Novel Idea

I’m kind of addicted to my Kindle.  It was a second anniversary gift from my amazing husband last year, and from the day it arrived in the mail, I’ve been in love.  So in love, in fact, that I converted my aunts from their “other brand” e-readers.  And also, I taught my mom (who is a self-proclaimed technophobe) how to use hers after my brothers and I bought her one for Christmas last year.  Mom’s addicted too.

My sister has begun composing her Christmas list, and today she informed me that she was placing the Kindle at the top of her list.  Queen of corny and stupid jokes as I am, I intentionally led her into a conversation with a punchline.  Apparently, she’s getting a little old for my childish humor, because here’s how the conversation went:

Peanut: “I made my Christmas list for this year; I really want a Kindle.”

Me: “What will you do with a Kindle?”

Peanut: “Read.”

Me: “Read what?”

Peanut: “Books.”

Me: “Hm.  What a novel idea!  Ha, get it?  Novel?  Like a book?”

Peanut: “Ok, Danielle, I have to go.  Bye.”

Guess she didn’t think I was as funny as I did.  Dear Santa, please bring me a book of grown-up jokes.  Better yet, just bring me a new sense of humor.  Preferably one that’s age appropriate.




My Dog and I Have the Same Sense of Humor. And I’m Kind of OK With It

When Derek and I were little, my mom used to rake up huge piles of leaves for us to jump in.

There was one stipulation: once we were finished jumping in the leaves, we had to help scoop them up, into these giant orange trash bags that had pumpkin designs on the front.  The pumpkin-leaf bags would sit in our front yard as decoration for Halloween, and then would be discarded.  It was kind of genius for Mom to use this logic: first, she had helpers to rake the leaves, because we always wanted the biggest pile possible.  Secondly, once we were done jumping, we got to help fill these awesome decoration bags.  We were willing to do yard work.  In other words, we were suckers.

Fast forward two decades, and I’m still always anxious to get outside to rake leaves.  In years past, time has been limited and we haven’t always gotten around to it.  But these days, my calendar is wide open.  And this week, the weather has been far too perfect to tend to my indoor chores, so I picked up the rake and went outside.

Monday I did some picking up and burned some sticks and things around the property.  Today, I raked.

Oh, and apparently?  That sixth sense parents have when their child is getting into mischief never goes away.  Because as I raked my gigundo pile of leaves into which I planned to propel my body, my mom called, to ask a question and also to see what I was into today.  While I was talking to her, my Daddy called me, just to check on me since I hadn’t talked to him in awhile.  Daddy doesn’t call very often, because he doesn’t really like the phone, and also because his location changes frequently so his service changes accordingly, and he’s usually in bad service areas.  My parents knew, from a distance of over 150 miles, that I was about to do something stupid.

And, yes, what I proceeded to do next does qualify as stupid.  Mostly because I’m supposed to be a mature, responsible adult, but also because I was mostly alone.  As in, except for my dog.  But we did it anyway, and we had a blast.

Dance like nobody is watching, right friends?

Happy Fall!



Pumpkin Farm- Part I

One of my favorite memories from childhood was our annual trips to the pumpkin farm.  There was a place about 40 minutes from where we lived that Mom would take us to pick our would-be jack-‘o’-lanterns.  Derek and I would ponder for what seemed like forever- usually making it a competition to see who got the bigger one.  There was also a little shop at the farm where Mom always shopped for crafts and gourds and Indian corn; it was her reward to herself after enduring any length of time with my brother and me and our constant bickering.  That’s all she wanted: some cute little craft, a couple of gourds, and a bunch or two of Indian corn.

“Punkin pickin'” is still part of our fall tradition here in the Merrow household.  Every year when the leaves start to change and the weather starts to cool, Ryan starts asking when I’ll be ready to go.  He likes to plan the outing.  And picking a pumpkin is, for both of us, very serious business.  In the six years since we’ve lived here, I think there have only been one or two that we haven’t had pumpkins.  Sometimes they come from WalMart.  Last year they came from the buffalo farm up the road.  I think once we even dragged a few from Punxsy- from my sister’s pumpkin patch that she plants and lovingly tends every single year.  We just haven’t found that special place yet to make our new tradition.

