Monday, April 29, 2013

Fine China and Elevating the Daily Family Dinner

A couple Sundays ago, we were on our way home from Mass and noticed a sign in our neighborhood saying "Vintage Sale."  We excitedly followed the arrows, hoping that the signs weren't just leftovers from a sale that had already taken place the day before.  We finally found it.  We knew it by the stacks of boxes overflowing with glassware and china on a little back patio of a tiny Pittsburgh house.  We made it just in time, it seemed, as the guy was in the process of packing everything up.  He told us that the sale had been going on the day before as well, but he'd hardly had any customers.  He was ready to give up and call it a day.

Most of what he was selling was dishes, glasses, and old china sets.  He explained that his wife had always hoped to start a business selling vintage items, so had collected the pieces for years.  For some reason, the business had not panned out.  He was happy to finally be getting rid of all the boxes that had been cluttering up the basement.

 Justin - that was his name, I just remembered - remarked that all this stuff would have sold immediately in New York, and for a lot more money.  We asked what he meant, and he explained that they had lived there previously, and only moved to Pittsburgh a year or two ago.  It made me feel bad to hear that people in my hometown doesn't appreciate nice things or antiques as much.  Although...I guess I'm thankful in a way too, since it means I've been able to find so many great things at real bargains over the years.

I love vintage housewares, and there were lots of nice things.  But I'm trying not to bring excessive clutter into the house, so I have to be pretty picky about my dishes these days.  There was one set of nice china that kept catching my eye.  I found myself walking back over to its box, and peering in, picking up pieces to look at more closely.  It was calling to me...but I already have a set of nice china, plus my everyday Pfalzgraff dishes.  I really did not have a use for it.

White with pale green and grey floral pattern

I said to Tom, who was kid-wrangling on the other side of the pile of boxes, "I think I really like these dishes...but I can't justify buying them."  Tom agreed that we did not need them, and gave me the "are you done yet?" look. Then Justin whispered to me, "what if they were free?".  My eyes lit up.  "Hey Tom!...what if they were free?"  And Justin echoed - much to my amusement, -"Yeah, Tom.  What if they were free, huh?"  haha.  Well, we were sold.

I mused about possibly just making this second set of china into our new "everyday dishes", and packing away the Pfalzgraff ones.  Justin told us that his grandmother used to do that as well.  She would even bring her nice china with her for picnics.  All her friends were shocked, and asked why she wasn't worried about breaking it.  She would tell them, "Well, who am I saving them for?  The next wife?"

I like that attitude.

So the next day, I unpacked all the new china, washed it off, and went about replacing my regular dishes in the cabinets.  There's nothing wrong with my Pfalzgraff dishes.  I did pick them out originally, when my mother insisted that I should have a set of them for a wedding gift.  But I don't know.  Maybe I've just become sick of them.  The colors don't actually match the color scheme of my kitchen or dining room, though.  And I feel like the pattern is just a bit childish and whimsical.

My former everyday dishes
It's been nice having some pretty china to eat off of every day.  I feel like it helps to elevate a casual family meal to something a little more special.  Which really, it is.   

Another thing I've been trying to do more often is put food into nice serving dishes for the table.  I'm not to the point of putting condiments or dressing into special little bowls or anything - they can stay in their original store-bought bottles! 

Some of my pretty serving bowls
But instead of bringing the whole pot or pan straight from the stove or oven and setting it on a trivet at the dinner table, it's nice to scoop the contents first into a pretty bowl or plate.  I find that when I do this, dinner is just more pleasant somehow.  It seems less rushed.  It becomes less utilitarian - just a time during which to get food into our bodies - and more about the experience of enjoying the meal in the company of family.

But Sly still gets a plastic Peter Rabbit plate, because I'm not completely reckless with my china!

Also, it's easy to remember to bring out the nice china when guests are over, if that's all that's in the cabinet to begin with ;-)

Friday, April 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 28)

 Okay, Blogger is still not letting me upload photos!  Sorry for the extra-boring QT's today.

Sly hasn't busted out a "Frikkin' crap!" recently, which is good.  But he's started saying "holy heck" (learned from my Dad).  Still not pleasant, but at least it's a step down in crassness...

I had an Usborne books party at my house the other night, which was completely lovely.  I enjoyed myself more than I have in a long time, just hanging out with other women and laughing (and eating chocolate fondue!).  Almost everyone there was pregnant (and I didn't know it in advance).  I guess this does happen a lot when you invite a lot of Catholic moms to stuff.  Being surrounded by so many happy pregnant women, I would not be surprised if baby fever starts to hit me soon.  I'm pretty sure it's already hit Tom....he's been getting that look in his eye and asking, "so when are you going to be pregnant again?" 

The chocolate fondue recipe I used was so simple and so delicious.  Try it out!
As dippers, I had: strawberries, banana slices, pretzels, marshmallows, pound cake chunks.

