December 27, 2009

my little hobo

We had a great Christmas. Maybe the best yet. Could have something to do with this little one...

There is something about the Santa suit, the messy hair, and the black eye that reminds me of a hobo child. Although the hobo would wear the Santa suit in May, so I suppose we've got that going for us. Even looking a little disheveled, bordering on homeless, we love her more than we ever knew possible.

Thanks, Ella, for making this a Christmas to remember.

December 25, 2009

just for the record...

{so maybe it's now 2 to 1. watch out next time.}

December 22, 2009

Snow Day

December 13, 2009


I've got all kinds of thoughts running through my head, so it's time for another blogfest.

{warning--I brag twice in this post. if you are opposed to braggarts, stop reading now.}
  • Last week I got a ticket. First one ever. 5 miles over = $90. Is it worth contesting? Traffic school? In their defense, I was speeding, but in my defense it was just to get around some cars as I was trying to get over to the left lane. Ryan told me that he doesn't think the law allows for speeding, "if you're just trying to get around someone" but I'm not sure.
  • I found a nanny! Lots of calls, lots of interviews, lots of time, lots of stress....and wonderful, talented, mother of four, friend and neighbor tells me that she would love to watch Ella. Prayers are answered.

  • One of my friends from PCHS saw Ella's picture in Naartjie at South Towne. By the time we got there her 15 minutes had passed and the ad had been taken down, but they pulled it out so we could ooh and aah.
  • Want to see the hands-down, best, better than best, Santa picture ever? Right here.
  • Ella had her 15 month check-up. Leveling off in the growth department. 50% height, 36% weight, 61% head.
  • New word: "mess." It will probably be used a lot.
  • When I was in 2nd grade I won the Reflections contest for music composition. I am pretty sure I was the only one who entered. For 23 years this has been my only claim to artistic fame. No more. I am a winner. Check this out. Great idea. Love it, Chuds.
  • There are very few things that excite me more than finding the perfect present, perfectly wrapped. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, oh, the joy. This year I have 1 for sure, 1 maybe and 1 hopefully.
  • After 8 years of trying, I finally made a decent risotto. A few lessons learned: 1. use a nice heavy pot 2. you will need more water than you think 3. you will need more time than you think 4. put your broth in a pyrex measuring cup and pour instead of using a ladle 5. don't give up, it will eventually become creamy and delicious.
  • I do not think we will be sending out a Christmas card this year. Not because we don't love you. Because I can't find a good picture. I think we're on the every other year plan. Sorry Grandma.

December 2, 2009


Ella's latest phrase is "It's hot" whenever she sees or touches something warm. It sounds more like "ihs ot" slurred together, and is really cute. Of course, she says it all the time, except when I try and catch it on video. During this capture attempt she said it before and after the camera was rolling. Isn't that the way it goes?

November 25, 2009

travel bug

Ryan and I have a week off between Christmas and New Years, and are trying to plan a trip. Anyone got any good ideas for something warm (preferably), fun, family friendly and reasonably priced? I have hit a travel wall.

November 18, 2009

help a mother out

For the past year we have been very blessed to have wonderful people taking care of Ella while I work. My mom watches her on Tuesdays and my good friend and neighbor, Jane Anne, watches her on Fridays. Jane Anne has been perfect. Her children are mostly grown, she lives close by, and Ella LOVES her. But, life goes on, and Jane Anne's own family needs her loving touch, so we are on the hunt for a new nanny.

It's only one day a week (plus or minus) and we pay relatively well. So, if you know anyone who you think is great, let me know. Thanks!!!

November 14, 2009

A Good Grief

One of my friends, Molly, is starting a new website, and it is really really great.

Molly is one of those people who you like as soon as you meet her. I met Molly during the very worst week of her life, and even then, in her devastation and heartbreak, I thought, "I like this girl. I think we could be friends." And now we are. I've blogged a bit about this before, but Molly's little girl Lucy died after choking on a small piece of an apple. I took care of her in the hospital in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. It was an awful week, but one which touched me forever.

After Lucy's death, Molly turned her blog into an online journal chronicling her grief. It is honest, raw, and very touching. Now, over a year later, Molly is reaching out to those around her to share stories of grief and healing. All of the proceeds of the blog go to purchase headstones for children who have passed away (I know--who even thinks of that? Someone who has been through it).