This past weekend was miserable: cold, windy, and rainy.  It was the perfect weekend to stay inside and eat chili and drink cider.  But by yesterday, I needed to get out and DO something.  Anything.  So when he asked the question, “when did you want to go get pumpkins?  I found this new place we should check out,” I had made the decision and jumped in the shower before he finished asking.  We were going, rain or not.

It was cold.  It was raining.  The wind was blowing and the place was deserted despite the rows of cars in the parking lot.  We approached the admission window for some information, while I said a little “thank you” to my aunties for the Uggs they bought me last Christmas; the rest of me may have been freezing, but my feet were toasty, and for that I was thankful.

When the one lonely lady manning the booth slid the window aside to let us in, she began to run down the list of attractions the farm offers: “Oh, we do hay rides and the haunted corn maze…but they don’t recommend that for kids under ten.  And there are slides over there…you know, for the kids…and there’s a petting zoo…for the kids…and… Oh!  The white barn over there has a cafe and craft shop.  There’s a corn box…for the kids… and over here, you can pick your pumpkins.  So…will you be trying any of the attractions today?”

This was sort of a strange question, and I, at least, was a bit thrown off.  After all, we were alone.  No kids in tow, no stroller, no car seat.  We were alone.  Just the two of us.  Finally, after exchanging a look with Ryan, I responded by saying, “It’s so miserable out today, I think we’ll just check out the craft store and buy some pumpkins.”  This statement saved us the admission fee that’s charged for the other attractions.  Armed with wrist bands, we entered the farm and headed for the barn.

The atmosphere there was a fun one; as we entered, Ryan said it reminded him of what he would expect to find at Roloff Farms of Little People, Big World fame.  There was a small cafe in one corner, with picnic tables lining the walls, and a game of corn hole set up in the center aisle.  In the back corner was nestled a small, cozy primitives shop.  We walked through, staying long enough to see everything, and headed back out to tackle the task of tracking down some pumpkins to take home with us.

There were so many pumpkins to choose from, I got confused.  I would point out one that had a good shape, vibrant color, substantial size, and was consistently round, and then promptly lose it.  Ryan would find one that looked perfect from the front, but was completely planar on the opposite side.  If we pondered and walked around for five minutes, we were there for forty-five.  Finally, we settled on two that were similar in size, shape, and color, and headed for the check-out booth.  Ryan carried them while my eyes wandered to the potted Mums and the boxes of gourds and cooking squashes.  We noticed some wagons, provided to help patrons “cart” their finds out of the patch, and I snagged one in order to continue shopping.  Once Ryan had dropped the two large pumpkins onto the wagon, he immediately suggested we pick out a pumpkin for Clohe.  He found her a smaller one that was perfectly round and perfectly orange, and urged me to pick some gourds to take home.  While I pondered over those, he checked out the pie pumpkins.  “Babe,” he called to me, “do you use these?”  I turned to look, and admitted that I never had, but I knew that they were used for all the wonderful recipes canned pumpkin is used for.  “I could bake a pumpkin pie from scratch,” I said, wheels turning.  He picked out three for me to bring home.

With a new project to focus my energies on, I couldn’t sit still when we got home.  I hauled my gourds and pie pumpkins into the kitchen to wash, while Ryan balanced our future jack-‘o’-lanterns to carry to the front porch.  And I set to work…


More to come!



Desserts. Because who needs dinner?

My friend Tas frequently labels my cooking as “gourmet.”  While this may or may not be an accurate description (I’m leaning more toward NOT!), I think her encouragement has subliminally planted itself in the part of my brain that takes over in the kitchen, and has led me to be, if nothing else, a bit more daring.  And a lot more hungry for dessert.

