Thursday, March 04, 2010

Before You Kiss Me You Should Know

Last night I had my first wedding-related stress dream.

I know I haven't been talking about the big nuptials much on here, but planning's going well. We have outfits, we have rings, we have a venue and a date, we have a band and a plan for homemade invitations that just might work. But now we're starting to get into the stuff that really freaks me out: Catering, and party vendors.

I should love the catering part of the planning - what do we love more than food? But the markup just makes me insane. As soon as I hear the word "caterer," I think of bland, reheated food that probably came from a restaurant supply store, yet somehow still costs more than my car. On the flipside, the only other thing I can imagine is super-fancy, super local food that only special people get to eat, and again, definitely costs more than my car (I'm picking on him, but he's a good, new-in-2006 ride). I'm suspicious of caterers, and I'm in complete doubt that we can feed our guests anything they'd actually want to eat.

And then there are the purveyors of tables, chairs, plates, glasses and the like. We've already all-but decided to BUY the sliverware from Ikea, because it's less expensive than renting. Seriously. Less expensive to buy 150 place settings than to rent them for a couple hours. It's baffling. And I'm scared.

I should share, Cam's totally taking the lead in both those areas because he knows how irrational I am about it. And he feels about jewelers like I feel about caterers, and I found us a place to get our wedding bands that he loved, so I believe it could happen with caterers (though not with party rentals. Come on.).

Still, I'm clearly agitated. Last night I dreamed that two hours before the wedding, I realized I'd completely forgotten to get a hair appointment. I freaked out, frantically called one place that couldn't fit me in, then spent what felt like eons trying to wrestle the number for Fantastic Sam's (what? I have NEVER been to a Fantastic Sam's. And do they do updos, really?) out of my phone. I kept trying to Google it, and hitting the wrong keys, then trying the voice recognition and it wouldn't work at all. It was silly, but you know how it goes - in the dream, incredibly stressful.

Let's hope the catering experience goes a bit more smoothly.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy 101

Lately I've been really warming to a blog called Rubies Place. It's the online home of a woman, Tina, who lives in Australia with her husband and three girls. She's got skills I can only ever hope to have in the realm of embroidery, knitting and sewing, and she's got a great eye for secondhand treasures that can be made new. And shortly, she's promised to post a tutorial for the fire-fearing (moi) on how to make over an inexpensive lampshade. She also gets a bit of the credit for the fact that my ancient Bernina is in the shop, getting a tune-up. I used to be really good at sewing... In home ec in middle school... We'll see how much I remember.

At any rate, she recently blogged the Happy 101 meme, and instead of tagging specific friends to follow her, she challenged all her readers to do it. It's simple - 10 things that make you grateful or happy. I've been in such a relatively rotten place for so long, I could certainly use an excuse to focus on the positive. So I'll give it a shot. I think this is my first meme!

1. My future husband, Cam. We're having such a ball planning our wedding together, and as the pieces fall into place, it really is emerging as a celebration that will look like us. And I cannot stress enough how amazing he's been through these 2+ (and ongoing) months with the mono. No matter how grouchy I get, no matter how much I complain, he meets my short temper with kindness and grace. Sometimes it makes me madder when he diffuses a situation - we both know I'm being ugly to provoke a fight and make everyone miserable, instead of just me - but he's right, of course, and he sets such a good example for me. And have I mentioned what an incredible cook he is? I am indeed a lucky girl.

2. and 3. Our monsters, Winston and Sweeney. I can hardly imagine two more entertaining pets. He's the most demanding creature I've ever met, and he'll do anything for a fix - a mash&bash session on someone's belly, preferably mine. He taught me to play fetch, and he can jump at least six feet in the air. She's the quieter soul, and she's a bit more discerning with her affection. But once you win Sweeney over, she's yours, winding around your legs and bringing her fishing pole to you for playtime. My favorite time with Sweeney is first thing in the morning, when she props her front paws up on our bed frame and stretches up to peek her head over the top of the mattress to say good morning.

Photo by Shannon Hibberd
3. My sister and brother in law. I'm beyond grateful for all my amazing friends and family, but I'll let these two represent the group. My sister, Enna, is one of the most sweet, considerate people I know, and she can talk to anyone anywhere, and they come away completely taken with her. She's thoughtful and determined, and wont to surprising her nearest and dearest with unexpected gifts. Her husband is one of the few people I know who can go toe-to-toe with her in terms of thoughtfulness, and I can hardly remember what my family was like before he joined it. He's essential, and I'm so grateful for them both.