Also, did you know that electric fondue pots exist?  I'd only used the kind with the little Sterno burners, which I don't like.  But my mother-in-law lent me her electric one, and it provided such nice even heat.  I definitely need to add that to my birthday list!

I keep running into friends and acquaintances who are already "homeschooling" their three-year-olds.  And I'm like, "oh crap! [see?  this is where Sly gets his bad language from]  Should I be doing stuff with Sly?!"  I'm sure any "schooling" I'd do with him at this age would be very simple and informal....but I'm wondering what other mothers do besides just, ya know...reading to them and playing.

So when I was a kid (early 90s), I had a big chunky Fisher-Price tape player/recorder, and a stack of tapes (some music and some books on tape that chimed when it was time to turn the page - remember those?) to listen to.  I feel like there's not a good equivalent for today's kids.  CDs are too fragile for little ones to handle.  But even CDs are probably considered old-fashioned now.  Most people don't even buy them anymore, they just download directly to their computer tablet or smart phone, right?  Do people besides me even still use mp3 players?  Either way, they wouldn't work for little kids, because they can't read so wouldn't be able to pick the song they want to listen to.  Is there some product or program I don't know about?

Anyways, to get around all of this, and because we are thrifty people, and because we are nostalgic people...Tom and I have decided to get Sly a used Fisher-Price kid's tape player off of eBay.  We've already amassed a nice little collection of cassette tapes (some remnants of my own childhood collection, and other picked up at thrift stores) that we know he will like.  I think he should be able to figure out how to work them. 

 Isn't this the perfect song to sing to a snuggly little sugar baby? [here I would have posted a pick of my own adorable little Stella baby, but I'm sure you guys (what us northerners say instead of y'all) can manage to hold yourselves together without seeing a pic of her]

I got this cd out at the library.  It's Elizabeth Mitchell's album Little Seed.  She sings covers of children's songs by Woody Guthrie.  Good stuff

I have still never read a book to Stella.  She's eight months old.  I can't remember when we started *actually* reading to Sly, so I'm not sure if I should feel bad for her or not.  All she wants to do is munch on everything anyways.

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bad Bad Potty Mouth Language!

Well, we're obviously awesome parents, because our two-and-half year-old's new favorite catch-phrase is (usually said very loudly, and emphatically) "Frikkin' crap!".

Anyone who knows my husband might not be surprised by this.  I have been working very hard with Tom since Sly was born to get him to stop swearing in the presence the kids (I'd appreciate if he stopped swearing almost entirely, but that's another issue).  He's been pretty good about remembering, but now he tends to substitute the bad words for only-slightly-less-bad ones.  I'd have no problem if he used words like "gosh" or "darn", and would not care if my kids repeated them.  But "frick" or "a-hole" are just way too close to the original.  Now, I can't put all the blame on Tom.  I definitely catch myself saying things like "crap!" or "that sucks" when the kids are in earshot way too much.

Anyways, Tom and I tend to point out and correct each other's little slips.  And of course, Sly is taking in every little thing we say and do, so he has caught on to the fact that certain words are no-nos.  So last week when Tom was gently reprimanded by his mom for something or other that had come out of his mouth while the kids were around, Sly gleefully busted out with two other words he knew were off-limits: "FRIKKIN' CRAP!!"

We were all stunned (and highly amused, but trying really really hard not to crack up).  Since then, he has busted out in a chorus of "frikkin' crap!" on several other occasions, always with a huge mischievous smile.  He knows it's bad.

What the heck do we do about this?  Tell him not to say that?  Punish him?  Totally ignore it so as not to make those words seem forbidden and alluring (he already knows they are, though)?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Back to Reality

Sorry for all the blog silence - I was away on a week-long trip to the Florida Keys, courtesy of my very generous parents-in-law (oh, and our return flight was cancelled, so we ended up getting a freebie extra day in Miami!).  Just a few scenery pics to capture the mood of where I've been...

Enjoying one of many beach-side beverages
tiki bar!

Iguanas and other lizards are just falling out of the trees (literally)!

Bahia Honda State Park
look at the color of that water!

"Back to reality"....too true

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Firmoo Glasses

I've written before about how Tom and I have been buying our eyeglasses on the internet for the past few years, instead of through the eye doctor.  I recently tried out a pair of prescription glasses from Firmoo, an online glasses retailer that has recently opened to the US.

