Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bragging Rights

Not many people know me as a photographer, but it's a skill I've developed out of necessity at work.

Unfortunately, it's not something I pursue at home: Cobbler's children going barefoot and all that.

But I do have some great shots I've taken here at work. For the first time ever, I'm showing them to the world!

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

From that day on, every where I went ...

I love my couch. We have an understanding, my couch and I. Around 4:30 p.m. every day, I come home, open the back door for the dog, and plop myself down for a good hour-long session of, "Ahhhh." I watch TV, I knit, I eat horrible things like peanut butter and Nutella.

This system works really well, except for two things:
  1. The awful, sad looks my dog gives me because I'm neglecting him, and
  2. The fact that being stationary and eating peanut butter and Nutella will make you fat. Quickly.
So Monday morning, I decided that if I wanted to eat peanut butter and Nutella and enjoy the loving arms of my couch, I'd better hit the gym.

Tuesday morning, the snooze alarm won. I went to my Weight Watchers meeting after work, then visited my good buddy the couch. Of course I brought along our BFFs, peanut butter and Nutella. But then the most amazing thing happened.

I added up the number of points I'd consumed during 45-minutes of eating and watching "Pillars of the Earth." And changed into my workout clothes. And clipped Koa's leash to his collar. AND headed up a big hill.

Once I got to the top of the hill, I started running. Right out of nowhere! And I didn't stop for three miles. And three big hills.

Then, yesterday being Wednesday, I decided it was my Day Off from Exercise. But when I got home, I once again added up the points of the giant cupcake and ham/butter/cheese sandwich I had for lunch. Once again, I strapped on my running shoes. And once again, Koa and I headed out for adventure.

This time I decided to walk, mostly because the temperatures were topping off in the 90s. And I kept walking ... until we hit our old favorite trail, all shaded and cool, with a stream running alongside it. Then we started running. And didn't stop for a mile. The only reason we did stop is because I forgot about the half-mile almost-vertical climb at the end of this particular trail.

That makes three days in a row of voluntary, not-for-any-good-reason running. I'm sort of creeped out because ...

It was fun.

Today is really my day off, though. I don't want to jinx anything. Or disrupt the space-time continuum with too much of this exercise-is-fun nonsense.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Why Apple Crisp deserves its own blog entry

I am in the perfect marriage.

I love to bake. My husband loves to eat what I bake.

You can see how, mathematically, that works out pretty well for me.

So with two apple trees in the backyard heavy with fruit (well, all the fruit sort of dropped off one of the trees last night, so maybe it's just one treeful now), I've got all sorts of applicious plans.

A couple weekends ago, it was a perfect Dutch Apple Pie.

Last weekend, it was Apple Crisp.

I had big plans for this Apple Crisp. I'd been thinking about it all week, saving it as a weekend project even though apples were just flying off the tree. I made sure I had quick-cooking oats and brown sugar.

So on Saturday, I was set. I made my Apple Crisp in the afternoon, and set it next to the Costco take-and-bake pizza that would be dinner, so Matt would see what an awesome wife he has. After the pizza was finished cooking, I popped the Crisp in the oven. We even found some vanilla ice cream in the freezer to serve with it.

Oooh, I waited. Apple Crisp ala mode.

I served Matt a bowlful, and then settled in to my own delicious dessert. And after two bites, I remembered something utterly and tragically dismaying.

I really don't like Apple Crisp.

How could I have forgotten! There's something about the oatmeal-cookie-over-apple-pie dessert combo that makes me instantly, achingly full and regretful of every bite I took.

I walked out to the living room and sadly handed my bowl to Matt, who had already finished his.

And I have been walking around, bitterly disappointed, ever since. I'm still working on how it's possible that I'm over 30 years old, and still can't keep my food preferences straight.

Most of all, though ... I was really looking forward to that Apple Crisp!
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

That's not your ball!

It seems like the apples on my tree at home are just raining down, and there's nothing I can do about it.

Every few days, I try to chuck them over the fence to the greenbelt adjacent to our backyard. There are several families of deer there, and the apples are typically gone the next morning.

Last night, Koa was out there with me as I tossed apple over apple over the fence. I noticed he'd get REALLY excited whenever I'd pick one up, but I didn't think much of it until one bounced off the fence and he caught it neatly in his mouth, then dropped it at my feet.


I picked it up and threw it across the yard, and he bounded after it. Of course, being half rotted, it split in two, and he carried it for a few paces before dropping it, licking it and looking at me.

"Something's not right here," he seemed to say.

But he caught the next apple that didn't make it over the fence. Same routine: Catch, drop, lick, ponder.

He ate a few tiny chunks that were scattered in the yard, but wouldn't touch the whole apples.

So that's my story: My dumb dog chases apples. Then gets mad that they're apples. But still wants to play with them because, hey ... maybe next time it will be a ball.

Hey dummy, here's a tip: If it smells like an apple, it's probably never going to be a ball!
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Winning at fighting

Last night, Matt and I had an argument.

It was over a $1.97 soda. Ostensibly, anyway. What was really happening is anybody's guess. Mine is stress and sleepiness.

In a huff, I flounced into the bedroom to read. Matt continued to make dinner (maybe hunger was part of the problem, as well).

I ate at the table, while he took up his half of our tandem La-Z-Boy recliner and settled in to watch some show about swordfish. Which I found incredibly annoying on principle. The principle, of course, being that he could even watch TV at all ... didn't he realize I wasn't speaking to him?

(Of course he did. But our fuses burn at different rates. His flare up immediately, and then dim to a controllable steadiness. Mine flare at any carbon dixoide release--get it?--but die quickly with nothing to feed them.)

After I finished dinner, I decided that since I was so mature (after all, I was the one who walked away from the argument!), I would be THE MOST mature. I would take the dog for a walk. Even though it wasn't my turn. That way Matt could simultaneously relax after a really long day at work (hey, I'm not a total shrew); AND understand how mature I am and thereby admit that I Was Right And He Was Wrong.

But when I came home, he continued watching TV. I went back in the bedroom to read and fall asleep. Nobody noticed how awesomely mature I was, even though I totally Won at Fighting.

Now, with almost 24 hours of perspective behind me, I can tell you the true story of last night.

Matt and I got into an argument. It was stupid. I went to my room. We ate dinner. He enjoyed a rare, relaxing evening in front of the TV. I read a great book. Our dog got walked. We went to bed.

The end.

But who would read that blog entry?
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I will not be IGNORED, Koa!

I have the most wonderful dog in the world.

Koa is a purebred German Shepherd Dog that we adopted almost a year ago from the local animal shelter. Since the day we brought him home, he's been looking at us with those wise, sad eyes and patiently teaching us how to be good dog owners.

"Guys," he'll seem to say, as he takes his new ball outside and gently drops it on the grass. "Toys do not belong in the house."

If we feed him before we eat, he'll patrol the house, shooting us his patented you-should-know-better looks. "I do not eat before you. We eat at the same time. Remember?"

When we come home to a kitchen full of trash, he stares apologetically from his crate. "Listen, don't leave chicken bones in the trash can. I can't help myself, and I'd rather this not happen again."

Unfortunately, because we have the best dog in the world, we've also lost perspective when it comes to training him. So recently (after he's herded some neighborhood dogs a little too enthusiastically at the dog park and peed on a woman's foot), I've been stepping up my efforts to assert dominance over him.

