Millie eyeballing me in safety.

Millie is a patient builder. Her goal was to build it higher than her head, but every time she came close, DestructoAnnie struck.

Annie's diabolical grin...right before she swept the entire thing to the ground.


Signs of Life.

We haven't had beef apart from the ground stuff for a while because it hasn't gone on sale, so this weekend....

The Choice:
Buy large, fatty slab of roast for $1.99 a pound
Buy lean, pre-cubed stew meat for $2.99 a pound

Sensing I really wanted the pre-cubed, red stuff, "Why are you so cheap?"

Really wanting the pre-cubed, red stuff, "I am NOT cheap!"
(I pick up the pre-cubed, red stuff.)

After we arrive home, I loudly state, "I'm cheap."
Millie, amused at my ludicrous statement: "Mom, you're not cheap, you're free!"

(For those whose eyes have rolled back at yet another Millie anecdote, I refer you again to Isaac Asimov. It's really not too bad as bright sayings of bright children as told by dull parents go, and, besides, it's late and my soggy brain is....well, soggy.)

I made the most delicious torte for a church meal on Sunday.
It wasn't a bit soggy.

Dissatisfied Menagerie

Who's this Nietzsche fellow? He hasn't tossed me even a peanut yet.

I entered the loo to find this...

That's more like it...


Millie in motion, covered in stickers from head to toe.


(Too Much) Stuff and Nonsense.

I love the copy/paste function on computers, especially when one has to email 20-odd people on Freecycle to tell them that the item they covet has been promised to another, and most especially when a coveter-come-too-late has phrased their polite "request" in this spare fashion:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

will take.
(gives phone number.)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

What I don't love is the lucky winner promising to pick up a bulky metal cabinet at 11 o'clock in the morning but not appearing even at now nearly two. Most especially when a John-husband and an Abigail-wife thumped and crashed their way down the stairs with it at one o'clock in the morning so that it would be waiting for that lucky duck to pick up. Sigh. Freecycle's a great idea, but it's not nearly perfect yet.

Look below for a picture of red + green plastic bins saving the environment. They've promised me years and years of festive companionship, and storage, though still stuffed to the seams with what else but stuff, doesn't threaten to burst through the roof.

I've lost my wallet. Again. If it doesn't give up its wandering and come home by the week's end, I'll have to get new insurance cards and a new driver's license. Again. (Give me a break, though, it's been two years since this last happened.) Of course, it wouldn't seem nearly so flighty if I hadn't lost the car/apt. keys three weeks ago. (In my defense, I think Annika squirreled them away somewhere in the apartment, and there are only so many squirrel nests into which I can squeeze in my present state of body.)

Speaking of which, look below for a tasteful rendering of my present state of body. (Thanks to my parents for sharing their thank you card with shotsnaps-at-large...no pun intended.)

Apart from a dowager's hump that rivals the most dowagerly of dowager's humps and aching hips for accompaniment, I am doing very well. Baby Berry stretches, squirms, and beats out nightly rhythms. How strange it is that one can become so accustomed to living with another living within. Stranger yet to me is that in four weeks, I may be cradling that beloved being in my arms instead of snugly inside.

In the last month of Annika's belly-dwelling, I was lumbering about for Dave's film. No incriminating evidence has been captured this time around!
I am sylphlike....sylphlike.....sylphlike. (See #3.)

OH! Here's a nuisance. I've loved the name Isolde ever since I first read Tristan and Isolde in Sr. Seminar English class and have kept it filed away for a possible name for our next girl. Well, lookee here....grrrrrr. They stole it right out from under me. No matter that this legend has resonated through centuries; if we named a girl Isolde now, people would say, "Oh yeah....uh, from the movie, right?"

We enjoyed the company of Tim and Dani on Saturday. We graduated with Dani, and she and Tim are cool, cool people. Plus, they played "Bang!" with us four times in a row. Now that's cool. (It may not be a very layered game, but, boy, is it fun to play as midnight approaches.) Why must tortilla chips pair so perfectly with salsa? That night, we had the first taste of the garden salsa I canned at the end of the summer, and it's yummy. If only carrot sticks paired so well...

Millie anecdote:
Millie and Annie were quietly in the bedroom, presumably asleep, when I heard Millie yell something incomprehensible three times in a row. I took no action while trying to decipher her urgent SOS. She yelled it a few more times before I realized that she was saying, "Mommy Ostrich! Baby Ostrich got out of bed! Mommy Ostrich!" Then Annika poked her head out the door, looking remarkably like a baby ostrich. (Now when did Millie discover that I was an ostrich?)

