Monday, November 28, 2011

Adventures in Cooking--Thanksgiving

In case you are all wondering, and I know you are, I cooked the SHIT outta some Thanksgiving. Between Tuesday and Thanksgiving dinner starting at 3 on Thursday, I prepared the following: a turkey breast, a 24-lb turkey, dressing (and I mean homemade, y'all, not that bought bread crumbs crap), giblet gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato souffle, hot sherried fruit, corn pudding, a winter salad with homemade dressing, a chocolate-bourbon pecan pie and a peppermint cheesecake layer cake.

I also bought a Honey Baked Ham and made more than a few northern types aware of the glory that is Sister Shubert's rolls. (True story: Last Friday, I was procuring the groceries for Cook-A-Thon 2011. Check out guy was like, "Whoa. How many people are you having over." I told him 26. He said, "You're buying this many rolls for 26 people?" I was like, "No. I'm buying this many rolls for 24 people. Kel and I have our own personal pans of Sister Shubert's already in the freezer at home. I'm not a bread person. Except THAT bread.)

So, yeah, THAT happened.

Green bean casserole? That's the easiest. I just use the recipe on the back of the onion can. And for the record, I am now convinced that the onion factory sits idle 9 months of the year before furiously beginning production in the months of October, November and December. I mean, thin about it. Have you ever heard of anyone eating green bean casserole in...June? It's kinda weird.

Turkey is fine. Whatever. My biggest complaint is that though, like my mother, I am deceptively strong for my relatively small size, turkeys, especially those that weigh 24 pounds and are in a super heavy Williams-Sonoma roasting pan to boot, are most unwieldy. And if you need proof of that, please know that I am now sporting a rather awesome burn on my arm. To the tune of more than one person saying, "What the hell? DO YOU HAVE ARM LEPROSY?" Okay, so maybe I paraphrased that a little. The brine and the resulting gravy making were from an Emeril Legasse recipe and it turned out really well. Although a little gravy tidbit: The good Lord did not intend for me to handle the parts necessary for making giblet gravy at 7 in the morning. I'm like Bridget Jones. Some days a glass of water makes me want to barf. Much less cooking a turkey neck.

Dressing, well, that's my grandmother's recipe and it involves about eleven thousand steps and also squishing your hands around in squishiness. Also, it's cooked in the pan. Not in the turkey. Hence, dressing, not stuffing. I don't want to kill my guests.

The sweet potato souffle is from the Birmingham Junior League cookbook. Which is amazing. It's also where I got the salad and the corn pudding. It's actually called "Martha's Sweet Potato Souffle" and I kid you not, it is the single most requested recipe I make. Do yourself a favor. If you are a cooking type and you don't have this absolutely fantastic cookbook, GET OFF YOUR DUFF AND GO GET IT!!! The salad involves spring mix, dried cranberries and feta. The dressing is a red wine-mustard vinagrette and I use it ALL THE TIME. Even when I don't have the feta and cranberries. It's good on any salad with dark greens. As for the corn pudding. It's actually "Cheater's Corn Pudding" because it uses canned and frozen corn rather than fresh. Which actually makes more sense because for all that Thanksgiving is a holiday with connections to both Native Americans and maize, there is relatively little fresh corn in November. The cookbook has an excellent recipe for corn pudding where you have to cut the corn off the cob and everything, but most of the time I stick to this one (although, weirdly, frozen cream corn is practically non-existent in New Jersey. Instead, I have to use canned. It seems to turn out okay.) The corn pudding is actually pretty close to the corn tomalita that they serve with your meal at Chevy's. Only about fifty times more awesome, because it has bacon and cheddar cheese on top. And let's be real...anything that involves bacon is just that much more amazing due to the bacon-ness.

The hot sherried fruit has been a Thanksgiving/Christmas thing in my family for as long as I can remember. I use a recipe from The Junior League at Home which is a GREAT Junior League cookbook featuring the best recipes from Junior League cookbooks all across the country. It's just canned fruit, but you concoct this really rich sauce involving butter and cinnamon and nutmeg and most importantly, sherry, which you pour over it and refrigerate overnight before cooking. You could, I guess use whatever canned fruit you like best. I do a mix--dark cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, pears and pineapple, but the most important part is spiced apple rings on top. And that's ANOTHER thing that I have to search high and low for in New Jersey.

But of course, the important part is the dessert. I used Paula Deen's Bourbon-Pecan pie recipe, but I lined the bottom of the pie shell with chocolate chips. Because Paula Deen recipes aren't rich enough on their own and need my help to become so. My masterpiece, though, and I mean of everything I made, was the cake. It is from the December Southern Living. I wasn't kidding when I said that it was a peppermint cheesecake layer cake. The peppermint cheese cake layers were alternated with a white sour cream cake. And the icing was white chocolate mousse. It was EPIC. I only tweaked the icing a little bit because sometimes white chocolate make me have a headache. I doubled the proportion of whipped cream to melted white chocolate and sugar. It was still MEGA sweet.

So that's it, y'all. I made it through alive (although there was a while on Thursday night when I wasn't quite sure)! No one died from anything I made! I only have one cut finger and an ugly burn as war wounds.

And in case anyone wondered about the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas? It's sole purpose is to give the Thanksgiving chef time to rest before she (or he) has to REALLY cook again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Dog Has Lost Her Mind. And I've lost part of a fingertip.

I've mentioned before that I'm pretty sure Gina is absolutely mental. Her random and sometimes unprovoked barking fits are gonna eventually result in one of us needing psychiatric drugs. Take tonight. Now, look, I realize it feeds every one of Gina's neuroses to be left alone for any length of time. Today, Barbara headed to the train by 7:30. I left to go to the gym by ten 'til eight. Normally, today would have been one where I called Jeff the Trainer and said, "Dude, I've got approximately a million things to do, so we need to move this party to next week." But I already knew that I was missing Thursday's session for the holiday, and today was Jeff's first day back from his honeymoon, so I had missed all of last week, too. Plus, Jeff's really funny, so I felt sure he would have hilarious wedding and cruise stories. (He totally did.). I left the gym at 9 and hit Starbucks, Grocery Store the First and Honey-Baked Ham. By the time I got back it was 10:30 and sometime in all of that Tom had left for his office in town. Kelly was out of town visiting at Cornell and none of the other kids are home yet. This means Gina was alone, because the housekeeper doesn't work on Tuesday. She was freaking out, but had mercifully not destroyed any of the bathrooms which is her usual M.O. when left alone for any amount of time. I cleaned out the garage refrigerator, showered and headed out again. By the time I got home, Gina has spent the cast majority of her day without human company. Perhaps that explains the barking. This was a different flavor of barking from the usual frenetic tirade at the glass door over some perceived, but completely imaginary threat. She was just randomly letting out a bark here and there. So, after dinner is over, I start making the brine for the turkey breast, which I plan on cooking tomorrow afternoon. And here's where the denouement of our little two-person drama occurs. I am at the counter slicing a lemon. Gina has been begging for food since the minute I started to make dinner. I've ignored her utterly. So her final move in the game of Feed Me/I Won't Feed You Stratego involves waiting until it is almost dead silent in the house and walking up right behind me and letting out the most piercing, ear-splitting bark I have ever heard her make. Now remember, I am EFFING SLICING LEMONS. Only then I'm not. Because her idiot decision means I jump a foot and slice a chunk out of my left middle finger. Not a stitches-needing chunk. But one that involved blood. Our story has a happy ending, though. It's about how Gina is about to get a shiny, new collar. The kind with the little device that either buzzes sharply or releases a whiff of camphor when she barks. Because now it involves blood. And that blood is mine.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It is entirely possible that the answer to this is "You have a crazy-ass southern family"

So, there's this episode of Designing Women where Bernice's persnickety niece wants to have her committed because she thinks that Bernice is quite obviously off her rocker. The episode culminates in one of the more hilarious moments in the entire run of the show, when everyone from Sugarbaker's is called to testify on Bernice's behalf at her competency hearing. Earlier in the episode, Julia's first confrontation with the Niece from Hell ends with the late, great, Dixie Carter making the following speech:

"And just for the record, Phyllis, I think you should know, even if Bernice
WERE crazy, that doesn't necessarily mean she should be put away. I'm saying,
this is the South. And we're proud of our crazy people. We don't hide them
up in the attic. We bring 'em right down to the living room and show 'em off.
You see, Phyllis, in the South nobody ever asks if you have crazy people in
your family, because they already know you do. They just ask you which side
they're on."

When Phyllis asks Julia which side HERS are on, Julia, of course, deadpans, "Both."

Which brings me to my query. Look, I love my family. And I know that they are, if not actually bona fide crazy, most certainly, myself included, what I like to call "Characters." Now, on my dad's side, his father died when he was a very small boy and his mother, like him, was an only child. I don't know that side as well (but from encounters when I was growing up as well as stories, I know there are any number of Characters). On my mom's paternal side, it's possible that there's a slightly more tempered version of Characters happening. Which brings us to my mom's maternal side. Oh, Lord. My mom is probably the most sedate amongst her female cousins on that side and she produced me and my sister and is the grandmother of my niece, who puts my sister and I to SHAME. Many of us are dramatic. Like, literally. Professional performers dramatic. Funny, nay HILARIOUS. Kinda loud. Have entire collections of stories that "could only happen to (insert person here)".

