31 December 2012

End of 2012

The last day of 2012 and it's actually chilly here in Baton Rouge. Jane and I have many errands to run. I have lots of things to do around the house too -- being at my mother-in-law's house was inspiring to purge and organize (although the turning of the calendar also has something to do about it I'm sure).

This year Jane went on five airline trips -- a total of 20 flights (takeoff and landing). I had miscalculated before and said 18. Glad I recounted:
  • BTR --> DFW --> LAX
  • LAX --> DFW --> BTR
  • BTR --> DFW --> OKC
  • OKC --> DFW --> BTR
  • BTR --> ATL --> CDG --> TXL
  • TXL --> CDG --> ATL --> BTR
  • BTR --> DFW --> LAW
  • LAW --> DFW --> BTR
  • BTR --> CNT
  • CNT --> BTR
That's a well traveled baby!

Jane's vocabulary is expanding. She doesn't say Mama very often, although it is what we consider her first word. Dada is her favorite word hands down. During our trip to Virginia she picked up "Popeye" or "Paba" for Grandpa. So that's been pretty cute.

Our New Year's Eve this year will likely consist of soup and going to bed. I got a few Crock Pot recipe books from my sister and am going to give one of the soup recipes a try (gotta get started soon). Shawn and I go to bed pretty early these days, so I'm not even sure if we'll push ourselves to stay up until 12. If only we could sleep in ... maybe in a few more years.

Whatever you're doing, have a Happy 2013!

27 December 2012

Christmas Tree Skirt


This is the Christmas tree skirt that I crocheted for my mother-in-law this year. It took me over a year to finish because it was so many pieces. They're asymmetrical granny squares whipped together with a border -- from a pattern in a book Gran gave me. The number of ends I had to weave in was something else.

Unfortunately she doesn't have a tree that can make use of the skirt. (Hers is a small jobber that sits on a table.) But it's sort of draped around the tree anyway.

I'd like to make myself one, but I might look into a different pattern. I love green and red for Christmas, so this is perfect ... but I also like the idea of a filet pattern in white. For our tree this year I used some buffalo snow.

25 December 2012

Christmas Cooking 2012

It's been a hard working Christmas for me in the kitchen. Since the day after we arrived in Virginia I've been making something every day. And nearly every step of the way something has gone wrong.

It started with the cake. I'd seen a recipe in a magazine and didn't think it seemed too hard. But the payoff looked gorgeous -- like it always does in magazines. After making the cake batter to perfection I was thwarted when the cakes rose over the sides of the pans and made the bottom of the oven super messy. Luckily there was foil on the bottom of the oven so cleanup wasn't too difficult. But the cakes were pretty much useless -- too soft in parts and crusty in others.They really seemed like brownies in consistency.

After pondering a while I gave up and decided to bake a regular box cake in two layers and go ahead and make the cream cheese frosting. With the excess frosting I mixed the half of the ruined cakes to make cake balls (kind of gross, and I never bothered to cover them in chocolate candy coating like you're supposed to ... so they ended up in the trash ... maybe it only works with store bought frosting?).


But the box cake turned out OK -- domed but OK. I iced the two layers and then did the decorating -- pressing crushed candy canes around the sides. I also made peppermint red-and-white meringues for the top. While the meringues dried, I left the cake on the counter with the candy canes in place. It was covered in the cake carrier and when we got back the candy canes had melted, leaving the sides of the cake pink and a puddle of goo underneath. YUCK.

Little did I know that cream cheese frosting must be refrigerated. SO that solves the mystery of the melting candy canes (I think?).

We went ahead and ate the cake at a family party and it didn't get an awful reception. It was just sad sitting next to a pristine bundt cake that was on a plate made out of actual peppermint candies. Pinterest much? Oh me.

There have been similar fiascos as the cooking has continued. We never had exactly the right tools -- missing a rubber spatula, no big mixing bowls, it takes more than 30 minutes for water to boil on her stove, etc.

In addition to the cake I also made cream cheese cutout sugar cookies. I've had that recipe from my aunt for 10 years, so they turned out fine -- although it didn't seem like it made enough because I used such a giant cookie cutter (I brought one from home just in case ... and lucky for me because my m-i-l couldn't find her cookie cutters either).



Other desserts included banana pudding pie, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake. As of this writing we've only eaten pumpkin pie -- and it was only OK. I think a problem is that Shawn's grandma's recipe calls for "milk" and I'm pretty sure she means "evaporated milk" -- which is a game changer. It still set up and tasted right. It just wasn't as dense as it should have been.

