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Perhaps you are looking for some last-minute Christmas gifts? Or maybe you just like reading about what other people enjoy. In either case, here are some things that I am loving lately (and just to be clear, I am not getting ANYTHING in return for recommending any of these; I either bought them myself or received them as gifts):

Chef’n ZipStrip Herb Zipper

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Photo from surlatable.com

Okay, I didn’t realize this had such a ridiculous name. But it’s awesome. I got a bunch for people as stocking stuffers last year – including myself – and I use it ALL the time. It’s on sale for $6.36 at Sur La Table, if you have any people who like to cook on your Christmas list. 

Anthurium Plant

 

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Photo from homedepot.com

This summer, I was looking for a red lamp to add to my new office and I could not for the life of me find one I liked. But I DID find a really pretty plant with red leaf-like flowers (in a red ceramic pot) at my local Home Depot. I know, a plant does not have the same functionality as a lamp. But if you think of the lamp as more of an accessory, you will see how the plant fit the bill. ANYWAY. It is an anthurium plant, which seems to be a type of orchid. And it’s super easy to care for: I just put a few ice cubes in it each Monday and it remains lovely and shiny all week long. If you have someone in your life who isn’t great at caring for plants but who loves them AND has easy access to ice cubes, this could be the perfect gift. Okay, I am giving the Home Depot site the side-eye because I did NOT pay $32.99 for my anthurium. I can’t imagine paying any more than $15 for it. Maybe $20. I kind of want to dig through my old receipts just to prove it. Perhaps it is seasonally more expensive. If so, it would make an excellent Christmas in July gift.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling

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Photo from kvintners.com

Riesling is my favorite type of white wine. My mantra used to be, the sweeter, the better. But my palate might be changing or maturing or something (unlikely) and I have gravitated to drier wines of late. Kung Fu Girl is my current go-to. It’s probably what I would call semi-dry, so there is a hint of sweetness there. But it’s crisp and clean and also, bonus, I can usually find it for $10.99 at my local grocery store. I’ve also seen it at World Market, if you have one near you.

Lands’ End Shimmer Down Long Coat

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Photo from landsend.com

We live in an area of the country whose winters include snow and cold temperatures. And I happen to possess the variety of child who loves snow more than anything in life. So last year, my husband bought me a down coat from Lands’ End.  It was longer than I wanted it to be – it came all the way down to the tops of my boots (also from Lands’ End). And I felt like a marshmallow. BUT. It is AMAZING. I can be wearing a t-shirt-weight shirt and jeans, and as long as I have that coat on, I feel NOTHING. I can play in the snow with Carla for hours (or until her face is red and I have to drag her inside). I can even lie down in the snow and make snow angels and feel NOTHING. It’s truly the best. And Lands’ End has really good sales on a regular basis. It’s a bit pricy at $199, but if you get a code for 40% off, you’re looking at a much more reasonable $119 for a really great, really warm coat. Oh. I just now “got” why it’s called “Shimmer Down.” I say “got” because you CAN make a pun on “simmer down” just because the coat is made of down doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

UGG Tasman Genuine Shearling Gloves

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Photo from amazon.com

Speaking of warm, these gloves are the softest, fuzziest, warmest gloves ever. Obviously, you can’t text with them on or anything. But I find they are perfect for driving before your car’s heater has kicked in. Or for, you know, being outside in general. They are pricey, at $140, but I looooooove mine so I think they might be worth it.

Bedford Cottage Eskimo Throw

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Photo from bedfordcottage.com

Perhaps you can tell that it is only 15 degrees here, based on these last three items. Well, I am in love with this faux fur throw, which is currently draped over my legs. It’s super soft and warm, but I also love it because it looks like it belongs on a chaise longue in some fancy catalog and makes me feel like the type of person you might refer to as “stylish” and “put together” and less like the type of person whose living room has seventy five Amazon boxes stacked in one corner and a bright blue toddler-height table with red, green, and yellow chairs in another corner and a giant bear from Costco behind the couch and the detritus of a Doc McStuffins vet station scattered across the hearth and pieces of a menorah puzzle strewn like tiny land mines about the carpet. You can buy it via the link above for $149, which I did not; I got it as a gift. But it’s possibly that you could find it elsewhere for less.

Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp 1.7-Liter Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Kettle

 

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Photo from amazon.com

I drink tea every day, and this water boiler has made it very very very simple. Just fill and press a button. And there are all sorts of temperature variations, so you can set it to the proper temperature for green tea… or black tea… or oolong… or whatever.  My husband – a coffee drinker – uses it too; on weekend for pour-over coffee. I really like that it maintains a specific temperature, too – just in case a toddler suddenly urgently needs you to come help her find proper socks. It cost $73?!?! Sheesh. That seems… excessive. Although it DOES do a nice job. And I really have no concept for how much these things do/should cost. 

Carole Hochman Ladies’ 3 Pair Ribbed Lounge Sock

 

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Photo from costco.com

I grabbed a three-pack of these socks at Costco the last time we were there (what’s a trip to Costco without grabbing something that you simultaneously NEED URGENTLY and also had no idea you needed/didn’t need at all?) and they are sooooo soft and warm and cozy. They don’t look like much from the picture, but they are cushy and plush and I love them. Also: $5.99.

Laura Mercier Hand Crème Sampler

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Photo from amazon.com

Well, crud. I see this is either $51 through Amazon or not available. My husband got it for me last Christmas, and it was a PERFECT stocking stuffer. I wash my hands a bajillion times a day, so they get very dry. And there’s nothing less appealing than that powdery feeling of dry skin – well, I suppose cracked and bleeding finger webs are less appealing. I think it was, at one point, around $30 at Nordstrom. (And, keeping in mind that each of us is comfortable paying certain amounts for certain things and not for others, I find that $30 seems just on the high side of reasonable while $51 has me shaking my head emphatically NO.) I have just in the past month squeezed the very last glob of lotion from the very last sample and I would enjoy getting this again and again each year. Also, if you don’t want to gift someone ALL of the little lotions, you could certainly open up the box and give one sample to multiple people. Including, perhaps, yourself. Of course, all this is MOOT because it No Longer Exists. But I’m sure there are many other good hand lotion sets in the world.

