Yo, Yo Ma!




(teehee, I made a funny.)

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Answer Me This #7

Answer Me This3

1. What’s something you’ve won and how did you win it?

I actually won $50 in a sweepstakes a while back. You know those survey invitations you get on your store receipt that doubles their length? I actually bother to do them for a couple of the smaller stores where I know my chances of winning are a lot higher, and I got sent $50. Not bad for five minutes on the Internet that I would have wasted on something else.

2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?

For things like birthdays, I tend to keep mine for a while then throw them away. I keep the boys’ for them and they can decide later if they want to keep them or not. I tend to save cards and letters from special events for a lot longer, although I will weed them out after a while. Each one of us has a keepsake box where we keep items like that.

I do go through them periodically just for fun, and to remember old friendships (since I’ve moved so often, they can often be my only tie to a place I used to live, unless I want to go Facebook stalking, which I don’t generally do.) But over a few years, only a few will get stored and the rest will be tossed.

Tip: If you want me to save a card, write something more than your name on the inside.

3. When you’re at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?

They’re a little beat up, but here are my yoga sandals:


^That right there is authenticity. No specially painting my nails for the picture or anything. I don’t know why they’re called yoga sandals, but these go a LONG way toward easing any soreness I have from being on my feet all day. I also notice that my posture is better and that my pinkie toe, which has a tendency to curl under my other toes, is actually a lot less curled as a result of wearing these almost all the time. My preference would be to go totally barefoot, but my feet ache when I do that for more than a few hours at a time.

In the winter, if it gets really cold (I keep our house set at 66 degrees in the winter), I will eventually acquiesce to wearing socks, but I don’t have to like it. Socks are the worst.

4. Who’s the most famous person you have ever met?

Toss-up: my Congressman, whom I met through Ian (who met him at his job at the time) or Kevin Colbert, the Steelers general manager, whom I met briefly at a high school event also for Ian (they went to the same high school…many years apart). We’ve also met the morning show hosts of a local radio station at a party. More people probably know who they are in Pittsburgh than the two mentioned previously.

I’ve met the band members of Carbon Leaf (my favorite band) several times, and they are very nice, and think we picked awesome names for our kids.

Ian pointed out that we’ve also met the Bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik.

I have no idea how to determine which of these people is the most famous, but most of them are fairly well known around Pittsburgh.

5. What has been your best work of art?

I actually used to have a decent amount of skill in drawing. I used to do anime-style pictures (I was really, really into Sailor Moon in late elementary/early middle school.) I haven’t drawn in years, though (besides the occasional crayon or chalk request by Alisdair.)

I am quite a good cook, though, and some people consider that an art. ;)

6. What’s your strongest sense?

Even though I have astigmatism and my vision is something like 20/200 in both eyes, my instant thought was “sight.” My mom and I actually had a conversation about this while she was here. Both she and I are observant. We notice things that other people tend to pass over – road signs, instructions, contact information – and this information frequently turns out to be useful.

In terms of sheer “power” of the sense, though, it’s probably hearing. I have been known to wake up Ian in the night hearing a tapping or some other noise and he won’t hear anything, before I conclude that what I’m hearing is actually in the next door neighbor’s house, not ours.

For more “Answer Me This” check out Kendra’s blog!

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7 Quick Takes #57

Finally have some time to do these!

— 1 —

I’ve done far in advance meal planning for a while, typically month by month. But I kept finding that, despite my efforts, that I wouldn’t be prepared to cook whatever was on the menu (missing ingredients, lack of time, another thing going on that night that I wasn’t aware of when I made the plan.) So I’m going to simplify it even more and go to a regular rotation – right now it’s three weeks, features a designated leftover night (Thursday), several different styles of cuisine, two vegetarian meals per week (Tuesday and Friday – with the exception of fish tacos on one Friday). These are some of the cheapest dinners we make, but they’re still nutritious and yummy (also most of them are freezable). You’ll notice many of these recipes come from Budget Bytes, one of my favorite places to find recipes. The others are recipes from family and friends, or something I’ve been making forever.