As recommended by the training and behavior books I've been reading, this morning started with a long walk. Typically Matt and I are too lazy to actually walk our dog. We load him in the car and drive to the unofficial dog park up the street, where he can romp and play fetch until he flops over with exhaustion.

Today, though, I firmly held him on a short leash, and yanked (futilely; after all, he's 100 pounds of pure muscle) every time he reached over to sniff a new plant or curb. "Heel," I'd caution every 20 seconds or so. Then I spotted a house for sale, and wanted to check out the selling price. We trotted over, and I asked Koa to sit.

He looked away.

"Sit," I repeated (because maybe he didn't hear me).

He looked in the other direction. Then I realized what he was doing: Ignoring me! It's a dog thing: Apparently, if you're the alpha dog, you don't have to pay attention to all the other dogs if you don't want to. All you have to do if you want them to get up off of your grill is look away--physically ignoring them.

Oh, hells no.

I squared my shoulders, planted my feet and leaned over him ever-so-slightly. "SIT," I boomed.

This did not impress him, but he did flick an ear my way.


He sat.

I lavished him with attention.

But when we got to the dog park and I asked him to sit so I could take his leash off, the damn dog did it again! I felt my inner Glenn Close unleash.

"I will not be IGNORED, Koa!"

After a few minutes, he sat.

Good thing, too. I've got a pot of boiling water just big enough for his fuzzy, squeaky toy lamb. It's not a rabbit, sure; but I think he'd get the point.
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Monday, August 23, 2010

It pays to be a mediocre pie-maker

When we moved into our incredible rental home last year, I took note of the two enormous apple trees in the backyard, and rubbed my hands together like a silent-movie villain.

I kept thinking of all the wonderful apple baked goods I'd produce in the fall. So when one tree started producing, I duly waited until the green apples swelled and started falling off the tree before inviting a friend over for an apple butter/apple pie session.

Unfortunately, a few weeks later, those green apples turned red and crispy and sweet and slightly tart. And I realized I'd been had by Mother Nature, and possessed a cupboard full of Green Apple Butter.

This year, both trees are producing, and I know better. The tree that came up empty last year is positively loaded with sweet red and green beauties that can be munched on anytime. Lazy me, though, is no longer interested in winning life by making my own pie crusts. Thankfully, Trader Joe's anticipated that, and helpfully boxed up some premade ones for me.

So yesterday I decided to make Matt's favorite: Dutch Apple Pie. I pressed the premade crust into a piepan, tossed a few apples with sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg, then made an extra-crumbly crumble and spread it on top.

After 50 minutes in the oven, this pie took my breath away. It was everything a Dutch Apple should be. The crust browned beautifully, and the apples poking out here and there were crisped perfectly. The best part, though, was that the crumb layer caramelized into a crispy sugar crust that oozed down through the apple layers.

And me without my camera.

Unfortunately, though, this pie was too good. I had a piece. Matt finished off the pie (trying his best to scarf the last piece in the kitchen after I went to bed, so I wouldn't catch him).

My waistline thanks him.

My tastebuds are plotting against him.
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Friday, August 20, 2010

I've got it bad ... and it ain't good

I know for a fact that there are people out there whose vices are actually good things.

People like my brother-in-law, who supposedly can't go a day without a good, long run.

People like my sister, who consider watermelon a delicious dessert.

I, however, seem to be just one level above crackhead when it comes to my personal vices.

I like to eat frosting right from the container. I would eat bread for every meal if I could. I believe a slice of cake or pie is a perfectly acceptable substitute for breakfast cereal.

I have been known to eat three-day-old donuts, and for God's sake, don't leave any pastries lying around when I'm nearby. I will steal them.

But my latest vice astounds even me for its low-down, dirty nature. I'm only talking about it now because it will force me to give it up. So this morning will hopefully be the last time I will partake in it.

Coffee from 7/11.

It started out innocently enough. I had to be at a work event before 7 a.m., and didn't have time to make a Starbucks run. There's a 7/11 right down the street from my house, so I dashed in for a huge cup of coffee. I was pleased to note that they offered a hazelnut flavor, since I imagined their regular coffee would burn a hole right through my esophagus.

And right next to the hazelnut coffee was a French Vanilla cream dispenser.

I knew by the oily sheen on top of my extra-large cup that this was no great cup o'Joe, but what can you do? It was 6:45 a.m. on Saturday, and I needed a pick-me-up. I pumped my flavored coffee and cream full of sugar, then whipped out my debit card at the register.

Turns out I didn't need to do that, since a massive, steaming cup of 7/11 coffee is just $1.79. I paid for it with change, took my first sip and made a mental note that my beverage was probably made by DuPont.

But the next day, I found myself back at the scene of the crime.

Two days later, I picked up another cup.

This morning, I bought one more. Hopefully my last one.

I can't explain why. It's not great ... it's oily and chemical and I put so much flavored junk in it that it doesn't even really resemble coffee anymore.

But it's cheap. And it's sweet.

And undoubtedly bad for me on several levels. And probably lowering your respect for me by about five notches.

Do they have a rehab for bad taste?
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

All is lost

I have discovered that I can download episodes of my longtime obsession, "One Tree Hill," from iTunes ... for $2.

I am at least one season behind, and my cable provider does not carry the CW.

My heart is giggling with joy as I think of all the times in my day I can sneak away to spend time with Nathan, Hayley, Jamie, Skills, Mouth, Millie, Brooke and Julian!
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Peer Pressure

You know when your shower needs to be cleaned, but you don't want to do it?

So you pretend you don't see the muck and slime growing in the corners, then it gets worse and you ignore it more, until you have to spend three hours on your hands and knees battling black mold?

(Well, hopefully none of your showers get like that.)

That's been my relationship with the blog lately. It's so much easier to post to a message board, or Facebook, or anywhere at all. So I took a week off. That turned into a month or so, until I got so far behind that I considered scrapping this one and starting a new blog altogether.

Then a friend told me she'd added my blog to her reader, and that she was looking forward to staying updated.

Well, shoot. I can't very well ignore a vocal audience, can I?
Don't think it's just you, Blog, that's been ignored. Here's just a short list of items I'm woefully behind on:
  • Training my dog. He peed on someone at the dog park a few weeks ago, and I haven't gotten over it yet.
  • Meeting my neice. She's practically walking and talking now, and I haven't even said so much as hello.
  • Cleaning my shower. Don't judge me.
  • Seeing "Inception."
  • Canning the apples from my tree. Half of which have already fallen to the ground. Mostly I'm making my contribution to the deer population locally.
I haven't learned to play guitar yet, either. Or finished a baby blanket for the aforementioned niece.

I think the kindest way for me to describe my 2010 so far is that I've spent it hiding out. But, thanks to Kelsey, I'm back.

So ... what do you want to talk about? :)
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Miscellania Roundup

These days I don't see much of my husband.

It's the beginning of the busy season for those in construction (or, at least, window sales), and he's generally working from about 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. So I've got to find ways to amuse myself.

Twice last week I took Koa to the dog park.

Yesterday I used a pass for the Chaminade's fitness facilities. Their workout equipment is so-so, but I wasn't truly there to work out. I was there to sit in the sauna and take a steam. I did, and came home a puddle.

Tonight I have my Weight Watcher's meeting, and then I'm starting something new: I'm going to co-teach my first community CPR class in preparation for my student teaching exam in June.


