Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why "The Two Mr. Kissels" Is the Best Way to Spend Two Hours that I Know Of

Well, ok, since I typed that, I immediately thought of another *better* way to spend two hours, but that way is totally not ok to talk about on this family centric blog. So carry on....

Anyway, if you live a sad, depressed and utterly deprived life, allow me to fill you in on what exactly I am talking about. "The Two Mr. Kissels" is a Lifetime movie. It is based on a true story, and it is awesome. It stars Robin Tunney and some woman that my husband says is on some show he watches that I don't care about.

Oh, and Uncle Fucking Jesse. It stars him too.

"The Two Mr. Kissels" is about these two brothers who do things with money that people like you and I do not understand. Well, maybe you understand it. I'm one of those people that thinks "playing the market" involves bowling with cantaloupes. KIDDING! Kind of. Anyway, they make scads and scads of money all in some attempt to get their father's attention. Because let's not forget, ladies: This is a Lifetime movie. In any one of these, whether you are stripping or giving a teenager a hummer on your second date or entering into an ill-advised pregnancy pact or, yes, investing money into a hedge fund named after members of your family, you're doing it to get the attention of your father, who will never exactly put down the goddamn sports page and give you that attention. John Stamos's character is crazily greedy and money hungry and does all these super shady things. He also does a lot of blow. Because in Lifetime's world, it is ok to be upper middle class. Sure, have a nice big house and put your kid in cello lessons. But if you have too much money, you automatically morph into this:


Which is another reason why I like this movie, believe it or not. In your average Lifetime movie, sex is the thing being demonized. Sex is only for a) incredibly wanton teenagers who will soon get syphilis/pregnant/DEAD and b) people who commit adultery and then kill their significant others. Oh, and it is for babies. Which are wonderful. So you have sex, which is this totally awful job that you don't really want to do because it can only be compared to cleaning the toilet or scrubbing the hard water stains off of the shower door, so you can have a baby which is AMAZING and really, the only reason for living. I love me some Lifetime, but yes, it does bother me that this is the message that is so often given out. And don't even get me started on that Pregnancy Pact one where at the end it is intimated that Thora Birch's character is a changed and good person (when she's been insufferable the entire two hours) because she did not get an abortion...she just lied about a pregnancy, did not tell the father, and then gave the baby up for adoption. So, long story short, I'm kind of glad to see the glaring light of anger be put on something other than sex for a change. Sorry rich people.

ANYWAY.

The Two Mr. Kissels is also awesome because of three other things, and they are nowhere near as thematically problematic. The first thing is this: one Mr. Kissel is living in Hong Kong, spending his time being rich and working for some huge company, and SARS breaks out. So he sends his wife (Robin Tunney) and children back to the US to escape it. During this sojourn, his wife starts banging the cable guy. Which is funny, because well, I've never even seen a hot cable guy. Never. Our cable guy here, for instance, could get a job ringing a bell if this whole cable thing goes the way of the dinosaur. But the husband, well, he does what any self respecting rich guy would do in the situation. He hires a PI. We see the PI sitting outside of the house and watching while, one morning, the cable guy leaves and gets in his poor person's car and drives off. And you hear the PI talking to the husband, saying he has bad news, and he tells the guy that his wife is boffing some other dude, and then he goes, "He lives down the road." *beat* "In a trailer park."

And then you see the rich guy's face and he is just AGHAST. You almost feel like screaming DUM DUM DUM at the TV (or at least, I do, but then again, I talk to my TV. We have a loving relationship.) He has just been served. On a silver platter. With bone fucking china. That PI might as well have told him that his wife now has scabies and smallpox and running sores all over. Anyway, I just love it.

And the second awesome thing is kind of related. His wife ends up *SPOILER ALERT* killing him. And she does it in this pretty evil, totally awesome way, where she gets her kid to give him a rohypnol laced milkshake, and then she bludgeons him to death with a statue. And then (after a few spa treatments and a massage), she wraps him in a rug, and has some worker dudes come up and get the rug to take to storage. And she has her four year old son hold the door for them as they leave. Yes, she has her four year old son hold the door for his dead father's body to be carried out. Classy. And let me just say, Robin Tunney's performance here is great. She just has this swagger about the whole thing that I kind of dig, and that is really missing from a lot of these movies. And, I absolutely fucking adore the outfit she wears while she murders him: it is a simple black shift, with a v-back, with a skinny red belt and red pumps. I may cop to looking for a similar ensemble after I finished watching the movie. Not to kill my husband in. Just to have, you know, while I make milkshakes and have furniture moved.

And the third awesome thing is this: at then end, everything has just gone to complete and utter shit for the Kissels. One is dead, Robin Tunney is in a Taiwanese women's prison, and John Stamos is drinking milk out of the carton while wearing a Lohanesque ankle monitor bracelet. And to symbolize this, we get a shot of Uncle Jesse, just hoovering down a big bunch of blow in his car. And the awesome thing? It's a Pontiac! I just think that is genius. Prior to this, there is a scene where the US Marshalls swoop in and take a garage full of expensive imported automobiles. So you know things are bad when this dude decided to drive domestic. For some reason, I think that is a real gem--such dynamite characterization. And it makes me inordinately happy, not because I delight in seeing rich people have to do demeaning things, but because it is a great example of saying so much with just one image, just one well-placed product.

Anyway, this is a gem among Lifetime movies. I just watched it (well, halfway at least) for the third time, I think. And since I have seen a few of these movies during my break from work and I would never willingly watch any of them again, it feels extra special to have found it. Consider the suggestion a late holiday gift from me.

2011 is nigh, ya'll. Hope your New Year is amazing and that it is the start of a rich (but not too rich) year for us all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Memories

This will most likely be my last post of the year, as today is my last day of work. After today, I become a SAHM for two weeks--a baking, cooking, cleaning, resting, baby-kissing SAHM. I am really looking forward to it. Mostly because I feel like I just need it. Just need the time to recenter and help my house recenter and enjoy my kids. I am also taking this time away from the internet--sure, I'll check Facebook every now and again, but I really want to refocus my efforts on something that doesn't involve a screen.

Unless my husband buys me a new laptop. In that case, I'll be on here 24/7, Twittering blandly about minutiae (Just had some pancakes....mmmmmmm......).

At any rate, the time has come, the walrus said, for a warm and fuzzy holiday post. Despite the fact that Christmas is in winter and that I have come to hate winter with a fiery hate that knows no bounds, I do love me some Christmas. (If you celebrate something else, cool, I don't care. Whatever. But I celebrate Christmas, so this is the post for that.) Matt and I always get super excited about doing stuff for the kids and we decorate and we have all these hokey traditions about driving two hours to cut down our tree and what kind of coffee we drink when we stop by Starbucks when we are shopping and exactly when the gifts for the stockings are purchased (on the 24th--always on the 24th!). And there is copious amounts of food (which is a recurring theme if you are a regular reader of this blog) and we work extra special hard to be merry for a month, and all is well.

Growing up, I was the only child of divorced parents, which means, in layman's terms, that I got a SHIT TON of presents. Not only did I get two Christmases, on my mom's side, I was the only kid, so presents were like rain, ya'll. Little, sparkling drops of rain that fell from the heavens and lit up my life. I distinctly remember one Christmas having gotten so much stuff that it literally would not all fit in my room and my mom just gave up and put it all on the bed and I slept in the floor in a (new) sleeping bag. Of course, when you are a kid, this is what you remember--the presents but also, the overall magic of the season, the feeling of total and complete excitement. Sure, I remember the other stuff--drinking boiled custard out of pewter cups at my Aunt Cora's, the mounds of candy that my grandmom made and the way it made the house smell, my mom singing Christmas carols at the piano, my dad speeding down the mountain every Christmas Eve to get to my grandparent's house and making me car sick. But mostly I remember the magic, the thrill, the gobs and gobs of THINGS waiting on me to give them my attention, if for just a fleeting moment.

When I was 20, though, that all changed. My 20th year was the year that I moved into my own apartment, in Williamsburg, VA. It was my first apartment, and as first apartments go, was not a total pit. However, it was small, especially given the fact that it now housed me, Matt, Gabby, and a newborn Sam. Sam had been born in September, and I had taken two weeks off and then headed back to school. Life was, in short, hectic. I worked at a fine dining restaurant--lunch shifts on Saturday and Sunday and one dinner shift during the week, and went to school full time. Matt worked in the Modern Languages department, and went to school full time. We lived off of our small paychecks and student loans. We studied and worked almost constantly and as I sit here typing this, I have no idea how we even survived. But we did. We ate dinner every night around our tiny table, sitting in folding chairs, and we lived, we felt, like kings.

