Friday, April 22, 2011

Just in Time for Easter

Cooks' Illustrated 's guide to buying a leg of lamb in any part of the country (now, if only they would clear up the confusion on cuts of beef!):

"To avoid confusion and to eliminate the risk of running into regional differences in labeling, we recommend forgoing the shorthand terminology and just spelling it out for your butcher. After extensive research, we found that you can't go wrong asking for "a whole boneless leg of lamb, but without the sirloin attached." This approach is wordy, but worth it."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Double Stuffed Vacation

Well, I was hoping it was hormonal, but I'm already "feelin' different again." Lucky for me and for my family, I am embarking on an adventure tomorrow. George keeps calling it my adventure. He gets more excited for me about these things than I do sometimes. I think he just wants me to be me. And of course, when I find myself, I'm beyond excited. But it's the getting there that overwhelms me. Today I had some "Mickey Mouse" errands to do (that's what you call all those little things that you have to do all over the place) and I felt like I may or may not, but probably would, have an anxiety attack at any moment. And I don't know why. I feel like the weirdest person in the room most of the time (and since it is often just George and the kids in the room with me, there is good reason for it). And yes, I realize that is horribly self absorbed of me, but what can I do? Everyone else is cuter and cooler and way less awkward. Am I right? I mean, once again, my post is proving just how awkward I can be!!! I really should find that delete blog button...

Anyway, I think my adventure will do me good. I'm going to Chicago! And not only that, but I am going with one of my top ten favorite people of all time :) I mean, who really has a top ten? I have been thinking about it though because one of my other top ten favorite people is dying right now. I decided that I have a top ten list of family -because with three kids and a husband and two sisters and a Nannie and a mom, you're pretty much full before you even leave the family tree- and then another top ten of just super awesome people not related to me that I wish came in pocket sized versions so I could carry them around with me. Rebekah is one such person. And since she isn't pocket sized (though, compared to me, almost), I will just have to settle for meeting her for a few days on the town in the Windy City. I'm very excited! Just thinking about it makes me feel way less losery. Good friends are like that, just being around them makes you feel good. Because hey, if they are as cool as they are and they still choose to be friends with you, then you must not be the walrus with the painfully awkward social habits that you imagine you are. Or perhaps they are just that charitable? I don't know.

But anyway, I am sure I will have lots of good posting to do when I get back. However, I will only be back for two days before heading out on another adventure, the first ever vacation of the Hawkins sisters and their husbands and children. This should be interesting, to say the least. We got a great deal on a huge, cozy cabin on some river in Arkansas (how hard would it be to look up? not very. but let's just go with "some river"). We'll be doing some fishing, some game playing, some hiking, lots of good eating, and plenty of catching up. I haven't seen my older sister in over four years!

After all of that, perhaps I will feel better. That is, if I can get over the fact that I'll be hanging out with tall blonde(ish) beauty queens for almost two weeks! I can always offer my wit though. Eh? Eh? Yes, I definitely fear that this is going to be one of those times where people look at me and mine and wonder "who invited all these tacky people?" But I like to think of it like I let people feel free to be who they are. Because, after all, if Abby is over there being all awkward, odd, and gaudy (ya like that? it's called assonance- heh), then hey, maybe they'll feel awesome by comparison. You're welcome, world.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Happy Little Trees

I got the coolest necklace today from Etsy with some of my eBay money. Hurray for Paypal payments! I ended up selling about $380 of stuff. How is that possible?! Well, my silverware brought in over $150 and my maternity clothes brought in about $80. In deciding there would be no more Georbies (affectionate term for children of George and Abby), I went through some of the old baby clothes and sold/ gave away a lot of that. The totals from all of the baby stuff I decided to sell came in at around $80. Then I sold some shoes and a few other odds and ends which made up the rest of it. Anyway, no, I didn't blow all of my money on a necklace. I only spent $29. But isn't it nice to get something for yourself sometimes? A girl in Auburn makes these. They are Toomer's trees! She has all different colored glass and metals. I thought this one would be pretty with all the brown I tend to wear. And if I had makeup on, I may actually put up a picture of myself wearing it, I love it so! But enough shopping for baubles, I gotta replace that silverware! Plastic is literally not cutting it!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

What Are We Going To Do With Uncle Arthur?