Lately, Ryan and I have become semi-addicted to the Food Network show Chopped.  If you’re not familiar, four contestants are unleashed in a kitchen with a basket full of random mystery items that must be made into a gourmet meal.  There are three courses: appetizer, main course, and dessert.  After each course, the contestant with the least tasty or least cohesive dish gets “chopped” and goes home.  Basket items typically include one type of protein, one fruit or vegetable, and one pre-packaged item (think Ramen noodles in the appetizer round, or boxed mac and cheese in the dessert round).  This show has led me to be somewhat creative with the ingredients I have on hand; it’s good practice for cooking techniques, if nothing else.

Tonight, I focused on dessert.  In fact, dinner was sort of atrocious compared with the desserts I served.  Yes, you read that correctly: dessertS.  Plural.  I made soup and salad and sliced some French bread for dinner, and served multiple desserts.  So sue me.

Fall is really evident around here this week; the leaves are showing their full range of gorgeous color and floating gracefully to the ground, and the temperature- while still decent- is cooler than I’d prefer.  When the weather changes like this, I think soup.  Since we’ve already had a few batches of cheeseburger soup and chili, I changed it up tonight with a big pot of broccoli and cheese soup.  I had made broccoli cheese soup only once before, about six years ago when we first moved in here.  Since Ryan was still anti-vegetables at that time, I basically made it for myself.  And it was awful.  I had no desire to try to make it again; I have a mom and two aunts who make awesome broccoli soup.  (Kidding.  Sort of).  This week, I mentioned broccoli soup, and Ryan sort of latched onto the idea as something he might be interested in trying.  While we were in the grocery store on Monday, he picked up a head of broccoli and asked me if that’s what I needed to make the soup.  We were going to try it again.

This afternoon I dug out the recipe my mom had given me all those years ago and took my time assembling the ingredients.  The process was much easier than I had remembered, and now I’m not sure what I did the last time but my confidence is restored.  Here’s how I did it:

Broccoli and Cheese Soup
4 Tbsp butter
1 onion
2-3 garlic cloves
3 cups chicken broth
1 potato, peeled and cubed
3 cups broccoli florets
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk plus 1- 1/2 Tbsp flour, whisked together
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic; saute until translucent and soft.  Add chicken broth and potato; cook till potato is tender.  Meanwhile, microwave broccoli for 3-4 minutes until tender; chop into very fine pieces and add to soup.  Add milk and cheese; stir to combine.  

Yes.  It really is THAT simple.  Please don’t ask how I messed it up before.

Apparently, that success fueled my ambition and the pears on the counter grabbed my attention.  Several years ago for Christmas, Ryan’s parents gave me a Tuscan cookbook.  In the cookbook was a recipe for pears with a Marsala wine sauce.  Peanut picked some pears from the orchard for me over the weekend, so I decided to try it.  First, I peeled two pears, but left the stems (as sort of decoration).  I sliced the bottoms off, and used a fillet knife to remove the cores.  Then I placed them in a saucepan with 1/8 cup sugar and two cinnamon sticks, and let them cook over low heat until the mixture boiled.  Once the water reached a low boil, I covered them and let them continue cooking (still over low heat) for about a half hour, until they were tender.  Finally, I removed the pears from the cinnamon-flavored sugar water and let it cook awhile longer, until the sauce was thickened.  Once it was the consistency of a syrup, I stirred in 1/4 cup of Marsala wine.  Y.U.M!

I was on a roll; while I’m not a “band-wagon” type of person, I’m in love with the fact that caramel seems to be THE flavor this fall.  (Truth be told, caramel is one of my all-time favorites.  Our wedding cake three years ago had a caramel filling, and my new favorite cheesecake recipe from last fall was swirled caramel and peanut butter.  NOT on the bandwagon, people.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  A few weeks ago, Ryan and I tried a new restaurant in town for lunch, and we ordered dessert afterward: a warm fudge-y brownie with a salted  caramel sauce.  Let me just tell you: To.Die.For.  We left with me vowing to replicate the recipe, somehow, some way.  Tonight I just may have accomplished this goal.  With a pan of hot, homemade brownies on the counter, I followed this recipe to almost perfectly replicate the sauce we had at the restaurant.  Fortunately, it made a whole jarful which is now blissfully chilling in my fridge.

