Thursday, December 18, 2014

When You're a Grown Up

Or should be, but it's just not very clear what that even means.

I wrote about it, here and here (in that column thing I do).

"A year after graduating from college, I found myself at daily mass with a friend my age and her newborn baby.  An older woman, heart-warmed by the sight of a beautiful young mother with her child, came up to us as we were leaving to tell my friend how happy she was to see a young woman living out her vocation."

And, just for good measure, here's this old piece on the same subject.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Ever get lured in by the shiny pots or silk camis, even though you think you're immune to that thing called consumerism? 

Well, me too!  And I wrote about it, again (remember when I told you I had new column?  Yeah, that's still going on.)

Temptation takes many forms.

"Shut in from our daily walk by the rain and cold, my baby daughter and I took to the only place I knew of large enough to stretch my legs: the mall.  No frequent shopper, I thought of myself as immune to the lures of new clothes, cookware, and technology on display, but our indoor jaunt proved otherwise.  Cozy cable-knit sweaters, beautiful enameled cast iron pots, top-quality digital cameras, and flowing mid-length skirts called out to me."

Read the rest here.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Is it okay to not know how to read?

So, back before I retired to become a naptime writer/one-pupil-teacher (who is pretty much still on order and wonder and how to eat), I taught middle school math.

Instilling wonder in my main pupil/Everyone loves baby pics

Yes, just about everyone's worst nightmare.  Least favorite subject, least favorite age.

"Math?" My well-meaning interlocutor says.  "I was never very good at math."

Or, less frequently but still common, "I always did well in math but I never really felt like I 'got' it."

A flurry of recent articles by Elizabeth Green or about her new book address the causes of being bad at math-- and some of the consequences for innumerate grown-ups (that's the numerical equivalent to illiteracy, for all you limited vocab folks)*-- as well as the problems of teacher training, both for math specifically and in general.

 She addresses two things that are supremely important:
1. American teachers are overworked. Teachers in countries that perform well in math spend a lot less time in the classroom- and a lot more time working with other teachers to prepare their lessons.

2. Thorough teacher training and understanding of mathematics is crucial in developing students who think about the world mathematical rather than are just able to "do" math.

So, now, many of the reforms introduce new algorithms for multiplying numbers that just confuse kids. And parents.  By themselves, a textbook cannot teach a kid to think mathematically.  A teacher has to guide them.

This could be you.

Seriously.  Whether you are a parent or a mentor or just know some children, when the opportunity arises, talk to them about numbers: how much things cost, odd and even numbers, what product is cheaper to buy, ratio of girls to boys in class, how much flour to measure when you need two cups but only have a half cup out, whatever.

Baking: perfect situation to talk about numbers- fractions and ratios organically arise!
(This is a variation on Martha Stewart's flag cake that's similar to the buttermilk coffee cake but not quite as good)

You don't have to have this conversation, but you can still talk about numbers!

And as for the difficulty of the the middle school age: well, let's just say that the parents were worse.^

*See what I did there?

^To be truly honest, let's say that the most misbehaved kids were not nearly as hard to deal with as the most misbehaved parents.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


All I want for my birthday is her two top teeth. 

And chocolate. 

Or just a dragon. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cooking Tips! For Busy People Only.


Things have been busy.

I mean, I wrote two columns that I haven't had time to post.

(One on the uncertainty of young adulthood, the other on almsgiving.)

If I could, some days I would spend hours upon hours in the kitchen, making four-course meal that concluded with a chocolate soufflé, rasberries, and whipped cream.

Strawberry buttermilk muffins.  I complained the entire time that muffins are never worth it... and then, they were so delicious.

Someone else would clean up.

But that hasn't happened in quite a long while.  

Curried Eggplant, in early stages
And we still have to eat, right?

Red Pepper-Shrimp Pasta Sauce
So, today I will tell you a few things I do to get dinner on the table in a flash. 

Tomorrow (okay, not tomorrow, but sometime) I might tell you secrets for getting dinner together (very quickly) in the morning or early afternoon, so you don't have to worry about it any more (preview: dump a bunch of stuff that sounds good together in a crockpot or dutch oven  Leave it alone).

Disclaimer/helpful tip: I could never be a restaurant chef.  I rarely follow recipes exactly.  Instead I add or sub or take out depending on what's in my cupboards, what was on sale, what's in season, etc.  So let's start with that idea for fast dinners.

If you want an exact recipe, check out: sausage-pasta skillet, chickpea indian bowl, or frittata.