This news would be a lot more interesting to y'all if I had previously shared that last year, George and I spent hours watching the old 1970s BBC series Upstairs Downstairs on DVDs we checked out from the St. Louis County Library. I think we both shed tears during the finale as well as during several of the more poignant episodes. Lord Bellamy, the show's strong central upstairs character, and Hudson, Mrs. Bridges, and Rose, the most loyal and honorable of the downstairs staff, became like friends and family to us.

I do this. I get so involved with the characters in a series, be it on DVD or in books, because I spend so much time with them, that I really end up grieving their loss when the series is completed. When I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I think I was depressed for a week. I read/ listened to all of the books in a row, one to seven straight, and then, no more? It was like losing my friends! This also happened when I bought George all of the DVDs of Northern Exposure as they were released. When we reached the end, it was hard to move on. As a coping mechanism, I usually do a lot of research about the author and characters or the writers and actors hoping to find out if there is any chance for more.

So, in my search for more Upstairs Downstairs, I read a rumor that there was talk of a movie, but I couldn't find much on it. I looked again and again over weeks and months and never saw more than a paragraph about a rumor. And then tonight, I was looking to see what might be on TV tomorrow night (I do this sometimes when I am totally bored with what's on right then), and I saw Masterpiece Classics (NEW). "Hmmm," thinks I, "that could be something good." But, little did I know, it would be something great.

So here's the scoop. Masterpiece Classics will be showing Upstairs Downstairs in three one hour episodes on April 10, 17, and 24th. For us in Des Moines, this will be at 8:00PM. The miniseries will star Jean Marsh who will reprise her role as Rose, Keeley Hawes, of Wives and Daughters fame, as our upstairs mistress, and Claire Foy, of Little Dorrit fame, who appears to be playing someone named Lady Persephone. (I hope they keep her away from the pomegranates...) So if you can't catch them on a Sunday night on TV, you can always watch online. The only thing you can't watch online is a video that might explain my post title. Perhaps you should track down the DVDs to find out! Eaton Place, here I come!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Finding Abby

This weekend I felt like myself for the first time in a long long time. I will tell you why. Because there was a bake sale at church on Saturday morning. And I love to bake, but it is "extra." Cooking is mandatory, which is probably why I don't enjoy it as much. I mean, I enjoy eating. And I glory in finding a good recipe and executing it well, but I don't really look forward to cooking. On the other hand, I love to bake. I spent two happy years in my little Gulf Drive kitchen baking cookies and cupcakes and muffins for teachers and new residents moving in and families having babies and anyone who did a me any type of favor- if there was a reason to bake, I found it. And then, they kicked us out of the 'hood. And that meant I lost my school community as well. I did do some baking for people who blessed us during George's unemployment, but working last year left me little time to keep it up. And then this year, well, homeschooling and pretty much knowing no one has meant no baking. So when I found out about the bake sale, I ordered boxes to package breads in. I shopped at Target and Hobby Lobby and Michael's for cupcake wrappers and cellophane bags and ribbon and icing tips and cookie cutters. It was quite exciting! But then life happened last week, and I never got to the baking. At one o'clock on Friday afternoon, I had touched nary a sifter nor a whisk nor an oven mit.

But then....

My list was longer, but I just ran out of time. Classic! Still, I think I made a nice contribution. And oddly, two of the things I didn't get to, Rice Krispy Treats and chocolate cupcakes, were brought by others. Well, that's not weird. But the weird thing is, there were no duplicates. So, if I had made either of those things, there would have actually been duplicates. Biscotti was also on my list, but it is a huge pain, so it was the first to get the old heave ho.