I may or may not have to invent a breakfast recipe to utilize it.




Happy Fall!



Acting Like a Lady. Finally. Maybe.

Know how, as a girl, sometimes it’s fun to get dressed up and go out with the girls?  You know, get out of the sweats or pajama jeans (who invented those, by the way?  And if one has the desire to go out in public in pajamas, does that person care if said pajamas look like “real” jeans?  Just a hypothetical question…) Anyway, get out of the pajama jeans and put on a dress?  Fancy dinner at a restaurant that requires reservations, followed by some relatively ladylike activity?

Well, a couple of weeks ago, that’s what we did.  My dear friend Tas has introduced me to her close circle of friends, and recently I’ve spent time getting to know these classy ladies.  I’ve been invited to book club meetings, happy hours, and, most recently, dinner and the symphony.

The venue where our local Philharmonic group performs is an historic building downtown (commissioned by Warner Brothers as a movie theatre in 1929)with an Art-Deco decor and an all-around formal aura.  The only other two times I’ve ever been in the building, I was wearing jeans.  Real jeans, not pajama jeans.  At that, it felt like a sacrilege.  So when one of the ladies suggested that we dress up for our night out, not one of us disagreed.  Of course, we looked so good that we scheduled to meet prior to our dinner reservation for some photos, courtesy Tas’ little sister (a fabulous blogger and photographer, in addition to just being a sweet and fun person to know!).  Here, I thought I’d share…

Left to Right: Me, Tas, Faith, Bela, Jen, and Katherine

Fake laughing. But it's not obvious. Is it?

…and I was probably talking as Tajreen took this shot. Naturally.

We had such  a good time taking these photos.  In fact, we had so much fun that when we left Tas’ condo, we didn’t realize until we were getting into her car that she had locked her house key and  her car key in the house.   Unfortunately, Tas’ boyfriend and my husband were two hours away racing their RC cars.  Fortunately, there were still enough drivers to get us from Point A to Point B.

It was a lovely evening, and so much fun to get out and do things I know Ryan would do with me if I asked.  It’s not really a guy thing though, and sharing the experience with others who share the appreciation is truly priceless.

As the night drew to a close, after a delicious and filling dinner, a breathtaking show, followed by some drinks at a local trattoria, (clearly, WordPress is less cultured than I am, as it’s trying to correct my spelling of “trattoria.”  And now I’m just spelling it for spite), we parted ways in front of Tas’ house…which we could still not get into as the boys were still racing.  Since the guys traveled together in Ryan’s car, I told Tas and Tajreen to come home with me so they weren’t stuck out in the cold, dark, scary city.  The alternative was me sitting in the parking lot with them in the car.  My conscience would not have ever let me leave two gorgeous young women locked outside the house.

Tas and Reen are from New York City.  They’re pretty independent, self-sufficient women who make their own decisions and take care of themselves.  Asking me to stay was not in their realm of comprehension, except that Reen was freezing and Tas was determined.  So she walked around the complex until she found access to a window someone could crawl through.  Keep in mind, all three of us ladies are still in dresses and heels on a 45-degree evening.  We were cold and tired.  Fortunately, I had remembered to pack a pair of flat shoes and a real coat, which aided in our covert op.  We managed to “push” Reen through the window, she unlocked the door, and all was well with the world.  However, as I was leaving, Tas grabbed my arm and implored that I keep the detail where the girls managed to get back inside, to myself.  “When B asks,” she said, “you’re going to tell him that we didn’t want to impose by coming home with you; we’re sitting on the patio waiting for him.”  When I hesitated, she reassured me with, “for the sake of our friendship, please do this for me.”  And so, in exchange for exclusive blogging rights to this story, I agreed.

I am such a selfish creature.

