does it work. Brings about great conversation killers at parties, too, I've found.

3) Speaking of Faith
This is my newest and most adored addition to the lineup. Each week the host has a guest who discusses some aspect of faith and/or religion. My favorites so far: a discussion with a former British Muslim Extremist who escaped his terrorist organization by studying the peaceful principles of his own religion, and also a discussion with Jean Vanier, a French philosopher and spiritual giant. He understands Zion. You REALLY need to check this one out.

4) This American Life
Stories from the lives of every kind of American. Funny, sad, gross, touching, tragic, and sometimes just plain weird. Love it. A Stanfill family favorite.

I also subscribe to BYU speeches, Classic BYU Speeches, MommyCast, SpanishPod, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and LDS General Conference.

So, what about you? Have you caught the fever, yet? Any podcasts to recommend?

Note: Special thanks and acknowledgement to Anneke for the term "curmudgeon."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Photos Of the House (UPDATED)

The photos below were taken late at night and therefore don't really convey the feel of our house very well. One of my favorite things about it is all the natural sunlight, which is obviously lacking below. But it's a good start.

Jed checked the house out for us and gave it the A OK. Did I mention he has the cutest rump?
Michael and Jed, so incredibly good looking both of them.

The master bedroom. Lovely wood floors, huh? The whole upstairs has them though most of it is carpeted. Note the BLACK windows. What the heck? Who gets BLACK WINDOWS? I guess they were cheap. Really good quality, though, I will say that for them. The house feels really solid, no drafts at all. Nice storm windows and doors, too.

Bedroom number two.

Bedroom number three. Note that the bedrooms have closets. Closets have been surprisingly difficult to find in our price range. At least closets of any size. Turns out I've taken so much for granted my whole life. I just assumed that all homes had 1) closets, 2) dishwashers, and 3) garages. WRONG WRONG WRONG. At least for under a hundred grand! We feel lucky to end up with 1 1/2 of the aforementioned items (lots of big closets and a carport.)

Our gorgeous basement. AKA the Booze Room. Michael's already got his sledgehammer ready and waiting. Nice big room, though, 17'x31'. Lots of space for legos and trucks.

Workroom and utility room just off of basement living room.

The upstairs living room. Looks bigger and happier by daylight. Has a HUGE window just out of this shot. I love all the windows in our house! Lots of light!

The kitchen. Besides the very strange placement of the fridge (did they just FORGET to fit the fridge in the floorplan??!) I like the layout. Not so much the beaten silver hardware and grey/black/white spotted countertops. Eeck. I do love all the counterspace, though! This is one of the better kitchen layouts we've seen.

Standing in the kitchen looking into the dining room. Too bad it's carpeted. Sure Jed can take care of that, though. We'll have to rip it up in no time. Or put down tarps.

Hallway to the bedrooms. Not nearly so long and skinny as it looks.

And, at last, the bathroom! Needs some fresh caulk but it's structurally sound. Though I do wonder... wood trim on the shower window???

Pretty sweet, huh? I'm excited. Better photos forthcoming.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's for Dinner

So I haven't been to the store in a while... last week's Sam's Club trip was one of those horrific "everything has run out at once" experiences where you get light-headed watching the numbers ring up at the checkout stand. Can it REALLY cost that much just to buy vitamins and razors? Since when does toilet paper cost an arm and a leg? Couldn't I have stretched that watered down shampoo just a little bit farther?

Anyway, so this week is the "use all the extremely ripe old produce in the bottom of the fridge" week. Fortunately, I also threw a bag of broccoli in with the Sam's purchases and you can make all sorts of great stuff with broccoli. This afternoon I broiled broccoli, mushrooms, and some previously baked potatoes cut up into chunks until they were soft and a little charred, threw in a cup or two of boiled wheat berries and served it tossed with herbs, olive oil, salt/pepper, minced fresh garlic, and balsamic vinegar... mmmmmm!

A few days ago we had this soup. I love this recipe (slightly cannabalized from a find on because the spices are so fragrant and you can really use just about any vegetable you can find in it. Also very forgiving on "extremely ripe" produce. ha ha. Here it is:

It isn't really Moroccan. But it sounds exotic, right?

