Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Cooking

I'm so excited to get cooking for Christmas. Mom does a bang-up job on the main event, serving a hefty beef tenderloin and all our favorite sides (squash casserole this year, Mom?). As for me, I'll be making a coconut cake with lemon filling and cream cheese icing (Dad's running request) and, if it works out, an oatmeal pecan pie (another one of Dad's favorites, and B's too), but the thing I'm most excited to make are my Grandma's rolls.

Each Christmas, Sunday brunch, and "I feel like it" Tuesday, my Grandma would make a huge batch of her buttery yeast rolls. The recipe makes two full cookie sheets of the two-bite morsels. They're delicious warm and even better cold when you can stuff them with leftover tenderloin or slices of ham.

B's excited to try them. So far, all he knows is that you don't cut them with a biscuit cutter, but rather a drinking glass, and that you dunk them in butter before popping them on the cookie sheet and basting them with (ding! ding! ding!) more butter.

Grandma passed away this year in March and at the time I was so heartbroken. I live only a few hours from where she lived, in Florence, but that was the week that I'd flown to Durham then driven to the beach to see B for his spring break.

The circumstances couldn't have been worse. Delta lost my luggage, in which I'd so foolishly packed my phone charger. So my phone died the Friday night of my arrival (due to my calls to Delta) so when Mom and Dad called me on Saturday to tell me about her death, my phone was totally, well, dead.

I have a terrible habit of immersing myself in whomever I'm around, so when I'm with my family, I tend to ignore all phone calls from the outside. Same when I'm with B or his family. So my parents assumed that I wasn't checking my phone or perhaps had turned it off. On Sunday they called B's phone and when he called out, "It's your mom," I just knew.

Losing someone is never easy. I'd imagine so, at least. I'm blessed to have limited experience with the situation. But Grandma was 97 and, having baked at least 2,000 pound cakes, was no longer baking for herself or for others. She'd help me in the kitchen during the holidays, dunking the rolls and adding an extra splash of butter when she thought I wasn't looking, but her real joy had been taken away when she'd moved out of her house at the age of 95.

Grandma spoke through food, easily making it her love language. It was understood that you took seconds, regardless of if you'd piled your plate high the first go-round (clearly a rookie mistake). She remembered favorite dishes, or dishes you even commented on. One of my siblings brought a then-significant other over and she commented on the chicken fingers. Bless that girl's heart if she didn't have to eat her weight in chicken fingers every time she went to visit Grandma.

I think I got a little of that from Grandma. Nothing makes me happier than making dinner when B and I are having a quiet night and, to be totally honest, I get the little flutters in my stomach when he finds something he really loves and asks for it again.

I can't wait to share the Grandma rolls with him this Christmas, our first actually spent in the same place. And maybe we'll give the rolls an extra dunk of butter, for good measure.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is It Friday Yet?

I have a bad habit. Or good, depending on how you look at it. When I have to go out of town, I hustle and stay late ahead of time to get stuff done, which means that as the week winds down, I'm left with very few things on my to-do list. So I'm prepared, but I just look lazy at work. At least I can head out tomorrow with peace of mind!

This entire week has felt like Thursday, so each day I've had to tell myself that the next day is not in fact the end of the week, but rather the midway point or, worse, just Tuesday. Not sure why--I think the holiday factors in and I know the idea of seeing B tomorrow does as well. It's been three weeks since I've seen him. So ready.

I'm just ready to get going. The holiday is going to be busy, but pretty segmented, which is nice. I'll head to see B this weekend in Atlanta, then we'll both come back to Birmingham for a night, then on to Florence for Christmas, and assorted wedding tasks. We've got back-to-back engagement parties in Florence and Atlanta, then we'll celebrate New Year's with some of B's high school friends. Before we know it, it'll be B's birthday and the start of another semester of law school for B and another year of work for me.

Where did 2008 go? I hope I take the time to reflect on this year a little bit. So much has happened... two new babies, an engagement, B completing half of law school, sharing a city with B for the first time in three years, losing Grandma... So much packed into a single year, and yet it feels like the blink of an eye.

For now, I can't think about that. I can think about the cleaning and packing I need to do between now and noon tomorrow. And I can think about seeing B again in Atlanta. And how happy it is to have this time to celebrate with both our families. But for now, I'll just think about how it's almost Friday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Cards

God forgive me. I love my Grandma, I really do. She's the same fabulous lady that I attend church supper with each Wednesday night. Having turned 90 in April, she's amazingly active, driving all over Birmingham (watch out for the white sedan!) to attend volunteer meetings, ladies' luncheons, bridge games, water aerobics, and, of course, shuttling her "elderly friends" around.

For serious. I love her. Hope to have her energy when I turn 90. Her motto? "I'd rather wear our than rust out," which she often tells us when we warn her to slow down or put her feet up every so often.

One thing that cracks me up about Grandma is her Christmas letter. Each year, she sends out a one-page missive to friends, family, and church goers documenting her year. While you might expect her letter to read something like my first paragraph ("I see bridge friends at least three times a week and catch up with my water aerobics buddies two mornings each week."), instead it reads as more of a reflection.

I wish that when I was first added to the list (having my own address and all) that I had saved her letters. They were always wonderfully and unintentionally hilarious. After the 2006 mailing, in which she opened by announcing the death of her cardiologist from a heart attack, my aunt was dubbed head editor, presiding over the theme and tone of the letter. When the 2007 mailing included a few, um, catchy references to family members, my aunt defended herself, "You should've seen what I edited out!"

This year's letter arrived yesterday and again I find myself cherishing each and every word, starting with the documenting of the Alagasco employee discovering a leaking gas pipe that brought carbon monoxide poison but NO BROKEN BONES (her caps, not mine) and ending with her elegant signature.

My favorite line this year is personal. Apparently this card was written, but not mailed, just before the birth of the latest great grandchild. Luckily, there was time for a write-in addition. Unfortunately, there was not room in the appropriate spot. See how you interpret this:

A 6th grandchild arrived in February and we expect a 7th any moment! Then J & L's married children will have 2 children each! A, J's 4th's child [That's me!] will marry B in May 2009. What a wonderful event to look forward to this coming year! And now we have another baby in the family.

Does anyone else read this and see the words "Shotgun Wedding" flash through their minds? I love it. Makes me smile. I don't know the people this goes out to so if they read it that way too, then she can just update them next year in the letter. That or they can send me baby presents. Either way.

Just a note... I always hesitate about writing something that someone might read as mocking or hurtful (well, when I know the person at least), but I had to share this because it warmed my heart. I know Grandma won't be around forever to assign premature pregnancy or document her life in the death of others, and when the letter stops, I will miss it terribly. Plus, while Grandma's letters are typed and not hand-written (how do you think my aunt gets to proof them?), she does not use the internet, at least not that I know of. Whew! Love you Grandma! ...just in case.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Life in a Small Town

A fellow Florence blogger posted on her own blog about a small-town Alabama newspaper that had an "Around the Town" features column on the back of its four-page edition. Apparently, as she says, "If you've blown your nose in the past week, or maybe taken a shower or eaten a meal or two, [you can] call 555-867-5309 and have it published." Don't believe it? Check out a few of the featured items:

"Audie gave Carolyn some really nice pecans. It was a nice surprise. Thanks, Audie!"

