Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Tomorrow we are leaving on vacation! I'm so excited to get out of here. We're going to Kirksville first for a couple of weeks and then we're going to Utah. I haven't been to Utah in 5 years, by far the longest time away in my life. Thomas and Jamie have never been.

So for the next few weeks, this blog will probably not get updated nearly as much as it has been lately, but expect to see us if we are coming through your neck of the woods. We are really looking forward to seeing everyone!! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jamie's first Easter

On Easter morning, Jamie discovered that the Easter bunny had made a visit.
It was a beautiful day, so we spent the afternoon at the park.
Jamie had fun swinging...
and we had fun taking pictures of him playing.
He practiced some standing--he is getting pretty good at it, though he still loses his balance after probably 10 or 15 seconds.
We had a yummy Easter dinner (thanks for taking the picture Brian!)
that Jamie certainly seemed to enjoy.
I'm sure next year, when Jamie will hopefully understand a little more, will be even more fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Day in the Smokies

Our friend Brian came to visit over Easter weekend, and we spent a day in Smoky Mountain National Park (about an hour away). It was our second time there and his first. Once we got there, we had a picnic lunch.
this is the cutest face I have ever seen

The main event was a four hour (round trip) hike to a waterfall. Thankfully it was mostly shaded because it was a very warm day. Jamie rode in style on Thomas's back.

There were several of these bridges along the way, just a log with a little handrail. Crossing them made me glad I wasn't the one carrying Jamie.
The path bordered a river.
We were glad to make it to the waterfall and rest for a while. It was pretty impressive. Thomas and I took off our shoes and put our feet in the water. It was so cold! It felt great. There were some people wading in quite far; they must have been freezing!

Jamie got a little unhappy on the way back but finally crashed. What a sweetheart.
We saw a couple of black bears on our way out, which was kind of neat, but mostly it was a nuisance. Tons of people stopped and got out of their cars to take pictures, backing up the traffic and making it take an extra half hour to get out of the park. Lame. But the rest of the day was really fun. We're lucky to have the Smokies so close and plan to take more advantage of them!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lord of the Rings

*Disclaimer: I am sure that all of this has been discussed better and more in depth elsewhere. I am no LOTR expert or enthusiast. These are all just my opinions.*

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had just finished reading The Lord of the Rings. After I finished each book, Thomas and I then watched the corresponding movie.

If you know me at all, you probably know that I tend to have a big problem with movies adapted from books. I'll just never understand what's fun about watching a mutilated, choppy version of a good story. However, the LOTR movies were always safe from the unadulterated hatred I feel for, say, the Harry Potter movies, by virtue of the facts that 1) I saw the movies before I read the books and I liked them, and 2) they are not among my most favorite books.

In some ways, I actually like the movies better. Main reason: Chronology. I hated that the books are so segmented. By the time I finished the first half of The Two Towers, it had been so long since I had read about Frodo and Sam that I'd almost stopped caring, and it was frustrating to know I wouldn't read another word about Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, etc until I got to the next book. This happened over and over. The movies took care of that by toggling back and forth between the story lines, so I like their structure better. This did have one funny effect: The story lines aren't given an equal amount of material in the books, so almost all of the Frodo-and-Sam section in the movie of Return of the King is actually from the book The Two Towers.

The other reason I prefer the movies: Character development. I am all about character development. It's why I usually prefer TV shows to movies and is one of my main problems with most book-adapted movies. When I was reading the books, I didn't feel like character development was on the forefront of Tolkien's mind. I think he was a lot more interested in the mythology, and that's what mostly got cut out from the movies. More time on characters and less time on random Celtic mythology is okay by me.

So what did I dislike about the movies this time through? Not much, but a few things stuck out. Somehow, they all seemed to come from The Two Towers.