2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t fresh ginger, grated, or 1 t. dry

5 c. water or broth
1 c. lentils
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can beans of any type
1 carrot, diced
1 ½ c. green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, cabbage, whatever)
½ c. rice or other grain (quinoa, barley, etc.)
1 t garam marsala
½ t cayenne
½ t cumin
1 ½ t cardamom

Let cook 1 hour or so (time may vary... I don't cook by the clock well.) Then add:

1 can crushed/diced tomatoes

Heat and serve with a dollop plain yogurt swirled in.

Alternately, throw all ingredients in slow cooker, let cook 5 hours.

This is a husband-approved recipe. It makes a huge pot (depending on amount of veggies added, of course) and you can add more water or broth to stretch it the next day. Also freezes well.

We Got It

I can't believe it! They took our counter offer!

We're going to buy a house! Wahoo!

2 Thoughts

Two articles on the housing crisis that make us pause. They both have pretty convincing arguments. What do you think?

How Bad Will the Mortgage Crisis Get?

Ignore The Headlines

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Where Have All the Desperate Sellers Gone?

Well, we got our counter offer... and somehow, through our miraculous extra-sensory choosing mechanism brains, we managed to find yet ANOTHER seller who countered with:

1) the original price
2) PLUS the cost of closing tacked on
3) PLUS one extra thousand dollars added, just for kicks and giggles.

Yes, another counter offer that is higher than the original asking price. In fact, it is a full ten thousand dollars higher than the price they had the house at last year... when it didn't sell after being on the then seller-favorable market for months and months. And they just can't go any lower.

Are we the only people in Evansville that read the news? Buyer's market! Popping balloons! Dismal forcasts! Recession night at hand! Do my armpits stink? Is that why they keep responding this way?

Oh well. We gave another offer back today but I don't think they'll take it. Looks like we have to keep looking, and wait for sellers to notice that nobody wants to pay more than full price for their home.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Offer Is In!

We put in an offer on a cute little sixties ranch house today. Here's a picture, hopefully we will have better photos soon! We like this house because it is in a nice quiet, rural feeling area right down by the Ohio River (you can see the river from our house!) It has 1200 square feet upstairs, 600 or so finished downstairs. There's also a big unfinished workshop/utility/storage room that fills the rest of the full basement. It sits on a third of an acre on an out of the way dead end road that even our real estate agent, who's been working here for 20+ years, didn't know was there.

We're excited! We'll keep you updated on the goings on.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

True Love, Last Part

Today was our Valentine's Day Observed. In between eating heart shaped pancakes and taking naps in a warm sunshiny bedroom, we spent a lot of time giggling and smooching. (I added that part just to make Eric gag. Though it is true.) This evening we went on a REAL date (no baby bean! We love him but didn't miss him too much.) Michael decided to (essentially) recreate one of our favorite dates back in the pre-marriage era, dinner at Biaggi's (as close as you can get to Carrabbas here) and then to Borders, where we browsed our favorite sections (me: cookbooks and classics, Michael: art books and history) and then settled right where we always do, in the comics section sitting on the floor and tittering hysterically like two foolish kids. Afterward we went to the coffee shop section for hot chocolate, more giggling, and playing footsie. And you know what, my husband is just as cute and clever and charming as I remember. Three years, two states, two degrees, and one child later, and I'm still in love. Our life is happier, sillier, and more meaningful than I ever dreamed. Guess we've still got it. This must be True Love.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Baby's First Haircut

Before: The little old man comb-over

After: Handsome studmuffin like his papa!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

True Love Pt. 6

Tonight I was nursing Jedster down to sleep after our usual bath/book/song routine. He gulped it down until he seemed to have his fill, and then he sat himself up. He looked over at his daddy on the computer and started grunting, "Dad!" "Dad!" "Dad!" (In Jed-speak which is an "eh!" crossed with gulping noise.) Michael looked over and smiled. He started up toward Jed with his arms outstretched but then Jed had a mild panic attack and realized he hadn't filled his tummy yet. He turned frantically back to mommy to fill up on the other side. Michael sat down, unsurprised but disappointed. Ten seconds later, though, after gulping down every last drop of milk from that side, Jed sat up again. "Dad!" Michael looked up. "Dad!" Michael started toward us again and Jed got a huuuuge smile and giggled, wrapped his arms around his daddy's neck, and together they walked upstairs to bed.

