Monday, October 31, 2011

monday morning mixtape.

Boo! Happy Monday! A few spooky tunes for you to get you out of the "Thriller" and "Monster Mash" rut this Halloween. Not that those songs don't rock.

Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs' "Little Miss Riding Hood."

Louis Prima + Keely Smith's "That Old Black Magic."

Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You."

Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London." (True confession: for an embarrassingly long time, I used to think this song was called "Werewolves of Thunder." Dude needs to enunciate better. Also, my favorite line is at 2:55.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

fall harvest dinner.

A few weeks ago, my aunt and uncle (who have green thumbs like no other) brought me two sweet dumpling squashes from their beautiful garden. I guess last year they didn't get any -- and this year they have dozens and dozens and don't know what to do with them! I was incredibly grateful, as my garden mostly consists of creeping charlie.

They are similar in size and shape to acorn squash, and you can cook them in a similar way, too. I got super inspired to whip up something fall-ish and L decided to take a long enough nap that I actually got to complete it. :)

sweet dumpling squash with wild rice and apple stuffing

what you'll need:
2 sweet dumpling squashes
1/2 cup wild rice (I used one 4 oz. box of Reese's)
1 shallot
1 large apple (pick one that is firm and has a good crunch to it -- if they're on the small side, you'll need 1 1/2 and you will just have to eat the rest of it while you're cooking!)
1/8th cup (large handful) sliced almonds, toasted
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey, plus more to taste
finely ground sea salt
lemon juice

Cook the wild rice according to package directions -- it will take 40-60 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350. Cut the squash in half (vertically) and scoop out the seeds. Pierce the flesh with a fork in a few places. Divide the butter between all 4 squash halves. Drizzle each with the honey, and then sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cover each squash half with foil, put them on a baking pan, and pop them in the oven for 30 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, chop up the shallot and saute it in evoo until it starts to brown, then set aside. Roughly dice the apple, then squirt with a little lemon juice to keep it fresh. When the wild rice is done cooking, add the apple and shallot, almonds, sea salt and pepper to taste, and a generous drizzle of both the evoo and honey and toss to combine.

Take your baking pan out of the oven (leave it on) and remove the foil from the squash. Scoop the wild rice mixture into each half. Lightly spray the top of the filled squash halves with cooking spray, then return to the oven for 15 minutes uncovered.

This will serve 4 as a side dish or 2 as a vegetarian main course. We ate it with garlicky green beans and crusty rosemary bread. Yum!

Happy weekend -- hope you have great food and great company in your plans!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

this week's adventures in motherhood.

So, L was attacked by a dog.

Yeah, that's the kind of mom I am -- I take my beautiful baby for a walk and allow her to be gnawed on by a ferocious animal. I always thought that becoming a mother would somehow make me this fierce warrior willing to sacrifice myself for my child at any cost. But it turns out that, in the face of danger, I royally suck.

We were strolling down a quiet little street near us, L nestled into the Baby Bjorn, and had just run into some acquaintances who oohed and aahed over L's cuteness (of course -- she really is the most darling little baby. No, I am not biased.) and I noticed a man working in his driveway up ahead with a dog running around in the yard. I should have crossed the street -- but I didn't. And suddenly the dog was charging at us, mouth open.

I don't know that he intended to do harm. He wasn't barking. But he leaped up and planted his mouth firmly around L's little arm (thank goodness I had her bundled up in a cozy little bear suit!). I tried to turn away from him and he just kept putting his paws up and lunging for her dangling limbs no matter what I did. Why didn't I throw my arms around her and let him bite me instead? What is wrong with me?

Moreover, what the hell was wrong with his owner? He called his dog back as soon as he saw what was happening, but you'd think he would have run over  to apologize and make sure we were okay. L seemed unfazed by the incident, but I sort of wish she had started howling so he would have felt worse about it. I was too stunned to do much more than keep walking, my daughter's arms covered in dog slobber and my confidence as Protector of my Progeny totally shaken.

I love dogs. I really, really do. I used to dream about having a dog growing up (I have horrible allergies, as does my brother, plus our landlord didn't allow pets). I met with an allergist in the hopes that I could start some sort of treatment so that we could adopt a dog, since my husband wants one more than anything (verdict: my allergies are some of the worst she's seen and there was no way any shots or pills would make me able to live with one on a permanent basis). But this totally freaked me out. At Thanksgiving this year, we'll be staying in a tiny little house with a Newfoundland. What if he sits on her? Even in all her chubby glory, she's the size of an afternoon snack to him. I have a feeling I'm not going to be able to put her down the entire time we're there.