So far, the site is really wonderful. Molly speaks from the heart, and she has other guest writers, like Stephanie Nielson of nie fame, and an incredibly eloquent woman who speaks on miscarriage. Now, I know what you {Thayer} are thinking. "I don't need sadness or heartache in my life. Just tell me the happy stuff." That's the crazy thing. Even though this site is about grief, it is about GOOD grief and it is really uplifting.

Check it out.

November 9, 2009

I would not do well in the Witness Protection Program

A few days ago I noticed something on my front porch as I pulled into the driveway. Closer inspection revealed a mens wallet. "Ha, ha," I thought. Ryan finally lost his wallet. Made me feel a little better for the dozens of times I've lost mine. But when I went to grab it I quickly noticed that it was not Ryan's. Although it was well worn, there was no identification at all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

But there was cash. Hundreds of dollars.

Bizzaro, right?

So I did some sleuthing. Also on the porch were some books left by a friend. I called her to ask if she knew anything about the mystery wallet. Nope. It was not there when she had stopped by, only 15 minutes before.

I went next door and asked my neighbor if he knew anything. Nothing.

At this point, weird scenerios are going through my head. I had just heard a piece on This American Life where a couple noticed an unusual car in front of their house in their quiet little neighborhood. They tried to figure out who it belonged to, going as far as opening the door (it was unlocked) and rummaging through the glove compartment. No luck, so they called the police. Turns out, it was a "bait" car for thieves, and through a series of crazy events they ended up arrested, spent a day in jail and had a three year horrible ordeal until they finally went to the media and oops, the police had made a mistake and dropped all the charges.

So, despite my fear that Ira Glass and I may someday have something to talk about, I called the Sandy Police. A nice officer (with a big gun and a big tazer) came to my home, whipped out her spiral bound notebook and started asking me things like, "Exactly what time did you find the wallet," and "Did you see anything else unusual?" 2:33 and no.

She gave me her card with a case number on it and left me alone with my over-active imagination.

Was this a bait wallet? Was Chris Hansen hiding in the bushes, just waiting to see what I would do? Because, seriously, who takes everything from a wallet and leaves the cash. Was it drug money? Was I involved in something shady?

At this point I was a little weirded out, but no big deal. I went upstairs and did some laundry. Ella was wandering around entertaining herself. Suddenly I hear a loud noise, which I think are footsteps, I quickly look for Ella, don't see her, and FREAK out. { If you don't believe me, ask Thayer, who was on the phone with me at the time. She tried to be my calm, but I was beyond her reach.} I'm running around the house, yelling Ella's name, and picturing her abducted by the money-leaving thief.

But, no. She was just playing in the guest bedroom, steps away from the laundry room, a little scared by her crazy mom. Breathe.

I want to go on a walk, but worry that perhaps someone is watching the house (I know, it sounds crazy to me, too, but that's the state I was in), so I went to the Post Office. Because nothing crazy ever goes on there.

Ryan soon came home, and I chilled out. Now I'm just wondering if I get the money if no one claims it. I didn't even think to ask. Too intimidated by the gun.

Moral of the story: if anything freaky ever does happen, heaven help me. I couldn't even handle free money.

Post-edit: Mystery solved. Today my housekeeper Ifeta came by and randomly told me that she'd lost her wallet. A black wallet, no id, with hundreds of dollars in it! She had stopped by my house the day of the fiasco and rummaged through her bag looking for her keys when the wallet must have fallen out.

She explained that she had two wallets: a regular one with all her stuff in it, and this one with only cash. She is saving for a plane ticket to visit her son in Germany this Christmas and this wallet is her piggy bank. She had no hope of finding her stash as it had absolutely no identifying features. So I called the Sandy Police Department and informed them that I had cracked the case.

