Thursday, December 31, 2009

photo card outtakes

When Charlie and I ventured out to take our Christmas card picture, it was actually quite fun. We went to our local Target shopping center that was decorated for the holidays.

I put my scarf around Charlie's neck, claiming him for myself. He didn't like it.

Here was another pose we tried, but I didn't really want everyone to see my butt sticking out. I know that Christmas cards often end up on refrigerators and such, and I really didn't need my butt all over refrigerators everywhere.

Charlie was getting the tripod set and practiced on me.

This was right after I tried a sexy pose. This was my silly pose. I know, I'm adorable.

Wouldn't you have loved to have this one? I mean, come on, isn't it wonderful? It certainly is me, though.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

girls in green

Meet my mom (Ellen), Charlie's mom (Judy), Charlie's cousin (Gabby) and Charlie's sister (Jessica.) This was Christmas day and they were all dressed in such lovely shades of green.

We had a great time on Christmas Day, with all the family together. Judy did a great job with the meal considering they just remodeled their kitchen and didn't have countertops or a sink!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

as promised, peppermint bark

So on Tuesday when I was Howard Hughesing it (or being a hermit, if you need the translation) I peeled five boxes of candy canes in preparation for making peppermint bark. If you haven't ever had peppermint bark, prepare to meet an easy, delicious treat that is so simple to make you can't even believe it.

Here I am in my Santa apron. Now, I only wear this thing at this time of year. And, if you remember, I don't like Santa, but it seemed appropriate while showing you the recipe for peppermint bark. Don't mock. (and please ignore the two bottles of chocolate syrup, the bag or potatoes and assorted other junk on my counter...if you remember, I had a bad morning making this stuff.) (See previous post if you don't remember!) And no, I'm not showing you the bruise I got from running into the open microwave door.

Now, I make five batches of bark, because I give bark to all the relatives and all our neighbors. It's eagerly anticipated by everyone, and because it is so easy to make, I am able to get it done in a short amount of time. And everyone is happy. It takes one package of white almond bark to one box of candy canes.

I peel the candy canes and put them in a gallon ziploc bag. I use my hands to break them into smaller pieces. Then I use the meat tenderizer to smash the candy canes into little teeny tiny pieces. Smithereens. The definition of smithereens: a noun that refers to the dust in to which I smash the candy canes.

I do this on a cutting board, because the sharp broken candy inevitably pierces the bag and I end up with peppermint dust on the board. And it gets sticky. So don't just do it on the counter, unless you like sticky peppermint covered counters. I also wouldn't recommend pounding more than one box of candy canes in the bag, because I have no idea what amount of candy cane smithereens you need for each batch. It could be a cup, it could be more. Who knows?

Break the bark into a couple of big pieces and place in a microwave bowl. Microwave for three minutes. Stir.

Dump your bag of candy cane smithereens into the melted bark. Stir.

Spread onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Now, I don't like my bark to be too thick, so spread it thin. It makes it easier to crack later, after it hardens. Place the cookie sheet into the refrigerator or the freezer. It hardens faster in the freezer, but sometimes I don't have that much space. You'll know it's hard when it loses the shiny look.

When it hardens you pull it out and break it into pieces. I use my hands for this, and start at the edges and work my way to the middle. Five batches probably made about three gallon sized ziploc bags full of peppermint bark. But I divided it into smaller bags and put it into sandwich bags and then into gift bags. Using those special holiday bags would be cute too.

Note: I make one batch at a time. Because of freezer and refrigerator space, and because of how many cookie sheets I have, I do one and then another. If I made two batches together, I would need twice as much space. But a warning, you must wash the bowl in between batches. The bark doesn't react well being re-microwaved once it has melted and hardened on the sides of the bowl. Don't think about the chemical make-up too much, just wash the bowl. Trust me.

