Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another Shopping Confession

I have another confession about shopping for you. I have shopping cart OCD and conveyor belt OCD. I have to place all the items in straight rows in the cart as I shop. I also prefer to have everything in a single layer; I don't like to stack things in the cart, but I will if I have to. I also have to put everything in straight rows at the checkout stand, and if the counter has and angled arm that narrows the stream of groceries reaching the clerk, I have to make my rows as narrow as the narrowest part so that my rows are maintained up until the moment the clerk scans and bags the items. I hate seeing the person in front of me spread out along the entire width of the belt only to wind up with their bread smashed against canned peas. Shopping with MSH, who does not have shopping cart OCD, requires that I re-position all the items he puts in the cart. I'm sure it drives him up the wall, but he and most of the store clerks react by simple shaking their heads and chuckling softly. I just wish my OCD would manifest itself in other ways, like in my purse or closet or refrigerator or car and so on, and so forth.

This morning while I was scrolling through all the recipes in the comments on the latest Pioneer Woman contest, I caught a twinge of a new type of OCD--recipe OCD. I want to copy all the recipes, format and organize them, and publish and bind them into a book. It was all I could do to actually spend my day working and not making a cookbook.

MSH is obsessive about flossing; he even carries around a floss card in his wallet. It's the size of a credit card, but a little thicker and filled with dental floss. Unfortunately, his OCD only makes him more wonderful and the favorite patient of most dentists and mine makes the clerks at Wal-Mart laugh at me. What are you obsessive about?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Shopping Fun

Normally, I deplore shopping of almost every kind, but I had a great time on Saturday at Kohl's. Maybe my sense of style is changing, or maybe the clothes being made now are more like what I've been looking for all these years, or maybe I should have been shopping at Kohl's all along, but for the first time ever, I actually found more items that I wanted than I could purchase with a clear conscience.

I also usually have a rough time dealing with other shoppers and store employees, not with people in general, just with other shoppers and store employees when I'm shopping for clothing. I mean, I'm a nice, well-adjusted person, but something about shopping for clothes, turns me into a quivering mess. It makes me want to hide in a corner and suck my finger and cry. MSH usually has to pick out every item I try on because I just can't handle it. I don't know why. I wasn't always this way. I used to be able to go into any store, pick out what I liked, try on everything, make my selections, and check out. I also hate buying clothes online. If I can't try it on, I don't want to buy it because I am always, inevitably, disappointed. I never really LOVED shopping, but I could do it. Now, it's almost a phobia, or it was until Saturday.

MSH had flown to Atlanta to pick up some authentic Auburn jerseys of Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams that he bought (don't ask), and I was in need of some spring clothes. I had been wanting to go to Kohl's after seeing some of their sale ads and looking at their clothing online, so I just went. In the parking lot, I kind of started getting that dread, that realization that this always goes badly for me, that feeling that I should just go home and wait for MSH to return. But, I fought the urge to turn around, put in my earphones, turned on the music player on my phone, and ventured inside. I think I spent 3 hours combing the racks, trying things on, making decisions. I only called my mom once, and it was just to ask if I should get the green & brown or pink & brown dress. And I did it; I bought the dress, a skirt, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 shirts, a pair of capris, and tennis shoes. I earned $30 in Kohl's cash and couldn't wait to go back yesterday to spend it; I wasn't even upset that I'd have to exchange the shoes because the pair I bought only had one shoelace (exchanging or returning items is worse than the initial shopping for me). I wound up getting another shirt and let MSH use the rest of it on stuff for himself.

Here's what I bought, minus the Docker's khaki capris because I couldn't find them online.
Here's the dress: (I got the green)
A Shirt (in aqua)
To go with this skirt (aqua, too)
Another shirt (in pink)
To go with these (in mahogany)
Some shorts for the weekends
A fushia striped polo:
Also, new walking shoes, the mostly white ones. I bought them at Kohl's though.

I felt such a sense of pride and accomplishment. Isn't that crazy? Of all the things I have that I can be proud of, I'm most satisfied that I could complete one shopping trip. Unfortunately, I can't wear any of my new clothes until Thursday at the earliest. It started raining last night and has turned chilly. The next test for my new-found bravery--the outlet mall...Duhn, Duhn, Duhn.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Recipe Review(s): Cookies

Wow, I can't believe how un-bloggy I've been this week. From busy days at work to staying up late making cookies to participating in a medical study, I've just not been feeling like spending more time in front of the computer. I also don't have photos of the recipes for today's posts because I didn't start the cookies until 10 pm and didn't have time to deal with the camera and all the cookies.

So first I made a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Eating Well website. First, I was thrown off by the small amount of sugar in the recipe, then I saw that it had cream cheese. Cream cheese is one of my favorite ingredients. I can also eat it straight, but MSH usually insists that I at least put it on a Town House cracker. He says that it at least suggests that I have some class. The cookies turned out light, airy, almost fluffy and not very sweet. The 8-year old girl, GG, who came to our office for "Bring Your Child to Work Day" ate at least 8 of them, so the lack of sugar was not a bad thing according to her. I thought the were pretty good, too.

