Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, 2013 (I'm Kissing You Goodbye)!

I am NOT sorry to say goodbye to this year. My fondest hope for 2014 is that things will be more . . . settled.

For so many years of my life, my trio of resolutions were to (1) lose weight, (2) manage my money better, and (3) do something with my writing, and oh, did I have several happy recent years when I could say that I was doing all those things. But it all fell apart in 2013, so it's time to muster my wits and step up my game.

2014 will be the year that I . . .

. . . finish writing Novel 2! I'm several chapters in, and I think it's going to be good. I just have to write the darn thing! But I've already alerted my writers group that I'm coming back, and Writer Jenny in particular will hold my feet to the fire. (Which is good — she is a great cheerleader and motivator.)

. . . lose the next 20 pounds! I saw my cancer-advice doc yesterday and I've started taking taking tamoxifen. Nothing much will change, except I have to be sure to move around some every day, and I am sticking to a drinking diet of no more than seven drinks a week. Paying this kind of attention to my exercise and food/drink intake will, I believe, pay off re: good weight-loss choices as well. Also, it's time. It's great that I've kept off 35 pounds, but that is such a drop in my particular fat bucket. It's time to MOVE that scale needle again!

. . . find my next job — which I assume will be something temporary while I figure out how to attract more editing clients (and/or EDC regains its financial footing). The good news is that I have several editing jobs scheduled for January. However, I also plan to follow up with temp agencies and substitute teaching and whatever else I can dream up for the short term.

And if I can do all of this, 2014 will be a great year.

Oh, and one more thing:

On March 14, 2014, I will be in the front row for the very first showing of the Veronica Mars movie!!! So so SO excited!!!!!!!

I should get back to Husband now. As is our usual practice, we're enjoying a spread comprising various Trader Joe's hot appetizers, plus salami, cheese, and grapes, and I'm about to put out cookies, Whoopee Pies, and ice cream bonbons; HoneyBear has come for a sleepover with Li'l Martini, and they're noisily wrestling in our basement; Mimosa is in Boston celebrating Angel-Daughter's 16th birthday (Good Neighbor Anne is escorting five teen girls, dolled to the nines, to First Night, bless her heart); it's bitter cold outside, but we've got our love (and rage) to keep us warm.

In the words of Boston Globe writer Joseph P. Kahn:
We come now to the finish line,
A tangled marathon of rhyme
Reflecting on a year that passes
Rearward in our Google Glasses.
May these days of warm embraces
Find you in the best of places:
Sate at home, where you belong,
Filled with joy and Boston Strong.
Happy, happy 2014 to all of my dear readers! See you on the flip side.


love and kisses,

Lady C, fat, poor, and indolent for only a few hours more!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Trying to Get the Feeling Again

Christmas was lovely — it is pretty darn hard to ruin Christmas — but on the whole I will be delighted to have December behind me.

Money has been a struggle. EDC, my main employer, after years of financial growth and stability, suffered some huge cutbacks and had to do massive layoffs — which means that my special service, editing, is now seen as a luxury; few clients are willing or able to pay my hourly rate, and they're also simply producing less to be edited. Today's paycheck from EDC will be something like 30 bucks.

But I had a job this week, and though I usually prefer to avoid work right before the holidays, I had to grab it, given my impoverished state — and it was a deeply stressful job, requiring me to install a new software program, which caused my computer to crash every 10 seconds . . . I cried a lot. But it's done now and it's money, and that's something.

Clearly I need a new computer, as mine is ancient. As is my car. As is Husband's. Our children's computers are old too.

Big big bills, tiny tiny paychecks. Time for Mommy to bite the bullet and become a substitute teacher in January. I will also call the temp agency that ignored the resume I sent them. (I did apply for two actual jobs, as a freelance Medical Editor and a temporary Oral Historian, but haven't heard a peep re: either.)

The other main struggle has been mental health, chiefly my daughter's. I'm not sure I've ever said this out loud on my blog, but Mimosa has Asperger's syndrome, she's very shy, and social stuff is always a challenge for her. She has succeeded in making a couple of friends that she can "invite" to do things with her, but the invitations are always initiated by her; no one ever calls her, and she doesn't have what I think of as "hang out" friends. We haven't had a girlfriend just hanging out at our house since Mimosa was in elementary school.