"Mary, STACY, and Russell carried Ora Mae out to eat at Ryan's on Thanksgiving Day."

"Howard talked with Ora Mae on the phone Sunday afternoon."

"Lessie, Viola, and Nomie shopped Friday."

"Shirley made a trip to see her doctor last Tuesday."

"Braxine enjoyed a telephone conversation with her brother."

"Margie's son carried her out riding on Thanksgiving Day to several places. She really enjoyed the outing."

"Violet visited her brother Bug in the hospital several days last week."


I love it! I should also point out how much I love the names. She changed them to protect the good-hearted peeps, but I think that the ones she chose just added to the overall vibe.

Welcome Baby Ethan!

My brother and his wife welcomed their sweet baby boy, Ethan Wilder, into the world just two days ago. I can't wait to hold this little guy. I told him last night, over iChat (he's a super smart newborn), that if he's walking by the wedding, he can be a legit ring bearer rather than an honorary one.

SkyMall

Tis the season to travel, so the next time you're number 27 in line for takeoff, take a peek in the SkyMall magazine in your seat back pocket. You might just find one of the gems referenced in the Best of the Worst of SkyMall 2008, which includes several evergreen and classy gift ideas such as a pair of truck antlers (to get your Tundra for the real tundra), a slanket (because we're just that lazy), and a double umbrella.
Looks like the economy is doing just fine, kiddos.

Off and Running

Today is already out of control. Came in this morning and discovered our homepage is tinted a lovely shade of sugar pink. If it had turned red, at least we could call it festive, but with pink, it just feels like we're early for Valentine's Day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Weekend at Home

It was awesome being at home for a weekend and getting little things taken care of. It's just hitting me that in the next week, at some point, I'm going away and won't really be back again until 2009. I think my kitchen deserves one last 2008 cleaning. It's earned it. In the past year, it's seen cake pops, a barbie cake, a sprint Thanksgiving dinner, several large batches of taco soup, innumerable cookies and brownies, and even a piece or two of salmon. Yeah, it's earned it.

But instead of cleaning my kitchen (whatever would I do with my Monday night?), I did a few other must-do things, like the proverbial ton of laundry that had piled up, over the few days off. I also did a second run through my closet. In the first pass, last week, I pulled out things that I know I didn't want to keep, mostly for fit or poor-taste purposes, but this time I had a new tactic: If I hadn't work it all year, then it was out. My cleaning out is pretty noncommittal. Instead of boxing it up, I just move it to the other closet, so there's no real harm in deciding to give things away. Really they're just (literally) hanging in purgatory, so I can always go back and rescue them as needed.

Whew, I'm over-thinking this. Maybe I need a pet.

Anyway, I got some good cleaning and cleaning out done, then a few wedding-related errands taken care of. Apparently, at Bromberg's, you don't register for specific silver serving pieces, but rather just specify that you want some, and then they let people pick from within their budget. Intriguing. No time to think that one through, but still seems... intriguing.

Saturday night I hung out with my baking buddy J while she made truffles (yes, truffles) and then headed home, where I woke up Sunday morning to the news of my new nephew. Ee! Wish I could go meet him today with my mom.

Sunday night, the girls and I got together for our mini-Christmas. Our real gift to each other was accidentally adopting three angels from the angel tree. Well, we meant to adopt one, and then two, but then our angel picker-upper L discovered upon check out that there was actually a third sibling attached. Best phone call yet. "Please don't be mad... I got three." We had such fun shopping for their "wants" and "needs" a few weeks ago (Need: pants. Want: Dora tshirt). Luckily she avoided the one that said, "Need: Nintendo DS. Want: Shoes." Crafty kids.

So we shopped a few weeks ago, then treated ourselves to dinner and a movie last night. Four Christmases was cute, if a little more introspective than I anticipated, and a sushi dinner always hits the spot, even after a bottomless bucket of popcorn.

I've had trouble this year getting reved up for Christmas, maybe because I'm weaning myself off the colorful holiday sock addiction (ok, throwing one tattered pair out of 12 away isn't much self-denial, I'll admit), but I think it's also being away from church so much this season. Thanksgiving was so close to Christmas, which threw off my calendar and with travel and new babies, I've missed most of advent. I'm sorry--I need candle lighting and carol singing, which makes me happy (ah ha! Gifts are the main point to me!), but frustrated too because there doesn't seem to be enough time to do it all before the season ends.

I'm really just excited for 4:30 tomorrow, when B finishes his final exam. Once I get him home and the baking started, somehow I think the spirit will come right in.

Number Six!

For once, when I reference numbers on this blog, I'm not simply counting rejections from priests. This time, I'm talking about the newest addition to our family. It's a boy! My brother and sister-in-law welcomed sweet little Name-To-Come on Sunday, December 14th. The stats, as reported by the proud dad:

21 inches
8 pounds, 9 ounces
Dark brown hair with short (masculine) eyelashes
10 fingers, 10 toes
No hip clicks or clunks (Ed Note: Dad obviously an orthopedic surgeon)
Huge feet (Ed Note: A family marker)
4.3 40 yard dash

That makes six nieces and nephews under the age of four. What did you do with your weekend? :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

On Hold with the Doctor's Office

I used to complain about obnoxious music playing in the background of hold messages while it looped the singular message, "Your call is very important to us, please continue to hold." I could go into the standard rant of if my call is so important, why haven't you answered? which did occur to me as I waited, until one word caught my attention, snapping me out of my daze: Fallopian.

Honing in, I began to listen to what was playing in between the looped messages and now I wish I hadn't. "Fallopian" was preceded by, "Make a tiny incision on the" and followed with "tube to ensure a less-invasive procedure than tubal ligation."

Ack! Was this a reading from the Physicians Desk Reference? A preview of what one might expect when heading to an appointment? That's like calling a bone surgeon and hearing his prerecorded message reading all the wrong and cockeyed ways your bones could heal. And the hammers and saws used to correct them. Like NPR, they'd play a soundbite, then bring in the voiceover, "The buzz saw is best for the sternum, as it is less invasive than the hacksaw."
Good morning!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Prayers for B!

He's in his first exam of the semester as I type this. Once he's finished with this one (4:30), he'll have two more left and then he'll officially be halfway through law school!

Santa is Lauging... At Me

Here I say I don't quite have the Christmas spirit yet. Then I look at my schedule:

Yesterday: Office holiday party
Today Noon: Lunch with dad
Today 4:15: Site launch Champagne toast
Today 5:15: Dinner with a friend
Today 6:45: Holiday party with Birmingham ladies

Boy am I sorry that I decided to cut corners and wear my cocktail dress to work with a little sweater and a long-line, um, underpinning. TMI, I know, but I'm serious that this is a great way to keep from overeating. One McCalister's spud and I'm good until, oh say tomorrow. Live (wear expensive dresses) and learn.