Next, I made an alternate version, Bev's Chocolate Chip Cookies from the same website. Now this recipe uses whole-wheat flour and ground oatmeal. Since it was almost 11 when I started this batch, I didn't grind up the oats. Well, because it was nearly 11 and because I love oatmeal cookies, I didn't grind the oats. Maybe because I didn't grind the oats, the chip to batter ratio was a little too high, so these cookies had a hard time sticking together when I dropped them on the cookie sheet and a few fell apart after baking as well. Despite their difficulty holding up, these were my favorite cookies. The whole wheat flour didn't make them heavy, as I had feared. Rather, they were crispy and buttery and a little sweeter than the first, but not overly so. Next time I need to clear the chocolate chips out of my freezer, I'll make these, but I'll increase the batter to oats and chips ratio. Yummy.

Finally, there where the Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Chips from Cooks.com. The first batch out of the oven were too soft and a little undercooked, so I increased the cooking time to 10 minutes for the next batch. These were better, but still a bit too soft. The final 2 batches, I left on the foil to cool overnight. These were perfect, still soft, but not falling apart. This recipe also makes more than 36 cookies using my teaspoons to measure them out. I actually was so exhausted by the time I finished the last 2 batches, I put the remaining batter (about enough for 8 more cookies) down the disposal. These were good, and the flavor was very brownie-like, and they were a little too sweet for me. However, they were the favorites of GG's older sister HG and most of the other people in my office.

So, all 3 recipes were a hit, but I preferred the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip above all others. There was also an adorable little blond boy who broke my heart. When I offered him a cookie, he looked my offering, turned up his nose and said, in a cute Italian accent, "I'm quite sure that I hate choc-co-lot!" He couldn't have been more that 5 years-old. I almost cried, but then he smiled at me, and my heart melted, and I forgave him instantly.

Have fun baking!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Grey

It's been raining since Sunday here, but they're saying it'll let up today. I'm really tired of all the grey around here lately, but at least the rain has turned everything a beautiful shade of spring green. Something about rainy weather saps my energy and makes me want to sleep. Is it because there's no sunlight to reduce my melatonin production in the morning or some left over instinct to stay in the dry cave during bad weather? I don't know, but I need some sunshine.

We've been busy the last few days. MSH's college buddy, Dr. Hoover, and one of his colleagues have come to town for a course at Walter Reed. They arrived Saturday evening, so we spent all day Saturday preparing for their arrival. MSH grilled steaks and made bacon-wrapped scallops, shrimp, and water chestnuts. I baked a few potatoes and made a peach cobbler (from a mix). After I had all the ingredients together and in the pan for the cobbler, MSH and I freaked out a little because of all the liquid in the pan, so we scooped a bit of the excess liquid out--mistake. It wasn't dry, but it wasn't as moist as we're accustomed to. Of course, that didn't stop us from eating it all. The guys rolled in around 8:30 or so, and we ate a late dinner and watched a boxing match. Well, they watched a boxing match; I mostly spun around in my chair and stared at the ceiling. I did catch enough of it to determine that Bernard Hopkins is a cheater, but he lost anyways.

Sunday, I got up and puttered around the house for a while, tried and failed to get MSH out of bed to make the Boston Butt we'd promised our friends, and generally waited for the guys to get it together. We met them for lunch at Fridays and headed into the city in the pouring rain. We had hoped that the rain would hold off so that we could go to the free concert on the Mall, but that didn't happen, so we settled for the Natural History Museum. Luckily, we were the only people with that idea. That was sarcasm, but I guess you can't hear it through the computer. We spent a couple of hours there, until it closed and headed back home while our visitors went in search for a reasonably priced grocery store near their apartment. We napped.

Yesterday, on the way home from work, My Sweet Husband decided to stop by the grocery store and pick up a couple of things (Cokes and toilet paper). I swear he was only inside for 34.7 seconds, but he came out with 3 bags of stuff, including Salt & Malt Vinegar Utz Chips, a box of lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, shredded Mozzarella and Provolone cheese, and a few other things I didn't see before he put them all away. He had seen the noodles on sale and decided that we should have lasagna for dinner, so he bought the other things we'd need. He also remembered that he'd promised Hoover & Windham that he'd buy the chips for them to try, so he got those, too. Who knows what else he bought or why, but he must just run through the store on his long legs (he's 6'2") and scoop everything into the cart like that show where the kids got to run through the toy store and fill as many carts as possible with all the stuff they wanted. Man, I wanted to be on that show! Does anyone remember the name of that show? Oh yeah, I go off on tangents a lot. Anyways, we got home and made lasagna and MSH cooked that Boston Butt. MSH also broke into the bag of Chips, but I can't really blame him, they are SOOOOO hard to resist.

With all this food prepared, I probably won't have to cook for the rest of the week, unless we can get the hungry doctors to come back. So, I may have to do a recipe review this week without photos. I'm waiting on the replacement part for my sewing machine to finish the napkins, so in the meantime, I've started back on the needlepoint poppy, and I'm crocheting a string bag for shopping.

