Busy

It’s a word that gets thrown around often.  Not just with me; we all use it.  Busy.  We’re ALL busy.  Caps, bold, italics.

“Sorry I never got back to you; I’ve been so busy!”

“How’s your summer?” “Busy!”

Me, personally?  It’s never occurred to me to keep track of how many times a day I say it, hear it, think it.

Any time I take my boys (three of them, all under age five) out in public?  At least one casual observer will offer a grin and a sympathetic “I bet you’re busy!”

When my husband reluctantly asks me to do a favor or take care of something household related because he works pretty crazy hours anymore?  “Babe, I know you’re busy enough already, but if you get a minute during naptime or whatever, could you…?”

When I look at the stack of library books on my nightstand or on the end table in the living room? “Ugh, if I wasn’t so busy, I’d be through those already!”

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A lot of my busy-ness is of my own making.  Apparently I took Aesop’s Fables a bit too literally as a child, because every time I ignore work to do something pleasurable, I’m reminded of the Grasshopper and the Ant.  Remember that story?  The ant worked and worked, never taking time off, while the grasshopper, all “Carpe Diem!” played and forgot to prepare for winter.  So when wintertime rolled around, the ant was warm and full, while the grasshopper died a cold, hungry death.

That must be it.  I hate being cold.  And hungry.

So I stay busy.  Not always particularly productive, but definitely busy.  And when I say busy, I pretty much mean in the sense that I start 349587348962 projects and approximately 2 get done.

Take, for instance, this spring.  I found an ant infestation in my spider plant (here we go with the ant theme again). So I carried the plant to our back deck, where I drowned those suckers out, then gave them a nice, healthy dose of old coffee grounds to show them I meant business.  Apparently, ants hate coffee.  So maybe I’m not as much like an ant as I thought.  Anyway… my spider plant.  I didn’t want to bring the ants back inside, so I let my plant sit on the deck for a couple of days.  It was still spring, and we weren’t finished having frost then, so a few leaves on my plant were sacrificed in the effort.  When I pulled them to make room for new growth, I put the dead leaves on top of last summer’s hanging basked from the deck, my Mother’s Day petunia from Ryan and the boys, which I never emptied last fall.

Fast forward to late July.  This past Saturday morning, Ryan took the boys with him to run an errand while I stayed home.  After they left, I wandered back to the deck to pick up yesterday’s swim suits and towels, and decided maybe it’s time to finally clean out that hanging basket.  What I found when I moved those dead spider plant leaves took me by surprise.

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My point is, yes, I’m busy.  We’re ALL busy.  Caps, bold, italics.  It’s not exclusively a parent thing, or a student thing, or a career thing or a sports thing or a…well, you get it.  Life is hectic, and messy, and crazy, and unpredictable.  And sometimes, under all that busy-ness, there are surprises budding that we aren’t expecting.

And aren’t those the best?

 

xoxox,

~d

 

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Cheesecake. (You want a subtitle with that?)

Apparently, my husband talks about me at work.

I know this because he tells me.  And somehow, he manages to mostly tell them only good stuff, as far as I know, which is pretty awesome.  He has repeated conversations to me during the course of which he revealed his understanding of charger plates in dining table setting; another conversation, he told someone who asked about my career that I’m currently a “wonderful stay-at-home mom to our son.”  And most often, it seems, he talks about my recipes.  

In fact, he talks about my recipes so much that he came home with a request last week for my cheesecake recipes.  When I asked which ones he wanted, he replied, “oh, I don’t know…all of them?”  

Let me be clear: I adore cheesecake.  Ok, I adore all desserts, but cheesecake ranks in the top five of my favorite varieties.  And because of my love of cheesecake, I try to bake them myself as often as possible.  My traditional contribution to Thanksgiving with Ryan’s family is a cheesecake, and every year I present a new flavor.  I love to experiment.

The problem is that I’m terrible at them.  They always taste ok.  In fact, most often, they taste pretty darn good.  Just sayin’.  Unfortunately, though, they don’t always come out of the oven looking as amazing as they taste.  I have, in the last seven years, produced only one that didn’t have a crack down the middle.  Of course, that recipe required garnish that covered that amazing accomplishment, but I patted myself heavily on the back for the way it looked coming out of the oven. 

I’ve tried letting them come down to room temperature gradually by turning off the oven heat and letting them inside.  I’ve tried to not overbeat the eggs.  So far, nothing has worked.  However, I just found this website that has some amazing insider tricks, so it may be time to try again.  There’s an Oreo cookie cheesecake in one of my Taste of Home cookbooks that I’ve been dying to attempt.

