Archive for June, 2011

Brides love details, don’t they?

I wasn’t that good at them. Like I’m sure I could’ve designed a bar out of old barrels and decorated the tent with cute bunting, but I just couldn’t figure out the logistics of it all. Who would set it up? Would I do it that morning? Can’t do it the night before in case it rains. Argh. My aunts were a lot of help setting things up before the reception, but I wasn’t that good at describing things so unfortunately the favors and guestbook ended up on the same table as the presents and so people didn’t see them, yada yada yada. So maybe it’s good things were pretty simple!

But our photographer did a great layout for our album that made my wedding look all planned and fancy and coordinated. I tried to replicate it, which was hard and took a long time. More power to you wedding photographers.

Tada! Pretty, eh? (Btw, if you want to steal that as an ‘inspiration board’ feel free but either link bank to me or my photographer please!) Now let me go through each one by one and explain the original vision to you and then what actually happened. Cause I’m like that.

Before we got engaged, John and I were talking about how favors were stupid at weddings. You know, unless we did something awesome. Like beer mugs. I’m pretty sure we thought they were more awesome than other people, but still. They are pretty “us” (well, they were in the days that I could drink beer!) You can’t really see it but the other side of the mug looks like a bar logo; it says “J&J Semmens Est. 2010.” We would’ve done blue, but there is this local festival that sells these type mugs every year. They misprinted a 1000 (!) of them and so donated them to the shelter I worked at. I thought that being surrounded by blue mugs on my wedding day would’ve given me PTSD. They are in a Longerberger basket my mom had laying around. So far 90% of people who we have visited have had these cups in their bathroom. They are for beer people, beer!

Pies! Did I mention we had pie at our wedding? We did because I told John that I really wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for our wedding. He said “No. It has to be white.” I said “it doesn’t have to be anything! It’s whatever we want!” (These were in the days I could eat chocolate and fruit!) His response “It’s a wedding! It has to be white!” I said, “well you know we could do something else, like pie.” His response? “YESSSSSSS”

You can’t really see it, but I epoxy glued glass vases from Goodwill on glass plates also from Goodwill to display the pies. They were all supposed to be displayed on their own table for the whole reception but…

Most just kind of ended up staying in the boxes. Which kept them fresh, but not as photogenic! By the way, all pies are from Our Daily Bread in Blacksburg, VA.

Notice we have a cake, too? Well, because we didn’t want to give my mom a heart attack at not doing a cake cutting, we asked my aunt who bakes cakes as a hobby to make us a little tasting cake. Turns out, she baked an entire wedding cake! And it was delicious. (Yes, I had both). Just plain vanilla and vanilla, but so fresh and so good. Best wedding cake I’ve ever had, hands down.

I made this sign, and I thought it was cute. It was supposed to go on one of those cake things but just ended up on the table. (I thought it’d be cute to have a sign that said pie on a cake plate….and box it’s on is supposed to look like the top of a mason jar. I tried to be creative, I did!)

Everyone loved the pies and the cake. As I think you can tell by the expression on my cousin’s face!

Okay, that’s enough for one day. I’ll finish up the detail posts in the future!


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I’ve been watching a lot of West Wing lately which has gotten my political juices flowing. Which I think is making my husband want to run and hide every time I mention the words “election” or “government” and so I’ll take it out on you guys.

Back on Ash Wednesday, our priest gave an amazing homily, where he asked for forgiveness for the sins of those in the Church. One of the ones he mentioned was people being turned away from communion based on their political beliefs. Sadly, this is something we’ve seen in recent years where priests have decided to play judge and determine who is worthy and who is not. I’ve seen people say that a Catholic who has voted for a pro-choice candidate cannot present themselves for communion without going to confession first. I’ve been to a mass where the Knights of Columbus handed out flyers saying that Pres. Bush was the only acceptable candidate for a Catholic to vote for.

But is that true? What does the actual Church say about this?

To quote from the Catholic Democrats website,

In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops explicitly say:

1. “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters.” (#42)

2. A voter “should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.” (#37)

3. “A Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position [on abortion] may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.” (#35)

Quite simply, yes, Catholics are allowed to vote for pro-choice candidates.

So what is a “morally grave reason?”

Let’s think back to the 2008 election where health care was a central topic, and even today as well with presidential candidates vowing to repeal health care. The USCCB (United States Council of Catholic Bishops) has asserted that health care is a basic human right.

Our approach to health care is shaped by a simple but fundamental principle: “Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God.” Health care is more than a commodity; it is a basic human right, an essential safeguard of human life and dignity. We believe our people’s health care should not depend on where they work, how much their parents earn, or where they live.

For three quarters of a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for national action to assure decent health care for all Americans.