Scrivener

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Photo from literatureandlatte.com

This may be a bit of a niche idea, but as a (would-be/trying-to-be/hopes-to-be) writer, I use this every single day. I never thought that I would like a writing platform more than I do plain old Microsoft Word. But I LOVE Scrivener. It’s very intuitive and user friendly AND it has a very simple tutorial on how to use it, just in case. It makes putting together your novel (or screenplay, I imagine) very simple. No more scrolling down in a long document, or opening multiple documents. You just create a new chapter or chapter-part inside an outline, and then you can move parts and pieces around with the flick of your mouse, OR read your entire manuscript in one flowing document. Plus, it allows you to assign (and customize) keywords to each bit of text, from which characters show up to things you need to research to plot points and dates – which you can then use to help you organize the manuscript in different ways, like, you can see at one glance every chapter featuring your villain. It’s fabulous and it’s only $45 and I love it so. If only it could do the writing for me…

Matymats Grippy Yoga Socks and Stargoods Yoga Gloves 

Photos from amazon.com

I have newly taken on yoga as part of my at-home exercise routine. Which means I have newly discovered that my feet and palms sweat when I do yoga. What can I say. The body is a mysterious wonderland. These socks and gloves help A LOT. No more sliding around while I’m trying to do downward facing dog or a triangle pose or other horrific contortion of limbs that my body is clearly not meant to perform. Both are about $15, but both come with multiple pairs of socks/gloves, which means I can match them to my sports bra. (No.)

 

Good luck with any last-minute shopping you are doing!

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Well, now that the World Series is over, I can refocus all of my Sports Stress on the election. It’s like a stress sandwich, with nothing delicious in the middle. So yay. Here are some random things, from my tired brain:

  • I went to Target the other day, and the cashier totally Kristen Wiiged me during check-out. “What’s ‘Thai sweet chili sauce’? Is it spicy?” and then, “Well, I KNOW sriracha is spicy!” and, “Looks like someone is going to be a princess for Halloween!” and, “Love that color nail polish!” and, “Oooh, what’s this? A top coat? And you have coupons for both!” I don’t have a problem chit chatting with the cashier, and I am sure it is DELIGHTFUL to see the variety of things that strangers buy each day, but it was mildly uncomfortable to have her COMMENT on it.
screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-8-39-28-am

Screen shot from nbc.com

  • One thing the Target Lady did NOT comment on? My taco shells. I bought two boxes and all but SEVEN SHELLS were broken.
taco-shells

WTF? Did someone at the store shake the box as hard as possible?

Carla actually EATS tacos, so we have them at least once a week. And I have never — NEVER — seen such a thing. I mean, in the one box, not a SINGLE SHELL was whole.

Well, I can bright-side my way to nachos for lunch, at least.

  • Halloween was SO FUN this year. Carla is at the perfect age, I think. She got really excited about dressing up (so much so that the hours between the end of her school day and six o’clock when trick-or-treating began took forever) and she was really pumped up by the idea of candy. She understood the concept of going up to people’s doors and holding out her little pumpkin. She didn’t really succeed in saying “trick or treat,” but she DID say “thank you,” so there’s that.

One thing I loved was that she would rummage around in people’s candy dishes, searching for the Perfect Candy. And some of them would helpfully choose something for her, and she would shake her head and say, “No, I have that already.” It was kind of adorable. Also a little bit embarrassing, but I’m choosing to believe that people felt more charmed than annoyed.

We made it all the way down one side of our block before she decided that she needed candy NOW. Instead of going up to the door, she sat down smack in the middle of one our neighbors’ driveway and started searching through her pumpkin to find something. To prod her along, I pulled out a bag of M&Ms and fed her one at a time after each house, kind of like training a puppy to heel. So she would dutifully march up to the door, collect her candy, and then turn around and open her mouth like a baby bird eager for a worm. We went through a bag of M&Ms and one roll of Smarties.

Our neighbors were so kind and generous. We have a great block, and most of the homes had full-size candies. And one of our neighbors was HIDING the good candy for the kids she recognized from our block, so when Carla finally made it to her house, she invited us in and gave Carla three full-size items. It was just so sweet. It made me feel giddy with the goodness of human kind.

  • The one negative moment this Halloween was a comment that I got about Carla’s costume, from someone who knows us well. Carla was a princess this year; last year she was a superhero. She chose both costumes, without input from me or my husband. Just, last year she was really into the superhero, so she wanted to dress up like that particular superhero, and this year she really wanted to be the princess.

Anyway, when Carla told this person what she was going as for Halloween, the person turned to me and said, “It’s nice that she’s interested in more feminine things.”

I mean.

First of all, gross. Second of all, what? Thirdly, REALLY?! Fourthly, why is anyone evaluating anything about the costume choices of a three-year-old? Fifthly, it makes me mad because – for a minute – it made me want to rip the princess costume off of Carla and dress her up like a lumberjack complete with beard and muscles (ALTHOUGH A LUMBERJACK COULD BE A PERFECLTY FEMININE PERSON TOO OMG) just for spite, and then THAT makes me mad because why? Why shouldn’t I just be delighted by whatever Carla wants to pretend to be, whether it’s a firefighter or a dragonfly or a ballerina or a freaking bowling ball.  Why should some stupid comment make me want her to be or feel or do anything other than what she wants? WAY TO RUIN HALLOWEEN, PERSON.

I don’t even care to unpack all that upsets me about that comment, or why it’s so gross and demeaning, or how it’s a symptom of a larger, more insidious problem in society, or how sad it makes me feel that Carla is going to have to face crap like this her whole life.

So I’m going to write it down here and be done with it and move on.

DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS.

  • My husband carved a cat pumpkin this year. That was fun. When it was dark outside, and the cat silhouette was back lit by the little flameless candles I put inside, it garnered a lot of compliments from trick or treaters. Carla and I did the messy part, taking the top off and scooping out all the guts and seeds. Then I roasted the seeds. Carla did not care for the seeds. My husband was eating some later in the week, and I overheard Carla say, “WHY do you like those Daddy?”