(And I kind of laugh when I remember my own teen years; I had a wide circle of all-occasion friends, but my favorite thing to do with my two best friends when they came over was to read. We would lie on my huge antique bed, the one Mimosa now sleeps in, and read our library books. Possibly I am not the best role model for teen social dates.)

I dream of the perfect best friend for Mimosa — a quiet but fun-loving girl who likes books, movies, TV, and pop music, isn't too sporty or outdoorsy, and doesn't have a ton of other friends competing for her time and attention. I absolutely know that this girl is out there . . . but maybe Mimosa won't find her until college. I dunno. My own strategy for finding my junior high BF was to watch the girls who spent a lot of time in the school library and then to simply stalk one of them until she became my friend. (Mrs. Cynicletary will recognize this approach.) Mimosa says that she tried talking to a reader girl once, but the girl looked at her like she was crazy.

But the hardest thing is that my daughter is now part of three groups — the Madrigals, her church Youth Group, and the Into the Woods cast — and it's especially hard and lonely-making when you're technically part of a group but really just outside of it. These kids are all perfectly nice, but they don't necessarily go out of their way to include Mimosa (16 year olds are not prized for their social skills), so she teeters on the outskirts, wishing desperately to be nearer the center but completely stymied as to how to get there.

And in the meantime, a local teen girl just committed suicide, and all of us mommies of sad girls are drawing our daughters closer (metaphorically — my teen usually keeps me at arm's length).

It has been a hard, wrenching time.

Husband is having his own struggles; after years of enjoying the most collegial academic department ever, he's now enduring a new department chair, an outside hire, who has chosen Husband as his personal scapegoat and whipping boy. The situation has finally come to a head, so there's a meeting with the Dean coming soon, which, I think, will be good in that there will likely be some resolution to all this — but it has been awful to live through; my cheerful, easygoing sweetie has been glum and preoccupied, prickly and put-upon. Not fun for any of us.

In the face of all this Sturm und Drang, weight loss feels pretty incidental, I must say. But I haven't gained any weight, and lately I've been getting tons of compliments on how thin I look — which is weird; I promise you I haven't lost an ounce. Perhaps the stress of daily living is repositioning my fat pockets . . . ?!

Sorry, I know this isn't one of my funner posts. But I haven't felt much like blogging, and now you know why.

One day at a time, you know?

Today will be a good day — Mimosa and I are seeing Saving Mr. Banks, and it looks like one of M's church friends will come with us (this girl is awesome and adorable, but she has a thousand friends and is giddily flaky — not a good or reliable BF candidate, I fear), and tonight we'll eat up all the delicious leftovers in the fridge (our Christmas dinner was teriyaki steak tips, garlic mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and red-hot apples — YUM) and make popcorn and watch The Heat, which is coming from Netflix, and possibly play a round of (slightly edited) Cards Against Humanity, which Martini got for Christmas and is hysterical, and tomorrow I'm seeing a movie with Brunie and attending Sister Hart the Elder's swelligant holiday party, and on Sunday Mimosa and I meet up with Blogger Dawn for our annual outing to see the Family Trees in Concord, Mass. — in other words, nothin' but good times ahead!

All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

Cool Yule, y'all!

—Lady C, breathing in, breathing out

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Random Bits of Tid


Today's big plan is to sew a pillowcase. Every year I lovingly torture Martini with a description of a terrible present I'm (not really) giving him for his birthday; this year, I've convinced him he's getting a pillowcase, hand-embroidered by Mama, that reads "Good morrow, chums! Rest your cheek right here!" — perfect for a manly teen slumber party! And I'm going to actually make a pillowcase (which he can always use), just to give him that glorious moment while he searches for the embroidery. (If he seems disappointed, I will certainly embroider it for him.) I got the fabric earlier this week; today I'll plunk myself in front of Christmas movies and sew.

But first I'm cleaning out my Inbox.

SIX DECADES OF THE MOST POPULAR GIRL'S NAME

Have you seen this? Watching "Jennifer" sweep the nation (like Baby Fish-Mouth!) is very entertaining!

