Sunday, December 30, 2007

Life After Death

My grandmother has found eternal peace.

Apparently it was an easy passing, and since she had been completely incapacitated by the stroke and the broken hip, all of us are relieved that she didn't have to endure a long, drawn-out end.

As I was explaining to Miss Pink what was going on--my mom had called this morning before church--I said, "We're going to miss her, but now she's in a place where she can walk and talk with no pain, where she's with her husband and her parents and both of her sisters and Jesus and all of the people in the Bible..." and while I was talking I got an image of my grandmother sitting with all those people she loves around her, and it was a comforting thought, to know she would not choose to come back here even if she could. As C.S. Lewis said, the character in the Bible who most deserves our pity is Lazarus. Mamaw lived a long life, had a good death, and now she is with God. For a Christian, that sounds like the best possible place to be.

Oh, and I bet she plays the piano and makes the apostles sing hymns even if they don't feel like singing right that very moment. A word of advice to St. Peter and the gang: she can be very insistent; it's best just to give in.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Egg Doesn't Fall Far from the (Overdramatic) Chicken

Proof that Miss Pink is developing more sophisticated tastes than her simple family of origin?

"I can't eat these chicken nuggets. They taste...overcooked."

After I tasted them and determined that they did not in fact taste any different than nuggets usually do, she claimed that they left a bad taste in her mouth after she swallowed and that she should eat some sour gummy worms instead. Her parents did not agree and politely told her that it was up to her whether or not she ate her nuggets, but she would not get any candy until they were eaten.*

Weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth followed. At one point in the drama she offered this insight into her emotions:

"I just...feel like a...ROTTEN EGG!"

Have you ever tried to disguise laughter at an inappropriate time as choking? Because I do it ALL THE TIME.

*Yes, I am aware of the irony at denying a child junk food until she eats her OTHER junk food. But at least nuggets have protein and it was ALL I HAD TO WORK WITH. Plus she had already eaten an orange. Thus endeth my parental justification.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Night

Here it is Christmas night--all the presents have been opened, an amazing amount of food has been eaten, and a wonderful nap was taken (by me). And now I should quit using the passive voice. All that to say: we are having a lovely time here in Louisiana with Justin's family. My kids are especially happy to play with their cousins (other kids are SO much more fun than boring old grownups who are always saying things like "Not now" or "Put that down.")

I hope you are all blessed, and happy, and enjoying your family. We will be returning home on Thursday, and that's always nice too.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Warning: you'll gain weight just reading this

In case you have some extra time this weekend for making holiday treats...[pausing here for you to laugh hysterically] here are a couple of excellent, EASY recipes. Or maybe you might not want to. I just ate three not-too-big pieces of the chocolate candy and I SWEAR my pants are already tighter. However, that has not stopped me from making plans to make more tomorrow.

Pine Bark
(aka Christmas Crack, because it's FREAKING ADDICTIVE)

Line a cookie sheet with foil and cover with a single layer of saltine crackers (1 sleeve will fit a 13 x 9 pan. Relax, anal people who must have everything JUST SO--there can be small gaps between crackers; it will be fine.)

In a small saucepan, melt together 2 sticks of butter (don't even THINK about using margarine!) and 1 c. brown sugar. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over crackers and spread with a spatula to edges of pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with 2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips. After 1-2 minutes, they will be soft enough to spread with a spatula. Can be sprinkled with chopped pecans. Cool and place pan in fridge. When hardened, peel foil off the back and break apart. Keeps best in the fridge and tastes like crunchy toffee!

Almond Bark Candy
1 24-oz pkg. white-chocolate-flavored almond bark coating
1 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 c. roasted salted peanuts
3 c. Rice Krispies
3 c. miniature marshmallows

Melt almond bark in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the peanut butter. While it's melting, line cookie sheets with waxed paper. Add peanuts and Rice Krispies. Add marshmallows and remove from heat. Stir until mixed but marshmallows are NOT melted. Spoon by tablespoon onto waxed paper. Cool completely.

Tomorrow I'm going to bake these cookies that Beck posted on her recipe blog because I love M&M cookies and I've never made them. Every Christmas I try to make something new.

Brown Sugar Christmas Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup shortening (I know - nasty. But cookies hold their shape much better when part of the fat is shortening. Use Crisco vegetable shortening.)
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup red, green and white Christmas M&Ms
(1 c. chopped pecans, optional. I don't like pecans in cookies, so I'm omitting them.)