Pumpkin cat.JPG

  • Now that Halloween is over, I suppose I have to put away my Halloween decorations. I am not particularly good at decorating for holidays, but I really come through for Halloween and Christmas. I have some cats on pumpkins that I love, and a cool ghost, and a little ghost family for the bathroom. And this year I also found (at Target) a bunch of inexpensive multi-colored pumpkins with glitter stripes and polka dots. There are other things, too. I don’t really feel ready to put all the stuff away yet. Maybe this weekend.
  • I love how so many people go All Out with their Halloween decorations: zombies and ghosts and witches hanging out in their yards, pumpkin path lights, spiderwebs overtaking their shrubbery, graveyards sprouting from their lawns. I love it. Carla and I went for a walk a couple of weeks back and found a street where nearly every house had Halloween decorations, and it was so fun to point them out and discuss them together. I think it also went a long way toward making the holiday fun for Carla rather than scary. She seemed delighted by one neighbor’s human-size trio of glow-eyed witches and by another’s mechanized skull hanging from a tree. I’m glad it doesn’t freak her out.
  • I suppose now that I have to get rid of Halloween decorations, I can concentrate on Thanksgiving décor… But I don’t really HAVE any Thanksgiving stuff, aside from a fall-themed runner and maybe a non-jack-o-lantern pumpkin that I can keep using. I’m not sure what I WANT, in terms of Thanksgiving décor. But I really WANT it. Do you have any Thanksgiving or fall-type décor that you just love? Why can’t I stop typing décor?
  • And that makes me feel all giddy about Thanksgiving! I love this holiday! I can’t wait to pull out my Detailed Thanksgiving Timeline and start preparing for the meal. My parents are coming out for Thanksgiving this year, which should be super fun. I wonder if Carla will eat ANYTHING?
  • Of course, thinking about Thanksgiving gets me all excited about Christmas and Hanukkah, which I bet are going to be FANTASTIC, Carla-wise, this year. She is really going to “get” the whole idea of Santa Claus and I know she loved lighting the menorah last year, so it will be even more interesting this year. I think she’ll be able to look forward to things in a way she hasn’t before. SO FUN. I have some tentative gifts picked out for a few people, but now I can start gift-hunting in earnest. I also really want to get a tiny tree and some Christmas window clings for Carla’s room – she loved having her own Halloween decorations, so I think she’ll really enjoy Christmas ones, too. I have already put on the calendar our local Christmas tree lighting and food bank donation day, as well as our local menorah lighting. Maybe we will try to do a Santa Claus visit this year, too, if Carla is up for it. So those are fun things to look forward to.
  • Speaking of gifts (which I was, a while ago), my father-in-law AND father both have Major Birthdays this year. My father-in-law is first. And I am wondering, what the hell do you get to commemorate a major birthday for men who have EVERYTHING? Everything I think of seems either lame or completely out of the realm of possibility. Ideas? Anyone?
  • It’s a little hard to imagine Christmas with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. I mean, we’ve been sleeping with the windows open and it’s NOVEMBER. On the one hand, this is awesome and I don’t want to waste it. On the other hand, I really want to wear the new vest and boots I bought, and I have a bunch of cute sweaters that aren’t being worn. So get with it, Actual Fall. At least the trees are super beautiful.
  • It’s so hard to believe that this nice weather is actually happening that I haven’t really been taking FULL advantage of the warmth. When it’s not raining, that is. I feel like I should be going for long walks outside with Carla. We have gone to the playground, a LOT, so that’s good. And she’s been playing in the back yard a bit, which is great. Okay, I suppose we also decorated pumpkins outside, and we’ve done chalk drawings on the driveway, and we did our Halloween Decoration Tour. So we’re not completely failing. But I kind of feel like I should go full on It’s Still Summertime, and put the patio cushions back out and fire up the grill more often. My parents got me a meat grinder for last Christmas, and so far I’ve only been using it to make ground beef for tacos and chili.

Freshly ground meat is SO GOOD. But the clean up is a little gross.

When really the BEST use would be for hamburgers. I think what’s holding me back is that it’s usually so dark by the time my husband gets home, that grilling isn’t particularly pleasant. We have a light on the grill, but it’s not particularly useful. Hmmm. Perhaps a really powerful, useful grill light would be a good candidate for a Christmas present??

All right, Internet. That’s all I have for today. What’s going on with you?

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So I was on vacation. It was wonderful but now I am tired. Here, have an alligator:

A small gator is still a gator.

I really miss blogging. As in, writing blog posts. And reading OTHER PEOPLE’S blog posts. Especially yours.

Anyway. Randomosity is a good re-entry into posting. For me, at least. For you, probably not so much. But I GAVE YOU AN ALLIGATOR so get off my back already.

* During my vacation, I somehow fell into a wormhole of books about Russia. It started with Child 44 which I got from my husband for my birthday. It was soooo dark and horrible and fascinating that I had to IMMEDIATELY, while I was in Florida at my in-laws’ house, Amazon Prime myself the next book in the series. (The Secret Speech.) And I really really REALLY wish I had also ordered Agent 6, which is the THIRD book in the series. But instead I also Amazon Primed myself the second in ANOTHER mystery/crime/thriller series (the Sweden-based Henning Mankell series starring Kurt Wallander) called The Dogs of Riga which, well, it didn’t have do with RUSSIA but it did have to do with LATVIA and continued the theme of Stalinist-era culture. And THEN I read Snowdrops, which was about modern-day Russia and the lasting effects of the Stalinist era.

Of the four, Child 44  was the best. Closely followed by The Secret Speech and then Snowdrops. I was disappointed in The Dogs of Riga. Namely because the author/translator felt the need to keep talking about how “the dogs” (in Riga, obvs) were after the main character and other characters, as though to really drive home the fact that the title was chosen for a Serious Reason.  Seriously. Every chapter after Wallander got to Riga mentioned the dogs. Sometimes there were dog mentions multiple times per page.  I GET IT. These are the Dogs of Riga. STOP BASHING ME OVER THE HEAD WITH IT.

(The dogs are not actual canines, you know. They are the villains in the book.)

* Is it clear that I spent large portions of my vacation reading?

But I have a problem, Internet. When I want to read a book, I want to read it NOW. I was about 100 pages from being done with Child 44 when I noticed that it was nearly over (WOE!) and I’d be out of fascinating Stalinist-era reading before I knew it. So my husband and I went to Barnes & Noble.

Listen, I could write 10 bazillion words about the GLARING differences between my husband and me when it comes to books and book buying and book choosing and book reading. But I will spare you all that and just say: he is a price comparison kind of guy where I am an “if I want it and the price isn’t unreasonable, I will buy it” kind of gal. I guess this isn’t specific to books. But what I’m saying is, I wanted to buy The Secret Speech. At Barnes & Noble. Which is why we went there.

But my husband – who knew all this, and still drove me to Barnes & Noble for the PURPOSE of buying The Secret Speech – did not allow me to buy The Secret Speech at Barnes & Noble. (Note: I don’t mean “did not allow” as in he FORBADE me to do things. He’s not so much into forbidding me to do stuff.  I mean it as, he advocated against buying it there and, partly in the name of marital harmony, but mostly in the name of I hadn’t yet finished Child 44, I went along with his plan instead of just buying the damn book. At the Barnes & Noble. In which we were standing. BECAUSE WE’D GONE THERE TO BUY THE BOOK IN QUESTION.) Instead, he pointed out that we could order it much more cheaply online, and with Amazon Prime, not only would we get free shipping, we’d also get the book in two days.

Fine. I get it. Saving a buck blah blah blah. BUT WHY DID WE HAVE TO GO TO BARNES & NOBLE THEN?

* We went to the beach one night to see the sun set over the ocean. I unwisely decided I needed to dip my toes in the ocean while my husband took photos with his camera (mostly amazing) and I took photos with my camera (mostly blurry) of the beautiful clouds rolling in.