My maternal grandmother and her sisters grew up extremely poor. Which could have been completely tragic. Except for the fact that they were all very smart and very creative. As such, what they lacked in material goods, they more than made up for in elaborate and creative games. Games which were passed down to all of us. There were also a couple of songs that we sang OVER and OVER on every car trip I ever remember taking with my grandparents. A couple of them, I thought my grandmother had actually composed until I heard one on The Muppet Show when I was a kid (That would be "Three Little Fishies" Music and Lyrics by NOT My Grandmother) and then in college was crushed to learn that yet another song we knew wasn't composed by my grandmother because my best friend thought that HER grandmother had made it up ("Did You Ever Go A-fishing?" which I have found on YouTube, but with different lyrics that the ones that both Liz and I had learned, which were EXACTLY the same!). The REAL mystery song was known to us as the "Billy Goat Song" and I JUST found it by sludging through a book on railroad lore in American folk songs. On YouTube, I scraped up a mostly-the-same song called, "Papa's Billie Goat" which is, apparently, based on an older Irish folk song. And please for the love of all, if you know this song at all, let me know. The recording on YouTube is from a VERY old 78 RPM record. We all learned it with the lyrics "Once I had a great big billy goat. Ma, she washed most ever day. Hung her clothes out on the line and that old goat would come that way." Maybe you learned different lyrics. The gist is that after the goat eats the shirt, he gets tied to the train tracks as punishment, but when the trains headed towards him, he coughs up the shirt and flags down the train. I am intrigued, doubly so on account of taking a class in college on folk songs and ballads and their dissemination in Britain and the American South and come to find out it was happening RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!

All of which is lovely, because I like to remember my grandmother and her sisters! But which brings me to my real question. At some point tonight, I got sidetracked onto a site about Robert the Doll. And if you don't know what that is, then google it yourself, because I can't bring myself to link it, but please be forewarned that it's ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE FUEL. Anyway, I started thinking about something that my family did. I know that some of my mom's older cousins did it for her and that Mom did it for those cousin's kids. Who did it for my brother and me. And I did it for my sister, Molly. The thing is, my grandmother passed away two years ago and she was the last of her sisters left, so we can't ask her. I've googled it and come up with nothing remotely related to what we did. I don't know if this is some bizarre Southern legend so obscure that there's no internet reference to it. I don't know if it's something my grandmother's older sisters made up and did for the younger ones. Maybe it's something that their aunts did for them and THEY passed it down to my mom's generation who passed it down to mine.

It's called The Dummy Dolls. It always happened in the summer or late spring. The story we were told was that Dummy Dolls were magic and they lived in the woods. If you waited until dusk, and went to the edge of the woods and called for them, sometimes, if you believed really hard, a Dummy Doll might come to your house (and yes, I realize this is kind of FRAKKING CREEPY). And when you came inside and looked around the house, sometimes you found a Dummy Doll (If you're completely getting wigged out, go read about Robert the Doll and this is way less creepy). Dummy Dolls can't talk, but they can understand you, so if you sit quietly and are still and try to touch them, they can answer questions where the answer is yes or no. Dummy Dolls like the dark so you can't turn on all the lights. Maybe just a lamp in the corner. And they like old-fashioned things, so they wear bonnets and long dresses. And after a while, your mom or your grandmother will ask the Dummy Doll if she's getting tired and she's say yes and your mom or grandmother will take you back out into the hall so the Dummy Doll can use her magic to get back to the woods.

Of course, there's really no such thing as a Dummy Doll (although my mom and aunts and grandmother and cousins all told the story so convincingly and the whole illusion they created--which I'm gonna explain--was so complete that until they told ME the secret so I could do it for Molly I had NO IDEA how it worked). By the time the very little kid was out in the backyard calling for the Dummy Doll at the edge of the woods, an older sibling or cousin or aunt (it has to be a female for it to work and you'll see why in a sec) would have already been making preparations. Someone in the family who is a good artist uses markers (or acrylic art paint is what they used on me) and draws a face (mine had a button nose, but I can't remember if that was part of the story) on the back of the person playing the Dummy Doll's hand. Then, that person makes a fist and a doll bonnet is tied around their hand and they put a long doll dress on their forearm with the neck at their wrist. There may have been yarn braids, too. Molly's turning 28 in a couple of months and she was in preschool when I did it, so it's been a long time. Then, while everyone is outside calling the Dummy Dolls, the volunteer gets under a bed with just their forearm sticking up from under the dust ruffle. When the kidlet comes into the room, the lights are very low and it looks REAL. They ask their questions, other adults get the kiddo out of the way and the trusty Dummy Doll climbs out from under the bed.

Molly doesn't remember doing it at all, although she does remember one of our great-aunts taking her out in the yard and talking to "little people who live in the holes in the ground" which may be related or may not. I remember doing it when I was the Doll and have shadowy memories of someone doing it for me. What we want to know is this...is there anyone else in our family who knows how this got started? Is there anyone else NOT in our family who has ever even heard of this? Do you now think that my family is COMPLETEMONKEYSHITBALLSINSANE? If you HAVE heard of this, is there more to the story than what my Mom and I remember? HELP US!!!

And for the record, in retrospect, we--my mom, sister and I--were talking about this tonight and we think that it is CREEPY. But we still want to do it for my niece (and maybe for Jackson, too, although he might be too old). Because what's the point of being a crazy, southern, aunt/grandmother if you can't do BIZARRO stuff like this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Baby Dragon in the Theater

I should have known it was going to be Trouble with a Capital "T" when we walked into the theater. Because nothing makes me leery like pre-schoolers sitting behind me at a most decidedly un-preschool show. One of the local community theater groups was producing Aida. Not the Verdi opera, but the Elton John/Tim Rice Disney-produced Broadway musical which premiered on Broadway when I was in law school. Now, first of all, you need to know that I absolutely love this musical. I heard Elton John sing "Written in the Stars" (probably on Rosie O'Donnell) and absolutely fell in love. This was the first non-professional production I had ever seen, but I knew enough of the actors in the show to know that it was more than promising.

But then I ended up sitting in front of Baby Dragons. Baby Dragon is our code for a kid that acts like they were raised by wild dogs (or maybe feral cats). There is a whole (bizarre and hilarious) story behind the genesis of the name, which involves one of my mom's many stories from being a teacher for 40 years. Suffice it to say, it's when a kid's behavior is so far off the charts as to attract the attention of EVERYONE in his or her general vicinity and that's coupled with his or her parent's seeming obliviousness to the situation.

I went to see the show with my awesome voice teacher and his daughter. He had three students in the show and I know four people in the show. And let me say I enjoyed the show immensely. My friend, Meera, played Aida and quite frankly, "wonderful", "amazing", "spectacular", and any number of other superlatives don't do her performance justice. And my friends, Beverly, Mollie and Julia, were all fantastic in the ensemble.

But Baby Dragons? They didn't care. There were three of them. The oldest was probably seven. The other two were probably three and five. To be fair, there are probably any number of children that age who would happily sit through a 2+ hour theatrical production. My niece and nephew are among them. Hell, when I was that age I would have been among them. When I was younger than that, my great-aunt and uncle took me to see one of my cousins in an opera and I allegedly didn't move a muscle or make a peep the entire time. I also have the very vaguest of memories of, because of a baby-sitter snafu, ending up, at the age of 2, at a production of Camelot with my parents. And having just run follow-spot for that exact show, I will tell you that it's long as all get-out. And my mom says that I absolutely adored it and never made a peep. But, and this is a huge "but", when the show was in it's Broadway run, there was an age-requirement to be allowed into the house. And that's with good reason. First of all, it deals with rather adult themes. And it's based on the Verdi opera, so there's gonna be carnage. Like, bodies on the stage and everything. Also, it's very, VERY quiet in a few places. You know that moment in the theater where you can feel the entire audience hold their breath? Yeah, that moment. That moment which doesn't need a preschooler yelling, "IS THE PRINCESS GONNA DIE?"

The first act was a veritable circus behind us. Talking. Sometimes about the show. Sometimes not. Seat-kicking. Hair-pulling. Moving from one seat to another. And the worst part? The parents did little, if anything to stop any of it. Each time a question was posed, rather than whisper, "I'll explain later, now be quiet." the parents launched into a full-scale, although relatively low-volume explanation. And when one of them snagged a handful of my hair, I heard, "Oh, sorry!" and not "If you touch anyone else, we're leaving." I guess maybe my expectations are super-high. I mean, like I said, I come from a family of theater-lovers. We've all been to shows from the time we could toddle. However, we knew (and as for my nephew and niece, currently KNOW) that if we talked, wiggled or otherwise disturbed people, we were being hauled almost immediately to the lobby. I'm talking one warning and we were out. The only known exception to this was last Christmas when my sister-in-law and I took the kids to see The Nutcracker and Gracie (2 1/2 at the time) got antsy in the second half because ALL OF THE BATHROOMS were flooded and unusable. Kelly ended up sitting with Gracie in her lap with her hand over the kid's mouth.