From the parking lot, I sent Ryan a text message saying that I was on my way home and the girls were outside waiting for the key.  I’m still surprised that he never questioned me, knowing that I’m not the kind of girl to ever leave a friend out in the cold, either figuratively or literally.  His response was, “I know Tas can be pretty persuasive when she sets her mind to something.”  Ah, a fellow Ares.  We fire signs stick together!

In the end, despite the “lockout,” we survived, all of us looking just as fabulous at the end of the night as we did at the beginning.

Class.  If you don’t have it, fake it.




Ambition. Some Days it Finds Me.

I was in the kitchen at 9AM this morning.  By 10:30, I had two dinners ready to go for the rest of the week.  Not because I was hungry- I can’t stand to eat much of anything before 1PM- but because it’s cold outside.  Cold, of course, means soup weather.  And comfort food in the crock pot.  Ambitious as I am, I decided to embark on both.  Soup is a staple in this house from September through May, and our most popular choice is Cheeseburger Soup, as I’ve mentioned here before.  However, I’ve never shared the recipe.  Until today.  Just a little something to keep you warm, friends.  You’re welcome.

Cheeseburger Soup
1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup carrot, shredded
3/4 cup celery, diced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
4 Tbsp butter or margarine, div.
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups peeled & diced potatoes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups processed American cheese, cubed
1 -1/2 cups milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 tsp pepper
1/4 cup sour cream
In a 3-quart saucepan, brown beef; set aside.  In the same saucepan, saute onion, carrots, celery, basil, and parsley in 1 Tbsp butter until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).  Add broth, potatoes, and beef; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in a small skillet.  Add flour; cook and stir 3-5 minutes or until bubbly.  Add to soup; bring to a boil.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Add cheese, milk, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir until cheese melts.  Remove from heat and blend in sour cream.  

Meanwhile, in the crock pot, I decided to assemble this next recipe for the coming weekend.  Because it requires a couple of different steps and I have a date with my sister-in-law on Saturday that will have me out of the house most of the day, I decided to start today.  Tomorrow I’ll cook the beef, and by Saturday I’ll be able to set it on “Keep Warm” so Ryan and I can eat as we both come and go with no fuss.  We’ve never had this before, but I need a little Mexican in my life now and again.  A little Mexican food, that is… ahem.

Mexican-Style Shredded Beef (from this cookbook)
1 Boneless Beef Shoulder Roast
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1 cup salsa or picante sauce
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Taco shells
Cut roast in half.  Combine cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt, and red pepper in a small bowl.  Rub over beef.  Place 1/4 cup salsa in slow cooker; top with one piece beef.  Layer 1/4 cup salsa, remaining beef, and 1/2 cup salsa in slow cooker.  Cover; cook on LOW 8-10 hours or until meat is tender.  

How about you?  What are your favorite fall recipes?  I haven’t been inspired by any new fall desserts this year; what are your favorites?





Remove beef from cooking liquid; cool slightly.  Trim and discard excess fat from beef.  Shred meat with two forks.
Let cooking liquid stand 5 minutes to allow fat to rise.  Skim off fat.  Blend water and cornstarch until smooth.  Whisk into liquid in slow cooker.  Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes on HIGH until thickened.  Return beef to slow cooker.  Cover; cook 15-30 minutes or until hot.  Adjust seasonings.  Serve meat as filling for tacos, fajitas, or burritos.  Leftover beef may be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 3 months.  (*ED NOTE: Remember these homemade tortillas?  I think that’s what we’ll be eating this beef with!  Yum!)

Getting Out

Sometimes getting out of the house is much more difficult than it should be.  It’s after 6:00 in the evening and I’m not even out of my pajamas yet.  I cannot take a shower because there is a woman on a ladder outside our bathroom window.  In fact, I can’t even use the bathroom, since there’s a woman on a ladder outside the bathroom window.  Who’d have thought I’d ever have to worry about someone peeking into the bathroom window in our house in the country?  And I had somewhere I wanted to be in less than an hour.  So I pour myself a glass of wine, and I blog.  Because, really, do these sorts of things happen to anyone else?  Yeah, didn’t think so.

