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re:defined: August 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

god willin and the creek don't rise...

i have two hours.
two hours until i escape from the nuthouse and head into boston to see ray lamontagne and david gray at the bank of america pavilion with lee and kate. !!!!! i could not be more excited.
some tunes in my new ride, a little dinner in the city, music on the waterfront, time with other adult females whom i quite enjoy?!
i think i might be dreaming.

until i realize i haven't finished putting away the groceries, or flipped the laundry, or unloaded & loaded the dishwasher, or watered the garden or flowers or shrubs, or prepped all the meat i bought at the grocery store OR showered and gotten ready. (not like dave cares, and i don't know about you other moms, but i can't leave a mess and then go out and live it up. what's up with that guilt?! i'd leave it any other day for any number of other reasons...)

SO. i shouldn't be sitting here, eh?
except i needed a moment to rest my back so i can handle this oppressive heat and get it DONE. ready set...GO.

and while i'm at it, buy every CD they ever made.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

best monday ever.

this is what i'm doing today:

i know, it's not very exciting.
but if you're an organizational freak who's genius husband just created 20 feet by 10 feet of storage space in a house without any? well, then you're pretty darn excited.

but perhaps organizing is not quite as exciting as picking up my new (to me) mazda cx9! TONIGHT.

so if you're on the roads, you'd better look out.
i don't need no swagger wagon to be able to strut :)

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Friday, August 13, 2010

stratton 5

this pregnancy, a lot of people keep commenting on how big my belly is. (every woman's dream, hearing 'wow, you look so BIG!'. has anyone ever seen the movie away we go? if not, go watch this video clip immediately. and make yourself a note to rent the movie. oh, and then you can read on.)

i mean, it is big. and was bigger sooner. but i also just realized yesterday that i only have about 11 weeks before stratton 5 is born.


(so it makes some sense that my belly would be big at this point, yes?)

i think having two children to distract you really does make a pregnancy go that much faster. i tend to have no idea how far along i am, which makes me look kind of daft when people ask, but make pregnancy be less of a countdown and more like a temporary part of life (not to be scrutinized too closely. unless you like things like watching grass grow). i'll be induced 2 weeks before my due date, which is november 13, so stratton 5 will join the party right at the very end of october/very beginning of november.

i literally cannot WAIT!

for so many reasons, not the least of which being the calf and shin cramps, or my back aching constantly, four months of contractions, or the inability for my pregnant body to keep up, but also because i'm so looking forward to meeting stratton 5 and loving on him!

let's be honest, carrying this much baby on the front of my body will be the death of me. and not having to hear commentary on the arbitrary nature of how "big" the womb of my unborn child is? well, that will be nice, too :)

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

tasty vittles

As if you need one, here's reason #3597235 to love the Food Network:
Tyler Florence.
If you're looking for something really delicious to make for dinner, eat this:
(Dave has literally insisted that I only make this dinner for the rest of his life, and has agreed to go to the gym in the middle of the night every day just so he can eat it. I guess he liked it.)

Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage
  • Kosher Salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 links fennel pork sausage (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) peeled whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • Leaves from 1 small bunch basil
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the pasta. Get yourself a 9 by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
Heat a 2 count of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and toss in the hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes, you want them nicely browned on the outside but still rare on the inside. Put the sausages in the baking dish.
Turn the heat down to medium. Add a generous 1/3 cup of oil to the skillet and get it hot. Add as many eggplant pieces as you can comfortably fit in a single layer and sprinkle well with salt. Cook, turning, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggplant is nice and browned, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Use a spatula to put the eggplant into the baking dish with the sausage. Cook the rest of the eggplant pieces, adding more oil to the pan, as needed, and putting the finished eggplant into the baking dish.
Add another 2 count of oil to the skillet, then your onion and garlic, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Dump the whole can of tomatoes and their juices into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands to break them up; add that to the pan with the basil and cook it down until pulpy and relatively thick. This will take about 15 minutes.
By this time your pasta water will be boiling. Add the rigatoni, give it a stir, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, it should be slightly firm as it will cook further in the oven. Ladle out 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve; the drain the rigatoni.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Chop the sausages into nice big, bite-size chunky pieces and return the pieces to the baking dish. Add the tomato sauce, rigatoni, and the reserved pasta water. Break up half the mozzarella over the mixture, season with salt and pepper, and gently mix with your hands or a spatula. Dust with the Parmigiano and drizzle with more olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Spread the remaining mozzarella in an even layer over the top and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