If I could have gotten up and out and was willing to miss part of the show (And I wasn't. The tickets for this were about half-again as much as they usually are, due to the tres expensive royalties) I would have done something about it during the first act. As it was, I knew the House Manager for the performance, so I found him at intermission. He provided the Baby Dragons with

So on behalf of the rest of the audience, the actors on the stage, the production staff, the ushers, here are some rules for Non-Theater-Type Parents when taking Junior to a show:

1. Research. Please, please, please research the show you are seeing. Call the box office and ask how long it is. Get on wikipedia and find out if it's something a kid would be interested in or even understand. Read about the show and determine if it's appropriate for a child.

2. Just because Aunt Susie or Cousin Bob is in the show, doesn't mean Junior should see it.

3. KNOW YOUR KID!! Like I said, I am pretty sure that either Jackson or Gracie would have happily watched Aida without a sound. And I know there are other kids who would be the same. But, frankly, I think they are the exception rather than the rule. But the great thing about theater is that there are hundreds, THOUSANDS of different shows. So there's always something coming up that a kid would like! At this theater, the show before last was Camelot--very family friendly (albeit long). Last show was Urinetown, which was GREAT but probably over the head of most kids under 12 (although nothing that I wouldn't let a younger kid see). Coming up in the spring? The Wizard of Oz! And many theaters have, in addition to the regular season of shows, a "kids' season" as well. These are often shorter versions of fairytales or something similar. These are perfect to test the waters with your kid. A good next step is the Golden Age musicals like Oklahoma, Annie, or The Sound of Music. If those float your kid's boat, then you can move on to more adventurous fare.

4. Talk BEFORE you get there. First, about theater etiquette. Things like whispering if you have an emergency, but waiting to really talk until intermission. Using the restroom before the proceedings get underway so you don't disturb the other audience members. Sitting still. Second, talk about the show you're going to see. If there's a movie version, by all means watch it! Last year, when I bought the tickets for The Nutcracker I also sent Jackson and Gracie DVDs of both the Care Bear's Nutcracker and The Nutcracker featuring the New York City Ballet. Even at two and four, the kids were able to absorb enough of the plot to be excited about the show!

5. Have lunch/dinner before you go! Most theaters are not fans of food in the house. However, in an emergency melt-down situation, a non-noisy food (I like gummi bears) is permissible IF it's done discreetly and quietly. No rattly paper or plastic, please, please, please! I have some little cloth bags that I got when I bought jewelry at Anthropologie that would be PERFECT. A small plastic bowl with a top would be great, too (as long as the snack didn't rattle around in it).

6. Even if no one needs the bathroom at intermission, get up and walk around! Talk about the theater itself. Maybe you can go look at the orchestra pit. Or look up at the lights and talk about how they are part of the whole production. Answer and ask questions about the show so far.

7. If there is talking, wiggling or other mayhem, institute a one warning policy. The theater is exciting so it's easy to forget, especially for little guys! Go over the rules before the show starts, but after a quiet reminder of no talking/sitting still/no touching doesn't work, it's time to head to the lobby. Believe me, I understand that it really sucks for Mom/Dad/Aunt/Grandparent to miss the show, but sometimes that's the deal.

8. This isn't so much just for the people with kids, but it's a personal pet peeve. I know that when the last number ends and the curtain call starts, that there is a temptation to duck out while the actors are making their bows. Please don't. This is one of the rudest things an audience can do to a performer. It may mean you have to stand in the aisles for a few minutes as the audience disperses, but you liked the show, right? Well, this is your chance to show the actors how you appreciate them sharing their talents with you!

9. Lots of companies either have a stage door where you can meet the cast afterwards or the cast comes to the lobby or house after they change. Kids LOVE this. And many actors love meeting their young fans! Especially in an amateur production, the actors get a real charge out of signing programs and shaking hands with little folks and it's a great way to get kids comfortable with the theater in general, when they see that up close the characters from the stage are just people!

So, in short, plan it out! The performing arts-theater, dance, music--have had a huge impact on my life since I was a very small girl. My parents cultivated a love and appreciation while they maintained a certain expectation of my behavior. I think that the theater is for EVERYONE from the littlest kid to the oldest great-grandmother. Preparing your young audience member is an excellent step in making it enjoyable for everyone involved!

Monday, November 14, 2011

I am addicted...to Pinterest.

A couple of months ago, maybe back in the summer, I noticed that several of my Facebook friends were posting frequently and almost obsessively about Pinterest.com. At the time, it was one of those things that I noticed, but didn't really look into. As such, when they were asking if people wanted an invite, I didn't take anyone up on the offer. And then a couple of weeks ago, I was bored at the car dealership while they changed the tires and I decided to peruse it on my iPad. Uh, yeah. It is awesome. Of course, then I had to get on a list to get an invite. Which I did (it took about 48 hours).

It's enthralling.

Really.

I love it so, so much. The problem is that every time I go back on to start reviewing the stuff I've pinned and maybe actually, you know, cooking, sewing or crafting it, I see MORE THINGS THAT I WANT TO PIN. And so I pin and pin and pin and nothing ever gets done.

At this point, I have pin boards for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, clothes that I like, food that I like, stuff I would like for a house, stuff I would like for a wedding, and stuff for the offspring of the marriage (the result of aforementioned wedding with non-existent fiance).

I like to tell people about things that I've seen that are neat. And I'm gonna tell you that Pinterest is neat. But for heaven's sake, use at your own risk. In ten years, we're gonna all be like those people in Wall-E only we're not going to be watching people doing things on our floaty-chair screen. We're going to be virtually pinning to a board pictures of people doing things. Which may actually be more sad. But, as they say on the site....Happy Pinning, y'all.

The Nom--November 14, 2011

When I was a kid, my mom cooked dinner pretty much every single day of my life. I'm not kidding. The woman was a cooking machine. And that was in addition to working a full-time job AND taking care of three kids. We ate out on occasion, but it was a rare enough event that my siblings and I considered it to be a big, huge treat. My mom is an amazing cook and has a huge collections of recipe books. I am following in her footsteps. I don't know that I'm an amazing cook yet (although I do LOVE to do it). But I do have any number of cookbooks. And by "any number" I mean one of those three-shelf bookshelves from Target FULL. Which is excellent, since part of my JOB consists of cooking. I make dinner pretty much every night. Technically, I am supposed to be off dinner-duty on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but I have made Friday dinner pretty much since the time I got here and have picked up Saturday and Sunday (at least when people are eating at the house) along the way. So the point of that was to tell you this. The Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites has moved firmly onto my Top Ten Must-Have Cookbook list. http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

I get asked relatively often what cookbook I recommend most. The easy and definite answer to that is The Southern Living Cookbook, which is just FANTASTIC. All of the basics, plus a lot of nifty special recipes, too. But I have to say that the one from Cooking Light may have firmly taken over number two. Now to be fair, both are published by Oxmoor House Publishing, which is the book-publishing part of the whole Southern Progress operation, the flagship of which is Southern Living aka THE GREATEST MAGAZINE EVER OF ALL TIME. Anything you get from Oxmoor House is gonna rock, to be honest.

We are on a red meat embargo as of late, so I wanted to find something different-ish for tonight and Cooking Light's Turkey-Jasmine Rice Meatballs with Baby Bok Choy was fantastic. Thumbs up from everyone who tried it!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I cannot. stop. watching. this.

I have found my absolute favorite thing in the history of the internet. A friend (and I don't remember who, so sorry to the awesome person who posted it first) posted this on Facebook. And I reposted. And I can't stop watching it. Because I'm a dork and also easily amused by the shiny.



Same house, different song, still awesome.



Or how 'bout this? THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS??!?!?!? I WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH THESE PEOPLE!!!



Or perhaps a front-yard, Halloween rave?



More Nightmare.



This one's older, so the quality isn't as good, but it starts out with The Nightmare Before Christmas and turns into THE FREAKIN' HAUNTED MANSION!!!



I wish I knew this guy's...no wait, this ARTIST'S real name. He's incredible! I love Halloween. It's such a fun holiday!!!! I'm not even gonna start on the simply amazing Halloween parade at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which is one of the best things I've ever seen at Disney, because I will never stop. This guy, according to his YouTube profile, is from Riverside, CA. So, Awesome Guy from Riverside? Hats off, two thumbs up, etc. You're FANTASTIC!!!

Dressed to Kill--Oh my God...Socks?--October 12, 2011

So called because, let's get real, y'all...

THIS?



Still one of the funniest things ever on YouTube. Even five years later. Even after Antoine Dodson and the "Bake a Cake" song. (If you don't know who or what those are, get thee to YouTube now and start a-searchin'.)