Besides, you know, this girl’s had her share of fun in the past week.  I’ve actually been out of the house, fully dressed, with hair and makeup done, every day for the past five days.  That’s a new record, friends.  I attended book club; I enjoyed dinner and the symphony with book club friends; I enjoyed a romantic lunch date with my husband before hosting a gathering at my house.

Yesterday I woke up early and spent most of the day puttering around the house while the lady (who is at this very moment dangling from my roof) power-washed my house.  When Ryan got home, we went to my Auntie’s house to fix her laptop, and we ended up staying for dinner.  And this morning, finally motivated, I proceeded to haul out my own ladder to wash the outsides of the windows that were streaked from yesterday’s power-washing.  I needed some way to keep busy while I wait to hear from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law as to whether I’m going to be having a niece or a nephew in February.  The suspense is getting to me here.

Meanwhile, this barefoot klutz stepped in some broken glass last night.  Have you ever injured the bottom of your foot?  While the cut wasn’t that deep, the sucker just wouldn’t stop bleeding because, well, I couldn’t stay off my foot long enough to let it.  Fortunately, it happened late enough that I managed to get the bleeding stopped and then went to bed; by the time I got up this morning, it seemed to have stopped.  Still, it’s making the simple act of walking into quite the challenge.  Well, I should say more of a challenge than it is on any other day.

Finally, I’ve had several requests recently for more frequent posts.  I’m working on it, I really am.  I’m just sort of at a loss for new material here.  My creativity is waning, but I’m trying.  I’d love to hear from you to find out what you like to read about!



I Don’t Want Your Leftovers!

Last week, I was on a pretty good roll, dinner-wise.  It’s sort of a no-brainer some weeks: just cook Hubby’s favorites for 5 or 6 or 7 days in a row and he’s a happy guy: meatloaf, crispy ranch chicken, pork tenderloin on the grill, scrambled steak over mashed potatoes.  Now that I’ve run through all his best dinners though, I’m out of new ideas.  And I have a fridge-full of leftovers.  Hubby is not a leftovers guy.  Now what?

For the most part, my time off is affording me the ability to devour last night’s leftovers while I lounge in front of the TV all day, so I have been able to control things a bit that way.  And strategically planning the meals that will afford the most leftovers for the weekends has helped a bit also.  For instance, Saturday Nicole and I hit the outlets all day, and Andrea was hosting a party at her house in the evening.  Since I knew dinnertime would be a really big rush, I had put a roast together on Friday afternoon for the crock pot.  When we got our first crock pot several years ago, my mom bought me Betty Crocker’s Slow Cooker Cookbook as a gift, and I found this recipe inside that’s now my go-to for a quick and easy roast dinner:

1 pound medium red potatoes, cut into fouths
1 cup baby-cut carrots
3- pound beef boneless chuck roast
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cup beef broth
Arrange potatoes and carrots in a 3-1/2-to 6 quart slow cooker.  Trim excess fat from beef.  Mix mustard, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper; spread evenly over beef.  Place beef in slow cooker.  Sprinkle onion over beef.  Pour broth evenly over beef and vegetables.  Cover and cook on low hear setting 8-10 hours or until beef and vegetables are tender.  
Remove beef and vegetables from cooker; using slotted spoon.  Place 0n serving platter.  Skim fat from beef juices in cooker if desired.  Serve beef with juices.

For just the two of us, a roast is way too much for one meal.  This is where planning it for the weekend was, well, kinda genius.  See, what we did then on Sunday was to make that leftover roast into hot beef sandwiches.  When we ate Saturday night we were in a real rush so we just kind of fished around in the pot for what we wanted.  Then when I put it away, I separated everything into different containers: one for the meat, one for the ‘taters and carrots, and one for the juices.  Sunday at lunchtime, I just emptied the juice into a pan and heated it, then whisked in a smooth paste of water and flour to make fresh, homemade gravy and shredded some beef on bread and spread the gravy over it.  My husband says it’s restaurant-worthy.