Seeing those chubbby arms tight around my husband's neck is just about the sweetest sight I've ever beheld. That's true love, my friends. That's true love.

PS - We are formally declaring Saturday as Valentine's day here at our house, but while you're feeling romantic, check out Mod-mom's Valentine's Give-Away or the Write-Away contest on the topic of LOVE that will be published the 22nd. Might as well make all these gooshy postings matter, eh?

Curried Coconut Yams

Tried out a new recipe last night, and OH MY GOODNESS it turned out fantastic. I know, you are probably thinking "What's with this woman and the yams?" But, recently the sweet potato was ranked the number one most nutritious vegetable! Look at this:

"The sweet potato is a nutritious and economical food. One baked sweet potato (3 1/2 ounce serving) provides over 8,800 IU of vitamin A or about twice the recommended daily allowance, yet it contains only 141 calories making it valuable for the weight watcher. This nutritious vegetable provides 42 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, 6 percent of the RDA for calcium, 10 percent of the RDA for iron, and 8 percent of the RDA for thiamine for healthy adults. It is low in sodium and is a good source of fiber and other important vitamins and minerals. A complex carbohydrate food source, it provides beta carotene which may be a factor in reducing the risk of certain cancers."

As Michael put it, "They are THAT good for you? And they TASTE LIKE CANDY???!!!" I think that sums it up. We eat at least 7 pounds of yams a week lately. That's a lot of yam. But we all (including Jed) love it so much we can't stop. Even at 98 cents a pound.


5 sweet potatoes – peeled, cut in half longways and cut into 1 1/2” chunks

Saute together in heavy saucepan or dutch oven:
2 T olive oil
1 t green curry or to taste
½ t ginger or 2 ½” slices fresh ginger
1 red onion, diced

Until fragrant and onions clear. Then add:

1 can coconut milk
3 T fish sauce
1 ½ T sugar

Bring to boil. Add yams. Cover. Cook 20-25 min. on med-low until tender.

Serve over rice – will stretch further
Stir in shredded fresh basil leaves

A Few Little Things

Being a mother, thus far at least, involves a lot of bodily fluids, disinfectant, and food preparation. But the payback is fantastic, like the sticky, drooly hug I just got a minute ago. You can't pick up a warm wiggly hug like that just anywhere. You gotta work for it.

Here are a few of my favorite things, captured forever by my personal photographer:

WARNING: Graphic images of disgusting nose boogies may be portrayed. Appropriate viewer discretion is recommended.

No More "Baby" Jed

Michael Quillen left an insightful and troubling comment on my last post. The problem: So now that Baby Jed is more than a year old and starting to stand up on his own and has sort of started taking steps (although Vanessa declared them unverified, unofficial, and without legal recognizance), can we really keep calling him "Baby" Jed? I mean, he's big. He's tall. He is clearly entering toddlerhood and leaving babyhood behind. But we literally ALWAYS refer to him as Baby Jed. As do all our family and acquaintances. There already is a "Big Jed" in the family, so do we call him "Little Jed?" But that hardly trips off the tongue. And "Perry Jed" is just too grown up. Sigh. I want him to stay a baby forever!!!! But here the problem lies. What do you think? Any suggestions?

PS - I'm glad you are all enjoying my Valentine's posts for Michael so much. He he he he he! (insert maniacal evil laughter, mostly directed at my sibling Eric)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

True Love Pt. 5

True love is feeling happy on a cozy snow day when your husband can't go to work because you get to have him all to yourself ALL DAY LONG! Like a special holiday made just for us! Hooray for inches of freezing rain!

Monday, February 11, 2008

True Love Pt. 4

Yesterday, I woke up feeling like a train had hit me. I've had this nasty recurring cold every two weeks since the beginning of the year and boy, am I sick of it. So there I was, laying in bed surrounded by shredded toilet paper, moaning of my sorrows, and my darling husband rubbing my head and telling me I should stay home for the day and he'll get the baby ready and take him to church so I can get a rest.

True love, I say...