GIFTING MY FAVORITE UNCLE

I love all my uncles, but Mom's little brother is my special buddy. In 1986, I believe, I found the most obnoxious book in a bookstore and had to buy it, then was stumped for who to give it to. Uncle Steve was the obvious answer, even though he and I were not in the habit of exchanging presents. However, he declared that next year it was his turn, and we were off — close to three decades now of exchanging truly terrible presents.

A few years into it, my dad made a lasting contribution when he found an industrial plastic envelope meant (and marked) for mailing bodily fluids; that has become the official wrapping paper for at least one of the yearly gifts.

It's always a challenge to find just the right thing, and I know it when I see it. This year, I was wildly tempted by the puking cat gravy boat, particularly this "fleshy" shade, which looks like a hairless puking cat:

Terra Catta - SOLD OUT
Terra Catta
However, in an e-mail to Uncle titled It may be all about the giving, but not for fifty bucks, I explained, "The heart is willing, but the wallet . . . not so much." (Uncle's response: "I really feel underflated.")

I'm happy with the gift I chose, but it hasn't arrived yet. I am trying to be Zen, rather than cross and restive.

I continue to try.

OTHER CAT DELIGHTS

Dear Husband shared the following gem with me:

 
Yes, we need a new couch and yes I am a semi-crazy cat lady . . . but I am drawing a line.

(Though Martini saw this and went, "Awesome.")

STILL MORE FROM UNCLE STEVE

He sends lots of group e-mails, jokes and YouTube videos and News of the Weird, that kind of thing, and his latest was titled "The Revised Bucket List." The pictures are a cross between fascinating and horrifying, and here's the one that really stuck with me:
Extreme Picnicking
They look so happy! Am I too smart or too cowardly and small-minded for this enterprise?

Who's to say?

OFF TO SEW

Good morrow, chums! My Inbox is clean!!

—Lady C

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I Love My Guests — Truly I Do. But . . . UPDATED with Lamentations and a Good Laugh

On Thursday I host my Eleventh Annual Caroling Party, a tradition that Good Neighbor Anne and I started when our daughters were in kindergarten. Back then we invited the entire K class, and the biggest issue was determining a method for keeping track of whose turn it was to ring the doorbell. It has evolved over the years to include fewer Dallin school friends and more church and Betsy-Tacy friends, but it's still a large, lively, multi-age crowd, and it's a fairly easy party to host. And once the party is in full swing, I completely and totally love it.

Caroling outdoors on a crisp New England winter eve in the company of 25 souls who are so dear to me, singing those beautiful songs, knowing that hot food and good drink is waiting for me at the end — there's almost nothing better. The act of caroling together in the frosty air seems to bond people, and we all have a grand old time.

But the days and moments leading up to it — that is when I start making my own Nixon Enemies List.

Today I got this note from a friend:
At 3, I'll be making my way by bus and foot, probably via the Whole Foods so I can pick up a contribution. Is arriving a bit early verboten? Or could you tuck me away in some (warm) corner where I won't get in the way? I'm also hoping that another attendee will be willing to give me a ride home. If you know of someone who lives in my neck of the woods and can do some matchmaking, that would be helpful.
Note: The party starts at 5:30.

So, in other words, my guest, one of 25, wants me to (1) give her permission to come ridiculously early, (2) make sure that she'll be warm enough while she waits for the party to start, and (3) be "helpful" by arranging her ride home. (She is an adult who chooses not to drive.)

I know that I'm in my pre-party prickly mode, but nonetheless: I do not think that any of this is my responsibility. (Imagine if all 25 guests made similar requests!) But she is my friend, so I responded civilly — and by Thursday night I'll be wholeheartedly delighted to see her. Such is the magic of the Caroling Party.

I believe that I am the dream party guest. In reality, I am not the dream party guest, since (1) I hate parties and usually back out at the last minute, and (2) I get edgy if there's no activity planned because I hate performing small talk with strangers, so I drink more than my share, hide from the other guests by checking out the host's bookcases, then leave early.

However. During my brief appearance at said party, my manners are exquisite.

