A New Year To Do List for 2011

January 03, 2011

I like to say that I begin my New Year's Resolutions on my birthday, but the truth is that by the time my birthday rolls around (in July), I've usually forgotten my intentions. The years I have succumbed to peer pressure and made resolutions on January 1st, my resolve has usually waned by January 5th...so you see, I'm not really any good at New Year's Resolutions.

I *am* good at To Do Lists though, which is why I liked Jenny's idea (she was inspired by another local Jennie) of making a To Do List for 2011. So here's my list, and I hope you'll help me stay accountable to it:

1. Healthy pregnancy. Roger and I are *not* currently pregnant, but we'd like to be sometime this year.

2. Lose weight. Over the past seven years, Roger and I have each gained about 40 pounds. We're both unhappy about it. I've started tracking my calories, and hope to lose some weight before getting pregnant, and the rest afterward. I'm pretty sure that piece of fudge I ate as a mid-morning snack won't help me reach my goals.

3. Blog more. I started this little blog back in 2004, and over the past couple years it has slowly been pushed to the back burner. There are several reasons for this, and I'd like to reignite this little hobby of mine. I especially want to be able to look back over the years and read stories about things Rayah has been doing - stories that even a year from now I'll have already forgotten.

4. Stay on track financially. With Roger going back to school this semester, us trying to get pregnant, us both working full time, needing to hire a regular nanny and still wanting to pay down debt/invest in our retirement/build our savings/build our remodeling fund, we've got a lot of competing financial demands. This month, I'd like to create a realistic budget for us...and then stick to it.

5. Find a toddler playgroup. I'd really, really, really like to find a weekly toddler playgroup for Rayah. She needs some little friends!

6. Plan meals. I enjoy cooking and planning, but don't always make the time for the planning I need to do. If I make weekly (or even monthly) menus, I think our family could save both time and money.

7. Write a Cook Book. A long time ago, I told a friend I'd put all my recipes together in a book for her. I still haven't done that, and I'd like to start that project. Some of the recipes are my own, others are my family's, and a few are recipes I've tried and loved from cookbooks and magazines.

8. Commit to Vertical. Our church has a yearly Bible reading program called Vertical, and this year's program focuses on Paul's letters and missionary journeys. It takes just five minutes a day, if you want to follow along with me: Vertical Devotion.

Updated to add...
9. More outings with Rayah. We have unused memberships to museums, zoos, arboretums, not to mention fabulous parks in our neighborhood, amazing indoor (and free!) play gyms at local churches, free nearby splash parks, unexplored play areas at malls, and a Daddy who'd love lunch dates with his little girl. At least once each week, I'd like to get out and explore with Rayah.

10. Home Remodel. This is more for Roger than me, but I'd like door trim and baseboards this year. We're almost finished with our remodel, except bathrooms and the kitchen, and every time I look at a doorway I get a little excited thinking about what it will look like when the trim is up.

11. Build my craft. I love to do creative, crafty things, from designing cute party themes to creating fun little projects for Rayah and I to work on. I've got a folder full of URLs to inspire me, but I've not made the time to pursue any of them. I'd like to do that this year, and get a sewing machine to help me with some of my more complex projects.

It seemed fitting to have 11 items on my to-do list for '11. Do you have any New Year's Resolutions or To-Do Lists? Link them below - I'd love to read what you're up to, and get more ideas for myself!

First Birthday Party

September 06, 2010

First birthday invitation

Rounded corners? Check! Flags sewn on with embroidery string? Check! Several weeks ago, I made and mailed invitations for Rayah's first birthday party. And then all of a sudden, her birthday was here. My baby turned ONE!

MY BABY IS ONE, OMG!

I sent Roger to the store for a few bunches of balloons, and nearly cried when he walked in the door. There were balloons, and balloons, and balloons, even more than I had hoped for, in all the exact shades I had envisioned. Proud daddies are THE BEST for going overboard with balloons! The birthday balloon flying high above our mailbox was just for fun, since nearly everyone had been to our house before -- on multiple occasions.

We scheduled the party to start after Rayah's nap, so she'd be fully rested and ready for the big day...but she knew something was going on, and forced herself to stay awake for an hour and a half past her naptime. She finally crashed for about half an hour, and was fashionably late to her own party. I tend to be late nearly everywhere I go, so I'm hoping she isn't taking after Mama at such an early age.

Birthday girl!

From her room, she could hear the music and the voices, and kept looking toward the door expectantly. It was so cute to watch her as she anticipated what was out the door. Just before we opened the door to the living room, she hugged me tightly, like she wasn't sure whether to say "thank you!" or "hold me!" When we finally emerged, SO! MANY! PEOPLE! Rayah clung to me, not sure what to make of it all. We walked around to each grouping of people, and she slowly began to realize "Hey! I know these people!" She'd never seen all her family together at once before - we always get together in small groups - so it took a while to get warmed up. Rayah played with a friend that she had invited, Emma, who is nearly her same age. I think having a little solo time in familiar areas (like her play mat) helped ease her transition.

Cupcake table and bunting flags

I took on a little sewing project, making bunting flags to match the invitations - you can see them in the background in our breakfast area, and I also hung them over the couch in the living room. (I followed the tutorial at JoyfulAbode.com.)

Looking at the cupcakes

I made vanilla/vanilla cupcakes using the recipe from Magnolia Bakery in New York City -- this is my favorite frosting recipe; it's really rich, and sweet, and indulgent, which honestly - if you're going to make frosting, especially frosting on delightfully moist cupcakes, it better be indulgent -- each topped with a red licorice ribbon and colorful candy bunting flags. (I flattened Starburst candies and cut them into triangles for these, but you could use any kind of chewy candy - caramels, Laffy Taffy, fruit roll-ups, etc.) Rayah's cake was topped with a sugar cookie "1", which was frosted with hot pink polka dots. Yummy!

Big Bite! Just after a bite of cake!
After we sang Happy Birthday to Rayah, she wasn't sure what to do. She kept looking around at everyone looking at her, not touching her cupcake. I peeled it for her, then gently smashed her fingers into the icing. She looked at me, surprised, like: "Dude. You just got my fingers dirty." Thhhheeeennnnn she tasted the frosting on her fingers. And she dug in. (So did everyone else. Did I mention the cupcakes were sinfully delicious?)

Favor Tray

Favor Design One Favor Design Two
We had such a great time celebrating with and visiting with our family! Everyone stayed so long we actually ended up ordering pizzas and visiting for a couple hours after the party officially ended. And as a goodbye, Rayah gave out sugar cookie party favors (cookie recipe and frosting recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, i am baker) to everyone who came, with labels that said, "Thank you for making my party so sweet!"

And it was!

What Mothers Want

May 04, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about what moms really want for Mother's Day (this Sunday!). And I've been wondering if working moms and stay at home moms want the same things. (Note: By "working moms," I mean mothers who are employed by a company, since I know that stay at home moms also work, just in a different way.)

