Fortnight Friday #9

We lit a fire for the first time this weekend, finally putting our enormous pile of firewood to work. I’m so happy Dustin spent some time cutting all that firewood from the dead wood in our tree out front. It smells like barbecue and lights up beautifully. It was fun watching the girls watch the fire, and I was happy for the weather to finally be cold enough to warrant snuggling up and listening to the wood crackle. 

We also got caught up on our Disney movies, by watching Finding Dory. It was so cute! I loved Hank. That crazy septapus was easily my favorite part of the movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do so. And we saw it just in time, because Moana came out last week. I know we won’t go see it soon, but I am loving the soundtrack already. Lin-Manuel Miranda makes my heart so happy, and I can’t wait to sing these songs as much as Hamilton… well, okay. Not quite that much. But more than Frozen. 🙂

I spent a lot of time Thanksgiving week trying to get my house cleaned up (and cleared out) enough for our Christmas decorations. We had one room in particular that took ALL week, and then some. Whoops! Maybe cleaning it out for the entirety of this past week will be the motivation I need to stay on top of it this next year. Then again, next year I will have two toddlers so I’m keeping an open mind. But a gal can dream, right?

Holly did this weird thing where every morning she woke up grumpy and tired, threw up, and then about an hour later was revving her motor like nothing happened. It was probably just drainage, but it reminded me to make sure I have my Ultimate Sick-Day kit finished up, and soon! 

Then we did Thanksgiving… three Thanksgiving’s, as a matter of fact. We had so much fun (and were so exhausted) that I only took one picture. But I also took this fabulous video of the kids when I was attempting to take a picture of their adorable Thanksgiving outfits, and learned that taking pictures of TWO little people who are mobile is way harder than when only one of them could get up and go. To see the video, make sure to go follow my Instagram account. 

I wrote a few posts this week, but I was especially nervous to share this one about my daughter and her love of marriage, and the example I hope my husband and I are setting for her. 

I know this next month is going to be terribly hectic, and I feel so lucky that Dustin and I have started switching off an evening once a week so that we can each have some time to do the things we want to do. I spend time at a coffee shop writing, and Dustin spends time with a few of his friends. I am nervous about finding time to do this next month (I know for a fact that some of our typical evenings we use are booked up with other important activities), but I know we’re both committed to making it happen. It has been good for our marriage for us to carve out some time for both of us. And I think it’s good for the kiddos to spend more one-on-one time with their daddy.

And we did finally decorate for Christmas. I’m in the camp that wants to decorate for Christmas starting November first, but Dustin is very firmly in the “after Thanksgiving” camp, and I love him, so we wait. But now we’ve got our tree and all our Christmas doodads up, and I am very happy. Actually, I’m writing beside our lit up tree in my favorite cozy chair. The room I’m sitting in is still pretty disastrous, but the tree is beautiful, the chair is cozy, and the kids are napping. Melody recent went from two naps to one nap a day, and I thought that would make things harder, but it’s been much better for all of us. We all have a consistent down time, and even if Holly doesn’t nap during that time, I can tell the quiet is appreiciated. Or… at least the decompression time is appreciated. We’re still working on the “quiet” part. 🙂

Melody drew her first picture on Tuesday, and while I still had to remind her that crayons aren’t for eating, she drew a lovely scribbled page, and enjoyed the encouragement and praise given to her by her big sister when she did it right. Holly really loves being a big sister, and I’m glad they have each other. We’ve also been watching the Rockettes Christmas show and “the Haynes sisters” (White Christmas) because Holly loves to sing and dance along. I love this time of year, and seeing them fall in love with the magic of Christmas makes it even better.


The Botched Pumpkin Brittle

I spent four days hulling pumpkin seeds. Four. Days. The pumpkins were free, and even though my husband hates the texture of pumpkin seeds, I told myself that hulling them would be easy, and that they would be so tasty it would be worth it.

I don’t like carving pumpkins. I don’t like the feeling of slimy pumpkin brain, I don’t like the way it dyes my fingers orange for a few days. Carving pumpkins, unlike pie pumpkins, are really stringy when you roast them, and they make your pumpkin pie feel gritty in your mouth. But I was in it for the seeds, and I was on a mission: to make pumpkin seeds that Dustin would like.

Dustin is not a picky person. There are very few things he dislikes when it comes to food flavors, but he has a few food textures he would rather avoid, and the tree-bark outside pumpkin seeds is on that list.