4. The Atlantic ocean. Proximity to the ocean, and the fact it's always nearby. I know the Pacific's more beautiful, with its brilliant greens and blues, but I'll take the Atlantic any day. I'm grateful I grew up so near to it, I'm grateful my parents bought a beach house by it so we could visit again and again, and I'm grateful I now live just a few hours from it. I can't imagine ever living more than a half-day's drive from the Atlantic coast. In the game of "where would you rather live, the mountains or the beach?" I come up beach, every single time.

5. My job. My job, first and foremost, is the job I dreamed about when I left my university town after undergrad, 10 years ago. I came to DC with one goal in mind, and it hasn't disappointed. Sure, some days are terrible, and plenty of them are just OK, but some are absolutely unforgettable, like the one in the above picture. I took that picture, while I was working. Plus, my job makes so much possible, from the delicious food we love to cook to the incredible meals out, from the quick trips to the beach to our longer trips to California and Europe. Money can't buy you happiness, true, but it can make life a lot more fun.

...And for the last 5, some smaller-picture stuff.

6. The Internet. Sounds corny, but it's true! Keeping in touch with my friends, a billion recipes at a moment's notice, music and movies and news and entertainment galore. C'mon... You know you love it!

7. The 2010 Winter Olympics. The men's figure skating smackdown! Hockey! Shani Davis! Shaun White! I haven't paid such close attention to the Olympics in a while, and boy, was this a good one. Thanks, athletes!

8. New clothes. I don't shop a ton, but there are few things I enjoy quite so much as a small treasure trove of new clothes.

9. Dishwasher soap with phosphates. We use mostly Mrs. Meyers products in our home, and Trader Joe's laundry detergent, and try to tread fairly lightly. We tried some green dishwasher detergent, though, and boy does it suck! We're going back on the bad stuff as soon as we're through with it. Now I understand the cross-border smuggling out West.

10. Spring. Please, please get here soon!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Super Good Looking

This is in no way an official announcement of any sort... But I'm darn near ready for my swagger wagon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pure Style Challenge: Reinvent The Not-Quite Right

I've mentioned before how much I love interior designer Lauren Liess's blog, Pure Style Home. This year, she's taken on a great project: Each week, she challenges her readers to follow her in undertaking a home improvement project. One of the first she did was a coat closet makeover, and as soon as I saw her made-over closet, I was hooked. Mine now features the same look - basket on the top shelf, warmies corralled in an an over-the-door shoe organizer, and coordinated wood hangers. I haven't painted the inside yet... But it's not out of the question.

This week, the challenge is "Reinvent or freshen up something in your home that isn't quite right. {even if it's already beautiful}"

One of the few problem areas left in our home was the living room. We had a carpet in there that, while nice, just wasn't working. It's the Crate and Barrel Palmer rug, and we got it as a stopgap measure at an outlet store, knowing the size probably wasn't right.

It wasn't. The gap between the couch and the coffee table drove us nuts, and the navy blue showed absolutely every piece of lint and garbage. It needed vacuuming near-daily (OK, daily). Plus, it was constantly shedding threads, as if the cats were pulling them out, and left navy blue lint everywhere. Altogether a bad call.

When I read Lauren's challenge for the week, my mind went immediately to that wrong rug, and then, I found this guy on sale.

We've got a West Elm rug in another room, so we knew we liked their natural fibers and construction. I couldn't find it nearby, so I held my breath and ordered it online. It was delivered in 2 days, and we are so, so happy with it!

What do you think? Improvement? Functionally, absolutely - the 8x10 is the perfect size. And I think the color's a much better fit, and the weave is much more sophisticated than the old one. Thanks for the kick in the pants, Lauren - we love our new look!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Unexpected

Last night, I turned to my iPhone during itch-induced insomnia, and pulled up my blog to see if anyone had fresh updates for me to distract myself with. One of my favorites that hadn't been updated in a while, Decorated Life, had one, and I eagerly clicked over to see what was going on with Robin, a young interior decorator who I first heard about from her work at Domino.

To all those who follow Robin's blog,
I am Holly Sillau, Robin's mom. It pains me to write that my beautiful daughter passed away 3 weeks ago. Thank you to all of you for your support of Robin. She was a wonderful person and will live in my heart forever.

I was stunned, of course. I mean, I never knew her, never even commented on her blog. But I was taken with her style and her sense of humor. I Googled her a bit and it looked like she just got engaged, and had so much going for her, professionally. I wish her family and friends peace and comfort as they mourn this dynamic lady.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I have a somewhat... misleading habit of proclaiming this or that will "change your life." I try not to say it unless I truly believe it, but I've come to realize that my definition of life-changing doesn't necessarily match what might be recognized as the standard definition. Take this shelf:

About a year ago, I told Cam that we needed it for the cabinet above the stove, and assured him it'd change our lives. Of course, it doubled our storage (coffee mugs and tea, in our home, as opposed to canned goods), but the life-changing quality to which I was referring is that we don't have to take five things out to get what we need anymore - it has indeed simplified our lives. Change, right? Cam STILL makes fun of me for that one.