November 4, 2009

14 at 14

  1. She LOVES to dance, which now includes twirling. She twirls and twirls and twirls...and falls over. Then she does it again.
  2. Potty training at 1 didn't go so well. First month was great, second month not so much, by the third month she hated the potty. Hopefully we didn't scar her for life. Next time I think I'll try starting at 11 months, because I really do think it can work. {Or more likely I'll totally bag it and laugh at myself for being so 'first-time mom'}
  3. 12 teeth. 4 top, 4 bottom, 4 molars.
  4. New favorite food: pomegranates. Thank you Aunt Lauren for sending some our way.
  5. She has started waking up in the middle of the night. I don't know what the deal is.
  6. New words: monkey, wow, shoe, nose, book, mom, dad {you'd think these would have been earlier words}. Ba has advanced to "ba-uhl."
  7. She completely lights up when she sees her monkey. She loves "Mo." She kisses him, feeds him, tries to bathe him.
  8. We turned her into a little TV addict. 2 weeks ago we realized that we had a problem when she would freak out if we skipped commercials. So we went cold-turkey. No TV or computer. It has been hard, hard, hard. It surprised me because I didn't think we watched that much. We probably watched one Baby Einstein a day, and then had the TV on at night while we were playing or eating. But it adds up and is so nice to use as a babysitter. I'm reading a new book, "The Elephant in the Living Room." We'll see if it strengthens or weakens my resolve.
  9. Ditching the bottle has been an ordeal. Not there yet.
  10. She has only been sick twice in her 14 months.
  11. Her eyes are turning a hazel green color.
  12. We are playing the the 2 to 1 nap transition game. Not our favorite.
  13. Favorite song: Eensy Weensy Spider. She starts him climbing and then washes him out. Not really into climbing up the spout again.
  14. She will make her "angry face" on demand. She scrunches up her nose and purses her lips. But she knows it's funny so she has a little twinkle in her eye while she does it. I'll try and get a picture.

November 2, 2009

Under the Influence

This is a little long. And a little boring. And it's taken with Taylor's iPhone, so the quality is not great.

But Jamie + Ambien + Airplane food = Hilarious

November 1, 2009

Monkey Business

Ella's first real Halloween. 2 Grandpas. 2 Grandmas. 1 Aunt. 1 Mom. 1 Dad. Ella rings the doorbell, plucks a piece of candy from the bowl and replaces it with one from her pumpkin. On to the next house.

Net total:
7 houses.
3 pieces of candy. {She didn't get to eat it, but she did suck on the wrapper and say, "Mmmmm." The sugary goodness can't be kept in.}
7 happy, bordering on giddy, adults.
1 cute little "Mo."

Can't ask for much more.

October 29, 2009

pumkin patch

We went to a cute little pumpkin patch last a few weeks ago with Avery. Ella was in heaven. "Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball...."

Stuffed Toys

One of my friends is taking stuffed toys (used, decent condition) to the Philippines at the end of this month. If your kids' old lovies are no longer loved, let me know and I'll pick them up and give them to a good home.

October 24, 2009


Check this out. We're pretty proud of our little starlet.

{Just for the record, modeling is not something we sought out or something we will likely continue. A man down the street works for naartjie and asked if ella would be part of the shoot. It was fun, but there are no tiaras in our future.}

October 22, 2009

Attention to Detail

Last night we had friends over for dinner and I was in charge of dessert. In the spirit of fall I decided upon caramel apples. The recipe said to cook the caramel to 225, about 15 minutes. It quickly turned a beautiful golden color, then brown, then dark brown. But the thermometer only read 150. So I kept cooking. Finally I could smell it burning, so even though it only read 200 I turned off the heat. It was only as I dipped the apples in the dark, thick, gooey goodness that I realized my mistake.

Can you guess?

So we had candied apples, which would have been delicious if the caramel (toffee?) didn't shatter as soon as you bit into the apple. Oh well, better luck next time.

October 19, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

{out of focus, but I love that smile}

October 15, 2009

Health Care Reform

"Are you bleeding? Then stop your bawling."
-Grandma Tweet

I think she might like this article.

I did.

*Those Pittsburghers are a little blunt, and this article might rub some the wrong way. Apologies.

October 11, 2009

Crusty Loaf

Today is your lucky day. On Fast Sunday I often torture myself by reading cookbooks or looking through food magazines. I know--it just makes it harder and is not in the proper spirit of the day, but somehow I always find myself with Ina, Giada or Betty. Today it's Ned. Ned Gardner is in Jamie's ward, and he contributed this fabulous recipe to the Harlem Family Recipe Book. It is absolutely wonderful. I even bit the bullet and purchased a cast iron pot just so I could make this bread.