When a movie is made from a book, the biggest change is usually that some material gets left out. That can be annoying if they cut parts you love or think are important, but even with a 4 hour movie, there's no way you can include everything from books of this length. I think LOTR handles cuts pretty well. The movies abridge an awful lot, but that allowed them to focus on important scenes and to have a good flow, rather than jumping from scene to scene in an effort to cram in as much material as possible. I hate that choppy feeling, and these movies thankfully didn't have it. Thomas hates that they cut the scouring of the Shire at the end, but I actually didn't like that part of the book, so I didn't miss it.

What I hate the most is when movies change stuff for no good reason. This is where all the problems come from:

Faramir.  Why did Faramir have to become all creepy and try to take the ring for Gondor? He was pretty universally awesome in the books. This has always been one of Thomas's biggest complaints, and I totally agree.

Helm's Deep.  Make the Battle of Helm's Deep the climax of the movie, sure, but why why why did the elves show up? What was wrong with Men defending themselves?

The Ents.  First of all, Treebeard was waaaay too hasty for my taste. More importantly, though, why did they initially decide not to help defeat Saruman? I loved the Ents in the books but not so much in the movies.

One last change that really irritated me happened in the movie Return of the King but would have been in The Two Towers - if it had actually happened, that is. I hated the scene when Gollum tricks Frodo into thinking Sam ate all the lembas and Frodo then tells Sam to leave and go home. I didn't think it was true to Frodo and Sam's relationship at all, even when Frodo was being taken over by the ring. Totally lame.

There were plenty of other changes, but these particularly bothered me.

In conclusion:
  • I enjoyed reading the books, but I doubt I'll do it again any time soon.
  • I still really enjoy the movies too but like Return of the King and Fellowship a lot better than Two Towers.
  • And I definitely think it's about time we planned a trip to New Zealand.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Every April, Knoxville has a Dogwood Arts Festival, which involves lots of art displays and fairs, a music festival called Rhythm and Blooms, and specially designated dogwood trails throughout the city. We didn't participate in much, thanks to a combination of Jamie keeping us at home in the evening and April being Thomas's last month of class (and consequently a very busy one), but we did walk a couple of the dogwood trails. These pictures don't really do them justice--they were so pretty and in really nice neighborhoods, so we were also oohing and aahing over the houses. I love spring when everything is in bloom like this!

the pink ones are my favorite

Knoxville seems to have a thing for festivals.  Stay tuned for next month, when we will be celebrating the Biscuit Festival. That's right, biscuits.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

why we can't wait to move

Warning: this is kind of a long post. I've had a lot to rant about.

We are moving to a new apartment in 2 months and 5 days. Yes, I am counting down. WE CAN'T WAIT.

Last May, we came to Knoxville to find an apartment. We had all of two days, were only able to see a limited number of places, and really had no idea where to start. We thought we had found a couple of good options, and we were relatively pleased with the apartment complex we eventually ended up choosing. Even right after we'd moved in, we thought it was an improvement (see this post).

We were so, so wrong.

The major problems with this apartment can be divided into 3 issues: the neighbors, the windows, and the bugs.

The Neighbors
Our neighbors have changed a lot since we first moved in and they're better now than they ever have been, but wow did we have some trashy neighbors at the beginning! One couple who lives upstairs liked to have really loud arguments in the parking lot. We called them the "Maury couple" because they reminded us of the people who go on that show. They would scream and scream for all the world to hear about their relationship problems, most of which, in case you're interested, seemed to come from the girl. She would frequently come running down the building stairs, slam the door open, rush to her car, and turn it on like she was going to leave.  And then she'd wait for her boyfriend to follow her, so she could scream at him from the driver's seat about how, among other things, he never waited for her to have a cigarette (this is a direct quote). Their fights were often obscenity laden, and we're pretty sure that she hit him a good number of times. At least once someone called the cops because of them. When they weren't fighting, they would sit on the building's porch and smoke. All day. In recent months, the boyfriend seems to be out of the picture. Maybe he finally decided never to come back (goodness knows he threatened it often enough) or maybe he blew up in a meth lab explosion (a serious possibility). We will probably never know.

