My mom adventures in Fort Collins


Totally Unrelated to Kids: Unusual Weather and Homemade Food

The other day, a lovely woman that I know was saying that she’d like to have her baby in a Birthing Center, but there are no Birthing Centers in Fort Collins. (The nearest one is in Longmont, about an hour away.) Without any thought, I fired off some comment about how Longmont’s hospital is not-for-profit, in contrast to our local hospital. Not helpful at all, and certainly a highjack of her original conversation. I have been cringing at my silly ramblings ever since.

Of course, this is nothing new to me. Have you ever walked into a conversation and changed the trajectory to something controversial or political? I do this surprisingly often without any ill intent. I don’t want to sound like a braggart, but if you have a story about how you stuck your foot in your mouth, I bet I could top it. I’m that bad at communicating. Of course, I communicate quite a bit, so therein lies the problem. Those of us who talk a lot, are more apt to have more snafus. I think this has to do with statistics or string theory or something.

I’m particularly terrible at email communication. So the story goes, you cannot fully interpret the “tone” of a person’s message if you simply read it. Many emails are sent off without editing, and can be received and misinterpreted very quickly. I once got an email from another kind woman that I know. In the email, she was trying to communicate her thoughts in one long run-on sentence, and I picked up on one particular phrase and responded hastily. The next thing you know she’s calling me crying, saying that she didn’t mean to offend me. Dear me, I haven’t made anyone cry since the 4th grade. I felt awful. Come to find out, her email didn’t mean what I thought it meant, and I was a jerk for responding with such a defensive tone.

Who among us doesn’t struggle at times with communicating? In some instances, like yesterday when I struck up a conversation with a stranger while waiting to get my tires replaced, I am fond of the exchange and really enjoy making a new connection. In other instances, I’m awash with guilt and remorse: “Why on God’s green Earth did I say THAT??” In the worst case scenario, I’m left rehashing the conversation with a mock-dialogue while in the shower days later. Talking to yourself is questionable in many circumstances, but having full length conversations based on recent historical events may be the most futile communication effort ever employed by word-vomiters.

In any case, I’d like to introduce you to the most non-polarizing topic I’ve yet to stumble upon… The Weather.

I posted a few photos on Facebook of our recent weather, and suddenly I’m popular. I’m striking up conversations with old college buddies and extended family members alike. Folks like to weigh in on the weather. And, as I’ve learned, it’s surprisingly difficult to have strong feelings about the weather. The weather simply is. Weather is not a justice issue, nor a source of alienation. There is no proper way to respond to a photo of a snowstorm in May, thus it is a conversation-starter without inviting conversation-killers.

Go ahead and try to make this photo divisive, I dare you. Conservatives and liberals alike can all agree that this is one heck of a May 1st snow storm.

Go ahead and try to make this photo divisive, I dare you. Conservatives and liberals alike can all agree that this is one heck of a May 1st snow storm.

Here is another photo that I posted on Facebook a few days ago:

Homemade bagels (made by my hubby)

Homemade bagels (made by my hubby)

Dare I say that this photo of homemade bagels was even more wildly popular than any pertaining to the weather? It’s as if the world has opened up to me: If I celebrate the homemade food that I eat and acknowledge the abnormalities of the weather, I am host to communication that I am actually proud of! I need not fear rebuke from right-wing radicals who say, “The First Ammedment gives me the right to have daffodils and hyacinths in May!” or lefties who cry, “How many calves had to die for you to make those rolls-with-a-hole?” Indeed, I am in a blissful land of heartwarming dialogue.

Of course, heartwarming dialogue can be a bit boring, and sometimes controversy is invigorating. Perhaps there’s room for both. But not about weather and food.

What do you think?



It’s Fort Collins and the summer is (unintentionally) hot

Near and dear to Fort Collins are the foothills. People build beautiful dream homes  in these foothills, within spitting distance of Long’s Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park. And these hills are on fire.

This is the second major fire of the year, and it’s awful. I’d complain about the air quality except that people are losing their homes and firefighters are working their butts off. Seems a bit self-indulgent to talk about how our home smells like a campfire when people are putting their lives on the line.

Near the intersection of Mulberry and Timberline in Fort Collins, Colorado around 7:20 pm on June 10

It’s a sad tale, no doubt made worse by the high winds and the ongoing drought-like conditions. I cannot–for the life of me–stop thinking about these evacuees, possibly sheltering in a local elementary school. 18 homes damaged or destroyed. An estimated 20,000 acres. Worst of all, one person is missing.

The sheriff has basically said that nothing is contained at this point. There is, in fact, no hope of containment when Mother Nature is nothing short of hostile.