1. Way less expensive than buying glasses from your eye doctor.
2. A lot of the styles they offer are very trendy right now.  Most frames come in multiple colors, and they have sunglasses and safety goggles as well.
3. One of my favorite features is the virtual try-on.  You can upload a picture of your face, and then "try" on the glasses to get a feel for how they would look on you (and it allows you to size them correctly, based on your pupillary distance (i.e. how far apart your eyes are)). 
4. If you get your eye doctor to give you your prescription, it's very simple to get perfect prescription glasses. If you're interested in trying out some non-prescription "fashion glasses", there are plenty of looks to choose from.
5. All glasses arrive with a hard case, a storage bag, a microfiber lens cloth, and a little screwdriver for tightening the screws - very nice!

1. The website is frequently updating their format and graphics, so that every time I visit it, things look different.  Although this is probably a sign that the company is doing well.
2.  There's a lot of awkward wording throughout the website.  It's clearly written by a non-native English speaker.
3. Glasses ship from China.  They can take a little while to arrive, and shipping costs obviously reflect the distance.
4. You need to be very careful to read the info about each frame.  They tell you the recommended PD (pupillary distance) range, which is very important to pay attention to.  Otherwise, you will feel dizzy as soon as you put them on, as I learned the hard way with my *first* pair I got from them.

My old glasses are small and rectangular, so I wanted to try a totally different look.  I chose these huge tortoiseshell ones.

After the hack-job I did to my bangs, I finally had to make them "straight-across bangs".  But I'm realizing in this picture that they're actually rather slanted...*must resist urge to pick up scissors again*

There are a couple of great deals they are offering. 
1.The First Pair Free program, for new customers.  You get the frames+lenses (either prescription or not) for FREE, and all you have to pay is shipping.  The shipping is a little pricey depending on where you live, but probably still under $20.  That's so much better than $200 glasses from your eye doctor!
2. I am able to offer a special voucher code to readers for $30 off any of the designer line of frames.  This is good for the next few weeks, and can be used six times: Chirstineblogs2 [yes, they spelled my name wrong]

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Poking Guy

Three weeks or so ago, Sly had his first real nightmare.  He woke up in the middle of the night (which is extremely rare for him), crying uncontrollably.  We both tried to calm him down and get him to lay back in his bed, but he refused.  He sobbed and screamed, insisting on sleeping in our bed with us.  I told Tom we needed to resist, because I didn't want it to become a habit.  But it became clear that he was simply too terrified to stay in his own bed.  We finally relented, and let Sly come in the bed with us, where Tom held him close until he gradually fell asleep.

The next morning, I didn't mention it to Sly at all (not wanting to remind him lest the "sleeping in Mommy and Daddy's bed" thing become regular).  But after breakfast, as Sly was following me into a room, he kinda flew sputtering and crying around the corner, saying worriedly, "no, he didn't get Sly!"  "What, Sly?" I asked, "Who didn't get you?"  He replied, "The Poking Guy."

We had a conversation where I got him to explain, and here's some of what he said: "The Poking Guy poked Daddy.  He poked Sly.  Sly cried.  The Poking Guy has claws.  He pokes people. He doesn't have a beard.  He doesn't have a mustache."  And he confirmed that this is what had scared him the night before.

I thought the whole thing was a little bit creepy, but also somehow sweet and endearing.  He talked about it so earnestly.  I told him that we would make sure to ask his guardian angel to keep him safe (a good tip I got from Maria Von Trapp).  I decided the best approach would be to treat his concerns seriously, but also not exacerbate them by bringing it up myself.  I assured him that he would be safe, and the Poking Guy wouldn't hurt him.  Maybe I should have told him the Poking Guy didn't exist.  But...well, this will sound weird, but I felt unqualified to say that.  At least to Sly, he very much does exist.

I told Tom and the grandparents about the Poking Guy.  Everyone expressed surprise that a child so young (two and a half) was having nightmares - as well as daytime fears - about such a specific creature like that.  Sly had a few more incidents where he'd get nervous during the daytime, telling me that the Poking Guy almost got him.  But no more nightmares.  We gave him a holy card with a guardian angel picture, and Tom added some prayers to Sly's angel into their bedtime routine.

Tom had an amusing thought that perhaps our cat Lancelot was really the Poking Guy.  "Come on, " he said quoting Sly, "'The Poking Guy have claws? He pokes people?'  You know how Lance always pokes our faces in the middle of the night!"  We both laughed about it, because it does kind of make sense.  But, as I reminded Tom, Lancelot really dislikes our kids (and you would too, if you got your tail and ears pulled by them all the time), so I doubt he'd be trying to sleep in Sly's bed with him.

Sly began telling me things during the daytime like, "Sly's guardian angel keep Poking Guy away."  I was glad that he felt safer.  But after a few days, something occurred to me.  When I had talked to Sly about praying to his angel, I was only saying it to make him feel safe.  In other words, I was only pretending to pray with him to make him stop worrying - just going through the motions.  I suddenly realized that - whether the Poking Guy was real or not - Sly's guardian angel actually could help to keep him safe, and feeling safe.  I needed to actually intend to ask for help for him.