Now, Williams-Sonoma makes a really great bark if you don't want to make it yourself. Theirs has a milk chocolate layer underneath, which makes it more Andes mint flavored, but nonetheless wonderful. You could probably make the two layer peppermint bark if you tried, but I haven't yet and can't speak to the ease.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

cry today, bake tomorrow

So today I cried in the shower. Actually, the shower is my favorite place to cry. Something about the way it's already wet in there, and I'm all alone. There's no one running to get me a tissue or try to calm me down. It's just me and the shower tiles. No one is trying to make me stop, or worry that my crying will distract someone or wake them up. I don't have to worry about my makeup or my clothing or where the tissues are. It's a private place to let all my frustrations out and then wash them all away. Down the drain and swept to a whole other place.

Why did I cry? Hmmm. Complicated answer. I watched Julie & Julia this morning, and while I loved the story (what foodie wouldn't? cooking and blogging all wrapped up in one!) there were certain moments that touched the cry button. Like the fact that Julia Child couldn't seem to have children. It's not obviously mentioned in the just two small moments. One where Julia and her husband are walking through the park in front of Notre Dame and she notices a mother pushing a stroller, and her husband pulls her closer and her expression is pained. The other moment is when her sister sends her a letter saying she is pregnant, and Julia bursts into tears. I could identify with those moments. Fleeting as they are, in film and in real life, women who are touched by infertility feel them acutely. This great woman, with all these accomplishments under her belt, wanted children. And did not have any. Makes my small life feel larger somehow. If someone that talented couldn't do it, I shouldn't feel so badly about not procreating either.

But, I got out of the shower and tried to pull on a new attitude. I got in the kitchen to make peppermint bark (post about those details to come later) and attempted to channel both Julia and the Pioneer Woman. Cooking and taking photos. So I take the warm melted bark out of the microwave and stir in the crushed candy canes. Then I walk around the island to where I have placed the cookie sheet. And I run smack dab into the still open microwave door. With my shoulder. Small amounts of bark go flying, and I start crying again. It hurt. Badly. I know I will have a bruise later.

So I'm crying and spreading bark and the dog is barking and I wonder how people get over the bad things that happen to them. Yes, I know sometimes people do bad things to themselves, but I'm not really talking about a drug addiction or being the victim of something horrible. Infertility happened to me. I didn't do it to myself. And how do I really get over it? Get past it? I think an obvious fix will come when we adopt a baby. I won't be able to dwell on being childless when we are no longer childless. That makes sense. But in the meantime, what do I do? How can I be proactive? When we were filling out all the paperwork, I had something to work on, to accomplish. Then we were putting the nursery together, and that gave me purpose. What is my purpose now?

To wait, I guess.


I've said it before, I really try and have a good outlook on all this. I try SO HARD. But the truth is that all that trying wears me out eventually. All the good attitudes and positive spirit are hard to hold up indefinitely. My smiling drama mask slips and the halo tilts and if you're looking right at the right time, you'll see one selfish human underneath. I want. I need. I can't have.

Pity party, table of one.

So tell me, all of you who read this blog, how do I lift my head and keep walking? What are the prayers I should pray? Any ideas for one who is just trying to keep her head above water? I know it's okay to grieve and mourn and be sad on occasion, but I'd like to come out of this a much better me. One who has learned a lesson about something. And I think I'm so far in it that I can't see what the lesson is. I can't see the forest for the trees.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

i conquered curling ribbon

What tends to happen over break is that I have tons more time to blog because I am home from work. But most of you have less time, cause your kids are home with you. And you are entertaining them, not worrying about your blogs. Plus, it's Christmas, so there's that keeping everyone busy.

But I thought I would share a few more of my favorite ornaments. This one is from when I was little, and it certainly is retro looking. But I love how baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary are looking all cuddled up in the stable.

This is one of the other ones that I like, one of my more recent purchases. I think I shared before that I like to find one or two unique ornaments each year to add to my collection. I like an eclectic look, not so matchy-matchy. And I love ornaments as presents. Especially if they have sparkles or glitter.

And I love that this picture is so in focus that you can see the dust on top. Yup. But I like the way the silver sparkles reflect the different colors of the lights. So pretty.

And, this just in, I finally learned how to curl ribbon for the top of presents. I have never been able to do this. Really. I end up with flat stringy ribbons. Truly. I tie the ribbons and then hand them to Charlie to curl. But last night we went over to some friends' house and I learned how to do it! My friend Bethany is a master at it, and I can finally do it! I curled ribbon for several of her presents and I did a good job. I wish I had a picture of it, but I don't. She was so surprised that I couldn't do it, since she thinks I am so crafty, but it was just something I could not do. It's a random skill, I know. And now I can curl with the best of them.