And for dessert?
A berry trifle.
I will be serving mine shortly as individual servings and used lime juice and lime curd to improvise :)



  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 pint strawberries,
    hulled and cut into thick slices
  • 2 pint raspberries
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Lemon Cream:

  • 1 quart whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (11-ounce) jar lemon curd
  • 1 store bought pound cake, sliced 1/2-inch thick


Place the berries into a large bowl and sprinkle with half of the lemon juice. Lightly toss.
Combine the berries, sugar, cornstarch and remaining lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook just until the berries begin to break down and give up their juices, about 3 minutes. Take the berries off the heat and let cool; the mixture should thicken up as is cools.
In a clean bowl, whip the cream with the sugar and the vanilla to soft peaks. Put the lemon curd into a second bowl and stir in a little of the whipped cream to loosen it. Then fold in the rest of the cream.
To assemble the trifle, spoon a layer of the lemon cream into a large glass bowl. Add a layer of pound cake, breaking the slices into pieces that fit. Then soak the cake with a layer of berries and their juices. Keep going to make 3 or 4 more layers, depending on the size of the bowl, finishing with a layer of lemon cream. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


okay, so old habits die hard.
and despite humid 89 degree weather...

yes, i was in the garden weeding.
and yes, i did have to use a pick axe to get the last of the weeds up.
and yes, my back is very sore and tired.
and yes, i am still aware that i'm pregnant.
so yes, i did in fact lay down after i finished so i'll be able to walk later.

yes, i'm guilty. 
i had help this time!

dave's parents and sister are in visiting from indiana, and they like to help with projects (so you can imagine why i love them so much).

dave and his dad have almost finished painting the garage doors black (from white). the shutters used to be white, and we did those over in black last year, and the doors were white, and are now a fabulous puke-y yellow, and now? the garage doors will be finished to complete a front of the house face-lift.

next up: the house trim needs a new coat of white, and the house will get a grey/blue/slate paint update. it gets a lot of full morning fun, so it's faded a lot in the 4 years we've been here. i need to find just the right shade, though- not too light, and not too blue. i'm open for suggestions :) 

dave transplanted this arborvitae from it's random spot on the other side of the garden to here to the front left side of the house (where it can hide the propane tank and canoe until we put a fence up. don't get me started on my desires for a fence, though...)

and look what i found hiding under, i don't know, eight inches of tall grass and a thicket of crawling weeds:
we weren't actually going to do a garden this year, but when my friend deanna had extra plants that she didn't have room for? well, i couldn't say no to that!

it's actually kind of fun, because some of the plants are mystery plants, so eventually, we'll get to find out what they are! i do know we have tomatoes, roma cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini, basil, strawberries, and...maybe squash?

later today and tomorrow while i'm at work we'll also finish installing an attic staircase in the landing upstairs. our 163 year old home, though lovely, has no storage. we have a dirt basement and not even CLOSE to enough closets, so the attic, albeit small, if accessible (and not via a 2x2 portal in our bedroom), will add a lot of value to this old house. and make more room in the garage again, so maybe, just maybe, i'll be able to park my car in there before winter :)

what can i say?
i love life in the projects.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

where my kids at?

my friend nickey sent this link to me today and i almost peed my pants.

i'm suddenly rethinking this whole car thing- i mean, maybe i should get a minivan, especially if i can call it a "swagger wagon" :) what's sexier than swagger?!

(no, seriously, hunny, where are the kids?)