Lately I've been struggling with balance. (Lately equals the last eight months.) (Coincidentally, my sweet daughter is eight months old.) (I'm pretty certain these two are related.) My life is overflowing with busyness. I'm a full-time mom, and a full-time employee. And I don't mean that I leave the house to go to a full-time job, while someone cares for my daughter. I mean that I stay home and care for her, and that I'm also a remote employee for a company I love. So I work 40+ hours a week at home, while also *attempting* to spend that time with my little girl. Hiring a nanny is out of the question right now, because of the way this economy has affected our family's finances. Which makes for early mornings, and late nights, and busy days. Add to that meals, and grocery shopping, and cleaning the house, and laundry, and I'm willing to bet you can guess which of those slide. (Answer: that entire last sentence.) But I get to spend the entire day with our daughter, and for that I am thankful. She's pretty awesome.

Roger, on the other hand, usually leaves for work before Rayah's up in the morning, and comes home after she's gone to bed. He walks into her room several times a night, just to watch her sleep. And just thinking about that makes me depressed. To love someone so much, but not be able to hold her or read her books or even to listen to her "talk" about her day. To only to get to spend two days each week with her. And even then, it's a weekend filled with busyness, trying to do all the things that the weekdays denied us.

So I've been thinking about Mother's Day. I've been thinking that, sure, perfume or flowers or spa certificates are nice. A thoughtful card is nice. But what do I really want? I want time. I want time with my husband and daughter, without the added stress of everything else that needs to be done. I want a carefree day. A family picnic at the park in our neighborhood. Reading books together in Rayah's reading corner. I want a day to re-connect as a family, a day to take pictures, a day to remember.

But I realize not everyone wants the same things that I do - so I'm curious. What do you want for Mother's Day?

No, Rayah, There Isn't A Santa Claus

December 09, 2009

santa

When I learned Santa Claus wasn't real, I was crushed. It was December. I was in third grade. That was the only year I rode the bus home from school, and I mostly didn't mind, except there was one girl on that bus, Brittany, whose sole mission seemed to be focused on making my life miserable.

I lived in the country, which meant that the bus ride was a long one for me, full of stops in town before we headed out my farm-to-market road. But she also lived out in the country, farther out than I lived, and so I had to endure her the entire ride. She was a year or two older, and the only thing I remember about her was her dirty blonde hair and how she mocked me and taunted me.

Now, listen - I realize this really isn't all that bad. But in my eight-year-old world, it pretty much was the worst thing ever. And to top it off, on that December afternoon, she was insisting that Santa wasn't real.

I had asked before, and my parents had always encouraged me to believe in Santa Claus. But this day - this day was different - my mom gave in and broke the news to me as gently as she could. It devastated me. Devastated. Oh!, how I cried. And cried. And cried.

Before having a child, I didn't think much about what I would teach my own children concerning Santa. Now that we have Rayah, I can't stop thinking about it. Granted, she's only three months old - I've got a couple years before I need to navigate that conversation. But it's already keeping me awake at night.

Roger and I intend to teach Rayah that Santa Claus is not real, but that he is a fun tradition we participate in every year. The part that stumps me is this: How do we teach Rayah not to be someone else's Brittany? I want my daughter to be an honest child, but I don't want her to crush someone else in her pursuit of the truth. How do we do that? Is it even possible?

What did your parents teach you about Santa Claus? Or, if you have kids, what have you taught them?

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2009

Our Littlest Reason To Be Thankful This Year - Happy Thanksgiving!

Rayah is our littlest reason to be thankful this year!

We hope that you will also have a delightful holiday, filled with family, friends, food and a heart full of thanks.

What I Crave: Avocado-Banana Salad

November 23, 2009

I’ve always said that I’d try any food once, which is how I’ve managed to eat things like pig intestine (gross), duck blood soup (gross) and fried chicken feet (surprisingly good). Then there are other foods that I just think are weird, like tomato-flavored Jello (why!?), and peanut butter, tomato and bacon sandwiches (in all fairness, I’ve managed to evade this so far – I like my peanut butter with fruit (plum jam, please), and my bacon with lettuce and tomato – though I’m guessing I’ll try one soon enough).

Ingredients for what I crave: Avocado Banana Salad

When my in-laws visited last month, Roger asked his mom to make one of his favorite childhood dishes: Avocado-Banana Salad. I wrinkled my nose at the pairing, but agreed to give it a try. Then I took a second spoonful. And now I’ve spent the past month making this salad, because neither Roger nor I can get enough.

Diced avocados and bananas

If you’re searching for a unique side dish to serve at a holiday meal or to bring to a friend’s potluck, look no further. This dish uses only five ingredients and there’s no cooking involved, so it’s perfect if you’re short on time but want to deliver high on expectations. Avocado-Banana Salad is beyond creamy, a favorite among children and adults (in our family, anyway!), and is deliciously tangy and sweet. And maybe that’s my favorite part about this side dish – it could also pass as a dessert.

Cream makes the world go round

Avocado-Banana Salad

Ingredients
1 avocado, diced
1 banana, diced
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cream (you can also use half-and-half, or probably even milk, but I use cream)

Instructions
1. Add diced avocado and banana to a bowl.
2. Measure lime juice, sugar and cream into the bowl.
3. Mix ingredients together gently.
4. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Avocado-Banana Salad

I Never Met A Quiche I Didn't Like

May 05, 2009

I love cookbooks. I love cookbooks and I love cooking (though I hate cleaning the dishes) and I love good food. And I generally like history, as long as it is interesting. (Which, listen: history is NOT ALWAYS INTERESTING.) So when a publisher sent me a copy of the Military Wives' Cookbook, I was intrigued because it's a cookbook (score!), presumably has good food (score!) to cook (score!), and is filled with little historical anecdotes about our country's military wives. And that's all fine, it's a nice little package, but what I really needed to know was this: what about the recipes? Are they good? And the best way to answer those questions is to test a recipe out for myself.

I am not a military wife, but the cookbook was good all the same.

After flipping through the book, I found a story about a bride who defied her father and married the man she loved. Which, I'm totally a sap, so it seemed like a good choice to me. What's more, she married the man she loved (a military officer) in a shotgun wedding, both bride and groom sitting atop their horses so they could make a quick escape. Which I thought was hilarious, considering this took place back in the 1800s. The story was printed along with a recipe for Quiche Lorraine - I don't know what the correlation was there: was it just a good place for the story, or did they serve that quiche afterward? - and my thoughts were suddenly consumed with BACON.

Sizzling

The key to frying bacon is trying not to eat all of it before you need it for the recipe. This is kind of difficult, because bacon is salty and delicious. And it's crunchy, if you're doing it right. I managed to only eat two pieces, so it's a good thing I made extra. (Okay, fine. I ate two-and-a-half pieces, which no one would ever know because you have to crumble it anyway.) Also, you can never have too much bacon.