In other, less overtly frightening news, L is now sleeping in her own room at night. I didn't realize how much this transition would pull at my heartstrings -- especially since I've been desperate for a good night of sleep for months now. Having her sleep next to me in a little bassinet and make noise all night long made even the few hours of zzzs I managed to catch barely worth it. And these past few nights, though I'm sleeping more soundly, I have felt a sense of loss. No warm, snuggly little body just a few inches from mine where I could reach over and lay a hand, very very gently, to make sure she was still breathing. No quiet little coos of contentment in her sleep. Sleeping in between the two people I adore most in the world was actually pretty magical. I knew this day would come -- clearly I wasn't going to have a teenage daughter sleeping next to me every night -- but it's one of the first times that I've felt the passage of time so keenly. I think it will be a while before I can pack up the bassinet for good. For now, it's the nighttime resting place of our baby monitor. Because, yeah, I'm just that sentimental.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(Semi-non-sequitur: don't you love that episode of Ellen where Hugh Laurie tries to figure out what "shorty" means in American slang? Love him.)

I've decided that Wednesdays are going to be my book review days here at larking. Why? I don't know -- I guess I was thinking about how "wordless Wednesdays" are popular posts around the blogosphere, and I guess I was feeling contrary. What else is new, right?

I've been reading a lot more lately now that L is sleeping in her own room at night (gulp!) instead of right beside me in her little bassinet. Oh, how I miss those sleepy grunts and sighs in the wee hours...but that's for another post. Anyway, I don't feel like doing a full write-up for any of these books, but I want you to know about them just the same. Here goes:

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny
If you've been following my book reviews for a while, you know that I've been reading this series pretty steadily (with a big baby break in the middle). I really enjoyed this one -- same characters from Three Pines, but this mystery is set a little ways off from the quaint town we've all grown to know and love. In this one, Armand Gamache and his wife are on holiday and get mixed up in a murder that involves an extremely dysfunctional family's annual reunion. I think my favorite character (besides our wise detective) is the second husband to the shrill, cold matriarch of the Morrow family -- his "frankness does him great credit," to borrow from Oscar Wilde, and his conversation with Gamache at the end of the novel is worth at least one reread.

Solar by Ian McEwan
I sort of hated this book. Not because the writing was bad (I adore Ian McEwan) or the topic was boring -- the main character was just so, so reprehensible. And when I figured out that he was supposed to be an allegorical stand-in for the United States in the global struggle to deal with climate change? Whoa. Just -- whoa. If you're interested in the politics of environmentalism, or are looking to read about the complete and utter destruction of a person's life from the inside out, this is the novel for you. Fair warning: the two scenes that just about did me in were the one on the snowmobile in Antarctica and the one with the crisps wrapper. You know how, when you watch The Office, sometimes you have to hide your face behind a pillow because it's so excruciatingly painful you can barely take it? Yeah, those two scenes are like that. Read at your own peril!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I just love the artwork of Mandy over at Belle and Boo.
When L moves to a "big girl" room, I can imagine having some of these prints up on the walls. And I think this activity book from them is so, so sweet!

Oh -- and another great etsy shop, Trafalgar's Square, is having a 35% off prints sale through today. Your nursery is going to be so tricked out!

(sorry for those of you who saw this early and then it disappeared -- major post options fail!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

monday morning mixtape.

Good morning! Happy Monday! Today's theme: way back playback -- songs that are the soundtrack to my high school memories.

Ben Folds Five's "Philosophy."

This one is piecemeal -- Storyhill's "If I Could" the first part...(thanks, Beth -- you popped up first in my google search!)

...and the last part (missing the middle verse -- sorry, folks!)

Third Eye Blind's "Semi Charmed Life" (what a great Macbeth reference, too)

Ani DiFranco's "Little Plastic Castle."

Not even close to all of the songs I associate with those days -- but it's a start. What songs say "high school" to you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

etsy finds of the day.

Happy Friday! Anybody doing any shopping this weekend? My mom's in town, so we'll probably squeeze in a quick look or two at the shops around here, though there aren't many to speak of. We're both Etsyians, though, and love to send each other our favorite new finds. Here are mine -- I guess I have a Mad Men envy thing going on right now!

(find the shop here)

(find the shop here)

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy...

I'll admit it: for a while there, I was going through a fairly joyless period. Sleep deprivation, loneliness as a newly not-working-out-of-the-home mom, and my natural tendencies towards perfectionism (which don't mesh well with a baby!) were leaving me feeling pretty low.

