Saturday, April 28, 2007

Stain removal 101

It's crisis time: Jimmy is out of clean underwear! I just got through pre-treating a load of his clothes and am killing time before starting the wash cycle. It seems like any mom raising a boy (or an adventurous girl, for that matter) has to deal with lots of stains. This probably sounds lazy, but I've gotten to the point where I don't even bother to have Jimmy change his clothes during the day if they're dirty because I know he'll just get even dirtier. Once a day is fine with me, unless we're going out or trying to impress company.

My favorite stain fighter is Spray'n'Wash, which I buy packaged with the big refill bottle at Costco.

I also love Carbona Stain Devils, especially the formula for ball-point ink: works like a charm!

The absolute best for getting out greasy stains is Dawn dish soap. It's one of my all-time faves. Just treat the stain and let it stand for 30 minutes, or even better, over night.

And if you're feeling especially fastidious or fussy, Martha Stewart has some great suggestions for getting stains out on her "Stain Removal Basics" chart.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Three things

Aubrey tagged me, so you can thank her for this installment of “too much information about Katie”...

Three things I'm afraid of:
1. screwing up my kids
2. not getting back to a healthy weight after pregnancy
3. the return of the mullet

Three People Who Make Me Laugh:
1. Jim
2. Dyann
3. Lee

Three Things I Love:
1. deep tissue massage
2. fierce and fabulous shoes
3. feeling like all is right with my life

Three Things I Hate:
1. irresponsibility
2. traffic jams
3. back hair

Three Things I Don’t Understand:
1. why my body was made to wear out more as the number of my children grows larger
2. hypocrisy
3. calculus

Three Things On My Desk:
1. Wisdom Cards
2. forget-me-not seeds
3. expired gift cards for Blockbuster Video (I’m a Netflix girl!)

Three Things I’m Doing Right Now:
1. getting ready to go visiting teaching
2. baking peanut butter cookies (see above)
3. answering Jimmy’s perpetual “why” questions

Three Things I Want To Do Before I Die:
1. do an Iron Man triathlon
2. travel to Machu Picchu
3. become fluent in Spanish

Three Things I Can Do:
1. sew
2. teach
3. make a fool of myself

Three Things I Can’t Do:
1. sing on key
2. look like a supermodel
3. keep my bathroom clean for more than a week at a time

Three Things I Think You Should Listen To:
1. “O Soave Fanciulla” by Puccini
2. children laughing
3. children praying

Three Things You Should Never Listen To:
1. gossip
2. songs about being unfaithful to someone
3. people who tell you that you can’t do something

Three Things I’d Like To Learn:
1. skydiving
2. Hebrew
3. how to be a master gardener

Three Favorite Foods:
1. Swiss chocolate orange ice cream from the Husky Deli in West Seattle
2. Cheesecake
3. fish tacos

Three Shows I Watched As A Kid:
1. Fantasy Island
2. Miami Vice
3. The Banana Splits

Three Things I Regret:
1. not learning how to study in high school
2. dating out of desperation
3. not getting SCUBA certified

Three People I'm Tagging:
1. ummmm…
2. ummmmmm…
3. …I’m realizing how few friends I have that blog!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Parrish the thought

Every once in a while I succumb to the urge to make a dreadfully bad pun. It's one of my guilty pleasures—and one of the few that is both fat-free and harmless to my moral fiber (unlike eating ice cream or reading People Magazine).

Another non-fattening guilty pleasure is the art of Maxfield Parrish. I own three prints and one gorgeous lithograph that I got for a song on eBay. Daybreak hangs in one of our bathrooms above the tub, where I can take a bubble bath and imagine I am far away from dirty dishes and temper tantrums. Sunrise and Hilltop hang in my bedroom to create a mood of serenity and romance. Aquamarine (see above), is in a closet because I haven't figured out the perfect spot for it yet—maybe my office?—and I need to get some more nice, strong picture hanging hooks. I love looking at Parrish's paintings because of the luxurious art-deco style, his use of color and texture—that, and they make me feel like I can escape to live inside my very own romantic fairy tale, should the need for escape ever arise.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