It's a little victory. But a victory nonetheless.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

snowed in...

So when the weatherman calls for snow and you live in North Carolina, you do one of two things: ignore him or run out and buy bread and milk. It's funny here in the middle, where winter really isn't too bad and in the summer you can actually be outside. But when we do get that random winter storm, there's a panicked mentality. Suddenly, the local Harris Teeter has no milk left and the TV runs a constant bar across the bottom telling you all the things that are closed.

I managed to get this shot of the reindeer in our front yard. There are 14 others that are blurry, but this one's not bad!

The Thursday forecast called for the snow to start Friday at noon. This was our last day of school before break and our principal was determined to get us through it. We did not want a day to make up, and in reality, when the weather people say it will start at noon, that really means three. Or not at all. They don't have the best track record with snow. Anyway, the principal decided we would go half day and get everyone out around one. Okay.

But get this: it actually started at noon. The fluffy flakes were coming down, down, down and parents started showing up to get their kids. By one when we were dismissing, half the school was already gone and I was packing up all the gifts I had received to lug to my car. I called home and sure enough, the husband said we needed to get to the store! Normally, my drive home takes about 1o minutes, but everything was dismissing early, so the roads were gridlocked. When I finally arrived, we jumped in the car and went to the store to get supplies for the weekend and next week.

It kept snowing. And snowing. All in all, I think it must have been something like six inches by 9 that evening when we put in a movie. We rented a movies (Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons) and were snuggled up on the couch enjoying our night. In the movie, Tom and his female co-star are pounding on the door of some Vatican office and someone pounds on our front door! To say that we jumped is an understatement. It was our neighbor telling us that everyone was out in the street sledding and we should come out.

I jumped up and put on a pair of pajama pants, a sweatshirt and my coat, boots and gloves. Charlie laughed at my pants, but I don't have a pair of snow pants, and I didn't want to wear jeans. Jeans get wet and stay wet. I ran outside and found the group of people trying to sled. I say trying, because you can't sled on a newly fallen snow. It has to get packed down first. I knew this, but went outside anyway. I had a good little laugh at this, because as a good Alaska girl I know all about sledding. Sleds with rails aren't good unless you have ice. What is really needed is a piece of hard plastic that will slide over the snow. Which we didn't have. The best thing someone had was a boogie board, and I wasn't offered a ride on that. Plus, turns out our neighbor was drunk. She kept shouting that she was glad I came outside.

All this went on and Charlie was still inside putting on clothes. I popped back in and told him what was going on, so we just took a walk around the block in the snow, looking at the Christmas lights before making it back inside to finish our movie. It's a really good movie, by the way. Much better than the DaVinci Code.

So, we braved going to Kohl's yesterday and did some shopping, but our street is really icy and we can't get up our driveway. It'll melt soon enough, but for now we're just enjoying our movie collection and football. The dogs love the snow and so they have had fun, too. It's just funny how here in the middle there is such a panic over the weather. You have to know that somewhere in Canada there are people laughing at us.

Yup. They're laughing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

peppermint candles are yummy...

So, one of my favorite finds this year has been the Twisted Peppermint candle from Bath and Body Works. Last year, they made Twisted Peppermint foaming hand soap, which was my favorite thing ever. This year, THEY DID NOT MAKE IT! I was so upset, when I went on Black Friday, that they did not have it. They made the TP bubble bath for kids, but not the hand soap.

But the candle is amazing. And not just pretty. The smell is fantastic and wonderful and spreads through the entire house. According to the label it has some fancy kind of scent that is intensified and smells up the house quickly. I don't have to burn it for very long before I'm feeling Christmasy and wishing for a candy cane.

So, although they are a little pricey for candles (reg price $19.99) but I caught them on sale for two for $20. They would make a great gift for someone who likes their house to smell very holiday-y. Yes, that's a real word.

On another note, two more school days left until VACATION! Yes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

freezing cold field trip...