Whip It Good

While the bacon was sizzling, I whipped the cream (the recipe calls for half-and-half, but I generally consider recipes as guidelines, not rules) with the eggs and mustard and seasonings.

Quiche Lorraine: Baaacccoonnnnn

And then I took some of the onions from my mom's garden and I cooked them in the bacon grease. This is the best way to do it because BACON. MMmmmmmm. (Also, the onions cook quickly. So don't, say, realize you don't have shredded Swiss cheese, pull out the deli Swiss, and start CUTTING IT INTO STRIPS WITH KITCHEN SCISSORS. That might be kind of lame. But it will probably work. Hypothetically.) Once the onions are done, you should sprinkle them over the crumbled bacon.

Quiche Lorraine: This is going to be very good indeed. I can tell by all that extra bacon.

It will be very pretty, and kind of remind you of Christmas. And then maybe you'll want some egg nog. Or maybe you're just pregnant.

Quiche Lorraine: Fresh from the oven

After you've poured the cream mixture over the bacon and onions, sprinkle it with nutmeg. The nutmeg doesn't really do anything other than make it look pretty, and remind you of Christmas again. And make you want egg nog even more. So maybe you should just bake it and distract yourself with something else.

Quiche Lorraine: Served, at last

If you pair a slice of this quiche with something else, like strawberries, you'll be less tempted to eat the entire pie in one sitting. (It was also very good the next morning.) But strawberries probably won't be enough to stop you from going back for seconds. That's respectable. If you do that, it's a compliment. And, really, have you had enough compliments lately? I didn't think so.

The cookbook is organized a little differently than most, in that it's organized by menu. The menu titles are charming: "White Gloves and Hats: A Silver and Crystal Tea" or "Twelfth Night: A Williamsburg Buffet for Eight" or "A Sunday Reunion With Very Dear Friends." See what I mean? It's kind of a throwback to the days of yore, back when it was totally normal to be invited to Sunrise Coffee or Holiday Dessert Coffee or Afternoon Coffee or Breakfast Coffee -- and seriously? How many types of coffee and coffee gatherings are there? (Note to self: Good topic for coffee lovers.)

So my first recipe from this book was a success. And just for you, I've included the recipe after the jump. And I've also included my edits, because I am horrible at actually following recipes.

Continue reading "I Never Met A Quiche I Didn't Like" »

Season's Greetings

April 22, 2009

We have some neighbors who, let's say, greet each holiday very enthusiastically. Thankfully, the most enthusiastic neighbor is one street over and down a block - so I don't see their house unless I purposefully try to. Which, you know, I've kind of developed a fascination with. So I try to often.

When they put up decorations at Halloween, we didn't think much of it. Some people do that, that's cool, the orange and black lights hanging from their rooftop just provide a little extra lighting for kids trick-or-treating and it definitely spotlights them as a candy-friendly home.

Christmas wasn't that big of a deal, because nearly everyone in our neighborhood pulls out the lights, whether red or multi-colored or classic white, whether large bulbs or icicles outlining the home's frame. That's normal. I get that.

And then Valentine's Day approached, and our one very enthusiastic neighbor put up pink and red lights. With heart-shaped garland draped around the lion statuettes on either side of their sidewalk. And romantic greetings splashed across their windows. With giant candy hearts and cupid blow-up dolls on their lawn, blown full-size by some sort of air-blowing machine. And that was a little weird. Who puts blow-up dolls on their lawn for Valentine's? I mean, I get that February 14th is somewhat of a major holiday. I understand the commercialism of it. But really? Decorating your house like that? That is a little over the top.

Photobucket

And then St. Patrick's Day rolled around. And kelly green lights were donned. Shamrocks graced the lion statuettes. Enormous leprechaun blow-up dolls stood tall in their yard. It kind of became a spectacle, and I decided that if they would decorate for Saint Patty's, then I would be disappointed if they didn't decorate for Easter. Because Easter is totally a better holiday. St. Patrick's Day has no point, other than drinking green beer. Easter has a point.

Photobucket

Continue reading "Season's Greetings" »

How Chirky Got Her Groove Back

January 08, 2009

Last week while getting ready for the day, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was looking at my arm, longing for the days when it was toned, defined (well, and tanned for that matter). Back to the days when I could do one-armed push-ups. Multiple one-armed push-ups. In a row. That was 10 years ago.

I pursed my lips and narrowed my eyes, wondering if I still could. Lowering myself to the bathroom floor, I looked at the tile beneath me and laughed. There was no way I was going to be able to do it. And, sure enough, I proved myself right. So I tried a regular push-up, feet together, arms shoulder-width apart. I got eight inches off the ground, arms shaking, before I collapsed half-laughing at my ridiculous attempt and half-groaning in pain. I considered doing girly push-ups – the kind with my knees on the ground – but decided that if I couldn't do a regular push-up, I wouldn't do them at all.

Now, one week later, I'm kind of mad at myself. I am but a weakling! When did I become such a wimp? When did I lose my ability to push my body off the ground? And how can I get my old body back?

Fine, I know how. I haven't been to the gym at all in the past week, and this is why: I am secretly afraid that the gym has been overrun by new people and their New Year Resolutions. I don't want to have to wait for an elliptical, or groan with impatience when I walk up to the dumbbells and find that there are no weights below 35 pounds available. I don't want to pretend that I'm using one machine while I'm actually waiting for the machine I want to open up. And I think it would be impossibly rude of me to stand near the machine I'm stalking, arms folded, tapping my foot harshly against the carpet while staring at the poor guy who's just trying to get a good hamstring workout.

So this gives me two choices: (1) give up completely, wallow in self-pity and reach for another brownie; or (2) suck it up and go to the gym at a different time. I'm re-organizing my day to accommodate choice two, but dude – that brownie sure sounds good.

New Year Resolutions, Chirky Style

December 31, 2008

For the past many years I have ignored making resolutions, mostly because I know that within a couple weeks (or days, or hours) I will have already abandoned whatever proclamation I've made. Until last year.

Last year I resolved to Get Out More, to do and try more things, to explore new areas of Dallas. Then Roger and I bought a house, and started remodeling, and on top of that we both made new career moves. While the year has been full of change for us, it hasn't been full of exploration. So I'm planning a Resolution Rollover, and adopting last year's plan to 2009. I can do that, can't I? But that's not my only plan.

I'm making a second promise to myself: to get more organized. This is kind of a shoo-in, because Roger and I just finished designing our closets and will soon have walnut and platinum storage systems lining our closet walls. For the past few days I have been near-drooling over the upcoming installation, and this is why:

I Love Organization

We have two closets in the master bedroom, and this is the first closet. The second will have drawers and shelving, which will completely eliminate our need for our collective three (three!) dressers and armoires. And maybe that is what I'm most excited about: my evil plan to eradicate all extra furniture. So minimalist! Clean lines! Be still my heart; thou hast known no better than this.

And so while I'm organizing my home and exploring my neighborhood, I'm curious to know what you'll be doing. Have you made any New Year Resolutions?