The apartment directly above us was initially empty, but after a couple weeks three 18 year olds with a bulldog moved in. While they were at work, they would leave the dog locked in the room directly above Jamie's, and it would spend all day howling and whining and flinging himself at the door to get out. That was really fun when I was trying to get Jamie down for naps. They also liked to play super loud music at 3 a.m. and play some skateboard video game that required them to fall or jump or something a lot (with our paper thin ceiling it sounded like they were dropping bowling balls). A few months ago they were evicted because 1) the cops who were called for the Maury couple found pot in their apartment and 2) they later were discovered to be harboring meth heads. We couldn't have been happier to see them go. We thought it was going to get a lot quieter, but then management decided to give that apartment washer/dryer hookups, so the next month was filled with a lot of sawing, pounding, and yelling. At least it wasn't happening at night. A new couple lives up there now, and though they have a dog, they are all a lot quieter.

There's no way to know what our neighbors will be like at our next complex, but we will be on the top floor, so at least there will be no one above us. And, honestly, I doubt they could be worse.

The Windows
Our windows have no insulation, from sound or temperatures, and they all face due west and are about 3 feet away from the parking lot. I can hear conversations people have at normal volumes in the parking lot, so imagine how much fun it was when that couple would have their scream fests. It's also great when people pull into parking spots in the middle of the night and their headlights stream into our bedroom or when car alarms go off at any hour. It is just ridiculous. In the mornings our apartment is freezing (well, not as much anymore. This is Tennessee after all) and in the afternoons, it is like an oven because of the sunlight coming directly in. They also somehow let bugs in even when they're closed (see next section).

The Bugs
In order to understand what a problem the bugs have been, you need to know that I have a serious phobia of bugs. As in, I cannot function if I am in the same room as them. I feel paralyzed. Not all bugs, mind you, it's really only the ones that would crunch if you stepped on them. I can handle flies and ants and ladybugs and even small spiders and the like. But those aren't the ones we've had problems with.

As soon as we moved in, it became clear we had a roach problem. I have never lived anywhere with roaches before and I sure hope I never do again. We would find several in the kitchen every day and they were often lurking elsewhere too (twice I found them in the shower. I nearly died). They were already here when we moved in so it wasn't anything we did that brought them. The apartment complex sprays for bugs every month but it made no difference. We had them come extra times and we tried a variety of other ways to get rid of them. Finally something seemed to have worked (maybe it was just the cold weather) because we have only rare sightings now. I'm just worried that as it gets hotter they're going to come back.

Recently we've also had a problem with wasps. Somehow they manage to get into the apartment through our closed living room windows. This has happened about 5 or 6 times in the past few weeks, usually when I'm home alone with Jamie. We complained after the first couple and maintenance came to reseal the windows, but it has continued to happen. One got in yesterday afternoon and another this morning (which is what prompted this rant).

There are plenty of other small annoyances (including the fun fact that they have apparently scheduled all lawn care to be done at Jamie's nap times), but these are the big ones. I am sure the new apartment will have its own set of problems, but from everything we've read/heard/seen about the place, it seems to be a lot nicer. They don't allow pets, and like I said we'll be on the top floor which should help with some of the noise problem and the bug problem. We are paying double rent in July, but it is worth it to get out of here as soon as possible!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

10 months

In honor of Jamie's turning 10 months on Friday (I can't believe he'll be a year old in just 2 more months!!), here is a silly video of us playing. If you can believe it, he was laughing even more hysterically before I brought out the camera. Sorry for the jerkiness; it's not easy to play peek-a-boo behind a couch and record it at the same time.

primavera chicken

When I ran across this recipe, I thought it sounded tasty but didn't plan on making it because it called for heavy cream and I'm not eating dairy right now. But then I decided to see what would happen if I simply substituted soy milk for the cream, even though they don't have the same consistency. It turned out so yummy, and it was healthier without the cream too! On a side note, I'm not sure why it's called primavera chicken, since it's not much like any other pasta primavera I've ever experienced (it is a little bit spicy), but it is really good.