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

a perfectionist manifesto

This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” -Saint Augustine

the past few months have been an interesting journey for me. physically, emotionally, spiritually. i've found myself getting pretty mad and overwhelmed, but i haven't known exactly what has frustrating me. i mean, besides the obvious fact that i'm...quite pregnant ;)

being that i am generally not a hormonal, girly, dramatic, or psycho kind of girl, and instead find myself drawn to more logical thinking patterns, being pregnant always reminds me that i am, in fact, a girl. (this always strikes dave as funny. when i get upset at myself for being upset? yeah, he finds that irony hilarious. he'll goad,"michelle, you are a girl. why are mad about being a girl?!")

i think i arrived at a place where motherhood was overwhelming, being a pastor's wife was overwhelming, not being capable of physically doing the things i wanted to do was overwhelming, and feeling like i didn't have an avenue to express it? you guessed it: that was overwhelming.

yes, i'm tired. being pregnant with small children is not particularly easy at times. being taxing, demanding, exhausting, & strenuous.

yes, i'm busy. dave's super-busy. and we have something going on almost all the time here at the strattons and it can be a lot of work.

but none of these things are new to me. they're old hat. i've been living in this world for five years. so articulating and even discovering what this "new" struggle was? it has proved challenging.

let me elaborate further by backing up a couple of weeks, when i stumbled across this show called "the fabulous beekman boys" on discovery; it's about this gay couple who happens upon farming and are building a brand called beekman 1802. more "original" reality television, right?

well, the guy below, on your right, brent, is essentially every stereotype of a gay man in one person. i mean, he worked for martha stewart- need i say more? brent is a perfectionist. he likes things to be a certain way, look a certain way, and presented a certain way.

even pigs.

he's such a perfectionist that in the one episode i saw, he was literally in the pig sty washing the pigs.

now, most people would call that pretty crazy. i, on the other hand, could understand very well the logic behind brent's "philosophy," if you will.

a few examples off the top of my head:
i cut my grass with scissors. (no, seriously. i edge my flower beds with them)
i prefer to serve water in glass pitchers with sliced lemons.
i insist on keeping an extremely clean & tidy home.
i generally will not bring my children places without their hair done and clothes that match.
i like fresh flowers on my table as frequently as possible.
i will not allow wrinkly clothes to be worn out of the house.
i almost cannot walk by something dirty and not clean it. immediately.

and much to my surprise, this approach, this philosophy? has a name.
it's called perfectionism.

most of you understand this word, but i've only jokingly ever referred to myself as a perfectionist. and never have i ever imagined that this can be a problem for people. i only realize now, at 28, that to some degree (66% according to a discovery health quiz), i am, in fact, a perfectionist.

and not because that's what anyone expects from me, or because i have some weird need to impress, or some fear of rejection. i've really tried to think about myself critically and honestly. i am a pretty confident person, i'd say. so i really don't do what i do for other people.
i actually just like it that way.

and i don't know how to do it any other way. does that mean my house must be immaculate at the expense of my children? no. does that mean my yard looks like professionals landscaped it? lol, no. (i only wish that). does this mean my house is never messy or dirty? heck to the no.

it's more like this: i am simply NOT satisfied giving ANYTHING less than my 100% (this is not to be confused with anyone else's 100%). this can be a good thing. in and of themselves, there's nothing wrong with wanting a clean house or a project finished. i find that like brent, presentation is important to me. i like when things look beautiful, and i do not like when things are messy or disorganized or unfinished. in my house. i don't care about anyone else's house. just mine.