Okay, today Charlie and I took a field trip to our local Target center to take some Christmas card photos. He was tired of all the in-house photos we had taken in year's past, and thought one out and about would be more fun this year. I have to agree that after seeing them, I really liked his idea.

It was, however, very cold. We took our tripod and set it up and we were only out there for a few minutes, but my hands were like ice when we finally got back in the car. I was wearing my cute coat for the picture, but my gloves are really in my carpool coat that I wear so I won't freeze at school.

So, for all of you who I don't know in real life, and don't have your address or know your last name, here is my internet card to you. Merry Christmas to all of you! Yes, I know it's two weeks early, and maybe I should save this for later, but here it is. I did manage to order my cards online today, and will hopefully get them in a timely manner to get them mailed out. Although, I don't think anyone will mind if the cards get there a little bit late. Does anyone really care if the card arrives on the 27th or the 22nd? Do people keep tabs on that sort of thing?

If you do, don't tell me...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

lots of friends

The last couple of weeks have been busy, but good busy. Lots of time spent with friends and doing fun things. Wow, that was such a well constructed sentence, wasn't it?

On Sunday I helped Ashley (on the right) host a baby shower for our friend Mandy. Both Ashley and Mandy are pregnant with boys. Mandy is due in February and Ashley in March, but since Ashley is having twins, she will probably deliver in February too.

It was a fun afternoon spent with friends and cute little blue baby clothes. I was in charge of the centerpieces and I filled baby bottles with Sweetarts and tied balloons to them. Except I didn't want all the colors of the Sweetarts, so I separated out all the pink and orange ones. Now, I have a pink and orange bag full of tarty goodness.

Below is my friend Alison in the best pic we got using the automatic timer. Of course, my head is cut off, but seriously people, this was the best one of about eight that we took. Alison will verify this, I'm sure. We met up on Black Friday and it was so good to see her. We are high school buddies and haven't seen each other in about seven years. Sooo good to catch up.

This pic below is from my night out to see New Moon. Emily's husband nicely took several pictures of us. You can't tell, but Emily's son ran over to be in the picture and is actually standing there smiling, but was cropped out of the picture. I know one day he will grow up and ask his mommy where the picture is, but sadly I will not have one. Sigh.

You can't really tell from the picture, but my sweater was gray and sparkly. I wore it in honor of Edward and his sparkly skin. I know it's silly, but it seemed appropriate. Emily and Mandy loved it, and I'm sure they rolled their eyes later. And yes, I know I look like a giant. I can't help it. I really am a tall girl, and it always shows in pictures with friends. I'm five foot ten, and in most shoes I'm almost six foot. That's tall for a girl, right? In fact, I know it's tall. There's something like less than three percent of woman over five foot eight. Discovery told me so one day.

Friday night will bring a date with my man. An overnight date with my man. At a bed and breakfast with a bathtub. Don't blush. I'm very excited about my man and the bathtub. And the breakfast that someone else will cook. Date night. Date night. Date night. So glad to get a few hours alone with my man before all the Christmas plays and holiday stuff take over.

Love him.

Talk to you all later. This girl is off to a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

hark...the real news from this girl's not a re-post. It's not just a brief update, with a lost promise for more. It is, however, a combination post, where I attempt to conquer two tasks in one: to update you on my recent life and to share some of my favorite Christmas tree ornaments.

The ornament challenge was presented by my illustrious high school friend, Alison, who was just down for a visit on black Friday. She posted about her favorite ornaments and her eclectic taste for ornaments. I have the same eclectic taste, and often buy what I think looks pretty and unique. When decorating my tree, I combine two kinds of ornaments: traditional round glass ornaments in different colors and one-of-a kind ornaments.

This glass angel is one of my faves. She is covered in blue iridescent glitter and when the light hits her she shines and sparkles.

These stars are fantastic, wonderful, special and inexpensive. Michael's has carried them for three years now and I buy more each time I see them. They are plastic iridescent stars, and they catch the light, but don't take up to much visual room. They don't make the tree look overloaded with ornaments, but they add interest and catch the colored lights.

