Monthly Archives: February 2012

5 on Friday

1. I am on the train in the ATL airport.
2. My flight was delayed leaving Raleigh.
3. Our next flight is boarding as I type.
4. That would be the flight to a tropical island that I really, really want to be on.
5. I hope we make it.

Have a nice day.

In which the ashes are an idea I clearly didn’t think through all the way

I was chatting with Amy yesterday about plans for the day and we got around to the usual “what are you planning for supper” part of the conversation and she reminded me it was Mardi Gras which meant that we had to have Cajun food. She was fixing red beans and rice from scratch due to an unfortunate lack of Bayou Magic in her pantry and normally I would have done the same but we had them last week and I don’t like to repeat from week to week unless it’s pizza.  I settled on jambalaya and then talk turned to king cake.

I have a friend in Louisiana (HI, FRAN!!) who sent me a king cake last year and it was divine and this is not at all a hint that she can send one to me any time she likes and the kids so enjoyed the festive sprinkles and the suspense of who would find the baby hidden in their piece of cake that we decided to incorporate it into our list of yearly celebrations. Amy was making her dough from a combination of Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls and her mom’s yeast roll recipes but that sounded a little complicated to me so I just went to All Recipes and looked for one that had a lot of stars.

Because if everyone jumps off a bridge, so do I.

The proofed yeast wasn’t super foamy when I added it to the flour but I was in a hurry and figured I’d give it extra time to rise and yet after three hours, it still looked like it did when I put it in the bowl but we were getting closer and closer to dinner time so I started to get a little panicky and ended up sticking it in the dryer that had just cycled off.

And yes, that sheet pan looks horrid but it’s the only one that a) doesn’t burn anything on the bottom; and b) fits in the smaller oven in our new house. 

And, honestly, would you ever expect me to have a spotless sheet pan? 

I think we all know the answer to that one.

It came time to bury the baby into the dough before baking and the one I saved from last year’s cake got lost somewhere in the move so I went into the living room and grabbed the next best thing that I thought was sure to have the kids screaming with delight.

And then I baked the cake (it rose! it rose!) and decorated it in decidedly non-traditional green and blue because when you wait to go to Kroger until 6:15 on Mardi Gras to buy sprinkles for your king cake, it’s pretty slim pickings.

And then we sat down and beheld the wondrous cake that I’d spent all afternoon working on and fussing over, and Craig cut generous slices for everyone and we dug in, seeing who would find the baby and I was giggling to myself at how funny it would be when the boys discovered it was a stealthy ninja in the cake instead of the baby but turns out the joke was on me because when Craig found the ninja in his piece and pulled it out, there were screams all right, not of delight but of absolute HORROR from one particular offspring who had an on-the-spot all-out panic attack because apparently I had grabbed his FAVORITE TOY EVER that had sat untouched under the couch for three weeks gathering dust and he was sure that all hope was lost.

It was a tense minute or two while he licked off all the cream cheese and did a thorough limb by limb and joint by joint inspection to make sure he was still intact and after we talked him off the ledge and he had extracted a solemn promise from me to never, ever, forever bake a mini figure again without asking permission, we all managed to take a deep breath and move forward with our lives.

And a good time was had by all.

Eventually.

Laissez le bons temps rouler.

Have a nice day.

 

Happy Birthday, Mom

As I sit at my desk this morning, tired from getting up at 1:00 to put Travis back to bed, bleary from the back-end of a bad cold, and soul weary from some very, very difficult parenting days, I am reaching deep for strength to put one foot in front of the other to keep on keeping on.  And like so many other days when I just don’t feel like I can do it, I know that I can.

Because of her.

I have watched my mother for 42 years. I have seen her battle significant illness, handle physical hardship, live with less, adapt to ever-changing circumstances, willingly serve those who landed at our doorstep, walk dark valleys with the sick and dying, and do all this without complaining and all the while raising four headstrong, spirited children.

Without swearing.

Out loud, that is.

And probably not even in her head.  

I.am.so.adopted.

She is a purposeful woman.  She doesn’t amble or meander.  Her pace is always quick because she wakes up each morning with a plan and accomplishes it.

She is a peaceful woman.  She takes a smile and calm assurance with her, wherever she goes.

She is a patient woman, never rushing a child or a friend.

But most of all, she is encouraging. And on mornings like today, when I can’t breathe through my nose and my feet are dragging and I’m wondering if Dr. Phil is ready for another family project, I don’t even need to pick up the phone to hear her voice whisper, “You can do this.” A lifetime of hearing it plants a deep root that brings forth strength when I need it.