The grey is slowly changing to blue outside my window, so my mood is lifting. Plus, the people I work with just gave us chocolate cake, and I'm a little buzzed from the sugar.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Recipe Review: Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Asparagus & Lemon

One of our new favorite dishes that's perfect for these warm spring nights is Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Asparagus & Lemon. It's light and fresh and easy, perfect for when you don't want to spend all night in the kitchen or eat a really heavy meal. I love fresh asparagus and just about any kind of fish. Sometimes, I leave out the lemon juice when I make this for a little bit of variety. Here's what it looks like when I make it. I halve the recipe and usually have enough for MSH and me with a few pieces of fish and some rice left for me for lunch the next day. I also cut up the fish into smaller pieces so that they don't fall apart when I turn them.


You may have noticed that I don't use the spice the recipe calls for either. I use this:

If your local grocery store doesn't carry this, you can buy it here. I suggest you do so because it's really good on most fish whether you saute, bake, or grill it.

Also, that side of rice, it's not rice, it's risotto, and it's evil; you should never make it. But if you do, you will dream about it, and your sweet husband or wife or whoever will beg you to make it over and over. I just follow the directions that come on the container we buy at the store. It's easy, but time consuming. It requires almost constant stirring for at least 30 minutes, but it's worth it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Today in Pictures

I have no excuse. I just don't have a decent photos of my new haircut. Maybe in 2011.

Today, I do have a chronicle of my day in photos.

First, after lying in denial for 20 minutes, I got out of bed before dawn. It's just not fair.


I decided that Spring is here, and I'm wearing sandals, finally, even if it is 44 degrees this morning!

Then, I rode into battle with MSH. Not that I helped; I put on my make-up, but I rode into it.

I worked.

I tried to take photos of my haircut on my lunch break.

It didn't work.




We rode back into battle again.


I wondered what kind of tree this is.


I bought a replacement part for the sewing machine my office-mate gave me since mine gave out.

I worked on this.


I cleaned up, watched TV, and went to bed. This is my typical work day. What's your day like?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Misconceptions of Youth

Sorry, I still don't have a photo of my new haircut; by the time I got around to taking a photo, I had worked all day, ridden home with the windows open, gone to the tanning salon, and eaten dinner. I no longer have photographable hair, but I do have this photo that I thought about while hearing the weather report this morning around 5:30 am. They were predicting a low of 29 tonight, and this is what flashed into my less than awake mind.


No, it's not a postcard or cheesy backdrop from Olin Mills; this is the actual view from my balcony when it snows. I don't know if I was hoping to wake up to this tomorrow so I wouldn't have to go to work or hoping that it doesn't happen because I deplore cold weather so much. In our home, "snow" is the 4-letter s-word. Either way, it's a moot point because they've changed the forecasted low to 41.

Last week a friend of mine posted a blog on her myspace account where she listed 10 random things about herself, then tagged 10 people to list things about themselves and tag 10 more people. So I put up my list, but I don't think that it was good enough to repost here. There were a couple of things that I couldn't seem to let go of, things about what I used to believe as a child. I'm not talking about the Easter Bunny or Santa or the Tooth Fairy; I'm referring to those beliefs that I came to using my own logic.

The one that I find most interesting is that I believed that airplanes caused jet streams and that if all those planes would just quit flying in the same places everyday, then we wouldn't have to deal with the bad weather caused by those pesky jet streams. I knew that jets were big planes, and I had seen the planes make jet streams in the sky, you know, those white lines of smoke or steam that sometimes trail planes. So when I heard Rich Thomas talk about the jet streams bringing the storms or the cold fronts, I naturally assumed that he was referring to the white lines behind the planes. It did occur to me that airplanes shouldn't really have that much affect on the weather, but there was no other reasonable explanation.

One of my dad's favorite things I got wrong is that I thought that a small amount of something was called a tab. That was around the time that I was still trying to find my verbal style, so I was repeating phrases I'd heard, and I'd heard, somewhere, some one ask another person if they wanted something. That's a really confusing way to say that I'd heard my dad, for instance, ask my mom if she wanted some water and she'd replied "Just a tad." I guess Tab soda must have been pretty popular at that time as well, so I believed that mom was saying that she wanted "just a tab", meaning just a little bit of water. So for a while, whenever any one asked me if I wanted something, I'd say "Just a tab."

I also believed the things that many kids do. I believed that my dad was the strongest man in the world, my mom was the prettiest woman ever, my Uncle Bob was 8 feet tall, and all my Pa-Paw's stories were true. I believed that brothers were put on this earth for the sole purpose of tormenting their sisters, that younger brothers (and most other people) should do as I said, that my brothers were the best in the world (I still believe that), and that my brothers were more spoiled than me. The fact that all those beliefs were contradictory mattered very little because I rarely believed more than one at any given moment. I may not have even thought to believe it then, but I believe now that I had one of the richest childhoods in history and that I couldn't have been more loved.

Leave me a comment with some of the funny stuff you (or your children or grandchildren or whoever) believed as a kid because I think this sort of thing is just too much fun.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I lost 5 pounds in an hour!

I got a haircut! So did MSH.

Unfortunately, my camera's battery is dead, so I can't show you until tomorrow. Technically, I could show you later tonight, but the charger is in the car, and I don't want to go downstairs to get it. Plus, I know that I won't be getting back on the computer tonight after I post this blog, and I'd hate to promise you a photo, then not deliver.

