Friday, December 19, 2008
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
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
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
Monday, December 15, 2008
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.
Friday, December 12, 2008
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."
Thursday, December 11, 2008
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...
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
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
Thursday, December 4, 2008
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.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
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
Here's my personal favorite headline from the site. Seriously. Just man up and call it off!
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 fiancé 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
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
Friday, November 28, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
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.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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
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
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.
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.
Friday, November 14, 2008
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
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.