Week 1:
Monday: Teriyaki Meatballs
Tuesday: Black Bean Quesadillas
Wednesday: Kielbasa and sauerkraut
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Lasagna Rolls
Saturday: Grilled chicken kebabs
Sunday: Hot dogs, hamburgers

Week 2:
Monday: Meatballs, spinach and pasta
Tuesday: Veggie burgers
Wednesday: Oven chicken fajitas
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Quiche/baked eggs
Saturday: Cincinnati-style chili
Sunday: Chicken and pineapple quesadillas

Week 3:
Monday: Red beans and rice
Tuesday: Potato soup
Wednesday: Sesame chicken stir fry
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Fish tacos
Saturday: Sloppy joes
Sunday: Pizzadillas

I’m excited to have my dinner making be simpler.

— 2 —

A couple weeks ago, I had a weird experience while running. We were up at my grandparents’ house for the Fourth, and I went for a run while we were there. I know I got nowhere near 3 miles, and I felt like the run just kicked my behind. I think most of it was psychological – instead of running around my neighborhood here, I was doing mostly a straightaway, so I had to look at how far I had to go the whole time. The hills were much less than what I do here, but they were longer, so it tested my endurance. I got chased by a (friendly) dog at one point (lots of people don’t believe in fencing in or tying up your dog in the country) and had an Amish girl watch me with a strange look on her face while her father cut hay. It wasn’t a lot like an ordinary run.

After I got home, I figured it would be better. But the same thing happened on my next run at home. Shortly after I started, I felt sick to my stomach. I figured I would just keep on going and the feeling would dissipate. But it didn’t. Around 20 minutes I gave up and walked, and almost puked in my neighbor’s yard (thankfully it was before 6, so he probably didn’t see me stop and dry heave a few times before walking on.) I got home and gradually felt normal.

Let’s just say I was discouraged when I headed out again two days later – when I then had the best ever run of my life. In the course of one week I dropped my mile time by over 3 minutes – from a little over 15 minutes to just over 12. I haven’t felt like I wanted to die while out there – in fact, it’s almost been easy. I’m now bumping up my distance to close to 3.5 miles to build endurance in prep for my race in August. It’s weird – somehow I expected that I would gradually improve, little by little, but instead, I feel like I reached a plateau, wanted to die, and then all of a sudden was way, way better at running. I don’t know if that’s normal – I haven’t talked enough to my other friends who run to know – but I am glad I decided to not give up. Old me would have given up.

— 3 —

I didn’t get to just visit with my grandparents over the Fourth. My parents also flew in and then came down to our house afterwards.


My grandparents on both sides, my parents, us, my youngest sister, and an aunt and uncle (my dad’s sister and her husband). We’re blessed to have so much family!

Alisdair was excited to share a local spray park with my mom and dad:


— 4 —

Since I get up crazy early, but I also want to kick the pop habit and at least see my husband some in the evening, I decided I needed to find something to help me get through the afternoon. Enter iced tea – of the sweet and green variety. I can’t stomach green tea unless it has honey, but for some reason it took me a while to consider it iced for the summer. Now I keep a big pitcher of it in the fridge and drink a glass in the afternoon, and I find I do just fine in the afternoon and evening. And green tea, even sweetened, is way, way, way better for me than pop.

— 5 —

Our landscaping is coming along. While my mom and dad were here, my dad watched the kids while my mom and I cleared the entire side of our house of weeds. Here’s a “before” that my dad snapped of the boys playing while we worked. Imagine lots and lots of this:


Now we are going to fill in the path with some of those miscellaneous rocks, build a small retaining wall (by taking down one of the ones in our driveway that actually isn’t doing anything), and then fill in with river rock. Ambitious? Yes. But we can do it!

— 6 —

I had actually quit taking photos for a while. Part of the problem is that many of the pictures I take of the kids feature the additional kids I watch during the day, so I don’t want to put those out on the Internet, but another one was that we had run out of room on our memory cards and I didn’t want to delete any pictures in case we lost our computer storage. But my dad gave us an extra card of his (sometimes it helps to have a dad who’s into photography) so commence ALL THE PICTURE TAKING, once again.


— 7 —

Last night we had the kids I watch for a longer day, so they ate dinner with us. Ian and I got a glimpse of dinner with four kids, which is somehow a lot different than lunch or snacktime with four kids, which I manage quite well by myself (most of the time.) We were pretty beat by the time it was over. Of course, we were dealing with unknown pickiness issues and trying to merge dinnertime rituals.