Anywho. Socks. I have all these rules about socks. I mean, first of all there's the whole rule that I can NEVER, NEVER, EVER wear socks to bed, because I am convinced that they attempt to strangle me while I sleep.

But that's not what I mean. I'm talking about good socks. Now that the autumn is upon us, it's sock weather. As such, I just did this big sock purge. I took my little bag of sad, orphan socks and threw them out. I threw out the ones with holes and the ones where the elastic made a crackling sound when you attempted to put them on--tragic dry-rot, I guess? I also chunked several pairs that were the "partner" sock when I bought something else. You know how at Target or wherever, they come in a set of two and one (my super-cool pink striped knee sock, for example) is awesome and the other is...substantially less so (white knee socks with pink cherries)? Pink cherry socks are cute. When you're five.

Target is a great sock and tights place. Probably, outside of the inredible reversible tights made by Spanx which are super thick and last for approximately an eon, the absolute best bang for your buck. They're thick and usually not shiny. They have interesting textures and prints and great colors. Actually, for tights, Target would almost ALWAYS be my first recommendation. Their socks? Well, not as much. I mean, I've gotten some great socks there. Last fall I got two two-pair sets, each consisting of a large and small argyle in the same color schemes. I've also gotten some GREAT novelty-ish knee socks and a couple of pairs of over the knee socks, which I'm to chicken to wear when it's not over tights, but still really nice. All that said, I've had problems at Target finding good, thicker-weight NEUTRAL colored socks. My two pairs of go-to shoes in the fall and winter (on days when I don't have to wear snow or rain boots that is) are my oxblood, English sandal-style Doc Marten's and my Wallaby's. I need good thick socks. And right now Target has THE BEST. There are two pairs in each package (although it's not really a package, rather one of those little hangars with a cardboard wrapper). One's a more solid color and the second is flecked, but lightly so. The label says, "Boot Socks", and I haven't tried them with boots yet (Just got out all my boots today!), but they're GREAT with a heavier oxford or loafer-type winter shoe. Very comfortable, seem warm, not itchy at all!! HIGHLY recommended.



So, I am obsessed. With a lot of things, but most relevant to this outfit, to getting the last bit of wear out of several pairs of shorts. I completely culled my shorts this spring. All of the stuff that I thought was too short or too...well, Abercrombie, I guess, went to live at the Goodwill. Which was good, because I essentially replaced fifteen pairs of shorts that I NEVER wore with three REALLY cute and wearable pairs from Anthropologie. These are one of them. They actually had them in several colors and when I went back right before my Disney trip to get them in black (the third color was this gorgeous blush pink which turned out to be the same color as me and looked really bizarre, like my legs were blending into my clothes), and they didn't have them. THEN week before last, when Anthro did that magic sale thing where they suddenly have fifty-thousand of something in the sale room, they had them and I didn't get them which may turn out to be a mistake, because I LOVE these shorts. They are probably the best fitting shorts I've had since I was a teenager. The only drawback was the label said "Dry Clean for Best Results", but I hand washed them in Woolite, then line-dried them and they turned out fine. The blazer is also from Anthropologie. It's Daughters of the Revolution, which is one of my very favorite lines they carry. It's that awesome very, very fine cord material where it looks and feels almost like velvet. It received one of the greatest compliments EVER because I wore it when I flew home for Christmas last year and my mom IMMEDIATELY said, "What a gorgeous jacket." And she's not one to give praise lightly and she generally has excellent taste. The shirt. Oh, the shirt. A while back, maybe in the late summer, Anthropologie got a bunch of adorable colored jeans. I hemmed and hawed about them for a while. They're AG, which is my hands-down favorite denim brand, but I wasn't sure I would wear them. I actually tried them on three different times before I bought a pair in Kelly green. The final time, I tried them on with this shirt. It's hard to see but it's navy and the print is birds and foliage in the same brown as the shorts, Kelly green and a bluish-gray. I grabbed it to try on the jeans the last time because I was wearing a dress and I wanted to be able to really see them. I fell in love with the shirt, but I didn't get it, because I have shirts to last me for about thirty years (Total exaggeration. Maybe.) Then as I said before...Anthropologie had a HUGE sale a couple of weeks ago. The sale room at Anthro is pretty much like my Mecca. I ADORE it. Generally, most things are half of the original price. Sometimes more, sometimes less. This sale? Regular sale PLUS an additional 25% off. It was A-MAH-ZING. I have really been working out for the last six months or so, so my pants were pretty much ALL too big, and the Anthro Super Special Extra Sale was a godsend in the pants department. The cute bird blouse (and the yellow owl one which I also got!!!) were just bonuses. My favorite part of this whole outfit, though, is the shoes. Not that the shoes are super-spectacular. They're black ankle-boots with a ruffle at the top and a wedge heel inside the boot. Cute. From DSW. COMPLETELY wearable. No, the most important part is that THEY'RE BOOTS! IT'S BOOT WEATHER!!! I AM SUPER-PUMPED, Y'ALL.

Okay, I'll attempt to go back to acting like a rational human who doesn't rant and rave about socks. And shoes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dressed to Kill--Seasons Change--October 11, 2011I

I am pretty sure that I have some sort of fashion-related Season Affective Disorder. I'm not depressed or anything like that. I actually feel pretty great. It's just that with the whole summer-to-fall change, I have as usual, undergone this bizarre about face in my overall fashion outlook. I know that pretty much everyone has to change out their wardrobe to some degree. I mean, unless you live in San Diego where it's 80 degrees pretty much every day of the year, it's going to get colder. Even in a place like Florida where it stays relatively warm for most of the year, there is an appreciable difference between July and January (or in Florida's case, late September and January. Because when I was there a couple of weeks ago, it may well have been the hottest I've ever been in my life and that includes the summer I sold churros while wearing a prairie costume at the Magic Kingdom). Anyway, sometime in the fall, usually in October, I have a metamorphosis. I spend the months of April through September in gingham and seersucker. Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines. Pastels and florals. It's uber-preppy and uber-girly. And then October happens. And it's not like I suddenly stop caring what I wear or that what I'm wearing is any less girly. It's that it's all of a sudden dark colors. Lush fabrics. And definitely a noticeable shift from Extreme Prep to Bohemian. It's all flowy tops and wide-legged pants. Tights and ankle boots. Heavy wools and slouchy sweaters. For example:



Actually, for me, in the Fall/Winter? This is pretty light. I'm even wearing a super-colorful necklace! I got it back in the spring when Anthropologie put a bunch of the jewelry from last winter in the sale room. I always worry about wearing it because I'm pretty short and the necklace is pretty big. I've just figured out that if I'm gonna wear it, then I need to do so with minimal other jewelry. In this case, I wore a pair of square turquoise studs, also from Anthropologie and from the same massive jewelry sale. They have turned out to be one of those purchases that were at the time a thing where I said, "This is a pretty good deal and I'll probably get some use out of them." and have turned into something I wear all the time. Ditto on the shoes which are (it's hard to see) gold ballet flats from Gap. I actually love these shoes so much that I try to parcel out when I wear them because I'm afraid that I'll wear them out and then won't be able to find a comparable pair to replace them. I bought the shirt at H&M on a whim on the morning of a Bama Girls' Brunch. I was waiting at the store for my friend, Ally, and fell in love with two TOTALLY affordable shirts. The best part is that while they were ultra-budget friendly, they are also two shirts that I almost always get compliments on when I wear them (there are three pieces at H&M now that I have the same feelings about and they would be under $100 total, so I'm debating whether I want to make that my purchase for next weekend.)!!! Okay so maybe "always complimented" is the SECOND best kind of clothing. My jeans may be the best kind. They're Paige (which is a brand you should check out if you haven't already), but that's not why they're awesome. They're awesome because they are hand-me-downs! Miss E bought them then found a pair that fit her better/were more comfortable, so she passed these on to me. And they're super-comfortable on me! SCORE!!!

In other weird news, the clothing change almost always comes with a strange music change. Which means that the old high school/college playlist moves to the forefront of the iPod. It's really cool music, so it makes me seem much cooler than I usually am.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No. Just...NO.

Swearing ahead, so consider yourself warned:

Oh. My. God. No...this goes past MY God and necessitates me calling on all the gods of all religions ever. And also angels, magicians, and someone who can prescribe whatever drug can make me forget that this happened:



Holy. Shit.

Y'ALL HOLY SHIT. I thought about writing about this last night, but there was a lot going on, not the least of which involved an hour-long conversation where Taylor and I had to giddily discuss the impending implosion of the University of Miami football program. And then I wasn't sure I could write about it in a coherent manner. Because HOLY SHIT, Y'ALL.