on the other hand, this can be a detrimental thing when it gets in the way of your own health, relationships, etc. i tend to work hard in general; a trait in our culture that is considered a positive or admirable characteristic. and i think it certainly can be, and am very glad that i had good role models in this. however, fairly recently, i've realized that it is in fact possible to work too hard. my father, who gave me these crazy bartlett genes in the first place, is a perfect example of this. (imagine: a guy who is 67 and digs ditches, works 12 hour days, climbs trees with chainsaws, and rides ATV's almost every weekend. but most of he time, he works himself so hard that he has to keep moving so he can be distracted from the pain he's in. that's just a glimpse into my gene pool.) in the past couple of months, i've heard myself telling him 'he can't work as hard as he's used to', and 'he has to take care of himself,' and wouldn't you know it,

for me, the frustration i feel is the tension between being able to do what i want to do versus what i actually can do. which translates mostly to the physical work that i enjoy. i like to work around the house and in my yard. you all know this because you tease me all the time :) i get ideas in my head about things i want to do, like "build a brick walkway" or "weed this jungle of a garden" or "plant numerous shrubs" or "paint this room real quick"...and i am determined to not only do them, but do them alone, do them in short amounts of time, and do them with excellence.

this is not always an issue for me when i'm not pregnant, because given enough time (also tricky, but that's a blog for another day), i can get a whole lot done. but being pregnant really exacerbates the frustration i have with not being able to finish things and not being physically able to work as long or as hard as i genuinely want to. i literally just can't. unless i want to have a broken back and contractions every three minutes.
and end up in labor & delivery.
on my birthday.
and have to beg nurses to let me leave.

and i guess...i don't want to have to do that.

i know some of you will identify the thought of not being able to do what you"want" to do. maybe it's not cleaning or digging or projects or excessive exertion, but i think mothers run into this a lot in motherhood. it can feel a little bit like jail (or maybe a lot like jail). motherhood can be isolating. maybe some moms would rather be scrap-booking or reading or journaling or watching television or shopping or baking or taking a class or going to the gym or getting a coffee with a friend (right, lee?!). and maybe you, like me, (although perhaps not a perfectionist, if you're lucky), still have a lot of things you can't finish, or can't start, and maybe, just maybe, you get frustrated too. as i talked about in this post, when you're raising small people, you have to sacrifice little pieces of who you are. and it's an amazing and life-changing experience to know what it means to sacrifice...even just a little. but there is this tension that you come to understand between doing what you have to do for your kids, your family, your spouse, and doing the things that make you who you are.

anyone who knows me would agree that i tend to think in absolutes and i'm prone to overstatement. (somehow, this doesn't madden my husband, and instead he fancies me just the way i am.) the things i "have" to do, i really don't. and the things that "need" to be done "right now,"...they really don't either. dave reminds me of this all the time. and then reminds me that i am, in fact, married, which qualifies me to be eligible for this thing called "help." what i'm learning (and what God has been teaching me, despite every fiber in my body wanting to resist this reality) is that it is okay for me to have "standards" that i think are necessary. as long as i also remember that they're not, in fact, necessary. and although i don't usually want to let certain things go, i can, if i want to.

i think God is using my third pregnancy just to make me have to slow down. he usually has to let me injure my body enough to make me slow down, and when i'm pregnant, he's also made my body to contract a whole heck of a lot if i push it too much. subtle, eh? but i need these (not always so) gentle reminders to expose my tendency to overwork, overexert, overstate, over-everything, so that i can try to learn my limits and embrace them, rather than, say, ignore them until i can't stand up...and then stop.

i guess what i'm beginning to understand is that perfectionism can be a healthy drive to do your best. but it's possible to expect too much from yourself. and that isn't, in fact, a good idea. sometimes just "good" is good enough, and sometimes, you should even ask for help. certain things are reasonable for pregnant people. others things, like anything with a pick axe, my husband insists, are not reasonable. unobtainable objectives just make perfectionists disappointed and mad. so although i wouldn't wash a pig before a party, i've been guilty of similar insanities. (ahem, like laying sod.) so thanks to my dbs and to my friends who tolerate my insanity, who help me with my overzealous undertakings, and love me anyway.

and thus is the beginnings of the epic inner workings of my mind in my blogging absence. thanks for waiting for me to get my mind right; trust me, you wouldn't have wanted to have to read all that angry profanity, senseless drivel, or frustrated prattling anyway :)

any other perfectionists in the house??

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