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.


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.


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 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:
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

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.


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


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.


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!