I decided a few months ago that I needed a second job. We could use the income, yes; but mostly I wanted something flexible to keep me busy when my dearest moneymaker is at work until the wee hours. So I took a few classes and am almost certified as an American Heart Association CPR instructor. Once I am official, I can teach classes to community groups as much--or as little--as I'd like! It's fascinating material, and the classes are a blast!

While I'm concentrating on that (and on teaching myself Adobe InDesign CS4, in case you were interested), I'm also doing a little bit of globetrotting. Well, coast-trotting. West-Coast-Trotting.

OK, I visited family in Temecula with my mom and my sister. I only took three pictures the whole time.

This is my sister, Katherine. She's saying, "Dude, why the eff are you taking a picture of me now?" (I guess this is how I'll find out if she reads my blog!)

But I'll say some nice things about her in hopes that she'll let me leave this up. She's hilarious. She's honest. She's got an awesome sense of style (see the scarf and the cool sunglasses?) even if I tease her about owning "Golden Girls" shades. 

She's one of my best friends.

And here she is doing one of our favorite things in the world: Wine tasting.

You just can't go to Temecula and not go wine tasting.

I think that's the reisling that we fell in love with. The tasting room, Tesoro, was fun. Tesoro means "treasure chest" in Italian, and when you bought a flight, you got five gold coins to spend.

To learn more about our tasting experience, you'll have to check Mama's Wine Rack, because I owe her a review.

And just so Katherine doesn't think I'm picking on her:

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Friday, April 30, 2010


It will come as no surprise to most people who know me that I am a control freak.

I keep a tight rein on my life: I work set hours, I am rabidly organized, have a weekly meal plan and a scheduled social life. I even eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch on an almost daily basis.

Unfortunately, the Universe seems to have a different plan in store for me these days. Since I'm a big believer in not fighting said Universe, but sitting quietly and listening to what It's trying to say, I'm attempting to learn the lesson.

Which appears to be: Control is an illusion.

These days, I think of control like holding a fistful of feathers. Something is always going to slip out. If I rigidly control my work life and my eating habits, my house slips. If I get the domestic duties under control, finances spiral out of control. When finances are running smoothly, I'll learn that you can't control another person's actions.

And so on.

So where am I going with this? I wish I knew. See, when you're in control, you've got a plan, a path and a three-step process for getting from Point A to Point B.

When the Universe takes over and you slip from the driver's seat, all you can do is look around and really take in Point A. Forget Point B--if it's even there, it doesn't concern you at the moment.

Now that I think about it, that's not such a bad thing.

Maybe I'll even take a look at the lunch menu.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Being a parent can make you crazy

For the past four years, I have been proud to send my stepson to summer camp.

It's a day camp put on by the city of Santa Cruz, and it's awesome. Kids are filtered into age-specific camp-groups at a local park. They go on field trips just about every day, to the beach once a week, and do umpteen arts-and-crafts.

There's a low ratio of campers to counselors, and they used to take the kids to swimming lessons (before the budget cuts that forced Parks & Rec to sell the local pool).

The tiny issue I had with this camp is that it ran us about $600/month. And you had to register/pay for it in April, or it would fill up.

Shockingly, this year, we just didn't have an extra $600 lying around. (Heck, we don't have an extra $40 lying around right now!) As the deadline to register for camp grew closer and closer, I spent more and more wee hours lying awake, listening to this thought cycle:

We have to send him to this camp.

There's no way we can send him to this camp.

You see how each thought leads to the other, but neither is really good at problem-solving?

Finally, one week away from Deadline, I remembered that the Santa Cruz Boys & Girls Club also ran a summer camp. My printer recommended it to me, quite enthusiastically.

But these are my memories from my tenure at the Boys & Girls Club:
  • Watching seven episodes of Gilliagan's Island in a row, followed by four I Love Lucys.
  • Sneaking off campus to buy candy at the local liquor store.
  • Sneaking off campus to what I thought was my cousin's friend's house, but really going to my cousin's first gang fight.
And then I remembered my sister's summer working at a different Boys & Girls Club. She told me one day about having to restrain a kid who took a chain off a door, wrapped it around his fist, and threatened to beat up another kid.

For two days, the 3 a.m. thought-cycle shifted to this:

We can afford the Boys & Girls Club.

There's no way I can send him to the Boys & Girls Club.

Again, not helpful.

Against my better judgement, I visited the Santa Cruz' Boys & Girls Club website, and discovered that membership is a whopping $15/year. And that summer camp costs $40/week.

That's five weeks of camp for $200, as opposed to four weeks for $600.


The club is also open during his spring break, which typically coincides with no other local camps or schools.


Then I read the outline of activities available at the club:
  • The Arts: Fine arts, crafts, woodworking, movie making, newspaper club, music classes, photography and magazine club.
  • Health and Life Skills: Cooking and nutrition classes, anger management workshops, swim lessons, SMART Moves and SMART Girls, Environmental Club, recycling and conservation
  • Sports, Fitness and Recreation: Basketball Leagues, Karate Classes, Recreational Swims, Hockey Team, Aquatics Team, Camping, Hiking, Fishing Club, Special Events and Field Trips.
What the heck? The SoCal B&GC of my youth had three activities: TV, Bumper Pool, and stealing wires from the electrical box outside to make bracelets. Field trips were either to the movie room to watch such classics as "Arachnophobia" or to go see your cousin get beat up by some chick.

I read a little deeper, and found out about music lessons, a computer animation program and free swim time in their indoor heated pool. So I decided to take a tour and saw the library, aquatics center, full gymnasium, wood shop/crafts room, music room and cafe.

I saw that kids are now issued an ID card that gets scanned when they enter the club, when they enter and leave each activity area and when they leave.

I saw that the club is located about a block from my favorite public library.

I heard about weekly trips to the beach, and other outings to be determined.

Finally, my 3 a.m. thought cycle got productive:

The Boys & Girls Club sounds awesome.

It's got a lot more activities than the other camp.

We can afford it.

Why am I still thinking about this?

This summer, my stepson will join the thousands (millions?) of Boys & Girls Club alumni. And if I could, I'd join too!
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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Curse of the Baby Blanket

I'd like to apologize to my sister-in-law, Staci.

I think I'm the reason that her baby didn't come two weeks early like her doctor said. Today, she's sitting around, 39-weeks-and-five-days pregnant, and it's all my fault.

You see, I'm not finished with the baby blanket I'm knitting for her bundle of joy.

Let me back up. When she was pregnant with her first child, I got straight to work knitting a beautiful blanket. I had it blocked, finished, quilted and embroidered just after her baby shower, and Parker showed up as scheduled.

This time, however, I bit off a little more than I could chew. I'm working on an afghan, not the striped/quilted/embroidered bit I made for Big Brother. And while it's beautiful, it's not quite there yet.

And she's just sitting there, waiting.

So, Stac, I'm sorry! But here's a sneak preview.

There are six of each square--12 of the horizontal stripes--and I've got 12 more squares to knit.

Then I've got to block each one, and sew them together.

Then I've got to knit a border.

But the yarn is the softest I've ever worked with, and the colors will work for a boy or a girl. And there's a whole lot of love going into this project!

Just don't expect it before the baby's first birthday.

And maybe don't look too closely at the finishing work--I'm still figuring all that out.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm not wearing Spanx today.

I'll pause while that sinks in.

*   *   *

Two years ago, I set out to lose about 1,000 pounds for my wedding. I didn't make it. But I did manage to maintain the weight I was at, for a year, despite practically living on salad, whole-what pita bread and hummus, and religiously waking up at 4:30 a.m. to hit the gym before work.