But then Christmas came. With exams and work and money and all of that, Christmas came, almost unbidden, almost unwanted. I remember my parents pleading with me to just come home after exams and let them buy for the kids and let them give us Christmas at home. But for some reason, I said no. I promised to leave Williamsburg the day after Christmas and come back home, but said I preferred to let the kids celebrate Christmas in their house, with Santa coming in their front door (no chimney!) and leaving gifts. I promised that we could do it. And somehow, bit by bit, we put together a Christmas that year. I have no idea how--couldn't tell you if you paid me. All I know is that somehow, we bought a tree (a fake one--no real trees in apartments) and some decorations, and slowly, despite everything, Christmas began to grow around us. I bought a ham with a gift certificate to the grocery store that we had gotten when Sam was born, Matt made innumerable batches of sugar cookies. We bought Sam a newborn Santa suit, size 3-6 months. We called him Samta and serenaded him with "Samta Baby." There were gifts that were wrapped and I could see that glow in Gabby's pre-school eyes when she looked at the tree and saw the gifts resting there.

But nothing, NOTHING could prepare me for the feeling I would get on Christmas Eve night that year. I talked to my dad's family on the phone--it was the first year that I would miss that tradition--and felt sad. Had I made the wrong decision? Should I have gone home? I remember talking to them and sitting on our couch as Matt wrapped more gifts in the floor. And when I got off the phone, and really felt at my lowest, Matt looked up and said, "Ok, let's go be Santa." So we pulled out the things we had gotten for the kids and surreptitiously placed them in front of the tree. We filled the stockings. We wrote a "convincing" note from Santa and took bites of cookies and milk. And then we sat down and looked around the apartment.

I can only describe it as magic. I felt so giddy at the thought of what we had accomplished, of what the kids would think in the morning. I felt like laughing and crying and screaming and whatever else. Matt just kept taking pictures of the tree and the presents, pictures that I look at every year still and one of which is sitting on our mantle right now. We were so proud, so incredibly proud.

And I realized that the magic that you feel at Christmas when you are a kid, the magic that keeps you up at night with excitement, that magic lives in us all. And that sounds horribly cheesy, and yes, I know that, but that magic is amazing. And it helps you do things that you never thought you could and that, well, you probably should never have been able to do, to be honest. That magic helps push you when otherwise you would have had enough and makes you into something better than yourself. Christmas is the time for that.

It is my sincerest hope that this is a magical and wonderful time for you and your family. May you eat lots of wonderful food, may you receive at least one thing that you adore, and may you give gifts to those around you that enrich their, and your, life with love and excitement.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ah, Winter.

On Wednesday night, we got a huge ice storm, which means that I spent yesterday home with my children, as my mother in law could not get to our house and I didn't want to chance getting to work. I really thought I could make it, but then they cancelled the Christmas party, and I knew it was really, really super bad if they would cancel a party that we all have been looking forward to so much (cue eyeroll), so I stayed home. And made toffee. But that is neither here nor there.

Today, I got up and put on 1/2 of my holiday outfit because I did not want to get salt and snow detritus on my velvet pants. I am wearing a sequin striped t-shirt from Loft (no longer on website) and this cardigan, along with my trusty Modern Bootcut pants and the oxfords that I found in my closet last week. My daughter's dance recital is tonight, and I figured that if I had time, I would run by the house and put on my velvet trousers before going to the show. I packed up my cupcakes, a gift for a coworker and my regular work bag, and set off to the office.

Except that my car got stuck in the driveway. Not just stuck. Like REALLY stuck. Like I kept trying to get it out, and it ended up slipping on the ice and sliding around to where it was almost resting on a tree. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), Matt had not left for work yet, so I was able to ride with him (we work in towns that are close to each other). He spent the first part of our trip, however, bitching about my car. About how we might have to get it towed out. About how a $100 tow bill is exactly what we need right now, a week before Christmas. Yada yada yada. And then I realize that he is not leaving work until 5, and I was going to leave earlier to make sure I could get Gabby ready for the recital. Luckily, my mother in law can do it, and we will get there just in time for the show, but still...I wanted to help her put on some make-up and put her hair up and all of that stuff.

Then I get to work and get a crazy headache. Like throbbing pain. I have taken two ibuprophen and it has yet to dent the pain. I hardly ever take medicine, so the fact that I actually did this is astounding enough. No one is in the office, so I am tempted to get up under my desk and try to go to sleep. Like REALLY tempted. I'm pretty sure that that is the only thing that would help at this point.

Anyway, suffice it to say, this winter is not getting off to a very good start. Today is the 8th day of school that my kids have missed, which means that they will make those days up in summer. And if it is this bad now, when winter has not even officially started yet....the mind boggles. Perhaps I am just bitter because of my headache but still. I am really beginning to hate winter.

Here is some good news though--my bangs were getting really unruly and hideous, and I was supposed to get them trimmed yesterday, but well, I couldn't go anywhere because of the weather. And my hairstylist isn't available today or on Saturday. So, just now, having reached my limit of stupid stuff that I can take, I walked to the office bathroom, carrying the scissors from my desk. And yes, I cut my own bangs. The whole time I was just daring someone to come in and say something, because I just knew that given my morning, I would brandish my scissors at them and yell, "YEAH? So my bangs were long. SO WHAT? Wanna make something of it, PUNK?" I also just knew that I would gap them or something awful. I haven't cut my own bangs since college, and even then, I did it with those little dinky nail scissors and sat in front of my mirror, doing it ever so carefully. This time, I just swooped on in the bathroom, stood in front of the sink with my big ole honkin' Office Depot brand shears and had at it. With the mood I was in, I'm surprised I didn't give myself a mullet.

And the results are not that bad, if I do say so myself:

(This is what happens when you are taking a picture of your bangs at your desk and then you think you hear someone walking down the hall.)

When I played with them in the bathroom, I thought I could get them looking really cool, and I still think that, especially if I am equipped with a brush and some sort of product. So hopefully Matt and I will have time to run by the house and get some of that. Or we won't. And I'll just go into the bathroom here before we leave and use my stapler, a few paper clips and a thing of white out to fashion up a real holiday 'do.

So, anyway, if you are keeping score, it is Winter: 8, Morgan: 1.5. Because I actually like these shoes that I found, and my bangs are no longer hideous. Take that, you frigid bitch.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

OOTD: Day 1 of Holiday Luncheons

Today I will be going to lunch with everyone in my office. We are basically occupying the back part of the meeting hall in the building here and having a lovely holiday lunch. We were advised to wear "festive attire."

Dress: Isaac Mizrahi for Target (old--story follows!)

Cardigan: Merona for Target

Belt: Merona for Target

Earrings and necklace: American Eagle

Shoes: Style & Co. via Beatty's

This is a really bad picture, one that makes me look very hippy, which is funny because since Alice has been born, I carry my weight more in the stomach, thigh area than in the hips. I used to be the Queen of Planet Hips. So this is like Vintage Morg, all over again. The funny thing was, I had this picture where I popped a real pose with my foot up and everything and it looked really cute, and most importantly, I looked thin, but it came out all blurry. Boo urns. So this is what you get. Sorry. I was trying to give you a kind of close-up of my sparkly necklace and belt, but well, you know. I suck. Why I keep beating myself up and posting this pictures, I'll never know.

Let me tell you about this dress, though. I bought this dress way back when Isaac Mizrahi had his line at Target. It was a bit too small when I got it, and wouldn't zip. I gave it to my grandmother, who was going to take it to a tailor for me and have something snipped, but she forgot about it and I did too. Then, this fall, I found it in her closet when I was looking for a Bingo game. It was now too big, so my grandmom took it to the tailor and they snipped and tucked and did whatever else they needed to do, and voila! I have a new dress that I love. Funnily, I also wore it for Halloween with a witches hat, orange peep toes and a purple cardigan. All-occasion holiday dress? Yes, I believe so.

The shoes are a similar discovery. I bought these two years ago at Beatty's, which is this shoe clearance center in Kingsport, TN. Basically, they take shoes that are worn in print ads or are catalog overruns or are WHATEVER and sale them for cheap. And they have pretty awesome name brands. My mom has especially good luck there because she has little feet and they are not picked over. She has gotten Uggs (ahem) and bought me a lot of Doc Martens there when I was a teenager. I got these there when I was with her once, and promptly forgot about them. But Alice found them over the weekend, and I realized that I have one more pair of close toed shoes to wear in the snow. And they are actually comfortable! Amazing.

Anyway, this is first attempt at "Festive." I have to go to another one of these things tomorrow (armed with a gift and with cupcakes), so I will show you my other sparkly, festive outfit tomorrow. Hint: it does not involve a sweater with a blinking Santa.

Divinity


So last night, I did it. Something I have been planning to do for about three years now but haven't. Something I have been scared out of my mind to do for about half my life.

I made divinity.