Here’s to the weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Answer Me This #6

Answer Me This3

1. How did you get your name?


Per Wikipedia, “Silica is one of the most complex and most abundant families of materials, existing both as several minerals and being produced synthetically. Notable examples include fused quartz, crystal, fumed silica, silica gel, and aerogels. Applications range from structural materials to microelectronics to components used in the food industry.” But how the heck do you go from that to naming a person after it?


Well, my dad used to be involved in some of those “structural materials” uses for silica sand – notably, large glass windows. Sometime while my mom was pregnant, he got the idea to name me “Silica Sandra” after the material he worked with everyday. Here the story changes a little bit depending on who tells it. I’ll tell my favorite version of the story. My mom was not a fan of the name, so she needed some convincing. Her parents came to visit them and they went out for dinner. Everyone had a few drinks, except for my mother (being pregnant and not being a big fan of alcohol anyway), and my dad used that opportunity to sell my grandparents on the name, who then pestered my mother about what an awesome, unique name it was until she gave in.

If I had been a boy, I would have been named “Nathan Richard.”

(Both my mom and dad read this blog. I predict that they will read this and both rush to correct me on some of these details, and their corrections are going to contradict each other.)


I’m rather fond of it. My mom’s big concern was that I would be nicknamed “Silly,” which actually never happened. I do get a lot of people who don’t know how to pronounce it (it’s phonetic – “sil uh kuh”), or see the letters and assume it’s something else (I get “Sicily,” “Cecelia,” and “Alicia” a lot), but I like having a unique name. I know of one other person in the world who has my name – an acquaintance of an acquaintance. When I was a little girl, I wrote the U.S. Silica Company with a picture of me in front of their company sign (we used to pass it on vacation) and they sent me some swag and a nice letter. The keychain they sent me is still on my car keys.


2. Do you have a set time for prayer in your day?

Yes, because it’s the only way I will do it. Right now my “routine” looks like this: I say a Morning Offering when I get up, and then use Magnificat’s Morning Prayer before breakfast. I’ll also read their daily reflection to think about during the day. During naptime, I’ll do my daily Bible and Catechism reading, and then I’ll say Magnificat’s Evening Prayer before bed. I say grace with the family before all meals, and then will say Alisdair’s nighttime prayers with him, and by his insistence we always say these in the same order: Angel of God, Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” and then a list of who we’d like to ask blessings for.

I used to say the rosary almost every day when I was working, because I’d say it on my drive home, and I miss that now that I don’t have a commute. When I think of it, I will say it on longer trips in the car.

3. Did your mom work or stay home (or both)?

My mom stayed at home for all of my childhood, going back to work several years after I moved out and my youngest sister was in middle school. She tells stories about us asking to go to daycare because of all the cool stuff to play with. I didn’t really think about it much then, but it was really nice to have her home. I’m glad I can do the same for mine.

4. Do you vote?

Yes. I don’t vote in primaries because I no longer have a party affiliation, but I vote in every general election. Local issues are incredibly important and get the lowest turnout, and the margins can be razor thin. So I know my vote counts. On a larger scale, where my vote is unlikely to affect turnout, I vote because I think it’s my civic duty and because if I don’t participate, nobody will know that people like me exist…even if that means I’m writing in every single candidate (hello, 2012).

5. What’s your favorite drink?

Diet Dr. Pepper. Huge vice. Try to quit it, succeed for months at a time, then it all comes crashing down on me. But oh man, that stuff is good.

My favorite “grown-up drink” is the amaretto sour, though in a pinch adding a little vodka or rum to aforementioned Diet Dr. Pepper is quite excellent.

6. How are your photography skills?

Passable. I have a point-and-shoot camera and I can use iPhoto to edit out red-eye (epidemic among the blue-eyed members of my family). My kids are cute enough that I don’t think it matters. Start talking about ISO or shutter speed and my eyes glaze over. I can adjust the flash, though. It would be nice to learn, but photography is an expensive hobby!


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Answer Me This #5

Answer Me This3

1. Have you ever walked out of a movie?

Only once. I went to see Superbad when it first came out, and I sat through loads of immature jokes (some of them actually funny) before finally getting disgusted and walking out during a scene when a drunken girl comes on to one of the main characters, and he has to figure out if he wants to take advantage of her or not (and if I recall correctly, he’s been trying to get with this girl the whole movie). He makes the right decision, which I only know because I went back into the movie after about five minutes because my date was still in there, but I was perturbed by the scene. The point was (I think) to show how difficult it was for this guy to say no, because it was incredibly tempting, but the scene basically amounted to soft-core pornography and the girl was depicting a high school student. It seemed hypocritical to film that scene that way.