We got our haircuts (hairs cut?) on Friday afternoon at our local salon. Since we've started working together, we do almost everything together. MSH said that he felt like we were 60 years old because getting a haircut together is something like his grandparents would do. I could think of a million couples like whom it would be worse to be.

Not much else that I can tell you for now, but I may have more news in the next few weeks. We'll see.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Saturday Crafts: Cloth Napkins

I know, I'm a day late with this, but my sewing machine decided to give up the ghost yesterday. Despite my pleading and cajoling, it just wouldn't cooperate, so I think I'm going to have to take it to a repair shop or break down and buy a new one. So, this project is not complete, but I wanted to share what I have done.

In my quest to become more environmentally and budget conscious, I've decided to make cloth napkins. They are quite simple. Just cut out squares about 1/2 inch larger on all sides than you intend the finished napkins to be, turn each side under 1/4 inch and stitch, then turn each side under 1/4 inch again, and stitch.

I cut out all my napkins. Here are four that are made from striped and patterned cloth. I'm just going to hem the edges and use these as they are.

On the plain cloth, I decided to embroider our initials on them. I haven't washed these to remove the markings for the embroidery because I haven't hemmed them yet. Once the sewing machine is back in order, I'll be able to wash away the errant markings. First, I made a set using a thread that is similar in color to the napkins for a tonal look. I used a stem stitch for these.


Next, I wanted to use some color, so I made a set in blue, still using the stem stitch.

Finally, I was tired of the stem stitch, so a made a third set in green using backstitching.

Hopefully, I'll get the machine fixed soon so I don't have to finish these by hand. I also have several other half-done projects that require the machine. Until then, I'll be working on the needle-point poppy I've been working on for ever.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Recipe Review: Pumpkin Bread

This past fall, we started entertaining friends a little more often, and to show off, I started making new dishes. One day, I made a White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake. After our friends left and we finished the cheesecake, I still had leftover canned pumpkin. So, I went to RecipeZaar to find a use for this pumpkin. I hated to throw it away. Well, I found this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Bread and decided to try it. Am I ever glad I did! This recipe makes 2 loaves, and I usually have enough batter left for a mini loaf for MSH.

First, it's easy. You just mix it up, pour it in the pans and bake it. Second, even if it didn't taste good, I'd bake it just for the way it makes my house smell. Third, it's delicious! It's like a spice cake with a hint of pumpkin; it's so moist and flavorful, perfect for a fall or winter, or even early spring treat. It's great just by itself, but if you put a little cream cheese frosting on it, oh man. It's Katy-Bar-the-Door good. Here's what it looked like yesterday when I served it yesterday.

Of course, there was more made than would fit on the platter, so I had to have a piece to make sure I wouldn't poison everyone.


I felt guilty about eating this whole piece, so I gave half of it to a co-worker. Then, I felt that I needed a reward for sharing, so I added some frosting. Now this frosting came from a can, but considering I was up until 11 the night before making the bread, I wasn't in the mood to try to make frosting, too. Plus, there's nothing wrong with store-bought frosting, sometimes I eat it straight from the tub.


Be still, my heart...


Now, go make this because it's easy and delicious, and if you share it with anyone, they will love you instantly!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nannie!

Wow, another one. But, if you think this is a lot of birthdays, wait until January.


Today is MSH's grandmother's birthday. We call her Nannie, and she is one of MSH's biggest fans. Of course, MSH absolutely adores her, too. They always have something great to talk about. Nannie loves MSH so much that she attended our wedding against medical advice. She had blood clots in her legs, and the doctors wanted to admit her to the hospital. She flatly refused, saying that her grandson was getting married and she was going to be there. So, she told them, they'd better figure out something else. Once she makes her mind up, there's no changing it, so the doctor gave her some medication and strict instructions to take it easy and come back first thing Monday morning. If we had known, we would have insisted that she take care of herself, first, but we wouldn't have been able to convince her either. Well, maybe MSH would have; she does tend to listen to him when she won't listen to any one else.


MSH captured these shots from some old home movies they recently had burned to DVD. Each family member received a copy at Christmas this year.



Nannie has got to be one of the neatest women I've ever met. She married Papa and moved all over the world with him. They lived in Japan and the Caribbean and all over the US. They retired to Alabama, and Papa had a second career from which he retired years ago. When MSH was a little boy, he and his family lived just down the road from Nannie and Papa, and he would ride his bike to go visit Nannie. She's devoted to her family and friends and church and has a great sense of humor. And she's a beautiful part of our lives. We love you, Nannie.


MSH & Me.

PS Thanks to my new readers for leaving comments. They make me very happy. Also, I've put the recipe for the German Sweet Potato Pies in the comments for that post. Happy Baking! And tomorrow--Pumpkin Spice Bread.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How MSH and I became MSH and Me

It's been 2 whole days since I posted anything, but I'm here now. I was feeling a little under the weather on Monday, then spent all day Tuesday catching up. I'm sure you know how it is.