It rained, so we sat in the car for most of the pre-sunset time. (I mainly spent that time trying vainly to brush sand off my feet so I wouldn’t get sand in my father-in-law’s car. I failed. Which is why I am very thankful for dustbusters.)

Anyway, it was raining and I had my camera all dressed up with nowhere to go, so I took a photo of the raindrops on the car window with the macro setting of my camera. See?

Ooh. Aaaah.

And another raindrop photo – this one with a palm tree in the background:

The rain did let up right in time for the sun to slip into the ocean in a wonderful photo-op-tastic way.

* What’s the opposite of the beach at sunset? Snow and fog in the mountains!

* That Zooey Deschanel show on Fox, The New Girl? I find it quite charming. But the theme song will NOT get out of my head.

And it’s not the whole theme song, either. It’s just the beginning. The “Hey, girl… Whatcha doin’?” part. Over and over and over. It is making me want to punch things.

Also, whenever I watch that show I feel an uncontrollable urge to get bangs.

* Have I blathered on sufficiently long enough to talk about the bug now? We have had a few of these bugs in our house:

OMG IT IS SO GROSS. (Picture not to scale, dear god no.)

Do you know what kind of bug that is? It’s horrifying, obviously. But, like, its name? Or how to make sure I never see another one ever again?

* Speaking of bugs, a giant, pudgy brown flying thing just helicoptered past my window. Outside, at least. But dude: What the eff is that?

And now there is a big swarm of bugs circling the tree in the back yard. I AM NOT READY FOR THIS. IT IS MARCH.

* You know what eats bugs? A turtle.

That is totally a turtle. I promise.

I could really use a turtle around here right now.

* It’s possible I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a tendency to get hooked on specific foods. As in, I get so obsessed with them, I eat them every day and I crave them constantly. My current addiction is wedge salads. There is something so intoxicating about a half-head of cool iceberg lettuce luxuriating in a lazy river of creamy parmesan ranch dressing, bejeweled with rings of soft pink shallot and squares of crisp, salty bacon. I have been eating about five heads of lettuce a week. And much bacon. MUCH BACON.

* Did my use of the word “luxuriating” make you think of Toddlers and Tiaras? No? Just me, then?

* The second best thing about the wedge salads (the first best thing being the salads themselves) is that I now have a nice steady supply of bacon fat in my fridge.

Do you think that’s weird? I mentioned it in the company of several people a few weeks ago, and some of them gave me the “she needs to be institutionalized” face.

I don’t think it’s weird. I think it’s WONDERFUL. Bacon fat can enrich so many things! I get all drool-faced when I think about how rich and velvety my onion soup is going to be. Once I get over my wedge salad fixation long enough to make some onion soup, that is.

I have used the bacon fat to make lentil soup, however.   I’ve been recently obsessed with lentil soup, too. Lentil soup and wedge salads. I think that’s all I ate for a couple of weeks.

* I have finally found a reliable makeup remover. I don’t really wear a lot of makeup.  Just a little blush and some mascara; eyeliner and lip gloss if I’m feeling fancy. But I have the HARDEST time getting the mascara off my stupid lashes. For pale stumpy things, they sure get a good grip on the mascara.

The makeup remover in question? Those Neutrogena face wipes that Jennifer Garner is promoting all over the teevee. I didn’t hear about them from JGarn, though. I am pretty sure I heard about them from the Internet – maybe from you? – because I get about 98% of my info from the Internet.

Anyway: these suckers work. At least on stubborn mascara.

* Last week, for the first time ever, I went snow shoeing.

(Those are snow shoe tracks.) (And a tree.)


I don’t know what I expected, but it was a lot like walking.

* I suppose I should clarify that my vacation was two weeks long. We spent the first week in Florida. We spent the second in Montana. Probably I should have mentioned that earlier.

* If you are a) married or b) not married, you will likely already know this. But going on vacation can be really good for a marriage. It was SO FUN to just… hang out with my husband. I mean, our parents were around for a lot of the hanging out, which was great. But we also got to do fun stuff alone together. And eat delicious food together. And brave far too many flights together. And go skiing and snow shoeing and alligatoring together. And just enjoy each other without the specter of Work and The Hospital and Household Chores looming over us. My husband is pretty fun to hang out with, you know.

* Also, we watched the entire first season of Downton Abbey and most of the first season of Game of Thrones together. There is really nothing that brings a couple together like World-War-I-era British society drama and some fantastical intrigue.

* Can we talk about the gators?  My in-laws live in a gated community on a golf course. And the golf course abuts a pond of some sort. And there are LIVE WILD GATORS in the pondthing. GatorS as in Multiple Carnivorous Reptiles.

If you look closely at the left side of the water, you'll see TWO GATORS. They may look lazy, but they will bite you.

This is crazy, Internet. And yet, my in-laws have all these gators that just lounge near the golf course. Within simple slithering distance of golfers’ legs.

See! The top one is ACTIVELY BITING YOU! (Or cooling himself. Whatever. I'm not a scientist.)

The reason I have these photos? Is because we took our daily constitutional on a path that goes right next to the gator pondthing.  And I had my camera because the gators were there EVERY DAY and I knew to expect them.

How is this… okay? How do the people in my in-laws’ development not constantly fall victim to hungry gators? HOW?

* My husband and his parents were very nonchalant about the gators. TOO nonchalant, in my opinion.  Yes, I come from a part of the country where bears and wolves and cougars roam wild. So I get that The Wild is full of Wild Creatures, and that humans can totally co-exist with scary vicious animals who will for the most part leave you alone if you leave them alone.

But it’s not like there’s a field near my parents’ house that just has BEARS MILLING AROUND or anything. It’s not like my dad goes out to water the lawn and there are wolves taking a nap behind the shrubbery and he’s all “lah dee dah, wolves, whatever.” My mom doesn’t hear about a copse of trees that’s hosting a cougar family and purposely walk past it each day in order to get some sunshine and exercise.

No. If there are bears or wolves or cougars anywhere in the vicinity, they STEER CLEAR.

Are gators that different from bears and wolves and cougars? NOT TO MY KNOWLEDGE.

* I told Kristina about these the other day.

They have lemon curd INSIDE them!

They are the beautiful and delicious lemon-filled cupcakes I made for the Super Bowl. Yes, I realize the Super Bowl took place over a month ago.  Errr… nearly two months ago. Nonetheless.

We had about ten people over for the Super Bowl party. Not a single person ate a cupcake.

Which means that I ate them all.

(Not ALL. There are four sitting in a container in the freezer, waiting for me to remember to take one out to defrost it BEFORE I am in the mood for a cupcake.)

(To be fair, we had a LOT of food at our Super Bowl party. And we had a LOT of desserts. As in, my husband made brownies and two flavors of homemade ice cream AND one of our guests brought an ice cream cake. So my beautiful cupcakes didn’t really stand a chance.)

