31 May 2014

Weekend linkage


Ellie and I spent much of last week, and some of this, with my parents. Jared had gone on a missions trip so we went to mooch off Grandma and Grandpa. Ellie was beside herself with excitement when they took her to a park with a STREAM that she could SPLASH IN, or when I'd go outside with her to sit on the swing and watch my dad work on the chicken coop.


Funny: the best foot-in-mouth quotations from history.


This will be interesting: Netflix airing new drama about Queen Elizabeth II.


From The New Atlantis, excerpts from what looks like a fascinating book: "The Population Control Holocaust" and "The Truth about DDT."

The book is Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, by Robert Zubrin.


"The Rat Hunters of New York."


Rating your parents' terrible grocery store coffee


Members of the Washington Ballet demonstrate their hardest moves . . . in slow motion. Very cool.


What We Et:
Ravioli with vegetables and creamy tomato sauce
Chicken and veggie stir fry
Skillet stew with green beans
Chicken fajitas

26 May 2014

why I don't need a walk-in closet

"For me, shopping is one of the most physically and emotionally exhausting things in the world. This is because I am somewhat inflexible and fairly exact. I'll decide, for example, that I want a tie of a certain pattern and color-- neither of which has ever been heard of in the worldwide history of neckwear-- and then spend the rest of my life looking for it. I will look at a million ties, and never will I find the one I want. I will then add to my burgeoning store of regrets and disappointments yet another, like a lost and unrequited love, that I carry with me."
-Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case

When I was younger, I would try really hard not to wear the same anything two Sundays in a row.  I'd rack my brains to remember what I had worn the previous week, and then kill myself trying to put together a new outfit, even when-- half the time-- I liked last week's skirt or sweater, and deep down I wanted to wear it again. Horror! What if someone noticed?

I finally admitted how dumb this was. First of all, nobody noticed. Second, I didn't know why I thought I had have so much variety in my clothing, anyway. For some reason, I felt ashamed if I was giving the impression that I had fewer than five dresses, ten pairs of shoes, and so on. I'm still not sure what standard I was trying to live up to: who ever told me that I needed to put that pressure on myself? Myself, I suppose.

The sad thing about this pressure was that I ended up with a bunch of clothes I hated. After I had I marched up to my room and ruthlessly divided my clothes into "I love it" and "meh" piles, I was shocked to see how big that second pile was.

I couldn't figure out why I even owned that stuff. It made me look dumpy, I didn't like the color, it was ten years out of date. It only hung in the closet to give me the satisfaction of excess, the feeling that I had tons of stuff to choose from. And yet . . . if I put on a shirt and spent the rest of the day pulling on it or wishing that it had a different pattern, what kind of satisfaction was I really getting?

Now before I go shopping, I remind myself of one thing: If you don't love it right away, put it back on the rack. If I have to convince myself that I like it, I am not going to waste a cent on it. I take forever to find the right stuff, and sometimes I do feel like Helprin's protagonist-- doesn't anyone sell a green shirtdress around here?-- but I sure do like what I have.

I also spend a good amount of money if I need to. I could find a skirt that technically "fits" on any old sale rack, but paying three times as much for the perfect one is worthwhile. That perfect one washes well, looks good with everything, and makes me feel prettier. If I can get all of that in one classic piece, I'll happily spend all of that month's clothing money on it. Which means that I have a very, very small assortment of skirts.

And thus I have no need of a walk-in closet these days. Given everything I invest into clothes shopping I can only afford enough to fill one IKEA wardrobe, with a bit of room to spare.

Once our galleon comes in maybe I'll splurge on a third pair of jeans.

I wonder how many of our possessions we actually like and want.

21 May 2014

ahoy, discoveries! vol. 17 [not-so-homemade edition]

Linked up with Five Favorites.

Because I'm not crunchy enough to make my own everything. In fact, I'm not crunchy enough to make my own anything . . . except when it comes to food. (Also deodorant, because no name brand holds a candle to coconut oil + baking soda + cornstarch.)

Ahem. Let us proceed.


Kiss My Face Whenever shampoo and conditioner. They are perfectly balanced, neither drying nor oily. Since I started using these and generally stripping things back with my hair care, I have loved the result. I found out that I needed fewer products to make my hair look good; I either scrunch it with some mousse and hairspray for a wavy look, or let it air dry, add some argan oil serum, and finish it off with the hairdryer and flat iron.

The green tea and lime extracts in this pairing smell great, as does the lavender in my favorite shaving cream (also from Kiss My Face). Since showers are one of my few "me times," I like to make 'em as nice as possible. :)


Earthpaste! It's good stuff. Jared doesn't think that anything made of clay and salt can properly clean one's teeth. I beg to differ. It makes my mouth feel truly sparkling-- unlike many other toothpastes-- and tastes good without being too sweet.


To go along with the Earthpaste: I have very sensitive gums, so I've started to buy Preserve ultra soft toothbrushes. They have a slightly annoying "we're lean and green and make our products from recycled yogurt cups" schtick. All I care about is how incredibly soft the bristles are.