The banana custard for the pie was difficult, and I'm not sure I did that right. It said to bring it to a boil after it thickened ... but with the stove not being hot enough it thickened and would not boil. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to keep cooking it until it was a thick unmoving block ... but that's where I was headed so I stopped. I'm not sure if I overcooked or undercooked it. In any case it doesn't look like the picture (let's be honest, none of my recipes do).

For dinner we had
  • cranberry salad (my mom's recipe -- easy, tasty and one I've made before ... a rare win for me this season)
  • 3-cheese scalloped potatoes (all you magazine ... turned out OK EXCEPT the bottom got too brown because the casserole dish was metal and we didn't use the baking sheet underneath because there was no room)
  • mashed sweet potatoes (mainly for Jane -- easy enough I didn't mess it up)
  • broccoli and mushroom salad (real simple magazine -- yummo)
  • deviled eggs (m-i-l made these ... needed mustard!)
  • creamy corn pudding (real simple magazine -- yummo except that it too got a little too brown around the edges ... and it was in a glass casserole so it may just be the oven was too hot or overcrowded? she only has one rack in the oven, which made timing everything super difficult)
  • turkey (m-i-l did this too and it got a little dried out ... we didn't have a deep roasting pan so I wasn't able to get many juices/drippings for the ...
  • cornbread dressing (Shawn's grandma's recipe ... I got close. Consistency was almost right but it was missing some flavor, probably from the lack of turkey juice)
  • store bought yeast rolls (the bottoms got too brown ... there is no timer in her kitchen!)
I am wiped out. Still need to make whipped cream for the pies. 

I don't think I want to be making this meal again in any kitchen but my own. And even then ...

Hope you've had a Merry Christmas.

15 December 2012

Crochet: A Granny Square


Finished this granny square baby blanket with the puffiest softest yarn, Red Heart Buttercream. It's bulky and worked up quickly. I interspersed some "Cupcake" purple yarn and embroidered an "A" in the middle (the baby's first name starts with "A").

I got it mailed off today. The baby was born 5 months ago, so I'm only a little late getting this finished!

13 December 2012

The Spirit of the Season

I am fighting a losing battle with myself. I want to stop wanting THINGS and be content with all the amazing things I have -- and the people I have to share them with.

But I am susceptible to marketing and jealousy like woah.

It's Christmastime, so there are tons of "hot deals" and "buy now" messages pervading me. I have read so many gift guides and thought "oh, I want that!" And being at others' homes and seeing the beautiful decorations my tree doesn't seem like enough. And I want more-more-more.

Specific example: Christmas china. The idea of having special plates, bowls, cups, glasses to pull out for December is suddenly oddly appealing to me (although come January - November decidedly less so!). Bringing myself back to reality I remember that i have wedding china I've never used (and don't have a safe place to store so it remains in its box in the utility room). And I don't have people over to eat with any regularity anyway, even around Christmas (THAT is something I could change in good conscience though).

I want to have good habits and attitudes to pass onto and model for Jane. Not being so obsessed with gadgets and clothes and possessions. But I am tempted to shop-shop-shop all the time, including for her.

Of course I can't not shop for her at all -- she is growing and developing and needs bigger clothes, more challenging toys, etc., many of which I can get at consignment shops and garage sales (although it's definitely easy for me to still go overboard). But I can certainly work harder to reign myself in.

In our pre-parenthood dreamland, we were determined to limit her toys, especially plastic. And like everyone else said -- our living room is overflowing with baskets of toys and books ... and we've even boxed up a good portion of her toys to swap out in May. So even there, in what seems like it should be a concrete "in-and-out" system, I fail.

And even as I'm confronted by my blatant consumerism I feel some comfort in buying gifts for others this season -- picking out presents, wrapping and shipping them -- oh the efficiency. Until I come across blog posts and books that feature people giving up gift giving to those they love in favor of helping the poor and needy -- either entirely or half for family and half for strangers.

What does gratitude look like? How can I do better -- not just at Christmas but all year -- at being grateful myself and instilling gratitude in my family? How do you fight the "want-more-stuff" monster?

12 December 2012

Voyeurism and Reality Blogging

The idea that blogging is similar to reality TV keeps tumbling around in my head (and I'm fairly certain I've written about it before...or at least I meant to). So while I'm adamant against watching shows like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and "Real Housewives,"* I LOVE reading blogs that give me a peek into someone else's life.

From the twee blogger writing about style and fashion to the mommy blogger presenting a realistic look at life with a toddler to the healthy food blogger who mixes in stories about her family to the trying-to-be-funny but missing the mark honesty of a decidedly non-crunchy blogger (brags about feeding her kids Little Debbie snacks; the feeding probably isn't uncommon but the unabashed pride in doing so certainly is among what I read anyway).