In my pre-baby days, I pictured that having a child would be like adding something challenging but wonderful to my life. It turns out that having a child is like having a completely different life than the one you had before -- one where you are totally consumed by motherhood. I kept thinking back on life "before" and feeling sad that I hadn't soaked up all that I could when I could, since those days of complete freedom with my time and energy are over now.

One of the things that has really been picking up my spirits is maintaining this blog again. I've been posting pictures and baby updates on a blog mostly for family and close friends, but it feels good to write about myself and things that interest me so that my day isn't 100% baby (more like 99% at this point, but it's a start!). It's reinspired me to use my free time to read, to admire beautiful things, to break out the cooking supplies, and to try to enjoy even the not-so-good days with L.

But I have to work pretty hard to embrace the good parts about life now rather than to keep thinking back on how my life was before -- because I was more organized, more put-together, more free-spirited, more well-rested, more lots of things. So I try to think of this as a starting over, a something new, rather than something to be compared to a previous way of doing things. It's apples to pickup trucks (we're way past oranges here!), and it's not fair to judge them against each other.

Thanks to Jacin Fitzgerald over at Lovely Little Details for her beautiful image of an inspiring reminder (found it on Pinterest, of course -- have you clicked my "follow me" button over there on the right-hand side yet?).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Emerald Atlas -- John Stephens

Once again, I'm reviewing a book and I can't provide any direct quotes because I heard it on audiobook. Apologies for breaking with my book review promise to you!

This was another audiobook recommended by Parade magazine. Something about it made me think of long car trips on hot summer days in a tiny Ford Escort with no air conditioning, with my brother and I being "back seat buddies" together and feverishly working through puzzle books to solve mysteries alongside Agent Arthur and the other Usborne sleuths. Magical memories.

Before I commence with the review, let me be honest about something:

I have only read one Harry Potter book.

I know, I know. I'm a teacher! I work in literacy! I took classes on children's fiction! I read really fast so I could have finished them all in a few weeks over the summer! I have no excuses. It's sort of like how I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies either -- something the afore-mentioned brother once threatened to disown me for (he sewed his own Jedi cloak, to give you an idea of his fandom). So I admit that these books probably pale in comparison to "the real thing," a.k.a. Dumbledore and Hogwart's and all of that. Read the following with that in mind, please.

Monday, October 17, 2011

monday morning mixtape.

Good morning! Happy Monday!

Sufjan Stevens' "The Dress Looks Nice On You."

Gauntlet Hair's "Top Bunk."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

too busy to breathe.

(or blog.)

These past few days have been crazy! L had her naming ceremony on Friday, we've had well over a dozen relatives in town, and I've been spending my time cooking like crazy and trying to make L nap. I'll be back to normal blogging next week -- but here are a few links so you can experience the craziness that has been my house recently!

Here's what L wore to her naming.

And here's what I made: two of these cakes (but with a raspberry sauce instead), one of these cakes, this salad, and this salad. My brother helped to make this salad, too.

Looking forward to being back with you next week!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

are you dressing up for Halloween?

I am almost done with my next book review -- so sorry for the delay. In the meantime, I've had Halloween costumes on the brain!

L is really too young to appreciate Halloween, and I'm too tired and overwhelmed to do much in the way of outfitting her. We have some cute costumes as hand-me-downs from friends that we will probably use. But what I really want to have her wear is this:

How adorable is that? My grand plan (maybe next year?) is to do themed costumes for our whole family of three and go as the movie "Annie Hall." Remember that famous lobster scene?

I don't know if she'll fit in a stock pot next year, but we'll do our best!

What's your plan for Halloween this year?

Monday, October 10, 2011

monday morning mixtape.

Good morning! Happy Monday! Here are some get-you-moving tunes to start your week off right.

"Earthquakes and Sharks" by Brandtson.

"Black and Blue" by Swedish band Miike Snow.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday round-up.

Do you ever listen to The Diane Rehm Show? She does a "Friday News Round-Up" every week. Life has been too busy for posting these past few days (baby not napping, doctor's appointments, planning for 17 relatives to descend on our tiny house next week), but here's a quick recap of what's been capturing my interest lately:

This recipe.

This ironic news story.

This incredible house -- see all of the posts here and here.

This swing (trying not to get my hopes up despite all of the rave reviews).

These two contests.

This book, excitedly anticipated by the author of another series I love.

And isn't that just the nicest sentiment (above)?