Preheat your oven to 375.
In a large mixing bowl beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, the pecans if desired and the chocolate bits with a wooden spoon.

Drop dough by teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookies sheet. If desired, you can flatten them slightly with fingers. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. This recipe makes 60 cookies. I've never tried doubling it, but it shouldn't be a problem. Store them in an airtight container, with the layers separated by waxed paper.

P.S. Our party was fun even if it had to end early since it was on a weeknight. The top-secret pastries turned out fine (and yes, L, we will make the cherry bons again and you are invited). I learned that while I am not nearly precise enough to be a pastry chef, my husband could have a second career if he ever decides to stop building cabinets. At one point he had to roll a finicky dough out to a 12-inch circle and he measured it for fun--a 12 inch diameter exactly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pre-Christmas Jitters

Let the pre-Christmas freakout begin. I thought I was ahead of the game…until I started thinking about the party for our small group tomorrow night, for which we need to bake and cook and clean and I have to make a trip to the store because the ONE thing on my list that Wal-Mart did not have in stock was maraschino cherries. (Yes, they are essential to my husband’s favorite pastry, cherry bons, and I am not allowed to give out the recipe or the one for butterhorns because they are a family secret. Really. My mother-in-law made me swear not to.) And then there are the gift certificates, and the extra gift bags and wrapping paper we need, and we really have to unpack the gifts from the Amazon boxes and repackage them in as few boxes as possible to transport them to Louisiana. Plus I need to take the car for an inspection and oil change...and Miss Pink needs to be transported to my mom's house for sugar cookie decorating....

It’s really not all that bad. For one, I am not cooking anything for Christmas dinner except sweets. (Like I need those. The scale at the gym is lying to me—lying, I tell you! There is no way I’ve overeaten enough to have gained three pounds. We haven’t even done anything Christmasy yet. What am I going to weigh after the holidays? I DESPAIR.) Also, I just realized that movie gift certificates can be purchased anytime—even the DAY BEFORE WE GIVE THEM. It’s a Christmas miracle!

The butterhorns will be done tonight (plus at least one more sweet) and then tomorrow Justin will make the cherry bons and I will make the seafood casserole which contains a ridiculous amount of butter and cream cheese. And I will go to kickboxing on Thursday COME HELL OR HIGH WATER (or fudge).

If everything turns out yummy I will post the non-top-secret recipes here. Here’s hoping we can all fit back into our pants after next week.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WFMW: Controlling paper clutter

I have many faults as a housekeeper, but hoarding stuff is NOT one of them. I don’t like keeping piles of junk around. If I don’t use it or love it, or if I have more than one, out it goes to bless someone else. As FlyLady says, clutter can’t be organized!

But one type of clutter keeps piling up on me—literally! Paper clutter is so sneaky and when you leave a piece of paper by your computer or on your kitchen countertop, guess what? You’ve just started a pile.

Here are some ways I keep paper clutter to a minimum:

1) I sort the mail as soon as I get it. Bills and important letters go in the mail organizer in the kitchen; junk mail goes straight into the recycling can. I write info from invitations on the calendar and then toss them (same for handouts from school).

2) Our town doesn’t currently have curbside recycling, so I take our used paper and phone books to a green and yellow dumpster by my daughter’s school. I keep a trash can in the garage near the regular trash and one in the laundry room (because the laundry room is near the front door where I get the mail). When they’re full, I put them in the car and unload after I drop Miss Pink off for school. It makes me feel less guilty for the number of sheets of copy paper my kids go through weekly.

3) The hardest part is what to do with Miss Pink’s humongous pile of paperwork. She hates to throw away anything, but especially paper. I let her have one drawer in her bed to fill with current favorites (which she never looks at, but whatever) and when it gets full we have to go through and empty it by half. I cull through her school papers when she’s not looking, throw away all the everyday worksheets, choose the ones that will bring a tear to my eye and file them away, and allow her to choose the rest for her drawer. She’s learning to choose her favorites rather than treating the Target ad from two years ago as if it were just as good as her collage of pink items cut out of magazines.

That’s what works for me!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jungle Princess

On Saturday Miss Pink had her 5th birthday party. She was quick to remind everyone that it was not her actual birthday, but just the day of her party (italics entirely hers).

She had a blast. We had the party at a bounce house place, which was worth every penny because the kids had plenty of room to run and play and because I didn't have to clean anything up afterward. It was a "Bindi the Jungle Girl" party because that is her favoritest favorite TV show ever right now. There was a cake--the decorator interpreted my vague description perfectly --that featured hippos in the water saying "Happy Birthday" while surrounded by jungle-y leaves and rainforest flowers. Why hippos? That's what the party catalog offered.