Divinity, for those of you not from the southern part of the US, is a fluffy white candy eaten mostly at Christmas time. It is basically just straight sugar, but in a beautiful, cloudlike package. A lot of people mix nuts in it, or food coloring, or sometimes, they spread it with peanut butter and roll it up for a peanut butter roll (I, actually, hate it with the peanut butter. To me it is just too much sweet, and a bit akin to buying a gorgeous purse and then putting it inside of a free carry all you got at the grocery store). Divinity is also famously tempermental. You cannot make it when it is raining or humid or in years when there is a Republican in the White House (I'm just joking about that last part...or am I?). A lot of people flat out refuse to make it because of a bad experience when it didn't work out for them. And a lot of people just don't want to make it. In fact, I don't think I've spoken to a person under the age of 70 who regularly makes it/likes making it.
But I like a challenge. And my dad likes it and I really wanted to stir some up to surprise him with on Christmas Eve. And I have this desire at Christmas time, to just make as much candy as possible. This is a byproduct of having grown up with my grandmother. My 86 year old grandmother is making candy as I type this, feverishly preparing for my aunts and uncles and cousins to arrive to her house. Every year, she makes about 7-8 different types of candy...fudge, divinity, seafoam (divinity made with brown sugar, which is her favorite), peanut butter rolls (ick), millionaires, molded heath bars, peanut butter balls and probably other things that I just can't think of now. And when you think that each of these recipes makes at least 50 pieces of candy....it is a lot of sugar up in the hizzy. She packs it all up in Christmas tins that she has accumulated over the years and stores it in her laundry room. She says that it is because it is colder out there, but well, I don't know. Maybe she wants us all to throw in a load of towels when we abscond with a millionaire? Anyway, she has it there for the taking and it is just like a heaven of candy--all right there for the taking. When I was a kid, I used to get so excited just thinking of it--the variety, the smooth chocolate-ness, the smell of the tins.
So every year I try to recreate. Last year, I failed miserably because a huge winter weather system knocked out our power for a week, and none of my projects came to fruition. I made peppermint bark gift boxes for my kids' teachers, but that was it. But this year, I am determined. So I bit the bullet and made the divinity.
And it was a little tricky, but nowhere near as hard as I thought. Perhaps I just got very, very lucky. The hardest part was molding it into pretty little puffs. You are supposed to use two spoons to kind of twirl it onto a piece of wax paper so that it comes out looking like the top of a soft serve ice cream cone. Yeah, mine...not so much (as you can see from the picture--that is one of the pieces I made sitting on my desk just now). Also, that is one of the latter pieces I made because you can see that it was starting to get stiff as I twirled it out--that is why you see a couple of bumps on its side (that and having been contained in a ziploc bag for the trip to work this morning). The first pieces (and actually about 70% of the batch) were smooth and puffy wonderfulness.
I used the recipe from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, which is probably my favorite cookbook in my collection, and only used less than Joy of Cooking. Seriously, if you have a free afternoon, get this cookbook, a nice glass of tea or wine and settle into a comfy chair. The recipes are divine, but the writing is even more amazing. Anyway, I have adapted it here in case you are interested in creating your own candy bowls:
Divinity
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
DO NOT CONSIDER MAKING THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE A CANDY THERMOMETER. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and hot water in a heavy saucepan with a lid. Cook over medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture come to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid and continue to cook until temperature is 270. Do not stir. (Note: the recipe didn't say this, but I cranked up the heat back to medium after removing the lid. Otherwise, I might still be in my kitchen waiting on it to hit 270. As it was, it took long enough for me to clean all my kitchen counters, and do a few dishes.)
While the mixture is cooking, beat the egg whites, salt, and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Make sure this is in a large bowl. Once sugar mixture is at 270, pour the mixture slowly into the egg whites. You want to have your mixer on while you are doing this. Once the sugar mixture is in the egg whites, turn the mixer up to 11 and beat it (JUST BEAT IT!). It is done when the mixture is glossy white and holds its shape (i.e., you can move the beaters and still see where they were).
Then it is twirling time. It might help here to have a willing compatriot because this stuff hardens fast. Using two spoons, dip it out and twirl individual pieces onto wax paper. Then, leave out to harden for an hour.
Voila! You have divinity.
Lastly, if you intend on making this, the first rule of divinity is you talk about divinity. You have to tell everyone within a 50 mile radius that you are making it so that they will know to stay out of your way. And also so that if they hear you praying frantically to some higher power, they will just realize that you are making candy, and not, you know, going into labor with an alien baby.
Now go make candy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Wonderland OOTD and Weekend Wrap Up


First things first:
Sweater: J. Crew Nonno Cardigan (last year)
Pants: Merona Collection
Boots: Merona
Necklace: American Eagle (fireball knock-off)
Hair: Hell
This is about the time that you are getting really sick of these pants, huh? Yeah. I wear them a lot. But it's not my fault! It is totally the fault of Mother Effing Nature, who is number one on my Shit List right about now. Why? Well, folks, the wind chill was 1 degree when I left the house this morning. ONE DEGREE. Or, in terms that my husband understands, ASS FREEZING COLD. We have about 6-8 inches of snow around our house, depending on where you walk. The wind has blown it everywhere. And underneath the snow, it is a layer of ice. Which is freaking WONDERFUL. Except that it is not.
When I was a kid, I loved snow. I loved the winter, I loved the ice, I loved it all. And I never understood why my mom didn't like it. But now that I am old and have to go out and scrape the car to get to work while my kids sleep all snugly in their flannel sheets that I have to work to pay for, I understand. Oh, Mother, I understand. And I regret that time that I made you drive me to the Kingsport Mall in 12 inches of snow, stopping to call the mall on a PAY PHONE to make sure that it would stay open for us, so that I could buy Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? to play on my computer. I'm sorry, Mom. If it helps, I bought you something nice for Christmas. Hint: it is fleecey. Because I'm sorry about the cold.
ANYWAY, I wore this stuff because this sweater makes me happy. In fact, that is why I'm posting this outfit in the first place, because, let's face it, it is not much to write home about. This cardigan is amazing, and probably one of the best purchases I've made in a long time. It is wooly and substantial, and I wore it on its own in the fall to protect against a wayward wind. And this morning, it actually kept me insulated and warm under my coat while I scraped the car. I adore it. Of course, I bought it last year at Christmas (and got it on sale to boot) so it is no longer available, but this looks similar, and I may or may not order it with a bit of Christmas cash given to me by my employer (not calling it a bonus this year, but rather a "gift"). It is funny, though. I ordered this because it was on sale and because I liked a cami that I thought might go well with it. Well, the cami is now at the tailor to be taken in a bit and I've more or less forgotten about it, but the sweater lives on as a piece that I will wear for years. Funny how that happens.
On Saturday, I took the kids to a birthday party, and went to my favorite candy/baking supply store to stock up on candy melts, molds, and sanding sugars. Fun, fun, fun times, and no, I'm not kidding. Then the kids and I made a massive grocery store excursion so that we would be prepared for the snow that was supposed to hit. And it is a good thing we did. On Sunday, we were snowed in, so I made truffles and caramel corn and raspberry pinwheel cookies to put in the freezer. I also made lasagna roll ups, which were delicious. We watched Christmas movies, and I didn't change out of my pajamas all day. We were still snowed in yesterday, so I did a bit of cleaning, roasted a chicken, sporadically checked my work email, made and decorated gingerbread men with the kids, and molded my first batch of peppermint bark suckers, fittingly, in my new snowman mold. I was going to make my very first batch of divinity EVER, but had no vanilla extract. Let me tell you how much I wanted to make it: I almost went out in the DRIVING SNOW to go buy vanilla extract. Matt ended up not letting me because the hill where we live was frozen. But the moral of the story is: do not get between a woman and her vanilla extract.
My kids are off from school again, and let's face it, will probably never go back. They will probably end up working at a carnival somewhere with their awesome elementary school educations. The sun is shining now, but it is still bitterly cold. I am the only one in our part of the office now, because I am the only one who was insane enough to get out on the road this morning. But we were out of toilet paper and VANILLA EXTRACT, and well, grades are due today and our cadre of professors are having a hard time accepting that fact so I am here to provide assistance. And to internet shop. And well, I have to admit, it is nice to get out of the house just a bit. I am going to make a short day of it though, methinks. We are going to have Christmas parties the next two days here at work, so productivity for everyone is at an all time low. Which is a real drive for all you soon to be college graduates out there--working in education is good for this very reason. Very, very good.
And if you are reading this, and you live in Minnesota or Canada or something like that, and you think I am horrible for complaining about our weather, I apologize. But I used to live in CA, and I will never, ever get used to this again. It is horrible. The end.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

OOTD: Taking One for the Team

This morning when I left the house, it was 7 degrees outside. 7 ! Perfect boot weather, but I absolutely had nothing else even VAGUELY work appropriate that I could wear with my boots. So, yes, I am wearing dress shoes with no socks or tights. Crazy? Yes. My husband just did not understand this. I told him I was just taking one for the team and wearing my regular shoes. He said, "Yeah, taking one for the f*cked up team." Sounds about right.



