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on writing, adorably

It has become a tradition for me to begin blog posts with an aside, a practice I could also refer to as “My 11th grade English teacher probably hates me.” Hi Ms. Clinch! Anyway, this time my aside is somewhat related to what the rest of my post is about, and it starts with you reading stuff on other places on the interwebs. But promise to come back afterward.

Okay, here goes. Firstly, I am turning last year’s post about gut health and antibiotics into a three-part series on MindBodyGreen, and the first article is up today. Go check it out! Next read this Onion article about Boston. Finally, watch this youtube video of bad NFL lip reading, which has nothing to do with anything but was so funny I nearly actually fell out of my chair laughing. [Dad, Billy will love it.]

Oh hi, you’re back. I thought of that Onion article when I mulled over the concept of this post because it’s kind of how I feel telling people I’m thinking of writing full time, like, as a career. They smile and say, “That’s great!,” but in my head they are saying, “Awww, how adorable. She thinks she can wriiiiite.”

People are probably not actually thinking that at all. Or, maybe a few are, but my anxiety isn’t about them; it’s just an excuse to keep me from writing. Once I stripped away those lame excuses, I had an epiphany. It’s me. I’m the only thing keeping me from writing. This realization is both good and bad because now there’s nothing stopping me. Well, nothing except watching that youtube video on repeat. Or feeling bad that I am not always writing now that I’ve had that epiphany, then gorging on peanut butter and bananas while watching that youtube video on repeat.

But even with all that banana-gorging and youtube gawking, I am somehow managing to write a little every day. I owe a lot of my inspiration to my parents, who are possibly the two most encouraging souls around, and…is this turning into an acceptance speech for a phantom award? I’ll wrap it up before I get played off the stage…and to Anne Lamott for writing her very funny, very encouraging book about writing, Bird by Bird

Something you may not have noticed, unless you’re one of my children’s grandparents, is that I haven’t been writing about or posting Instagram photos of Vivi as much so far in 2014. There are several contributing factors to this trend. But the most essential point is that she is growing into a person with her own thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and I think she deserves to have her privacy back. It’s bittersweet to see her become a little lady and be so proud of her but also realize that Vivisms are probably all but gone for good (which means no more tripping on butt cracks). I still write about being a parent, but I think I’ll post less about my kindergartner’s day-to-day behaviors and more about the postcard-worthy accomplishments.

My BRF when I am reading what I’ve written…more like CRF (creepy resting face)

You are probably already sick of my “y’all, I am tired of this weather” whine, so I’ll spare you. But yes, that is still on the rant rotation. Because this is the typical weather report for this unusually-cold January (you’ll have to take my word for it that the report also read, “feels like -11ºF”)…

Not cool, weather. Not cool.

But right, okay, I said I wasn’t going to complain about the weather. And I try not to, honestly! If it weren’t for my bloody hands (or, well, you know, not literally bloody, just splotchy and numb), I think I’d appreciate the cold air more.

In almost every way, I truly do lead a charmed life, in that I have as much comfort as I could ask for. Also, it’s not like I have a real 9-5 job or anything, so when I do have some short bouts of walking around in the cold, I can follow it up by as much snuggling and hot tea and as many blankets as I want when I get inside. But wait, now I sound like I’m gloating. There’s just no winning with you, is there Reader?

Only kidding.

I realize I didn’t come around the blog at all last week except for my weekly update post. [Well, that and I did some mid-winter blog cleaning and got rid of my banner. Just trying it out. Any opinions? Or did you even notice?] But would you believe I’ve been writing every day? I have more to say about that, but I’ll save it for another post. It’s been a while since I’ve shared a post that was primarily pictures, and this is feeling like a good time to do that.

The girls were so happy to have sticky snowman snow finally, but then after the first day it fell, it’s been so cold they haven’t been able to play in it! But luckily I brought my camera out and caught these moments.


3/52: Post swim class warm-up with blankies and vanilla milk.

On the one hand, I wish I had a better portrait for this week. On the other, this iPhone snapshot really does do our week justice. It is gritty, blurry, glassy-eyed, and struggling to find composition. We are freezing cold up here! The high today was something like 10 degF, and we’re getting a snowstorm tonight.

the lone home ranger
Cubby and Great Grandma talking to my mom, c. 1979

I found a copy of a letter that my great grandfather wrote my grandmother in 1971 (when he was 82 years old), and it was so fascinating I just had to share it. Were Cubby alive today, he would be roughly 125 years old. There are many more letters like this one; I am sharing the first of the letters I pulled from the stack. He typed it using a typewriter.
My mother-in-law first shared the recipe* with me back when we were in college, so it’s been with us since the very start. It reminds me of a recipe my Aunt Joan used to cook when I was a kid that she called “Stupid Chicken” because of how easy it was to make, so that’s what I’m going to call this recipe now. I think hers involved white wine and black olives, but the good thing about this recipe is how easy it is to change. You can add salsa to make it spicy or wine and olives if you want to fussy it up.

1/52: Note helpful tongue.


2/52: Note new rug! What do you think?

I wasn’t sure at first if I was going to do another year of the 52 project, so I let a few weeks go by to see how I felt. And I missed it! I consider it forced journaling, plus it gives me a great way to keep track of good photos of the girls. Since I didn’t post anything the first week of the year, I’m squooshing them both into this post.

Charlie’s best impression of Gene Simmons.