Here is what I think all guests should do:
  1. RSVP within three days of receiving a personal invitation.
  2. Arrive on time — no more than 5 minutes early, no more than 15 minutes late.
  3. If you do come early, offer to help and then stay out of the way when the hostess refuses. Don't make any extra mess, and don't touch the party food until the party starts! (My dearest Brunie knows I'm talking to her now — but she's gotten much better over the years. Now, whether she's better at leaving the food alone or better at hiding her tracks, who can say?)
  4. When the hostess is trying to get hot food on the table, get out of her way. Leaving the kitchen to stand in the doorway is not sufficient.
  5. If it's a potluck, bring not only your contribution but everything you will need to serve it (a bowl or platter, a serving utensil). Do not make extra work for your host at her busiest moment! 
  6. And don't just dump a bag of chips on your host's pretty table. A simple and attractive clear plastic serving platter or bowl can be purchased at Target for just a few dollars. Make the investment! You can use it forever.
Finally, if you want to bring a tasteful hostess gift, a bottle of white wine is always appreciated — that is, if I'm the hostess. Other hostesses might prefer red wine or beer. One hopes that you will know your host well enough to make this determination. Alas, my shelves full of gifted red wine and beer tell another story . . .

(I really am not complaining about this, I appreciate any and all hostess gifts, but I do find it amusing. I only ever drink Chardonnay, and yet people almost never bring me a hostess gift of Chardonnay. Que sera sera.)

The party will be great fun and I will have a blast, despite how cranky I sound right now. (Husband can describe the whole emotional arc, starting on Sunday when I think about canceling, every single year.) One thing I've gotten very good at is not obsessing over how clean the house is ahead of time. It will be overrun with 25 people plus their kids and lots of snowy boots — my house will be trashed within seconds. And I'm delighted to have an excuse not to have to mop ahead of time, believe me.

Time to get some presents wrapped and in the mail.

Merry merry, happy happy!

— Lady C

UPDATE

I was fairly cross when I posted this in the a.m. (which was fairly obvious in my tone, nicht war?). I heard Husband stirring and went up to perch at the end of our bed.
  • Me: I think I'm having regrets.
  • Husband: Mmm?
  • Me: I think people are going to read my blog today and get their feelings hurt.
  • Husband: Hmm.
  • Me: Maybe I should take it down.
  • Husband: Mmm? Hmm.
(Can you guess which one of us has the PhD?)

And in fact, after he'd woken up a bit, Husband read this post and said yes, he thought it was a bit harsh. In the meantime, I'd reread it and thought, I stand by every word of this.

So, a couple of things:

Every one of my dear friends will find him- or herself in one of these bullet points. To me, the larger point is: You are my dear friend — and we continue to be dear friends, despite your flagrant flogging of my personal party etiquette guidelines, Brunie.

Most, if not all, of my friends think I'm just the tiniest bit demented when it comes to parties and party behavior. And also, opinions vary on the size of the "tiniest bit." The word "harpy" has been used, in other words.

Having said all that, I truly do apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings. Please forgive me. 

On a final note, I just got THE MOST AWESOME e-mail from my fabby pal Writer Jenny, who is attending my Caroling Party (I have exhorted the guests to remember to bring flashlights, which are oft forgotten each and every year):
Pie and I are going to arrive about a half hour early. Hope that’s cool with you. We’ll just stand in your kitchen doorway with the bottle of Merlot I’m going to bring for you as a hostess gift. Oh, and would you mind, I’d love if you could find some nice strapping handsome man to walk us home. Hate walking in the dark, just us girls. And I’m assuming we can just borrow flashlights from you? Right?

xxxooo,
jenny
Life is sweet!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Want to Wash My Hands, My Feet, My Hair With Snow — UPDATED with Survival Story and Less Porn

It snowed in Arlington last night, and this morning our minister canceled church, which is almost unprecedented. And it's not so much the amount of snow that's the issue (from my window it looks like six to eight inches, maybe? and our street is clear, more or less), it's the weight of it; shoveling heavy snow is a big risk factor for heart attacks.

Can't wait to get out there in it!

I'm also waiting to hear whether Mimosa's 11 a.m. rehearsal is canceled; they said they'd let us know by 9, and it's 9:03. Tonight is also Youth Group and my penultimate OWL class, and I should know the fate of either of those by 2 p.m. It would be lovely to stay home and watch the Survivor finale (prediction: Tyson wins it all) with Li'l Martini, who has a bad cold and must be doctored with Mucinex and hot tea today so he can go to school tomorrow.