As a result, I gained 10 pounds in the month leading up to my wedding, when sleep and cake were more important and available than anything else.

After the wedding, I enjoyed a free-for-all lifestyle when it came to food. I plowed through plate lunches in Maui, gorged myself on pizza back home, and was SHOCKED when my favorite pair of jeans didn't fit anymore just six months later.

So I signed up to run a half-marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. You know what the best thing is about running 20 miles each week? If you said the natural high you get from running, you are WRONG! It's the fact that you have license to eat whatever you want, and not gain a pound! Bacon, eggs, cheese, bread, butter, pizza ... it was a delicious time in my life.

Unfortunately, the October marathon signaled the end of my love affair with fat and cholesterol. But I cheated. A lot. And by January, I found myself back up at my heaviest weight ever ... back where I started four years ago before I lost my original 30 pounds.

I spent a couple months halfheartedly trying to count calories and cut back, but mostly I just whined and moaned (internally) about my weight.

Finally, in March, I marched (ha ha) myself into a local Weight Watchers, sat through a meeting, and joined up. I told the meeting leader that first day that I already know about eating right and exercise, but for some reason, despite being a very intelligent woman, I couldn't put it together on my own.

I let her know that I was willing to rethink the way I ate, but remain wholeheartedly against "diet" foods like fat-free cheese and snack foods made with ingredients I can't pronounce. That I'd recalibrate breakfast, lunch and snacks, but wouldn't subject my family to meals like enchiladas made from fat-free cream cheese. We'd be enjoying our lasagne, hamburgers and pot roasts, thankyouverymuch.

After I laid down these laws, Rani looked at me quizzically. "So?" she said. After all, eating what you want is kind of the whole Weight Watchers deal. And I did. I switched around my breakfast and lunch, planned better snacks, and ate what I wanted for dinner. Including pasta shells stuffed with three kinds of cheese.

That first week, I lost two pounds. The next week, I lost another two. Two more the following week. And a month after I joined, I lost an insane four pounds in one week.

I've lost 10 pounds (with a minor setback around Easter) since the beginning of March, and today I don't have to wear my Spanx.

I'd call that a vicotry, wouldn't you?
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mmmm ... fresh bread

Have you ever really noticed how many food blogs there are out there?

I'm not pretending to be one of them. But I have started making my own bread. And it's fabulous.

I started out with Perfect Sandwich Bread from RecipeZaar. I'd read about it in a blog I follow, how simple it was to make and how delicious.

The blogger was not lying. It's got nine ingredients. I can handle nine ingredients. And while the step-by-step instructions include 14 separate tasks, they're simple enough. I only had to turn to You Tube once.

It was worth it just to make my house smell like fresh-baked bread. Even if the bread itself weren't delicious. It's white bread, but everything that white bread wishes it could be. And then some. It's like if the cast of Glee and Judd Apatow were a loaf of bread ... so much better than anyone's expectations, and full of delightful surprises!

But I know that white flour is Bad For You, so I wanted to move on to wheat bread. In fact, the week after I made the Perfect Sandwich Bread, I bought a bag of whole wheat flour. Then I found a six-ingredient recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Bread on Tasty Kitchen. SIX INGREDIENTS. That's even easier than the white bread!

This bread is like Perfect Sandwich Bread's European cousin. Earthier, darker and so much more exotic. Our favorite way to eat it is warm with butter and cinnamon-sugar, but toasted with butter and parmesan cheese is equally delicious.

Now my only problem on weekends is which type of bread to make. I've been favoring Honey Whole Wheat, but Perfect Sandwich Bread is right there in the back of my mind, calling out things like "garlic bread" and "raisin toast."

Decisions, decisions.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Did you miss me?

How long has it been since I've posted?

A month? Two months?

Let's just say that 2010 got off to a very rocky start for my family. The world as I know it was turned upside down, and I am just now finding my footing again.

Here is a rundown of my life since Christmas:

  1. The hubs left his toxic former employer for a great new opportunity. That opportunity, though, is commission-only sales. He just happens to be the best, so we're anticipating good times ahead. Getting a client base takes time, however, and as a result our income has dwindled down to the bare necessities. For the time being.
  2. After the dearest hubs made his employement transition, the Universe intervened. We had to purchase a new laptop, new furniture, repair two cars multiple times, buy a new cell phone and upgrade our truck from get-around-town to spiffy-new-work-vehicle.
  3. The Tax Man cameth, and he thumped us hard. We owe just about what we'd been hoping to save for a nice down payment. Or trip to Maui. Really, before the first of the year, it was heads or tails which we'd chose. After our tax preparer let us know that we "make too much money," (a concept I'm still trying to wrap my brain around every time I do the family budget) a house became Priority No. 1.
  4. Without going into much detail, we hit a rocky patch in our marriage that had little to do with money, and a whole lot to do with our choices as individuals.
So, my precious', do you forgive me for taking time off the blog in favor of holding my life together? I can happily report now that our financial future is off life support (but still in serious condition), and that our marriage, just days after our first anniversary, is stronger and happier than ever.

Now that everything at home is running smoothly, I can turn my attention to the blogosphere. I have missed you!

Here is what I would like to talk to you about this week:
  • The crazy, beautiful, all-consuming baby blanket I'm knitting for my neice/nephew who will be born any minute now ... and why he/she won't be getting it until his/her first birthday.
  • Why making my own bread is AWESOME.
  • How parent guilt will make you consider crazy things.
  • My newfound love for Photoshop, and the reason you'll see lots of crazy things on my blog because of it.
  • Why I joined Weight Watchers ... again ... and feel great about it.
As you can see, I've got some things to say. And I'm thrilled to share them with you!
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'm lost!

I love me.

In fact, I love me so much that I'm going to tell you another story about me.

This is a story that I didn't know. My stepmom shared it with me last night, when we were talking about how children tend to take the things adults say very literally.

It appears that, when I was 3, my stepmom ordered an ice cream cake for me from Baskin Robbins. She intended to order it from a store on Pacific Coast Highway, a road that winds down California's coast for hundreds of mile. Unfortunately, she accidentally ordered it from a different store on the same highway, three or four towns away.

In attempting to reach the store, with three-year-old me snug in the backseat, she got turned around.

"Oh dear," she said. "We're lost."

I burst into tears, believing that we were Hansel-&-Gretel lost, never to see our loved ones again.

"Oh NO!," she says I wept, crying giant-sized toddler tears. "But I want to see my daddy again!"

I can't help but wonder how great that ice cream cake tasted when we finally arrived home that night. Probably pretty darn good.
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Mmmm, bread ...

Whenever anyone shakes their head at my weight-loss lamentations, and says something about how giving up bread caused them to lose 50 pounds in two days, I confess: I look at them like they're crazy.

If loving bread is wrong, I don't want to be right.

I've owned a bread machine, and loved setting the timer at night to wake up to delicious warm cinnamon bread early the next morning. I did the whole Amish Friendship Bread thing. If there are bananas within three blocks of me, I will turn them into SugarMamaBakingCo's banana bread.

So when I read Wan Life to Live's entry about making the Perfect Sandwich Bread, I looked in my pantry and decided to give it a shot.

It took nine whole ingredients, and then basically put itself together. With minimal effort on my part, my house smelled of freshly baking bread within three hours of my hauling out the Kitchen Aid mixer. And after 35 minutes in the oven .... viola!