In some cases I know more about these women's lives than I do about my sister's! (To be fair I definitely know what's up with my sister's life, but I don't know the level of detail that some bloggers provide.)

And rather than be annoyed and unsubscribe, I find that I revel in knowing more about these people ... and they become characters in my mind. Sometimes I want to talk about them -- and I do tell my husband about some of the more ridiculous things that come across my Google Reader.

So that brings me to me -- and how I am documenting my existence online. Do I reveal too much? Not enough? Am I presenting myself as merely a character, or do I allow some of my truth to be seen in the posts? Most (if not all) of my non-spam readers are people who know me in real life, which makes me approach blogging differently than I might otherwise.

My blog doesn't have any commercial value, so if I am trying to create a marketable character I'm not doing so well. If my blog is just a place to communicate with people who know me in an unobtrusive way (read if you want, don't if you don't), then I think I'm on track. I also really like this blog as a record for myself. I can go read older entries and remember exactly what it felt like to write those words and sometimes even where it was I was doing the writing.

How much do I love this face?!
But this isn't a completely safe place either. Anything I publish -- including pictures of Jane -- can be seen by anyone. Am I doing her a disservice by writing about her and using her picture and real name? Could it have longer lasting consequences? Do I deny myself the joy I get sharing about her? Or just do it in a more contained platform (should I Facebook more? be content with my weekly email?)? No pictures? Use a pseudonym for her? (Some people just say "Daughter" or "Baby" or initials, etc.)

While I am thinking about these things, I don't expect anything to change around here -- I'll still write infrequently and think of posts I want to write MUCH more frequently. I'll keep reading others' blogs and think "I can't believe she posted that!" in a judgy mcjudgerson way. And there's always November...

*I confess I watched some of "Miss Advised" this summer ... because I am a closet "cat lady."

06 December 2012

Christmas Movies

Something I didn't mention in my TV watching confessions was how much I like to watch TERRIBLE Christmas/holiday movies.

ABC Family, Lifetime, Hallmark. Those would be my channels in years past -- I can't count how many of the lame-oh, eye rolling movies I've watched. They're so bad they're good, at least to me.

I remember a particularly good/bad one we watched at Shawn's Aunt Diannia's house -- Wilford Brimley suddenly grabbed his left arm and Diannia shouted "heart attack!" And sure enough, that's what he had. Shawn and I still sometimes shout it out randomly and crack up, years later.

Last year I watched many while Jane was still small and sleeping all the live long day. But this year I'm not sure if I'll watch any of them. I've seen ads in some of the magazines I read -- which I'm letting subscriptions lapse as I can stand it, because seriously -- so I've seen a few I would LIKE to see. I think there's one with TorI Spelling. I mean, come on! Donna Martin in a TV movie with a holiday twist?

But I'll make due with plenty of Christmas tunes and a particularly annoying Jingle Bells-playing monkey (a gift to Jane last year at her Indiahoma shower ... not that I'll name names).

Whatever the case playing with Jane is always better than any old movie...

05 December 2012

Read: MWF Seeking BFF

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search For A New Best FriendMWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search For A New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I checked out this memoir digitally, which I think is the best invention ever (or not, but I really like being able to do that ... I'm not one to crave zillions of digital files of books I'll never read again, can't sell or give away and never remember to try to loan out to someone who has the same device as me, etc.). I would even pay a couple bucks to rent books digitally -- maybe like Netflix for Novels & Nonfiction or something? I do have Amazon Prime and can borrow a book a month that way ... but the available titles are mostly self-published things plus the Hunger Games trilogy, which I've already read. Meh.

Anyway, the book itself is about the author's year-long quest to make friends in Chicago because all her friends live elsewhere.

There's a fair bit of friendship/relationship research information included but I didn't really like those parts of the book and enjoyed more just the straight up story of her year and how it went on her "girl dates."

I've never actively sought girl friends myself, even though I do need those types of relationships. Girl friends don't come easily to me, and I'm not a very social person by nature. (See November 2012 television posts!)

I wouldn't want to repeat the author's experiment -- she went on 52 FIRST girl dates in the year, meaning all her follow up meetings with women she met didn't count toward that goal. I can't imagine going out every week even with people I know, let along with a new person every week plus old pals. Yikes.(Oh yeah, and she was in her first year of marriage too ... I don't know how she managed to also work full time or sleep!)

But the book could inspire me to be friendlier, talk to people more and maybe invite someone to do something sometime. I definitely say yes to invitations a lot more than I would naturally because I know how important it is to be connected to people even if it's hard to establish those connections.

Overall I liked the book and the author has a blog: http://mwfseekingbff.com/ that I might start reading too.

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