Thirty Looks Good On Me, Particularly That Deep Brown Ochre Shade

July 14, 2008

I woke up yesterday morning with creaky bones and achy muscles. I have nothing to attribute to this - unless you consider a marathon cookie-baking session for a friend’s going away party that I co-hosted the night before – other than old age. That said, yesterday I turned another year older. I am 30 now, and truth be told, it wasn’t quite as frightening as I expected hitting this age would be. Except that time when my father-in-law gently pointed out that I was leaving behind my third decade and beginning to work toward my fourth. Uhh...har, har, har. Thanks for the reminder.

The highlight of my weekend – beyond the surprise Roger arranged for me: a massage and facial and foot scrub and hot towel wrap and ... sorry, where was I? I kind of got lost there, wishing I was back on that table with not a care in the world.

Aside: that’s a lie: my mind couldn’t stop spinning throughout the entire massage. It was a couple’s massage, and Roger arranged for me to go with my friend Erica, and there’s nothing more awkward than two modest women left alone in the same room to strip down and get onto our respective massage tables. We finally agreed on turning opposite directions, pulling off our clothes as quickly as we could, and then diving for our tables and yanking up the sheets. It worked, by the way, and I’d totally do it again. We thought we had arranged for two women to give us the massages, but as it turned out I had a woman and Erica had a man, and so I spent the massage alternating between worries: (a) was Erica okay with that man? - Incidentally, I tried mouthing to her, “Are you okay with that man?” but she couldn’t see me because it was, uh, dark. I thought maybe her eyes had adjusted and she'd be able to see me, when in fact I think her eyes were closed; and (b) what does my back look like when I’m lying down? I honestly have no idea. Does is spread all out or stay taut? I wonder if my masseuse has ever massaged anyone who was really, really big? And do massage tables have weight limits? And I wonder what her most horrifying client story is – maybe someone who had really bad body odor? Or just someone who couldn’t relax? Oh, wait.

Neuroses aside, the highlight of my weekend was sitting very still while Roger painted henna art on the tops of my feet. I absolutely adore it and can see myself making more trips to Indian grocers for henna, more henna, must have henna.

Before I washed off the ink

What I Did Not Know

June 10, 2008

The Capitol Building

Visiting a city like Washington, D.C., where so much of our nation’s history has been determined, we figured there would be lots to do. We knew we wouldn’t have enough time to call on even a quarter of the places on our list. We already planned on several more trips, over several more years, so we could take it all in.

But we didn’t know we would be so charmed by the city and each of its micro-burbs, like Georgetown and Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle. We hadn’t planned on adding Washington, D.C. to the ever-growing list of Places We Would Consider Moving To. We didn’t know we’d be so enamored by how clean the subway system was.

I didn’t realize how patriotic I would feel, how my chest would swell with pride knowing that I was examining the very artifacts and statuesque faces that set our country’s freedom into motion.

We spent a morning in the Holocaust Museum. My second visit was just as somber as my first.

Not at all like the penny.

We hopped on a Tourmobile and visited the Jefferson and Lincoln monuments, re-enacting the post-Vietnam scene from Forrest Gump (but without wading through the reflecting pool), calling out Jeeennnnaaayyyyyyy!

Arlington Cemetery - Changing of the Guards

We stood quietly during the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery, and I was struck with respect for these men who have the honor of guarding the Unknown Soldier’s tomb.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

We walked along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, looking for the names of those who served alongside my father.

The White House

We strolled the perimeter of the White House, peering through bars and wondering whether the President ever got annoyed by the throngs of people. I mean, I would if thousands of people stood outside my home each day.

We drove along Embassy Row, marveling at the differences between each country’s embassy. We wondered whether each country buys the land and building, or if the United States gives the building to that country’s ambassador. We never found out.

Washington National Cathedral

We were stunned by the architecture of the Washington National Cathedral, gleaming white with grotesques and gargoyles standing at attention. The choir practiced as we wandered, making the cathedral even more angelic. We toured the building, and while we were in the sanctuary our guide audibly gasped and in a hushed voice, said Oh my goodness. Everyone look up at the rose window right now.

We obeyed, slowly turning around, uncertain what would greet us. A bright light, brighter than the sun filtering through the stained glass, glinted down. As we moved around the room, the light turned from the brightest white to a royal blue to a deep purple.

Ah, I See How You Gleam

The man who made this window loved his wife dearly. She died while he was constructing the design, at exactly 5:25. Distraught, and wanting to memorialize her, he placed this special glass in the window. The glass was situated in the lower right corner, just where the 5:25 index is on a clock. This is only the second time in eight years I have seen it glowing. The sun has to hit it just right, and you have be standing in just the right place at just the right time, to catch a glimpse of it. That moment was one of the most memorable of our trip.

There's a Reason They're Called the Rolling Thunder

Without question, though, what I reminisce upon most tenaciously were the bikers. The Rolling Thunder motorcycle group came from all over the nation – a local told us they saw license plates from as far away as Alaska – to take part in an annual ride in memory of fallen comrades. What started as a salute to Vietnam soldiers now encompasses other wars, like those in Desert Storm and Iraq.

About 100,000 Harleys infiltrated the streets of Washington, D.C., and on Sunday morning they rode. They rode with American flags trailing behind their motorcycles, they rode with POW and MIA flags fluttering in the wind. They rode with pride, with the memory of their brothers. They circumnavigated the Mall, thousands and thousands and thousands of them, the noise from their pipes bone-rattling loud, and I couldn’t NOT cheer.

Rolling Thunder Salute
image © Matthew Whatley, used with permission

I cheered in memory of my own father, remembering the stories he told me about the unwelcome retaliation he received for being a soldier. How he, as a Navy SEAL, returned home to endure people spitting on him as he walked through the airport in his fatigues. I cheered because these are people who served our country so long ago, who fought so that I, and so that others I do not even know, could have freedom. They fought so that others might not live under oppression. They fought, and they deserve our respect.

I did not know that I would stand in the road, so close that my hair would whip around my face, and shed tears with each passing veteran.

But I did, unashamed.

(The entire set is available on Flickr.)

How To Make Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

February 20, 2008

Roger and I usually don’t make a big fuss about Valentine’s Day. We keep it low-key with dinner at home, something a little nicer than we generally eat, and we just spend time together. I love it so much more than going out to eat or to some sort of performance, or whatever it is that other people do on Valentine’s Day, because in general I think the holiday is just too commercialized. There’s too much pressure on guys to do something special for that one day, which I think is lame. Guys should do something special because they want to, not because they feel obligated by society. And since Roger does special things for me so frequently throughout the year, Valentine’s Day is really just like any other day. Except with more dishes for me to wash.

During lunch on February 14th, I got a wild hair and decided to make chocolate-covered strawberries. Blame that ad I saw in AmericanWay magazine, if you’d like. Here’s how I did it:

Makes me long for summer
Wash and dry the strawberries. Be sure to dry them really well, because water causes melted chocolate to seize.