Perfect is right ... despite my minimal bread-making experience, it came out beautifully. I waited about 5 minutes before slicing two pieces, slathering them with butter, cinnamon and sugar, and handing one off to my offical Taste Tester, who was working on the garage.

"No thanks," he tried. "I"m not really that hu ..." (This was when he saw that I wasn't actually going to leave the garage until he tasted my bread).

"Hey, wow! This is great!"

Isn't it funny how hunger can come back when you've got a piece of warm, buttery fresh bread in your hands?

This weekend I made two more loafs. One I sacrificed to the snacking gods, and to make garlic toast for Saturday's Oh-So-German dinner, but the other is wrapped in plastic in the fridge for BLT night.

And I just found a recipe for Honey Oatmeal Bread ...
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pretzel Bread Detective

I. Love. Pretzel bread.

And after acquiring my very own Kitchen Aid mixer, I decided to find a way to make it at home. That way, I'd never truly be without this carb-happy delight.

I've successfully used a recipe from Recipezaar several times. It is as follows:

1 1/3 c warm water
2 tbsp warm milk
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 c light brown sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted
4 c all-purpose flour
kosher or pretzel salt
2 quarts cold water
1/2 c baking soda

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with dough hook, mix 1/3 c warm water (105-115 degrees) with the yeast, and let stand until foamy (10 min.)

Add the remaining c warm water along with milk, sugar and melted butter. Swirl to dissolve sugar. Add flour and mix on dough cycle or med-low speed. Remove dough once it forms a firm, pliable ball. Add more flour if necessary.

Knead for two minutes. Roll into a two foot long log and cut into 12 even pieces. Cover with plastic and a damp cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.

Pat into rolls and arrange on lightly floured surface about an inch apart. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large pot, bring the cold water to a rolling boil and add baking soda.

Drop two rolls in at a time, boiling for no longer than 30 seconds, turning once. Carefully remove with tongs or slotted spoon and let drain. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Arrange rolls on parchment paper and bake on the upper and middle racks of the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until browned all over. Shift pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through for even baking.

I love this bread. It tastes exactly like a pretzel, with a chewy center and a hard brown crust. I load it up with kosher salt for maximum effect.

Today, I tried a different recipe from Two Bites in Suburbia, hoping to create an entire loaf of pretzel bread ... and just wanting to be different. It goes:

2 ¼ tsp yeast
1 cup water (110-120 degrees)
2 Tbsp room temperature milk
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
2 ½ – 3 cups bread flour
4 quarts water
½ cup baking soda
Kosher salt to taste
2 Tbsp melted butter

Add yeast, water, milk, brown sugar and butter into a large bowl, whisking until all ingredients are combined. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes for yeast to activate. Mix in kosher salt. Start by adding two cups of the flour to the bowl, combining it with other ingredients. Add more flour as it’s needed, reserving just a bit for coating the dough mat later.

The dough should form a slightly tacky, but firm ball. Oil the bowl, place the dough ball in the bowl, and cover with a damp towel for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, knead the dough by hand or machine for at least 5-10 minutes until the dough is elastic and satiny. Place dough back in the bowl and recover for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bring the 4 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, slowly add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and gently degas it. Form two separate balls of dough, forming them into the shape you want. Drop one of the smaller balls into the baking soda bath for no longer than 30 seconds, turning it once to guarantee both sides covered. Drain the excess water from the dough and place it on an oiled baking sheet. Repeat with second ball of dough.

Sprinkle the kosher salt over the bread to your specific tastes, and make sure to use a knife to cut a small incision on the top of the bread so the dough has somewhere to expand.

Cook the bread for 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once. Once removed from the oven, immediately brush the melted butter over the loaves to guarantee a soft crust.

The result was OK. The loaf had a great crust, but the chewy insides were entirely unremarkable. If not for the kosher salt, I could have been enjoying a regular ol' dinner roll.
Looking at the recipe, my favorite uses more brown sugar and more flour. QED, if you want good pretzel bread, don't skimp on the sugar!
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Sick of it!

I am tired of being overweight!

Well, of being fat. I'm always going to be overweight. But I don't have to weight this much. I officially classify myself as fat these days.

That's not to say I am not a good-looking gal. I am. See? (Full disclosure: I've put on about 10 pounds since that photo was taken.)

So how am I going to do this? I've given up coffee for the extra calories; switched most of my breakfasts to Slim Fast; concentrate on having a sandwich and bag of baked chips for lunch (instead of the Full Monty available in my work's cafeteria); and keep string cheese and sugar-snap peas on hand for an afternoon snack.

What then, you might ask, is my freakin' problem? In list format, it is this:
  • I haven't been to the gym in two weeks. I HAVE been walking/hiking with my dog, but not on a dedicated, gym scale. Maybe three good hikes a week, and an easy mile or so walk on the other days. At the gym, though, I was dedicated to running between 3 and 4 miles, and throwing in some strength training days, too.
  • Donuts. Cake. And anything else that "helpful" coworkers bring in to the office.
  • Trader Joe's dark chocolate raspberry sticks. Can I just blame all the world's problem on those things?
Now that I've identified my problem, let me take some steps to correct it:
  • Committ to an hour of EXERCISE five times a week. Could be a hike, could be a walk, could be a gym session. But I need to sweat. For an extended period of time.
  • Give up cake and donuts for Lent. That would leave me an out with some chocolate treats and fruit salad, but keep the worst of my demons from my door.
  • Finish the darn box of raspberry sticks, and not buy another!
I think that'll give me a start. Wish me luck.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Life, Interrupted

This is what I wanted to do last night:
  • Finish laundry
  • Put laundry away
  • Sweep
  • Vacuum
  • Garnish my 15-bean soup and eat a beautifully prepared dinner
  • Finish knitting at least one afghan square
  • Take my dog for two walks
  • Spend an hour talking to my husband before bed.
This is what I actually did last night:
  • Drink three glasses of wine
  • Watch "My Sister's Keeper" and cry
  • Get into a political discussion on a message board
  • Send apologetic messages to the people I argued with
  • Eat microwaved leftover lasagna
  • Chat online with my sister
  • Walk my dog, twice
  • Go to bed a half-hour before my husband came home from work
Sometimes, even though you have plans for life, life has plans for you. :)
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

So stylin'

You will all be so jealous when you see the seriously awesome earrings I bought at CJ's Studio jewelry store on Friday.

How awesome are they?

Let's just say that I will put them on and solve global warming; win an Oscar; turn down both Angelina Jolie AND Johnny Depp; then rescue a puppy from a burning building.

Well, OK ... maybe I'll just look super cute. :)

But check this out! The designer of said awesome earrings (I'll post photos when I get them) has started a line called "Hope for Haiti." She's selling beautiful pendants in the hopes of sending $1,000 overseas to help the survivors of the devastating quake. Trust me, all the cool kids will be buying them.

So not only will you own a really great necklace created by a local artist, but you'll be stylish for a good cause.

That's called a win-win, friends!

(And if you do head over and pick one up, do me a solid and tell her that Steph sent you.)
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Monday, February 8, 2010

Magic Pants

This really happened.

It's a scientific fact that our brain continues to develop as we grow.

Once, when I picked Bryce up from camp, he was wearing a pair of track pants that I'd never seen before. I asked him about them, and he said he got them out of his backpack. But, now that he thought about it, his towel wasn't in his backpack at the time. Neither was his lunch. And his name wasn't on it either.