When it comes to sex and violence, I think a lot of filmmakers could learn that “less is more.” I’ve also learned to take film reviews, especially for R-rated movies, with a huge heaping pile of salt.

2. What do you most often use for blogs and blogging: desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone?

Our laptop, which is our only computer. I used to use Google Reader on my smartphone, but both my smartphone and Google Reader are no more!

I’ve thought it might be nice to have a tablet. I hear good things.

3. Have you ever had anything stolen from you?

Probably, but I don’t remember. Actually, last year I put our Halloween candy on the porch because I wasn’t feeling well, and some jerk kid took all of it within the first five minutes of it being out there. I guess I could have expected as much.

4. Do you identify as a member of a particular ethnic group?

Not really. My personal background is a mish-mash of Western Europe and the British Isles, but growing up none of that really mattered. We were more middle-class American mainstream culture (which I guess is that same mish-mash). Ian, however, grew up with a lot of the Italian cultural heritage of his mother, and we’ve continued that with our kids. So maybe I’m an adopted Italian?

5. Do you abstain from meat on Fridays?

Usually. In the United States Catholics are required to abstain from meat on all the Fridays of Lent (and Ash Wednesday), but in most of the rest of the world Catholics abstain from meat every Friday of the year (unless a solemnity falls on a Friday.) The purpose of abstention is penitential, to offer up a small sacrifice to be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The reason it’s Friday is because Jesus died on Good Friday. Every Friday is a mini good-Friday, just like every Sunday is a mini-Easter Sunday.

The reason it’s different in the US is because the bishops make these kind of disciplinary decisions for the faithful and they can choose differently in different places to suit the needs of the people there. When it’s not Lent, we can choose some other penitential act on Friday to commemorate Christ’s death. Abstaining from meat can actually become a bit of a heated discussion in the Catholic blogosphere, but since most bishops aren’t really involved in Catholic blogs and discussion boards, instead focusing on, you know, their jobs, I’m not too worried about what people say on the Internet about it. We choose to do abstain year-round to unite ourselves to Christians in other parts of the world, and because it’s a small but persistent witness to our identity as members of the bride of Christ, the Church.

6. Seen anything weird lately?

Definitely something unusual! Last Saturday, we attended the ordination of one of Ian’s good high school friends to the priesthood, and then went to a reception for him later that evening. You have not lived until you have seen priests line dancing.

There were also some special visitors we got to spend time with:



Not often in this life you get to high-five a canonized saint!


(The consensus at our table was that these cardboard cut-outs were very helpful when we got to the reception place, as there was another party – chances are good the Popes go with the newly minted priest, yes?)

Of course, now we want to know what Father plans to do with these. I am a fan of placing them around his new parish grounds to surprise parishioners. Imagine finding one of them in the confessional!

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2014 Goals – Halfway There!

Since we’re halfway through the year, I figured now is as good a time as any to check in and see how we’re doing on the goals I set for myself in 2014:


(We went to Ian’s high school a few weeks back as it is relocating. Ian had to check behind a teacher’s bookshelf to see if the books thrown behind it when he was a student were still there, and they were – over ten years later). This is the kind of thing I’m hoping to avoid.)


  • Run a 5K - I can do it! Race scheduled for August 23.
  • Read the Bible and Catechism – A little more than halfway through since I started at the beginning of Advent last year.
  • Monthly date night with Ian – Running at about 50% right now. Not great, but making the effort has definitely paid off. We’re looking strong for the rest of the summer at least!
  • Monthly “ladies/moms night out” – Doing pretty well with this the past few months!


  • Breastfeed Éamon until he’s at least 18 months old – Still going strong
  • Nighttime potty training for Alisdair – Done. Check. Yippee!
  • Sign Alisdair up for a tumbling class and swimming lessons – Waiting for our local rec center to post the classes. I missed the last one because I had forgotten to sign up for notification emails. Whoops.