I'm just about done with my Christmas shopping; now I'm waiting for things to arrive from Amazon so I can get them wrapped and in the mail to California and Minnesota. We're easing into the home stretch, which feels good; the house is mostly decorated, and I may or may not set out my Barbies in their red and green outfits, or stick my ancient window clings (vintage 1970!) to the dining room windows — no big either way. I'm hosting my annual Caroling Party on Thursday, which will take some pre-work, though, as Sexy Em says, I've done this party for 10 years and can pretty much do it in my sleep now. I have three presents that I'm making, so I need to get on that — but none of them are hard.

I also need to firm up plans for Martini's 13th birthday on the 21st (he wants a cookies 'n' cream milkshake for breakfast, laser tag with SuperDad's son, hot dogs and a Tower of Doughnuts for dinner, and HoneyBear to sleep over). My baby will be a teenager! Crazytown.

I hear the scritch-scritch of my neighbor's shovel. The trick is to get the snow moved before it freezes. No word yet from Watertown Children's Theater. Arggh!!!

Time to put on my big-girl boots and get out there, I fear. Please send prayers for stout hearts and strong backs! The Chardonnays, who are a fragile wimpy people, will thank you.

— Lady C, intrepid snow warrior

p.s. Just heard from WCT — rehearsal is ON! Cool. And Kind Tina says she votes for canceling OWL tonight, so keep your fingers crossed.

UPDATE

Shoveling done, took about an hour. The top layer was a solid crust, so that took some effort to break through and move, but once that was done the underneath snow was light and fluffy. And the kids are old enough to be of some help; together they add up to one slow-moving dull-witted person, and that's not nothin'. (You may quote me!)

Husband believes he has survived frostbite, as his hands went from red to gray (I might have that in the wrong order) and hurt like hell. He is a true snow warrior. I made him hot coffee and will be on the lookout for excellent waterproof gloves. (We are not the type of family that takes winterwear very seriously. I just shoveled in sweatpants and a hat I bought at the Party Store, and I was toasty warm, thank you very much.)

Mimosa's off to rehearsal (with a bagful of cider doughnuts and fresh grapes; my shy girl is having a hard time bonding with the Watertown cliques, and I thought bringing a yummy snack to share might help), Martini is nursing his cold and drinking hot cocoa, Husband is grading (the semester officially ends this Monday, hurrah!), and I'm about to make cranberry bread and decide which of my many constant projects to tackle today.

For those who saw the original image I used for this post: Oh my! I didn't see it clearly when I first chose it — I only saw one person. I do think it's pretty funny, but I try to keep this blog G-rated for the most part, except for my potty mouth and violent tendencies and frequent updates on my menstrual cycle. But no, snow-blowing does not make the cut.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I'm Ba-ack!

Post-surgery zumba has been a challenge — my energy flags quickly, my arthritic knees whimper at the smallest impact, I just haven't been my zesty zumba self.

But last night at the Italian Spitfire's Tuesday night class (which is always my favorite, I have so many pals in this class now), I finally, finally felt my equilibrium return. I still got tired but not as quickly, and I shook my groove thang and felt fully there.

The Spitfire is now in the habit of calling up people to zumba alongside her — if it's a song that involves "fast feet" (rapid jogging in place) and someone's lifting her knees especially high, for example, she will likely find herself up at the front. We always applaud and cheer that person so it doesn't feel (as) horrifying.

And last night the Spitfire had me come up and lead the cool-down next to her as Cher sang "Welcome to Burlesque." "Watch," the Spitfire told the class, "and you're gonna see what sexy is. Show 'em how it's done, Lady C!" And here's me, in all my fat, frumpy, middle-aged glory, bringing sexy back.

Woo-hoo! It did feel good.

My weight is holding at my current set point, I'm leaving my cuticles alone for the most part, and I've made a good jump on Christmas prep.

Now if I could only stay home at night, curl up on m couch, light my Christmas candles, and sip some eggnog! That's my holiday dream . . . but I have to go out every night this week, and I'm hosting my annual Caroling Party a week from tomorrow.