Of course, that wasn't possible since I had to go to nursery. Nursery can be pretty nuts of late, and I would hate to leave my fellow teacher alone with 16 pushing, wailing, eye-ball-scratching-out toddlers. And finding substitutes isn't as easy as it sounds. So I got up. While I was in the shower, Michael got the baby dressed (he proudly held up the child and pointed out to me how cute baby looked in his turtleneck and overalls... what a sweet hubby) AND found the child's one eternally lost pair of shoes. He packed the diaper bag and fed baby. He made himself some boiled eggs for breakfast.

Then at church he tried to talk me into going home when it turned out we had a volunteer helper in nursery and only 7 kids. By that time, I was feeling a little better and enjoying the quiet joy of an un-insane nursery, so I stayed. Several times over the two hours I spotted a pair of concerned brown eyes peeking in through the window, not to check on a toddler but rather to check on me. Michael takes the baby for the last two hours of church every week (too many snotty noses in nursery to chance take baby in there with me.) That's no easy task, and I know he usually misses at least half of the lessons.

After church, Michael whisked me home and into bed while he stayed downstairs and played with baby, growling and building towers to be knocked over for hours on end. I finally woke up just in time to go to dinner at his parents' house. I felt about a million times better.

True love, I think, is when you put the other person before you, when you make their needs a higher priority than your own. I'm sure after a long week of work, Michael would have preferred a quiet Sunday relaxing and doing the fun things that HE wants to do, but instead he took the baby all day and made me feel like the sick princess. Yep, that's true love, for sure!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

True Love Pt. 3

Today we went looking at houses again. Michael let me nix his favorite house (that already has an awesome built-in darkroom) just because the kitchen was too small. Without even a murmur of complaint. Yep, that's true love.

Friday, February 8, 2008

True Love Pt. 2

Tonight my husband took me to the ward dance. The music was totally. lame. but he took me out on the floor, we were the only couple out there with the whole ward milling around, and we danced and danced and danced. What a studmuffin! What girl doesn't dream of a man who can cut a rug and look good doing it. What a man, to not care about what everyone else is doing and just make his wife happy. Yep, I'm pretty much the luckiest girl on earth. The party was a blast anyway and now we're home and sweaty and giggly and happy. Yep, I guess that's True Love.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

True Love

I was just thinking... back in the days of dating, the acid test for my boyfriends was to see if when I went home over the summer I still looked forward to their calls. Without fail, after a few daysof boy-detox I'd get sick of hearing from then and dread those long, forced "required" calls.

Funny thing is, after two and a half years of marriage, I still look forward to Michael's lunch break phone call every day. It never feels "required." And if for some reason he can't call I find myself feeling morose and bummed all afternoon. Guess that's true love, eh?

Book Reviews

I mentioned some time ago that I wanted to post some book reviews. I love books. Someone asked where do I find the time--all it takes is a little imaginative propping. I read while I eat, I read while I dry my hair, I read on the pot, I read while I cook, I read while I nurse, I read while I brush my teeth, I read while my child bathes, I carry books in my car, I am rude and read in front of others. I have books strategically placed around the house--one by the bed, one in each bathroom, one in the kitchen, a couple in the living room, and usually one on tape in the car or on my ipod.

And yeah, I only have one child, but my reading reactivation after Jed's birth was actually inspired by Susan Warner, who manages to be well-read and she had TEN! She even has a little reading stand thing that props up books so she can read while she nurses. Where can I get my hands on one of those?!

I especially like discussing what I've read with others. Disagree with me? Go ahead, leave a comment, and we'll go at it. Agree with me? How boring. But stroke my ego and leave a comment telling me how brilliant I am. See, this is a win win situation!

Jamie asked me about a couple books on my list, so I'll look at those first. I don't actually have either of them on hand so sorry I can't be more specific about publishing or chapter content, etc.

Review: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman - An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan

Incredibly dull. Pride and Prejudice is hardly action packed, and stretching the original story, told from Darcy's point of view, into THREE books each longer than the original is madness. As one friend said, reading this book was “worse than watching paint dry.”

Review: Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
(This review is probably appropriate for feminine eyes only. Boys, you probably don't want to know.)