Happy weekend, all! And shanah tovah -- may you be sealed in the book of Life!

p.s. hit "post" rather than "save" before I was totally done -- sorry for the edits!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

a mother's gotta do...

I totally caved.

After making fun of these last summer before I knew the lengths and depths I would go to in order to help my baby feel better, L got a cold. I just ordered one and had it express shipped to our house.

Welcome to motherhood in all its gross glory!

Monday, October 3, 2011

cooking advice for the rest of us.

I've been loving all of the posts over at "Dinner: A Love Story" ever since I read the one about notes in your lunchbox (thanks for all of the lunchtime love in elementary school, Mom!).

Today's post is all about tips to make life easier in the kitchen for those of us who haven't attended Le Cordon Bleu. Even though I don't have much time for cooking lately, I love the idea about flattening your bagged soups and stews before freezing -- and I was totally pumped to learn about the right way to slice an avocado, too. Can't wait until L gets her first taste of one!

monday morning mixtape.

Good morning! Happy Monday! Today's mixtape theme: birds. Hope these three tunes help you fly away from your Monday blues.

Wilco's "Hummingbird."

The Beatles' "Blackbird."

Theresa Andersson's "Birds Fly Away."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

the force of imagination.

I keep reminding myself that L will only be a baby for a little while and, sonner than I can imagine, she will be walking and talking and getting into all sorts of trouble. It's hard to believe that, but I know it's closer than I think.

Whenever I see this commercial, it makes me smile thinking about the curious and imaginative little girl we're starting to see emerge. I can totally see her doing something like this someday -- I hope that I'll be able to spark her imagination and sense of wonder just like this dad does!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


There are some things that I knew I would be giving up when I had a baby -- the things that are running jokes on sitcoms and in movies: sleep, being able to go anywhere or do anything at a moment's notice, sleep, alcohol and caffeine, sleep, long showers, sleep, and also sleep. But I am surprised almost daily by the little things I didn't realize would become impossible. Here are some of the things I miss:

1. Cooking. I used to love getting Real Simple every month and flipping right away to the new recipes to see what I might want to try experimenting with. I would find recipes on food blogs and think of ways to adapt them to a vegetarian diet. I would get up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to make omelets and muffins and pancakes so Jason and I could enjoy a leisurely weekend brunch while reading the paper. I still cook, but it's one of three things (stirfry, pasta, or some sort of burrito or taco or fajita) that I slap together during the few moments I have to spare while L is sleeping or, if I'm lucky and Jason decides to come home right away after his classes are over, while he's playing with her out in the living room. And baking is pretty much out of the question. I don't pretend to be a great chef -- far from it -- but I didn't realize how much even going shopping for ingredients for a new dish was enjoyable to me until I stopped being able to do it.

2. Cleaning the bathroom. Don't get me wrong -- I am no perfect housekeeper, and I hate chores as much as the next person. But the clutter and disarray of our house is making me totally crazy, and the thought of having a completely free afternoon to scrub the shower, mop the kitchen floor, and dust the bookshelves in the living room makes me feel a little giddy. Not going to happen any time soon, but it's nice to daydream about having a clean house again sometime.

3. Anthropologie. Yeah, I can shop online, but nothing beats being able to go browse around a mall for an afternoon, smelling the new clothes and people watching and stopping for a cappuccino when your feet get tired. L can't handle being up long enough for me to get to a shopping area, since there aren't any within 30 minutes of here, so I won't be enjoying any in-person retail therapy any time soon.

4. Sleep. I know, I know. I expected that my sleep would be interrupted for feedings. But I didn't know that my sleep in-between feedings would be shallow and unrestful. In fact, I'm writing this entry at 1 in the morning because I decided I'd rather be up enjoying a quiet house to myself than getting a few minutes of terrible sleep.

5. PBS Masterpiece. Yeah, we can watch online if we're lucky or Netflix (soon to be Qwikster?!) what we miss. But I always thought babies went to sleep around 6 or 7 and then nighttime was downtime for parents. L is such a poor sleeper that it's pretty much impossible to watch any show straight through without the ability to pause and rewind it to catch what you missed when she started fussing for her pacifier or crying because she was lonely in a dark room.

6. Wearing nice pants. Or shirts. Or anything that needs to be drycleaned. I didn't realize how much dressing up every day made me feel like I could accomplish anything -- and trying to get spit-up stains (not to mention poop stains) out of my nice stuff just isn't worth it.

What sacrifices were hardest for you when you became a parent?