Yesterday, I posted a comment on Pioneer Woman's blog (she's my inspiration for starting this blog) hoping to win a William's Sonoma gift card (I didn't; Darn you random number generator for not coming up with 44!!). Anyways, as a result, I have had a flood of new visitors, or at least a puddle of new visitors, in the past 24 hours. I don't know why, but I've become obsessed with checking my sitemeter.com account to see how many people visit my site and where they're from. I can't see names, but I can tell when my mom or two of my aunts visit because I know who their ISPs are and where they live. Also, since the three of them live in pretty small communities and use less popular ISPs, they are easy to spot. But the rest of the visitors are my mysterious audience, and I love an audience.

On to the topic for today: How MSH and I became MSH and me. Please note that all conversations recounted here are verbatim as far as I'm concerned. We were in ninth grade together, but we didn't know each other then. It was his first year at the school (it was Jr. High; 7th-9th grades), and he was one of the cool kids, and I was (am) a nerd. I wasn't even aware of his existence, and I'm sure he was not aware of mine. I don't know how we never met back then; the school was rather small, and we knew all the same people, just in different contexts. So we had to wait almost 8 more years before we'd have a chance to meet again. So, here's how it happened.

My beautiful friend Dalton and I were waiting tables at a restaurant in my hometown. We'd only met a few months earlier but were instant friends, just add water and PRESTO! She decided to have a housewarming party in August of 1999, so of course, I was there. She and MSH went to high school together, and once you're a friend of MSH or Dalton, you are never forgotten. So, of course, he was invited there, too. We were introduced and had several conversations throughout the night and a couple of card games with various groups. He was there with several friends, some of whom had names I recognized from my Jr. High yearbook, and they were involved with some of the conversations to varying degrees and in different combinations. Before too long, I knew, I really liked this guy, and I'd really like it if this guy would ask me out or something. He was tall and handsome and smart and funny and interesting. He looked so cool in his unbuttoned Abercrombie plaid shirt; somehow he pulled off long sleeves in August in Alabama without looking strange. But then, tragedy, the words "my girlfriend" fell from his lips like an atom-bomb on my hours-old crush. He had a girlfriend. I felt the hot sting of disappointment paint my cheeks pink and chastised myself for being so silly. I admit, I allowed the conversation to peter out, and we finished our card game. I left the kitchen to hide in the comfort of the company of my friend Dalton, never mentioned the event to anyone, and assumed it was over. As I'm sure you've guessed, it wasn't.

Two days later, at the restaurant, my friend Dalton comes in grinning. Dalton has a big smile everyday, but this one was different, bigger and sly. She had that I've-got-a-secret look in her eyes, and she was almost exploding with the prospect of telling me something. I thought she'd met a man or won the lottery, not that Alabama has a lottery, but never the less. She starts out, casually, "So, do you remember that guy, MSH, that you met at my party."

I'm thinking "Oh, crap, was I that obvious, how could he have known, I didn't say anything stupid, did I?" In that nanosecond between her question and my leery response, I replayed every moment with him and every word I said, searching for any clues that I may have let slip my irrational instant infatuation and my subsequent disappointment. Nothing. I answer, "yea", trying to sound just a casual as her. I don't think it worked. For one thing, I wasn't able to look him in the eyes after she mentioned his name, so the whole conversation is taking place while she looks at me in profile and I look at her out of the furthest corner of my eye.

She goes on, "Well, he called me the day after the party and said 'So, what's the story with your friend?'." I felt my whole head turn red; my ears burst into flames and started ringing; and I used every ounce of self-restraint I have ever possessed to keep myself from jumping up and down. Then I remembered the vilest words I'd ever heard, "my girlfriend", and died. Then I came back to life just in time to hear her say "I told him that you were a really great girl and he said 'Do you think she'd marry me?'." I fainted. Not really, I've never fainted. But, on this occasion, I did almost pee my pants, my vision grew dim, and the ringing in my ears jumped another octave and a half. She continued, "I told him that he should ask you out first." I was utterly stunned, nearly speechless, and didn't believe a word she said.

My ability to form more than one syllable at a time returned, and I uttered the only sentence my feeble brain could come up with at the time, "But, I thought he had a girlfriend." Her reply changed my life forever. "Oh, he does, but he's about to break up with her. The only reason he hasn't yet is that her birthday is next week, and he didn't want to be the jerk who dumps a girl right before her birthday. So, after he breaks up with her, he's going to ask you out, okay?" I managed to say "okay" and maintain consciousness throughout the remainder of my shift. Every day after that I looked for him to walk through the door, any door I happened to be near; I imagined seeing his tall figure, silhouetted by the street lamps, stroll through the restaurant doors. I half-expected to see him leaning against my car every time I left the place; I fantasized about him being behind every door I opened. Days passed, weeks. He never showed up. I didn't know what to do. I'd fixated on him so wholly that I couldn't imagine what would happen if he didn't come around. I was irrational; I felt like a crazy woman who builds relationships with people she's never really met. I could see how insane I was being, but I had no ability to stop myself.