The banana bread recipe was new, and I didn't taste it so I cannot vouch for it. It came from Cooks Illustrated and called for freezing the bananas first to get rid of some of their moisture. This was perfect for me because I had about 20 bananas in my freezer! I found the recipe typed out online here. I'll make a loaf for my family one of these days and give you my review- or, better yet, you make it and give me yours! I can tell you that it baked up nicely. It was very pretty. The rest of the recipes are as follows: Lemon Squares. Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins. Sanna Mix (so fun with Easter M&M's tied with ricrac and set out in an Easter basket! This way the kids got to help with the project too!) The bundt cake is one of those cake mix cakes- nothing special, but I am happy to share the recipe if you happen not to have it. I just had a cake mix that George's mom gave me that I wanted to use up. Banana Crunch Muffins. And I was still packaging up the Chocolate Chunk Mocha Cookies when George snapped the pictures (link takes you to the original version of the recipe. I have since tweaked it- definitely use Dutch processed cocoa and substitute 1 1/4 cup of flour for the same amount of cake flour. Trust me. It's exponentially better somehow. Who even knew those cookies could be better?!)

I made such a commotion doing all of this that this little girl woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. I'll bet you didn't know that Charlie and Lola is on at 3am on Disney or that Little Einsteins follows at 3:30. May you never have to use that knowledge! I decided a little helper wasn't such a bad idea for a 4:30 delivery run, so me and Miss Ballerina (she has slippers that match her robe! Cutest thing ever!) headed to the church to display our wares. We hit the hay at about 5am and I felt better than I had in quite a while. I'm still riding that high, but I sure do wish there was another bake sale coming up again soon!

All of this was really such a blessing as I am truly going through some sort of identity crisis lately (or possibly for the past 33 years, I'm not sure). It felt like me. It felt like home. It was good to be reminded of what I love. And the rave reviews didn't hurt either- (Oh what a little ricrac and ribbon can do!)

Friday, April 01, 2011

A "Holiday" for Humor

Was that post that boring?! I mean, I know people don't check every day. And really, what are you going to say about Valentine crafts at the end of March? I just put it off for so long because I knew it would be such beast to publish. And it was. So I was hoping someone would say something pleasant. But if I want that, why don't I just go on Facebook? I know, I know, it's my own fault!

So I'm changing the subject. It's April Fool's Day. And it's not a day I generally observe because I'm not much of a prankster. For a while in college, George and I had a back and forth where we hid a potato in each other's residence or vehicle. It went on until the potato was completely shriveled up. At one point, George decided to coat the exterior with glue to keep it from rotting. I am still not sure why he thought it needed a gluey "protectant." And he may have somehow written the words "special treasure" on the potato too. We certainly referred to it as "the special treasure." And then I think he threw it away one day and that was the end of it. That was as pranky as it ever got for me.

I don't really have any other prank stories. I did have a friend once who broke up with her boyfriend on April Fool's Day without realizing that it was April Fool's until he said, "April Fool's, right?" and it became this slow, painful situation where she had to convince him that she wasn't kidding. I don't think he really believed her until the next day. Bummer.

But maybe April Fool's Day is mostly about having a laugh, and not necessarily at someone else's expense. I can totally get behind that. And with that in mind, I've seen the SNL promos this week with Elton John and Jason Sedakis running around to the Benny Hill Yakety Sax music, and it's made me want to find some of those old chase scenes. Oddly, I haven't been able to find any of the classics, but people on YouTube have been rather clever in cueing up their favorite chase scenes from movies to the music. The first one I saw was Gandolf and all the hobbits being chased. Something about Gandolf's flowing white hair was pretty funny set to the music. Too many of the scenes on YouTube are of battles rather than chases (and way too many still have the movie sound in them with Yakety Sax just playing over top). Get it right, people! Supposedly, "anything" is funny if you put it to that music, but I disagree. Chases though, they stay true to the original comedy. Anyway, if you too get a kick out of wasting your time in the manner, I recommend this one of an actual high speed police chase. And if you really must have more, this one from Star Wars is a little funny at first- it goes on a little too long and has a lot of battle in it (though a lot of chase as well- Stormtroopers in fast motion are actually kind of amusing).

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