  • Deep clean, paint, and organize garage – We elected not to paint because once it was cleaned it looked a heck of a lot better, even though we have three different colors on the walls. We have shelves up now that hide some of it, too. It’s a garage. It’s neat and functional, and that’s good enough for us.
  • Paint one other room - Still in the works.
  • Finish scraping the bathtub – This is going to be the end of me. I may just end up ripping out the whole bathtub. Argh.
  • Get a first aid/emergency kit put together for upstairs, downstairs, and in the cars – Upstairs is done! Just saving up in the budget for the rest, which should come shortly.
  • Finish landscaping the front yard – Progress! Ian’s cleaned up several haggard looking trees and shrubs, and a couple mornings every week I’ll go out and do some serious weeding. We’re working on building a path to the backyard, and once that’s done we’ll be almost done!
  • Successfully grow and harvest tomatoes, peppers, and herbs – Plants are growing!
  • Fix dryer vent – Not even started.
  • Fix leaky kitchen faucet – Not even started, although we have gotten really, really good at using the faucet in such a way as to minimize its leaking. We looked up a few plumbers to call…but haven’t called yet.


  • Continue working Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps – We may very well make it to being debt free by 30! With my income, as well as Ian reconfiguring his tax exemptions, we’ve freed up an additional chunk that can be hurled at step 2.
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Answer Me This #4

Answer Me This3

1. How often do you take public transportation?

Almost never. Before we had kids, Ian and I used to take it regularly – we lived very close to a stop and using public transit meant that we could go out and not have to designate a driver. When we were in graduate school, passes were included as part of our student activities fees, so we got pretty familiar with a few routes.

Both Alisdair and Éamon would be free fares still, but it only saves us money to take public transit if we’re going downtown on a weekday. On a weekend, downtown parking is cheaper than two adult fares. Plus it takes forever, which isn’t a problem if you’re an adult and have a book or company to talk with, but isn’t so hot when you’re talking about toddlers and preschoolers.

2. How many cousins do you have?

I have seven first cousins, six of whom are still living. I also have one step-cousin that I have only seen once since I was small (she lives on the other side of the country.)

Once you get to the second cousin level, I have tons, especially on my father’s side (both of his parents were from big families.) I don’t think I’ve even met all of them, but some of them are regular readers of this blog! (Hi, family!)

3. Have you ever fired a gun?

I have not. Both of my grandfathers still hunt, and my dad shoots occasionally as a hobby, but I have never even held a gun before beyond the squirt variety. I do think it’s a valuable skill to have and I’d like to learn, but it’s not a big priority. It’s been a few years, but I do know how to use a bow and arrow. That’s the kind of thing I could really see myself getting into for fun.

4. Do you ride roller coasters?

Rarely. Overall I am not an amusement park person. My favorite amusement park memory is my dad putting on a fake-scary voice at Kennywood on “The Old Mill” ride before they took it down. I went on my first roller coaster in 8th grade (well, not counting the kiddie ones) – Disney World’s “Space Mountain.” If I had known it was a roller coaster, I would not have ridden on it. Darn thing tricked me by being inside.

The summer after my freshman year I went to Cedar Point and actually had quite a bit of fun. There were several coasters that met my criteria (basically, no fake-you-out death drops or going upside down. Also no wooden coasters – they always sound like they will break any second.) Most of the time, though, I was the stuff watcher and that was fine by me. I do not understand how “being tricked into thinking you are about to die” is fun. But obviously there’s something to it because lots of people love it.

5. What’s your favorite flower?

Azaleas and columbine (I can’t pick just one!) They’re beautiful, but not ostentatious. I’m hoping we will plant some around here soon.

6. Are you allergic to anything?

I used to be allergic to cats, but now I’m not so sure. I had a cat for a while growing up and was fine, then somehow later I couldn’t be around them without my eyes watering and swelling up and getting itchy. Then I got pregnant and all my allergy symptoms disappeared, only to kind of reappear, but not as severely as I remember, after Alisdair was born, and to disappear again when I was pregnant with Éamon. I haven’t been around cats much since then, so I’m not sure. It’s been mild enough, though, that Ian and I have discussed the possibility of getting a cat (actually, probably two). That wouldn’t happen for at least another few months, though.

I do have one allergy to medicine: ciprofloxacin. The first few days I was on that before I figured it out were fun. (Fun fact: When I looked up Cipro to make sure I had the spelling right, I realized that it’s actually contraindicated for nursing mothers, which is the exact opposite of what I was told when I asked about it. Thankfully, the doctor who found me a substitute was more honest.)

Looking forward to reading everyone else this week, during my (kind of) free time!


The leisure time. I has it.

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