I guess it's good to be busy and active . . . ?

(That is the sound of me trying to convince myself.)

Today I'm doing some more Christmas shopping, ironing Mimosa's voluminous skirt for tonight's concert (I hemmed it yesterday — she tried on her whole Madrigals costume, blouse and vest and skirt, and I burst into tears; Madrigals has been my goal for her since I first saw them perform when she was 11, and now she's not only a sophomore Madrigal, she's a soloist!), and figuring out the best way to reheat pork chops for dinner without overcooking them.

In other words — nothin' but good times ahead.

Cheers!

—Lady C

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Aren't You Glad, Aren't You Happy, Aren't You Proud?

Lady Darcy and I were friends with a sweet and deeply gay boy our freshman year who used to say this. (But on reflection, how did we even know that boy? He lived at Kresge and we were down the hill at College Five. How did we know anyone at Kresge?! We never hung out there.)

Tonight was one of those crazy nights where everyone had to be in several places at once:
  • Mimosa had Into the Woods rehearsal in Watertown (a half-hour drive away) starting at 6:30
  • Husband and I had to go to Li'l Martini's parent-teacher conference at 6:05
  • Husband was scheduled to lead the Worship Associate meeting at our church at 6
  • I had my final zumba class with Shy Jeny at 6:30, I've missed so many of her classes, and tonight is the last one of this session (well, technically Monday was the last one — I'm registered for Mondays — but I've only been there for two of those. Monday is a terrible night for me, I fear!)
Something had to give!

(And keep in mind that as I prepared to micromanage all this, I wasn't sure whether I'd even have a car. But saints be praised, my car was back in my hands yesterday at 4. It's a Christmas miracle!)

Last Monday night, during the Into the Woods parent meeting, I was a woman with a mission: Bond with the other Arlington parent in the cast and convince her to be my new best friend and carpooling buddy.

And . . . success!! Mimosa got a ride to Watertown tonight, and Husband drove everyone home.

But after figuring out all the moving parts and running around all day — and feeling stiff and tired and arthritic and a hundred years old, plus it is cold and dark at night — the idea of not going to zumba had INCREDIBLE appeal.

Nonetheless — I did it! And Shy Jeny was so happy to see me, and I promised that I would be a much more regular attendee for the next session (Thursdays, in the church at the bottom of my hill), and also one of my church pals Dr. Robin was there, and she's a cancer doc, so she and I had a long informative talk about my breast cancer marker — which, you know, wasn't fun, per se, but was a good talk.

Anyway — I am very proud of myself. It would have been so easy to stay home, but I cowboyed up and did the right thing. Yay, me.

And now I will take a hot hot bath and soak these poor ancient creaky joints o' mine. Tomorrow Li'l Martini has an early-release day, he'll be out of school at 11:15, and he's agreed to go grocery-shopping with me and then out to lunch at Madrona Tree. Fun fun, I love dates with my boy.

What a week!!! Crazytown.

Zen, zen.
 
—Lady C, bathtub bound

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The December CrazyTrain Has Pulled Into the Station

It's December 4, we've eaten up every last bit of Thanksgiving (OK, I still have a few random papaya chunks in the fridge and maybe a handful of cashews . . .) — I'm officially declaring Christmas ON at the Chardonnay homestead.

Which doesn't mean anything, really, just that I will start putting my mind to it today.

And good thing too, because Christmas also means two big family birthdays, Dad's on the 16th and Martini's on the 21st, and I need to get Daddy's presents wrapped and mailed to California ASAP. Time to get shopping, little girl!

Except . . .  on the way home from Danvers last Sunday (great day! We lunched at a fabby Asian buffet, where I haunted the refilled-way-too-slowly sushi platter like a waifish Ghost of Mealtimes Past, and then the kids and Husband saw Frozen, which they enjoyed immensely, and I saw Philomena, which is 19 kinds of fantastic— check it out!!) my car suddenly developed a horrific loud grinding noise, though fortunately it drove okay and got us home. But MAN was it loud. I suspect muffler issues, whether looseness or a new hole — but my sweet mechanics couldn't see it till today.