My first stab at cheesecake actually started with Ryan.  He came home from work one day seven or eight years ago with a recipe printed on a piece of paper and asked if I could make it for him.  At the time, he was not much of a dessert eater, but he said this one sounded particularly appetizing.  We made.  We enjoyed.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Pumpkin swirl cheesecake is still on our list of favorites.

After I made that one, it sort of turned into a game to see what else I could pull off.  The next Thanksgiving, I brought a red velvet cheesecake to dinner.  This might be one of my personal favorites, because I’m a red velvet fanatic, and this is an incredibly rich and decadent cheesecake.

Having done a fair job with these, Ryan requested a New York-style cheesecake as a random mid-week dessert one summer.  I decided that Mr. Emeril Lagasse was probably a pretty good chef to consult, so we tried New York-style cheesecake with a fruit topping.  If I remember correctly, blackberries and raspberries were in season at the time so I used Emeril’s sauce recipes as a guide to cook the berries down with some liquor and sugar, then poured over the cheesecake slice-by-slice before serving (for those who aren’t huge fans of fruit).   

The following year, we tried caramel-peanut butter swirl cheesecake.  This one has become one of Ryan’s favorites with its combination of sweet and salty flavors.  I make it my own by substituting the store-bought caramel sauce with my homemade salted caramel sauce, then omit the salt called for in the cheesecake recipe.  

Two years ago, we sampled caramel apple brownie cheesecake.  The name is deceiving, because there’s no chocolate in it.  The crust is more “blondie” than “brownie,” but it’s one of those recipes that just sings “fall.”  

Last spring, when entertaining friends of ours, we tried Hershey’s Special Dark truffle brownie cheesecake.  This, my friends, is every bit as sinful as it sounds…and then some.  It may be one of the richest desserts I’ve ever made or tasted but it’s enough to make any bad day go away.  We made it again for New Year’s Eve this year, and it was a pretty big hit.

This past Thanksgiving, I found yet another sweet’n’salty combo to tickle Ryan’s palate: Cinderella cheesecake.  With a (chocolate) brownie crust, then more chocolate, and lots of peanut butter, this one became an instant winner as well.  

I’m excited for my list to grow to include many more of these recipes.  Right now, I’m craving something lighter to break out of comfort food mode.  Maybe a little fruity like berry or lemon…or something completely off-the-wall like lavender- which I’ve never eaten before, but because everything in my head is purple right now, it looks like it would taste like a fresh spring day.

 

Cheers!

xoxo,

~d

 

 

Reasons, Seasons, and Lifetimes

This post keeps offering itself in bits and pieces in my head- has been for about a year now.  And, with the holidays so recently behind us, reflection and the ongoing spirit they bring is apparently still hanging out…sort of like the four Christmas trees I have up in our house and have yet to find the heart to take down.  

We’ve all heard the saying, “people will come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”  Each new phase of our life brings with it acquaintances that will stick, or that will move on, whether it’s because they turned out to not be who we hoped they were, or because we don’t have enough in common with them to sustain a long-term relationship, or because they teach us a valuable lesson (either positive or negative) and then we move on.  

I’ve been out of high school now for nearly eleven years.  Out of college for seven.  And out of the professional arena for almost three.  And the friends I’ve accumulated through school and work- both expected and unexpected- have the funniest habit of all contacting me around the same time.  If I hear from one of these ladies, I can almost guarantee that the others are going to follow soon behind.

My best girl, Laken, I’ve known since birth.  Well, since my birth.  She suffered alone for about two weeks before I entered the world, and we’ve been a little like magnets ever since.  The funny thing about our relationship is that we live far apart from one another, and yet we depend on one another like neighbors.  We’ve been maid of honor in each other’s weddings, while only seeing each other a handful of times since high school.  And despite distance and the fact that we lead very different lives, she’s the first person I want to talk to when I have something to share.

My friend Bekah (ok, Becky, but I don’t remember if I ever actually called her that) I’ve known since sixth grade basketball.  Then we were seated next to each other in band the same year.  If I remember correctly, we had to be separated for talking and laughing too much.  These days, she can always be counted upon for a day of winery hopping and sipping.  And giggling. Of course, it means a weekend of travel for her and her husband, but I don’t think she minds.  And Kasey, her husband, tolerates our shenanigans without complaint.  

Kayla was in band with Becky and me.  The three of us got pretty silly together, and stayed that way through the end of high school.  These days, Kayla lives about a half hour from us with her husband and three kids.  Her youngest and our little guy were born about two weeks apart; we shared a due date after celebrating Thanksgiving together two years ago.  We try to get together when we can, and the kids have a ball with one another.