So I hulled pumpkin seeds, for at least an hour a day. For four days. Because I had a plan. 

I was going to make Alton Brown’s delightful looking pumpkin brittle. The recipe called for pepitas, or hulled pumpkin seeds, and I was so excited when I finally had enough seeds to make the brittle. I roasted them in the oven, used Alton’s spice mixture (but scaled back on the cayenne, for the sake of the children), and even got out our kitchen scale to precisely measure the sugar and water. I got our candy thermometer, was really careful to avoid crystallization, read the directions four times, and felt like I’d executed the recipe perfectly. When it reached the right temperature, I mixed the seeds I’d spent four long days preparing into the molten sugar water and poured it onto my prepared baking sheet.

Where it continued to sit like a river of lava for hours. Not even freezing it overnight hardened it. Something had gone terribly wrong.

But here’s the deal: I am *stubborn,* I had spent four days hulling these ridiculous seeds, and I was not about to let a little thing like a sugar syrup bath make these seeds inedible. I was not going to throw four days of sore fingertips go to waste. I was going to make pumpkin seeds delicious, y’all.

So I strained the extra sugar syrup off as best I could, spread them back out on my baking sheet, and roasted them five minutes at a time at 350 degrees until they felt hard to the touch.
And they are delicious. Maybe better than the brittle would have been (although, who really knows?). And I was really proud of how far I’d come in the kitchen. When Dustin and I first got married, I knew how to make spaghetti, chicken spaghetti, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and oatmeal cookies. And it made me feel really proud, because:

  • Three years ago, me even attempting to make brittle would have been laughable.
  • Two years ago, botching a recipe this badly would have sent me into a tailspin of tears.
  • Last year, I would have just thrown the whole tray out. 

But this year, I was able to make something great out of a hot mess. I learned that I’m more stubborn that I knew, that I know more about cooking than I believed I did, and that I don’t accept failure as easily as I used to. Thanks, Alton.

Oh, and you know what else I learned? Next time just pay the couple dollars extra for the pre-hulled pumpkin seeds. 


Marriage Like Mommy and Daddy

“Can I have flowers when I get married?”

We’re driving home from the grocery store, and Holly is asking about her wedding. Again. She’s three. 

“When I get married, can we have a party?” “When I get married, can I have a cake?” “When I get married, will you come see me get married?” We’re not exactly sure where these questions have come from. Most of the time, Holly will only answer to Jedi. The rest of the time she bounces back and forth between Supergirl, Batgirl, and Madame President Princess Holly (thanks, Peg+Cat). But her wedding and her marriage is always on the tip of her tongue. 

This has never been how my brain worked, or at least, it hasn’t worked that way in a long time. I remember very distinctly sitting in a room with several other teenaged girls in Sunday school. We were just old enough where most of us were beginning to be interested in boys, and so we had a guest come and explain to us why purity was important. But she also pointed out that there are more women on the Earth than there are men. “Some of you,” she said, looking directly at me, “will never get married.” And I believed whole-heartedly that this was God’s way of using someone else to tell me that I was one of those women who would never get married. I carried that thought with me for years, letting it affect my relationships with people. I was completely uninterested in marriage, because why bother developing an interest in something that clearly wasn’t meant for me? It wasn’t until I met and spent a lot of time with Dustin that I believed marriage was ever a possibility for me.

My daughter, being three, has not had anyone say things like this to her (I hope she never does), and she is very excited about getting to be married like mommy and daddy.

So, here goes. 

Yes, baby girl. You can have flowers when you get married. We will have a party that is just as big or small as you want it to be, and you can have as much cake as you want. We will be there at your wedding, one way or another, and I will probably cry lots and lots of happy tears. And I pray you get to be married like mommy and daddy.

I pray that your marriage is built on deep conversations and long hugs. On dancing in the living room and cutting the other person the bigger slice of cake. I pray your marriage is full of spirited Harry Potter debates. On learning new skills together and sharing deep thoughts over shared ice cream sandwiches. On yoga and disc golf and air hockey.

I hope you continue to surprise each other. That you continue to work for your relationship, even after its newness has worn away. That you remember how they like their coffee, or tea, and you occasionally make it for them without being asked. That you save them the last Reese’s cup, because you know they had a rough day.