I want to point out a few things. This does not say “well it would be nice and all in a utopia, and everyone should theoretically have it but its just not going to happen but we can say we like the idea but we aren’t going to do it and that’s okay too.” It says it is a basic human right. Like food. Like water. Like life.

It does not say “if you live in a state that wants to have health care that’s fine but if other people in your state don’t want it then you don’t get it.” No. It  says the right to health care does not depend on where you live. It is a national concern.

It does not say “it is a right as long as it doesn’t affect me and my paycheck in anyway. Those people should have just gotten better jobs that gave them health care. I don’t care that they are the ones picking my food or sewing my clothes. Their choice; tough luck.” Let us not forget that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Does that mean a little self sacrifice occasionally? Yes. Even if it’s just loving your neighbor .9 cents more on the dollar for your hospital insurance tax. But only if you make more than 200k a year. I guarantee it’s cheaper than loving your neighbor by going out and buying them a health insurance plan. But if you want to do that, more power to you.

What about other human rights like food? Supporting funding for programs like WIC? Is that a grave moral reason? What about right to life for people in prison? What about protecting the world God gave us?

You could argue that yes, these things are human rights, but they aren’t the government’s responsibility. That might be true. Maybe we should all get involved more, love more, care more, and end poverty and violence and injustice ourselves. But we haven’t yet. The private sector can get involved, but they haven’t solved poverty yet. Maybe they should try harder, but I am also going to guess that they can’t do it themselves or they would have already. Rights aren’t rights when we get around to establishing them. Rights exist now. And if the private sector can’t protect them, a government must step in.

You could argue that while those reasons are nice and all, abortion trumps all. But please remember, we are not single issue voters. We are called to protect life at all stages, those in and out of the womb as well.

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We’ve been wanting a cast iron pan for some time now.  And not just for baking delicious shortbread and Dutch apple pancakes or amping up my iron intake. But for sizzling bacon over the fire while we put our boots up by the fire and sip our cowboy coffee. We’re in Montana, y’all. It’s time for a cast iron pan.

We couldn’t find one we like to register for and so it’s been on the “to buy eventually but maybe we should just wait till we have more space” list. But here’s my debate: should I buy a new or used one?

One of the thrift/antique stores around here is always over flowing with cast iron pans and so I could get a good deal on one. On the other hand, that pan above (Lodge) is on sale for 30% off at Amazon. Now I haven’t joined The Compact or anything, but I do like the idea of buying used where I can.

But is a used cast iron pan a good idea? They require a lot of special care, and I would have no idea if the previous owner had kept theirs up. So here’s my question: can you “ruin” a cast iron pan? Or if you take bad care of it (meaning washing it in soap) does it mean a patina just hasn’t build up yet but you could from there?

I debated buying one in JVC and then I would’ve just done the used route. Now that money isn’t as tight (okay just getting. It is just as tight. But we don’t have to consult 3-6 other people before each purchase) I figured I would just by a new one so I could season in “right”. But now I’m thinking  that maybe any cast iron pan can be redeemed whether or not it was seasoned right from the start.

So what do you experienced chefs, foodies, and pioneers from the 1890s have to say? What brands should I look for? If I buy a used one, any way to know if it’s good or bad?


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This weekend we were off to New Hampshire.

Please, any rumors about one of us declaring our candidacy for presidency is purely rumors.

Actually one of our darling housemates from JVC was getting married to the love of her life.

This is the only picture I have of the eight of us. The bride was the girl to the far right.

So yeah, I hang out with one of my former housemates 24/7 but other than that I don’t get to see the crew as much as I’d like. I have seen everyone since the day we left, but we haven’t all been in the same place since August 3, 2009. Sadly, we couldn’t make that happen this weekend either, but 7 out of the 8 of us got together.

It was a short trip. We only got about 24 hours together then John and I headed to Boston to spend the day with my cousin. But it was worth it. It was so worth it.

Getting ready the morning we were going to meet up, I was blow drying my hair. I was not enjoying blow drying my hair, which is not saying much because I very rarely enjoy it. But I remember thinking “ugh, why am I trying to make myself look nice?” Then I remembered I was meeting up with people that I haven’t seen in years and thought, eh, maybe I should put in the effort.

But why?

This group of people has seen me at my worst and and at my best. They know what I look like in the hospital (little GI bug, no big deal), after getting 1 hour of sleep, after a night of too-much-fun, after being puked on by a baby, after hiking 15 miles, after biking home in the rain.

Let me tell you, none of those are a good look for me.

But they love me anyway. And with this group – I feel no need to impress them. You know how when you get together with high school friends you want to show your successful side, your college friends you want them to see you as cool or hip or one of those things I’ve never been able to manage.