After hearing rave reviews all over the internet, I attempted to buy a copy of this at our local B&N – nope, sold out. Then Borders – nope, the copies fly off the shelves so fast they can't keep them in. Finally, it seems, women are thrilled to find a book that explains clearly, concisely, factually, and entertainingly what exactly is going on in all that female machinery in there.

Sure, we all saw the birth movie and read the condom-centered pamphlets as teenagers, we thought we knew it all. But this book, for the first time I've ever found, actually explains the woman's body in terms of childbearing, rather than sexuality. That is what women's bodies are programmed to do—reproduce! Revolutionary in an era of “safe sex!” No embarrassment about how copulation works here, only a refreshing, honest look at what, how, and why women's bodies do what they do. My mind was blown as my view of my body did a complete 180 degree change, and suddenly those irritating monthly occurrences took on a fascinating, almost glorious splendor.

Did you know that your body temperature fluctuations can tell you exactly what part of your cycle you are at? Did you even know you have cervical fluid, and that it changes through your cycle? Ever notice your cervix ascending and descending? Yeah, me neither, and that's why you need to read this book. The “Taking Charge” part comes when you start tracking your cycle using your body's signs. Once you are familiar with your own cycle, you can literally know for sure exactly 1) when you are fertile, 2) when you are not, and 3) even control to an extent the gender of your child (?!?!?!?!). OK, number 3 isn't as guaranteed as the other, but supposedly the birth control technique, when you use both temps and cervical signs, is 98% accurate. That's pretty awesome for no nasty pill or side effects.

The book also has sections geared specifically toward women trying to conceive or boost their fertility, lactating women, and even women in menopause. I read the whole thing, every bit was fascinating.

I love this book. I can't recommend it enough. Every woman in every stage of life should read it. I can't wait til I have teenage daughters someday so we can sit down with this book and go “Whooooaaaaa! Neat!” together.

(And as long as we're on the topic, check out my fantastic new female accessory. Ever want to just forget you're on your period for hours and hours, even days? Yeehah! I LOVE IT.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cruel Country

It's a cruel cruel weather world here in Indiana. Sure, yesterday was absolutely gorgeous with 70 degree weather in February! Sure, you just want to go outside and roll around frisking in the sunbathed grass. But can you enjoy it? NO!

Because in Indiana you get PUNISHED for enjoying the weather. The more you enjoy the winter warmth, the more you are guaranteed house-smashing tornadoes the next day. And then you can't really revel in the nice weather at all, because you always have these horrible visions flitting around in your head of tomorrow, ruining the lovely today.

Today is tomorrow. We woke up to window-rattling thunder and torrential rain at 5:30 this morning. Our house was shaking. And I've lost my weather radio. UH OH! I'm going to go look under the couch.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Jed's Having a Blast

I'm so excited it's my birthday!!!! Waaaaah!

I just love all these fun balloons. My mom nearly passed out blowing them up, but I refuse to get even the tiniest bit of enjoyment out of them.

This cake isn't SO bad. I've never had sugar before. I might like it. But I better not let on. Better to keep my absolute deadpan expression in case someone thinks I actually like my birthday.

All right, all right, if you take my clothes all off and let me crawl around like a crazy man with balloons stuck to my back and head, I MIGHT crack a teeth-baring tiger grin.

All the kids helped me open my presents.

The birthday party bunch. My facial expression is carefully arranged to convey "What are all these people doing here and how can we get rid of them?"

My mom thinks I am the most gorgeous child on earth. She's probably right.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Baby Jed's First Birthday!

Today is Baby Jed's first birthday! We had a party. And boy, what a party pooper! He didn't crack a smile through the whole thing but we sure had fun. After everyone had left and he'd been allowed to strip down to his diaper and run around and chase balloons, his day seemed to look up. ha ha ha! What a funny kid!
I made him a cute cookie monster cake. It took him a while to get the idea that he was ALLOWED to eat something sweet and bright plastic blue, but once he got it he chowed down and ate a whole slice.

Vanessa's Birthday

For my birthday, Jan (my mother-in-law) arranged for a bunch of my friends in Relief Society to meet up and surprise me with a lunch party at a local restaurant. Such fun!

I guess I was in trouble because I had to sit with the little kids.

I had a lovely birthday, with lots of love from family and friends far and near. What a lucky girl I am to have so many wonderful people to care about me!