Jacket: Old Navy
Striped tee: Gap
Trousers: Gap (Perfect Trousers)
Shoes: Mossimo at Target
Earrings: mega sale at JC Penney

Let's talk about this jacket. This was the other part of my Give and Get order that I received on Friday, about 420 years after I probably should have. When I first pulled it out of the box, I loved it. The color is amazing, especially if you are like me and have a closet that is a good 65% black and need any sparks of bright, saturated color that you can get. I tried it on over a tank top that I was wearing that day, and I thought that it fit well, albeit a little tight in the chest (I can button it, although I would probably not wear it buttoned for comfort and because I don't like the way things look when they are buttoned. This is probably because I came of age during the 90's, and have a soft spot for men in unbuttoned flannel). The wool did not feel ultra cheapy, as I expected it to for the small price I paid for it (and compared to a few other ON wool things I looked at/tried on in the week leading up to buying this jacket). So I hung it up and celebrated a win and not having to send any thing back.

Then this morning I put it on with this simple little striped long sleeve t-shirt and realized the sleeves are HELLA tight. I wouldn't consider myself to have big arms, nor have I bulked up since trying it on for the first time on Friday. In fact, it is hard to lift my arms above my shoulders in it. Not that I have a whole lot of reason to be doing that today. I don't think I'll be doing the wave any at my desk. But still. I am kind of wondering who this jacket is made for. I actually tried on the small in gray in-store, and it fit much the same as this one, although a bit tighter in the chest than this one. And the large was HUGE. So I thought a medium would be perfect. And it fits....but it is not perfect.

This brings me to a point that has been irking me lately: sizing. At the risk of sounding like my grandmother (who has been saying this exact sentence since I met her in 1983), sizes these days are getting OUT OF CONTROL. I never know from one store to the next what to expect, but I'm kinda used to that. But lately, I don't know what to expect from one ITEM to another. In the same store. Old Navy is the worst. I have jeans in every size from a size 4 to a size 10 from there that fit me. All of them. And I have tried on shirts there that SWIM on me in a size S and cardigans to top that are tight in a M. And I don't think I have an atypical body type. I mean, I'm pretty standard. So I wonder what people do who don't feel they are pretty standard. Just skip ON? Which, I guess, wouldn't be such a loss, but it is irksome.

The related issue is vanity sizing. Loft, I think, is the poster child for this. I am a size 4 at Loft, and all my shirts are a size S. I have huge boobs--there is no universe in which I should wear a size S. But that "S" used to make me feel good about myself. Now I just realize that everyone wears a smaller size from there. And people like my mom are completely sized out. She used to buy about 70% of wardrobe at Loft, but now has a hard time getting anything there. I once saw her working hard to try to keep up a size 00 in their boyfriend jeans--they would literally fall off of her were she not holding them. The SA just laughed about it (we were already totally cracking up at it when she walked up) and said that they have a lot of people who have that problem. So, um, why not just let people wear their regular size? I mean, I'm not going to just go to Loft because I wear a smaller size there. I'm going to go there because I like their clothes. And in fact, having to ponder, "Now, what size should I get in this?" every time I place an order is irksome. So why not just make it all standard? I'll gladly take my 6's and my M's just for the sake of simplicity.

Speaking of, I have a package at the PO from Loft that is just calling my name....HOLIDAY SPARKLIES.

(My name is not Holiday Sparklies. The box just contains items that are sequined...for the holidays. But now that I think of it, I kinda wish my name was Holiday Sparklies.)

ANYWAY, just my $.02 regarding sizes. Surely I am not the only one who feels like this. Or maybe I am and I really do have some kind of atypical body. Guess it's that hump and all those years of bell ringing taking their toll.

(JUST KIDDING! Little French literary funny for your Thursday morning. Or Disney movie funny, I guess, if you trend that way).

Alice Loves Pineapple

video

Last night, per the request of my older children, I made teriyaki chicken and rice. I sliced a fresh pineapple into spears as an easy side dish. Alice ate her dinner of chicken and rice and a bit of pineapple very, very well. In fact, I was busy cleaning up the table and discussing with Matt just how well she had eaten when she decided to jump up in Sam's seat and pick up his fork and start eating his leftover rice. Then, the plate of unfinished pineapple spears caught her eye. She managed to efficiently climb up on the table and start eating the spears. She managed to eat two of them before finally getting her fill and climbing off the table and off to do something else destructive.

ETA: Please disregard the fact that Sam doesn't appear to be wearing pants. He was supposed to be getting ready for a bath when he heard us laughing at Alice and decided that he wanted to be part of the fun.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

OOTD: The "Grimace" Dress

Today's outfit is inspired by three things: this picture of Angelina Jolie:
,a sudden and harrowing number of Christmas sweaters being worn at my office, and the fact that there are four inches of snow at my house (still!) and I can't bring myself to wear heels in those conditions. And I'm really running out of things that are work appropriate that can be worn with my boots.
(And yes, this is a really wretched picture. I'm an idiot who forgot to turn the flash off, so all the better pictures that I took have flash in them. Which is bad on my part. Seriously, ya'll, posting a picture of one's outfit is much harder than it looks. Or perhaps I am just very nearly functionally retarded.)

Sweater dress: Old Navy
Tights: Target
Riding boots: Target
Headband: J. Crew
Necklace: American Eagle

I saw that picture of Angelina yesterday, and as I always am when Angelina is involved, was completely blown away. She managed to answer a question that I have always had ("What do celebrities wear when it is cold, but they still need to stand outside and look fashionable?") and look amazingly, earthshatteringly gorgeous all at the same time. I love that dress--it looks comfortable, and sweater-y and very formal all at the same time. Which is a tough thing to pull off. Seeing it also made me want to wear nothing but sweater dresses for the rest of the winter. Too bad I only own one.

Also, yesterday I noticed a whole crap ton of Christmas sweaters/pins/jewels/FLAIR around this office. It has been slowly elevating, but yesterday reached fever freaking pitch. I think everyone in here had something Christmas-y on. Hell, I was wearing a t-shirt from Target that said "Peace, Joy, Cheer" under my Loft boyfriend cardi (we went to get our tree yesterday, so I had to look somewhat festive, even though hardly anyone saw my t-shirt from under the sweater and scarf and coat and 45 layers of other crap because Jesus Christ on a rubber crutch was it cold). I want to be festive too, but I also don't want to look like a jack ass. So today I paired the sweater with a sparkly necklace (it is a gray satin ribbon with little Crew-esque fireballs interspersed throughout the ribbon) and wore a satiny headband from the Crew's Holiday line last Christmas. That, I think, is festive without being totally jingle jangle. You know?

And yes, we still have snow. My kids are out of school AGAIN today, which means that I am going to try to get home from the office relatively early so that I can care for them and their snowbound antics don't drive anyone else crazy. On Monday, I wore my riding pants with the boots, yesterday since I was leaving early I wore jeggings with the boots (SHHH! Don't tell anyone!), and today I am wearing this dress. Tomorrow I am going to have to break down and wear heels. Hopefully, something will melt. Fingers crossed.

Now, a note on this dress in case you want to go buy one. I really like it. I ordered it during Gap Give and Get, and just got it last week because I picked the new free shipping which evidently is delivered by a combination of carrier pigeon and being strapped to the back of a tortoise who meanders in a circuitous route across the southern states. After it finally made it to my town, instead of bringing the stuff to my door, it was left at the post office in my town, which is manned haphazardly at best. Unfortunately, because of my work schedule last week, I could not make it to the PO during their "hours" to pick it up. I finally managed to get it on Friday, along with, it seems, everyone else in our town. What an experience. Luckily, both items I ordered worked because I don't think I could bear to have to deal with the whole thing again and send them back. I was really afraid that it wouldn't work, because I after I hit the "place order" button, all I could think of was this:



What is Grimace, anyway? A side note: I had a birthday party at McDonald's when I was 4. This was special because the closest McDonald's was in the CITY across the state line in TN . And it had a merry-go-round in it. My stepmother had just married my dad, and she bought me a crimping iron. Which is, you know, a suitable gift for a 4 year old who lives in the south. ANYWAY, my mom gave me the piece of the cake (because at that time, McDonald's actually had cake you could buy for your party) that had Grimace on it because I like purple. It was awesome. I remember that I wore a pair of pink leggings with snowflakes on them, and a long white sweatshirt-y tunic that had a bunny skiing on it. And slouch socks.

Where was I?

Oh yes. I don't look like Grimace in this dress, which is nice. The purple on this thing is especially good--a dark, rich tone. I would add that it is some sort of wool, but is not itchy and is a very nice weight--not too thick, but substantial enough to hang correctly. And the cut is form fitting without being too much so. Because sweater dresses can go from school girl to Coco in very little time. Not that I have a problem with Coco. In fact, I may like her a bit more than I would ever admit to anyone. Except for you. Because we're buddies.