Look, I make it a point to always try to represent not just my chapter of my sorority, but University of Alabama Greeks, hell ALL Greeks everywhere in a flattering light. I tried to do it when I was a collegiate member. I now try to do it as an alumnae. I tell people things about the Greek system that repudiate the rumors and stereotypes of being Greek. I talk specifically about the great work the Alpha Gamma chapter of Delta Zeta has done with the on-campus speech and hearing center. If someone asks "Which sorority was the smart/rich/pretty/preppy/wild one at Alabama?", I tell them that ALL sororities at Alabama are ALL those things, because they are ALL filled with girls from all around the country (and the world!) who come from a thousand different backgrounds and who are studying in all the various colleges and majoring in all the various departments the University offers. I encourage young women to go through recruitment at their schools. I write recommendations for them if they are.

And then Panhellenic pulls this shit with me. It would be embarrassing if this was shown at Recuitment Convocation and that was as far as it went. But no, they have to let this get out. ANDERSON COOPER RAN A PIECE ON IT!! (He also mentioned Delta Zeta by name, so you know, no embarrassment there or anything).


I went through Rush (Rush, not Recruitment), as a third-generation Greek at the University. I was on the "other" side of rush as an active collegiate member for the next three years and spent my final collegiate Rush (I was a 5th Year Senior) as a Rho Chi. I helped with Recruitment as an alumnae all three years I was in law school and again when my sister went through and AGAIN when she was a collegiate. Rush/Recruitment isn't pleasant. In fact, there were parts of my involvement with each phase of my Rush/Recruitment life that I consider to be my own little personal patch of hell on earth. But of all the unpleasant, uncomfortable, unfathomable things that I ever had happen to me, saw happen to someone I knew, or heard about happening to someone I didn't, this little piece of video idiocy has got to be THE FUCKING DUMBEST RUSH-RELATED SHIT I HAVE YET ENCOUNTERED.

WERE YOU ALL DRUNK? HIGH? DID YOU FALL DOWN AND LAND ON YOUR HEADS? WHO TOLD YOU THIS WAS OKAY??!?!? Surely at least one discerning soul with a shred of sense exists in one of the EIGHTEEN SORORITIES ON THAT CAMPUS. Or an alumni. Or an advisor. Someone? Or did you just wander the Strip after last call asking random frat boys being spewed onto the street by closing bars if it seemed like a good idea. Because that is the only way I can think that anyone would have even hinted at a suggestion that this is in any way acceptable.

Because it's not. It's offensive. It plays into every unflattering stereotype that the average person has about sorority girls. And what's worse? It's just bad. I mean strictly judging on the performances, it's AWFUL.

So thanks a lot. The (at least allegedly) dignified and respectable former members of the Alabama Greek system are just SO PROUD.

Countdown to Disney--30 Days




If asked to identify the things about Walt Disney World which I find to be awesome, my answer would be quite simple..."Uh, EVERYTHING."

Sometimes someone will say something about not liking WDW that much or, worse, liking something like Six Flags better. I try to be forgiving because obviously these people have suffered some sort of blunt force trauma to the head. I have actually heard someone make the statement that WDW and Six Flags are pretty much the same thing. Ok, step back, Captain Crazypants. That's just not right. In addition to anything Disney being about eleventy-thousand times cleaner, one is more likely to encounter a Cast Member who is a functional human member of society while at Disney, as opposed to Six Flags where all manner of barely functionally literate juvenile delinquents will be performing equivalent tasks. (If you think I'm exaggerating, please ask me sometime to relate to you the story of "Definition of a Bowl at Six Flags Great Adventure). So, anyway, there are many, MANY differences.

And the way that WDW, and for that matter ALL Disney Parks the world over, CLEARLY stand out is the intricately detailed theming pervasive in every nook and cranny of the park. And nowhere is it more beautifully done than on Main Street, USA ("Gateway to the Seven Themed Lands of the Magic Kingdom").

It was inspired by Marceline, MO, one of the towns Walt Disney lived in when he was a child. The buildings look like they are three stories tall, but only the first story of each is actually a full story and the other floors are built using forced perspective.. The second floor is 2/3 actual size and the third is 1/2. Forced perspective is also used on the actual street. It's wider at the entrance in Town Square and narrows as it approaches the Hub in front of Cinderella Castle. This has the effect of making Cinderella Castle look more distant when guests enter in the morning, but also makes the exit look closer when tired guests are exiting in the evening. The distance between trash cans is exactly 20 paces. Traffic flow engineers working for Disney Imagineering studied extensively to find out how far the average person carries a piece of trash before they throw it on the ground and placed all trash cans accordingly. The sidewalks along Main Street are a unique shade of red which was developed in conjunction with Kodak. Imagineers and Kodak scientists experimented to find the specific shade of red which makes the sky look most blue in contrast, at least on Kodak film, which in the days before digital cameras, was the only film sold in the park.

All of the names on the windows on the second (and in one case, the third) floors are real people who were in some way instrumental in the creation of or continuing development of Walt Disney World or the Walt Disney Company. The businesses of which they are the "proprietor" has something to do with their role within the Company or with some hobby or outside interest they loved. The only third floor window honors Frank Wells who was the president of the Walt Disney Company from 1984 until his death in a heli-skiing accident in 1994. He was an avid mountain climber and had climbed the highest mountain on each continent except Asia (he attempted Everest more than once but was forced to turn back each time). His fictional company is Seven Summits Expeditions and to honor him and his memory, is the highest of all Main Street Windows. Roy O. Disney's window is a tribute to his determination to complete Walt Disney World after Walt's death--his business is "Dreamers and Doers". A single window does not look down on Main Street itself, but rather faces Cinderella Castle and that is the window honoring Walt, himself.

It's really too bad that the majority of guests barrel down Main Street, intent on reaching the Castle or a certain attraction. Main Street is amazing. There are a million things to see, hear, taste, FEEL. So next time you're there...take some advice from Baloo, and slow down and enjoy.

Here's a picture of my brother and I taking time and enjoying Main Street in September of 1981. This is literally five minutes into our very first trip to WDW ever. Mother forgot to bring her camera--Dad was the family photojournalist and he stayed at home while we made the trip with Mother, our grandparents and our great aunt and uncle--so she raced across to the Camera Shop as soon as we got there and rented one for our three day trip. This is my favorite picture of my brother and me. EVER.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Countdown to Disney--31 Days



Let's say that I am given the opportunity to choose to go anywhere on the planet. Cost is not a factor.

I would choose Walt Disney World.

I'll wait while you finish laughing hysterically. There it is. I don't know if it's sad, but it's true. Disney is a HUGE thing in my family. My parents went there in 1972 for their honeymoon. My grandparents went almost every year for MANY years until they began swapping it every other year for a trip out west. Of course, the family prize, I like to think, goes to me who worked there as part of the Walt Disney World College Program in 1995 and 1996. We have been in all manner of configurations: Mom and Dad; all of us; just me; just my sister; the parents and me; the grandparents, Mom, my brother and me. The last trip that any of us made in that direction was two years ago when my brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece went, thus crowning my nephew and niece--ages 13 months and turning three while there--with the honor of being the YOUNGEST of us to ever score a trip to WDW. But coming up in just one short month is the big one...my parents, brother, sister-in-law, sister, nephew, niece and me--all of us, staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort (in the pirate rooms, no less) for seven awesome days.

So since we are exactly one month from departure, I am hereby starting the countdown.

THIRTY-ONE DAYS, PEOPLE!!!

And to get us started, here's a little bit of one of my ALL-TIME favorite things at Walt Disney World. EVER. The sadly defunct Diamond Horseshoe Jamboree. It ran four shows a day for about 20 years before closing in 2003. It was AMAZING. If you never saw it, but have been to the Hoop Dee Do Revue, then that's the closest approximation. It was in Frontierland, right next to the cut-through to Adventureland. You had to have reservations and there was a lunch counter service. I think that the restaurant part is still active in the busier seasons, but the real attraction here was the show. The first time I went, in 1981, Miss Lily sat on my grandfather's lap and left a lipstick kiss on his head, which is one of the most distinct memories I have of the entire trip. Later, when I worked at Aloha Isle, we rode up from the Tunnel in the same elevator as the performers. I once rode the elevator with Miss Lily. It remains one of the greatest celebrity encounters of my life. So enjoy, because it rocked. It rocked HARD:

THE DIAMOND HORSESHOE REVUE

I hope the Miss Lily, Bartender Sam and their Cowboys and Saloon Girls party on in that Great Theme Park in the Sky.

Dressed to Kill--This Weather Sucks--August 16



So that's a big question...do you dress for the weather? I mean, I KNOW you dress with regards to the temperature (although there are times, especially formal-ish occasions, where you have to let that fall to the wayside), especially when said temps are extreme. But aren't there just some times when you just want to ignore what's happening outside and wear...whatever. Take today for example...we are on out third day of rain/dreariness. It cleared up a bit yesterday (for reference see my post regarding my completely avoidable and very dumb sunburn), but it rained ALL day Sunday, most of yesterday, and off and on today. It's cleared up now, but the high was still only in the low 70s. Which presents a problem. Because it's August. I'm from Alabama. I grew up with the notion that while June and July were gonna be hot, nothing was going to compare to the humid, sweltering oppression of August heat. This was reinforced by a EIGHT straight Augusts in Tuscaloosa which I maintain is the hottest place on the planet for that one month. Or at least it feels like it is.