Yes, I use colored lights. Alison pointed out that only uptight anal retentive people use white lights, or at least I think that's what she admitted. I have been a staunch supporter of the colored lights in my own house, but I do appreciate when people put their white light trees in the front windows. I think those look better than the colored light ones in the windows, but I still put colored lights on my tree. At night I will turn off the lights in the room and stare at my tree. It glows and I love the magic of it.

Have I lost you yet? Okay, so here's the skinny on my life right now. I did post a couple of weeks ago that my job will be phased out at the end of the school year. It was a bummer when I first found out, but now has become kind of like a treasure hunt to find something else. I talked to a couple of people, one of which was a friend at church who is an HR rep for her company. She let me send her my resume, so she could help me retool it, but it turns out they had an opening and I went in last week for an interview with her and her boss.

The interview wasn't intense at all, but laid back and conversational. There was a test I had to take, which I am still thinking about to this day, but it wasn't too bad. They told me I did well on it, so I was glad to know that. I won't know anything about the job for awhile, and I do know they were interviewing other people. However it turns out, I feel good getting back in there and starting down the road to finding a new job.

Okay, another ornament. This one was a gift from a student last year, and I love it. It's a little piece of pop culture. I was so excited to receive it, and went immediately home and hung it on my tree. Another teacher at school also got one, but didn't realize it what it was. I told her it was a shopping bag from Bloomingdales! She didn't really know about Bloomingdales, so I can understand why she didn't think it was as wonderful as I did. It totally adds to my collection since we don't have a Bloomingdales here and the family bought it in Chicago for us! I felt really special.

In other updates, our adoption agency is now working with three birthmothers, so there is a good possibility we could hear something soon. Prayers for that, please.

The kids at school are crazy these last couple of weeks before Christmas. I would say that 95% of our students at school celebrate Christmas, but we have had several parents in this week giving talks about Hanukkah. Either way, everyone is antsy to get to the winter break. Me included. I have major book revisions to do, and can't seem to work on it at the end of the day when my brain is fried. Vacation will help.

Oh, this Friday my sweetie of a husband is taking me away to a bed and breakfast for a night away. What a man!

And, if you need a good read, check out Pioneer Woman's Black Heels to Tractor Wheels series. It is the love story between her and he studly husband, Marlboro Man. What a story! I am still thinking about it. It is in the confessions section of her website.

Charlie is currently working on installing an exhaust fan in our master bathroom. Evidently in 1961 when our house was built it was not code to install fans in bathrooms if they had a window. Ours has a window. But I am certainly not going to be opening it while I am showering in December and we were having a moisture issue in there. Hence, the fan. Charlie is doing a great job, but my bathroom is torn apart, because he also is putting in a new light over the sink. So we have been using the smaller guest bath to shower and get ready. It's tight. And I keep having to go back and forth to the bedroom to get things. That part is annoying, but soon it will be over and I can get back in my bathroom and I will have a fan!

Enough? Do you feel like we've caught up? Hope so. If you have questions, leave a comment!

Friday, December 4, 2009

12 tips for buying women christmas gifts (a re-post)

Chickadee asked about a post of our own that we really liked. I looked back on this one from last year, and it is still appropriate. Gift buying can be hard, when you don't know someone well, or can't make up your mind. Here are some tips!

I thought I would help some people out by posting about what I think is appropriate and NOT so appropriate for gift buying. As a school teacher, I am given gifts at Christmas by many of my lovely students, and I do appreciate them. Mostly. And since I know many of you are Moms, I thought I would help you out when you are selecting gifts for your child's teacher. Although, this list can pretty much apply to buying any kind of gift for a woman, if I may be so bold, so if you need to, print this out and give it to your husband.

(This advice only applies if you are going to buy a gift. If you were not planning on it, or can't afford it, please ignore these tips. But I just know there are so many confused people out there that just don't know what to buy!)

1. Don't spend more than you can afford. Really. Don't. If I know you and know your financial status from things you've said like "I can't afford the good cable, I only have 8 channels" then I know you can't afford to buy me an expensive present. And I will feel guilty if you do. Don't go without food to get me a necklace. I'm ok with a card. And, you can ignore the other tips about what to buy if you just shouldn't be spending your money on gifts and you should be sending it to the credit card company. Dave Ramsey says so.