Christmas Party

Last night was our department's Christmas party. Due to layoffs and the economy (I assume, there's been no email update), our office isn't throwing its usual all-out holiday-fest here at the campus. It makes sense--if we can't afford to keep some people on staff, can we really afford to throw a party that easily trumps my wedding budget.... times five. Even though we don't get a party, it somehow feels better than if we did.

So last night, our department threw a potluck holiday party at a fabulous art loft in downtown Birmingham housed in what used to be a cooking supplies store, as evidenced by the still-hanging sign that reads "Kitchen Counters." Maybe it's laziness, but I'm betting that whoever left that as the name of the space embraced is as a cool arty name.

One reason I love my job so much is the people I work with. We were told to bring something, if we wanted to, and everyone ended up bringing such amazing foods... meatballs, tons of cheeses, dips, spreads, chocolates, cupcakes, hummus, and more. A wonderful elf supplied all libations and it was a wonderful way to feel thrust into the holiday season. I did miss B, though. Several people asked about him and it just made me want him there more.

The party went on for almost five hours, maybe more, but I left when the dancing started. Seriously, nothing good can come from that.

This year has been hard for me, "holiday spirit"-wise. I'm not sure what about the holidays makes me tick, so it's hard to kick-start myself into the festive feeling. It's not gifts, as I tend to just do them whenever. It's not the decorations, because I, well, leave mine up year around (I prefer to think of it as 'ahead' rather than 'lazy.' Come on, it's a ficus. It works.) Maybe it's the parties? The food? In years before, I think it was just spending time in holiday-type places: a store blaring Christmas music to keep the shoppers humming and happy, a mall food court decorated with more tinsel than Dollywood, the random wreaths attached to Jeeps around the south.

I think a big one for me is the monkeys. Hearing them talk about Santa and learning about the Christmas story just makes my heart swell. Church is another one. Not really the sermons or even services, but the ritual of lighting candles, hanging the greens, children's choir, and the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

Even though I'm done all my shopping (save B!), I'm not quite in the spirit yet. We'll see if tonight's Tinsel and Toddys part helps...

Sale at David's Bridal

They're clearing out all their novelty items. And they're hilarious.












Tuesday, December 9, 2008

One More Reason to Smile

The wedding is exactly five months away.

Perhaps I should've warned the moms not to read this one...

Roses & Thorns: Work Edition

Work this fall has been crazy. So crazy, in fact, that to prevent the stress-induced jaw clench that I'm prone to, I've taken to wearing my bottom retainer at all times. Yes, I'm that kid sporting the shlight lishp during meetings, phone calls, and coffee-pot conversations. Don't hate. The upside of that is that I can't clench my jaw with it in and it's working to straighten my teeth. I'm sure my boss things it's more wedding-induced than stress related, but I'm ok with that. I'll take the perception of vanity over tense jaw muscles any day!
Long intro to the real story. Yesterday I got called into my boss's office where she asked me if I wanted the good news or the bad news first.

Um. Bad. I'd always rather get that out of the way first. Seems to make the good news sound better, or at least end the session on a high note.

So the bad news is that there will be no merit-based raises this year. Understandable. Frankly, I'm just thankful to still have my job. But still, I think they typically give you a 3% bump just for playing nice at the office, which somewhat offsets inflation. Not getting that basically means taking a pay cut, in theory if not in number. So that's a bummer. Plus I've been working really hard toward the goals my boss and I set out last year at my annual review. Now, even if I get them all done, it will be "good job," not "good job, and we're thanking you with X." Greedy? I don't think so, but I guess it makes me more reward-oriented than I previously thought.

The "good" news is that we're unofficially getting three extra holiday vacation days this year. Why the quotes? Sure it's nice to get extra days off, but most people had already planned to take those days, therefore reserving those days and not taking vacation during the rest of 2008. It actually helps me because I can get out of town a little earlier than expected. It's no bonus, but it'll do!

So now that means I'm hitting the ground running even harder at work to get things done in advance so I can take advantage of those extra three days off. Otherwise, I'll still be in the office, and that's definitely a no-go.

For the next week and a half, I'm going to be writing, programming, and packing. Can't wait!

Weekend Update

...though definitely not as entertaining as the SNL skits as of late. And by late, I mean dead. Dead after the election. Here's hoping for a revival. I could use another "bummer free zone" declaration around here.

This weekend was fantastic. Mom and Dad whisked me away to Atlanta where they attended the SEC championship game (sad) and I shopped myself into happy oblivion. It was somewhat acceptable because a) I was getting things I needed (ie, new boots) and b) it counted as Christmas for me. I love walking around malls at Christmas, especially when most of my shopping is done. I can just enjoy the decorations and the Starbucks and the crazy mob people clamoring for anything to give the dozens of people on their list. This year, my immediate family drew names, making it a lot easier, and less expensive, than years past. Plus, more fun! I got to really think about my brother and his wife and what they might want, rather than just checking them off. Does this mean I'm getting older? Or just lazier... Time will tell.

Besides shopping on my own, Mom and I also ran around to a few bridal shops to find a dress for her to wear to the wedding. It's so fun to watch your Mom have fun shopping, looking for something just for herself. Mom has trailed me dozens of times as I hunted down the perfect (fill in the blank here), so it was super entertaining to be her posse, and finally be able to say, "Try that one on again." Ha! Love it.

The good news is that we got Mom a dress that she loves and that I think is fantastic. One of the highlights of the weekend. We also got to have brunch with B's parents, where the moms were able to swap engagement party invitations and talk shop about their dresses. It was wonderful having them together, and I only wish B had been there, too.

I got back on Sunday and got cooking on a few care packages and just unwinded with some wine as I got ready for the work week. It was definitely weird being in Atlanta without B, but nice to have some down-time with the parents, too.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas...

Whenever I'm doing mindless things at work (programming, setting channels, and so on), I pop in my earbuds and crank up the ipod. If I'm writing, I set it to a specific musical (Rent or Les Mis these days) and power through. I know the songs so well that they don't distract me and, crazy as it sounds, I'm really inspired by beautiful words and lyrics, so hearing I Dreamed a Dream or On My Own doesn't depress me, but rather gets me moving forward. My next purchase? Hopefully the Hairspray soundtrack. (I can feel you judging, you know.)
Most days, though, I set the ipod to shuffle and let it run away with itself. I like being surprised by favorites that remind me of college workouts (freshman year!), writing my thesis, and late-night chats in the dorm. Not knowing what will come next is liberating. One less choice to make.

Generally, this poses one problem--B loaded a ton of fabulous Christmas music onto my ipod, which is wonderful, but disproportionate to the number of regular songs I have (I haven't updated since... college. Oops.), which usually leaves me pushing the fwd button more often than not.