The point is, on days like today, what I consider actual summer wear isn't really appropriate. For one thing, if you go anywhere it's bound to be violently air-conditioned with the expectation that it's going to be hovering in the low 90s WITHOUT the heat index boost. Which meant that for a big part of today, I actually walked around with a sweater on over my regular clothes. Granted it was a light-weight sweater with a fairly open weave, but it was actually necessary. I actually could have been completely comfortable in jeans, but that seemed a little excessive for mid-August, because I know that there will come a day in February when I'm thinking, "I just want to wear shorts/a sundress."

In any event...



Remember my previous statement on white shirts from TJMaxx? Well this is an EXCELLENT example. It's got the cutest purposefully exposed zipper in the back. I think it cost under $15, which is kind of the point of numerous white shirts from a discount locale--at some point this is going to meet with marinara sauce, or chocolate, or strawberry juice and while I'll be sad, I won't have to worry that I've committed some grave and wasteful sin when it makes its way to Goodwill. I have had these shorts for a while--probably a good five years. They're from Old Navy and are very cooperative. In the sense that I don't like my legs to hang out all over the place, and they are happy to cover them. Also, they are seersucker which are my favorite summer fabric. And kind of make up for the fact that the weather wanted to insist it was fall today. Stupid weather.

Dressed to Kill--I'm lame. And neglectful--August 9 & 10

I lasted a whole three posts before I didn't post. Most of that is due to our somewhat delayed move to the beach. We generally spend the whole of August here. However, this year there were kids visiting colleges and kids on trips and kids at summer programs and kids getting ready to go to college. It was crazy. So although portions of us had been spending at least the weekends here since early July, it wasn't until last Wednesday that we made the trip down for good.

The B's beach house is awesome. Like most of the houses in Bayhead and Mantoloking it was built in the early 20th century. It's just lovely, right across from the beach, beautifully decorated. It's also located in the middle of one of the preppiest places I've ever been. No, really. This is a kind of intense and virulent preppiness that even make ME notice. We generally eat dinner at the Yacht Club at least one night per weekend and it's like if you fail to wear Lilly or Vinyard Vines, you have somehow violated some secret code of conduct. There's lots of Sperrys and Jack Rogers. Pearls. Seersucker. Nantucket reds. Bowties. It's awesome. Of course, on a day to day basis, there's a lot of that stuff, too. Albeit, slightly more casual. I didn't take a picture yesterday, but we went to the Yacht Club's trivia night and I wore...Lilly. One of my favorites, too. In any event, the move down, the horrible weather we've had the last few days, getting settled and such have made me fall behind. So here's a two-fer from last week. I also have today, which I will get to shortly.



I'm 5'3" tall. Which was the major, if not only, consideration when I bought these shoes. Short girls everywhere have to be joining me in rejoicing in the return to fashion prominence in the last few years of the wedge. Wedges are a short girl's friend. The make your legs look longer. They make YOU look longer. They help in the purchase of pants because it's actually occasionally possible to buy pants and not need to hem them at all (much less the 6 to 9 inches which usually end up lopped off my pants). I bought these, which are BCBG, specifically for the bridesmaid's luncheon when my best friend got married about three years ago. I wore a maxidress which dragged behind me without big shoes. So these were a godsend. I love this skirt from the Gap, not in the least because it's actually all-season. I grabbed it off the clearance rack mainly because I noticed the color, which is a much more plummy purple than shows up in the picture. I love this blouse, too. It was a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and it has a tie belt that I removed. It's piped (hard to see in the pic) with a vivid turquoise, which has become one of my favorite colors of late. I have a pair of earrings--I'm actually wearing them with this--that I got at Anthropologie that inspired the fascination.



What I like about this outfit is...everything. Not so much that I think it's the best looking thing I've ever worn. 'Cause it's not. I don't even think it's particularly flattering, but the individual pieces have really great associations for me. The dress itself is from Gap. It's one of those colors that I just adore. I have a similar Gap dress is navy--it has pleats instead of the fabric balls at the top--and while I like it and it actually fits me better, I am enamored of this dress because of the color. I love coral. And this is a particularly deep coral, almost closer to a tangerine, but darker than that...I don't know what it is, really, but I love it. I also love the sandals (also from Gap) and I'm pretty sure that one day, in the not too distant future, my gold flower sandals will break. And I will involve myself in some sort of nervous breakdown over it. The best piece in all of this is the scarf in my hair. It belonged to my very fashionable, very awesome grandmother.

So brace yourselves, y'all. I'm guessing it's gonna be seersucker city for a while. At least the next couple of weeks.


Just one of the many reasons I shouldn't be allowed around a bathing suit.

I hate wearing a bathing suit. I mean really, really hate it. And although part of it IS the whole "Does this make me look fat? OMGILOOKFAT. FATFATFAT. IS THAT CELLULUTE??!?!?" thing, the bulk of it is thw whole white thing. I am white. I mean, obviously, I'm white. When requested by standardized forms, I mark white/Caucasian. 'Cause there's no getting around it. I was born with strawberry blonde hair that darkened to a brown with red highlights which proceeded to fade to a murky non-color which started turning gray when I was 23. I tried a myriad of colors when I started coloring it to cover the gray, only to find that most of the time, my hair's tendency to highlight red would not be thwarted. Pretty much every blonde or brown that I attempted would end up looking reddish. So a couple of years ago, I just told Katye, my hairdresser to make it red. So red I am. And also white. Like a piece of paper white. The whitest. I am so white that the undertones of my skin are actually BLUE.

And hence, my hatred for bathing suits. Now, I can get the barest hint of a tan. But it takes the kind of work that I'm not really interested in doing. I'm talking scrupulously timed outings in the sun with carefully applied decreasing SPF factors. And I'm still...more of an ecru than anything. I've also delved into the exciting world of standing naked while a lady named Carmen sprays me with some organic mixture out of an airbrush gun. Which makes me tan. But is also expensive and makes me feel slightly like a tee shirt from Panama City Beach.

So now my approach to being white is this: Apply copious amounts of sunscreen. Wear big, floppy hat. Sit under the umbrella if possible. This is especially important in August when the Bs and I travel en masse to Mantoloking, which is a small enclave of EXTREME preppiness tucked between the intensely Jersey Shore towns of Seaside Heights (yes, as in Jersey Shore Jersey Shore) and Point Pleasant Beach. I'll get to Bayhead/Mantoloking at a later time, but suffice to say it's the beach. I am sitting on the bed in my room and I can see sand. This means that I spend part of most days in the sun.

Bringing me to yesterday and the point of all this...It rained all day on Sunday. It rained yesterday until mid-afternoon when suddenly it stopped and was absolutely gorgeous--blue skies, sun, light breeze, warm. Which meant that Brendan and E and I jumped into our suits and headed to the beach. I grabbed one of my favorites. it's big black and white checks. Two piece. The bottom is a ruffly skirt. The top is long so that there's just a sliver of skin showing. It's awesome What it also has, which I failed to consider when applying my Coppertone SPF 50 waterproof spray, is a keyhole opening in the back.

So this morning, I'm reading. And wondering why on earth the bra which I've worn a hundred times is driving me bonkers. I mean, it feels like there's a big tag rubbing my middle back. I reach under my shirt. I remove it. No tag. I lift up my shirt and look in the mirror. And I now see a perfect half-circle of pink on my back. Very attractive, right?

The moral of the story is this: Sometimes, I do excessively dumb things And also, when those warnings say "Always wear sunscreen", they mean on all you. Including the keyhole opening in the back of your swimsuit

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dressed to Kill--Sometimes You Can Never Have Enough-August 9, 2011


I am convinced (and remember that my opinion is actually worthless) that there are three things you can never have too much of. At least with regards to your wardrobe.

1. Jeans--not just blue ones. Jeans are...awesome. I know that they tend to be the easy way out for a lot of people. But for me at least, jeans are my most difficult and thought out purchase. I remain giddily excited that colored jeans are in fashion again. I really want a pair of red. And a pair of green. Everyone, everyone, everyone needs to have more than one pair. And I'm saying that as a lady who wears a dresses approximately 75% of the time. White is the most important non-blue color. But other colors are pretty darn swell. The best pair of jeans I ever had were purchased in the summer of 1988 (I remember because I wore them on the first day of eighth grade). They were Guess, red with tiny white polka dots and they had zippers at the ankles. There was a matching T-shirt that involved a Scottie dog. I would KILL to have those jeans now. They were epic and legendary in the history of denim. Right now, my two favorite pairs are both Adriano Goldschmied, a brand that fits me better than any other ever has. And that brings me to another important jeans point...if you can at all swing it, go somewhere that has the pricey ones, try on about twenty different pairs and pick your brand and style. It's gonna cost you. But it will change your life.