2. Homemade things are great. I love a great homemade bread or ornament, or craft that shows your personality. It shows you took time to make me something. Now, there is a sidenote to this when giving to teachers: cookies are great, but think about how many we will get. I have 700 students and while I don't get something from everyone, I do get gifts from about 50 families. If everyone made me cookies...see the problem here? And I am on a diet. And I might be allergic to nuts. So, unless you make something really unique and special, buy me some earrings.

3. Food should be combined with small tokens. Again, if you are going to make me food, keep me in mind. If you don't know me well, and don't know I'm on a diet, then you've given me something that I will have to throw away later. I'm sorry about that. But if you combine those cookies with an ornament, or those earrings, say, then I can have something to keep.

4. Know your audience. Don't buy a librarian a gift card to Best Buy unless you have overheard her say "I really need the latest and greatest 55 inch plasma flat screen tv to hang on my wall right next to the stockings." Think about what they like and stick to it. I promise you, I LOVE it when I get Barnes and Nobles cards.

5. If you don't know your audience, get a generic gift card. Everyone can use Target cards if you have a Target near you, but not everyone likes Cucumber Melon lotion/bubblebath/soap/candles/body spray, etc. I know they sell those gift packs EVERYWHERE, and that seems to be the go-to gift if you don't know what else to buy, but if I can't return it or exchange it, please, get a gift card or make me something. If you know me, then you know I get headaches from strongly scented stuff, and I only like citrus scented things.

6. Don't overspend. You may know that I want this $50 sweater cause we casually talked about it, but if you are only an aquaintance, and I'm just going to give you a card, don't buy me that sweater. Please. It will only make me feel bad that I didn't spend the same amount. That negates the pleasure I will get from the sweater.

7. Pottery Barn is also a safe choice. Well, not for everyone, just me. Again, know your audience. I really can't stress this enough.

8. Time is a great gift, but you have to follow up. If you give someone a night of free babysitting, call them in two weeks and set the date. Many people love this gift, but feel shy about redeeming it. Offer to pick up your mom's leaves or help paint a room, but follow up.

9. If you don't know someone well, but want to do something for the holiday, pick out a nice card and write a heartfelt note. For example "Dear Stranger, I am really glad that we met this year and I look forward to getting to know you better. Isn't it great that we have XYZ in common? I'm so thankful to whoever for introducing us and I hope you have a wonderful holiday." See? Friendship is a great gift.

10. Don't exchange gifts...just go out for coffee or the movies or dinner together. I think togetherness is an awesome gift. Don't get me a candle....but maybe you and I can go hit the after christmas sales together and have lunch. I'll buy your lunch and you buy mine. Deal?

11. Little things are special. An ornament from a unique place, a pair of silly socks, silver earrings, a pin, some gloves. A gesture is sometimes all you need.

12. When in doubt, ask. ASK! Say "Hey friend, I wanted to get you something for Christmas, but I don't know what you might like. Here are the ideas I there something you would like?" By default the person will usually say "don't get me anything" cause they're being nice, but then usually they'll give you some hint. I think it's great when my mom asks me what I want instead of getting me a Snowman Sweater that I won't wear. This year when people asked we told them add to our adoption account. It's what we need right now. And I know some people will still give us gifts instead, but my family is sighing in relief that they can just give us cash. See? They know their audience.

Now, you don't have to take my advice, you don't. Not at all. But if you struggle every year to think of something to buy someone, read back through the tips again and then really think about that person. If you can't think of their hobbies or likes, then get a gift card to Target or a restaurant and put a bow on it. They will love you. I promise.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

in case you missed me...

I'm here. I'm alive. Just busy. These last three weeks before Christmas are going to be verrry hectic, and even though I have stories to tell, I haven't been near my home laptop in about a week. I'm typing this hurridly at school in case anyone has been missing me and fearing the worst has happened.

No, I am not trapped under a pile of books. Sometimes I think that, but it hasn't happened yet.

Hopefully, I will get a chance to share more later, but it might be the weekend before that happens.