Katy moved to our town when we were sophomores in high school.  She joined our group of friends and was there (with Kayla) when Ryan and I were just flirting through the window of a concession stand at the races.  She has continued to keep in touch when breaks from grad school and vet school have permitted.  We’ve been known to have a marathon phone conversation or two when schedules allow, and have even managed to see each other twice in the past year.  

Sarah and Janelle are friends I made in college.  They were already friends with one another, both transferred from other schools after their first year (in fact, Janelle transferred from the school that would have been my second choice had I not been accepted to my first choice; our paths were destined to cross either way).  Neither of these two were friends I expected to add to this list, since they both look like supermodels, but I am so grateful to have both of them in my life.  Janelle isn’t exactly great at keeping in touch, but her daughter goes to school just a few miles from my house so it’s fairly common for her to just stop in once in awhile with little warning.  She took the photos at our wedding, and her talent is a constant inspiration.  Sarah and I don’t see each other as often, and don’t speak frequently, but we squeeze in a lunch date when we can.  She’s one of the quietest and most unassuming people I’ve ever known, with a giant heart and unfailing dependability.  

And last but certainly not least (I’ve tried to go chronologically where possible here) is Nicole.  Nicole and I met through work, where I was passed over after my first interview only to be called back several months later to take the position.  Nicole thought I should skip my honeymoon in order to start work (filling her previous position after she was promoted) immediately following our wedding.  Fortunately, my boss did not agree with her assessment, and after her own honeymoon to the same country nearly three years ago, I’m thinking she wouldn’t make that recommendation again.  

These ladies all lead very different lives- from one another and from me- and yet, it seems everyone gets on the same wavelength a few times a year, because if I hear from one, it’s a pretty safe bet I’ll be hearing from all of them in rapid succession.  These ladies, I hope, are my lifetime friends.  

Love you, ladies!  Happy 2014!

xoxox,

~d

Baby Steps

I used a pun to title this post.  Just making sure I still know how to use a pun.  Also, just making sure I still know how to blog.

It’s been awhile.  A long while.  When I started this blog, I was a “career woman,” out in the real world, sharing my daily debacles as I stumbled through life working, maintaining our home, and attempting “domestic goddess” status.  I had a lot to share, and a lot of time to share it.

Nowadays, I strive to take a shower.

I don’t want this to become another “Mommy blog,” because, as much as I’m in love with our new son, and as much as I am adoring my new career as a stay-at-home mom (striving to be promoted to domestic engineer), I’m still trying to find the balance of meeting the little guy’s needs, maintaining the kind of home Ryan and I are accustomed to (and, in fact, the kind of home we both need in order to stay sane), and keeping two men and a dog fed (that sounds like a weird movie, doesn’t it?) while also trying to find time to keep doing my “me” things.  That sounds selfish, doesn’t it?  Except that in concept, it’s really not…God, I hope it’s not.  Ryan needs his time with the little one when he gets home from work.  And I do occasionally like to take a break from the kitchen and laundry to read a book, take a bath, do my nails, or write a blog.  And Clohe is the kind of dog who still needs to be the center of attention, so we have been trying to keep up with her therapy visits.  (And this is a lot of parentheses and sentence fragments.  Apparently, my writing skills are slipping).  And if I’m showered, dressed (in jeans, not sweats!), and can apply a bit of make-up and do something with my wildly-out-of-control hair before 6 pm… well, that’s a big bonus.   

And so recently, what with the little man sleeping 8-ish hour stretches at night (hallelujah!), I’ve been taking baby steps back into the kitchen.  This weekend, I made a crock pot chicken cacciatore, these grocery store-style sugar cookies, a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and a batch of homemade salted caramel sauce that I plan to substitute in the cheesecake recipe I’m contributing to Thanksgiving dinner with Ryan’s family. 

Most weeknight meals lately have been chicken; I’ve found that cooking a whole fryer chicken on the weekends when Ryan is home, then portioning it out and leaving it in the fridge makes dinnertime much easier, since the most time-consuming part is already done.  When I can, I’ve made extra of whatever we’re having, and put half a meal into the freezer for later.  Or, if it’s been a really rough day, Ryan just has to entertain the baby while I throw something together quickly.  In fact, last Monday night, Ryan came home to find me sacked out on the loveseat with the baby, nothing started for dinner.  Fortunately, my pre-portioned chicken idea saved the night, and dinner was ready in less than twenty minutes.

So, I’m working on getting the cleaning-with-a-baby-in-the-house routine down.  Cooking and baking are also works in progress.  And so the next item on my list is blogging. 

Baby steps, friends.  Baby steps.