* Have you seen those toilet paper commercials about the “backup roll”? The whole point of the commercial – other than to sell toilet paper, I imagine – is to push this little decorative toilet paper cozy (cosie? cozie?) that holds the backup roll. Or may the commercial is selling the decorative cozy? I don’t really know. I just know that backup rolls are important. Not important enough for me to buy or want a toilet paper cozy, mind you. But important. There is NOTHING WORSE than not having a backup roll. It’s either a problem NOW or it’s a problem LATER when you’ve skipped into the bathroom without remembering that you ran out last time.

That’s why I try to convince my husband that we need more toilet paper every time we go to Target. My goal is to have 50 rolls under every cabinet in every bathroom at all times. A sort of Extreme Couponers stockpile under all my sinks.

Yep. I think I’m ending there. On backup toilet paper.

This may be the most random thing I’ve ever written.

[Do I have to say this? I bought all the Neutrogena wipes/Stalinist-era novels/toilet paper/cupcake materials/Amazon Prime memberships mentioned in this post with my own money because I wanted to. I am not being compensated for talking about them. And all the opinions expressed here are my own. But please: feel free to send me all the makeup removal products or mystery books or cupcake paraphernalia you want. I would totally love that.]

[Also, you should probably know that the best photos in this post were taken by my husband.]

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Oh my gosh, hello! How wonderful to see you!

I wasn’t expecting company today – thank you so much for stopping by!

Would you like to come in? The place is kind of a mess these days, but at least it’s warm.

Hungry? I can’t eat sweets, but I’d love to watch you eat my favorite cupcake of all time.

Lemonlicious. I am so going to eat 10,000 of these bad boys in February.

No? You just ate? Well, you have admirable self control my friend.

But I feel like I’m failing at my hostess duties if I can’t force you into consuming something. Can I get you a drink? I may have a strawberry Bellini lying around.

Mmm. Bellini-y.

There. That’s better.

Now that you’re nice and liquored up, can I get your opinion on something?

Please, let’s head into the living room. Right this way.

That's not our furniture. Or our clock. Or our giant TV. Or our freshly vacuumed floors.

Let’s talk about my fireplace.

I know. The dark green wall has GOT to go.

It’s a bit too tall for us to reach though – even with our extension ladder. (Although my husband has the brilliant/terrifying idea to set the ladder on the hearth and very carefully paint the tippy top of the ceiling. Yeah. No thanks.)

But don’t worry – we’ll figure SOMETHING out!

And we’ve already got the replacement paint color picked out. It’s called “Hinting Blue” from Sherwin Williams.

Oooh! Aaaaaah! The caption is twice as big as the swatch!

 

But let’s try to ignore the wall and focus on the fireplace.

Still not our furniture or giant clock. Man. The clock and the TV make the fireplace seem much less huge than it is. Perhaps I need to invest in a giant clock?

It’s lovely. But… it’s kind of hideous.

I mean, it’s SO HUGE. And so very… bricky.

If I had magical powers, I would paint the brick and mantle white, I’d add tall light-giving windows to either side of the fireplace – like this or this – and I’d find a classy way to mount a (bigger than our actual TV) flat screen TV above the mantle.

CLASSY, I said.

No, I really think it can be done in a classy way.

Okay, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Anyway, since I am neither a successful coke dealer nor the inventor of actual Coke, the windows will have to wait.

Unless you have a brilliant and cost-effective way to insert windows into the side of a house?

No?

Too bad.

But I do still have dreams about painting the entire fireplace white.

What’s that?

No, I have no idea how to paint wood OR brick.

But! I have been pinning a lot of white fireplaces on Pinterest! Didn’t you know that if you pin enough images that you unlock a level where little robots climb out of your computer and do your every bidding?

I’m thinking that I can get away with just painting the mantle. You know, if I can figure out how to do that.  I’m envisioning a result like this.

Of course, our fireplace doesn’t have that same kind of fancy wood surround.

Those knick knacks are mine. Don't you love the artfully casual way they are strewn about the mantle and the hearth?

Sigh.

Maybe it will look less awful once the green paint is a distant memory?

What’s that?

Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you for saying it isn’t that bad. I know one girl’s ugly fireplace is another girl’s beautiful focal point. I just need to find an easy, cost-effective way to DO THAT.

Well, it looks as though you’ve finished your drink. And I really should get back to work. Shall I show you out?

If you have any thoughts about what to do with this monstrosity, or any ideas for general fireplace sprucing, give me a ring.

It was lovely to see you. Thanks for stopping by! You are welcome in my home any time!

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The last time I let you inside my apartment, you really seemed to like it.

And I’m nothing if not accommodating and/or conscious of your voyeuristic needs, Internet!

(Also, am stretched beyond my limits and have no time to write deep, insightful blog posts.)

So today I invite you to take a peek inside my bedroom.

Internet, allow me to introduce you to my bedside table. Otherwise known as a night stand.  Or Additional Book Shelving, clearly.

This is the view I have of my bedside table when I am sleeping. Or, you know, just lying there. Because if I WERE sleeping, I wouldn’t see anything except the inside of my own eyelids and possibly a shirtless Tim Riggins making me cheesecake. (Man, I WISH I dreamed about Tim Riggins. Or cheesecake.)

There’s my nice IKEA lamp on the left there… My Giant Stack O’Books… The little heart-shaped picture of me and my husband… The photo of my mom as a child… And the little Portuguese jewelry dish my husband brought me from, well, Portugal (what, did you expect me to say Thailand?). (Also, why does the word “Portuguese” have two Us in it?)

Of course, that’s only what you can see from THIS angle.

Here is the full frontal view.

Yes, I just typed “full frontal.”

My nightstand is cute, no? It was part of a matching set of bedroom furniture my husband and I bought when we first moved here for residency.

There’s a matching nightstand for my husband’s side of the bed. (His is topped by electronics – a Kindle, an iPod, an iPad, an alarm clock, and his phone – and a puzzle book, in case you were curious.) Also part of our bedroom ensemble is a tall, skinny “lingerie chest” in which I store t-shirts and folded sheets and other such non-lingerie items.  There’s a matching dresser and mirror, filled entirely with my clothing. (My husband has a separate dresser in the closet.) And there’s the piece de resistance: the beautiful sleigh bed.

All of the items are made of solid wood of some sort, which is one reason we loved them. None of the cheap out-it-together-yourself Target-brand particle-board stuff we’d been using for the past umpteen years.

I’ve heard on HGTV that you shouldn’t be too matchy-matchy in your furniture selection. But I am not savvy enough to pair non-matchy items and have them look like anything other than a poorly-planned yard sale. Plus, this set of bedroom furniture was RIDICULOUSLY cheap.

Anyway, now you can see just how cluttered well-organized my nightstand is.