And, to end this ramble of a post, here's a relevant selection from one of Isaac Asimov's short stories:
He said, "How's Pete?"

"Fine, fine. The kid's in the fourth grade now. You know I don't get to see him much. Well, sir, when I came back last, he looked at me and said..."

It went on for a while and wasn't too bad as bright sayings of bright children as told by dull parents go.

Spot on, Mister Asimov.

Stacks of stuff, but now so nicely sorted in Christmas-y plastic. (Out of the camera's range are the boxes and boxes of books. I balk at posting something that personal.)

Parent-given treats which stuffed my stocking and then, um...me.

See? Very tasteful.

jack frost is back with the promise of daily window etchings. goodie.



Anticipating a yesterday visit from Nan and Phil, I decided to give the kitchen floor a facelift after I awoke. Instead, crazy spring fever/unchecked nesting urges/mopwater fumes made me dust and vacuum the house, scrub the bathroom and kitchen, squeak some windows and cupboards, and wash a few months' worth of grubby, little hand smears from walls and doors for several hours. The more fumes I inhaled, the worse my cleaning sickness became.

Finally, around 3 o'clock, I was roused from my stupor by the fact that the sun was shining forth all of its soul, the temperature-- on the twelfth of January-- was in the fifties, and, most importantly, I didn't want to be cleaning a stupid, little apartment, which, by then, was clean, anyway.

The girls and I enjoyed real air for about 45 minutes before Nan and Phil arrived. Millie and Annie ran and screeched without bounds, and I returned with flushed cheeks and a feeling of verve that I thought had left me forever. What a waste, though! We should have been out from dawn 'til dusk, and I'll rue the twelfth of January until spring. (At least the house was clean for a day, though.)

We stayed up until 3:30 a.m., talking, playing board games, and generally snatching as much of two years worth of passed time as possible before they left for Houghton. And now, the girls having roused me awake just shy of seven, I'm primed for hibernation, and it's only 11 o'clock in the morning. If only Frog would hush his clamor....

Wake up, it's spring!

one little,

two little....two little cowboys (who try to ride the same hobby horse simultaneously).

Blue railroad train, a good old pal to me
Takes me everywhere I wanna go, get my transportation free....

we shed the coats shortly.


Better Homes, Gardens, and Babies.

Better Homes:
I've been getting Millie used to the idea of a move, telling her that our new house might have two bedrooms to prepare her for the eventuality of her and Annie not sleeping within arm's reach of John and I. Last night at supper, she told John that our new house is "maybe going to have five bedrooms....maybe ten bedrooms!" And I thought I was preparing her for reality...

Better Gardens:
Alas, no plans for a bigger and better garden. We've tentatively (but almost definitely) decided that we won't plant a garden this year because John will begin applying for jobs shortly, this house is for sale, and I don't want to anchor a bevy of green delights only to have to rip them asunder a few months later if we happen to move during the summer. (Now part of me wants to move, impossibly, in a week or two, so that I can plan the spring sowing.)

The following section will be even less interesting to non-mothers than the previous two. Sorry--I've a bit of baby on the brain.
Better Babies:
In a box brimming over with great gifts from my brother Pete and his wife Sarah was The Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book, published in 1951. Now all things baby-related will proceed without a hitch. (As you-- if you-- read, keep in mind that I hope to give birth at home when we have our own place and that it's important for me to keep birthing and baby-feeding as natural as possible, in whatever environment it occurs.)

#1. Opinion is divided as to the effects of smoking during pregnancy...If you're a heavy smoker, doctors advise that you cut down to a great extent, but you needn't quit entirely...[What a relief.]

#2. It's true that you're eating for your baby as well as yourself, yet you mustn't get fat....The up-to-date doctor therefore "weighs in" his patients when they come for their regular examinations, and in most cases insists that they don't gain more than 18 pounds. This means that without eating any more than you did before, you must include all the food elements your baby needs. (And I thought the current recommendation of a 25-35 pounds was a good goal.)

#3. A heading titled "You'll be Sylphlike Again." [There's HOPE!]

#4. Under a heading titled "Anesthetics or No Anesthetics"
Each doctor has many things to consider before he decides which anesthetic to give his patient. Remember that whatever your doctor decides to do, he does because it's best for you and your baby. When the time comes, just relax and do what he tells you....Even though your doctor wishes to give you an anesthetic during delivery, you should take advantage of a course on natural childbirth if your community offers one. [AHHHHHH!]