Tonight we're trying a dessert from a blog post titled "This Post Will Change Your Life" (and no, I didn't write it). This recipe made the rounds over the summer, and it couldn't be simpler. Chuck 2 or 3 frozen bananas in your food processor. Process for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides every so often. What you get is this:

Banana soft serve. I swear, it's absolutely amazing! As long as you like the taste of bananas, and I do, you'll love this. There's NOTHING IN IT BUT BANANAS. But it tastes like ice cream. We topped ours with a little hot fudge. Life-changing? Sure. In that in 5 minutes we went from having nothing for dessert to having something delicious for dessert. And that's good enough for me.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Let's Go Away For A While

We're going back! Back to our beautiful cottage on the ocean, in the tiny town on the barrier island where we don't know anyone, barely get cell service, and don't do much of anything.

It's paradise, pretty much. We eat, we drink, we cook, we fish, we walk, we read, we sleep. This year may be a little different, though, because I'm still off the sauce, thanks to my unwelcome companion, the mono. The mono is a tenacious virus, and I'm darn sick of it throwing its weight around. Since nothing's ever simple, the mono's wreaking havoc somewhere between my spleen and my liver, polluting my blood with all kinds of grody chemicals at crazy levels that furrow my doctor's brow and make me conjure doomsday scenarios when I try to fall asleep.

Oh, and sleeping? It's supposed to be a cinch with the mono, right? Not so here. For more than a week now, I've had the most oppressive full-body rash I've ever had. I itch all day long, every day, and am woken up every night (seriously, every night) by it. Some nights Cam and I can't even sleep in the same room, so agonizing is the scratching. My feet are the worst at night, and I've tried everything -- cortisone, Benadryl, oatmeal baths, Aveeno with and without menthol, scratching the sh** out of them, not scratching at all. The only thing that actually works is plunging my feet into ice-cold water and soaking them till they're numb. Then I can usually fall back asleep, but if my feet warm up before I pass out, forget it, we're back to square one.

Woo! That was ranty! Sorry, but it's really one of those things that's simple on its face, but boy does it wreck you. Face, yeah, that's another place I'm rashy, by the way. Anyway, I'm really hoping the mono's gone by the time we head East. I'm sure the sound of the ocean will make me feel better no matter what the mono's doing... But I'd also like to be able to share wine with my sweetie. Hoping that's not too much to ask.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pound Cake And Bull Neck

Right now I've got a pound cake baking in the oven, and instead of following the Smitten Kitchen recipe, or perhaps Jacques Pepin's, I went with the Pioneer Woman. Obviously, I'm sure Pepin and SK's recipes turn out beautiful, delicious cakes. But I'm clearly on some sort of Midwestern comfort food kick, and she's yet to steer me wrong, even if her recipe does include something called "Butter Flavoring."

Yup, Butter Flavoring, and Sprite. I thought I had lemon extract and I didn't, so I did fancy things up with some fresh lemon juice and zest, but otherwise I stuck to her plan. The batter tasted good, I can tell you that... Though, Cam pointed out that I maybe shouldn't be eating raw eggs with an impaired spleen. Touche.

In other news, mono blows. I should go ahead and give it its own tag, because I can tell you, it stinks. I'm tired, yes, and every day I have a slightly different version of yuck, with some symptoms in common. Every morning - literally every morning - when I wake up the first thing I do is touch the side of my neck, to see if the swelling my lymph node has eased at all. News flash, it hasn't. I was just reading that website I linked to above, and it said one of the symptoms is "bull neck" because of the swelling. I'm less symmetrical than my mental picture of "bull neck," but ever bit as unattractive.

Next up? The section on "Marriage and mono." Time to read about Marlene and Bob Parker* of Clearwater, Florida. I have so much to look forward to!

*Names changed to protect the germy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different!

I have mono!

Pucker up!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Forget Chicken Soup

Have you ever heard of funeral potatoes?

I had, because Cam's family is Mormon. But it wasn't till this past weekend that I actually got to try them. My beloved almost mother-in-law died Thursday from kidney cancer. We got less than a year with her after her diagnosis, and I'm still very much processing things. One thing is absolutely clear: We're all missing her like crazy, already.