1. Frittatas.  Easier, fancier, and more forgiving then other egg dishes.

I start with vegetables I have on hand: maybe a little onion and mushrooms, or potatoes and spinach, or zucchini and yellow squash.  Perhaps, if you're someone other than me who thinks of broccoli or asparagus, I use those. 

Then I sauté them in an oven proof pan, until their soft, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, I crack about ten eggs in a large bowl, add a splash of milk, buttermilk, or yogurt and cheese if I have it.  I whisk those with a fork or whisk and add herbs or spices: dill, paprika, or rosemary are good choices.  When the vegetables are ready, I pour the egg mixture in the pan, give it a gentle stir, and stick it all in the oven for about fifteen minutes, until eggs are set.

Sometimes I wish a had a crumble of bacon or ham to add with the eggs, but I never do.

Great with a simple salad of spinach, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds topped with a simple vinaigrette.

2. Pasta sauce

This pretty similar, except I have to come up with a protein source as the base doesn't have built in protein.  I start with vegetables, sautéing onion and garlic first, then adding things like squash or bell peppers.  I add Italian herbs, like basil, rosemary, parsley and whatever protein I'm using (shrimp is nice because the pre-cooked shrimp is usually the same price as raw; ground beef or sausage is great, but you'll have to cook it in a separate pan, then add to the veggies).  Usually I supplement all of this with a can or two of diced tomatoes to make it saucier.  Serve over pasta of your choice.

3. Curry, with brown rice

Start the rice first.  If you are not good at cooking rice, follow package directions exactly and set a timer.  It will work, you just have to be more exact than with pasta.

I use curry paste and coconut milk, which I suppose they sell at somewhere like Sprout's, but generally I get from the asian market.  The sweet potatoes are the heft to this dish, so have quite a few.  All other veggies can be subbed.

Sauté onion, chopped sweet potatoes, and bell pepper in a large sautée pan (one that has depth; I don't know if this is the right term).  Put a lid on it if you're really cooking a lot of sweet potatoes or in a hurry.  When softening, add green beans, okra, tofu, or broccoli, if using. When they get soft, add curry paste, stir to coat.  Add coconut milk and protein source if not tofu (leftover chicken or shrimp are great; ground beef also works; you only need a little).  Voila! You're done.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


So, we went to my husband's college friend's wedding in Nashville back in August.

It was the most effort I have ever expended to get anywhere.

We left by 7 on Friday morning, assuming we'd arrive at Samary Plantation by 7 for dinner.  A 10 hr 45 min drive, and we had just over 12 hours to make it in.


Or, not.

View from the road, while it was still going smoothly
We were happy if a little bored in the car, the baby sleeping in the back, us trying to keep quiet in the front.

Then we'd play with her on the back for awhile, stop, nurse, change diaper, eat food, repeat.

Shout out to my old AR camping days
Until Little Rock.

We got off the highway to stop for lunch.

Idling at a stoplight, our car... stopped working.

Travis took car of the tow truck, etc, while I kept stayed with the baby.

Keeping the baby happy by looking out over Little Rock

The verdict from the car place: the fuel pump was out.  They could fix it in the morning.

Thankfully, Travis's friends from growing up live in Benton, a suburb of Little Rock.  They took fantastic care of us, even providing a crib.

Hangin' at the Car Dealership
And offered a car to borrow!  We were set to go in the car, but had to go by to get our clothes to wear to the wedding first.  While there, they said our car was done.  

Still on track, and in our own car.  Back in our car by 10:30, plenty of time to get to Nashville by 5.

Until: a. construction in the middle of nowhere

and b. a violent storm

Aftermath of the storm
driving into the plantation
We missed the actual ceremony (which apparently included lightening in the background) but were able to make it for a perfect Southern Living reception (and I say that with the upmost respect).

A menu full of fresh summer veggies followed by square dancing.

The next morning
We partied late while the baby slept in a house on the property (yay baby monitors), slept a little, met the happy couple for coffee on the porch in the morning

view from the porch

stopped by Franklin, TN for mass (where there were semi-traffic jams on a Sunday morning), and hit the road.


Congrats, Jess and Gordon!  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Compost: Life Comes From Death

Every day, I collect sweet potato scraps, coffee grinds, and old green beans for my compost pile and top it with dead grass.

In six months, this persistent effort will yield dark, rich soil, perfect to grow tomatoes, zucchini, greens, and other vegetables in my summer garden.

Death makes way for life.  Life comes from death.