And peace comes.

Mom, even on your birthday, you give.  God was so gracious to give me just what I needed in you, and learning from you has been such a gift.  I am beyond grateful for you and your continued presence in my life. The happiest of birthdays to you and many, many, many more.

Much love,

Susie

 

Jack Sprat could eat no fat

I feel kinda’ sorry for guys on Valentine’s Day.  Especially this one who spent it locked in the bathroom while his girlfriend threatened to kill him because he hadn’t bought her a gift.  Lighten up, chickie!

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Fifteen years of marriage have taught me that you can’t force sentiment when Hallmark tells you to and so we take a very laid back approach to the occasion and keep it low-key.  The kids get a card and a small box of chocolates (it’s one of two days a year they’re allowed to have candy for breakfast), we usually have a nice meal at home so that everyone’s included and we’re not rushed through service at a restaurant, a card exchange between the spouses, and we call it a day.

This year we took advantage of the fact that Craig was in town for Valentine’s Day and met for lunch at our favorite little sushi place.

I’m getting a little more adventurous with what I eat so we ordered a couple of new things that were tasty right up to the point I pulled bones out of my mouth in the eel roll and it kinda really super duper heebie jeebied me out because I had tried to live in denial that I was eating a snake-like fish until that moment and it all came rushing in that it was real and used to be living and now I think I’m going to have to be vegetarian or just not eat sushi for a long time because I’m still a little gaggy from the experience.

It was not unlike the time I had escargot for the first time and I was doing well until someone said “Not bad for a snail, huh?” and then my throat closed and I literally could not swallow it for fear of heaving at the table and I had to discreetly empty the contents of my mouth into my napkin.

Classy.

Sensing the need to redeem the experience, we hightailed it out of there and went to YoPop for dessert where he had the pistachio and strawberry cheesecake combo and I had my usual tart vanilla topped with mango, honey, and coconut.

Five seconds later….

That evening we ate dinner in the REAL dining room and used cloth napkins and the fancy red goblets reserved for special occasions because they have to be hand washed break easily and the boys were extra cheerful because they had received money in their Valentine’s cards from their grandparents which has now forever elevated them to hero status and relegated Craig and I to chump change because all we did was write “I love you” in the ones we gave them.

We had steak frites, yeast rolls, and no vegetables because it was my way of showing love to grant a one-meal reprieve to my vegetable-hating children and then had more chocolate for dessert.

And in between the five of them, they licked the platter clean.

Have a nice day.

 

Sweet dreams are made of this

We were fortunate to get to spend a part of the week-end with my brother-in-law, Jason.  He lives in another state but was in town for work and able to hang out with us Friday night and Saturday morning.  As luck would have it, it was also his birthday on Friday so it was a wonderful excuse opportunity to do some baking for the little family party we planned.  I texted him early in the day to ask if he had a favorite dessert and he said maybe a lemon pound cake or anything peanut buttery and it was once again confirmed to me that he and I are siblings separated at birth because not only do I eat peanut butter every single day of the week but I also think there needs to be a new love language simply entitled “pound cake”.

And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

I texted Amy for a lemon pound cake recipe because she is a bit of a diva (and I say that lovingly and she would be the first to admit she is exactingly picky when it comes to cake of any form) and we looked at several before deciding that we needed to go with a Barefoot Contessa recipe because those never fail but I made a mistake using that particular recipe because had I read the fine print BEFORE baking I would have noticed that it was a VARIATION of a Barefoot Contessa recipe and not the real deal.

In this instance, variation=cake fail.

But lest you be alarmed, I had prepared a peanut buttery dessert as well because somewhere there was a tear in the fabric of the universe and my children did not inherit my love for all things citrus.  Behold, the peanut butter pie.

Because how can you go wrong with hot fudge, cream cheese, peanut butter, and Cool Whip?

While I was messing up the kitchen, I decided to go ahead and make a new candy recipe that I got from my mom.  One day while we were talking on the phone I heard her munching on something and she told me that it was a piece of peanut cluster that she’d first made for Christmas and it was so ridiculously good that she had to make a second batch and then hide it from my daddy so she’d have a piece.

Fifty-five years of marriage and she still has to safeguard the sweets.

Bless her heart.

I, of course, needed that recipe because I have a father-in-law who LOVES chocolate-covered peanuts and he’s coming to visit soon so I made the recipe and it was, in fact, so good that I’ve now had to hide what’s left so that Craig doesn’t eat it all before his dad gets here.