A friend of ours, who is also Sly's godfather, was visiting last week.  I told him the story about the Poking Guy, expecting him to find it cute or at least interesting.  Instead, he said - quite seriously - that perhaps the Poking Guy is actually a demon.  Ugh.  Are you kidding me?  Don't tell a mother than her two year old might be getting harassed by a demon!  I tried to put it out of my mind.

Sly hadn't mentioned the Poking Guy for a little while, so I thought maybe he was "over it."  But Tom told me that tonight, Sly was very insistent about praying to Mary and to his guardian angel to keep him safe from the Poking Guy.  He also filled Daddy in on some more details about him.  One thing Sly said was that the Poking Guy poked him on the cheek and gave him a boo-boo.  When Tom told me that, I got a chill.  "Tom!  You know how Sly's had that mysterious bruise on his cheek for, like, two or three weeks now?  The one that's not fading at all?  Oh my gosh!  It's the exact size to have been made by a finger!" 


[fyi - I'm not freaking out about this.  It's most likely just a coincidence, but it is creepy in a "sometimes it can be fun and exciting to be scared" kind of way.]

But hey, if anyone has tips about helping kids deal with fears like this, or similar stories, I'd love to heard them!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Joy and Post-Easter Whining

We had a busy weekend, preparing for and celebrating Easter.  I was baking up a storm on Saturday, having to prepare two cakes to bring to Easter dinner and also making two batches of scones for our own Easter breakfast (at Tom's request).  Plus we had to cook and dye all the eggs.

Orange scones, inspired by the ones at Panera

Chocolate chip scones
Buckeye cake (with minor revisions)

strawberry cake

We were planning to attend Easter morning Mass this year.  We had reluctantly resigned ourselves to the fact that our days of being able to go to the Saturday vigil Mass (which runs from 10pm-1am at our church) were over.  We figured we would have to wait many years until all our children are old enough to hold it together that late at night.  But Tom was getting more and more bummed about it throughout the day, and finally decided that we should just give it a try, and cross our fingers that the kids wouldn't turn into crazy people.  And it worked out amazingly well!  We put them to bed at home, woke them up when it was time to go, and carried them to the car.  They were in their pajamas, and we brought their blankies into the church.  Both of them slept the entire time (Stella in her car seat, Sly lying on the pew).  It was probably the first time since Sly was born that I was actually able to pay full attention at Mass!

It was nice, too, having the next morning to stay in and take our time, enjoying our little family.  For breakfast, we ate scones and hard-boiled eggs, and the best bacon I've ever eaten (thick-sliced is the way to go).  We had an egg hunt and played with the kids cheap-o new toys from their baskets.  And then we went over my dad's house for another egg hunt and dinner with the extended family.  A nice day.

And then, the crash.

Sly is experiencing a familiar condition today.  A few months ago, I termed it "Too Much Christmas".  Today, it's re-surfacing as "Too Much Easter".  He endured broken sleep for the vigil Mass on Saturday, a late night on Easter, no naps all weekend, way too much candy/cookies/pop to eat  (I hate how you can't control their consumption when you're at a family party and all the relatives are basically forcing the sweets on them!), and several days of elevated excitement and activity.

Pretty much the only thing that's issued out of his mouth all day is one continuous droning whine.  The only real words I can make out are mostly some variation on "Sly want candy." 

Here's a typical conversation today:

Mommy: "Sly, do you want a drink?"
Sly [whining]: "ehhhhhhhhhh"
Mommy: "Say 'yes' or 'no'"
Sly: "ehhhhhhhhhh"
Mommy: "Okay, I guess that's a no."
Sly [louder, and more urgently]: "EHHHHHHH!"

Which means that he apparently does want a drink.  Sigh.


Yesterday, I made the stupid stupid decision to trim my own bangs.  I don't know why I thought this was a good idea to do on Easter, of all days.  I've trimmed them myself many times, but I recently had them cut in a different shape that I'm not used to, and I really have no clue how to trim them.  I snipped one part too short, so then I wanted to even up the rest, so I cut everything else around it shorter, then I saw that another part was too short, and get the idea.  They look WEIRD and bad.  They don't swoop now at all, and they aren't even heavy enough to stay down on my forehead so sections of them keep popping up in weird directions.  Tom came into the bathroom, saw the horrendous job I was doing and said, "ahhh!  Stop NOW!  Put down those scissors!  Just because you're having a bad hair day, doesn't mean you should reach for the scissors!"  He stated matter-of-factly that I would have to just wear them clipped back until they grow out a bit.  Ugh.  I think he's right. 

But it's a testament to my maturity that I'm not really freaking out about it.  Though I have to say, it's still pretty tempting to go grab the scissors and try some more to "fix" it.

Anyways...that's why you won't be seeing any pictures of me from Easter day this year :-P