Eucharistic Procession, Gatewood Neighborhood, Oklahoma City

Last Sunday, out of the darkness that threatened from the Black Mass, arose a Eucharistic Procession at St. Francis of Assisi, with some 3,000 people in attendance to pray for the city and honor Christ Jesus.  

St. Francis, before the prayer service

Rosary school gym, dedicated overflow from the Church

Corpus Christi parishioners in the real overflow, outside

Episcopal priest with his children
Shaded overflow

St. Damien's Parishioner

End of Procession

People Pray Outside Church after the Procession

Texas Seminarian kneels in front of Eucharist

To read some of Archbishop Coakley's remarks, see my article here.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Daily Life: Hilarious

As the baby is trying to maneuver around the maraca under her leg:

Me [to the baby]: Are you stuck from the maraca?  Or is the maraca stuck under you?

My husband: That's a metaphysical question.

Me: It's just a physical question.

Him: All physical questions are metaphysical.


It's cool now??*


Travis, after studying during intercession to get ahead: Well, the stuff we're doing right now is actually pretty hard.


Pediatrician's Nurse about my crawling baby: Are you giving her plenty of tummy time, mama?


While walking around our new 'hood:
Me: I'm really glad our house number is even.  I like even numbers so much more than odd, and its both even overall and if you add all the digits, it's even.  It'd be even better if every digit is even, but that's okay.

Travis: Well, zero isn't even or odd.

Me: Yeah, but I like to think of it as even.

*I mean, NPR is great.  Love Krista Tippet's On Being.  Have had driveway moments.  But cool?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Eating with a Baby

In a breakfast rut?  Same ol' cereal getting boring?  No time for oatmeal?

Eat with a baby!

(Okay, so this won't actually solve the time problems...)

But!  It will get your out of your normal breakfast foods.  Suddenly, things like sweet potatoes seem good for breakfast, because that's what the baby is eating*.

And it is good.  It's delicious and nutritious and easy and cheap- the quad equivalent of trifecta of food!

Your baby loves avocado so much her face turns green?  Avocado-toast for breakfast!  Yes!  Add a hard-boiled egg for protein- she loves the yolk, too.

Her love of peaches and blueberries reminds you to eat your fruits, too.  The way she smashes them on her mouth indicates their deliciousness.

Plus, it's a chance to teach her baby sign language and prepare her for a future of being brilliant, just like you.

Clean up and enjoy the day!

*Real sweet potatoes: just cleaned, poked, and put on a baking sheet for about 45 minutes at 425.  This can be done ahead of time and warmed in the microwave.  Cut and serve!

(And I'm no feeding-a-baby expert, but I do a combo of this and this- basically soft table food and nursing after 6 months, only mama's milk before.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Big League City: please don't out-cool me.

So, did you see that piece in the NY Times about Oklahoma City?  How everyone is moving here because it's affordable, you can buy a house, etc?

Yeah, I hated that.

On my way to Braum's.
Super cool apartments.
Looks like Dwell.
If too many people do that, it won't be true.

This will happen instead.

At the Myriad garden's
Yeah, I love the myriad garden's renovations as much as the next person.

But, for real, don't get too cool, OKC.  I love you the way you are.

Myriad Garden's
Ramshackle paths and all.

Also Gatewood.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Green-eyed Monster/New Column

Green-eyed monster keeping you from enjoying the blessings in your own life?  Check out my take here- it's my first young adult column.

Classic Oklahoma Sunset
(just beause it's pretty)

And then fuel that giant ogre with my sister's food + fashion + travel blog.  Hey, you can learn to make some of that fabulous food of hers.  Mmmm, Beignet's!

And someday soon, if I ever emerge from August, I'll tell you the story of a Nashville wedding.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Past Month


This happened.

And worked: all five babies slept.  

Beach Trip '14!  Woo-hoo!

2. German Catan. 

Notice: Germans assume a basic understanding of probability.

And, yes, I won. 

But I may or may not have played against kids who didn't remember all the rules.  So.  You know.

3. These books are great.  And I'm already looking forward to this one.*

(And as is this one, only I haven't reviewed it.  

I just read it on the beach.  

Light enough for beach reading, good enough for couch reading.)

4. Food.  For the babe.  

That's happening, big time.


As is crawling.  

5. My family likes to pretend we're on TV.

and hang out at the beach
Yes, that's the father of my child.
And, yes, that's during beach karoke.
Thanks, Rachel and Chad, for a whole new world.