Cetaphil Restoraderm. I have recurring eczema and dry skin, so this was recommended to me by a dermatologist. Cetaphil claims to use "ceramide technology" to repair damaged skin. Hmm, okay. Whether or not that's marketing mumbo-jumbo, it's thick and creamy and definitely does the job well.


I saved the best for last: Tanzia Omega Skin Repair. My face is at times the bane of my existence. You may recall its many trials and tribulations during pregnancy. Even after I had Ellie, it has often flared without any apparent reason. I had been using straight organic argan oil, which was the only thing I could find that wouldn't irritate the rash. This moisturizer, however, has done far more than simply "not irritate": it actually heals. It's also extremely light, and never makes me feel greasy. I almost cried the first week I used it, because I had forgotten what a smooth, healthy face felt like.

No es cheapo, but worth the money for me.

16 May 2014

Weekend linkage


It was a happy Mother's Day to moi! Some days I still can't believe that I have a baby . . . who is not so much a baby anymore. She is a curious, mischievous, affectionate little girl. (Who, nevertheless, sometimes decides to throw a fit all morning and gets put to bed hours early.)


Humans of New York goes to the Met Gala. Cute.


Mmmm, a gallery of two-ingredient sandwiches from Saveur.


Aww. Prince George is getting a daffodil named after him!


From NRO: "Eat Right and Save the Planet."
What normal person says, “You know, I really need to eat better. I think I’ll go check out the USDA website for diet info.”? Only Washington bureaucrats could be oblivious enough to miss the utter uselessness of the DGAC. Only they could be unaware that the United States has a thriving, $60 billion diet and exercise industry (not to mention a whole host of independent bloggers) that already provides people with a variety of choices and advice on how to get fit and eat nutritiously.

"Parsing Is Such Sweet Sorrow."
If there’s a lesson that Shakespeare’s lovers share with real ones, it’s that the most meaningful interactions may not be textual at all. Romeo and Juliet’s wedding night is not portrayed in the play, for example, and the most important moments in the lives of real-world couples might remain similarly invisible. Which is disappointing if you’re a data scientist or a theatergoer, but perhaps not if you’re a romantic.

What We Et:
Grilled chicken thighs + salad
Shepherd's pie + melon
Turning Island fish + fried potatoes + sauteed veg
Sausage skillet stew + melon
Blueberry pancakes + sausage

12 May 2014

everyone is annoying eventually

I am annoying. I know it. I can't say exactly how, since I remain oblivious to most of my own weaknesses, but I know that I must be . . . because everyone else is.

Jeepers! cries the concerned reader. Get up on the wrong side of the bed? Nope. I had a correctly sided awakening, thank you. But based on my unscientific sampling of Everybody I Know, "annoying" is a universal human trait. You just have to stick around long enough.

Some annoyances jump out and smack you in the face. You know what I mean: the coworker who won't stop bragging about his new phone, the dinner guest who squeaks her fork across the plate. Those will get on your nerves no matter who you are or how many times you've experienced them. Other annoyances don't immediately present themselves as such: they may seem innocuous or endearing the first go-round, and only become aggravating through repetition or a change of setting. (Your husband's offkey whistling, funny every other day, suddenly torments you on Thursday night when the baby has colic and you have a headache and dinner is an hour late.)

Now be honest. Think a minute. I dare you to name anyone-- anyone with whom you have an actual relationship-- who has not raised your hackles, in some way, at some time.

See? Everyone is annoying eventually.

I learned this at the end of my junior year trip to Turkey: after one month of very close contact, our group of relatively well-behaved and interesting young adults had become an unbearable gang of pests. On the final bus ride back to Istanbul we nearly drove one another bonkers and I realized that every one of my friends had managed to be a royal pain at some point on that trip.

Hence I deduced, Watson, that I too must have sorely tried the patience of my compatriots over the preceding month. That helped me to take other people's quirks lightly.

(And still does. I can't get outraged over a quality that I also possess: namely, the quality of getting on other people's nerves by virtue of existing over an extended period of time.)

It helps especially when it comes to the people I love. The double-edged sword of close relationships! You know them well enough to feel comfortable with them, confide in them, and truly enjoy them, but then again, you know them well enough to be familiar with all their foibles. I chuckle at those foibles, not grind my teeth, because isn't that what I want them to do with mine? I'd rather choose to laugh them away-- knowing that this is just part of being human-- than let them weigh me down and start to feed bitterness.

What do you think? How do you deal with "annoying" things and the people who do them? Are you able to overlook those annoyances or do they tend to get your goat?

09 May 2014

Weekend linkage


This week in the Adventures of Ellie: she ate dandelion seeds, found Jared's hunting knife,  figured out how to pull tissues out of the box, hid her Crocs in my rainboots, tried to uproot my pepper seedlings, made it over halfway up the stairs before we discovered her, and dropped as many things as she could into the bathtub.

I've been sorting through a lot of pictures, deleting the blurry ones and so on. While doing that, I decided that for the first seven months of Ellie's life, I looked utterly horrible . . . flat hair, puffy face, lumpy and schlumpy. And then, sometime right before Thanksgiving, I suddenly got my hair-and-clothing mojo back.