This, my friends, is the reason why I don't post one of these everyday. This thing is long. Which, you know, is exactly what she said.

HA!

Thanks, I'll be here all night. Tip your waitresses.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up and Weight Watchers Update

Wow, that's a lot of w's.

This weekend it snowed. Quite a bit actually. I didn't even know that it was going to, but then I got up on Saturday morning, and the ground was covered. Matt, who had to go to work, was not pleased with this. To be honest, after the debacle that was last winter, I wasn't real tickled with it either, but decided to grin and bear it for the sake of the children.

But here's the thing. I was exhausted on Saturday. So it is almost like the snow was sent to keep me from doing anything meaningful and to just sit around and focus on what is important--my kids, my laundry, my kitchen. So, I made the best of it. The kids and I put on our fleeciest pajamas, and I made pluckin' bread (which is a cinnamon-y pull apart bread that I always make when the kids and I are stuck in the house together for any amount of time) and a batch of cookies for the freezer. I cleaned a bit and we played. And rested. And watched the strange TV shows (When Vacations Attack, anyone?) that they like to watch. It was very fun. Matt came home, and I prepared a batch of latkes, and we turned in early.

On Sunday, it was more of the same. I was a bit more adventurous in the kitchen, preparing my own recipe for salted caramel cookies (and I will try to post the recipe sometime, if I can read it. It is laying on my countertop, encased in a thin layer of sugar and caramel drippings and may be completely illegible), and a batch of Martha Stewart's chocolate almond crinkles. The kids and I played with the Wii Fit and I did an inhuman amount of laundry. Matt arrived home and brought Mexican food, so we sat around and ate enchiladas and then went to bed. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

However, in the course of all this, I realized just how much I have let myself really go, healthwise, in the name of work and stress and eating things to "reward" myself. I am feeling much bigger, and un-toned. My skinniest pants (the Gap Forever Skinnies) are now uncomfortable in a size 6. And I am feeling...worn. Just worn. Last night, I laid down to go to bed at around 10:00 and awoke feeling awful. My stomach was rolling and I just felt really sick. I went into the living room, and laid on the couch and watched some 48 Hours Mystery on TLC and just generally felt wretched. And I just knew that it was all my fault. I started feeling it all coming back--the shame I felt when I was a size 14, that look in the dressing room mirror when the size 16 pants didn't fit, that feeling when I caught a glimpse of myself in the a full length mirror and wanted to throw up. And this too, the stomach pain from overdoing it AGAIN, the sluggishness, the constantly being sick or needing to stay home from work because I wasn't treating my body correctly.

I can not do that again. Will not do that again. Ever.

I am a person who is going to struggle with her weight her entire life. My father's family is big, and my body type is such that I am a lot like them and tend to pack on the pounds like them. I have to accept that. And I have to remember that although that is something that I have to remember, it is not something that defines me. I am an active person who knows how to eat. I know what to do. I am strong, and I like to run (albeit very slowly). I want to show my kids my strength and have them be proud of me for not only what I can do with my mind, but also what I can do with my body.

So I have decided to rededicate myself to Weight Watchers with the new program. The whole thing just hit me at *just* the right time. Just as I was rebelling against the faux-food and ickiness that I associate with WW at my weakest moments (and paying the consequences for this rebellion, I might add), they were rolling something out that is much more in line with what I consider my own personal eating credo--fresh, in season, and homemade. No more fake cheese or fake bagels or counting points on an apple. And I can do that! I feel really, really good about it. This morning, I made myself some whole grain toast and added a bit of natural peanut butter and some all-fruit jam (just a taste). I had it with my 1% milk, and I felt good. I just ate some almonds as I typed this, and I feel even better. I also brought myself a can of soup (Progresso Hearty Tomato--not one of their WW soups, but still just 220 calories for the whole can and SOOOO good) and a couple of pieces of flatbread that I made yesterday. Just getting the stuff out made me feel better about myself.

And I started thinking last night. I love to bake, and I often feel that WW is pinging me in because of that. But then I realized. I love to bake, but what I love the most is sharing my treats. So this morning, I packaged the cookies from yesterday up (leaving a few behind for my kids and husband who love the holiday cookie jar) in cello bags from the dollar store and brought them to work. For the few folks who ventured out in our winter wonderland to come to work, they were a nice treat. And I loved seeing everyone's faces. I am never going to stop baking--I know that. And I want to enjoy my treats every now and then. But sharing them is undoubtably the most awesome thing about it all. And I'm going to do better about that.

I know this is long, but I hope it reaches someone who may be falling off the WW bandwagon too. Really, we all deserve better than what we think we are "rewarding" ourselves with. It is time to realize that.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving


Now that the food is gone and things have calmed down, I managed to upload my pictures. And I absolutely love this one of Gabby and wanted to share. I love that look on her face that is all "Where do I start?" My Gabby is such a good eater, and I love that about her. This sums up th holidays nicely for me.

TGIF OOTD

This has been the week from hell. Well, actually, maybe not. The event that I planned and held this week for work went off without a hitch (aside from a rather strange request for cookies one day that kept me scrambling for a while....yes, cookies), Matt and I got to go out for burgers after work one day sans children and it was very, very fun, and I won a Windows 7 phone. But I have also had to deal with needy people, a baby who cries when I go to work (which makes me feel AWFUL), four inch heels everyday and a total lack of meaningful, long term sleep. Such is life, I suppose. Thank goodness, however, that this will not be happening again in the next little bit.

So today I celebrated a shorter work day and the fact that it is Friday with a casual outfit. And I photographed it (yes, in the office bathroom) because I wanted you to see how I dress on the weekends. Mostly what I have taken a picture of thus far has been stuff I wear to work. This is what I look like when I am chasing my children and going to Target and eating things that I shouldn't.
Black riding pants: Merona Collection from Target
Chambray work shirt: Lands End Canvas
Puffy vest: Old Navy
Riding boots: Merona from Target

We are not supposed to wear jeans here (even on Friday), so I went with the riding pants. A lot of people wear khakis, but I honestly do not own a pair of khakis, so I either wear these or corduroys on Friday. These pants are super comfortable, and retain their shape amazingly well. The shirt is also pretty awesome. My husband loves it, which is a plus, but it is also very comfortable, and the fit is relaxed without being sloppy. The vest I bought for $15 on Black Friday (got everyone in my family one) because puffy vests, I think, are great for when the weather is cold but you don't want to be burdened with a heavy coat (like when you are shopping or something). The tree lighting in our town is tonight and I brought the vest to wear because it is green and more festive than my other stuff.

I hope everyone is excited about the weekend. Anyone planning any fun holiday stuff? We were going to go get our tree, but Gabby is going to be in a holiday parade tomorrow and Sunday we are expecting snow and I might be taking the kids to an indoor pool party. I kinda hope not, because I wanted to stay in and bake! We are hoping to sneak away from work/school on Tuesday or Wednesday and go out and get it then. Getting our tree is a huge production because we drive (further) into the mountains of NC and go to a place where we can cut it down. It is very Griswold family Christmas, but we remember the saw!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Keep Repeating to Myself....

I do not go to cocktail parties. I do not need this dress. I do not go to cocktail parties. I do not need this dress.

Anyone having a cocktail party you would like for me to attend? Anyone? Please?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Wrap-Up

I have lots of great pics to share, but none today because I totally forgot the camera at home. Whoopsies. It is a crazy work week this week, and I can't be counted on for much at all.

Anyway, we had a lovely Thanksgiving, and the break from everything was very much appreciated and enjoyed. On Thursday, I spent the early part of the day in the kitchen, roasting turkey and making pies and all of that. Everything went off without a hitch, which was nice. The meal was wonderful, if I do say so myself. Matt said it was the best ever, but he says that every year. I was very proud of myself. After dinner, we watched a bit of football and napped and I slowly cleaned up the kitchen. We also planned for Black Friday shopping. I tried to get the kids in bed at a decent hour, but well, Alice is Alice and she read my mind that I was planning on getting up at 2:30 am to go shopping, and well, she decided to stay up until 2:00 am. I have no idea why, no idea what would possess her to do such a thing. But she did it. She wasn't grumpy about it--quite the opposite actually as she joyfully danced around the living room. But she would not go to sleep. At about 1:00, I just said to hell with it and sat up with her and ate dark chocolate almonds to keep myself awake. And at 2:30, I got Gabby up, and she and I went shopping.