All is well

Every once in a while I have a fleeting sensation of well-being, that everything is right in my world. Today was one of those days. It was my turn to teach the lesson in our Young Women meeting at church. Since I only get to teach once every couple of months I have been looking forward to it, studying and mentally planning my lesson for quite a while. Last night before going to bed, I typed up my outline, printed up handouts, packed all my lesson materials in a bag, and even took a few extra minutes to iron a small lacy tablecloth. I also ironed church clothes for me, Jim, and Jimmy. This morning I slept in for a bit, then got up and got ready. Before we left for church, I had time to go out in the back yard and cut some fresh tulips for a centerpiece. We got to church on time, and I felt calm and relaxed, able to enjoy the meetings. Even when Jimmy got a little rowdy, I felt calm with him and he quieted down. Then I had time to prepare the classroom before the other leaders and the young women arrived. My lesson went smoothly and when it was over, I had a great sense of accomplishment of having successfully conveyed an important message to the girls.

I've been savoring the peaceful feeling since I got home from church and reflecting on it. I really love my responsibility at church, to lead, teach and mentor the young women. It's very satisfying to be able to utilize my talents in a way that's so deeply meaningful, to feel like I'm doing with my life what God wants me to do. At the same time, today I realized that sometimes the difference in just doing it and enjoying it as I do it is being prepared. When I'm unprepared, I often feel rushed, flustered and disorganized (both in life and in my church responsibilities). Having a day like this gives me something to strive for: to be, as much as possible, prepared from day to day so that I can have that calm feeling of "all is right" a little more often!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Salad days

... My salad days, when I was green in judgment, cold in blood ...

Yes, I'm harking back to my earliest blogging days with a little Shakespeare (that's Cleopatra at the end of Act I of Antony and Cleopatra).

After receiving an email plea from Aubrey for meal ideas, I decided to share a few of my favorite recipes. Right now I'm into salads because the weather here is finally turning warm and I'm wanting to eat light to avoid heartburn (one of those lovely side effects of pregnancy). So, without further ado ... this blog's for you, Aubrey!

Citrus Chicken and Feta Caesar Salad

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, grilled or broiled and cut into ¼-inch strips
6 c torn romaine lettuce
1 pkg. (6 oz.) crumbled feta cheese
½ c thinly sliced red onion
½ orange pepper, cut into rings
¼ c olive oil
3 T orange juice concentrate
1 T white wine vinegar (substitute balsamic vinegar)
2 t finely chopped green onion

Toss chicken, lettuce, cheese, red onion, and orange pepper in serving bowl. Mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl. Pour over salad, toss lightly. Serves 6.

Katie’s Greek Pasta Salad

8 oz. dry orzo (or rotini or bowtie) pasta
4.25 oz can chopped black olives
½ c sliced green olives
8 oz (1 c) crumbled feta cheese
2 c chopped marinated artichoke hearts
½ c chopped red pepper
½ c chopped green pepper
¼ chopped red onion
½ c chopped fresh parsley
½ c olive oil
½ c vinegar
½ t basil
1 t Italian herb mix
½ t garlic powder (1 clove fresh garlic, pressed)
½ t mustard powder
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta per package’s instructions. Drain, rinse, and cool in refrigerator for 1 hour. In a large bowl, combine pasta with black and green olives, feta, artichoke hearts, red and green peppers, onion and parsley. In small bowl or bottle, combine oil, vinegar, garlic, herbs and spices, and shake well to mix. Drizzle dressing over pasta mixture and toss to coat completely. Chill for an additional hour before serving. This salad tastes even better after being refrigerated over night. Optional: add 8 oz. pepperoni or salami slices, cut in halves or quarters. Makes six 1½ cup servings.