So in honor of Valentine’s Day and all things sweet and delicious, here’s the recipe that is so easy you’re gonna’ croak.  If you can pour, stir, and turn on a crockpot, you’re good to go.

Chocolate Covered Peanuts

16-24 ounces of dry roasted peanuts

1 block of Baker’s German chocolate (do not be afraid – I generally cannot abide German chocolate and you can’t tell one bit)

1 12 ounce bag of milk chocolate chips

1 pound and a half block of white almond bark

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1.  Pour the peanuts into the bottom of a crockpot.

2. Place the whole bar of German chocolate on top of the peanuts.

3. Pour in the bag of chocolate chips.

4. Place the bar of almond bark on top.

5. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.

6. After two hours have passed, stir to combine, and drop by spoonfuls onto parchment or waxed paper.

You may have more chocolate than nuts at the end of the recipe.  Just drop in anything else that needs coating – small pretzels, almonds, shoe leather… it’ll all be good, I promise.

And your family will rise up and call you blessed.

And you’ll need to find a new hiding place.

Have a nice day.

Monday Musings

I didn’t blog last week.  I was having a little existential crisis and needed some time to think, be quiet and have some alone time.  Sometimes the blogging thing gets to feeling narcissistic and I go back and forth trying to figure out the right balance between writing about my life and sharing my thoughts and yet avoiding the ME, ME, ME aspect.

And then my mom called and said, “WHERE ARE YOU??? and I laughed and realized that blogging is a cheap and easy way to give her peace of mind that her daughter is alive and well and so here you have me again.

You didn’t miss much last week other than a less-than-pleasant manager at work who had been calling the wrong phone number for three months trying to get me and then sending me a not very nice email about it.  Somehow it was my fault he’d dialed the wrong number and because I’m a pleaser and try to be conscientious about doing my job well, I took it all sorts of personally and spent three days trying to make sure he was happy.  And then to celebrate getting him taken care of, I went to a dentist appointment at 7 in the morning on Thursday.

And, yes, I went shopping afterwards.

Because nothing says “Congratulations for not coming unglued in the dental chair” like an Ellen Tracy sundress at 80% off. 

The week wasn’t all doom and gloom, though.  The highlight was attending our first Special Olympics competition and watching Travis compete in basketball.  I knew it was going to be an emotional day for him but I wasn’t prepared for my own little misty moment when I walked to the door of the rec center and read the Athlete’s Oath on the banner.

The gym was crowded with teams from almost twenty schools in the county and I was a little worried about the noise level bothering Travis.

Clearly, he was agitated and not at all enjoying himself.

He was placed in a group of boys that had similar mobility issues and developmental delays and they competed in three events designed to test their passing accuracy, dribbling, and shooting skills and somewhere on Craig’s camera at work we have pictures and video but all you really need to know is that when the whistle blew he turned into the fiercest, most determined kid I’ve ever seen and wouldn’t you know, he won a ribbon for third place and I think he should have gotten second but the ref gave a little leeway to another kid who was a little more severely involved than Travis and who am I to get wrapped around the axle about that.

Oh, there was much yelling and clapping and high-fives and smiles and maybe a tear or six.  It was refreshing and encouraging to be in an environment that said “Yes, I can” and celebrated the joy of achievement on whatever scale possible.

So I leave you today with four little things that have stuck with me since last week and I hope will stay in my head for many weeks to come:

Get in the game.

Try.

Be brave.

And most of all, celebrate.

Have a nice day.

Five on Friday

1.  Five foods that will grace our Super Bowl snack table: queso, crab cake sliders, wings, sub sandwiches, and a baked cream cheese-based dip that has yet to be decided.

2.  Five bright spots in my week:  a walk with my neighbor, laughter-filled conversations with Craig,  sitting outside in the sun drinking coffee with Kellie, starting a new sewing project that has no sleeves, and pimento cheese.

3.  Five things I picked up in the living room while cleaning:  socks, Legos, Nerf darts, earbuds, and a Pikachu plush toy.

4.  Five things I need to pick up at the grocery store:  Potato chips, tortilla chips, pita chips, Velveeta, and a 9-volt battery for my bathroom scale.

5.  Five things I’m looking forward to this weekend:  having a friend over this afternoon, eating pizza from a new restaurant that just opened near my house, sleeping in Saturday morning, browsing for fun spring clothes at Target, and snacking on Sunday afternoon because it’s lettuce and water on Monday.

Have a nice day.