Are you following me, out there?

He put on some random kid's pants out of a random backpack. A backpack that was identical to his, to be sure ... minus the name I wrote three times on the outside of the pack with two different Sharpie colors, minus the caribbeaner/sunscreen clipped to the outside of the pack, and minus anything that was recognizably his inside the pack.

To you and I, as adults, that'd be a tipoff that maybe something's off. But for kids ... it's par for the course. Mparents have laughed along with me at this story, assuring me that it happens all the time. It's not entirely out of the ordinary for kids to come home dressed entirely in mystery clothing.

But that afternoon, something more horrible occured to me.

"So if you got your clothes out of someone else's backpack, and you're wearing a strange kid's pants, does that mean you're wearing a stranger's underwear, too?" I asked, too horrified to really want to know the answer.

"Nope," Bryce said as he hopped into the car. "There wasn't any underwear in the bag."

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I've Been There

I love to travel.

I don't get to as much as I'd like. In fact, for someone who adores hotels, new places to explore, new languages and new adventures, I've traveled embarassingly little in my life.

You wouldn't know it for the recycled anecdotes I love to share, though.

In honor of my travel bug (and in anticipation of exciting future trips and more excuses for blogging), I've launched a second blog, "I've Been There." It's devoted to my travels--past, current and future. You can find a collection of amusing stories with which to procrastinate the day away.

The name of the blog is something that my husband is familiar with--and probably wishes he weren't. It's my penchant for shouting, "I've been there!" whenever a place I've visited pops up on the television screen, in movies or in conversation. Really, I'm quite annoying.

I'm also going to update this new blog with various reviews and recommendations, including some local places right here in California (in case I ever get any out-of-state followers). Keep in mind that I'm not an expert: I just know what I like.

So check it out! I'd love to hear of some of your own travel anecdotes at I've Been There. I welcome collaboration, guest bloggers and, as always, a rich assortment of comments.
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Can I be wealthy now, please?

A friend of mine recently started her own business, representing local artists. I think she is tremendously brave, and that she's in exactly the right line of work!

I checked our her Web site, which includes pieces by her clients, and was absolutely floored by these, from CJ's Studio:

And these:

Definitely these:

Apparently, they're available at this fabulous store in downtown Santa Cruz, The Artisan's Gallery. It's a store that I avoid like the plague, because I invariably find something that I love but can't afford.

And I don't have a baby, but if I did, I'd probably have a half-dozen of these, from Urban Baby Goods, another one of Judy's clients:

But since we're talking about adorable baby wear, can I bring up these?

They're from Onesie Twosies, by Natalie, a blogger I love!

Is that enough shilling for the day? I promise I get no discounts, promotional items or even credit for showing you these adorable things. I just looooove them!

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Monday, February 1, 2010

I'm gonna do it

Last year, we had such an abundance of apples on two trees in our backyard that I was stupified.

The hubs and I consulted on numerous occassions as to what kind of apples they were (since they weren't Granny Smith's or Red Delicious, we were stumped), and if they were ripe. Finally, we decided it was time to pick them. They were green and tart.

I invited a friend over for a massive pie/apple butter making session. We spent an entire day pounding out jars and pies of apple-y goodness.

And a couple weeks later, the apples we left on the tree turned red and sweet.


This year, though, I'm going to be prepared. I'm going to can those apples so that not one goes to waste. I'll make more apple butter, I'll make applesauce, and I'll make whatever else I can think of (although I'm not sure what else you can do with apples. Is there apple jam?).

But why stop there? We live practically next door to California's strawberry fields, and I'm forever buying jars of jam. There's a plum tree in my front yard, and I love plum preserves.

So this year, I'm going to be prepared. I'm going to can some stuff like the good Recession-Era wifey I am.

(Now, can someone please come over and show me how do it?)
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Where God lives

This is another cute post from 2008. This kid!

Conversing with Bryce is like driving during a high-speed chase in "The Bourne Identity." You think you're going left, and all of a sudden, BAM ... U-turn down a flight of stairs.

This morning, we were talking about our favorite characters from "Transformers Animated" on the way to camp. His: Bumblebee, "'cause he's fast." Mine: "The motorcycle guy. I think he's smart."

"Oh, Rachet?" Bryce asked with a disappointed tone. "He's the boring one. He doesn't do anything."

Well, excuuuuuuuse me!

Then, out of left field:

"What do the angels do when it's foggy?"


"Well, what do you think they do?"

"I think they have wind and water."


"And do you know where God lives? You go to outer space, and then on top of that, is where God lives. Because God can't live in outer space ... no one can. Sometimes God comes down to watch us, though. He doesn't talk--just watches. And I think God has a table, and you lay down on it, and he has the wings. But it's only for people in cemeteries. Then he puts the wings on you."

And, just as my mind was boggling trying to figure out where all this came from; and exactly what Sunday School he's been attending, he hit me with his on his way out of the car.

"And God has a crown. I know. And other people have circles that are light and go on your head. And they're magic."

"Halos?" I asked.

"What's a halo?" he replied.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Darndest Things

This repost from 2008 was too good not to share.

I wasn't around for this one, but I thought it was definitely worth telling secondhand.

Matt took Bryce to Costco to get his glasses adjusted, and pick up a couple odds and ends. As they were passing a table of samples, Bryce asked if he could have one.

"No," Matt said. "But do you want to know why?"

Bryce, with a sly look and joking tone, replied, "Because you're a jerk?"

Matt said he almost cried he laughed so hard. Then he told Bryce never to say that to anyone else, ever ... but because he made his Old Man laugh, he could have the sample.

To the kid's credit, he wouldn't even repeat the story to me.


While I was driving Bryce to day camp, he started asking me all about my work.

"Do you have friends there?"

Sure, I answered, and rattled off the names of some of my co-workers, including my boss, Mike.

"Is he a good boss? Is he nice to you?" Bryce asked. (He always asks this about everyone's boss. I'm wondering who had a bad boss.)

"Oh yes," I answered.

"Does he play with you? Do you get free time?"

Hmmm. "Well, I get to eat lunch, and I have a couple breaks," I answered. "What do you mean by free time?"

"You know, like playing on the swings, and in the sandbox."

Don't I wish! :)
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Things my father told me

I just spent a good 30 minutes slogging through the rain, without a coat, scarf or umbrella. In heels and hose, no less.

As the wind picked up, chilling my already damp form to the bone, I thought about the advice my dad has given me through the years. Topping the list of oft-repeated suggestions, I think, is this:

"Bring your jacket--it's cold."

I'd inevitably roll my eyes and stomp off to grab my coat, refusing to put it on and cover my adorable outfit no matter what the temperature. He'd roll his eyes back and mutter, "Girls."
Let me tell you, it's good advice.

Other pieces of wisdom I wish I'd followed more over the years include gems like: "Those aren't the right shoes to wear for this," "Do or do not, there is no try," "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got," "Don't be embarrassed" and "Go help your mother in the kitchen."
He is a smart man, my dad, and I realize it more every day.

But just when I get to thinking that he may be all-seeing and all-knowing, I remember his advice when I was talking to my stepmom about bathing-suit shopping for my honeymoon

"Why don't you just go to Costco? They've got lots of swimsuits there."

And I remember that we're all fallible.

But I put an extra jacket in the car, just in case.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Inevitable "Twilight" Post

A co-worker dropped this off for me today. She did it because I lent her three of my four Twilight books.