Katie's Spinach Sesame Pasta Salad

1 t chicken bouillon
2 T brown sugar
¼ c rice vinegar
½ c oil
1 T soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
½ t ground ginger

3-4 c fresh spinach
1 13-oz. box spiral pasta (try whole wheat spirals)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 can mandarin orange slices
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
2-3 green onions, chopped

Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, mix all sauce ingredients. When pasta is cooked, drain toss with sauce, and let cool in fridge in large mixing bowl. Chop all vegetables. When pasta has cooled, toss in vegetables and orange slices to coat with sauce. Serve.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hi there, Mom and Dad!

Today was my 20-week ultrasound, and while the baby was so wiggly that it was difficult to determine gender, we got a treat every parent would love: our little one waved right at us! When we were watching it on the monitor, the baby's hand actually opened and closed several times in a little wave; the freeze-frame below gives a good idea.

When we tried to get a view from the bottom up, the feet moved furiously (as if to coyly say, "I'm not playing your game!") We finally got an unobstructed look and there didn't appear to be any boy parts, though Dr. Herman says not to go buying anything pink just yet. We'll have a last chance to find out boy/girl status when I have another scan at 30 weeks because the placenta is right in front of where my cesarean incision will be, and the doctor wants to make sure it has moved before doing the surgery. Other than that, everything looks great: a healthy, busy baby.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The gift of imagination

"Imagination is more important than knowledge... knowledge is limited, but imagination encircles the world. To see with one's own eyes, to feel and judge without succumbing to the suggestive power of the fashion of the day, to be able to express what one has seen and felt in a trim sentence or even in a cunningly wrought word... is that not glorious? When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing absolute knowledge."

- Albert Einstein

I like to collect quotes, and this is one that I carry around in my planner to remind me of how much I depend on creativity for a sense of self. Einstein's words have so much substance to reflect on. I don't think he was saying that knowledge is unimportant; but that it simply isn't enough. The ability to use one's mind to conceive of new creations (whether artistic or otherwise) is more meaningful than the retention of facts. Even more, the confidence to discern the relevance and truthfulness of incoming information independent of the whims of those around us—that is a capability of mind that surpasses the mere acquisition of knowledge. I remember the sense of power I felt in college when, for the first time, I became aware that I could listen to my professors and mentally compare what they were telling me with what I had researched on my own, and then be able to formulate and articulate my own opinions, sometimes at odds with what I was being taught—but always with the confidence in my own intellect and ability to interpret what I was learning. I've carried that with me ever since.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The family Wyeth

Since I mentioned him in my last post, I'm returning now to the subject of Andrew Wyeth, part of the second generation in a dynasty of great American artists, and one of my personal favorites. His father, N.C. Wyeth, was a gifted artist in his own right, and illustrated many children's books. Among several siblings who are also painters, Andrew Wyeth is famous for his contribution to American contemporary realism. While his sensual portraits of his neighbor Helga Testorf are perhaps his most controversial works, he is best known for painting Christina's World (below), which I have hanging in my office/sewing room.

I also greatly admire the works of Andrew Wyeth's son, Jamie. One of my favorite memories is visiting the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine, with my grandmother during the summer after my senior year in high school. The Farnsworth houses the Wyeth Center, a substantial collection of the Wyeth family's art. My grandmother purchased a print of Jamie's painting Island Roses (below), which I inherited when she passed away. It now hangs in my dining room.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Irises send me dreaming: their dramatic shape and delicate, almost citrusy scent; I love the blue-almost-purple ones best. I had fresh purple irises on my wedding cake and in my bridal bouquet.

As evidenced by my homepage here, Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists (along with Andrew Wyeth—but that's another blog entry unto itself!) And serendipitously, those two favorites have a happy union in Irises, painted in 1889.

What I love about this painting is that it is not only visually exquisite, but also offers great scope for interpretation, though some art critics claim that Van Gogh painted it from life, with no intentional representation of greater meaning. At the risk of waxing existential (or reading too much into something that was never intended to be so deep) for me it illustrates the beauty of being oneself, standing out unabashedly, especially against a milieu of uniformity. That, and the colors make me feel alive, just by looking at it!