I pray your kids say, “Daddy! Stop kissing Mommy!” like you have said to us so many times. I pray you get parking lot kisses after you successfully wrangle the kids into the car and high fives when you say the same thing at the same time. I pray you laugh together, and that your text messages (or whatever hip new thing you youngsters have) don’t just become honey-do lists. I pray for inside jokes and cuddling on the couch and a lifetime of adventures.

I pray you marry your best friend. Someone who continually tells you things about yourself that you never knew, someone who brings out your best, calls you out when you’re in the wrong (in a loving way), and puts you first.

I hope you marry someone who is better for having known you, someone you are unafraid to call out when they are wrong (in a loving way), and someone you are willing to put first. 

Being married can be tough. You have to make hard choices, you have to communicate your hurts and disappointments before they consume you, which can be really difficult at times. You will share your highest highs and lowest lows with this one person. You will both change and grow as people. At times, you will have to support your partner. At other times, they will have to support you. You have to talk about money and politics and all the other important stuff that no one likes to talk about. You will not always agree on everything. You will need to wake up every day, and make the choice to love this person, even when the laundry is next to the hamper instead of inside it again. You will want to find someone who loves you, and makes the choice to love you every day, even when you leave the kitchen cabinets open again after they just went through and closed them all. 

But if/when you find that person? It’s awesome, and worth it, and I will be the first person to congratulate you on finding a person who loves you as much as Mommy loves Daddy. 

And until then? You’re three. Keep watching Daddy. Keep learning and growing. And one day, if you meet the right person, of course you can be married like mommy and daddy. I wouldn’t want it any other way.


Red Lipstick Ashley

About two weeks ago, I decided to check off one of my 101 Goals by going into a makeup store and finding a perfect red lipstick. I went into a store, talked with salespeople about things like warm and cool tones (which I still don’t completely understand, but okay), swatched my arm with about 1,000 shades of the same color red, and then went with the third one they showed me, because they told me I should. This is why I hardly ever enter makeup stores. I found products I like and hopefully will never ever have to find new ones because I will hyperventilate. 

Old Lipstick Ashley

My go to lipstick is the same shade I’ve been wearing for over a decade. Yeah. I went to prom in the same shade lipstick that I wear to the grocery store. Please don’t do the math.

But those ladies behind the counter were right. This red lipstick is the superior shade of red, and my only regret is that I didn’t have the guts to try a bold red sooner. Because bold red lipstick meant I got to hangout with Red Lipstick Ashley, and she is a person I needed to meet.

Red Lipstick Ashley (with arty lighting)

Because Red Lipstick Ashley is more confident in herself. She is put together and practical, while still allowing room for vibrancy and fun. She eats crickets (true story, ask Dustin) and plays freeze tag. She opts for sneakers instead of heels not because of their ease, but because she wants to be able to get up and go! She covers her children’s heads in crimson kisses, and laughs with her teeth showing. 

Red Lipstick Ashley eats the second cupcake, but also makes an effort to work out and love her body. She takes the extra 30 seconds to put lotion on her arms, and does the things that Old Lipstick Ashley knows she should do to take care of herself, but doesn’t think the time is worth it. Red Lipstick Ashley dresses up for herself, not for others, and wears things that make her happy. She takes the extra few seconds to put on her earrings or wear some perfume. She digs the face mask out of the back of the drawer and puts it on at the end of the day. She doesn’t save those things for a special occasion. She takes care of herself. 

Red Lipstick Ashley is a better wife. She is a better mom. She is a better hostess. She is a better house manager. She is a better budget watcher. She takes time every day to do the simple things that help her family save (and earn) money, she reads more books on the floor with her kids, she still gets the laundry done, and she makes sure that her husband knows he is loved. She gives up on the notion that her house should be perfect for company, which Old Lipstick Ashley CANNOT do.

She leaves the house to go on adventures, even if the adventure is just to look at the fish at the pet store or to return books at the library. She does craft projects and makes messes. She cleans the crockpot the day she uses it. She’s basically the cat’s meow.

Red Lipstick Ashley makes an effort to put her many lists in action, instead of using lists to feel accomplished. She wakes up a little earlier, guards her time a little better, and listens to what her next step should be a little closer. She doesn’t just make lists, she makes action plans, and then she attacks them with ferocity. She spends less time on the bench and more time on the court. Or, you know… she would if she had any interest in sports. But she doesn’t really. And that’s okay.