But back to funeral potatoes, since food definitely equals comfort around here. After an incredibly emotional service Saturday, Cam's family's church held a private reception for family members, a place to decompress away from the well-wishers. I was really grateful for it, and there I got finally got to try the famous funeral potatoes. They're sort of like scalloped potatoes, but seem to have cream of chicken soup playing the role usually reserved for dairy. They were good. Comforting. And funny. "Funeral potatoes." Always feels good to laugh after lots of tears.

Cam and I volunteered to feed a crowd of his gathered family members Sunday night, and this recipe, for baked ziti, worked perfectly. It's a total cheat - bottled pasta sauce, combined with ricotta, mozzarella, and egg, mixed with mostly-cooked pasta (I prefer penne rigate to the de rigeur ziti), slopped into a baking dish and covered with parmesan. We doubled it, then froze it in foil pans. It bakes beautifully and easily, and is incredibly crowd pleasing. Good to have on hand, good to take to someone who needs a meal, just plain good.

Another crowd pleaser that takes just a bit more effort is this chicken sausage casserole. We commuted to Cam's family's home, where his mom spent her last weeks, frequently over the last month or so, and cooked for them whenever we could. We tended to arrive too late to do the cooking, but this recipe comes together so quickly that we made it work. And it smells heavenly because of the browning sausage. We used a rotisserie chicken and Jimmy Dean sage sausage, and added broccoli. Everyone loved it. So that's another one to tuck away in case you need that sort of thing. We tend to spend hours on complicated recipes that require tons of attention, and hope to do some more of that soon. But sometimes, quick, easy, hot, delicious and nourishing is the order of the day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Short On Thoughts

Probably this should just turn in to a cat blog. As in, my cat is making this face, my cat says, look how cute my cat is. (Both of them, obviously). Dooce does it so well, with the world-famous Chuck and sidekick crazy Coco. But why is it good? Because there's also a lot of, you know, CONTENT. Thoughts. Stories. Ideas. This blog's short on

INTERLUDE: "You're like, crazy fast typer. You just think things and they appear on the screen in front of you."

Thank you, Cam. Yet more evidence that there COULD be content, if only I had thoughts in my head. The fingers, they are more than capable of transmitting.

Yeah. So like I was saying, and, apparently, Cam was saying, this blog's short on thoughts and long on typing. But still... That, and cats, is what I got right now. So please enjoy Winston and Sweeney, aka Big and Little, loafing on the pull out couch, in winter half light.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

So Here's To The New Year

Hello, 2010.

In spite of everything, Christmas was wonderful this year. Someday, I may even write about it -- write write, though I'm not sure I could do it justice. Suffice it to say, the food was wonderful, the family was even better. And the gifts?

The gifts were pretty good too. We had incredible snow, just a week before Christmas, which we weathered, for the most part, at my parents' house. But because Cam and I drove Lucy over, we had an advantage over the masses of snowed-in shoppers.

We went to the mall, oh so carefully, and had the place to ourselves. Kinda cool. And then there was the undeniably hilarious injury of the season, sustained by yours truly. On Christmas Eve, I leaned down to place an armful of just-wrapped packages beneath the tree. And stabbed myself in the eye with a pine needle. It was late, and so absurd that after some "Owwww!"-ing, I shrugged it off, in spite of the redness and swelling. The next day, it was much worse. Very painful, swollen and red, and constantly tearing. I made it through Christmas morning, then hemmed and hawed, and called my doctor*. My Dad whisked me away to my appointment (Cam was just putting the finishing touches on his family's prime rib roast dinner, I couldn't ask him to leave), which could not have gone more quickly or smoothly. Scratched cornea, check! And I got a swine flu vaccination, too! Then home to my parents' for more Christmas. It healed pretty quickly, and I had a great time explaining my injury to anyone who'd listen.

And, oh yeah, I tried on wedding dresses! I think I've got it, in one trip. Pretty neat.

So here's to the new year. It's not going to be an easy one, but I'm hoping to embrace this amazing song. Well, let's explain it thusly.

2009 has been a year of the best and the worst, literally. You may know, if you're a close reader or friend, that I got engaged. I could not be more thrilled about that. Unfortunately, on the flip side, there's been some equally bad news. It's all swirled up to make 2009 of those years I'm not sure how to address -- "Good riddance" isn't right, but neither is "Best year ever!" So, instead of trying to label it with a blanket sentiment, I'm instead carrying Grant-Lee Phillips' indomitable song, "Strangest Thing" and its unbridled optimism with me into 2010.

Strangest thing

Days I feel like dirt

And then I see the diamond dust on everything

Strangest thing

Something plucked my nerve

And then I hear 100 chords a-shimmering

It gives me hope ("hope can hide behind the walls of anything"), and I hope it does the same for you. Happy New Year.