Monday, April 09, 2007

#$@%! Vogue patterns

After I followed the tip on keeping the hooking area of my sewing machine lint-free, my Easter dress sewing project proceeded smoothly all day Saturday and by early evening the dress was almost complete. I just had a few details to finish off: handsewing the lining to the bodice and sleeve seams, sewing on four buttons, and hemming the skirt. Before starting on the hem, I tried on the dress in front of a full-length mirror to pin the skirt where I wanted it. Something was wrong. I had pinned the bodice where the buttons would be, and it fit closely but not too tight. The waist, however, was far too loose. The fit was terrible. Somehow, what appeared on the pattern envelope to be a flattering wrap-style dress, on me was transformed into a frumpy floral flour sack.

I was furious.

In the throes of my tearful, pregnancy-hormone fueled hysteria, I berated myself with the obligatory "How could I have screwed this up?!" When reason returned, I took a good look at my flour sack and realized that it wasn't anything I had done to make the fit so poor. I've been sewing my own clothes for almost 25 years now, and while I've botched a few projects in my time, I've developed enough skill to sew some really beautiful things (often without a pattern, or by combining elements of several patterns). I had followed the directions explicity, and the only alterations I had made actually enhanced the fit in the one area where the dress looked right.

When I scrutinized the dress to see if I could alter it to fit better, I realized that because of the cut of the pattern, I was left with very little room to take it in where it was too loose, without making it too tight in other places. In other words, it was a lousy pattern. Fortunately, I hadn't paid full retail price ($22.50) , but by the time I took into account the pattern, fabric, and notions, I was into it for at least that much—not to mention the value of my time.

What really chaps my hide is that a pattern with such an exorbitant sticker price isn't better constructed to fit any one other than a model with all the feminine curves of an ironing board. Because if that's how the basic pattern is constructed, and the manufacturer just makes it larger in half-inch increments for each larger size, then all you really wind up with is a pattern for a larger ironing board—not for a womanly body. I will be sending my succinctly worded sentiments about their substandard product to

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Getting hosed

Now that winter is officially over, Jim turned on the outside faucets.

Jimmy celebrated by helping to give the trees a drink.

As you can see, he's very detail-oriented. Wonder where he gets that from ...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sew what: my adventures with Gertie

Let me introduce you to Gertie. We met back in the winter of 1996, brought together by my friend Karen, and have been sewing partners ever since. As I got to know Gertie, I found out that she was born in 1954 in Karlsruhe, Germany. While she is generally sweet and easy to work with, Gertie can at times be cantankerous and unpredictable. Sewing with her is always an adventure, no matter what project we are creating.

Did I mention that Gertie is a Singer 401A? That's right, a sewing machine. Karen was going to get rid of an old sewing machine at a yard sale but told me I could have it if I didn't mind that it had sat out in the rain. Free is always the right price for me, so I took Karen up on her offer and found that even though all the varnish on the cabinet was peeling off from the rain damage, the machine inside was sound and in good working condition. I liked it right away because it was older than but similar to my mom's Singer that I had learned to sew on. I named it "Galloping Gertie" after the bridge of the same name, because I loved how the machine vibrated when I sewed a straight, fast seam.

Right before Jimmy was born in 2003, our apartment was flooded when a hot water heater two floors above burst. Gertie sat in a couple inches of water for two days before I rescued her and took her to the Singer service center. There I was told that they couldn't completely get the water out and so Gertie would eventually start to rust from the inside. We had renters' insurance and my claim adjuster offered to replace the machine along with the rest of our damaged property, but I couldn't just scrap her like that. So I had the service center clean and tune her up, and she continued to perform well, albeit with occasional hiccups (like when I was sewing Jimmy's Halloween costume).