So this morning I was programming away when good old Bing starting singing about a White Christmas and as my finger went on auto-pilot to reach for the "next" button, I realized that it IS the Christmas season! Bring on Handel's Messiah and Mannheim Steamroller. More Charlie Brown Christmas, please! And you can be sure that Mariah's All I Want For Christmas will definitely be on repeat in the weeks to come.

It's official! Let Christmas begin...

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Seems even The Wedding Channel (a hub for all things marital) knows our officiant angst. This is the email I found in my inbox this morning:

Wedding Coordinators & Officiants

You want your wedding day to go perfectly -- use our advice to find a wedding coordinator and officiant you can trust.

Locate the most experienced wedding vendors in your area.

Interview several people to compare services, costs, and personalities.

Get and check references and accreditations.

Use our easy online Local Directory to find top-notch vendors near you, their contact information, and examples of their work.

I wonder if they cater to the Catholics among us?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mother-in-Law Ruminations

How brave is it to write an article about how terrible mothers-in-law are to their daughters-in-law when you've only been married one week? I'm going to vote Braveheart on this one. Not sure who wins, or how you'd ever know. Whatever she got paid to write the story, it probably wasn't enough.

Great Dad Humor

Caring for an infant is kind of like being a member of Prince’s entourage or an aide to Kim Jong-Il: You are responsible for anticipating the needs of an irrational person who is completely divorced from reality.

Found this hilarious article while dining on chicken soup at my desk. It's called The Newborn Ultimatum and is about a dad writing about becoming a better man after having a baby. As he says, "Not 'a better man' in some hokey, Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets way, but a better man, practically speaking. "

Take a minute to read his observations on raising a child. A few of my favorites...

Since Kate’s birth, I categorize all things in life into two categories: Things That Can Kill the Baby and Things That Cannot Kill the Baby. Open jug of bleach? Category one. Angry boss? Category two. By dealing with ultimate peril, you are much more calm and collected about all the other nonsense.

My daughter, while being the sweetest future MacArthur Fellow you’ll ever meet, has about as much common sense as a bag of Britneys.

An Even Six

B called me a few minutes ago during a break in classes...

B: I just called the new Father at the Florence church.

Me: Uh oh.

B: He seems confused why we'd want him to perform the ceremony if we already know the Abbot and the Abbot is only going to be 90 miles away.

Me: But we don't know the Abbot either!

B: I know, I tried to tell him that and he said that he thought the Abbot would be much more qualified.

Me: For goodness sakes. Is this six? Or is it seven.

B: I don't even want to think about it.

We're tabling the conversation until he's done with classes. Luckily, we both find this whole thing pretty hilarious. Who has this much trouble finding a priest? I feel like a used car--we've already done premarital counseling, have our paperwork processed, and are totally up for a traditional ceremony, no kooky twists included. Take us off the lot today!

Pie Success

I posted before Thanksgiving that I was desperately trying to find the recipe for B's grandmother's pumpkin pie with meringue topping. B's aunt came though and provided us with the hand-written recipe for the delicious pie. I'm thrilled with how it turned out, but I think B's grandma might've been more crafty than we suspected. Like my grandma, she offered instructions like "cook the filling" outside the pie shell, but no further details as to how or how long. We went saucepan for about 20 minutes on low. His dad and I were afraid to let it cook too long, thereby setting up in a saucepan rather than a pie crust, but I think we might've underestimated it instead. The result was a (delicious!) pumpkin pudding with a meringue topping and crust (mostly) on the side.

We've decided that (darn the luck) we'll just have to try the recipe again.

The other pies turned out amazingly well. The Candy Bar Pie was over-the-top rich, only slightly balanced by its pretzel crust, and the apple pie, well, I live for apple pies and this one was perfect.

Iron Bowl Favorites

Post-game, I caught a few of my favorites in full-celebration mode. Love them!

"Get Aggressive with the Bird."

That glorious soundbite used to play on the how-to video for cooking a whole chicken, though I think it applies nicely to B's approach to helping his dad with the 22-pound turkey we feasted on at Thanksgiving this year. B may kill me, but I think it captures our moods perfectly that day. Fooooooooood!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Baaaad Cakes

I've mentioned Cake Wrecks before, but for you skimmers out there, it's a great home-spun blog that features professionally-made cakes that of less-than-professional quality. Today she's featuring wedding cakes, alongside the photos the brides gave the bakers of the cakes they actually wanted. The results? Hilarious, and sad. Good thing I have the Cake Guru on my team!

Hmmm.. Blogger does not want to publish pictures today. You'll have to click through to check it out for yourself! Believe me, it's worth it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wedding Newsfeed of the Day

Hilarious. As I get closer to the "big day" (still more than 5 months away, mind you), it seems that my email address gets sold and resold and resold to vendors and other wedding-related people, including this one website that sent me the Celebrity Weddings Blog, which has such great tidbits as Britney's Plans for a Third Husband, "Hills" Stars Heidi and Spencer Marriage Details Revealed! (those quotes are in the wrong place, if you ask me), and Playmate Kendra Wilkinson Engaged -- Plan a Bunny-Inpsired (sic) Bachelorette Party.

Here's my personal favorite headline from the site. Seriously. Just man up and call it off!

Groom Gets Cold Feet and Sets Venue on Fire

Apparently last week, 39-year-old Japanese groom-to-be Tatsuhiko Kawata set fire to his wedding venue in order to get out of the ceremony. Pause for reaction… say what!?! In the early morning hours, the office worker started a blaze at a hotel in Yamanashi Prefecture (90 minutes outside of Tokyo) where he was to marry his fiancĂ© later that day. He didn’t do as much damage as he’d hoped. The fire was quickly contained, guests staying at the hotel were evacuated, and there were no injuries reported. The couple had planned to wed in front of 80 of their closest friends and family members. Kawata wasn’t arrested until he suddenly called off the wedding and started behaving in a suspicious manner. He later confessed to police. “I thought if I set a fire I wouldn’t have to go through with the wedding,” he’s said to have told police. Some reports are saying he wanted out because he was still secretly married to another woman, but that has not been confirmed. Either way, there are no words for how wrong this groom-gone-bad’s actions were. Shameful! Thoughts, ladies?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

For the past week or so I've been working on getting the registry organized. It's a weird thing to pick out things you want other people to buy you. Feels dirty. I do think it would be excellent therapy for compulsive online shoppers. If you're really just in it for the thrill of the purchase and not the actual stuff, then you can "shop" away, filing all those goodies into your registry rather than your cart and your AmEx bill.

B and I are still figuring out where to register. We need stores that are in Florence and Atlanta (ha.) that have the things we've picked out all the while being mindful of not registering at 100 stores, which would leave us with bits and pieces of store credit all over two states, more if you count our out of town guests. Thank God for the internet, as that makes online orders easier, but still.