At least that's what I think now. At the time, though, I felt beautiful and confident: I had a gorgeous little baby, I was busy, I was healthy, and I wasn't putting any pressure on myself to lose weight or anything. It's only a year later that I feel so critical. Weird, huh?


Frivolity: 20 Curious Victorian Words and Sayings, Charles James' extraordinarily heavy dresses, the quest for the Holy Cookie, and what's in a chef's fridge.


Here's a great obituary: Walter Walsh Dies at 106, Terrorized Gangsters and Targets.
On his 100th birthday, in 2007, his family served three cakes. One bore the F.B.I. seal, another the five rings of the Olympic Games, and the third the seal of the United States Marine Corps. He was also the guest of honor at a re-enactment of the Brady Gang shootout in Bangor and was given the key to the city.
So you can imagine the stories that guy had to tell. Read the whole thing for some real-life heroism.


David McCullough's five history lessons for high school students. McCullough is so wonderful. I learned history without memorizing dates-- as he says, it's more important to know what happened and why-- and I remain convinced that this is why I still love history.


"The Left's Line on School Choice Is a Joke from the 1800s."
For millennia, philosophers have agreed that people should rank their families above other duties, even important ones. To Aristotle, to Aquinas, to the Confucian sage Mencius, this principle was plain as day. Common sense accords with their teachings.

Handicapping your own kids to provide an unproven benefit to a few other children is neither honorable nor brave. Prioritizing your kin is not a sin to atone for. It is a marker of moral humanity.

Provocative piece on the British Empire in Africa, written by a Nigerian: "The Glory That Was Empire." Please note that it contains some graphic descriptions of barbaric execution methods.
Surely the time has come to question openly what went so terribly wrong. And, surely, we owe it to ourselves to make our questions frank, searching and to the point. How and why, under British rule, did matters progress from mediaeval barbarity to emergent modern statehood in one 50-year timespan, only to regress so soon after independence into mediaeval barbarity again during the next?

This is cool: "Humble Hero Saves Teen Fell Onto Subway Tracks."
After he helped Xue, the father of three went home and barely mentioned the incident to his family or to his colleagues the following morning. “I give all the glory to Lord Jesus,” Garcia concluded. “I was glad to help and to show her that there are good people out there.”

If you'd like a thoughtful and irreverent podcast to listen to this afternoon, here you go: the latest episode of The Hinderaker-Ward Experience. All the news that you've been hearing about anyway, but with more realistic (read: conservative) commentary.


What We Et:
Meatballs and pesto pasta + salad
Rosemary lemon chicken kebabs + balsamic broccoli
Thai chicken salad + oranges
Chicken marsala + brown rice + salad

02 May 2014

Weekend linkage


Ellie has crossed the threshold from "walking is kind of cool" to "WALKING IS AWESOME!!!!" As a result, she can speed from room to room, and get into all sorts of new trouble.

I often say to myself, now, She won't do this forever. Sometimes that is in relation to something cute: She won't always read her books upside down. She won't always think that a bag of coffee beans is the best toy in the world. And sometimes it is in relation to something unpleasant: She won't always scream when I set her down on the floor. Either way, that phrase--she won't do this forever--helps me to treasure a small joy or carry a challenge more easily.


I am (almost) ashamed of how funny I find most Buzzfeed listicles. This one is quite amusing: Socially Awkward Animals. Especially the plotting hamster.


Some links on words: first up, "Bubble Vocabulary." I am ashamed of how large my bubble vocabulary is. And I seriously don't know how to pronounce things. I've said "PHO-to-gra-pher" for photographer, and "REP-tacle" for receptacle. I think this is a drawback of reading so far above my maturity level when I was younger; I got the gist of the story but skipped words I didn't really understand. #humblebrag 

"The Grammar of Clickbait." I hate, hate, hate clickbait. You say I'll never guess what happens next? Yeah? Bet I can.

Rose Wilder giving Laura writing advice. Honestly, I think a lot of what she says is just silly. She thinks too highly of literary tropes, and not far enough outside the box. Just let your mother tell her story, Rose!

"An Eater's Eye View of Literature's Most Iconic Meals." Food and books, all the best things.


Can You Hide From Big Data?


Interesting article on "stay at home mom" versus "homemaker." I have strong and detailed opinions on the whole issue of, um, Women and What to Do With Them . . .  but anyway. I love "homemaker" because it is active (rather than the passive "oh, I just stay at home" image) and it allows room for the great number of activities that may comprise motherhood, wifehood, house-tending, and everything else one might be doing with oneself from day to day . . . much of which takes place outside of the home proper.

I don't agree with most of this author's underlying assumptions, because it's Slate, but the last two paragraphs are quite nice.


Unexpected scenes from the past. The image of modern, Westernized Afghan women of the 50s is haunting, knowing what happened to them later under the Taliban.


Been enjoying Sara Groves.


What We Et:
Baked potato bar (with sausage, broccoli cheddar sauce, and mushrooms) 
Olive oil chicken thighs + creamed spinach + fried potatoes 
Macaroni and cheese from the freezer
Pizza (with chicken, spinach, mushrooms, onions, and peppers) + strawberries 
Lime chicken stirfry + basmati rice