2. White shirts-All kinds, from tees to fancy. I tend to wear a lot of brightly colored bottoms--prints (see yesterday's post re: Lilly Pulitzer), stripes, seersucker, plaids. Even my solids tend to be bright. My favorite pair of pants right now is a pair of wide-legged orange linen. I probably have ten different white shirts in varying styles--polos, button-down, tunics, puff-sleeve with Peter Pan collar--and that doesn't count the tees. The thing about whites, especially the tees, is that they tend to get destroyed. In the sense that a spill or drip that would have no bearing on gray or red or purple is sometimes final curtain for a white shirt. Plus, there's the whole unpleasant yellowing under the arms, which is gross but true. Tees especially seem to take a particular beating. My good white shirts come from all over, but I seem to have the best luck finding unique and cute at TJMaxx. For tees, I like Gap, but I LOVE Target. The Merona Ultimate Tees at Target have now surpassed Gap Favorite Tees as...my favorite.

3. Chuck Taylors--True story...I dated this guy for a while. He was very sweet and nice. One day, we went to see a movie. I had my feet up on the bar that's in front of the first row of stadium seats. I was wearing my silver Chuck Taylors. He commented on the fact that I had silver shoes. I said, "Well Chucks come in every color under the sun." He says, "I don't know what those are. I don't know brands." Okay, relationship doomed. Look, I didn't expect him to look at the bottoms of someone's shoes and know they were Louboutins because the soles were red. I wouldn't even care if he looked at the buckle on my Michael Kors flats and didn't know what the "MK" stood for. In fact, I wouldn't expect a guy to know those things. But SERIOUSLY??!?! Chuck Taylors? Converse sneakers have been around FOREVER. My DAD knows what they are. Anyway...they rule. Basic black are useful, but colors are FUN. And they go with practically everything. (I always joke that if I ever get married, I'm wearing electric blue Chucks under my dress).

So today, this happened...



I am pretty sure that at this point tomorrow, thanks to Jeff the Trainer, I will be completely immobile. I'm not kidding. I already feel stiff. And I've been moving around a good bit since this morning. I think the best I can hope for is to take three Advil and pray to the gods of exercise before I go to bed. So, anyway, after I spent the 8-9 a.m. hour being PHYSICALLY PUMMELED, I was less inclined than usual to work hard at my clothes. But then I remembered the shoes. I can wear practically ANYTHING with my Boden sling-back turquoise ballet flats and they MAKE it look good. Even a fairly average dress that's somewhere between periwinkle and gray in color. Not only that, it's a dress that I got ON CLEARANCE at Old Navy one day when I got Polynesian sauce all over myself at Chick-fil-A and I still had a million things to do and I didn't want to look like I had been stabbed and subsequently bled over the front of the cream dress I was wearing. I went in the restroom and changed and was on my way. I am an Old Navy fan. I rarely go in there that I don't find something cute. And as a bonus it's usually priced so that I don't have to worry about things like inadvertent assault by condiments. Which happens more often than I care to admit. But back to the shoes...Boden. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's a British brand and I know that a lot of my American friends are not familiar with it, but it's BEYOND cute--hello, turquoise ballet flats with jeweled butterflies on them--and while a WEE bit pricey, it's exceptionally well made and the kind of thing that you will order now (if you're in the US, that's how you have to do it. They don't have any US stores. Yet. I live in hope.) and still be wearing YEARS from now. Also, just a note of interest...my friend, Beverly SWEARS by the jeans from their MiniBoden kids line. Her boys are on the VERY slender side and she told me that they fit better than anything she's ever put on them. The website (and don't blame me if you spend hours perusing the COMPLETE ADORABLENESS) is here.

Dumb Dog

This is Gina:



Gina is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. That's the kind of dog that Charlotte had on Sex and the City. Gina spends the majority of her time sitting on the bottom shelf of the front hall table. Like this:



She likes it because she can see out the glass door. Which is convenient for her, since we keep the solid, view-blocking door open most of the time. But it's pretty inconvenient for the humans in her house. Because Gina seems convinced that this:



Is actually THIS:



That this:



Is actually THIS:



And that this:



Is actually THIS:

.

The result of which is that she goes to DefCon 1 about ten times a day. She barks at the school bus, joggers, bikers, cats, lightning bugs, jogging neighbors, walking neighbors, biking neighbors, neighbors riding in their strollers, the FedEx guy, any car that parks withing her viewing area, the mailman and usually ME when I go to the mailbox and come back. Because she's exactly that dumb. She watches me walk out the door and in the approximately 30 seconds it takes me to get to the mailbox and back, she forgets that I exist and begins barking maniacally until such time as I actually step onto the porch and she realizes, "I know this human. THIS IS ONE OF MY HUMANS! OHBOYOHBOYOHBOY!!!!"

So, yeah...not so much with the bright, that one. And in case you wonder, the things that have been utilized to get her to shut. the. hell. up. include, but are not limited to: time-outting her in her crate for five minutes, physically removing her from the area to another floor of the house, squirting her with a water gun, one of those ultrasonic thingies that you plug into the wall, clapping, snapping and hissing a la the Dog Whisperer. Nothing. Works.

So if you hear that I've snapped and completely gone loony toons, you'll know the reason--a very cute dog is a very big pain in the ass.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Dressed to Kill--My Great Love Affair: August 8, 2011


I honestly think that for the rest of my life, I could happily shop for all my clothes at only two stores: Anthropologie and Target. If not for one little thing...

Lilly Pulitzer.

I love it. I love it so, so much. I love it in a "troll eBay for vintage Lilly" kind of way. I love it in a "participate in a celebratory dance when they open the new Palm Place in Palmer Square" kind of way. I can walk into a thrift or consignment store and immediately walk straight to every piece of Lilly in the joint. I have pants and shorts and dresses and skirts and shorts and shoes and luggage. And also animal crackers. And stationery. Just...a lot.

Anyway, Lilly Pulitzer the person was a pretty awesome lady. Total East Coast Old Money. Her mother was an heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Lillian went to school with Jacqueline Bouvier. She married into the Pulitzer family (THAT Pulitzer family) and moved to Palm Beach where she used the fruit from her husband's several citrus groves to open a roadside juice stand (she was into non-rich people stuff like this, having dropped out of finishing school to be a midwife's assistant in West Virginia). Her juice stand was a success, but she found that her usual attire--tennis whites or linen shift dresses--took the brunt of her work. Every single drop of juice spilled which she squeezed oranges and lemons and limes made very visible stains. And so, she made herself some brightly-colored, wildly-patterned shift dresses that were easily washable and hid the stains while she worked! Her juice customers became dress customers and the brand was born.

I told that story, because today...was a Lilly kind of day in my world.



This particular dress is an oddity in my collection...it's the only Lilly wrap-dress I own. It's the only wrap-dress I own AT ALL, actually. They never fit me right, tending to gap at the top. I have to use a tiny safety pin at the top of this one to rectify my, shall we say, lack of endowment. I like the print on this one, too. It's pink and green-ish. Pink and green? Hands down my two favorite colors. But sometimes Lilly is ULTIMO PRIMO PINK AND GREEN. And that's okay. But sometimes something a little softer works, too. Plus, when you're bored and wearing it, you can spend your time trying to find where the word "Lilly" is worked into the pattern--all Lilly prints have it. I have Lilly in all kinds of colors--one of my newest, which I got in a matching toddler dress for my niece, is navy and red and white and yellow. And really, with any Lilly dress, the obvious answer is to wear Jack Rogers. I went off the reservation on this one. For one thing, the last time I wore a pair for the entire day, I ended up with these huge blisters on the BOTTOMS of my feet. Instead, I'm breaking in my new Rainbows! Yay! I finally found a pair in size ladies' small. And I only had to go to the bookstore at Wake Forest University to do it!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dressed to Kill--Shopping in Your Own Closet : August 7, 2011

Several years ago at another blog I had...LiveJournal, maybe?...I had this thing where I posted a picture of what I was wearing every day, talked a little bit about it, and then talked about fashion in some way--fashion history, MY fashion history, some really nifty trend that was up and coming. And you know, I kinda miss it. If nothing else, it made me accountable. I mean, if you're posting a picture of yourself for all the world to see, it's not so cool to dress like a colorblind bum. So, we'll give it a whirl. It's summer, so I make no promises of awesome sartorial offerings, 'cause DAMN IT'S HOT.