Let’s take a closer look!

This is the right side of the nightstand.

You’ll notice that I have a glass of water sitting precariously close to the edge. But! It’s on a coaster!

There’s a pad of paper and a pen, for late night snippets of poetry that come to me in between dreams of Tim Riggins nightmares about work. Sometimes the late night snippets are good and useable. Other times, they are mysterious. Such as this scribble: “If ever my own grandmother.”

Um. What now? I admit I like the rhythm of the phrasing… but I have NO EARTHLY IDEA what it’s supposed to mean.

In the back row, there’s that photo of my husband and me. I blurred out our faces and we look even creepier than we normally do. (We’re REALLY creepy.)

In any case, I love that photo. We’re sitting on the couch in my dorm room back in college. We’re both wearing sweatshirts. My hair is pulled back. We’re comfortable and loungy. And we’re deliciously, deliriously happy. I hope we’re always always always like that.

The frame I’m not so crazy about. It’s a remnant from my college days and I frankly think it’s tacky. BUT the photo is cut into the shape of a heart to fit the frame, so I can’t very well re-frame it. Thus, it stays on my nightstand.

Next to that is the photo of my mother as a child. I’m not sure why I love it so much. But I do!

You’ll also see my Word-a-Day calendar.

For years, my husband and I would receive Something-a-Day calendars for Christmas gifts. Or we’d buy them for ourselves. He usually learns a language. This year, he does a daily Sudoku puzzle. I, on the other hand, prefer learning new words.

Except… I suck at Word-a-Day calendars.

As you can see, this is not only stuck on January 22

… It’s also stuck on January 22 of 2010. As in last year. As in, I didn’t even make it ONE MONTH before I had to wave the white flag of Something-a-Day surrender.

Every once in a while, I will rip off a page and learn a new word. I think I changed it to “revenant” about six weeks ago. No, wait, maybe that was in January of this year? I can’t remember. In any case, despite the fact that the word before “revenant” was on the calendar for MONTHS, I cannot remember what it was.

At this pace, I’ll be done with my Word-a-Day calendar by 2179. And I will know zero words.

My lack of Word-a-Day stick-to-it-iveness is depressing me. So let’s take a closer look at the little jewelry dish my husband gave me.

As you can see, it doesn’t really hold jewelry. This is because I now have a big beautiful Pottery Barn (I think) jewelry box with a hinged lid and drawers and little compartments for rings and such. It was a gift from my in-laws in 2009. And it holds all of my costume necklaces and bracelets. I keep my (very limited supply of) nicer jewelry elsewhere because I am paranoid.

So, instead of jewelry, the dish holds my bedside essentials.

Namely:

– A small bottle of OPI lotion for my dry hands. I got it for free as a Christmas gift from one of the girls in my book club. (I suppose if I say it was a gift, I don’t need to have the whole “for free” thing in there now do I.)

– A tube of Burt’s Bees chapstick – critical for my chapped lips.

– Two hair ties, because I usually have my hair up in a ponytail when I drop into bed. But I do not like sleeping with my hair up. So I put the hair ties in the dish for safekeeping. (They disappear easily.)

Now let’s take a look at the floor in front of my nightstand.

There’s the infamous Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Someday, when I’m more mature, I will read it again. Until then, it may sit on my floor.

Under it is some sort of trashy magazine. Glamour or Marie Claire, I’m not sure and I’m too lazy to go into the other room and look. Whenever I read those kinds of magazines (which is about twice a year), I fold down the pages of interesting tidbits I want to remember. And then I save the magazine, so I can go through it again and remember the tidbits. And then I get busy and eventually throw the magazine away, un-examined. It’s a flawed plan.

This little exploration of my nightstand is revealing more about my personal failings than I anticipated.

That white machine in the foreground is my noise machine.

My parents got it for me a couple of years ago and I LOVE it. It has multiple settings of soothing sounds.  The ocean. A distant thunderstorm. (Those are my favorites.) A babbling brook. A country evening.  And you can add or remove additional sounds – like a buoy clanging, a loon calling, a frog frog-sounding.

Without this bad boy, I would NEVER sleep.

Last, but certainly not least, is my Giant Stack O’Books.

Normally, they are stacked all willy-nilly on my nightstand. But I turned them all around just for you!

My husband and I are both book multitaskers. We normally read at least two books at a time.

Sometimes, my husband will get exasperated by my Giant Stack O’Books, and he’ll thin them out and put away the ones I’m not reading or am done reading or am simply “reading.”

I have read bits and pieces of the majority of the books: Lisa Scottoline’s Look Again; The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille; The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson; and My Life in and Scientific Advertising by Claude “The Great” Hopkins.  I’ve actually read that last one before, but it’s a book I keep beside my bed and pick up now and again for inspiration and writing reminders.

I want to finish Culture Code and Finkler, but I haven’t felt motivated to do so. Look Again and the only book in the stack I am not going to name… I am keeping on my nightstand because I HATE to leave a book unfinished. But… I have a short attention span my time is valuable, so I have a hard time forcing myself to read something I am not enjoying.

—SHORT TANGENT—

Last year was one of my worst years EVER for unfinished books. I swear, every other book I picked up was utter dreck. (I don’t think “dreck” is really a word, but I heard it on Top Model and liked it’s snappy onomatopoeia-ishness.) (I totally spelled onomatopoeia correctly the first time! No spellcheck needed!)

Among the books I picked up and promptly put down last year? The Anthologist, which I had super high hopes for. The Last Song, which I was biased against from the beginning, but forced to try because it was a book club pick. And Beat the Reaper which received enthusiastic reviews from my husband, but didn’t quite capture my attention.

This year, I’ve had better luck. But not stellar.

—END TANGENT—

The book I’m currently reading – Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses – is on top. Under that is the book I just finished – Jeannette Walls’s Half Broke Horses (which I LOVED. Best book I’ve read this year.). Why haven’t I put Horses away? Oh, I suppose it’s because my husband normally does the book re-shelving. He enjoys it so, and I would never want to strip him of his book re-shelving happiness.

I haven’t read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces yet. Nor have I started The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. But I’m looking forward to both. Hopefully they won’t wind up in the “meh” column.

Well Internet, there you have it. A very up-close-and-personal look at one of the most private areas of my home. I hope you enjoyed it!

What do you have on your nightstand?

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This is the kind of week it’s been:

I just spent ten minutes trying to figure out why “undoubtably” was underlined with the little red YOU SPELLED THIS WRONG YOU IDIOT line in an email I’d just written.

(I figured it out.)

ANYWAY, I am pretty much incapable of typing out anything coherent. And yet, I love you, Internet, and I want to give you SOMETHING, even if that something is lame. So I would like to invite you to take a brief glance inside our home.