Plus, you have to consider return policies at individual stores. I'm sure we'd love to register at Target, you know, for all those little things you actually need (towels, whisks, spatulas, cookie jars...), but word is that Target only lets you return by section. That means, if we somehow ended up with 500 towels, we could only exchange them for other towels, bedsheets, or curtains. Likewise, if we were gifted 10 whisks, we could only exchange within the cookware family. It's not so bad when you think about it, but organizing that exchange session ("I'll see your whisk and raise you a cutting board." "No, this receipt goes with that to exchange for those, not these.") just seems painful.

So it's no surprise that Macy's, where I added all my information for the registry before shopping so I wouldn't have to spell out both our names, addresses, phone numbers, so on & so forth, is not emailing me, upset that I haven't updated my registry with any actual products. The latest email is the best:

"we know you're not scared of commitment (but it looks like your registry is)"

They went lower-case and sans punctuation to make it look all friendly and low-key, but they're serious. Apparently I have 90 days before they delete me. That's the rule-- they delete blank registries after 90 days. However, your registry apparently lives on for years after your wedding date. You tell me how that makes sense.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

B's phone rings. "Deacon B" appears on the screen.

Me: Hi Deacon B! It's A. B is upstairs packing. How are you?

Deacon B: Oh, hi there. I'm doing fine, how are you?

Me: I'm great. I'm so sorry we didn't call yesterday to confirm this afternoon's appointment at the church. We were traveling all day and time got away from us.

Deacon B: Well I bet I was close to you yesterday. I was in Birmingham shopping at the Galleria.

Me: No way! That's wonderful. Well, now that I have you on the phone, are we still on for our appointment in an hour?

Deacon B: Well... I'm not feeling great and I was wondering if it would be too much trouble to reschedule. I hate to mess up your schedules, but I'd hate more to get you sick.

M: Not a problem. I'll have B call you later this week. Feel better, ok?

Deacon B: Ok. Thank you and have a nice afternoon.

Me: Bye.

The cynical side of me dances. We still have no priest and have twice been rescheduled/flat stood up. Granted, I have a soft spot for the sickies right now, so I appreciate him keeping his germs to himself. Just so long as SOMEONE agrees to marry us, I'm good. In the meantime, I figure I've got to be racking up some good points somewhere with all of this. Par for the course, my friends.

B Knows Football

B was driving through some ridiculous traffic today en route back to law school, so when I called to say hi, he asked for a score update. See, this is why we haven't upgraded to satellite radio or fancier cell phone plans--it keeps us close. Right. Anyway, I was happy to help him out. Little did we realize that it would be a telling conversation.

Me: Ok, here we go. Atlanta beat South Dakota 22-16. Pittsbu--

B: What? No, hon, it's San Diego.

Me: Oh right, why would South Dakota have a pro football team? Sorry about that. Back to the scores. Pittsburgh beat New England 33-10. Seattle lost to the Giants 23-7. Um.... Kansas City?

B: Right.

Me: Beat Oklahoma 20-13.

B: What? Hon, that's Oakland. Not Oklahoma.

Me: Crap! I thought I knew this. Shoot, wait, it says that Seattle lost to Dallas 34-9, but I thought Seattle played the Giants?

B: What does it say?

Me: WAS.

B: Washington.

Me: Right, Seatt--oh. I bet this turned out way more entertaining than you expected.

B: That it did.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Vanishing

Eep! It's been so long since I had five consecutive days off that I almost forgot what it's like to be devoid of computer contact for so long. A few more days and I might have never posted again... Ok, at least not until I got back to the comfort of my desk at work.

Tuesday night I headed out of Birmingham and headed due west toward Atlanta, where I met B and his parents for a delicious dinner at our favorite, um, ethnic restaurant. Malaya, off Howell Mill, serves Thai, Indian, Chinese, and just about everything else you can think of that can be made with coconut milk.

After a delicious dinner, we headed home then met up with a few of B's good friends from high school who mostly live in Atlanta and, I have to say, I love them. I love that he has such great guy friends and that they've managed to attach themselves to the best girls ever, thereby making any hang out time equally fabulous for the both of us.

Wednesday, I got B up pretty early and we decided to conquer our to-do list, meaning we got to the mall by 9:30 to look at everyday plates. For what it's worth, I think he got a much better picture of why I'd been so overwhelmed the weekend before; all we wanted were white plates and there had to have been 15 different kinds. Luckily, the store was empty and the sales people negligent, so we could poke around and move the plates from section to section to our hearts' content. A plate picked, we headed off to visit my ring's birthplace: the diamond playground.

We'd planned to pick out our wedding bands and see if we could get my ring sized. When R, the man who helped B before, saw the ring on my finger, he eagerly agreed to get it sized. Right now. Back by Friday. So, feeling totally naked (how does something become "normal" so quickly??), we picked out bands, which was much easier for me (oooh, sparkles) than for B (think? thin? lined? bling? er, no.). By noon we were back in the car and on the way home, eager to get started on the Great Thanksgiving Cooking Session of 2008. A quick stop by the grocery store and we were on our way.

Back at home, I got to work making a candy bar pie and a pumpkin pie with meringue topping while B's mom worked on, well, just about every dish you can imagine. Thanksgiving at B's house is, as he puts it, akin to the British soccer league; if a dish doesn't hold its weight, it gets bumped out of the lineup and a new dish comes in. This year, the classics included the much raved about pea salad (for which there is no recipe), squash casserole, stuffing, two kinds of cranberries, and a 22-pound turkey. There was more, but I'd need more server space to go on.

She prepped Wednesday and then Thursday launched the real marathon cooking day, during which B and I mostly watched as his parents fluttered around the kitchen pulling everything together just in time for us to sit down to a late afternoon meal with his parents, his brothers, and his dear next door neighbor. Sufficiently stuffed, that night we watched football and chick flicks (compromise, yes?) before turning in.

Friday we avoided the crowds at the mall and slept in before heading over to pick up my ring (perfectly sized!) and place the order for our bands. We stopped by Tiffany's in the mall first to browse other band types, which is always a hoot to me. Seriously, you sell jewelry. Nice jewelry, but still. Be nice to me! The lady that helped us was nice, but it was almost like she didn't believe us. It was great when B guided me straight to the exact section of the rings. I looked at him quizzically and he just shrugged and said, "I've been here before." Love it.

We met up with his friends that afternoon for a fantastic game of touch football (from which I am still sore) before grabbing dinner and meeting up with them again that night at Mr. C's for some beer and catching up. We turned in early to hit the Alabama game the next morning.

Saturday, we headed for Tuscaloosa for what would turn out to be an epic day. We met up with his aunt, uncle, and cousins for a preliminary house party ("tailgate" just doesn't do it justice), then headed closer to the stadium to see my family, including the crew from North Carolina. Mom and dad graciously let B and I sit in the Zone seats with my sister and her husband and it was fantastic. Sure, the shrimp and grits and scalloped potatoes were nice, but the company was what made it. That and the amazing, long-awaited victory over Auburn. Roll Tide!