And then we went to see "New Moon" together. Opening weekend. We stood in line, wearing business attire, surrounded by teenyboppers wearing black sweatshirts and Converse.

Let me be perfectly clear: I am not a goth, nor am I 15 and lonely. I don't cry or faint at the sight of Robert Pattinson (I might not even be able to spell his name correctly).

The superior, intellectual part of me doesn't even think the movies or books are all that good.

How, then, do I explain the dog-eared copies of the Saga on my bookshelf? The fact that three of them are in hardcover? My nagging urge to order additional copies for my Kindle?

What about that time, about a month back, when I rented the movie? Or the fact that I happen to know it's going to be on Shotime this Saturday, and can't figure out how to secretly record and watch it without the hubs' knowledge?

I can't explain any of it. The truth is that I love those damn stories.

And I'm only a little bit ashamed to admit it.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

That'll fix it

Emboldened by my happy results from the Two Layer Pineapple Upside Down Cake, I decided to use the box of butter cake mix I was squirreling away on Saturday. I figured I'd bake a two layer cake for the hubs, and use the opportunity to make my own chocolate frosting.

I prepared the cake per the directions, and put it in the oven. Thus ended the "classical music" portion of my dessert.

The chocolate icing was pure jazz. The recipe I found in Betty Crocker called for a half-cup chocolate powder, eight cups of powdered sugar, 3/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup milk and two tablespoons vanilla.

I could see right off the bat that there wasn't enough chocolate. And that I didn't have enough butter. So I dumped the stick of butter I did have into the Kitchen Aid mixer, and added a half-cup of chocolate ... and then some.

Ooops, I was supposed to cream the butter first. Better add some milk. But not the nonfat in the fridge ... I picked up the half-and-half we use for creamer. I added it until the mixture looked creamy, then dumped in a box of powdered sugar.

Too thick. More cream. And more. Oooh, the vanilla! More creamer. More sugar! More creamer.

And so on, until the mixer was about half full of a delicious first attempt at homemade chocolate frosting.

I used dental floss to even out the top half of each cake, then plopped the first half down and slapped a pile of icing on top.

Did you know that thick icing will actually tear a cake? Getting crumbs in the icing and putting holes in your beautiful dessert?

Did you further know if you slap on more icing, it will cover the ugly spots?

There was close to an inch of icing in some spots before I put the top layer on the cake. I frosted the top, and then the sides ... and then looked at the four cups of remaining icing in the pot. I did another taste-test, and thought, Why not?

By the time I finished, there was almost more frosting than cake.

But with chocolate jimmies and some artistic flourishes from my spatula (no professional frosting equipment here!), you couldn't tell without cutting into it.

The hubs asked for an enormous, Matilda-esque slice, and I obliged. He lost some color when he saw all the frosting, but dug in like a good soldier.

Then, days later, he politely suggested that next time, I add a little cake to my chocolate frosting.

Sure, babe. Just hand me that fork.
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Winning at "Marriage"

If marriage were a competition, my husband would be winning.

This weekend, anyway. It started Saturday morning, when we took Koa to his first dog park. Our superior canine far preferred our company to the company of other dogs. We left when he just laid down next to us, coolly surveying all the pooping and chasing. No other dogs were cool enough for him.

When I got home from grocery shopping afterwards, my darling husband--the best one in the world, I might add--was cleaning the bathroom. Bonus, I thought. This must be because he washed the dog last weekend and I successfully pretended that I did not see the layer of German Shepherd hair on the floor. Passive-aggressive win!!

But after he finished that bathroom, he cleaned the other one. And the guest room. And collected the laundry. And swept and vacuumed.

For no reason. I didn't ask, nag or cajole. He's just that nice. Then he made me a steak dinner. I baked him a two-later butter cake with homemade chocolate frosting. He preferred the ice cream he'd just bought, but it was the thought that counted.

With the house clean this morning, he decided to change the oil in our cars, so I took over laundry (which has become his domain). We went for lunch at our favorite Indian food buffet, and watched "Angels and Demons" together in our new reclining chairs.

I tried to repay his awesomeness by NOT saying, "I've been there!" every 10 minutes; explaining the origins of the word "conclave" or giving away the ending when he asked, "So that's a good guy, right?"

So here I am, laundry done, house clean, looking at a tomorrow with no obligations in it. Looks like another work holiday spent with my knitting ... and Lifetime: Television for Women.

But I'll put in some time plotting on how I can swing next weekend in my favor.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Dream Interpretation

Last night, I dreamed that I was trying to park the hubs' truck ... but I was sitting in the passenger seat, and the brakes wouldn't work.

It's a dream I have often. Different cars, different scenarios, same nightmare: I'm in the wrong seat, trying to control the vehicle. And usually, the brakes go out.

It got me thinking about my other recurring dreams. See if any of these sound familiar to you:

  • I have a pet that I've forgotten about for months.
  • I am in a public situation without an appropriate article of clothing. It could be shoes, a shirt, pants ... or I could just be wearing pajamas or a robe for a business meeting.
  • I'm in school but have forgotten to go to class for the entire semester.
  • I'm dating someone, but am frantic because I know that this individual is not the right person, and the hubs is waiting for me somewhere.
And there are certain regularities to my dream world. For instance, I always dream in color, I always remember my dreams, I can typically control my dreams ... but I can never dial a phone. Ever.

Hmmm ... control issues, much?

Maybe tonight, I'll try to work in some new themes. I wonder if David Boreanas' subconcious is busy?
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To Do List 2009: Create a Signature Pastry

I tried muffins.

I tried scones.

I tried pies, cakes and puddings.

But when it comes to the desserts that I am known for, I've had to accept something: It's my Christmas cookies.

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza comes once a year, when I set an entire weekend aside for baking and divvying up hundreds of cookies. The hubs takes some to his work; I take some to mine. The list seems to grow every year.

This year, I outdid myself. I made these:

If you want a taste of my signature pastry, come visit me around the holidays.

Trust me. There will be leftovers.

(All images were borrowed from the Web. For the record, they are: Pecan Pie Cookies, Iced Sugar Cookies, Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, Italian Anisettes and White-Chocolate-Cranberry Cookies.)

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

To Do List 2009: Cook with Meat

All you women crowd in close now. I want to tell you something that will make you jealous to your core.

My husband makes dinner in my house.

Yep, I said it. It's true. I plan the menus, I do the shopping, but when it comes to meal prep, it's all him.

Well, I throw in a casserole or premade something-something here and there, just so he doesn't get burned out.

But dinner is typically his responsibility.

It's because I can't cook. I can bake my hiney off, but I can't cook. The times I've tried have been so disastrous that he'd just rather I didn't, anymore.

The first time I cooked for him, I learned that pork chops have to be appropriately thin to be cooked in a skillet for 2 minutes on each side. Otherwise, your date will believe you're trying to kill him with food poisoning.

Early on, when we started living together, I learned that you can't just leave chicken in the oven until you're darn well ready to eat it. Otherwise, it takes three or four cans of Dr. Pepper just to make it go down.

When we moved to Santa Cruz, I learned that the same goes for roasting cashews for Cashew Chicken. Your boyfriend will get tears in his eyes after smelling crock-pot cashew chicken all day only to be told that the essential ingredient has been burned to a crisp.

So I don't try much with meat anymore. After we got married, though, I got it into my head that every woman should know how to grow a garden and roast a chicken.