Gabby and I go Black Friday shopping every year, and we truly have a blast. We always wear some kind of Christmas headgear (reindeer horns, Santa hat, etc.) and we have our set places to go and we buy very few gifts, but fun stuff for ourselves, our family, and for the holiday. We never go after a "big ticket" item like a TV or a camera (it is a little known fact that you can actually get better deals on brand name electronics if you wait until a couple of weeks before Christmas). We also drink copious amounts of Starbucks and giggle a lot. This year, Target was our first stop, as it always is. The line was much longer this year than in the past, but we got everything that I had wanted to get, including a toy for Sam (got the last one!) and a nice big blanket for my grandmother and some new sheets and pillows for everyone's bed. The line was long to check out, but everyone at Target was super friendly and accomodating. We then got our first Starbucks drinks, and went to Old Navy, where I got every one jeans and puffy vests (including skinny jeans for Big Al that may be the cutest things ever). After that, I was really dragging because of my lack of any meaningful sleep, and thought about turning around to go home, but Gabby started telling me about people at school, and I got tickled about it all, and we drove on to the mall, where I took part in the 50% off sale at Gap. That, ya'll, was amazing. I got a pair of Long and Leans, a pair of Modern Bootcuts, a tweed moto jacket, and a striped shirt that I am currently wearing. I got Alice a little tulle skirt and some of their play leggings and tees, which hold up very well and are super cute. I also snagged Gab a cardigan for Christmas by doing a little hiding game with my jeans. We also went to Bath and Body Works for Chinese Christmas gifts for my grandmother's house and my work and then to Justice, where I got Gab some other goodies and got a $25 gift card for coming out early! Score! We were immensely proud of ourselves. We stopped at Panera on the way home and got bagel sandwiches and then got Starbucks once more and drove home. Super fun, and we got a lot of great stuff for not a lot of dinero. Just the way I like it!

When we returned at around 10:00, I had hoped that I could take a little nap, but Sam wanted to decorate for Christmas, so that is what I did. I pulled out everything but the ornaments for the tree (we will get that next weekend) and we put up stuff and cleaned and listened to Christmas carols. We ate leftovers and just generally had a good day. Matt got home from work, and was pleased to show me that he had gone Black Friday shopping for the first time, and had gotten a $10 coat at Old Navy and two video games for $10 at GameStop. The pull of the Black Friday cannot be ignored....

On Saturday, we went up to my mother in law's for Thanksgiving dinner. I made (PW's) pecan pie with whiskey maple cream sauce. It was great, even though I am not a huge fan of pecan pie. We sat around and talked to my in laws for a while, and then came back home. Matt passed out because he had had early mornings at work the last two days, so I stayed up with Al and read magazines and watched Sleeping with the Enemy on Lifetime. My first time seeing that. I can't believe that I've made it this long.

On Sunday, we packed the kids off to stay at my mother in law's and Matt and I went out to eat lunch. We both are expecting a crazy week this week, and we felt we needed some time to decompress before we got started. We had lunch and then came home and watched shows on the TiVo and just hung out together and talked. We had a great time. The kids came home and I finished up laundry and then read magazines in bed until I passed out.

How was your holiday weekend? Any shopping? I just bought Alice a dress at The Children's Place online because you can stack their 25% off Cyber Monday coupon with free shipping (BOO YA!) and I bought a gift for my mom at LL Bean. I was so looking forward to purchasing the Sloan velvet trousers from BR with any kind of CM deal, but BR and Gap are not offering one. WTF, Gap?!?! I am not spending $110 on a pair of velvet trousers that I am only going to wear 3 months out of the year, so I am left pondering if I should get some from Ann Taylor that are not the ones I want exactly and that I am clueless about length in or if I should try to wait and see if these go on any kind of sale. I can't wait too long, though, because our Christmas party is December 16. So it is a conundrum. And I'm kind of pissed off about it. If Gap is still struggling financially, they should know that not doing anything for Cyber Monday is not helping a bit. Even J. Crew has a deal.... Sigh.

I am having a week of 12-14 hour workdays this week, so posting may be spotty at times. Or it won't be. We are hosting a conference here, and I'm still wondering what it is actually going to be like. We'll see, I guess.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

I just realized that the underwear post was my 100th post. Seems fitting, I would say. But anyway, HUZZAH. If I were very good at this whole thing, I would have a fun, commemorative giveaway or something. But I'm total crap, and we all agree on that. So let's just keep it simple.

I am off today, so I am sitting at home, considering all the housework I need to do and wearing my night gown. The kids are not up yet, even Big Al who has decided that she will refuse to go to sleep if you even THINK of trying to get her to before midnight. Seriously. I struggled with her last night, and we finally both fell asleep in a hapless heap at around 12:30. She is still asleep in there, and I swear, when I looked at her this morning I wanted to be mad at her for her exploits. Because not only did she stay up that late, but she rolled around to nurse A LOT. Homegirl must be getting a tooth. Anyway, because of it, I am still sleepy. And my boobs hurt. But then I looked at her this morning--her mouth was open and a little spot of drool was on the corner of her chin, the dark hair she got from her father was mussed and fuzzy and her pajama shirt was pulled up around her chest--and I thought, "What an amazing little creature." Not in an ooey-gooey, helicopter mom kind of way, but in a total awe of just how much I enjoy her. Just being with her--in her presence. And how much I enjoy the other kids. Despite Sam mooning me about 3 times last night and Gabby getting into this giggle fit and starting to talk in a weird voice that no one could understand and just getting terribly annoying. I am incredibly thankful just to have them in my lives--just to know them. Much less to be their mom. And sometimes I consider a life where I wear La Perla lingerie and have the time to just sit down and read a magazine every once in a while, and I wonder what it would be like. But today, and really everyday, I am oh so thankful and almost giddy at the thought of spending the rest of my life caring for and loving them.

So now that I've made you completely sick, I'll tell you what I am planning for Thanksgiving dinner. I make dinner every year--have since I was 20 years old--for just our family. We invite others sometimes (this year I have invited my mother and father in law and my grandmother), but basically it is just for us. I make it come hell or high water because it is that important for us all to just sit around and eat together and give thanks and enjoy each other. It is not a formal affair--the kids and my husband wear their comfiest clothes and I use our same place settings that I use every single other day of the year, albeit with bigger plates. I did buy a table cloth this year at Target but mostly because I didn't want to have to scrape and coddle the dining room table where SOMEONE who shall remain nameless has made a mess of things at her particular spot. I make everything from scratch, and the only rule is that dinner is done when I get it done--I refuse to put a time on it. So I fix some snacks early in the day and let everyone graze a bit until I get it out on the table.

Here is this year's menu:
Snacks: chips with caramelized onion dip, stuffed mushrooms
Roast turkey with gravy
Cornbread dressing (yes, I live in the south, and it is dressing, not stuffing, and there is no sausage. That is just crazy talk. And I make my cornbread in a cast iron skillet, which is the only way that it should be made and there is NO SUGAR. Lord, you Yankees and your sugary cornbread...gettin' me all riled up...)
Mashed potatoes (if you have ever met my son, you know that his favorite story to tell about himself is when he ate a whole pot of mashed potatoes himself on Thanksgiving. He was 1 and it was adorable and if I close my eyes, I can still see his fat little face inhaling the potatoes.)
Sweet potato casserole (with both marshmallows and pecans because I can't decide)
Creamed corn (what we call "Skoby's Corn" because the recipe is from a restaurant that used to be in Kingsport, TN and was amazingly good. It is basically creamed corn made with half and half and a whole lot of fresh ground pepper.)
Spinach with gruyere (this is my first year making this, and it is a substitute for mac and cheese, which I have always made. I feel like our tastes have grown a bit, so I am trying it out. It is from last year's Real Simple magazine.)
Sherried green beans with wild mushrooms
Honey yeast rolls with honey butter
Bourbon cranberry sauce
Desserts: Pumpkin Pie with maple whipped cream and sugared pecans
Cherry Cheesecake

So that's it. It seemed like more food when I was making the list--now that I see it typed out, I'm wondering if I shouldn't add something. Oh well. I am super excited because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it is also the "kick off" to the baking season which culminates (I feel) at Valentine's Day. My birthday is in there too, and I always make myself a wonderful, chocolate-y cake. This year, I want to keep an eye on my weight so it is going to be tougher, but I am still excited about all of the goodies to share with others.

What are your holiday traditions? Do you cook or go to eat with other family members? I am actually going to another Thanksgiving celebration tonight and then another on Saturday at my MIL's. I have to say that I am looking forward to my own the most though! Is your meal a formal affair or do you eat in elastic waist pants?

If you follow me on Twitter (@pbpickledginger), you will probably get to see a few pics as I put everything together. My husband always takes pictures of me cooking on Thanksgiving, and they are so fun, so this year I am going to ask him to put them on Twitter (A side note--probably one of my favorite pictures of myself EVER was taken on my first Thanksgiving that I made. I am holding the uncooked turkey and smiling this huge grin and you can see my tiny apartment kitchen and on the counter, there is a cookbook and a copy of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Sam is holding on to my ankle. That pretty much sums that part of life up better than anything ever could.). This might elicit and eye roll, but I'm sure he'll do it because I always make him sweet potatoes and put both marshmallows and pecans on them because he can't decide either.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let's Talk Underwear

Remember that time that I told you that I bought some new bras? And how awesome it was? Here is where I tell you every last detail about it and make you want to go buy some new bras too. Even if you are a man. The force is strong with me.