So sad. Pray for rain. Pray for the wind to calm  down. Pray for the people that most certainly never thought that they’d have to forsake their little slice of heaven in the canyon. This fire has been described as the fire that the sheriff’s department always feared might happen. And here it is.



Rescue your main dish: Polenta with corn and herbs
May 3, 2012, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Food, totally unrelated to kids | Tags: , , , , , ,

I have been very lazy lately. It’s all I can do to put dinner on the table…and it isn’t even summer yet. Just wait until it’s really hot out, I’m completely useless.

As we all know, sometimes you just have to put something in front of the masses. As much as I like vegetarian cooking (and I was veggie myself for a brief period of time), I find that more planning is involved. If you want super-easy, you just go for some meat.

Now that it’s grilling weather, I like to delegate the meat to my man. We have been very confined to our gender roles in this aspect: Cory does the grilling exclusively. I don’t even know how to turn the grill on. I will marinate some meat (favorites are pork chops and chicken breasts), and Cory will grill it up. Occasionally, we’ll grill up some yummy sausages–chicken or pork–preferably the kinds with some fun spices (like green chile, andouille, italian, apple, etc.).

When you have a tasty meat dish, all you need is a side. I’ve got a pretty standard list of sides: roasted potatoes and onions, roasted carrots, roasted broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted beets, roasted brussel sprouts. Are you sensing a trend here?

On behalf of all who eat my food, I’ll sing a resounding, “Alleluia.” I have stumbled on a new side-dish, and it’s a winner.

Enter the delicious polenta with corn and herbs

Who doesn’t like polenta, or “bowl full of mush” (as we started calling it for our little “Goodnight, Moon”-lovers)? My issue with polenta (like its culinary cousin risotto) is that it takes eons to cook, and you need to stir and stir and stir. This can go down in the books as “non-toddler-friendly” cooking. How did generations of Italian women raise small children with all that stirring?

The good news is that this recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of polenta (or corn grits, as its also known). Since it has such a small amount of polenta in it, the cooking time is so much shorter (and thus, time spent stirring continuously is shorter).

My sad little potted herbs–they bit the dust soon after this photo. Don’t worry, I just planted a bunch more!

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter

1 cup corn

Fresh herbs (I’ve tried both thyme and basil–separately–and both are delish)

1 cup milk (I’ve used whole and 2%–both taste great)

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup polenta (or corn grits)

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1 T butter or butter substitute (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a pot over medium-high heat, saute corn and herbs in the olive oil or butter for a minute (or until the corn is warm).

2. Add the milk and water, bring to a boil.

3. Whisk in the 1/2 cup polenta and continue stirring until liquid is absorbed and polenta is a thick, creamy consistency (about 6-7 minutes)

4. Remove from heat, stir in parmesan and butter or butter substitute (if using). Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Ta-da! Serves 4 as a side, double the recipe if you want to use it more like a main dish.

Adapted from this recipe at my favorite source of food ideas, Everyday Food Magazine.



Dear Lent, a confession

I’d like to give a public progress report of my lenten resolutions. I gave up facebook for Lent, and this is something that I’d done the past two years. This year, I decided to ratchet things up a notch if you’ll remember. I gave myself the additional ascetic observances of only an hour per day of internet time and restricting my consumerism.

On the logging off facebook front, I’m pleased to say that has been a major success. I did realize recently that I changed my fb password prior to Ash Wednesday, and I now have no clue what I changed it to. Hopefully it’s safe in my cookies. The hope with giving up fb was that I would make more of an attempt to connect with others through email, phone calls and snail mail. I’ve sent several cards and letters since lent began. However, there are several friends that I have had on my list to “catch up” with for a long time, and I’ve still yet to call them. Grade: B

Now, as for the time I spend on the internet, that’s a tougher claim. Though I did completely log off for the entirety of my week in Sedona (and I figured out how to post in the future—or, rather, set my account to post for me), I’m afraid an hour a day is probably a far cry from what I’ve actually done each day. I justify it by doing most of my online time after the kids are asleep, but nonetheless, I’ll try to work on this for the remaining two weeks of lent (and, really, I should probably work on this for life). Pinterest is easy enough, but it’s wordpress that is my new time suckage. There’s just so much to read! So much to enjoy! I can’t help myself. Grade: C-