One hint: read the recipe all the way through before starting. The first time I made this I ended up not having enough time to finish the bread properly and had to rush to Albertson's and buy bread to take to a gathering.

3 c all purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until well blended; dough will be sticky and shaggy. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature.

2. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, gently shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Place dough on flour dusted towel, and cover with another floured towel. Let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450. Put a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from the oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over in pot, seam side up (it may look like a mess, but it's okay). Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

October 10, 2009

Belated Birthday

Here are a few pictures from Ella's birthday party. Ella was "not loving the camera" as one friend put it, so the shots of her are not so hot. Next time.

{cupcakes from the amazing Sugarhouse Cakes--love, love, love.}

{this criscrossed the yard 4 times--thanks jamie for helping me finish it}

** I put the rest of the pictures here if you want to check them out
1st Birthday

October 8, 2009

the owl

Jamie made Ella three darling onsies. Here's the first.

Ella is working on her final molar, so the Tylenol is her best friend. An analgesic and a chew toy all in one.

October 7, 2009

highights and lowpoints

in no particular order

  • drinking hot chocolate in San Marco Square
  • trying to make an authentic Italian meal, only to realize that you do not have salt, and it's Sunday so everything is closed and you can't get salt. 
  • waiting in 5 different long, barely moving, lines in the Rome airport
  • traveling with the Wrides {this is a highlight, just in case you wondered. they were our perfect travel companions}
  • paying $5 for peanuts and water on EasyJet
  • Communist training camps
  • Jamie's bug bites that nearly turned to cellulitis
  • the haze over Umbria and Tuscany. We still aren't sure what it was
  • Nadia and her pastries
  • running into a friend from residency in Vernazza
  • all the buildings that were painted to look like decorative stonework
  • finding the perfect souvenir/thank you gift at a little booth in Rome {vintage postcards from the early 1900s}
  • running/sprinting 2 grueling miles in the Cinque Terre to catch the perfect light for the perfect shot
  • Jill, our garmin guide. we loved her. we hated her. we all agreed her navigation skills were far superior to mine
  • Perugian driving
  • the white church in Todi, with the sermon on hearing vs listening
  • my tour of the chapel in Sienna that got Jamie in trouble. she was not pleased.
  • Assisi
  • rick steves {highlight or lowpoint, depending on who you talk to}
  • Taylor mistaking me for Jamie and putting his arms around my waist. the "You're not Jamie!!!" was priceless
  • gelato and amazing food
  • declining Fabius' coffee laden Tirimisu , only to be given liquor laced Panna Cotta
  • riding bikes in Lucca
  • drying our clothes in the sauna, nearly starting a fire
  • our selection of TV channels in our villa. we had Arab sports. Arab news. Arab porn. But very few English or Italian channels. Were we really in an Arab safe house?
  • waking up at 6 am to get the perfect shot in Venice, only to find a gray and foggy morning
  • all those pictures where you look like a "tool"
so, there you have it. italy 2009. we had a wonderful time. again, thank you, thank you, thank you to the grandmas, grandpas and aunts. couldn't have done it without you.

October 6, 2009


Definitely the smallest of the hilltop towns. Our good friend Rick tipped us off on this tiny village. The woman above, Maria, is the last of Civita's native residents. She lets you see her garden with it's spectacular view for a small donation. If you ever go to Orvieto {key music} make your way over to Civita.

p.s. I added some pictures to earlier posts. Thanks to Jamie and Ryan for taking them, and to Taylor for carrying around the camera bag.

October 5, 2009

dear noelle...

thank you for your insider information on this place

the food was wonderful and the ambiance...unparalleled.

as for this place,

we are not sure that it is the one you recommended, as there were two with similar names.

never mind, we found this guy

who, instead of giving us menus just told us what we wanted to eat that night.

and he was right.


as way of thanks, may we recommend this place

no name, but you can find it here

if you ever want an amazing salad in rome, and who doesn't after all those carbs, look no further.

much love,
the packers and wrides