But the coolest part about Red Lipstick Ashley, is that now that I know she exists, I don’t have to wear the red lipstick to be like her. Yeah, it definitely helps. But now that I know she exists? It’s like having a superpower without the crimefighting or spandex. Because the truth is, I shouldn’t have needed to discover Red Lipstick Ashley. Because she is just as much a part of me as Netflix Binging Ashley is. The only difference is that one of them gets stuff done, and the other one complains about the lack of realism in the superhero show she watched the other day.

I dug around in our bathroom and found a box of lipsticks I had always been scared to try. None of them are red, but they’re all very bold. I wonder if all of them would have had the same impact as this silly tube of red has had, but I doubt it. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who wore red lipstick. I guess in a way, I’ve always wanted to be Red Lipstick Ashley, I just needed to give myself permission to do it.

Red Lipstick Ashley also takes a lot of selfies. 🙂

Fortnight Friday #8(?)

I can’t remember what number I’m on. Close enough. We’ll pretend it’s number eight. It’s been two weeks since I got back to blogging, and boy. What a doozy of a time to start blogging again. Time for another fortnight Friday.

First things first. Election happened. There was a lot of post-election discussions at our house, and those were… fun. That’s all I want to say about the election right now.

The weather has finally dipped under 80 degrees out here, which means it’s pleasantly crisp, and finally feeling like the year is coming to an end. I built the kids a swingset (99.9999% by myself!) they got for their birthday, and we have enjoyed having that in our backyard. It gets us outside, and we’ve picked a lovely shaded spot for it to sit so that the plastic isn’t too hot to the touch on our 90 degree days. 

I also got a fancy new tube of red lipstick. I have a lot more to say about the red lipstick, but real quick let me tell you this: it’s a game changer.

I’ve been having really weird dreams lately. I’d guess they were stress dreams, but they feel so real, and they have full beginnings, middles, and endings. Characters with names and back stories. I’d almost guess that my subconscious is taking part in NaNoWriMo. That was a plan I had for this year, but I’ve mostly been using this month of writers encouraging writers to get back into the habit of blogging, as well as jotting down some fiction ideas when they come to me. I am proud of the work I’ve done this NaNo, even though I probably won’t win this year. It’s on my list of 101 Goals though, so… better get cracking!

This past weekend was also Veteran’s Day, so we took the kiddos to a WWII museum. Holly was entranced by Rosie the Riveter (I was so proud), and Melody had fun watching people throw wooden airplanes at a landing strip. At one point, Holly got very upset, looking at the mannequins in uniform and asked us, “Why do people have to destroy each other?” We hadn’t talked much about what the museum was about, or war, or anything like that, and Dustin and I were both taken aback by her question. Luckily, Dustin is better at explaining things to people, and he gave a child-appropriate answer, without dismissing her question as preposterous. I was very proud to be married to him, and proud of her insight. And proud of Melody, for being so reverent in the echoey exhibits. I mean, she was probably just a little tired, but I choose to believe it was out of respect for the veterans who were at the museum that day.

The next day, we went to a farm-to-table fair at our local children’s museum, where I learned about cheese-making and Holly and Melody played life-size Hungry, Hungry Hippos. I challenged Dustin, but he chickened out (Calling you out, bro!) and said something about letting the kids have a turn instead. So instead I challenged him to eat a cricket, because I had already done so. Have you ever eaten a cricket? The worst part was about five minutes after when I felt a hair in my mouth, and pulled out an antennae instead. Yuck. But the cricket itself didn’t taste as yucky as I was afraid it would. Now I’m ready to audition for Survivor, right Dad?

Melody didn’t ride on the sled, but she did catch about 12 wayward balls while her sister was playing the game. (Holly won, too!)

Melody started walking more than she crawled this week, which is so fun to watch. Baby walking makes me so happy, and she is so proud of herself. To see a video, go like my Facebook page! Or my Instagram! I post cute baby pictures and also sometimes food pictures there all the time. And sometimes share links to stuff that makes me think.

As for Holly, her funny quote of the week probably has to be when we were praying together. She asked me to start, and said she would repeat after me, so I started with, “Thank You, God, for making me.” And Holly repeated back, “Thank You, God, for making me SOOOO cute!” She’s a stinker. A really cute stinker.

That’s all the big stuff that happened over the past few weeks. I’m happy to be blogging again, and happy you’re here with me.