Finally, on the worst possible night, he appeared, in the green room with a bunch of his friends to shoot pool. It was Parrot Head night, so I was wearing a sleeveless mid-riff bearing Hawaiian print top with my hair in two ponytails. When I saw him, I wished that I could turn back the clock and return to the time when our uniforms were flattering black vests over long-sleeve black button-down shirts and black skirts. I wished I'd done something more adult with my hair; and I prayed for a shirt that covered my belly button. None of those wishes came true. Instead, the prayer I'd prayed for weeks did. We talked for a little while, but I had work to do, so I had to keep leaving. Finally, he met me at the front of the room, away from his friends, and asked me if I'd like to go out with him. He was so calm and cool, and I had sweat huge puddles in the past few minutes. I, of course, accepted. I said something that I know was remarkably dorky, even for me, but I can't remember what it was. I do remember that my vision had dimmed again, my ears were ringing, and I'd made 5 trips to the bathroom to pee since he'd arrived. Whatever I said prompted him to explain that he'd waited so long to ask me out because he didn't want to be one of those creeps who asked me out in the restaurant, but finally he realized that there was no other place to ask me out because Dalton wasn't having another party until Christmas and just showing up someplace where he knew I'd be seemed even more creepy. So, that's how our story begins.

I'll tell you more of our story later, like how I knew I wanted to marry him, the time he kept that really big secret, and other important or insignificant tales.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Happy Birthday,Richard!

We have another nephew turning 2 this week. So, both our little guys are 2 now, no longer babies. They're both turning out to be sweet little guys who will drive all the girls crazy in a few years.


What can I say, I love this kid. He's such a ham. He loves to sing and have his picture taken and play with his cousins. He's going to visit Thomas the Train today and had is birthday party at Chucky Cheese last week. His mom and dad sent me a video of him singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", then he randomly breaks into saying hi to me and kissing the camera.

video

I told you he's a ham!

We love you, Richard! Happy birthday!

Uncle MSH & Aunt Me.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Saturday: No Crafts, Pies

I didn't make anything this week, so I was going to post photos of some small doilies and coasters I crocheted a few months ago, but then I found this photo and couldn't stop laughing. So, I decided to share it with you.

First, the intended subject is the two German Sweet Potato Pies I had just baked. They aren't made from sweet potatoes, and the recipe isn't German. They are made from a squash called German Sweet Potatoes. We grew the squash on our balcony from seeds given to us by MSH's grandparents. You cannot buy the squash in any grocery store that we've found in Alabama, Virginia, or Maryland, so you either have to grow them or obtain them from some one else who grows them. Our three plants only produced one squash, so our stock was supplemented by Nannie and Papa and a couple they go to church with. These pies taste like a custard pie with a slight pumpkin or sweet potato flavor and has the consistency of a sweet potato pie. MSH can eat a whole pie and still want more. They're THAT good; they're beyond good; they're SUPERB!

Unfortunately, I hadn't read Pioneer Woman's blog about photography, so I used a flash. I also wasn't paying attention to how I was framing the photo, so you can also see my kitchen sink and some dirty utensils and my laptop and my toes. The counter between our kitchen and living room is quite high, so I'm standing on a stool to get this shot.

Maybe I'm the only one who finds this picture humorous, but now it's up here for all to see. So, if it makes you chuckle, I'm glad I could bring a little smile to your face.

If you want the recipe (You can substitute pumpkin or sweet potatoes, but the flavor won't be quite the same), leave me a comment and I'll send it to you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Recipe Review: Shrimp Creole

This is one of MSH's all-time favorite dishes. He calls it "That Good Shrimp Stuff" when he requests it for dinner, and he requests it often. I love the spiciness and buttery shrimp mixed with the acidic tomato sauce. It's very hard to show any restraint around something like this. I got the recipe from The Betty Crocker Cookbook: Bridal Edition.There are a million and one (or more) versions of Shrimp Creole out there, but this one works really well. I don't know which version of the cookbook it is; they release a new one every few years, but we got married in 2002, so it was the one that was on the shelves then. Thanks to MSH's Aunt Becky for the book!

Caution: Unsolicited Product Endorsement Follows. If you know anyone who is getting married or moving out on their own for the first time or might ever cook anything, this cookbook is the greatest gift you can give. The recipes are good, but the real highlight of the book is all the information it contains. There are directions on how to cook almost anything in many different ways. There are substitution recommendations and instructions on how to chop, dice, mince, how to de-bone a chicken, how to peel and de-vein shrimp. There are illustrations showing where each cut of beef and pork come from. I could go on and on and on about how much there is in this book, but you just have to check it out.

Now for the recipe--Easy & quick, but every one will think you're a gourmet chef.

2 lbs. raw shrimp, in shells *I use the ones that are 41-50 ct. per pound and cut each in half*
1/4 c. butter
3 medium onions, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2 medium green bell peppers, finely chopped (2 cups)
2 medium stalks celery, finely chopped (1 cup) *I never have celery on hand, so I just leave it out.*
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup water
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley *I never have this on hand either, so I use dried or leave it out*
1 1/2 tsp salt *Since I never have celery, I use celery salt.*
1/4 tsp ground red pepper, cayenne
2 bay leaves
1-15 oz can tomato sauce
6 cups hot rice
**I also add white pepper and black pepper (about 1/4 tsp of each), and MSH dashes his liberally with hot sauce.**

1. Peel and de-vein shrimp (and cut them into smaller pieces if you want). Cover & refrigerate.
2. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender. (I forgot to photograph this step).
3. Stir in remaining ingredients, except shrimp and rice. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered 10 minutes.
4. Stir in shrimp. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are pink and firm. Remove bay leaves. Serve shrimp mixture over rice.