But with my former housemates there is no point of putting on a facade. I can be honest with these guys. No point in being someone I’m not. They’ve seen me in good and bad, and I’m not just talking about hair days. Times when I’ve been a great friend and when I’ve been a flat out jerk. When I’ve needed some love and when I’ve been up for adventure.

It’s a relief to be authentic for a day. I should try it more often.

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1. I get to see 7/8 of my former JVC Spokane housemates today! I am beyond excited. 6 out of 8 (including us) were at our wedding, so this will be the largest gathering since the day we left. We are definitely going to miss the one who can’t make it. One day, we will fully reunite, and victory will be ours.

2. Have I mentioned I got IRB (institutional review board) approval? Since I will be working with “live human subjects” during my  thesis research, I needed the University’s approval. I’ve heard many, many horror stories about the months it can take to get approval. I got mine in 2 days. Miracle! Usually when you work with vulnerable subjects like homeless people, you need a full review of the entire board. The director said my confidentiality plan was strong enough (the plan is to not write down anyone’s name, ever) and so he just gave me approval. I still won’t start my interviews till around September though.

3. Speaking of which, I’m kind of counting down the days till I graduate. Which is bad. I’m just not feeling the whole “back in school” thing. I miss going to work every day, you know actually doing something other than just reading and writing. I remember when John went back to school after JVC he said it was an odd adjustment to spending all day every day focused on other people, your housemates, your clients, etc. to focusing all day on yourself.

4. Happy Summer! It’s barely summer here. It’s been highs in the 50s and 60s all month, and luckily it turned kinda nice for the last few days, but lately it’s back to cold and rainy. This is the kind of weather I would have deemed “early Spring” or even “late winter” back home. Nope. Now it’s summer.

5. To kick off summer we went to an Osprey baseball game. It’s the minor league team here, and the neat part is they have posts with actual Osprey, which is a bird of prey, nesting on them around the stadium.

6. Then I stayed up to watch a League of their Own till 2:30am last night. I’m tired.

7. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I really, really, really wanted to be a pitcher. I watched a League of their Own like every single day that summer. I checked out books from the library on pitching. I begged to be allowed to join the little league softball team. After one practice, I was taken off the team cause I was too small (I was really, really short as a kid) and got put on my little sister’s coach pitch team. I was devastated. And since the only part of baseball I had any interest in was pitching, I didn’t care much for the rest of it. And I was bad. Really, really, really bad. Despite being at least a head taller than everyone else on the team.

Needless to say, that ended my baseball career.

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So John and I bought a Wii so that we wouldn’t spend our winter sitting on the couch, we’d be up moving around, getting the blood flowing. You know. All those same reasons you bought a Wii. (Actually, we bought an XBox Kinnect but our apartment was too small for it. You had to be able to stand at least 8 feet back from the TV. It is 6 feet from our TV to our couch. Exactly. We got laughed at the store a lot when we returned it).

Turns out though with the Wii you can stream Netflix, so we ended up watching TV anyway.* But much better TV.

Which brings me to my latest Netflix discovery – Downton Abbey.

It’s British Masterpiece Classic, a period drama about a wealthy English Lord and his family as well as the servants who tend to the estate. Besides the delicious British accents and to-die-for dresses, the acting and character development is phenomenal. (You might notice Maggie Smith up there, yes, from Harry Potter).

The characters aren’t simple cookie cutter “sweet innocent maid” and “evil landlord” and “conniving sister”. They are real. People you love one minute, hate the next, and then shake your head and think “why did they have to do that? I was just starting to like them!”

The plot follows the family as, after the sinking of the Titanic, their line of inheritance is muddled leaving the welfare of the estate and the daughters uncertain. There is plenty of Jane Eyre-esque courting of unsuitable suitors and handsome Mr. Darcy types to fulfill any semi-romantic longings you might have. But the lives of the servants are equally, if not more so, fascinating. Issues of class, gender, love , thievery and impending war in Europe abound.

Besides the fact this will make you want to walk around saying “rather” and “oh dear me” with a faux-British accent, and possibly throw a garden tea party, this series has the ability to draw you into its world and make you forget for an hour that you are neither a lady nor a maid but a grad student who can’t feel the right side of your face because you had a cavity filled.

The biggest downfall of this show is season two doesn’t come on until fall of 2011. So I should warn you, you might want to wait until the week before it airs to start watching it, lest you be heart broken when you find out you have to wait months to see what happens next.


Watch it.


* It’s really my fault that we watched TV more than played on the Wii this winter as my IC was not treating me too well for most of February and March. But can I just say I beat John in the baseball game last week. And so we are never, ever playing that one again.

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Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.

Beautiful, right?

Paul McCartney was full of shit.

There has been a bird singing right outside our bedroom window for the last two nights. There is nothing beautiful about it.

We get about 17 hours of daylight this time of year. And really it has to sing at midnight?

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