So I'll be carless today and likely tomorrow (my sweet mechanics do good work and don't charge a ton . . . but they are not, how shall I say this? — rapid), and I don't want to count on catalogue or Amazon orders to get here on time.

I'm usually very good at remembering what the holidays are actually about and not stressing, and I'm trying not to stew, but still.

It's the first official day of the Christmas countdown! And I've done nothing!!

But all this will change after I drop off my car and walk back home (stopping first at Starbucks to use my credit card as many times as possible — it's that time of the month again, must use the two home equity line of credit cards three times each in the first week. Good Neighbor Anne watched me pull them out and start making notes on the attached Post-Its, the only way I can keep track, and she begged me to come organize her life): I will either hunker down at the computer with everyone's Christmas lists and start ordering, OR (way more fun) pull out all the boxes of Christmas decorations and dive in! (The kids and Husband assured me they don't mind if I start without them.)

(Possibly because I'm a tad . . . exacting . . . when it comes to decor.)

(This is Husband pretending to be me: "Oh . . . are you going to put that there? How . . . interesting.")

(Ha ha.)

Other life news:
  • Once again, I'm going to stop tracking what "day" it is in my weight loss journey. It's all happening way too damn slowly, Christmas cookies loom in my future, there is no point in making myself discouraged the minute I sit down to blog. I'm still holding at the same ol' same ol', and for now I'll call that a victory. Or at least not a defeat.
  • Last night I returned to zumba, my first time since surgery. Man am I out of shape! I was exhausted. But it was great fun to be back, the class greeted me like the prodigal daughter, and we laughed and laughed. (I have a funny anecdote to tell but must get dressed and get car to mechanic — remind me!)
  • I didn't "win" NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words (or even come close) but I did write about 20 new pages, which I sat down and reread yesterday. And despite the fact that it felt like shite while I was writing it, I think there's some pretty good stuff there. Yay! So I'm excited about my novel again and will likely rejoin my writing group in January.
So much going on! I've been out every night so far this week and will be out tonight and tomorrow as well. And the weekend won't exactly be restful, as I have a big editing job scheduled for Saturday. (I try to avoid weekend work but . . . I need the dough, what can you do.) And Sunday of course is OWL, three more classes to go.

Busy busy!!!

But I'm not stressing. I am a model of Zen.

Time to get my hands dirty! (Metaphorically. Because, ew.)

—Lady C, Zen kitten

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 184: Thanksgiving Report

What a wonderful feast!! Arty Jenny joined us midday for cocktails, overseeing my food prep, and then stayed for dinner (sometimes she dines with her friends who cook for America's Freaking Test Kitchen — in other words, we don't take it personally when she leaves, and we're thrilled to have her when she stays), so we were five at table. And such a groaning board it was! Here's the report, from worst to first.

BAD

Midnight Skyy Martinis — these comprise muddled blackberries, vodka, and fresh lemon juice, shaken with ice, then topped off with Prosecco, and I thought it sounded delicious. But ugh, it tasted like medicine. I added OJ to my glass and then it was fine — but I can drink OJ and Prosecco without wasting vodka in there. I will continue to tinker with this, because I love the idea of a blackberry-vodka-based cocktail. But as written, this recipe was a loozah!

NOT THAT GREAT

Jicama and Cilantro Dip with Exciting Crudités — this happened to me several times this year: I failed to read a recipe accurately. I assumed this dip included both jicama and cilantro, which sounded crisp and interesting! Instead, there should have been a comma after "jicama." It was cilatro dip into which one would dip jicama. It was okay (and the crudités were indeed exciting), but I liked the cilantro dip I made last summer way better.

Prosciutto and Fontina Gougeres — again, had I read the recipe accurately, who knows? But I didn't — and also . . . I'd had . . . a few . . . tequila cocktails at that point. Possibly three. But in any event, as I'm mixing the ingredients in a bowl and babbling away to Arty Jenny, I looked again and noticed that I was supposed to be doing this on the stove, over heat, in a saucepan. My batter was way too thin, it was supposed to be biscuit consistency, so I added lots more flour.

And the result . . . tasted like big blobs of flour spiked with prosciutto. I may try making these again, because I could tell there was some good flavor lurking beneath all that flour paste . . . but not any time soon.
 