  • 1 1/3 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips (that's a pretty specific amount. I just used 2 really big chicken breasts we had, I don't know how much they weighed)
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 c. soy milk (like I said, this was originally cream)
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 8 oz linguini, prepared according to pkg directions
  • 2/3 c. pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed

  1. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. In a large skillet, cook the chicken in oil over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes or until no longer pink.  Remove and keep warm.
  2. In the same skillet, saute the red pepper, mushrooms, onions, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper just until vegetables are tender.  Add cream and broth.  Bring to a boil; cook until sauce is reduced by a third.
  3. Add chicken, linguini, pine nuts, peas, and remaining salt and pepper to sauce; heat through.

 The recipe also gave the optional suggestion of sprinkling parmesan cheese on top (which obviously I didn't do).

I didn't think of taking a picture til after we had already eaten, but here's what our leftovers look like. Yum!

Harry Potter and the Introduction Conundrum

It is no secret that I love Harry Potter.
I adore Harry Potter.
I delight in Harry Potter. 
I treasure Harry Potter.
I cherish Harry Potter.
In short, I am obsessed with Harry Potter.

Now that I have Jamie, I CANNOT WAIT to share these books with him. But I'm not quite sure how to do that.

Here's the problem: I simply cannot comprehend being born into a world with Harry Potter. When Jamie was born, not only had the entire series been written, but there were also six movies and an entire Harry Potter theme park. My experience was a wee bit different . . .

When I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (that's right, no silly sorcerer's stone for me), I had never even heard of Harry Potter. I had zero expectations and no idea of what to expect. It was all a wonderful, glorious surprise. 

Also, in The Philosopher's Stone, Harry is 11, and I was 11 when it was published. When Chamber of Secrets was published, Harry and I were both 12. Prisoner of Azkaban - both 13. And with Goblet of Fire, we were both 14.  Now after that, I started to age a bit more quickly than he did (I was 21 to his 17 when the last book was published), but I never lost the feeling that Harry and I kind of grew up together. What if I had read them all at the same time? I would have been done with the entire series in a matter of weeks, rather than savoring them over the course of my entire adolescence.

Plus, having them come a year or more apart allowed me to grow up between books. I was about 12 when I started the series, but the first book--or even the first few books--would also have been great had I been a few years younger. But scenes from some later books are probably too intense or scary for a younger kid.  And in Order of the Phoenix, when Harry was going through some serious teenage angst, so was I. I could relate, because, again, we were growing up together.

I want Jamie to have as wonderful an experience with these books as I did, but I'm afraid if he hears about them for his whole life, goes into them expecting them to be amazing, and reads them all in one sitting, he just won't have a chance. So what to do?

Here's my current plan: Home school him so he never hears about them from other kids, hide my copies and never mention them, and then one day, when he's about 10, leave Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on his pillow for him to find and enjoy all on his own.

Yes, it is that important.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

5 funny things

Oh, Mr. James.

As he gets older, this little boy gets to be a lot more work (I can't get ANYTHING done while he's awake now. I spend all my time saving either him or our belongings--or most often both--from impending doom), but he is also getting to be more and more fun. He has been cracking us up a lot recently. Here's just a sample of the things he's been doing.

#1. In the morning when Jamie wakes up, I nurse him and then usually bring him back to bed with us for a few minutes. We want a little more time before we have to get up, and Jamie spends the time crawling all over us and playing peek-a-boo with the blankets. A few days ago during this time, he started crawling over Thomas's belly, then put his head down and started blowing raspberries. We do this to his tummy all the time; it was SO cute to see him doing it back!