We got home early Sunday morning, around 12:15, totally exhausted and super happy. What a perfect end to a great weekend. I'm still so impressed with us-- we managed to see three sides of the family this weekend: his parents, my parents, and his aunt and uncle. That's got to be a record for a first Thanksgiving together!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Ultimate in Baking Indulgence

This Sunday, J and I got together to embark on a baking extravaganza never before attempted this side of the Mississippi. Granted, I don't know where Bakerella is located (the mama of this brilliant idea), but I'll assume she's somewhere over there, just helps me keep my ducks in a row.

We make Cake Pops, brilliant little bite-sized creations of baked cake mixed with icing, then scooped into balls, dipped in bark or candy melts, and decorated, in this case, as turkeys and cup cakes.

It was crazy fun but also overwhelming. It looks so simple! Let me tell you, it is not. We started at 4pm baking the cake and five hours, four red-stained hands, and about 47 chocolate-covered espresso beans later, we were done. And they're so freaking cute!

Bakerella makes tons of these things and her Halloween ones were particularly super-cute. Her pops look way better than ours, but we comforted ourselves that perhaps she had to make 50 to get her perfect five, and this probably wasn't her first rodeo.
The verdict? Super fun. Set aside a day for it. Don't do it with kids if you're looking for perfection (and certainly ditch the espresso beans in that case!). Probably not a good idea for wedding favors. Believe you me, you'd still be picking red velvet cake out from underneath your nails even on your honeymoon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Love B. He knows I'm trying to declutter... organize, give stuff away, so on and so forth. So imagine the humor we both found in this IM exchange...

B: anyway, i was thinking, do you still have that toaster?

Me: yep, would you like it?

B: i think so

Me: ok, but know that it comes with three fondue pots and a juicer.

B: haha, no on the fondue

Me: oh, and did I mention the coffee maker? It's part of the package too.

B: whatever. i really just want the toaster

Me: would you actually like the juicer? I didn't hear a no.

B: not really

Me: well you can totally have the toaster. My mom tells me I should keep it because it's big enough for bagels. Making that good for two things I don't eat: toast and bagels.

B: but i like both

Me: perfect. So help me God, if I have to give this thing away twice.

B: we might have to do that.

The View From My Weekend

Fail.

Saturday afternoon, on my way home from plate hunting, my car started sputtering and jerking. I'd press the gas and sometimes it would be, but most of the time it wouldn't. I got it home (freaking out at B the whole way) and realized I'd have to call a wrecker to get it to the dealership.

PSA: Do you have AAA? You should. It's $44 per year, plus a one-time membership sign-up fee of $20. Then you can add other accounts onto yours for like $20. Best money ever spent. Use it once and it's paid for. Never need it? Lucky you. Instead use your membership for hotel and car rental discounts, which amount to about $10 off a pop. Christmas is coming! Make this your stocking stuffer.

So I called the wrecker on Sunday afternoon and he headed on over and promptly noticed that my car had a flat from tire. &*$&@*! What? When did that happen? I called B laughing, because you have to laugh when it's a holiday week and you're praying that the dealership will have someone actually look at your car. Turns out the poor sputter was probably a blessing, as I would've woken up this morning with a flat tire, had to call and wait for a tow-truck, missed half a day of work, etc. Just so long as the sputter is a quirk, and not a huge malfunction. Ok, I prayed, if it IS a huge malfunction, make it a ginormous one that's covered by my drive-train warranty.

So I get Grandma to take me into work this morning, bless her 91-year-old heart, but first we stop by the dealership just to put a face (and a short skirt, sue me) with a car. Maybe that's dumb. I prefer to think of it as "helpful." Heck, they would've gotten cookies if I could've gotten myself anywhere to buy the ingredients. I'm not above bribery, especially when it's of people doing things that I have no idea how to do.

About an hour later, safe at work, I get a phone call from Jake at the dealership, who informs me that my new oil change place, the one I raved about being open until 6pm, bless them, knocked my boots loose when they changed my air filter. So, remember, I have no idea about cars, so when he talks about knocking boots, I can tell you my mind did not go to engine regulators, but apparently it should have. The boots, as they were, were loose, letting "unmetered air" through my car. Basically, my car was saying, "She's pushing the pedal again, give her X amount of gas," but the car never heard that because the ears (the boots) weren't listening. So he's tightened the boots and all is well.

This is what I don't get about car places. "Boots" already means something to me, namely knee-high leather footwear. Pick a different word, or just reverse it. Stoobs brings nothing to mind.

So all is well. They've fixed my tire, tightened my boots, replaced a corroded positive connector for my battery, and given me new wipers. Yes, I went for the new wipers. I'm so happy the car's fixed that I would've gone for new floor mats if they'd offered them. I didn't go for the new drive belts, which are cracked, because apparently that can wait until the 60,000 checkup. Translation? A broken drive belt might mean my AC quits, but it won't leave me stranded on the side of the road.

What a day. Tonight I'll do the car shuffle, moving cars around Birmingham until everyone is where they're suppose to be. But today, oh today, I am oh-so thankful for easy fixes, and for the fun I'm going to have writing a letter to the oil change place. It pays to be engaged to a lawyer, you know. His first thought? "Ask them if it's going to hurt your car in the long run, because that's a direct liable suit."

My Life. For Serious

The site was having some trouble this morning. And by "some trouble" I mean that all the recipes were giving error messages, rather than their usual content (you know, how to make good tasting stuff). The best part though, is the error message itself:

Forbidden (403)
You have requested data that the server has decided not to provide to you. Your request was understood and denied.

Well screw you, server! How mean is that? "Um, yeah, we got that turkey you were looking for, and, well, we've decided not to give it to you. Not that we can't, we just won't. Yeah, we understand what you mean by 'turkey,' but we're going to go ahead and deny that request."

Has anyone seen my stapler?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Important, And Not So Important, Piles

I'm at a weird point in life where I'm trying to fully become an adult (though I still call and whine to my parents at the first sign of any trouble) and am starting to think about merging households with someone else who recently embraced his full adultness.

So, as I think about moving to B's apartment in May, I'm beginning to cull through my carefully collected piles of "stuff I'll deal with later," "stuff that I might need," and "stuff that maybe looks important." Oh, plus the bills, statements, and work info that I know is important.

What do you keep? How do you file it? I started using Quicken, though I can't figure out how to make it useful to me yet besides making me type in every. transaction. I. make. all. month. Painful, but helpful in seeing how many times I add a new entry to the "Eating Out" category. Yikes.

Right now, I'm thinking of folders. And three-hole punches. Ooh, and labels. I think this is a sign of Type A personality. I'd rather organize the organization than actually get the piles organized. So far we have Medical, Bills (paid), Bank Statements, Investment Information, FSA receipts, Charitable Donations, and Wedding, which gets its own bookshelf at this point.
B says that he keeps his bills, even after they've been paid and the check has cleared, which I guess makes sense. It's a record. But how long do you keep those internet payments to Charter? I know, I know, I should switch to online bill-pay anyway, but I like the check writing part. Sue me.