I like to chop it first
Melt the white and milk chocolates. In separate bowls, preferably. Lay a sheet of wax paper on the counter.

Dip it low
Holding each strawberry by the stem, dip it in the white chocolate, swirling to cover the berry completely. Once dipped, gently shake the excess chocolate off the berry. Hold upside down for a moment to make sure the chocolate adheres to the berry’s flesh.

Letting the chocolate dry
Place the strawberry on the wax paper to dry. This should take 3-5 minutes.

Not fully dressed
Once the strawberry is completely dry, dip it from side to side in the milk chocolate to form a “V” shape. Replace on the wax paper and allow to cool again.

Tuxedo detail
Scoop remaining melted chocolate into a small plastic Ziploc bag. Clip off a corner of the bag – as tiny as possible – to pipe on the buttons and bowtie.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries - Finished Product
I didn’t melt enough of the white chocolate, so I couldn’t make all tuxedos. To make the chocolate strawberries with white chocolate drizzles, I dipped half of the strawberries into the milk chocolate and let them cool. I poured the remaining white chocolate into a plastic bag, clipped off the corner, and drizzled the white chocolate over the milk chocolate bodies. It was a good solution for the limited time I had, otherwise I would have just melted more white chocolate.

I dropped off some of the chocolate-covered berries at Roger’s office for a sweet after-lunch surprise, and took the remaining strawberries to share with my co-workers.

They’re best to eat the day they’re made. This isn’t usually a problem, since the strawberries don’t last long.

Honestly, I Couldn't Have Picked Out A More Perfect Card For Myself

February 15, 2008


(Click for larger image)

Roger gave me this card at midnight the morning of Valentine's Day, because he couldn't stand the thought of having something for me and not sharing it. We're kind of like that, generally unable to hold back surprises, because we're just so excited to give them to each other.

I love 3D cards, and I love glitter, and with all the elements of this particular card, it's absolutely perfect.

I'm not so much of a bath-taker, except when I'm relaxing. I can spend hours in the tub, bubbles and all, reading a book or flipping through magazines.

I've even been known to fall asleep soaking in the bath. It's because I'm hardcore like that.

Happy New Year, 2008!

January 01, 2008

Last night Roger and I hosted our Fourth Annual New Year’s Eve Dinner Party. We started at 8:30 p.m., but should have begun so, so, so much earlier. Enough time with good friends is never enough.

The Closest of Friends

We ate. (Menu for the evening: Chicken Saltimbocca, Warm Spinach Salad with Pine Nuts & Prosciutto, and Green Beans with Lemon-Ginger Butter. Dessert: Caramel Toffee Crunch Cheesecake and Chocolate-covered Oreo Truffles. My thighs are only slightly larger than yesterday, but that’s what we have New Year’s Resolutions for, right?)

We drank. (Roger made me a killer Cosmo. I tried to re-create it again for myself, from the same recipe, and it was a disaster. A vodka disaster. So I kept adding cranberry juice, to no avail. And that’s when I started pouring cherry juice into it. It wasn’t bad after the cherry juice -- of course, almost nothing can be bad after adding cherry juice -- but then again I don’t think it was a Cosmo after that, either.)

Am The Only One Still Drinking.

We were merry. (For Christmas, Roger gave me a digital camcorder. If only I could figure out how to upload and edit videos, you could be merry with us. The laughter, the cigars, the food, the games (a new fave: Loaded Questions). I hope your New Year’s Eve celebration was every bit as lively and fun as ours.)

The Un-Cosmo

And to you, a toast to you, Internet (with the cherry-infused Cosmo that I made myself, rimmed in yellow and red sugars):

May this new year bring you closer to those you love; may this new year give you all of the good things and only enough of the rest to remind you how good things really are.

When Harry Met Chirky

December 14, 2007

The problem with buying gifts for a white elephant gift exchange at work is that I always end up picking out something that I want, and then I spend hours scheming on how to either (a) wrap it so that no one will pick it or (b) steal it the third-time-round so no one can steal it away from me.

And then I wonder: why go to all that trouble? Why not just buy one for myself? It’s only $10, afterall.

The problem with that, you see, is that then I’ll look like a copycat. I can’t buy something for someone else and buy one for myself also, and then give one away because then I’ll either look like I’m copying them or I’ll look like I think my little cubicle decorations are so awesome that everyone needs to have the same type of decorations that I have.

Even though the ONE cubicle decoration I have IS awesome. It’s also the gift that I had originally planned to give away in the white elephant gift exchange, before I sequestered it for myself. I just couldn’t bear to let it go.

Meet Harry. That’s not his given name, of course. He’s an Ugly Doll, and his original name is Target. I can’t call him Target without wanting to take a trip down the street to SuperT, so I renamed him Harry. This is why:

A one-eyed, snaggle-toothed doll with a hairy chest! Am I alone in thinking that is unbearably cute? Perhaps a face (and, er, a chest) that only a mother could love?

I’ll tell you what I’m NOT alone in, though: keeping gifts for myself that I’ve bought for someone else. And I know I’m not alone in this because Roger also has a white elephant gift exchange at work. And Roger loved his gift so much that he decided to keep it for himself, too. (Wow, all this gift-buying and gift-keeping makes us sound incredibly selfish. We’re not actually selfish at all, we just happened to find two things in a store that we were each destined to have, even though we didn’t know it at the time. Well, okay, maybe we DID know it, but wouldn’t keeping it for ourselves just make us responsible members of society, since we could recognize that we wanted it, keep it, and vow to buy another gift? That seems very responsible to me.)


Roger’s gift: a tape dispenser (in red). Get it? Tape? Ha!

Anyway, so now we both need to go shopping for gifts again, and neither of us know what to get. Roger is thinking something along the lines of a gift card, but I can’t tell you where because some of his co-workers read this site. (I’m looking at you, Lulabelle.) I can tell you this, though: it’s a good store. I would totally steal that card.

But what should I get? Internet, I need your help. And since I know how opinionated you are, I figure you’re just the ones to help me. What have been some of YOUR favorite gifts to give (or receive) at a white elephant gift exchange?

Unwrapping The Days

December 04, 2007

Have you ever had an advent calendar? Because I’ve never had an advent calendar before, and for the past couple of years I’ve actually been longing for one. It may be a fantasy, but I believe there is something magical about opening the little doors and finding a prize inside. It’s as if a secret Santa wrapped 24 gifts for me to open every single day in December and then bundled each of those gifts into one tiny, concise space. And if those prizes are each chocolate – even better, Lindt Lindor chocolate truffles – then life is just that much sweeter.

So this year, on Black Friday, I marched (well, okay, I drove) to World Market and bought myself an advent calendar. I think it may be the best purchase I’ve made all year, even better than our new coffee table. (Well, that might be taking it a little far. I do love our new coffee table.)