So...shopping in your own closet. I'm going to tell a little story and hope against hope that I'm not the only one who does stuff like this. I have a lot of clothes. A LOT. And I think that because of this, I tend to lose sight of things. Literally. I am really bad about flipping all the way through and suddenly coming across something that got squished between two other somethings and going, "Holy SHIT! I forgot I had this AND IT'S AWESOME." For example...there are two closets in my room. One is a double closet that has built in organizer-type thingies. About a third is a full-length hanging bar, another third if drawers and shelves and the final third is two hanging bars on top of each other. The other closet is a single closet with shelves. And shoes. Lots and lots of shoes. Of all the traits I inherited from my grandmother, this is the most...well, it's just the MOST. I keep my shoes in either the original box or a plastic one, with a picture of the shoe taped on the end. Because I'm also a huge dork. Anyway, I usually push the shoes that are way out of season to the "second row", as it were. And then rotate them back to the front when they are more seasonally appropriate. Well, apparently, I must have gotten distracted during that process this spring. My sister has been in town visiting this past week and one day she needed a pair of shoes. I start digging. And realize that the next to the top shelf has A BUNCH of shoes in the back that I could have been wearing all summer! SCORE! It's like a whole new shoe wardrobe. That I didn't have to pay for. Okay, well, yeah...I DID pay for them at some point. But that point wasn't recent, so that's almost totally like FREE MONEY. One of the pairs I found is pictured at the top and they're an extra-special bonus, 'cause they originally cost $9.99 at Old Navy and were bought specifically to go with this dress from Anthropologie that the model in the catalogue wore with blue shoes (albeit Anthropologie blue shoes that cost almost $300, rather than....$9.99). I was so excited that I wore them today.



I also wore a hat. That was less a fashion choice than a "I got in from NYC last night at almost one and took a shower and collapsed with wet hair that I didn't even brush out" choice. I make this choice on occasion. Although the hat IS pretty rad. Control your shock. It's from Anthropologie. I saw it when it first arrived and fell in love. My mom has always said that I'm a person who looks good in hats. And I kinda love wearing them. Anyway, hat-love or no, I didn't see any sense in paying almost $60 for a hat, even a cute navy, straw cloche with a fuschia flower on the side, but when it was in the sale room for $19.99. Hells to the yeah, I was on that. The shirt is also from Anthropologie. It's kinda funny...I go in there a lot. I don't always buy, but the ladies in there know me pretty well. To the point that my favorite ones can pick out the things for which I AM going to outlay the cash. One of them told me that this shirt was one of those things that she KNEW I was going to buy. The only sad thing about this outfit is the pants. Oh, they're not sad in any way. I'm sad because they had them at Gap in three different colors and I only got the olive. Then the first time I wore them, I got a million compliments and when I went back to get the other colors, because, obviously--AWESOME PANTS--they were completely sold out in anything resembling my size. I also like that they are, at least in my opinion, omniseasonal. Yeah, the whole outfit is way more hippie than my usual explosion of Lilly-Vinyard Vines-Lacoste Super Prep, but we saw Hair last night and I'm still celebrating. 'Cause it was AH-MAH-ZING.

I bring joy to the people, dammit.

Since I am a cheerful and loving person and I live to make people happy (you can TOTALLY stop laughing), I thought I would tell you a few of the things that are happy-making in my world. Now mind you, I am a big humongous geek with a sick, sick sense of humor so don't, please, get your lady pants in a twist over anything I praise here that you might find...disturbing...offensive...sacreligous...sophomoric. I didn't say that it was all high art. I didn't say that ANY of it was ANY kind of art. Although I kinda think some of it is.

First, shall we discuss some websites and blogs that you shouldn't be missing? First, an oldie, but goody. And one that even talks about BOOKS and shit on occasion. It is Tomato Nation. I have followed this for more than a decade. The writer, Sarah Bunting, was one of the founders of the site TelevisionWithoutPity. There's a lot of pop culture. Book discussions. And the occasional serious piece that will blow you away. Her original piece on September 11, For Thou Art With Us is freaking GORGEOUS. Her subsequent (and still ongoing) search for her disaster buddy, Don, is riveting. Plus, this week she had a guest blogger do a review of the movie Camp. SCORE!

Another that I've followed since it's inception is Serial Drama, which is in theory, a soap opera blog, but also has hilarious recaps of True Blood. The soap stuff is heavy on the three ABC shows and won my heart because the writers display the same vitriolic rage towards the shows that I do. Most of it? Funny even if you don't watch soaps.

Everyday Should Be Saturday is, I think, bar none, the best college football blog around. It's AWESOME. It tends to be a tad SEC-centric. But the really do, considering that the main contributors all went to SEC schools, a great job of covering the fantastic, the disappointing and the absolutely, ri-fucking-diculous from AL conferences. It may take a while to catch all the running gags and references, but the commentariat is AMAZINGLY knowledgeable and articulate.

If you are not reading Hyperbole and a Half and we are friends in real life, you need to get on it. I don't want to have to cull you from my circle. There's a "Best of" column on the side of the page. Please do yourself the biggest favor EVER and click on "God of Cake." You can thank me later. After you laugh for an hour. When you have recovered and thanked, go click on "Dog". I would give these two blog entries the award for the funniest thing on the internet ever if it wasn't for my newest favorite The Bloggess. Please, please, please read her post on Beyonce. Not THAT Beyonce. It's epic. It went viral. It is the best thing ever.

Aaaaaand...if you're into Twitter, I follow some absolute hilarity, y'all. DeathStarPR is made of win ("Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Give an Emperor a DeathStar and no one on Alderaan is ever eating fish again."). FuriousFranklin is tweets from the extremely irate, undead Founding Father. He likes to call people (particularly, right now, the Tea Party)"eelfucker". I don't know why, but I find that to be hysterically funny. Lord_Voldemort7 is kinda like DeathStarPR, but, you know...Harry Potterish. Jesus_M_Christ is so, so wrong. But so, so good. DRUNKHULK is exactly what the name implies. Kids, especially little ones are funny as hell. Hence, preschoolgems. And finally, The West Wing obsession lives on in 140 characters of less! A couple of months ago, my friend, Taylor told me that all the characters from the late, lamented Studio 60 on the Sunset StripThe West Wing do, too. Only there's are WAY better. It's like being fed a plotline in little bits. They comment on real life political stuff but also write with the conceit that the SHOW is the real world. Sometimes the refer to the real world as the show. It's magnificent. OH! And Josh and Donna just had Baby #2 last week. ADORBS! In fact find them joshualyman and donnatella_moss, first and you can get all the other characters from there (including Gail the Fish!).

Have fun. Be careful. Don't talk to strangers.

Dear European Tourists...

Welcome to New York City! Thank you for bringing your Euros to our floundering economy. Times Square is super-neato, right? And it's fun to see Broadway shows!!!! Now, while I can see that it's easy to confuse THIS:



With THIS:



The former is your quaint European village. The latter is 8th Avenue. Please note that we, the indigenous population, prefer to move at something slightly quicker than a leisurely stroll--you know, the kind with your hands in your pockets and a cigarette dangling from your lips--when traversing the latter. It's no big. In fact, if you absolutely must stroll, have at it. We'd just appreciate if you didn't do it five abreast. It makes us want to stab and punch. So enjoy America. AND WALK FASTER, NUMBNUTS.

Love,
The Populace of the Tri-State

Monday, February 21, 2011

If I'm this miserable, it must be a holiday weekend...

Don't get me wrong. The big holidays? Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Independence Day? Love 'em. I do. It's these little ones, where the world still goes on full tilt with the holiday incorporated that make me want to kick people.

I'm pretty sure that this is a learned behavior. Specifically learned from my time spent on the Walt Disney World College Program. You see, on the big holidays--and I was there for both Easter and the Fourth--it's SO crazy that it's almost endearing. It was the little holidays--Memorial Day, President's Day, MLK--that make people act like they were raised by wolves. The problem with President's Day, especially, is that there really isn't anything festivity-like to attach to it. I guess when you're in elementary school you make an Abe Lincoln hat out of cardboard and talk about George Washington and the cherry tree. But after you're grown up? It's just a day where your kids don't have school and you don't have to work.

Which brings me to my point...since there's not any kind of local history program presentation like on MLK Day and it's too cold for a picnic, everyone goes shopping. Which is fine. I LIKE shopping. However, since the ladies in question also brought their husbands and offspring? SO NOT COOL. I'm guessing that most husbands don't really want to be in the grocery section of the local Target. Or the ladies' clothes section. Or the health and beauty section. The reason I guess this is because they are wandering aimlessly. They are standing smack in the middle of the aisle. They are staring at products they can't begin to understand. And you? What are you doing? You are discussing AT LENGTH with them, while they block all the aisles, no less, the merits of generic ibuprofen versus Advil. Why? Just...WHY??!?! (I'm not even gonna start on the obscene number of men who were shuffling around Anthropologie. If they don't want to be at Target, then I can assure you they don't want to be in a fancy ladies' clothing store.)

And then there's the kids. Lord love 'em, they had apparently all lost their mind. Apparently they were all very saddened to learn that George REALLY never chopped down that cherry tree, because more crying, screaming, tantrum throwing, I have never seen. And you will note that I already said I WORKED AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM. And I'm going to need absolution for this one: I see some little monster running around the store at Mach 12 and she's carrying an entire cup of quarters (Just come from the slots at Atlantic City?) And she falls over her untied shoelaces and quarters go EVERYWHERE. And I had to turn my cart down another aisle and laugh. So I'm going to hell.

So, here's to holiday weekends. Most especially the part where they're over.