Not only is the flavor of this dish absolutely out-of-this-world delicious, it's really pretty healthy. To make it even healthier, you can use brown rice, but MSH hates the stuff! Since there are just 2 of us, and MSH has no self-control when it comes to this dish, I always make half a recipe. It's quite easy, I just halve the quantity of everything (except the spices) and cook it up!

Here's what it looks like when I make it.


Please disregard the drops of sauce everywhere. I'm a pretty messy cook.

Also, please don't be like me when it comes to your garlic. We love garlic in our house, but somehow we wound up buying some and losing it in the refrigerator, then buying more and forgetting that we lost some until one day, I was digging in the vegetable drawer and found this:


I almost fainted. Then I thought to myself, "Self, could you plant this and grow your own garlic? You need to Google that and see." Then I forgot about it, so this is currently living on my kitchen counter.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be garlic-neglecting cooks like me.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bryson!

I had this all ready to go & forgot to publish it on Wednesday. After writing the Memories entry and trading emails with my Aunt Joyce, I just plumb forgot. I'm sorry little man.


This little guy who loves trains and trucks and tractors got to go to a Thomas the Train event in Alabama this past weekend. I don't know if I'm allowed to post the above photo, but I did, and if JED Photography asks me to remove it I will. However, if they are smart, they won't ask me to because it's free advertising.

According to my mother-in-law, his party was wildly successful, requiring a couple of emergency trips to the grocery store for more supplies. Obviously, this little monkey is loved by many.

Happy 2nd birthday, Bryson. We love you little dude!

From Uncle MSH & Aunt Me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Memories

I remember my childhood as a happy time with all the usual sorts of things. Mostly, I remember moments; not necessarily profound or important moments, but just random occurrences.

I remember coloring in the living room on a Saturday afternoon with the brown, wooden shades up and the windows open while Daddy listened to one football game on the radio and watched another on the television. I remember the tone and inflection and quality of Jim Fyffe's voice coming from the big speakers and the smells of an early fall afternoon and Lemon Pledge and Bold laundry detergent. I remember how the warm breeze felt. I don't remember how many times this happened or what pictures I colored or who won the games or even who was playing (I know now that if Jim Fyffe was announcing that Auburn was playing, but I didn't know that then).

I remember, I don't know how I remember this, but I remember being three and laying my head on Mama's very pregnant tummy while she read a book to me and Jr(my younger brother, the middle child). She was pregnant with the youngest of us, my baby brother (BB). I remember the firmness of her tummy and the cool, silky fabric of her nightgown. I think I remember the nightgown being blue. I remember the brown and cream floral pattern with tiny blue flowers and large flowers that were different shades of brown and, maybe, birds, and the soft velour-like upholstery of the couch in the living room. I don't remember why we weren't in the den where we normally gathered as a family.

I remember going to my Aunt Ola's house and being torn between playing with the boys and watching her cross-stitch or knit. I remember that her house was always so tidy, and it smelled different than our house, like Surf detergent, and they always had Doritos. I remember all the beautiful pictures she had made and thinking she was so tall. She wasn't tall, maybe an inch or so taller than my mom, but she left that impression on me. I remember secretly wanting to be one of her students because I was just so sure that she made her classes interesting.

I remember my Aunt Dot and her family coming to visit from Texas. It was the first time I remember meeting my youngest cousin. I remember him sitting on the kitchen table that my grandfather made. We always had a table cloth on it, and it was painted black, and he was sitting there next to the windows with the yellow curtains. I remember being so impressed that he was so little and could tell us his name and that he lived in "Tywer, Tekthath". I remember being consumed by curiosity about wherever she lived because she lived in places I had no direct knowledge of.

I remember playing with all of my Aunt Carol's bracelets, rings, and necklaces and being fascinated by the jewelry she wore. I remember her painting my nails with a nail polish pen, the purple carpet and furry table covers in her bedroom and spending the night, sleeping in her water bed, and her Tupperware collection. I remember how grown-up she always made me feel.

I remember my Aunt Joyce calling me her "sweet girl". I remember petting her cat, Sheba, who had the prettiest long white fur. I remember the scent of her perfume and that I could smell it on my clothes long after she'd hugged and kissed me. I loved that smell. I remember the red deck in her backyard and the deep hot tub that was sunken into it and going to church, waiting on a warm Sunday morning on the sidewalk in front of our house, feeling so special for getting to go with her, and the chicken casserole with pimientos she made. I'd never known what pimientos were before.

I remember being jealous when of my brothers when they had the chicken pox. It was warm, Spring or early Fall, and I came home from school to find them sitting in the floor of the kitchen, leaning against the refrigerator, eating/drinking Mama's Icee's. They were really just orange juice and ice blended together in the blender, but they were one of our favorite treats along with "peanut butter balls" which were globs of peanut butter on long-handled teaspoons dipped in sugar.

I could go on forever with these memories of small moments and feelings, but there are too many to list. I remember so many wonderful little things and very few bad things because the good in my life has always overwhelmed the tiny amount of bad. I could devote an entire blog to memories of my childhood and post an entry every day for a hundred years and still have more to share. I've smiled the entire time I've been typing this post.