Each night, with giddy anticipation, I look forward to opening the tiny paper windows. I carefully push them in (so as not to tear the box), then brace the outer perforated edge while delicately pulling one side of the window open to reveal a truffle waiting inside. I open the second half of the window, lift out the tiny package, and then partially close the windows again so that I can tell they’re open, but not open too wide.

I carry the truffle to the kitchen, twist the edges of the wrapping, and then flatten the foil around the little candy to form a miniature platter before I cut the chocolate in half. Roger and I each take a half, place it in our mouths and let the creamy texture melt. So far we’ve had Extra Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Extra Dark Chocolate (again).

I know it’s only the first week of December, but I’m already kind of dreading Christmas Eve – only 20 days from now! – because that will mean that I won’t have any more paper windows to open, and I won’t have any more excuses to eat half a chocolate truffle every single night.

I’m trying to decide if it would be overboard to take the Advent Calendar one step further by purchasing twelve more. That way, instead of counting down the twenty four days before Christmas, I can count down the three hundred sixty four. (Although, hmmm...my math isn't quite right on that. It seems that I would need to buy at least fifteen more boxes.)

I think I could justify that, don’t you?

Considering How Much Money We Spent,
They Should Call It Green Friday

November 26, 2007

Did you go shopping on Black Friday?

Roger and I did.

Let me tell you: I never thought I would be so excited to buy a new vacuum cleaner. For the past several months I’ve been more and more frustrated with our old vacuum because it just pushes dirt around the carpet. It smells like a wet dog when we turn it on, and we’ve never owned a dog. It doesn’t even make lines in the carpet because it simply doesn’t work. I still try to vacuum, just for the sake of feeling clean, but it’s kind of depressing when your carpet looks dirtier after you’ve vacuumed it. We’ve changed the bags and the belts and still nothing. It just sucks. (Well, not literally. The problem is that it doesn’t suck at all.)

When Roger assembled the new vacuum, he realized that the bag-less dirt container can double as a machine gun. A transparent machine gun.

We also bought a mini-vacuum – the dust buster kind – for small jobs, like cleaning all the debris in front of the fireplace after bringing in logs.

We purchased a humidifier, which we expected to use immediately but instead had to wait 24 hours while we soaked the filter. It’s got an auto-shutoff function that triggers based on the humidification sensor. So far, the humidifier has been running for 36 hours straight. Apparently our apartment is extremely arid.

We also bought a new ironing board to replace ours, which is so old that it was causing a rust transfer from the board onto our clothes. Through the board cover and pad. Roger outfitted our new ironing board with an inch-deep layer of cushy foam, and I can’t help but press my hand into the board every time I walk past it.

To top it all off, I went to Target and was given a coupon for free Duncan Hines freezer-to-oven brownies! Free. No strings attached. They’re in my freezer now, but I bet they won’t stay there very long.

Memories in the Baking

September 18, 2007

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve baking goodies with my mom, or decorating tins upon tins of Christmas cookies with my grandmother. It's no wonder that I've turned out to be the sort of cook that I am: the sort of cook that rarely bothers to measure ingredients, the sort of cook who'd rather wing it and pray for the best. I watched as they whipped up silky batches of mashed potatoes and juicy, fall-off-the-bone roasts and perfectly salted homemade popcorn, the kind made in the iron skillet that burst from under the lid as it grew more and more fluffy, begging to be released into the giant wooden bowl for our consumption.

For the past few years I have been making birthday cakes for my family and friends, a tradition passed down to me by my mom. I've taken it a step further, incorporating candies for texture and dimension and dominating the icing, bending it to my will.

Both my niece and my nephew celebrated birthdays over the past two weekends, and I commemorated their special days with special cakes of their own.


My mom with Annabel

Annabel, my niece, turned one. Her motor skills aren't exactly fine-tuned yet, so I thought cupcakes should be the order of the day. That way she could eat her cake – face first or fingers first, it didn't matter – and we could, too.


Each cake was double the width of a traditional cupcake
(Click to enlarge)

I made butterflies, dragonflies, bumblebees and ladybugs. I used icing for decoration, sour straws for texture, M&Ms candies for the ladybug dots, licorice rope for the antennae, jumbo sprinkles for the eyeballs, edible glitter for a little shimmer and giant sugar crystals just because I could. Who doesn't love giant sugar crystals?

CLICK THUMBNAILS FOR LARGER IMAGES

Bumblebee


Butterfly


Dragonfly


Ladybug


Chase, my nephew, turned four. For the entire month leading up to his birthday, all he could talk about was a shark cake.


Chase, The Birthday Boy

I scoured the Internet and didn't turn up much, so I created the shark myself. Or, I should say Roger helped me create it, since he drew up the blue prints for the shark. Something about being a guy and watching too much of the Discovery channel made our shark a little fearsome.


Snaggly-toothed shark
(Click to enlarge)

For the shark, I decided to make two separate cakes: a white cake for the ocean, a red velvet cake for the shark's body. That way, when you cut into the shark, it would look like blood. And if there's anything a four-year-old boy wants to see, it's blood.


Bloody!
(Click to enlarge)

I made the red velvet cake in a loaf pan, so that we could carve it into the shape of a shark. I used the white tips of candy corns for its teeth, and smoothed icing over its body for a sleek look. Roger cut a licorice wheel into the shape of a fin, which we connected to a toothpick and then covered in icing before attaching to the shark's body.


Leaping out of the water
(Click to enlarge)

All the cakes took a loooong time to make, but it was so worth it to see the reaction of the guests at each party when they stole their first glance at dessert. It was so worth it to watch Annabel grab her dragonfly by the handful and squeal in delight when her fingers pressed through the mushy icing. It was so worth it to see Chase's eyes light up and turn to me in wonder when the first cut was made into the shark's body.

These are new memories in the making, not only for the younger generation of my family, but for me as well.

Comments and questions regarding these cakes and others can be directed to jes(AT)chirky(DOT)com.

Now I Know I'm Lost Somewhere Outside Of San Francisco

July 17, 2007

For the past couple days I've been trying to figure out how to sum up our trip to San Francisco. In a word: Fabulous. It was more than everything we thought it would be, if that is possible, since we had high expectations. And if you told us that we had to return tomorrow or never again, I think we might both head straight home, pack up everything we could possibly fit in our collective suitcases, and go.

I can't possibly renumerate to you the number of times my thoughts drift back toward our few days there, how often I send silent pleas to God in hopes that Roger will be offered a position soon, how frequently I've found myself on Craigslist looking at apartments, or how many times I've redesigned in my mind's eye what our moving announcements might look like. I am already planning weekend trips to Muir Woods and picnics to nearby beaches and the places we'll take our family when they come to visit. The problem is that we don't even live in California. Yet.