This evening, Janelle and her daughter came over for dinner.  The fare was spaghetti and meatballs, which leaves opportunity for meatball subs later in the week.  That sounds like an awful lot of sandwiches for one household, and I guess it kind of is.  But for weeks when we have lots going on, it works out pretty well to be able to create brand-new meals- even if they’re just quick’n’easy- from what I’ve already cooked.  Tomorrow night, Ryan starts back into Tuesday night RC racing, so he’ll be out late.  Also, his work schedule is getting kind of crazy right now, so being able to have something on hand that’ll be easy to throw together makes both our lives much easier.  Once some of the stuff in the fridge gets cleared out, I’ll be able to start over again with some fresh meals and a clean slate.


Till then,




This Week’s Random Observations

So it appears that I’m finally returning to the swing of things after spending most of my summer in a semi-vegetative state on the couch, catching up on Grey’s Anatomy reruns and devouring the contents of our fridge.  Not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but I am fully aware that it’s just a slippery slope into absolute uselessness.  Fortunately for everyone involved, I’m recovering.  Slowly.

Anyway, now that I’m back to awareness, lots of things have caught my attention this week, none of which are actually interesting enough to warrant their own post.  So I present these items to you in list form.  For conversation’s sake.

1. If anyone ever kidnapped my dog, I would have no trouble finding her.  In the past three days, I have discovered that when she goes outside, she leaves a Hansel-and-Gretel-like trail to my most frequently visited spot in our yard (the clothesline).  And no, she doesn’t leave breadcrumbs.

2. I am loving Pioneer Woman‘s new show on Food Network. (Check out her macaroni and cheese, Penne alla Vodka, and sangria recipes!)  I’ve visited her blog numerous times, and I love her humor, her photos, and her attitude.  The more I watch her show, the more I love her.  I’m looking forward to trying some of her recipes soon.

3. The grocery on Game Day is ridiculous.  In a college town just off the interstate, on a Sunday night, it’s a place I try to avoid.  However, this past Sunday, Ryan had taken me out for a late lunch, and neither of us was really hungry till about 6:30PM.  We decided on Cheeseburger Soup, but I needed carrots and celery so I decided to run to the store before my game kicked off at 7:30.   I left the house at 6:45.  We live 2 miles from the store.  I found the 12 items I needed in about 7 minutes.  Then I waited 25 minutes in line.  I was not a happy girl.  Fortunately, I made it home and got the soup together before kickoff, which never happened till a little after 8.

4. Cleaning is therapeutic.  Very, very therapeutic.  I love spring cleaning; I love fall cleaning.  The fact that I have finished scrubbing, washing, vacuuming, and organizing before winter is sort of depressing.  On a positive note, now that I’m finished, I probably won’t walk like a grandma anymore.

5. Daytime TV kills me.  First of all is the programming:  courtroom dramas like Judge Judy and the People’s Court; talk shows like The View (mind you, these are not- I repeatnot shows I watch).  But just as funny (and by funny I mean strange- not amusing) as the shows themselves are the commercials that air during the day.  A diaper commercial will be followed by one advertising contraception; a low-cal frozen lunch commercial will be followed by a Mickey D’s commercial.  But the most peculiar one I’ve seen yet came on yesterday, for men’s hair color.  Specifically, hair color that hides some grey, but also leaves some exposed to increase a man’s sex appeal.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems like a bit of a double standard to me.  Grey is sexy and sought out my men, but women are encouraged to hide ours as it “ages” us?

That’s all I have for you friends.  Discuss.



Before it Was 9/11

Before this day in 2001, it was a happy day in my family.  On this day in 1982 (after my mother arrived late to her own wedding…nobody has ever accused my mom of being punctual!), my parents said “I Do,” and promised to love one another for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, through one child or five.  While the part about the kids may not have been in their vows (or their plans), regardless…it was on this day that they promised to spend the rest of their lives together.