#5. After your arrival at the hospital, your husband may be told that it will be many hours before delivery. Your doctor or nurse may advise him to go back to the office or home and keep in touch with the hospital. Some hospitals permit the husband to remain with his wife during labor. This helps him feel he is participating in this important event. [Even though everybody knows he has nothing to do with it...] However, it isn't necessary for your husband to be there. You will be sleeping some of the time, and many doctors feel that you will relax more and rest better if your husband is not present. If your hospital doesn't allow your husband to be with you during the labor period, don't be upset about it. If his remaining at the hospital makes you and him feel better, he may stay in the waiting room provided for expectant fathers. [How thoughtful.]

A recipe for baby formula:
8 oz. evaporated milk
10 oz. water
1/2 tsp. 25% solution citric acid
2 Tablespoons CORN SYRUP [Mm. Corn syrup. Everybody knows the nutritional value of corn syrup.)

#7. Most doctors suggest that bowel training wait until the baby can sit up strongly, around 8 or 9 months, or later. [Millie and Annie were both pretty well trained by 20 months because they took to it so easily. Now I know that I need to begin potty-training much, much earlier. None of this 3-4 year old nonsense; all future children will be proficient potty-ers by six weeks.]

#8. A healthy, normal infant could probably tolerate strained foods in small amounts almost from birth...most doctors recommending them by the third month. With your doctor's consent, there's no harm in beginning earlier still to accustom Baby to new tastes and feeding methods. [I suppose the food God provides mothers to give to their babies is strained food...in a sense.]


Local weathermen recorded one lonely minute of sunshine during a ten-day stretch here in Buffalo.


To conclude buoyantly, though abruptly, tomorrow's temperature is supposed to reach 50 degrees!


Here are some well-documented and 100% verifiable pictures from the Shotsnaps Vault of me exercising the day after Annie was born.


Inanimate-- of Beans and Books.

I think posting recipes worked a sort of ineffible magic. (Either that, or fantastic culinary gifts from Dude + Dudette, April, John, and my parents cry out to be used...)

This morning I used my new waffle iron (thanks, Mopsy!), and right now beans are soaking on the stove in preparation for tonight's supper. Sixteen varieties of dry beans (great Goya package, to put a plug in for them), extra barley, extra lentils, carrots, onions, green beans, ham, and spices will simmer in ham stock I'll prepare soon-ish from a ham bone that's been cramping our freezer. And, to top it off, I plan to ooze my way out to the kitchen to make some Oat Bread! A barely believable triumph of the Slug.

(Regrettably, my feet haven't been sighted in the storage space yet. I have yet to use those Christmas-y hunks of plastic to save the earth.)

John's mom gave us all (including Baby Blueberry) gift cards to Borders, and Millie, after waffling between a stack of paperbacks and a few hardbacks, chose a book for her and the Nixie that is as much a gift for me as it is for them. (I may have replaced a few musical Barbie books from her preliminary stack of choices, but it was with her knowledge, so my conscience remains clean.) I haven't used my card yet because my mind turns to mush when confronted with choosing between so many desired books. Any recommendations?

I've posted a few pictures from their book, The Bee-Man of Orn, below. The illustrations by P.J. Lynch are marvelous and perfectly suited to Stockton's tale. Brand-new children's books are ridiculously priced, and this was no exception, but if you're given a gift card or see a used copy for sale somewhere, snatch this big, beautiful book!

I've also posted a few of the illustrations found in my anniversary gift-book from The Bakka-Phoenix bookstore. Again, this is a special occasion book, but if you've a special occasion or find this for a reasonable price, don't think twice before buying it. What are greenbacks compared with a nearly 200-page hardback treasure? I'm especially happy to see exquisite illustrations so liberally spread throughout a book with the unabridged story intact. Hurrah for Collodi and Innocenti !

The remaining snapshots are all of sorry, soul-less objects, which sorely serve as replacements for Millie and Annika. Someone needs to enliven this space, but they're exploring Slumberland as I write, so you'll have to settle for the dregs.

A full-page illustration meets you every several pages, and smaller illustrations are sprinkled throughout the rest of the book.

And then, every so often, he pulls out all the stops with a double-page illustration.

I love honey, too.

The Bee-Man

Remember this? I'm still hoping to have most of it finished by next summer, but, thus far, this picture shows all that I've accomplished. (Rebecca- it's going to be queen-sized with drop edges. Pretty foolish for a first quilting attempt, but, hey, I've got all year!)