Cheddar Crab Puffs — exact same problem. Mixing bowl sans heat, big doughy blobs. And these didn't even have any hidden lurking flavor. They are way better things to do with crab, IMHO. (Like the Crab Louis I had for lunch yesterday — boy howdy, it was good!)

GOOD

Red Cabbage Slaw — tasty! It doesn't keep well, though, so I'm going to try sautéeing it and serving it with pork chops. (It had a vinaigrette dressing and lots of onions.) I love finding new things to do with cabbage, but will this replace "standard" coleslaw in my heart? Definitely not.
 
Quilted Pigs with Three Mustards — I did not do a good job of juggling all the things that had to be in the oven at the same time, and I ended up burning these. (They are usually among the most delicious nibbles, which is why we refer to the breading as a "quilt" rather than the more pedestrian "blanket." Totally my fault, I feel bad.) 
 
(See Cocktails, tequila, three. Eek!)

Stuffed Sausage and Spinach Loaf — same issue with the oven; also, next time I will roll out the bread dough with a rolling pin to get it as thin as possible before I start "stuffing" it, and I will also use less spinach, and mix the spinach and sausage ahead of time. And I won't forget the egg-and-herb wash, and I will serve it with warm marinara sauce for dipping. But this recipe has good possibilities; I will make it again.

Erin Brewster’s Chicken Enchilada Dip — usually my favorite app, but this time I overcooked it. Don't do that. It's a great recipe, though, and I toast my buddy the Southern-Fried Lawyer every time I make it!

MMM, YUMMY!

Mushroom Spread with Lemon and Thyme — this was similar to a mushroom paté I used to make but didn't require cream cheese or butter or other fatty stuff. Very tasty and flavorful! Definitely a keeper.

Bittersweet Chocolate Budino — my kids would tell you this was the best dessert, and I liked it fine; however, I thought I was making chocolate mousse ("budino" is what our local Italian chain calls chocolate mousse), so the result, a chocolate pudding cake, threw me a bit. And I was so stuffed with the other two desserts by the time I got to this one, I couldn't manage more than a bite. But I know it was very tasty.
 
Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats — so yummy! It's a basic Rice Krispie treat but with extra butter, which you brown first, and a little salt. For my money it's hard to ruin a Krispie treat, and these were delightful — but they did not taste all that different to me from regular treats, so I'm not sure I see the point of all the extra butter. But they are hella good, there's no denying it.

OMG SO INSANELY GOOD, I WANT TO EAT THIS EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY

Tropical Tequila Twisters — tequila, lime juice, OJ, muddled papaya. Shake with ice, strain into a glass. Damn. Drink three in rapid succession. Do not try to follow a recipe afterward.
 
Muddled Papaya Mocktails — I invented these for Husband, and they were so. good. Muddled papaya, mango juice, pink lemonade, juice of one or more limes. Shake with ice, strain into glass, and top with fizzy beverage of your choice (he chose sparkling lemonade). Yum!!
 
Cathy Allee's Rosemary Cashews — OMG. The best cocktail snack!!! Incredibly flavorful and satisfying, and so easy to make!
 
Candied Bacon Sticks— bacon, skinny breadsticks, brown sugar, and an oven. Crack on a stick. Insanely good.

Creamy Salsa Dip — an oldie but a goody. Purists will argue that salsa and dry vegetable soup mix should never meet, and I have some sympathy for that position . . . but this dip is freakishly delicious.

Caramel Chomeur — a soft butter cake atop warm brown-sugar-butter syrup, topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Heaven in a bowl. I need no other dessert, ever!!!!

*    *    *    *

I think it was one of our best meals yet. I always like to try lots of new recipes, but you also need some Old Faithfuls. We had a good mix.

One thing I did not make: Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes, which I'd planned to serve with hot coffee at the end of the evening. But (a) I was pooped, (b) we had enough sweet stuff, and (c) every cookie sheet (which I'd need to toast the marshmallows) was dirty. But the recipe sounds so good, I might make it as a post Christmas-tree decorating treat. Stay tuned!
 
I hope that wherever you were and however you celebrated, your Thanksgiving was a feast of joy and delight.
 
The diet resumes Monday.

xox Lady C