I don't know why my grandparents and other aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. didn't make it in this post today, but I just typed as I think, in random order. I'll post another memories entry soon because this one doesn't have all the things in it that I want to share, and because I've enjoyed today's post so much.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Long Awaited Tale of the Cherry Blossom Festival

Okay, so maybe you haven't waited that long, but I feel badly that I didn't get it done before. So, here it is.

The trees and the views and the weather were beautiful, chilly, but beautiful. MSH and I couldn't resist snapping a few of the requisite Cherry Blossoms and Monuments photos.

The Washington Monument is so iconic, so DC. We must have taken a dozen pictures of it throughout the day.

The Jefferson Memorial is usually the least crowded; it sits by itself, off the Mall, usually neglected. It's one of our favorites, and it was shown a fair amount of attention on Saturday. Many of the activities began, ended, or passed through this monument due to it's location in relation to the Cherry Trees.


We arrived in DC and parked in our usual lot and began our day-long walk, around the Jefferson, and the Tidal Basin, through the streets and twice across the mall. By the time we made it to the Smithsonian Castle, we'd been walking for about 2 hours, taken over 50 pictures, met 3 Auburn graduates (they were all together along with a Birmingham Southern graduate), and gotten one "War Eagle".

We were starving, and the entire place was packed. All the tables were occupied, along with all the benches and most of the floor; the line for the cafe was LONG. So we strategized, MSH would find us a place to sit, and I would get my lunch, then come back and maintain our position while he procured his own nourishment. He was able to get us a table before I returned from the cafe, so while he went through the line, I started my lunch. After a few minutes an obviously tired older gentleman came up and asked if he could sit at our table and eat. I told him that he was more than welcome to sit in the third chair at our table. Mr. Gene A. turned out to be a fascinating individual. Originally from Mississippi, he had lived in several states in the Southern and Eastern US. He is a retired Sociology professor who lives most of the year with his wife in Pennsylvania, but spends the colder months in Falls Church in an apartment near his children's homes. He was in DC for the day to go to the museums and was by himself. We spent almost two hours talking about many different subjects ranging from the South to the advances of medicine and science to politics and economics. It was such a great treat to have the chance to meet such and interesting and kind person who had so much to share with us.


Also, during lunch, MSH got another "War Eagle." Next, we were off to the Natural History Museum. I believe MSH could devote an entire week to this building. We made our way through some of the animal exhibits and came to the Butterfly Exhibition. We looked around and decided it was worth the ticket price and got tickets to return at 5. We spent the next hour or so plucking our way through the meteorite and minerals exhibits and the display of phenomenal nature photography, taking almost 100 more pictures. Before we knew it, it was time to see the butterflies. The enclosure is kept at 86 degrees with about 80% humidity, so it was kind of like being at home in late April. And being in the middle of over 200 butterflies floating around, landing on beautiful flowers, snacking on fruit, made me feel like I was in the middle of a childhood dream. It was great fun to watch them land on people and to try to take as many close-up shots as I could. Despite my past as a tomboy, I've always had an affinity for butterflies.


Once we had seen and photographed as many butterflies as we could, we stopped by one of the gift shops to replace the vase we gave to Nannie. We wound up with a bowl instead of another vase, and I'm still trying to figure out how that happened. But, I like the bowl more, I think. The light passes through the bowl, unlike the vase, so that's cool.



Then, we headed back to the Castle to see what else we could explore while we waited for 8 pm to roll around. To our dismay, all the other museums closed at 5:30. The Natural History Museum was open late that day, until 7:30. So we just relaxed in the garden for a little while before the Lantern Walk that I never got to do. See, we decided to walk back to the car and put the bowl away before the two hour tour, but before we got there, we passed the tent where we would have to go to prepare for the walk. I had the bright idea, after having seen people turned away from the Butterfly Exhibit due to the Sold-Out status of the tickets, to ask if we needed to sign up in advance for the Lantern Walk. I mean, I didn't think we would need to, there had been nothing on the website or events schedule about signing up. Well, disappointment still stings at 30; they were all booked for the walk that night. MSH said that it was just as well, because he knew that neither of us were really up for walking another two hours that day. I now realize that I really only wanted the pictures, so maybe we'll just go down with a lantern of our own one night (very, very soon) and take a few pictures. We don't really need a guided tour for that. Plus, I still want to go to that park near our offices, but with all the rain, they are saying that the likelihood that the blooms will survive much longer is slim.

So that was our Cherry Blossom Festival experience, beautiful, but chilly with lots of gorgeousness to behold, a little short-lived disappointment, and tiring. But, all total, MSH got 5 "War Eagles", counting the first one from the group of 3 graduates as just one. I think we got 3 on the way to the car at the end of the day.

Here is the other close-up I told you about yesterday. I still can't decide which one I like better.

It's still focusing on a small bunch of blossoms, but the background has more sky. I'm thinking, now that I've been looking at them more, that I'll make prints of 6 different close-ups and mount them on dark brown or black mats and display them on a wall together in matching frames.

To see more photos from our day, visit my flickr.com page.