So I had this one bra to wear to work. One bra. I know, I know. Here's the thing. I hate (well, hated, up until this point) to buy bras. Because buying bras meant that I went to Victoria's Secret and bought one overpriced bra and had my sense of smell obliterated by lots and lots of cheap body lotions that smell of Dina Lohan. And desperation. Going to VS now is slightly better than it used to be--when I was a size 14, no one would even LOOK my way in that store, lest they catch the fat disease. Now that I'm smaller, they are way too nice about the whole thing, constantly trying to get me to buy things that I have no desire to even see--the Lohanesque lotions, a demi racerback bra (HELLO? My boobs are huge and that goes up to a C Cup. Someone needs to go back to VS University.), a pair of sweatpants with writing on the butt. Knowing this was my fate, I made do with my one VS bra--handwashing after 2-3 wears and line drying at night, changing into a comfy nursing bra as soon as I walked in the door after work. I made do because I could not fathom driving an hour to walk in to that store and drop another $50 on another one.

Oh, and did I mention that the strap broke on the bra? Yeah. It is a convertible bra, and somehow the strap broke on one side, so I've been wearing it as a one shouldered bra. For a while now. And I have never owned a one shouldered top. I'll just let you mull that one over for a few minutes.

On Saturday, we finished at the parade and had a couple of hours before the lights started at the speedway. So my mom asked me if I wanted to run to the mall since she could watch the kids and let me go shopping untethered (which is something that I only dream about). At first, I said sure, that I wanted to go to the farther away mall where there is a Gap and get something for 40% off. A sweater, a pair of pants...nothing I really needed, I just wanted to get something cheap. When we thought about the time it was going to take to get over there (and Sam heard the word "Gap" and said he refused to allow such an abomination), we reconsidered. So I said, "Well, maybe you could run me to the mall and I'll buy a bra." Grumble, sigh, nashing of teeth. My mom was like, "Oh, you need bras?" And I said, "Well, yeah...." and I tell her the whole story about what I was currently wearing.

She hit the brakes and said, "I raised you better than that."

And she did. I suddenly realized how embarassing the whole thing is. I told her about not wanting to go to VS, and she clucked her tongue and dropped me off at the Belk entrance. Belk, for those of you not in the south, is like Macy's. With a Southern flair, I would say. So I go in, just knowing that I won't find anything.

I was desperately, sadly wrong. Once inside, I realized that all bras were on sale for $18 that day. $18!!! That is crazy talk, ya'll. I was going about my business, looking at the selection, when this nice lady of a certain age walked over to me and asked if she could help. I told her that I was just looking for bras--just that. And she nods one time and leaves and returns with about 5 different styles IN MY SIZE. Homegirl just looked at me, ya'll. Didn't ask what size I am, NOTHING. I'm pretty sure that this is a super power, and I have just discovered the person who will save the world from itself. She sent me to the dressing room without saying a word.

And they fit. Amazingly well, actually. They actually do, you know, what bras should do. And I think they make me look smaller. And the comfort level is amazing. Most of the bras that I purchased were different styles from Bali, which I think I vaguely remember wearing when I was in high school (back when I was a 32C--those were the days). One of them is actually, honest to goodness, gorgeous, like a pretty date night bra that actually does its job (I haven't been able to find it on the website, and the SA said she thought it was a holiday exclusive--I might go back and buy 2-67 more). The funny thing is, though, I didn't find a t-shirt bra, so I was looking at one made by the same company. The SA saw me out of the corner of her eye, and goes, "That just won't work for you." Ok then. Putting it down. Walking away.

I also bought this. Shapewear? Who knew? I am one of those rare beings who never got on the Spanx bandwagon, and so the whole thing is new to me. I really like this particular little tank though, because it just looks like a regular camisole. And, because it is just a cami, you totally avoid that "sausage skin" look. You know how some shapewear seems to make women look cylindrical? Yeah, none of that there. It actually just makes my clothes seem to hang better. Nothing too drastic. And very comfortable, which is, you know, a big plus with me.

I should also post and say that Big Al got some new undies too this weekend--I ordered her two FuzziBunz Perfect Size Diapers in Medium. And I love them! These are the first sized diapers we have gotten--my dad got me a BG set of 12 last year for Christmas, and I have a set of six that I bought, plus assorted other dipes that we have picked up through DS and the like, but they are all one-size. I am amazed at how trim the FB's are. Allie was able to wear her leggings without so much of a comment about her big old butt. I think she was happy about that. Al would like me to remind you that Kim Kardashian she is not.

The moral of this long, dramatic story is this: Skip Victoria and her Secret, and find you some nice bras. Preferably from a middle aged Southern woman who will tell you EXACTLY what you need and need not buy. You will thank me later.

OOTD: Budget Bitch

I wasn't going to post an outfit today, but I thought it necessary. Why? Well, because I look at a lot of fashion blogs, and every day I see people wearing GORGEOUS outfits that are amazing and perfect and that I adore with every fiber of my being. And then I click the link and they are made up of things from J. Crew that cost $80-$100 a pop. And I weep. At my desk. My mascara runs, I do that weird snubbing noise. It's bad, ya'll.

Because here's the thing: I have three kids. And kids cost a lot of money. Actually, let me rephrase that. My son and youngest daughter are relatively inexpensive. Alice wears cloth diapers and eats what we eat and nurses. Sam is pretty happy if you just give him a $4 comic book. But Gabby. Holy crap. Between jeggings and dance classes (I just wrote a check the other night for an $80 dance duffle bag for her competition team) and can-I-have-$5-for-the-concession-stand, Gabby is an expensive little beast. And, you know, I like good food. A lot. And I need a new car for myself (we have a newer family car, but the car I drive to work is 10 years old--and AWESOME). And I have been known to buy a cookbook or two. So, while I love clothes, I cannot spend every cent that I or Matt make on them.

So here's today's outfit. I like it--it is super comfortable for the LAST WORKDAY OF THE WEEK (HUZZAH!), and I think it expresses my fun, slightly-quirky style pretty well:

The sweater is from Target. I bought it this weekend--it was on sale for $15 (reg. $22). I highly recommend these Merona cardigans because they hold up very well and have great colors. I actually like this one better than my favorite J. Crew Jackie's because it has full length sleeves instead of the 3/4 style on the Jackie. I have a summer version that is black with a white pattern that both my mom and I own. We both love it and wore it a lot in the summer.

The tank is the silk ruffle tank from J. Crew. I got it off of J. Crew Afficionada for about $15.

The pants are Modern Bootcuts from Gap. I actually bought this with one of my Groupons earlier in the year. So, although they are $59.50 in store, I got mine for $34.50.

The shoes are also from Target--also bought this weekend. They are by Mossimo and were $24.99. I looked all weekend for a pair of gray suede shoes at multiple stores (not just Tar-jay) and these were the cutest that I found. See? I was even willing to pay a bit extra for them, but found that the budget ones were the cutest and most comfortable.

And the necklace I got at American Eagle. I think it was actually free, because I bought a pair of earrings and their jewelry was BOGO that day. If you don't usually check out AE, give it a try sometime. Their jewelry is super cute, and my mom swears up and down that Artist pants are the best out there. I'm also wearing hoop earrings that were a gift from my kids for Mother's Day.

So according to my excellent-English-major calculations, my entire outfit today cost me $96.49. That is roughly the cost of one sweater at J. Crew that I am coveting right now. That doesn't mean that I don't occasionally splurge--I do--but I have found that building a wardrobe is easy and fun if one mixes their high end loves with a few budget friendly tricks! This makes for happy frugal husbands and lots of cheese in the fridge. And you know, lots of dance costumes. Can't forget that. Sigh.

Monday, November 22, 2010

OOTD: Nabokovian Edition

So I am wearing the miniskirt! Yes, the one from Land's End Canvas that I threatened to order. It came in, and at first I was on the fence about it, and then I thought, "Ah, hell. You only live once." And I decided that yes, I would wear it. So here it is!

(I was going to post the picture of what it looked like on the model. But then I realized that seeing her beautiful long legs next to me would make me feel sad and I would then be contractually obligated to go to McDonald's and buy a mocha frappe and a small order of fries and drown my sorrows. So, if you have to see that picture for comparative reasons, here is the link to the previous blog post.)


As you can see, I am wearing tights, and instead of gray suede heels (that I still really want), I went with grey suede flats. Just because I don't want the whole thing to be too Hit-Me-Baby-One-More-Time for work. The tights and the shoes (which are new) are from Target. I will say that they are very comfortable. And (obviously), the shirt and skirt are from Lands End Canvas.