Anyone else have any great ideas of how they organize their lives? Seriously. The folders and I are ready to take some action. I'd love to find a way that worked for me and B, or at least didn't drive him crazy with unnecessary steps...

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

I see plates.  No seriously, whenever I close my eyes, my poor corneas bring to my mind's eye the now burned-in vision of plates.  Everyday plates.  Stoneware.  Fine China.  They're not dancing like the festive plates in Beauty and the Beast (but wouldn't that be nice.  I'd make a mint!), but rather are displayed in their "natural state," basically in rows and rows with unflattering department store back lighting.  That or they're perfectly set up on a table.  

Point it, when I close my eyes (in the shower washing my hair, the moment after I hit the pillow, or just prolonged blinks of the couch), I see china.  Some good (antique white, clean patterns), some not so good (did you know Paula Deen has a Nantucket-inspired crab line?).  Ok, so her pattern is cute, but I don't know that I could live with myself if I picked Paula's plates.

As B said, "Let's be honest, if a plate is covered with weird birds and dead trees, I'm still going to eat off it.  I just may not be happy about it."
Gotta love a man with standards.  And perspective.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Defining Moments

I've had several defining moments today. Some I'm proud of, many I'm not. A few were preventable (hello, please eat something before 3:30pm), some were not (why oh why is my car sputtering now??). All defining moments. All while trying to register. Which should not, for all practical purposes, be stressful.

B was a champ. He kept getting crazy phone calls about china patterns, everyday plates, store choices, and, finally, car noises. What's wrong with my car? Nothing, I hope. But it started sputtering between 0-24 mph, smoothing out after that. Sometimes I push the gas and it does nothing, like when I try to back up. Then the engine light came on. All things lead to "not good," but the service center is closed until Monday at 7:30 am, by which time I hope it will have "calmed the hell down" (the new M-coined phrase at work) and sorted itself out.
Otherwise, I'm going to have a date with the dealer, only it's really more like a surprise date since they don't know I'm coming. I tried to tell them, see, to set up an appointment, but apparently the dealership phone lady isn't the same as the service phone lady, so even though I suggested (rather kindly!) that she go check their appointment book (so as to know if 15 other people have the same 7:30 idea in their minds), she declined. Sigh.

The good news is that I think I found a china pattern that B will love, and some good options for everyday plates. I had no idea it was such a puzzle... finding something you like that isn't likely to be discontinued that is carried by stores in Florence, Atlanta, and Birmingham.
Nothing's been scanned or selected yet, but we have a short-list, I guess you could call it, that I'll show B when he's home for Thanksgiving. Then we're off to the races.

I had hoped this weekend would be a relaxing, calming weekend, but instead of having it handed to me, it seems that I'm going to have to make my relaxing weekend. I can choose to get upset and worry about my car, or I can acknowledge that there's nothing I can do about it until Monday at 7:30 am. I can choose to get caught up in the flurry of picking plates and kitchen items for a table and kitchen that I don't have, or I can enjoy it and think how blessed I am to have the luxury of shopping for such items.

Really I miss B and I'm pouting. It's my go-go-go weekend, so last night I tackled Quicken (go budget go!) and tomorrow J and I are taking on a fun baking adventure (details to come).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

With fewer than six months to go between now and the wedding, I'm starting to get my wedding legs (akin to sea legs, only less sculpted) about me regarding a few things. Today's lesson? Wedding registries. I have lots of thoughts and rants that I'll save for a rainy day, but for now I'm just trying to fill out my information online to save a little time at the stores when I go browsing this Saturday.

So I'm typing my details (name, wedding date, state) into one of the sites and it comes back with this:

We have found the following registry that matches the name and wedding date you provided...

Ashanta Johnson & Brian Kelly, 8/25/06

For serious? Did their system recognize any part of my information? Maybe it thought I was confused? And that wedding was two years ago! I guess Ashanta and Brian are still holding out hope that someone is going to buy them that roasting pan. Dream on, kids. Dream on.

"The Day of the Ax"

Ooph, what a title to give November 19th. Seems like our friends in the press would go a little easier. After all, they're in publishing, too!

As most of you know, layoffs are looming and publishing is in trouble, at least for me. We'll see what today brings following two weeks of nonstop layoffs. How is today suppose to be the bad one? Aren't they all bad?

As the article says:

TIME Inc. today becomes not a publisher of magazines but of pink slips instead.

Pray for the people getting bad news today, right before the holidays, during what can at best be described as a down-turned economy. What a day!

...and for the emergency meeting my boss just called in fifteen minutes. I think I'll switch to a more stable career, like investment banking.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Make Boneless Wing Dip

B's favorite thing in the world (beside me, I'm sure... at least most days) is wing dip. Of the things I've made or that we've made together, wing dip is by far the most requested, most sought-after, and most highly spoken of. Luckily, it's also the easiest. Courtesty of my friend H, the recipe for wing dip is a cinch. It's perfect for tailgating because it packs all the great flavor of your favorite wings into one dish that can be eaten with crackers or a fork. Plus you don't find yourself alone with a pile of chicken bones at the end of the night. It's football season--Get cooking!

Wing Dip

8 ounces cream cheese (fat free, 1/3 fat, or full fat, pick your poison. We go free or 1/3.)
1/2 bottle Ranch dressing (again, pick your poison. We go low fat or fat free.)
1 package chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins
8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
Wing sauce
4-5 stalks celery, finely chopped

Poach chicken or start with already cooked chicken, shred and toss with wing sauce, just enough to coat. Spread chicken in the bottom of an 8X8 glass pan. In a separate bowl, combine equal parts Ranch dressing and cream cheese, stirring until combined and (mostly) lump free. Spread over chicken. Sprinkle chopped celery on top of Ranch mixture. Top with shredded cheese. Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil. If cheese isn't melty, then kick it up to 400 for about five minutes, uncovered, until the cheesy is melty.

Serve with Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or a pile of forks and enjoy with the game!

Wonderful Weekend Away

With work being crazy (our President, the 2nd one in two weeks stepped down today), it was so amazing to get out of town for the weekend. B persuaded me into coming on a last-minute trip to Durham and I'm oh-so-glad I did. As great and stretching as Pre-Cana was, we barely had a minute just to talk, something they probably assume you don't need if you're in the same city as your betrothed. Not us. I'm a talker.

The weekend started off with a bang. Atlanta had a pea-soup cloud coverage, so both my flights were about two hours late. Luckily, the flights meant to leave before mine were running about three hours late. Thank you, no checked luggage, I was able to hop on the "earlier" flight and arrive on time on both legs of my trip despite not setting foot on my actual flight either time.