On my parents’ thirteenth wedding anniversary, my youngest brother Cory entered the world shortly after 8AM.  I was in fifth grade that year, and I remember it as if it was yesterday.  I remember taking my Collie puppy Brandy outside to do her morning business and coming back inside to find my mom on the phone with my dad’s boss, trying to track Daddy down.  While trying not to alarm me, Mom was already showered and dressed, working on her hair and makeup.  She put off telling me what was going on for as long as she could, but I think the effort may have been a little much for her.  Derek and I left for school as per our normal schedule, and a family member came to stay with Brandon while Mom’s aunt drove her to the hospital.  We would later learn that Cory was nearly born in the car on the way to the hospital, but since my mother seems to possess superhuman self-control, she managed to make it all the way.  None too soon, mind you.  But then, nobody ever accused my mother of being punctual.

Anyway, during our morning recess at school, we received a message that Cory was here.  And that he was a boy.  My parents never told us kids the sex of the babies they were expecting, hoping to maintain peace in the family for as long as they could.  That family peace was out the window as soon as I got the message that I had yet another brother.  A girl just couldn’t catch a break!  I was angry.  I was disappointed.  I was resentful.  I was sad.  I was bitter.  And soon, I love.

Before long, I had changed my attitude about the invasion of yet another brother.  It didn’t take too long for his big brown eyes to melt me.  It didn’t take too long before his little coo’s could catch my attention from just about anywhere else in our house, and make me come running, just to watch him be content and aware.  I didn’t even mind changing diapers or walking laps around the house to calm him when he was fussy.  I absorbed every second as I watched Cory grow.  Mom worked night shifts at a local bakery the summer before Cory turned a year old.  When she would leave for work at night, we would pull the cushion from our Papasan chair and lay it on the floor in the living room, because Daddy has always worked very long days, usually starting around the time Mom would get home.  I would fall asleep next to his warm little body, and when he would wake up crying in the night, I would get his bottle, change his diaper, and sing him back to sleep.  I helped with bath times and story times and dinner time…any time Mom needed a little extra help.  She would always tell me she would take my help while she could get it, because, “it won’t be long before you fight with him like you fight with the other two.”  To the best of my knowledge, that day has not yet arrived.  Perhaps it’s the ten-year age difference, or perhaps it’s because Cory and I are so much alike in spite of how different we are. Or maybe it’s just because Cory is so mellow and easygoing.  Either way, I can’t recall the two of us ever even disagreeing, let alone having an actual fight or argument.

Cory, me, and Peanut, circa 2004

Ten years ago, it was Cory’s sixth birthday, and Mom and Daddy’s nineteenth wedding anniversary.  I was at my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Don’s house, enjoying a late vacation since our school district was on strike that year…inconsequential as it may be, we all remember where we were that day.  But as I finished my week watching the footage from New York City; Washington, D.C.; and a little field in Shanksville, PA- less than two hours from my hometown- I remember thinking how Mom and Daddy’s anniversary and Cory’s birthday would never be the same celebration again.  It almost feels wrong to celebrate on a day that hold such pain for so many, and yet it’s the celebrations that keep life moving on.  Carrying the memories of what happened, remembering the humility and love and one-ness our country shared during that time, and passing it along.  Remembering the patriotism of that period of time, a decade ago; when we weren’t all so wrapped up in our own lives, and spared a moment to reach out and help our fellow man.  When our TV is flooded with memorials and images of destruction and helplessness,  it’s sobering to see how much has changed while so little has changed.  Yet, it’s still there.  And the reminder is good.  The reminder to just be thankful we’re here.  To celebrate anniversaries and birthdays and every day.  Because we’re here.  Because we are stronger for being here.

Happy 29 years, Momma and Daddy.  May you spend the next 80 years as happy as you are now.  And thank you for showing me how important true love is.  How strong, how enduring, and how necessary it is to find a love like yours…while also being so rare.  I have been blessed.

And Cory, Happy Sixteenth Birthday to you.  You make me proud to be your sister, and proud to have watched you grow.  Let’s Go Chucks!