I don't know if you can tell (or if you care), but I colored my hair last night. It is not that much different--just a tinge darker. I was really trying to eliminate all elements of summer brassiness from it, and I think it did the trick. I used Perfect 10 hair color, which is pretty easy to use, even if you are completely hapless like me. I used Medium Ash Brown, I believe. For some reason (unrelated to the color, I think) my hair is acting up today, so I now have it in a ponytail. See that weird bump over my shoulder in the first picture? Yeah, that's not supposed to be there.

I asked Matt what he thought this morning, and he said that it was, yes, Nabokovian. I think he just likes that word. Anyway, we recently made reservations for a cabin in the mountains for a little alone time after Christmas and as I was leaving, he said, "Oh, and when we go on that trip, you're taking that skirt." So I guess that's a compliment. Nice.
Did anyone take part in Ann Taylor/Loft's F&F? I did not because I did LE Canvas's F&F and Gap's Give and Get and various other alliterative sales, and Black Friday/Cyber Monday are rapidly approaching and well, I was pretty sure that Matt would give me a very derisive look if I did. What did you get? Let me live through your purchases vicariously!

Weekend Wrap-Up

This weekend was relatively busy because my mom was in town. When my mom comes into town, I'll just tell you--things get crazy. My mom and I have a very similar Type A personality that keeps us on the move all the time and when we get together, things get hairy in a hurry. In fact, we pretty much know that we have to live at least 3 hours away from each other at all times so that our lives are not in constant turmoil ALL THE TIME.

Anyway, on Friday, mom fixed dinner for us down at my grandmother's house, so we went down and ate fried chicken and creamed corn and coleslaw and knocked about 5 years off of our lives. It was truly delicous though. Then we spent the night looking at old photos and laughing like crazy. Let's just say the 80's and early 90's were not that kind to my mother, and especially, her hair.

On Saturday, we went to a Christmas parade in a nearby city. This is a tradition with my mom and I--we have gone every year (that I have lived in the area) since I was 1 year old. In fact, my mom can probably tell you an interesting anecdote about every single year. For instance, we pulled into a parking place and she goes, "We parked in this same spot when you were 3. And I locked my keys in the car." Nice. The parade is your typical holiday parade with lots of goofy things and then Santa coming in on a big firetruck. The kids liked it, especially Alice, who really enjoyed the motorcycles. We bought some cupcakes from a downtown bakery and had bento boxes for lunch. After the parade, Alice and Sam promptly fell asleep in the car, so Mom dropped me off at the mall, and I went and brought some bras. We will discuss this later, ladies. In vast detail. Let's just say I have a new lease on life after the experience. It was uplifting. And yes, that pun was totally intended.

Then we drove to the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights. If you live anywhere close to this area of the world, you know about this thing. It is basically a huge light show in the Nascar track and is gigantic and fun and holiday spirited. We go multiple times a year. My son, Sam, loves it, mostly because my mother is a crazy person and lets him drive the car and she races the lighted cars and things around the track. Insane. They also have a "Holiday Village" in the middle of the track, and it has funnel cakes and marshmallows for roasting and Santa and rides for the kids. After having all the holiday joy we could stomach, we left, took a quick detour at Target, and then headed home. I fell asleep while Matt gave me a much deserved back massage.

On Sunday, my grandmother was going to fix Thanksgiving dinner, but she had a close friend pass away, so we all decided just to go to dinner out. She was ok with that. We had a great time visiting with my uncle and his wife and eating at The Chop House, which is just delicious. Here are a couple of pictures I snapped:

The above is Alice, of course, and she was REMARKABLY good during this meal. So much so that people came to our table and commented. I wanted to say, "No, she is an evil genius, and she is just PRETENDING to behave in order to enact her future plan which involves world domination and an unlimited supply of Kleenex to shred," but I refrained. The other picture is of my mom and Gabby, and my mom would most certainly be upset that I posted it because it is not the best picture of her. I would counter by reminding her of the pictures that we saw this weekend. And the fact that I have a scanner. Do we really want to go there, Mom? Just ask Alice. I'm a mean girl with embarassing pictures and a free blogger account. Don't mess with me.

After lunch, we took a quick detour to the bookstore and to Ulta, and then I dropped mom off at the airport and the kids and I drove to Target (AGAIN) and Starbucks and then went home. We were all tired, but I spent the evening trying to straighten up because our living room looked like a goat exploded and there was a crazy amount of laundry. It.NEVER.ends.

Hope everyone had a great weekend and is slowly (but surely) getting into the holiday spirit!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Message to Big Al

Hey you. Yes you. My youngest daughter. Or as we like to call you, "that one what is going to maim herself before age 3."

I found my sweater. The one I had lovingly handwashed and then left to dry flat because that is what it says on the label. I know you took it off the drying rack. Don't give me those eyes, I know it was you. You know how? Because I found it up under the computer desk with a beater for the mixer and a copy of The Belly Button Book. As far as I know, you are the a) the only Sandra Boynton reader in the house and b) the only person who steals beaters and then pantomines licking things off of them. The rest of us wait until they are covered in sugary fat substances first.

So I'm playing hardball. Here you go, Alice. Embarassing photo time.

Yup, that's you. Asleep in your Jumperoo. Yes, it was a while ago. I found it on the memory cards you had stuck in your super secret hiding place. Look at how fat you were! This has got "college boyfriend" written all over it.

This also makes me fondly think of those times when you couldn't walk or crawl, when things were simple and I didn't have to find the sweater I had planned on wearing today crumpled into a ball under the computer desk. When I didn't have to lock the toilet after I used it. Before you got that look in your eye all the time that made me have heart palpitations and wonder if there was anything ANYWHERE that you could reach and then throw down the cold air return. Before you came a very exciting little child, hellbent on wrecking our house and making us laugh and laughing like something that they caught on Criminal Minds last week.

You light up our lives, Lil' Destroyer.

A Picture of the Holy Denim Trousers (Second Coming)

Ok ya'll. For all those people that think it might be easy to take pictures of yourself wearing various cute outfits and post them on the internet for the world to see, let me say this. IT AIN'T. I had this great idea of posting a picture of my Holy Pants, being as how I had located the memory card and all the various camera accourtrements that Alice had evidently been hoarding in hopes of selling on Craigslist to fund some baby high heels for herself (homegirl has a shoe fetish, but that is another story for another day). And I have the pictures. But it was hard getting them. For one thing, I didn't want to wake up husband and baby this morning, since husband has a day off (and has been getting up at 2:30 to go to work!), so I had to take the pictures here. Which means that I stuffed my camera up my sweater sleeve, and went down to the bathrooms that no one ever uses. I had never even been in there. Which means that I didn't know that the toilets flush automatically. Scary, that. And I thought I heard someone coming while I was taking the picture, so I took it hurriedly and forgot to turn the flash off. FAIL.

So I had to come back to my desk and regroup. I just decided to bite the bullet and go to the bathroom that I always go to. Office bathroom pics: control your excitement. And if you found this page from googling those particular words, you are looking for something altogether different, buddy. Ick.

And I just realized that you can't tell diddly crap about these pants in these pictures. I'm total crap at this, ya'll. Life is hard.

At any rate, maybe you can tell something about the cut of these if you have, you know, magic vision. I can't talk enough about how awesome they are. For those who care, I am wearing a pair of black Bandolino heels with them, probably about a 3-4 inch heel. And my top and sweater are from Loft.

Oh, and that one picture of me just cheesing for the camera? That is to show you what my hair looks like when I don't bother to do much to it. I swear the bangs looked better when I left the house. And yes, I'm in a stall. No, I wasn't doing anything in there. Told you that this wasn't that kind of blog. I just thought I heard someone walking to the bathroom, so you know, I ran like a scared little girl to the bathroom stall, clutching my camera and going "Ohmygod, ohmygod" the whole way. Because it is one thing to be taking a picture of yourself in your office. It is quite another to be doing it in the most used bathroom in the building.

Daily fashion bloggers: ya'll got my respect big times.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Follow Me on Twitter!

Because you are totally looking for a way to get more of me in your life.....
Because no one else out there can combine self-indulgence, baking, and a total disregard for the paperwork on one's desk like I can...
Because you need more references to Lifetime movies on your radar...
Because Daddy didn't hug you....
Because Hoarders isn't on, and you've seen that Law and Order rerun about 15 times now....

Follow me on (the) Twitter! Because I just started one. In it, I do all the banal things that people do on Twitter that makes you want to throat punch a nun! Things you might hear about:
*my eating habits!
*what I REALLY think of my employer!
*how I feel about other drivers!
*and airplane food! What's the deal there?!?

Anyway, it is @pbpickledginger. Because one has to keep all her social networking things simple or else chaos will rule. And send me your info as well, and I will follow you. You know that I dream all night about what you might be eating right now!

Hope to see you there!