So one day, when I was home from work for one reason or another, I went to the Fancy Grocery Store in town and bought a chicken. I followed the directions, I put it in a pan, and I roasted the ever-loving heck out of that chicken.

I served my beautiful bird with a salad and homemade biscuits. I dug in, my stepson dug in ... and I noticed that my dear husband was pushing his chicken around on the plate.

"Don't you like it?" I asked, my heart falling to my shoes because I already knew the answer.

"Not really," he admitted, pleading silently not to be kicked to the couch for the night.


I'm sticking with casseroles. There's a lot less blood, sweat and heartache there.
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Friday, January 8, 2010

Go Away, World

I am cranky this Friday morning.

After 31 years of the world generally working in my favor, Karma has decided to intervene. Here's a rundown of why I am cranky:

Best Buy Sucks.
The hubs hopped over to Best Buy the day after Christmas, and using a return item, some cash and money we didn't have too much of in our bank account, bought an external hard drive. As happens to the best of us in retail situations (see the time Steph bought a $160 bra in New York), reality stepped in five minutes later, and he turned right around and returned it.

Literally. Five minutes later.

We still have not seen our refund. Best Buy is keeping their merchandise and our money. That is the same as if we kept their merchandise and our money. Stealing. I believe there's a commandment out there regarding that.

The store tells us to call the 800-number. The 800-number (after hours on hold and multiple disconnects) tells us to go back to the store. The latest we've heard is that we may see our money back in a few days.

Car Warranties Suck.
When we bought my car a few years back, we decided to pay an extra $1600 for an 80,000 warranty. This would bring our total warranty to 110,000, meaning we'd pretty much not have to worry about anything as long as we had the car.

That mileage is right, by the way. I checked the warranty contract we signed. It has the total mileage as well as what we paid for it. I had to sign it. There's lots of legal language to it.

But I just paid $450 to have my engine mount replaced, because the warranty company told us that they changed the terms, and would only be covering my car until 80,000 miles.

Now, if I went and spent $5 on a pound of potatoes at Safeway, and then the price of potatoes went up, Safeway would not be able to come to my house and take half of my potatoes away.

How is this any different?

My sweater sucks.
It's too short. It's a top-of-the-hips sweater, and we live in a below-the-hips world. It hits me in all the wrong places and accentuates my winter weight gain. But I love 3/4 sleeved black sweaters. So there we are.

I'm thirsty. It sucks.
OK, I could get up and get a glass of water, but I'm far more into my angst right now.

Bank Accounts Suck.
The hubs has almost nothing in his, because he does not get paid for vacation. That sucks in itself. But mostly, because Best Buy is stealing from us, we have no money in one of our bank accounts.

And I like having money in my bank account. It's something I've grown accustomed to over the years. Not a lot, but enough.

My hair sucks.
It's too long. I need a cut. I committed the ultimate sin and cancelled my last haircut an hour before I was supposed to go in (Really, it was a work thing. I am not That Girl.). And thanks to Best Buy, I can't schedule another appointment for at least two weeks. Probably four.

I realize that I am very, very lucky that all of our money problems are temporary; and that we have enough to catch up to the ones that aren't. I realize that there are many people out there who haven't had a haircut in months, and who can't go to Best Buy to get ripped off in the first place.

I'm just being petulant.

I'm sorry.
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

To Do List 2009: Lose 10 Pounds

Considering I gained, oh, too many, I'd say that was a massive FAIL!

To be fair, I did run a half-marathon during the time that I expected to lose 10 pounds. They told me that I would not lose an ounce during training, and I did not believe them.

How hard could it be to lose weight when you eat sensibly and run 12-20 miles each week?


Very, very hard.

I did not realize that running 12-20 miles each week makes you want to eat everything in sight. I've never been so hungry ... and never had a better reason to make enormous breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

So I gained weight. But I also spent three months eating amazing scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon and toast.

Sometimes when you lose, you win.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

To Do List 2009: Organize a Home Office


Terrific, absolute fail!

The closest I came to a home office was setting our defunct desktop computer up on the hubs' childhood desk. And even then, I inadvertently chose the plug that is attached to the room's light switch.

Turn the light off, turn the computer off. Not ideal.

Of course, I did go through five years worth of files, and purge almost everything. But since I didn't do that until Jan. 1, I don't think it counts.

What it comes down to is this: To have a home office, you must have office furniture. And that's dreadfully expensive.

Maybe next year.

(I did get rid of an old computer desk, a Rubbermaid storage container that had seen better days, and two or three cardboard boxes. I wish I had made that a goal instead!)
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pioneer Woman

Okay, people.

Which one of you told me to check out The Pioneer Woman's blog?


Because I am soooooo obsessed with it. I have spent almost two days reading about how she met and fell in love with her husband (Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story) and all about her family.

If you keep track of those who blog about you, O Pioneer Woman, I have a girlfriend-crush on you. I want to invite you to my house and crack open a bottle of wine and let you tell me the secret of life.

But since you've got about 100,000 admirers, I will worship quietly from afar.

And keep reading.
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To Do List 2009: Run a Half Marathon


After a few painstaking months with Team in Training, the wonderful individuals who not only convinced me that I am a runner, but made it so, I completed the Nike Women's Half Marathon in three hours and eight minutes.

By the way, my first half marathon was in San Francisco, everyone. There were hills EVERYWHERE! Hills are my nemesis.

While I'm not looking forward to my second half-marathon (although I did ask a friend to include me in the team she submitted to the Nike lottery system), I'm really glad I did the one!
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Monday, January 4, 2010

My wish list for 2010

I know everyone is complaining about 2009.

Some people really deserve to, with economic breakdowns, illnesses diagnosed, the passing of loved ones and more.

But it makes me a little sad for poor old 2009. Last year I got married. I went to Maui. I moved into a great house. I got a dog. I started paying off debt and was quite successful at it.

I will miss 2009.

But that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to all the surprises this year has in store. 2010 has nothing but promise.

I like promise.

While I never make resolutions (I'm resolved about very few things in life, and would like to keep it that way), here's what I'd like from 2010:
  • Teach me to play the guitar. It's time to stop beating around the bush: After years of trying to convince everyone I know to pick up a musical instrument, I've come to realize that it was all about me. I've always wanted to learn the guitar and piano. So this year, I'm tackling the guitar. (It seemed a lot simpler and less expensive than the piano.)
  • Help me figure out how to buy a house. I am so not ready to buy a house. I don't have a down payment saved up, I don't have a savings account to speak of AND I still have a lot of work to do to pay off my debt. But ... I've got a plan that's working to get me to all of those places, sooner rather than later. So I want to check that plain with the professionals out there.
  • Take me on vacation. My honeymoon in 2009 was an utterly magical week. And it made me realize how much the hubs and I need to get away from it all. We need it for ourselves, for relaxation; and we need it for each other, for bonding. I'd like to see Seattle and New York this year.
  • Keep me on track, financially. Like I said, we've got a great plan in place for debt/savings. We just have to keep going.
  • Avoid all my attempts at excuses. I have some wonderful excuses that I've worked hard on over the years to keep me away from the gym and in the cookie jar. I'd like all those excuses thwarted, if possible.
  • Allow me some kindness. I firmly believe that we don't show ourselves enough kindness and acceptance. I hope to change that this year.

I also resolve to change and adjust these requests at will, based on my needs at any given moment in 2010.

How's that for a resolution?

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