It's not the creature-design and cutting, applique, or machine-piecing that I'm leery of, but the embellishments and hand-quilting of the top. I want to quilt swirls of wind in the bare spaces, add embroidered accents to the animals, and hand-piece some narrow strips of varying browns on the tree trunks to make bark. Right.... (And I'm now taking bets on how many summers will pass before I finish the summertime quilt.)

I'm going to make Millie and Annika monsters based on this rough sketch. I drafted half the pattern for the droopy one and then gave up (before my mom roused me out of despair by drafting the pattern for his infuriating head). I'm struggling to get the shape of heads and bodies right, because I want them to have proper dimension (i.e. from the side, a chest slopes out into a bulging belly or a head slopes from forehead to rounded face) which requires piecing together odd shapes and using lots of darts. Um. Those are sewn darts, not thrown darts, although I was tempted to use the latter.

Here's the material-- monstrously unformed. The chocolate brown and rich red fleece are the softest imaginable materials; I was glad to find them on sale....so glad that I haven't used them a month and a half later.

To end this litany of the undone and neglected on a happy note, my mopsy has no trouble finishing her handiwork. She knitted this hat and scarf set for part of my Christmas gift.


Counting Down the Cards

I've been lax in the cooking realm lately. This is due in part to overall lethargy, but that lethargy dangerously coupled with an envelope Dudette sent (said envelope spilled over with gift cards to restaurant after restaurant after restaurant, and we've been eating like royalty without my lifting a pinkie finger lately).

"Whatever shall I do," I thought tonight, "when I'm forced to return to the real world of nightly meal preparation?" I decided the first and easiest step in renewing my acquaintance with cookery wouldn't be actually cooking something delicious. Oh, no! The first and easiest way to remember that gift cards disappear after one uses them is to post lots of recipes on buildabelly.

May you have to use them long before I do, and may Dudette know how quickly I've become dependent on other people serving up delicious food for us. (Thank you!)

New Ears.

Yep, I've got 'em, and they're lovely. Just the thing with which to enjoy the new year. (My old ones were always too ready to jump ship, anyway, straining horizontally in their stick-out fashion.)

The rush and exuberant pageantry of the past few weeks have trickled away, leaving me with only the steady stream of more common life to give. All of the snatches of conversation, good humor, thoughtful words, and the like refuse their setting down today.

We celebrated Christmas, or the part of its 12 days that we spent in Nanticoke, in good company. I was too busy relishing the chaos of brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces to take pictures, but if you can imagine 24 people in a small house, surely you understand why I have few to share. My poor Mopsy had to relearn the enjoyable nature of bedlam and then adjust to its immediate absence, all in one abrupt weekend.

We have a new downstairs neighbor, identity unknown, but she has a fiery red car.

I bought 10 large plastic bins in order to save the environment. (My logic is sound. I'll use them to organize all the children's clothes in storage before Baby Blueberry appears, and will keep using them until I'm 95, at which point I'll bequeath them to my heirs. This, therefore, ensures that a careless American won't buy them only to toss them in a landfill a few years from now.)

Last night, John and I played one of the board games he gave me for Christmas. He squashed me 96 to 1.

(And that same pair of too-smart whupping pants received his cumulative GPA for his Master's degree. It's officially a 4.0. Four point. Oh! Perfecto.)

The uniformity of gray swallows the spark, and I must be off to doodle a few thank you notes. In a few days, perhaps a real post will appear. Climb the crow's nest and watch with sharp eyes. Until then, enjoy the laundromat! (Because we sure didn't. Oh, what a morning we had!)

Step one. Lug in all the laundry and stare at it dispiritedly for a few moments, then take a picture while the other laundromat patrons (all elderly) keeps tabs on the young mother under lowered lids.

Step two. Fill the metal beast's yawning maw with metal money.

Step three. Toss clothes in dryers (hogging a whole row) and let your daughter repeatedly count how many you're using, to the amusement of the elderly gentleman using the neighboring washers.

Millie's got a new baby, courtesy of Grandma Owen, and her most recent name for him/her (the gender varies) is McCormick, named after John's boss of the same last name.

Annika, sick, crabby, and with cries altogether too loud for an echoing laundromat, finally rested on a bed of coats.

Ah, five loads of washed, dried, folded, and too-readily soiled clothing.

I actually interpret this machine's message as, "DON'T CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES FOR FIVE OR SIX DAYS SO THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO SEE ME AS OFTEN."

Night-time is most often a very good time.

The couch looked almost like it did in the good ol' days of seven children and their bulging stockings.