The most challenging lenten resolution of the bunch is my self-imposed task of restricting my purchases. This is actually a bit pathetic. I’m sorry to say that the thought doesn’t even enter my head when I’m in the store, being lured by luxuries such as a microplane (I did buy this, but I justified it by buying it for my mom for her birthday). Also, we went to Trader Joe’s, and I cannot restrict myself when I see things in this store. Since my last visit to TJ’s was two years ago, I justified it. I did buy two books for myself (justified since I couldn’t wait out the hold list at the library), and I bought some Easter gifts on Amazon. I can honestly say I was a complete failure at the grocery store as well. When Simply Orange is on sale, I cannot resist the urge to stockpile. It’s in my blood. The upshot of all my purchases is that our refrigerator now runs more efficiently. Grade: F

Honestly, the point of all of this is to remind myself of the lenten season, to appeal to my own interest in living a value-oriented life and reconnect with my catholic heritage. Since lent began, I have not gone to church. I have not opened the Bible. I have prayed. I have considered joining a church, but the only remotely religious appeal I have made is opening up this book I had bought long ago. I did this yesterday, so it’s not exactly something I’ve been working on all through lent. All Saintsis a book organized into daily mini-biographies of inspiring individuals from history. Some of these folks are Catholic, but many are not. As luck would have it (and if you are like many people I know, you would call this a “sign”), the biography for yesterday, March 24, was that of Archbishop Oscar Romero. I don’t know if there is any single person in history that could make me feel more proud of being a Catholic. So there’s that. I still have two weeks left of lent to work on this aspect. But I have been reinvigorated by the words of Archbishop Romero many times.

Icon from bridgebuilding.com

I leave you with this, the prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred in 1980 while saying mass in El Salvador:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Amen.



I’m out of touch

True confessions from a person who is sadly apathetic to this fact.

  1. I own nothing made by Apple. To be completely honest, I did own an ipod shuffle circa 2004, and Cory used it for a while until it finally broke.

    For all I know, this version doesn't even exist anymore and it's sitting in the Smithsonian. (from support.apple.com)

  2. I don’t have a smart phone.I have the same flip-phone that I purchased in December 2008.

    Okay, my phone isn't quite this old, but still. (from zackmorrisphone.wordpress.com)

  3. I don’t have cable TV.If it weren’t for tabloid magazines at the gym, I would have no idea who any reality TV stars are.

    I should say, I do know who some reality stars are. Seriously, who is this broad? (from bravo.com)

  4. I like to use the English language a certain way. I do not use emoticons, and I refuse to use “lol.” If and when I text, I don’t abbreviate and I never use numbers for words. “You’re” is not the same as UR, no matter how many times I read it that I way. I would rather punch the number 1 fifteen times to find the apostrophe than to go down using UR. Not on my watch.

    This is what you might as well be saying to me. I can't read this stuff. (from dank.org)

  5. I do not use a GPS.I actually really love maps, and I love finding my sense of direction. I remember trying to give someone directions to my house, and after the third time of her asking, “Can I just have your address?” I finally realized that no one wants my stinkin’ directions. They’d rather have a screen tell them where to go. I think my feelings got hurt a little.

    I mean, Dora gets along just fine without GPS. (from trak.tv)

As further commentary on my distance from mainstream America, I was somewhat shocked by this notion: Apparently, no one likes voicemail anymore. Here, read this about how pointless voicemails are. I will tell you that I have no feelings about voicemail (a sign that a person is truly out of touch is that his or her opinion is nonexistent, as in “I didn’t even know I should have an opinion about that!”). It’s neither here nor there. I leave them. I do realize that leaving a message longer than 10 seconds is a bit tedious to deal with. But I will not cave by texting you because you think it’s easier to read a message. I hate to be contrary, but I think it’s a pain to write my thoughts with a keyboard where I have to type the same number multiple times in order to find the correct letter (see number 4 above) as opposed to just speaking my thoughts. So, I will continue to leave a voicemail. Consider it a quaint little piece of old-timey technological antiquity when I leave you a message.

Please join me by telling me any ways in which you are out of touch, and, if applicable, why you are okay with it. Maybe you’re not okay with it. And that’s okay, too. Or, maybe you’re completely in touch. In which case, tell me what stuff has truly changed your life.



Love me some Fat Tuesday
February 21, 2012, 5:03 pm
Filed under: totally unrelated to kids | Tags: , , , ,

Oh, it’s the day before Ash Wednesday and all through the house, a mommy is planning to be pure and devout.

Just kidding.

A fairly innocent Mardi Gras banner, courtesy of jerryssandwiches.com

Actually, as I was sharing in a comment on a fabulous blog called Rich, Full Life, I do enjoy maintaining a certain amount of cultural catholic traditions (even if I haven’t been to mass in a year). The lenten season is one of those times where I really feel the catholic girl in me coming out.