#2. Jamie crawls around all day, finding and trying to eat every tiny crumb and dust mote on the floor. It makes me feel like I need to vacuum three times a day. Sometimes, though, he thinks he has picked something up when he hasn't . . . and he still tries to put it in his mouth. This happens a lot with sunlight coming through cracks in the blinds and also with freckles. It is just too funny to see him trying to eat freckles.

#3. Jamie has a lot of rubber duckies that he plays with in the bath. His new thing is to set them all up on the side of the tub. No clue where he got the idea to do this.

#4. After his bath, we wrap him up in a hooded towel. I guess I got in the habit of looking in the mirror with him after he's wrapped up because now he expects it. As soon as he's got the towel on, he leans in the direction of the mirror, trying to look in, and as soon as he sees himself, he gets the biggest grin. I'd want to look in the mirror all the time too if I were as cute as he is!

#5. Our computer desk has a slide-out keyboard tray, which Jamie loves to pull out. Mommy doesn't love it so much because there are sharp corners right about his eye level. Even if I don't let him pull it out, though, he reaches up and tries to click the keys on both the keyboard and the mouse. He already knows that's what you do with them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

At the library

What are we doing here, Mom?
What's this?
What could I possibly want with a book
that's already off the shelf?
I'm gonna go play.
Three whole shelves full of books to pull down??
I could do this all day.
Fine, you caught me. Guess I'll climb up here
and yell instead.
oh, is this what we came for?


You may have noticed I revamped the blog over the weekend. I'm pretty happy with the new design (even though some people *cough*Nathaniel*cough* may not be thrilled with the font. Too bad, I love it)!

I also have a new goal to write on here more often. I spent so many years in English classes being forced to write stuff that I didn't really enjoy or care about that I forgot that I actually used to like writing. I don't know if very much I have to say will interest other people, but I'm glad I have a forum where I can keep working on writing all the same. Plus the grandmas like to be kept up-to-date on the little one.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mommy's little helper

It's laundry day. Thank goodness I've got such a good helper.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

spaghetti sauce part deux

Remember this spaghetti sauce recipe that I proclaimed to be the best I'd ever had? 
Since posting the recipe, I have made this sauce many, many times. We have done a few variations of the recipe as well:

ground turkey
I personally didn't like it as much with ground turkey. The sauce itself was still delicious, but every time I bit into a chunk of turkey, I wished it was beef. I know turkey is healthier, but I just don't really like it. I'd rather have beef less often instead. My brother Ben, however, makes everything with ground turkey, so I'm sure he likes it that way.

A while back, Thomas and I decided to have red meat only once a week and to eat at least one meatless meal a week too.  Consequently, I've adapated a number of our recipes to be made with chicken or without meat at all.  To make this recipe vegetarian, I (obviously) cut out the beef and add extra onion, a red pepper as well as a green, and a zucchini.  It is DELICIOUS.  We don't even miss the meat when we have it this way.

half beef/half pork
Tonight, at the recommendation of some friends, we are making the sauce with a mixture of ground beef and ground pork. I tasted it a few minutes ago, and I think it's going to be amazing! We're also planning to try it just with ground pork. I'll let you know how it goes.

Update: The beef/pork combination was super tasty.  I didn't know how Jamie would do with the chunks in the sauce, so I blended some sauce for him and put it on macaroni noodles (they are easier to pick up than spaghetti).  He gobbled it down and made the biggest mess!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Is Jamie secretly from Lord of the Rings?

I just finished reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time. This has left me with a few questions, most of which fall into the "what was Peter Jackson thinking when he made The Two Towers??" category. One perhaps more pressing question, however, is this:

Is this baby

actually this creature?

I know they don't look much alike at first glance, but they actually have a number of similarities...

Jamie often trots around on all fours in nothing but a diaper.

He is extremely interested in my wedding ring.

And he frequently tries to bite off my fingers.

On the other hand, he sounds more like a nazgul . . .