I know you are excited beyond words. If you’re still reading, after that “undoubtably” business.

First stop, the master bathroom. (Click to embiggerate.)

(Yes - that is THREE bottles of shower spray. And we're not even extreme couponers, y'all!)

Despite the fact that I have captioned the crap out of that photo, I would like to say a few things.

1. The reason there are three bottles of shower spray in varying stages of fullness is that we are both lazy. And also, when it comes to combining the shower sprays into one bottle, we like to play a game where we try to hold out longer than the other person.

2.  We play a similar game with our refillable soap bottles too.

(Please note that my soap is posing for this glamour shot on my dining room table, rather than in the bathroom or kitchen where it normally resides. Diva.)

3. You might think that using shower spray that purports to “prevent soap scum and mildew stains” would obviate the need for scrubbing the shower. You would be wrong.

4. I took these photos a while ago, but I feel honor-bound to tell you that now there is only ONE bottle of shower spray on the ledge by the shower.

5. I also feel honor-bound to tell you that my husband refilled the soap in the bathroom without me having to ask or sigh loudly or anything. And it only took like a week of having to jiggle the soap to get any to come out of the spigot!

Next stop, our kitchen.

(A clever caption for this one eludes me. Because this cupboard makes me sad. And furious.)

This is the cupboard above the microwave. The cupboard out of which I spilled an entire Tupperware container full of uncooked rice. Into the fan part of the microwave.

Cupboards identical to this one stretch the full length of our kitchen. (So, five more just like this one.) They are the only cupboards IN the kitchen, except for a single cupboard on the other side of the kitchen and, of course, the two cupboards on the floor level (one next to the dishwasher, one between the stove and the fridge).

It may look like a perfectly normal cupboard.

But look what happens when I introduce a perfectly normal sized box of cereal into the equation. (Click to embiggerate.)

(Seriously, this is not some ginormous "eight months supply!" box of Go Lean we got at CostCo. It's a TOTALLY NORMAL box of cereal.)

This is not cool, Internet.

If you were to tip the cereal 90 degrees on its side, so that it was longer/wider than it was tall, and try to fit it in that way? It STILL DOESN’T FIT.

Why? WHY do the cupboards not fit normal kitchen things, like CEREAL?

It’s not like there’s a dearth of space. In fact, there’s a good two feet of empty space above the cupboards. (Click to embiggerate.)

(Yes, you've already seen this photo. But now it has words on it!)

Empty space that could be taken up by TALLER CUPBOARDS. Or at least normal sized cupboards that fit a freaking box of cereal.

Next stop, the other side of our kitchen.

This is where you get to see, up close and personal, what a weirdo I am.

I’d like you to meet our two dish scrubbers. Their names are…

… Just kidding. We don’t name our scrubbers. (Click to embiggerate.)

(I seriously scrub those counters with bleach spray EVERY NIGHT and they are still flecked with indelible stains. They are the Lady Macbeth of counters.)

One scrubber is for dishes that are going to go into the dishwasher. The other scrubber is for dishes that we are washing by hand.

Lest you think about that one too long, let us move along to the kitchen towel portion of this tour.

These are our kitchen towels. (Click to embiggerate.)

(Seriously, does anyone use a landline anymore? Besides my parents, that is. They still have THREE rotary phones.)

We have two of those, too. Also. As well.

One of them is for drying freshly-washed hands. The other is for drying freshly-hand-washed dishes.

Okay, so that’s really all the photos I have for you. And I’m realizing that this is pretty much the crappest-ass apartment tour ever.

Will some flowers make up for it?

(I may make this photo my new header. Since it's getting to be spring and all.)

How about a mango?

(Someday I shall show you how to make mango salsa that is both beautiful and delicious.)

I sure hope so, Internet. Because this sad excuse for a post is really all I can muster.

Happy Thursday! May the end of your week be filled with only good things!

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Thank you, Internet, for being so kind and sympathetic in response to my last whiny gloom-town of a post.

Friday was another in a long line of grey, cloudy, snowy days. I don’t think I’d seen the sun in weeks. That added to work stress added to interview anxiety added to not seeing my husband for long stretches of time resulted in me feeling like Debbie Downer’s less cheerful sister.

(The view from my window. No longer “pretty” so much as “soul crushing.”)

It wasn’t my intention to urp grouchiness all over my blog. But it made me feel better. And your comments made me feel even better than better. I say it far too seldom, but I appreciate you, Internet!

Anyway, I spent the weekend trying to regain some equilibrium.

I think I found it!

Although I must say, the re-emergence of my favorite celestial body helped. You see, the sun peeked out for a few hours on Sunday… Okay, not so much “sun” as “pieces of sky illuminated by the sun which surely must exist SOMEWHERE.” But! It was a start!

And then yesterday, it was sunny almost all day! Actual sunshine!

Perhaps today will also be sunny! (Perhaps not, if the weatherman is to be trusted.)

(Usually he is not particularly trustworthy. Meteorologists are the Pomeranians of the science world. They get all riled up and break into frenzied hysterical yipping and get you all freaked out that there may be a burglar just outside the window with a sledge hammer in his hand with which to crush your skull… And then you look outside and realize that he is barking his little head off at a large maple leaf that just fell off the tree.)

Anyway, before the sun deigned to grace us with its presence, I needed something drastic to shake me from my funk.

My mother (not a doctor) prescribed a stiff dose of fresh flowers. My husband (an actual doctor) didn’t prescribe anything. But he did encourage me to leave the apartment and then forwarded me an article that listed some foods that “make you happy.”

I don’t know about you, Internet. But foods that make me happy include cheesecake and margaritas.

Shockingly, neither cheesecake nor margaritas was on the list. However, avocados were.

(Happy-making goodness.)

So I made a big list of Things to Buy and headed to the grocery store.

You see, I’d come up with a Three Pronged Approach to Brightening Your Mood:

Prong 1: Buy flowers.

Prong 2: Bake something.

Prong 3: Pretend that it’s summer.

Prong 1 is simple enough. The grocery store had a sale on little bulb plants, so I stuck a daffodil and an iris into my cart. Belatedly (as in, after I’d bought them and brought them home) I noticed that they require “full sunlight.” HA. So I stuck them both on the windowsill of a north-facing window (all of our windows face north) and willed them to suck up as much sunlight cloud-reflection as possible. We’ll see how long they last.

(This is not the iris plant I just described, but instead a bunch of cut irises I bought in addition to the iris plant. Which did not photograph well. If you can call this “photographing well.”)

Then I added three bunches of cut flowers in bright whites, and yellows.

(What? I’m not a flower photographer.)

Prong 2 was more complicated. After many years of burning cakes and turning cookies into greasy, olive-oily messes, I have recently decided that I enjoy baking. For one thing, it’s an activity that needs little brainpower (on my part – I just follow a recipe) while at the same time requiring intense concentration.