6. My husband's family gathered at the lake.

7. Some day soon, we're moving.

*Yes, I'm shamelessly sharing my recent published pieces.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Funny Things My Husband Says

(After winning at backgammon for the third time in four games, a change from the status quo of me winning more often than not)
Post-game board

 Don't worry, we'll re-match later.

But I need at least an hour to bask in the glory of my win.

And I'm going to do that by throwing away our donut trash.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Real food blogging: Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Any Way You Want It

Writing about how much I love buttermilk reminded me of how much I love buttermilk.  So, since I like to cook (though not as elaborately as my sister), I've been picking up half-gallons buttermilk from Braum's to make waffles.  And then, since we can't be wasting any food around here, I'm forced into making pancakes.  Or biscuits.  Or coffee cake.  Or all three.  A half-gallon goes quite a long way.

It's the coffee cake I want to talk about today*.

Adapted from my favorite magazine, I've been making this coffee cake on repeat, tweaking it every time.

Quick math problem^: the recipe instructs the cake be baked in a 9 in round.  However, I'm in the midst of a super-drawn out move and my 9 in round has been packed for weeks.  So, what do I use?  8 in square or 9 in square?  A prize to the first one who answers in the comments.**

The first time, I used a cup of jam like the original recipe calls for, but I found it too sweet.

Southern Living spread
The second time, I omitted the jam but failed to add any fruit to make up for it, and it was just a tad dry.

Then, I added more fruit, covering the top and almost reaching perfection.  The variety of this cake, with peaches and blueberries and blackberries and strawberries, was quite lovely.

Finally, I incorporated some of the fruit into the batter: perfection!

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake
The beauty of this coffee cake is that it's rich without too much butter (but some butter, don't you worry).  It's sweet without being overly so.  And its endlessly variable, so a. you can use whatever fruit you have and b. you don't get sick of it.

Any Flavor Buttermilk Coffee Cake
Adapted from the October 2013 Southern Living

Makes: 8 servings; Hands On: 15 minutes; Total: 1 Hour, 5 minutes

2 c. all-purpose flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. table salt
2 large eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. sugar
4 T butter, melted (original recipe calls for shortening, but I only do real food)
1 1/2 c diced or sliced fresh fruit (berries, peaches, pitted cherries and other soft fruit are excellent choices)
1/4 c. chopped nuts (optional)
1 c. powdered sugar
2 T buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Sift (or fake sift: whisk) first 4 ingredients.  Whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk four mixture into egg mixture.***  When well incorporated, lightly stir 1/2 cup of fruit into batter.

2. Pour batter into a lightly greased 9-in round (or a square- see math problem above).  Top with reminder of fruit and chopped nuts.  Sprinkle with 1 t. granulated sugar.

3. Bake at 350 for 38-45 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool.

4. Whisk together powdered sugar and 2 T buttermilk.  Drizzle over warm coffee cake.  (Omit if you want)

5. Take a small taste-tester bite.  End up eating 1/8 of the entire cake.  Cut reminder of the cake into equal servings.

*And how to flip pictures on blogger.  Anyone know?

^I used to teach math.  Sometimes I miss it.  Well, the math I miss.  Sometimes, some of the kids.  Sometimes even the teaching.  But pretty much never the grading and the constant complaints and the panic that the kid doesn't understand a new concept in the first five minutes its presented or the lack of panic that a kid doesn't understand an old concept after a month and the lack of responsibility for one's own learning. 

 Or the talking.  I never miss the talking.

**This may or may not be true.  It probably depends on where you live and how easily I can give you a loaf of (homemade!) bread.

***Taste-test batter despite concerns about raw eggs, if you're not pregnant.  Discover that you omitted the sugar.  Oops!  Add sugar and resume.

Real story.  So glad I'm not pregnant and thus taste-test all batters.  One and a half pints of blueberries almost wasted.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to Turn a Short Run to the Store into $50 Down the Hole in Five Easy Steps

1. Make sure at least three of the seven things you need to pick up cost five dollars or more

Grocery List
2. Buy two packages of brats because they are on sale... even though they've been on sale for the past month

3. Buy three packages of butter because the hormone-free kind are on sale.  So much so they are the cheapest quarts of butter at the grocery store.  When is that going to happen again?

(Probably all the time, for the next few weeks, until it's sold out, because you go to the super duper cheap grocery store where no one else ever buys stuff like Tom's toothepaste or Bob's Red Mill polenta or hormone-free butter)

4. Accidentally observe that the Nutella is on sale.  Super sale.  Two jar kind of sale.

5. Throw in a few discount Alessi products for good measure.

All the Stuff I wasn't Supposed to Buy