The other day I told Nate that I thought Banjo was a good name for a dog. He countered that “Banjo” falls into Category #3 for names, the ones you think are unique but aren’t really. He’s right, you know. I admit that I fancy myself “cool, but not too annoying.” Nate’s astute observations are a good reason to keep him around.

I occasionally point out good dog names to Nate in the same vein as I mention boy’s names to him; I don’t have a specific boy or dog I’m naming, it’s just a thing I do. I name stuff. This aside is apropos to nothing I’m writing about today except that I also think Atticus is a good dog name and a good boy name, and typing the title made me ponder my naming proclivity.


Author’s Note: I updated this recipe, originally posted on March 16th, 2012, with some improvements to make it easier and more delicious. I hope you’ll try it this St. Paddy’s Day!
Mmmmm, Dublin Coddle

Remember when I said I was looking for more Irish recipes? Well, I found a great one! This recipe for Dublin coddle landed in my lap at just the right time, via my monthly email from our CSA farmers. Sweet potatoes are Charlotte’s absolute favorite food, and I’ve been looking for ways to jazz them up apart from the usual routine, which includes variations on butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and white pepper (my mom puts soy sauce on her sweet potatoes…oh, and Italian dressing on her baked potatoes). Plus, it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, and you simply cannot live in Boston without getting into the holiday spirit. [I must stop here to tell my friends and family from the south that they SELL clover here, like, in grocery stores. I know!].This is an account a regular day in the Ranger house. I know I’ll treasure whatever reporting I manage to type about these normal moments of life because I already do treasure the ones I’ve made in the past (see Feb. ’12…boy do I miss my morning NPR-listening and zoning out). Most of my days are one of two or three possible routines, including 1) the gym, 2) the library, or 3) shopping, or some combination of all of them.

Author’s Note: This post is not sponsored or paid. I just really like this book and think you will too.

I’ve been interested in Laurie David ever since I read an article about her in Outside Magazine eight years ago. Okay, so a confession is at that point I thought/hoped she was a real live version of the fictional character portrayed on Curb Your Enthusiasm (read: she’s not).

Anyhow, I eventually learned to love her for her great environmentalist work, and when I heard she wrote a book about family dinner, I was intrigued to find out more. The book is called The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time

Over the weekend, one of our toilet pipes froze and burst after the temperature got down to -12degF overnight. When it had frozen but not yet started leaking, we frantically tried to warm it up with a hair dryer and space heater, but all we really did was prompt the water to melt faster and eventually spray out of the already-damaged piece of pipe. Luckily we were in the basement having a look at the crawl space under the bathroom when it happened, so we were able to shut off the water right away and clean up the stray water with towels. It was a low moment for morale in the Ranger house and yet another example of Boston loudly telling us we don’t quite fit in up here.

Nate set to work finding a plumber who could make an emergency weekend house call even in the midst of many such calls from Massachusetts residents who were without heat and/or also experiencing burst pipes. It was a tough challenge, but he managed to find a competent-sounding dude who could come on Sunday.

We ended up having to shut off the main water line because the shut-off valve going to the bathroom wasn’t working, so that meant we had no water for cleaning and flushing the toilet. Luckily we had plenty of snow in the backyard. After gathering a bucket of it, I went on Instagram proclaiming my new status as Ma Ingalls. As I was heating up water to do dishes, it occurred to me how blessed we are in our daily lives to have all the cheap, clean, convenient, hot water we could want, not to mention a dishwasher and washing machine to do the heavy cleaning.

When the kids began to notice the changes around the house that day, I tried to make it sound like an adventure. That part came easily to me since I was able to draw from a wealth of memories from my own childhood. I thought of all the strong women in my life–my mom, aunts, and grandmas–who did an excellent job imbuing me with the sense that I could overcome any obstacle, that nothing could hurt me because I was loved, and that life was beautiful. I hope I pass on that courage to my daughters.

My favorite moment when we turned the water on was Charlie excitedly exclaiming, “Now we can wipe and flush again!” It’s the little things.

Looking back, I see that what we had was the best case scenario of where and when a pipe could have frozen in our house to cause the least amount of damage. It happened in the downstairs bathroom, located at a corner of the house over the basement. It also served as a great learning experience for us southerners. But you wouldn’t have known that positive spin at the time to hear all of our moaning and griping to our parents about how “maybe we’re not cut out to be homeowners after all.” Fortunately our parents are all good, patient listeners who take hyperbole like that with a grain of salt.

I was reading Dooce’s year-in-review post a few days ago and was reminded that it’s time again to do our year-end round-ups. 2013 was my third year blogging on a regular basis, so this will be my third year-in-review post (see 2012 and 2011). Time flies when you’re writing about daily life!

2013 was the first year I felt like a real grownup, with a home of our own that feels like ours and a family that is growing in our lovely traditions and routines. This summer saw an unexpected  and delightful revival of my summer camp counselor days, and in the fall I began to discover where my voice might fit into the written world.

I am grateful for these days.


“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013.”

On the RangeDecember 24 – 31, 2013
{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we’re doing, reading, and eating. It’s a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}

Happy New Year! We had a lovely week. Nate’s sister Katie came to visit, and the girls adored her and insisted she share every moment and toy with them. It was the kind of spectacular display of love that makes these girls so endearing, despite the roller coaster emotions and behaviors that are three and five years old.