Yes, I fully realize that the same description applies to, say, the 30-Day Shred. But I was in no mood to deal with Jillian.

Plus, my big plan was to bake something that my husband could take to work.  Away from our apartment. (Spoiler alert: That plan did not work well.)

So I found a nice summery recipe for lemon vanilla cupcakes via Tartlette.

(Um, photo NOT from Tartlette. I don’t think the lovely and talented Helene would want anyone to make that mistake.)

This recipe did indeed occupy my attention for pretty much the entire day. That’s because I had to make cupcakes, buttercream, and lemon curd – all from scratch.

(Some people like to do smart things like buy pre-made lemon curd. I prefer to do it the hard way. Because I am a masochist.)

(And may I just say something here? I wholly envy people who can read recipes and instantly understand what they mean. These are the same people who understand measurements like “a pinch” and “a dash.” I, on the other hand, need step-by-step instructions with accompanying photos and exact measurements. [I found, after making macarons – story still to come – that I actually prefer the precision of a kitchen scale.]  Otherwise, I am pretty much winging it. Which doesn’t bode well for my baked goods.

Case in point: For the lemon curd, Helene gives these succinct instructions: “In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together the lemon zest, juice and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, beat the egg and egg yolk to break them up. Beat some of the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes.”

For most people, I’m sure those directions are perfectly clear. But I must be missing a portion of my brain. Because for the life of me, I had no idea how to temper the eggs. I added some of the hot juice/sugar mixture to the eggs… And then some more… And then some more… Would it change in appearance? Would the eggs get warm? WHO KNEW?

So after I’d added about half the mixture to the eggs with no discernable difference, I deemed them tempered and added them to the hot sugar/juice mixture on the stove.

Can you guess what happened next? SOME OF THE EGG STARTED TO COOK.

OMG.

Fortunately, I was able to strain the lemon curd and save the vast majority of it. But seriously? EW.)

Where was I? Oh yes! Cupcakes!

You will be shocked after reading about my little lemon curd incident, but I did NOT ruin the cupcakes. Sure, some of them overflowed their little cupcake molds and made little cupcake sombreros that I had to cut off. Leaving an entire dozen cupcakes looking like elementary school-age boys who’d given themselves a haircut with the kitchen shears. But I learned from my mistake, and didn’t fill the next batch as full. So 18 cupcakes turned out quite beautifully! (Also, if you’re keeping track, that’s 30 cupcakes. THIRTY.)

Let me show you one!

(Yum-o. Please ignore the snow in the background.)

The sans-sombrero cupcakes turned out to be very helpful, though. Because I had to cut a small trap door into the top of each cupcake, fill the cavities with lemon curd, replace the trap door, and then disguise the whole apparatus with frosting. This took some… experimentation… to get it right.

Here’s what the inside of the cupcake looks like:

(Note the helpful caption. As well as the inexplicable lemon lounging in the background.)

And talk about experimentation… FROSTING the damn things was a process. I made a makeshift piping bag with a quart-size Zip-loc freezer bag and an icing tip. But that didn’t prevent me from enduring some unpleasant frosting incidents.

Eventually, I had a respectable number of cupcakes that looked – in my humble opinion – quite lovely.

(Ooooh! Aaaah! Vanilla-bean flecks! By the way, vanilla beans are a scam. $8.99 – or more! – for ONE STINKIN’ BEAN? Highway robbery, I tell you!)

They ended up tasting delicious. Yes, even the ugly ones.

So my question is, is making cupcakes an all-day affair for everyone? No? Just me? Okay then.

That was Prong 2. I dare you to spend all day testing cake batter and icing consistency and de-egging lemon curd and NOT feel cheery. I mean, unless you had to make 1,000 cupcakes for a wedding or something.

So, Prong 3 was to pretend that it’s summer.

This is quite difficult considering that the whole world is covered in a thick creamy layer of snow… and the sun has refused to make more than a brief cameo in the past month.

Plus, it’s not like my husband and I can jet off to Hawaii or something. (He and I made reservations for one of his upcoming interviews and I nearly got palpitations.) I mean, we’re going to Palm Springs in March, but a) that’s been planned for ages and b) that’s way off in MARCH.

So I decided the best way to create a Faux Summer in my wintry apartment was to make some summery food.

I am not very creative, Internet. So what I came up with was fish tacos.

(I could eat these all day, every day.)

Fresh and tropical-esque, no?

I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning to make the dressing, salsa, and guacamole.

That’s when I ran into trouble with the limes. I’d picked up a bag of (six? eight?) limes from Trader Joe’s (for somet ridiculously low price – like $1.50 for all six? or eight? of them!). But then I squeezed one to extract juice for the cilantro-lime dressing… And NOTHING CAME OUT. The couple of limes that DID have juice had very little. (Just for the sake of comparison, you are supposed to get a quarter cup of lime juice from two or three limes. It took me FIVE LIMES to get the required amount… FIVE. LIMES.)

(Aha. That’s why they were so expensive. They are juiceless limes!)

(Let that be a lesson for you: Do not cheap out on the limes!)

Then I only had two or three tiny, pathetic-looking limes left for a) the guacamole, b) the salsa, and c) squeezing on the fish tacos.

So when my husband came home, I had to send his post-call butt to the grocery store for more limes. (Limes are of Critical Importance to Faux Summer.)

(Juiceless limes not pictured.)

(By the way, I do want to add that I worked for about six hours there between noon and, duh, six o’clock. So the weekend was not all fun and cupcakes. But the work did not dampen my mood. In fact, I completed some stuff! And it felt great to Get Stuff Done!)

Dinner was delicious. It tasted very fresh and reminiscent of summer. And, since the sun had long since gone down the sky had darkened even more, it was easy to ignore the heavy blanket of snow draped across my corner of the universe.

Then we watched the Pro Bowl, where everyone was wearing leis and ridiculous hibiscus-patterned shirts. And we ate some cupcakes.

(While the frosting has a yellow tint to it, it is not lemony. It’s vanilla. The only lemon is in the curd.)

(To which my husband said, very earnestly, “I really think you need to give yourself more credit in the kitchen. These are really good.” And I died of pride and happiness.)

I don’t know if it was the Three Pronged Approach… The fact that my belly was full of delicious food… Or the mere act of Doing Stuff…

Whatever it was, the result was clear: Mood brightened!

And so far it’s stayed bright.

Although whether that has to do more with the afore-mentioned sunshine or the cupcakes and guacamole I had for breakfast is anyone’s guess.

(Not pictured: Copious amounts of salsa.)

(Again with the inexplicable lemon.)

I hope the remainder of your day is happy, Internet! And if you need some mood-brightening, might I suggest some cupcakes?

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