B picked me up at the airport and whisked me home to peace and quiet. We did absolutely nothing Friday night and loved every second of it.

Saturday morning, B got up early to read for a while (ah, law school) then came in a while later to wake me up. "You have to take your birth control," he said. "See? I'm involved." Love it. Apparently you need to start about six months out. Not sure if it needs that long to get in your system or if that's just to make sure you don't react. Either way, hilarious, and a great way to wake up.

We headed out soon after to go see my sister's family, but made a quick detour to pick up a cookie cake and a Cookie Monster cupcake, both to celebrate my sister's recent defense of her dissertation topic. B's mom called as we were on the way in to the store, so I chatted with her while poor B had to place the cookie icing order. "Um, and can you write 'Yea Mommy!' on it?" He's the best. The cake was for the family and the cupcake, well, we'd been dying to bring my niece E one for a while. She'd seen the picture I posted on the blog a while back and loved it. You can tell by the picture that she liked her version!

Saturday afternoon we grabbed lunch at Panera, browsed Home Depot (unsuccessfully) for patio furniture, then headed home where we got the recipe for B's favorite, Wing Dip, and walked to the grocery store.

There's a reason I love B's apartment so much: You can walk everywhere. It's like bringing the big city to the little city. Within walking distance are two supermarkets, a movie theater, Super Target, Sam's, a dozen or so little restaurants, and a CVS. And I love that he walks everywhere to pick up things. Fabulous!

So we walked to the store, grabbed Wing Dip supplies, and settled in for a great night of sinfully bad food and Alabama football.

Sunday was another perfect day. We headed out (walking, of course) to this cute little Mexican restaurant where the prices are low and the food is, at best, plentiful. We stuffed ourselves silly, then browsed Target for a few Christmas presents before heading to the theater to watch the new Bond movie. Loved it! Great fight scenes, fun dialogue, and an entertaining two hours. What more can you ask for?

We headed home for a little more football before driving to the airport for my late-evening flight. Two day trips are tough because they're short, but they're oh-so needed these days, especially when we can just kick back, do a little cooking, and enjoy life. Well, life and a big box of Muna Cookies (he loved them!).

Great weekend leading up to a tough week, work-wise, but Thanksgiving is only about ten days away, and I can't wait.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Feeling Loved

Feeling loved is...

arriving to find your favorite drink in the fridge.

leaving blankets nearby for any snuggling needs.

stepping into the shower to discover your fiance has stocked it with your favorite scrubby soap, a little purple razor, and two new bottles of shampoo and conditioner, even though he only uses 2-in-1, because he knows your hair gets tangly when you go the combo route.

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

Visiting with B this weekend and having a great time, but had to share some fun tidbits. Like we've been told, we're always learning about each other, and always will be. Tonight I discovered something that almost dissolved our would-be union.

Me: I can't marry you.

B: What? Why?

Me: I just opened your peanut butter. It's almost empty, but the contents are completely level. That's not normal. I can't do completely level. How do you even do that, with a spoon or a knife? Do I need a spatula?

B: Would you still be able to marry me if I told you I did that eating from the jar with Vanilla Wafers and it's level because that's as far in as my hand can reach?

Me: Ah. Yes. Definitely yes.


Plus I have smaller hands. This may be a match made in heaven after all.

Wedding Planning Moment of the Day

In the past three months, I've given out my email address, wedding date, and shoe size to almost any website or vendor that has requested it. Samples? Thank you. Discounts? Yes, please. But these are all new sites. Contrary to what most guys might like to believe, we girls don't sign up with TheKnot.com or register at stores just for kicks before getting engaged. Imagine my surprise then when Amazon.com, my tried-and-true book seller, sent me this (unsolicited) purchase suggestion:

Essential Manners for Couples: From Snoring and Sex to Finances and Fighting Fair-What Works, What Doesn't, and Why

Apparently, the book addresses topics including...

Permissive flirting: How to define parameters and enjoy verbal combat with the opposite sex.
The "Chore I.Q." test—are you really divvying up the workload fairly?
When you hate her friends: socializing with the enemy.
Enter children: Good parents still spend time together as a couple.
Bedroom etiquette—getting beyond the headache excuse.
Interactions with in-laws—smooth merge or crash and burn?
Where to go for the holidays: surviving family visits and how to say "no."
Balancing life with your other significant other—your work ... and much more.

Oh boy. I think I really do have a headache...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Muna Cookies

I think I'm nesting. I have this huge desire to throw all of my stuff away (so as not to have to pack it in April), to clean my apartment, and to introduce B to all my favorite foods of childhood. So far, I've promised him creamed corn, made him sweet potato casserole and meatloaf, and filled him with lots of sugary baked goods that remind me of growing up.

But today, oh today, he's in for it. I'm heading to Durham and I'm taking Muna Cookies with me. Muna Cookies are the brilliant creation of my friend's Grandma, whom she dubbed Muna. We spent long weekends growing up on Muna and Papa's farm where we chased Chester the Bull (from the safety of the driveway), rode around the pasture in Papa's Mouse Truck (again, a name given by my friend), and generally having a blast. Muna let us make doll clothes, paint little wooden toys, play dress up with her fabulous dresses, sleep upstairs in the loft/attic space, and climb around in the barn. She makes the best biscuits and gravy I've ever had. You think you've had better? Her gravy was chocolate.
Note to self: Ask Muna for chocolate gravy recipe.

So last night I whipped up a batch of Muna Cookies, made from yellow cake mix and a splash of vanilla, and remembered the good times we spent on the farm. As I read the recipe, I loved discovering the notches of a signature recipe. "Bake until golden brown." I had to call my friend. 8 minutes? 10? My timer-constrained mind had to know. "Ha!" she wrote back. "I've always been told to bake them until they 'look right.' I'll set a timer next time and let you know, but I'd bet between 8 and 12 minutes, and it's always better to go under."

Another great gem? For these cookies, you roll the batter into balls, then press chocolate chips into the top, "as many as you'd like." Sneaky Muna. Of course we'd be happier if we could see all the chocolate chips. Brilliant.

If you have a hankering for super easy, over-the-top delicious chocolate chip cookies that are light as feathers and guaranteed to be tasty, give this recipe a try this weekend. You may just find something new to leave for Santa.

Muna Cake Mix Cookies

1 box yellow cake mix (or any flavor you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
½ cup oil
3 tablespoons cold water

Chocolate chips or M & M’s Mix cake mix, oil, egg, vanilla and water. * (less water makes a more crisp cookie) Form into balls. Press as many chocolate chips or M & M’s as you wish for each cookie into dough. Bake on large cookie sheet at 350 degrees until lightly browned.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Puppies!

For all of those apartment-dwellers out there who would love a fluffy furball to pet and snuggle but can't bear to trap one inside your yardless dwelling, take a gander at these six puppies, just hanging out, on a webcame that their owners set up so they could check on them while at work. When I first looked, there were over 40,000 people watching. It's like the Truman Show, with chew toys.