This week we've been working on a new Easter dress for me, since it's high time for some cute maternity clothes to wear on Sunday; I've been eking out the last bit of wear from my pre-pregnancy wardrobe, but that's just not working any more. Gert has been her usual cantankerous self, but today I found a tip online that might help (thank you, Google!) about cleaning the hook area, which is where the thread from the needle hooks the thread from the bobbin. Wish us luck, as we still have to sew the skirt to the bodice of the dress, and then hem it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The tongue of angels

I've been wanting to blog about this ever since Saturday, when I heard the address "The Tongue of Angels" by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at General Conference. What he said struck a deep chord with me. Perhaps it is because I'm at a point in my life where I'm ready to re-examine the way that I communicate with people and make difficult changes if necessary in order to be happier and kinder about what I say and how I say it. As an adult, I've had a tendency to be careless in the way I communicate on a more personal level because I know that I'm articulate and capable of comunicating well, and so I take it for granted that I can just say whatever and it will come out sounding brilliant.

A few years back I read a phenomenal book called The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. The entire book is quite profound, but I remember that one of his principles (or "agreements") stood out to me, "Be Impeccable With Your Word". As he explains it, being impeccable with your word means to "Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love." Ruiz goes on and elaborates: "The word is not just a sound or a written symbol. The word is a force; it is the power that you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life." At the time I read this book, I realized the destructive power my word had wreaked on my belief in my own strength, value and abilities, and I began to work on changing that.

When I heard Elder Holland's talk, it reminded me of "the impeccable word" but in a different light: the power that I have as a wife and mother to destroy or build my family. I had the stark realization that I've taken that power for granted and been careless with it. And so, in the wake of that realization, I'm feeling a renewed commitment to be aware of and careful with my words. It's not always a comfortable feeling to get a wake up call, but I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Little things

We live in an old house with a big kitchen, and one of the things I love about it is that there's a broom closet conveniently situated right next to the sink: the perfect spot to put the trash can so that I don't have to bend over to throw things out under the sink, which is where we used to put the trash in our old apartment. The brooms have been relegated to the back porch, where they resignedly hang from pegs on the wall.

I had a small epiphany this morning when I went to put something in the kitchen trash. I opened the door of the closet and was pleasantly surprised to find that the trash had been newly emptied. Instantly I reflected on one of the things I love most about my husband: his thoughtfulness in all the the small things he does without being asked. I love how he takes out the trash without complaining. How he's assumed litterbox duty (even when I'm not pregnant). How he always lets me have the parking spot that's closest to the house, even if it means his truck gets stuck in the ice ruts in the alley during winter. How when he comes home from work, the first thing he does is spend time playing with his son. How he tries to make me laugh when I'm taking myself too seriously. How he tenderly touches my belly, even before he can feel the baby move.

Life and love are all about the little things.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Katie the Cleaning Lady

Do you ever have one of those days where something is stuck in your head and you can't get rid of it because you cannot to save your life remember where it came from? Well, I'm having that day.

It started out because I was thinking about how busy I've been cleaning house this week, between two birthday parties and out-of-town company—but then I realized that I'm always grateful to have people come over because that's when my house gets its tidiest. Sadly, the house has been even grungier than usual for the last couple months because I've been dealing with some seriously bone-crushing pregnancy fatigue, and I consider it a success just to have clean dishes for us to eat from and clean clothes for us to wear every day. After all, if we have freshly washed dishes, do my floors really need to be immaculate enough that I could eat off of them?

As I was contemplating the satisfaction of having a sparkling bathroom, and all the hard work I put in this past week, my mind wandered back to a name I used to get teased with in school when I was a kid: "Katie the Cleaning Lady". This was because at the time (late 1970s or early 1980s), a television commercial for some kind of cleaning product featured a character named Katie the Cleaning Lady. The fact that I remembered this was rather bizarre in and of itself, because while I'm pregnant, my short term memory is terrible, but somehow that portion of my brain devoted to the distant past dredged up the memory in conjunction with all my frantic bathroom and kitchen scrubbing. Now it's driving me insane because (and I know this is ridiculous) I cannot remember what product was being advertised! I even went out and googled it, with various spellings of Katie—and when Google failed me, I tried Yahoo and Altavista. No dice.

This must be my brain's idea of an April Fool's joke, but I'm not laughing. I know I'm going to lay awake tonight and not get any sleep because I can't remember . . .