And that's why I want to give you a little piece of advice, Internet: If you've never visited San Francisco, don't. She'll seduce you like a kid in a candy store. She'll overload your senses with the sights and sounds and smells of her city. She'll give you just enough to leave you full and satisfied, but you'll still find yourself wanting a little more. And just when you're starting to get the hang of things – maybe you're finally pronouncing Haight correctly (note to Non-San Franciscans: it rhymes with "late," not "kite") or perhaps you've finally figured out which bus line to take without first asking every driver whether you're getting on the correct vehicle – she'll turn you out to make room for more visitors. As you walk away from her, your shoulders hung low, you'll discover that you're already trying to figure out how quickly you can return.

And perhaps that is the best way I can sum up our trip to San Francisco. We're stuck in limbo, asking ourselves how quickly we'll be able to return.

Smells Like Beef and Cheese

December 30, 2006

Why must, once you get on the plane, someone begin eating smelly food? I saw all of you, each and every one of you sitting in the waiting area, bored. Every single one of you. BORED. And not eating.

And then we boarded the plane, and got comfy in our very tiny seats, and once we reached cruising altitude, and before the flight attendant even had begun to prepare her beverage cart, YOU, Mr. iPod and Receding Hairline, produced your smelly food from the deep recesses of your carry-on luggage.

I cannot see what is making such a stench, but it smells like corn-nuts. For breakfast! At 5:37 a.m.! You should be outlawed!

This is, afterall, only a two-hour flight. And I recognize you from last night, last night when we all sat together grumbling about our cancelled flight, phoning our family and friends and credit card company concierge services to request overnight accommodations. I’m certain that your hotel offered a continental breakfast, one that did not involve corn-nuts, and that the offending snack was really an impulse purchase made in the secured area of the airport by The Receding Hairline.

Those crunchy little wads are a $3.49 snack of horror. They reek. And I think they're ranch-flavored. RANCH-FLAVORED. CORN-NUTS. For breakfast! At 5:37 a.m.!


Editor's Note:
Please forgive. Was written from a very small seat while the scent of ranch-flavored corn-nuts invaded. Also, it was a very early flight. And also, I didn't get much sleep, since I was up at 3:45 a.m. to catch the flight. And also, I was tired. OMG. Delirious.

Pieces of Me

December 22, 2006

I’m spending the next hour on a plane from Dallas, TX to Greensboro, NC, and my: these are tiny seats. I’ve flown the route before, but even with my past experience I don’t recall the plane being the exact size of a .357 Magnum cartridge. Why does it feel so small this time around?

The cabin has a double seat on one side and a single on the other, and I am fortunate enough to have a single. That’s because, in general, I hate strangers and their elbows and armpits and knees that stretch into my space, and in some cases, excrete foul smells.

When I first arrived at my seat, I looked down at it and decided it looked abnormally small, like maybe it had been made for a child. I sat down, and as my hips scraped past the plastic armrests, I thought, “Huh. I better not gain any more weight, or I’ll be like those people who need to pay double for two seats, just to be able to sit on the plane.

Aside: I just looked down at my hands, and the bright glow of the monitor is illuminating the surface of my skin. Combined with the darkness of the cabin, I can see every crevice and wrinkle on my fingers and across my knuckles. Y’all! I’m getting old. Look at all those wrinkles! Get me lotion! I need lotion! Better yet, Botox! Injected into my haaaaannnnnddddsssss!

So anyway, these seats are so miniscule that my knees are protruding into the bald man’s back. The bald man is sitting directly in front of me, and we just learned the hard way that I shouldn’t be crossing my legs during this flight, and that he shouldn’t attempt leaning back. I have the tray down so I can write, but half my computer is engulfed by my belly, and my wrists are fixed permanently to my sides in an effort to comfortably reach the keyboard. Say hello to my organs: they’re leaning against the space bar r i g ht n o w.

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel a little awkward when the flight attendant is motioning through all the You May Die, So Wear Your Seatbeltmotions? I never quite know what to do with myself.

I’ve got the schpill memorized, so much so that sometimes I wonder whether I could be the attendant’s assistant so he doesn’t have to march up and down the aisle wildly waving his arms with sundry apparatus in tow.

Sometimes I try to read my book, but the entire time I’m only reading the same sentence over and over, so aware am I that I’m not paying any attention to the attendant’s speech. I become convinced that he knows that I, specifically, am unsuccessfully trying to ignore him.

Will I get in trouble from some airline-type mafia? Does it offend him that I’m not hanging on his every word? I think if I were a flight attendant, I’d carry a gun that shot Styrofoam pellets, and every time I caught someone paying no heed to me and my Very Important Instructions, I'd pop a pellet against their skull. Right? Because wouldn't that be what patrons deserved for ignoring me?

I looked up and watched the flight attendant for a couple minutes, and then I became self-conscious because what if everyone else on the plane is watching me watch him and they think it is my first flight, and that, in fact, I don’t know how to buckle my seat belt? And then, again: Why do I care?

I looked around to see what others were doing, so that maybe I could copy them, and when I whipped around, some of them shifted their eyes to me. Which meant that I couldn't tell what they were doing. Why am I acting like I've never flown before? Traveling is my most favorite thing to do, like, ever.

No, seriously: I love to travel. That's why I am baffled by my recent paranoia concerning flights. Every time I board an airplane, I have a secret fear of Death by Suction. You see, I’m certain that there is someone – nay, something – with a chainsaw just below me. A quiet chainsaw, so that I can’t hear its roaring engine, and I imagine that the chainsaw is cutting a circle out just below my seat. But only my seat. Not Roger’s, or anyone else's, just mine.

I'm certain that in a few moments I’ll drop through the hole, still safely buckled into my seat, and I’ll fall through the sky, and the pressure of the air at 36,000 feet causing my brain to explode into a million little pieces. By the time I hit the ground, I’ll have already spewed cranial tissue over the roofs of the houses below me. And my body will be so badly disfigured from the fall that I’ll be unidentifiable, except for the millions of needle marks on my hands.

(Botox injections, remember?)

I don't know why I have this sudden and irrational fear. But I can't stop myself from thinking it. Even as the plane goes wheels up, I remind myself not to think about it, and the fact that I'm reminding myself makes me more aware that I'm trying to NOT think about it.

It's a vicious cycle.

Written December 22, 2006, from 36,000 feet.

On Traveling, Procrastinating, and Panties

December 21, 2006

The past two days I've been consumed with one thought: packing. I'm leaving today to visit family in the Carolinas for Christmas, and I have to do things like take clothes.

This shouldn't be that big of a deal.

Except when you're me, and then everything related to packing becomes a big deal. I had all night Tuesday night to prepare for today. I also had all night last night to prepare for today. And I'll let you guess how I spent that time.

I know, okay? I know. You're right. I'm lame.

Tuesday, after dropping Roger off at the airport, I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. playing on the computer and alternating between episodes of Family Guy and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Where is my sense of responsibility?

To make up for the time I dwindled away on Tuesday night, I went shopping at SuperTarget on Wednesday after work. And then I went to see a movie at the theater. And then I went home and watched the Weather Channel. My life is so exotic.

I finally crawled into bed sometime after midnight last night, having packed far too many pairs of underwear (I'm vying to be hired as Britney Spears' role model) and certainly not enough pairs of shoes.