Here are some pictures. First, here she is doing some ballet moves in a bounce house. Check out the leopard print faux-fur trim on her new skirt. I'm not sure she is my daughter. I would never have worn that, even at her age.

Here she is with some of her BFFs, waiting to eat some cake.
Here's my dad holding Mr. Blue, who's tolerating being held because he loves his Papa, but who is ready to JUMP SOME MORE ALREADY.

Here I am with my brother, who hates having his picture taken but graciously consented to do so just for me. Ladies, he's single! (He is so going to hate me for pimping him out to the Internet as a whole, but since all my readers are married women, no harm done. However, if you know a nice girl, email me! lol)
Everyone enjoyed the cake, especially me as you can see here. (God, what a dork. Or was the dork my husband, who took this picture? Still, here I am dorkily publishing it here for you to see! Enjoy! The cake was really good, though.)

Just to prove my husband was there (besides the evidence of embarrassing pictures of me), here we are:
He says the light reflecting off his head could blind someone. Haha! Revenge is mine!

It was a fun party, and Miss Pink loved all her gifts and remembered to thank everyone with minimal reminding. My first baby is now five (or will be tomorrow, on her actual birthday.) I couldn't imagine my life without her, this sweet mercurial quicksilver child who darted into our lives and made us a family. Happy birthday, sugarbear. May your wildest wishes come true.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Maybe someone should get me a Sephora gift card for Christmas

Miss Pink, upon seeing my freshly-moisturized but makeup-free face this morning: "Mommy the red-nosed reindeer..."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Santa's Little Helper

I almost have all the Christmas shopping done. It seems there are two types of people: those who have their shopping done by the first week of December, and those who DON’T. I am one of the Don’ts even though I have always dreamed of being Efficient and Organized enough to get it all done early so I can sit back and enjoy the rest of the holidays sipping a cup of hot chocolate and staring into my husband’s eyes in front of a roaring fire while the children whack each other with the tent poles from one of last year’s presents, a Disney princess tent.

Sorry, reality intruded into that last fantasy. But, you know, me being super-organized and on top of things is about as likely as an uninterrupted evening of cocoa-sipping.

Part of the problem is that Miss Pink’s birthday is next week. So there’s been a party to plan and pay for, and somehow I don’t want to start wrapping Christmas presents until the birthday festivities have ended.

The other problem is: when the heck do I shop for these toys? These children, THEY ARE WITH ME ALWAYS. If I leave them at home with their father, there is wailing and gnashing of teeth (even though if I’m home when they are playing with him, I’m completely ignored except to refill sippy cups). Plus, let’s just be honest, if I have an hour or two to shop, there are places I’d rather be than Toys “Stupid Backward R” Us. I had nightmare visions about having to schlep across town to multiple locations if certain toys were not in stock.

So I turned to the Internet for help. Specifically, to Lo and behold, the toys I was looking for were ALL available, plus a couple more things for the nieces. And they were eligible for free Super Saver Shipping! I could do all my Christmas shopping without setting foot outside my house.

I swear I heard angels singing. [wipes away tear of joy]

In the end, I didn’t go with the free shipping, because I am a pessimist who just read on someone’s blog about Amazon delaying her freely-shipped order until after the recipient’s birthday. I paid $20 shipping, and I am fine with that. I will pay $20 not to go anywhere near a mall parking lot. Today I learned that the order has already shipped. Yippee!

Of course, I still have to pick up a gift certificate and take Miss Pink to pick out gifts for her cousins. Then my sister-in-law called me today and said they want to exchange gifts among the adults after all (way to procrastinate, family.) Two more gifts, check. Plus these certain slippers my husband wants to get his mom—which, yes, I can delegate, but I will still have to remind him. THEN I can get on with the baking and wrapping and packing and visiting Santa and all the other stuff.

So I’m not done with my Christmas shopping—not even that close, actually—but better off than I was this time last week.

I’ll take it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

right now

color: chocolate brown

music: The Very Best of Diana Krall

author: Haven Kimmel

magazine: The New Yorker

movie: last seen: Enchanted

TV show: Heroes, first season

web site: The Pioneer Woman. She has amazing talent with words and photos. Plus, she’s hilarious.

drink: Coke Zero

meal: spaghetti and meatballs