Tomorrow, my lenten resolutions begin in earnest. I find that it’s easier for me to adopt a practice of fasting and asceticism for 40 days. As opposed to the New Year’s resolutions that I should keep for the rest of my life. My two biggies for the pre-Easter season?

  1. No Facebook
  2. No buying stuff

Allow me to elaborate. No Facebook is pretty self-explanatory. I do not allow myself to log in to FB. I do allow myself to log in to Pinterest, wordpress.com and check email, though. In the two previous years that I’ve done this, I haven’t had these other equally addicting sites. Soooo, I decided that I’m only allowed an hour of online pinterest and wordpress perusing. Since the whole purpose of this is to connect via more direct forms of communication, I am allowed and encouraged to use the phone and write–gasp!–snail mail letters.

As for “not buying stuff,” it goes something like this: Aside from groceries, medication, dog food and household essentials (i.e. if our coffee pot breaks, GOD FORBID!), I am not allowed to purchase anything. Not fast food, not clothes, not crafting supplies (this one might be the most difficult for me to abide by… oh, sweet mary, I’ve got a craft fetish). The idea here is that I can work with what I’ve got! And, as an added caveat to the grocery shopping, I’m not allowed to stockpile. I am allowed to shop for perishables but not for anything else unless I intend to use it in the next week or so. I am a horrible “oh-I’ll-throw-this-into-the-cart-’cause-it’s-on-sale-and-we’ll-use-it-at-some-point” type of shopper. The idea here is to live within my pantry’s means. To use it up. To be intentional about my purchases.

I think my two resolutions are big for me. To be more intentional about communicating with people. And to be more intentional and conscious of my consumption.

Now, how does this all relate back to the Big JC? Why, I’m so glad that you asked. Actually, I was once a very devout girl. I think someday in the future, once my kids are older and life is a bit more predictable, I’d like to again adopt some religious practices. But for now, this is kind of it. My spiritual and religious life has become something personal, and I don’t get a chance to share it often. This is one little way where I feel connected to the larger catholic community. I also adore the thought of leading a more simple life. Making mine less technologically enhanced and less consumer driven are only two small ways that I can make a more intentional effort at living simply. Plus it’s hard for me. The whole point is to do something that is hard, to put yourself in solidarity with others who suffer. Granted, I’m well aware that another person’s starvation is in no way even remotely on par with my self-induced facebook boycott, but there are many ways that I hope this will translate to me being more aware of practicing a better, more loving life. And, that, my dear friends, is totally what JC was all about!

But for today, you’ll find me on the computer. Gorging myself. And yesterday I bought myself an $80 pair of workout pants. Yes, you heard me right. Laissez le bon temps rouler!

What about you? Binging on anything exciting today? Preparing for any austerity tomorrow?



Cheap mommy escapism

It is so much fun to have down-time, no? The other night I hosted some mommy friends at my house for a “Mommy’s Night In.” If you have a basement (or other suitable room) to banish the rest of your family to, this is an excellent source of fun. Women come, they bring wine, you set out some snacks–instant party. My kids got to watch a movie in the basement with their dad. They also had a dinner consisting of popcorn and M&Ms, so it was a party for them, too.

In addition to occasionally having adult conversation, I do enjoy a good TV show. Tonight I watched the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live. Zooey Deschanel hosted it. And, I’m sorry, but as much as I try not to like her cute, quirky-ness, I can’t help it. She really IS cute and quirky, and now I’m hooked. Seriously, if you saw her do that impression of Mary Kate Olsen, then you obviously understand.

She says to me, "Jayme, just embrace my cute quirky-ness already." (Credit to Fox)

I went straight over from SNL to watch her new show, New Girl. You can see a clip-montage here that is absolutely the first episode condensed to 4 minutes. So, that will likely become my new obsession.

In the first episode there were lots of Dirty Dancing references. Which reminds me, that another source of cheap entertainment for me is this great site called Hello Giggles. It’s a lot of random stuff, but mostly–if I can characterize it as such–chick humor. It’s a fabulous waste of your time. I especially enjoy this series called “Old Lady Movie Night,” where the author walks you through her favorite moments in some cheesy movies. One of them being Dirty Dancing! Oh, it’s a good one… Johnny Castle, Baby, and many many references.

So, yeah, that’s what I do when I want to cast off the chains of mommy-dom. How ’bout you?

p.s. When I went to Hello Giggles to find the specific links, I saw something. For Pete’s sake, Zooey friggin’ Deschanel is listed as one of their authors on their website. Seriously, I am not a stalker.

p.p.s. When I googled “New Girl” to come up with a photo, one of the images was of a lady flashing the camera. So did not expect that.