Speaking of Britney Spears: you may want to take a look at my newest pet project, BritneySpearsWatch.com. It's packed full of her latest escapades, which are at least a tad bit more interesting than the seventeen pairs of panties I'm bringing to North Carolina.

Unless you're my husband, of course, in which case my panties are more interesting.

What's the thing you want most after Thanksgiving and before Christmas?

December 15, 2006

Y'all: the turkey just arrived.

Day to Give Thanks

November 23, 2006

This morning my eyes popped open at 5:45 am. I couldn't stand it anymore - I just had to get in the kitchen and start on the Thanksgiving turkey.

Is anyone else as excitable about cooking as I am? We need to meet. Wanna be neighbors?

I hope each of you have a delightful Thanksgiving - a day filled with good food, gracious friends, loving family, and full hearts. Speaking of, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Turkey

November 22, 2006

Tomorrow morning, for the third year in a row, I am cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving. Doing this each year reinforces the fact that I Am An Adult Now, an adult who should not try to take a nap while my mom washes the dishes. She tries to help reinforce that fact wherever she can, sometimes in the form of pots banging together above my head.

Anyone want to come over for Thanksgiving? I dare you to take a nap.

My mom is practically a goddess in the kitchen. I grew up not with a few favorite dishes, but with an arsenal of cuisines and meals my mom had created over the years. I am so thankful that she introduced me to so many different types of foods, because it helped me become the woman I am today: one who eagerly eats chicken feet (with talons!). That said, I am not a picky eater. I maintain that I will always try anything once, including pig intestines, particularly if I don't know what I am eating before it goes into my mouth.

The first year I made the Thanksgiving turkey, I was somewhat nervous. My mom had only requested that I bake a small turkey, about 8 pounds. Meanwhile, she made an enormous honey-baked ham to use as back-up in case my turkey tasted like an overcooked piece of tar. You know the meat I'm talking about: the kind that you chew and immediately wish you hadn't put in your mouth? The kind that you regret putting on your plate because how will you get it off without eating it and without your host noticing that you couldn't swallow one more foul (fowl? Ha!) mouthful?

When I arrived at my mother's home that morning, she was delightfully surprised that the turkey was golden brown rather than charred black. It smelled perfectly edible, and when she cut into it juices ran down the back of the small bird's body. By the end of the day, guests were picking the meat off the bones and commenting on how delicious it was, how perfectly moist it was, how in their 76 years of life they had not eaten a turkey as good as that one.

I shot my mom a smug look and a raised eyebrow, the look that I've trademarked over the years, and she beamed with pride. Her daughter could cook. And when I told her the recipe came from a local radio DJ, she didn't believe me.

The next year I used the same recipe to roast a 17 pound turkey, and the turkey turned out equally well. This year, I am making a 22 pound turkey. TWENTY TWO POUNDS. That's, like, the weight of my nephew.

I'm all about minimal work, fool-proof recipes, and impressing people. And this recipe for our annual Thanksgiving turkey (courtesy of the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning radio show) has it all. Whether you're looking to showcase your mad cooking skillz while entertaining a house full of guests or you just want your mother-in-law to adore you, read on for the recipe. But chef beware: keep a large supply of pillows on-hand. That tryptophan will seduce turkey eaters into slumber every time.

Continue reading "Thanksgiving Turkey" »

I kept hearing dad yell, "Turn on the bilge pump!" Except I didn't know where the bilge pump was.

July 05, 2006

This is the thing: I've never driven the boat from start to finish. I've really only driven it once it was already out on the lake, and even then, I only drove it at high speeds while dragging some unsuspecting soul by a rope.

So! When some friends said they wanted to go for a joyride on the boat this weekend, and I offered to drive, I had no idea it would be hazardous. Even though I did know the water levels were about two feet lower than normal. And even though my husband piped up with, "Hah – there's no way I'm driving my father-in-law's boat without lessons. I'm not stupid."

Continue reading "I kept hearing dad yell, "Turn on the bilge pump!" Except I didn't know where the bilge pump was." »

Re-gifting

December 22, 2005

Nearly everyone has received a gift at some point in their lives that couldn't be used, particularly, in that recipient's life. Gardening tools for someone who lives in an apartment. A pair of jeans that don't fit and don't have a receipt. A hunting rifle for a PETA lobbyist.

I recently read an article by Jocelyn Noveck (an AP writer) about regifting parties. I think I would like to organize and host one this year.

The rule: you bring a gift (Christmas, birthday, wedding, etc.) that you've received and can't use. You wrap it nicely. Everyone is free to trade (without revealing what gift is inside) until a designated time.

Then a warning bell rings, and within 15 minutes or so, the order comes to unwrap what's in your hands. It's yours. And whatever you get, you can't go home unhappy. You started with something you didn't want anyway.

Distractions

December 05, 2005

The wind chill in Dallas was 20 degrees this morning. If only it had been raining, it would have snowed! And I TOTALLY would have had a snowball fight.

A friend must have read my thoughts, because she sent me a game to play (even while knowing that I am easily distractible). Thus, I challenge you to a Snowball Fight. May the best aim win.

Oh, Fudge

December 22, 2004

It's 9:38 a.m., and I am eating FUDGE. Heavenly fudge. The kind your grandma makes at Christmas, and that you sneak little pieces of when she's not looking. Not because you're trying to be sneaky, but because it's SO GOOD you just can't keep your little fingers out of it. I'm obsessed!

There's a woman in my office, the grandmotherly type, and I just walked past her desk on my way from the copier. And then I quickly retraced my steps, heading back to her desk again. Because on the top of her desk, as I walked by, I saw an enormous plate of fudge squares. And I took one.

Now I'm not sure how I will have enough self control not to go back to that plate again. I just want to trade desks with that woman for the day and sit there, fat and happy and eating all that fudge. Heavenly, HEAVENLY FUDGE.

Business Casual, Holiday Dress optional

December 12, 2004

Next time I get an invitation to a Christmas party that reads "Holiday Attire" or "Business Casual, Holiday Dress optional," please point me toward my own website.

This year my employer held such a party. And coworkers were really vague about what that meant. And I didn't know what it meant. And lo: I am ignorant.

I mean, I know what business casual is - I dress that way everyday to go to work. But Holiday Dress??? What IS that? I assumed it meant that some people could wear holiday attire if they wanted. I didn't know what holiday attire was, but apparently someone did. I was imagining the ladies wearing sweaters and vests of sorts with black slacks. The kinds of sweaters and vests that are embroidered with christmas trees and jingling bells. Or perhaps with ribbons and bows and laughing snowmen and prancing reindeer. You know: the kind of sweaters sold in the old lady section. (Uhhh...sorry mom. But that is where they are.)

I WAS NOT IMAGINING FORMAL DRESSES AND SUITS. AND LOTS AND LOTS OF SEQUINS.

Continue reading "Business Casual, Holiday Dress optional" »






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