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Friday, April 27, 2012

Stolen Moments

This morning - I should have left for work a good 30 minutes earlier than I did.
This is the norm.
Normally, I'm just running around like the proverbial chicken sans head.
This morning? I had everything ready.
Yet, instead of walking out that door (relatively) on time, I opted to sit down and eat breakfast at the table with my daughter. (The norm is both of us eating in the car.)
It was lovely. Lovely, I say!

Earlier this week, I saw a quote on good-ole Pinterest --

I love it. I didn't need her to tell me, but I did need her to sum of my thoughts exactly.

So, I got to work a little later than I should. (As it happened, I knew there were no special responsibilities or meetings to attend.)

I got my work done in a timely fashion. I even went above & beyond in a some ways.
 I thought about just going straight home & getting an early start on dinner. But dinner was leftovers.
So ... go home & just play?
Sure ... but I bet you know as well as I do - once you get home, you find some task or chore that you should do - instead of just enjoying some time with your kiddo.
So ... the park? the library?

When I got to her school, she was hot & sweaty from the playground, and it was hot & sweaty outside. So, the library it was. She goes with my parents at least once a week and loves it. It's walking distance from their house and not far from my work. I considered calling them, but I was selfish - I wanted my baby all to myself.

She was a hoot. A little louder than the library probably merits. We looked under tables & in baskets, but we kept misplacing her inside voice.

Oh, well - if you're having this much fun, who cares?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

KISSes & Wings

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It bears repeating:
Entertaining need not be stressful.
It can (and should) be as much fun for you to experience at the time as it is to hear accolades later on the delicious food.

How, you ask?
Easy. Of course.


 Me & my love. Yes, I'm wearing an apron.

My dad & my dog.

My mom & my daughter. With the world's first environmentally friend H3.

As my dad puts it - use the KISS system -- Keep It Simple, Stupid. (I substitute with Silly, for my self-esteem.)

Here's how I do KISS.

Step 1: Menu plan wisely.

My strategy is to choose one stand-out item or two. For the rest, low maintenance. (Related post: Nothing to Brag About. From LAST year! :) See, I am well aware that I repeat myself.)
I don't want a whole meal catered or store-bought, but I don't' have the time to spend 2 days in the kitchen.

Step 2: People like to help. Let them.

Yes, it's your party. You have a certain idea of what things should "look like." If you don't want a hodgepodge, that's okay! Ask for something you can always use - such as booze.
I usually run short on tortilla chips and ice. I ask for these. (And, yes - I always serve something that requires tortilla chips.)
If there's still prep to do when guests arrive, give jobs to the askers. Nothing too strenuous; they're still guests!

In Action

This past weekend my Aunt was visiting from Nebraska. She & her husband and my parents came over to our house Saturday night. Everyone stayed over, so there was also breakfast Sunday.

Step 2 came in right away. My mom offered to help. I thought it would be easier to each take a meal. I took dinner; she took breakfast. She also offered to BYOB for Saturday, so sure - thanks.

Step 1 was, as always, a heavy-hitter for me. I decided I wanted to do grilled chicken wings. I wanted to use "my" BBQ sauce but also wanted some hot ones but also wanted some my daughter would be sure to eat. SO ... 3 types of wings? There's your star! All the wings were grilled over about 350F, turned every few minutes till done.
  1. "My" BBQ sauce - see again Nothing to Brag About.
    • I rubbed them with salt & pepper & put them in a zippie with lemon, EVOO & red wine vinegar for a couple hours. Then tossed them on the grill.
  2. A new & delicious preparation found on Cola-Brined Wings.
    • The only alteration I made was to add a bit of hot sauce to the rub. I happened to have some from a local Fresh-Mex joint, but Tabasco or Louisiana or whatnot would work just fine.
  3. Finally - Caesar salad dressing. 
    • That is all. Because how do you improve upon it? If you didn't know about my Caesar obsession before, you do know. 
    • This was the one for the little one, and I marinated drummies for her, on the correct assumption she'd have fun eating them.

The sides hit the back burner ... or, in this case? The deli & produce sections. I am lucky enough to LOVE my grocery store, Publix. And their red potato salad? To. Die. For. And? cheaper than I could make it. I threw in a bag'o'slaw (the yummy "Asian" kind) 

AND? I had so much time leftover, I decided to make an awesome black bean dip/salad for appetizer time. You know the one - black beans, tomatoes, whatever else you have and/or like.
The below-the-titles there? Cheese & crackers, almonds, cherry tomatoes. HUGE hits, especially the tomatoes - served with just salt - complete awesome with a light beer. I kid you not.

This may not be the way to entertain for something formal. But I can't imagine myself ever doing that. I got to  be out with my family, playing bocce ball, watching my daughter "drive," BS-ing and relaxing. I even tweeted  & FB'ed a bit. I wasn't stuck slaving, nor was I exhausted from doing so earlier in the day.

As far as Florida's concerned, it's summer. And as far as I'm concerned, I shall never eat wings any other way again.

I hope you'll try it.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Proust Questionnaire

About a month ago, I vowed to steal an idea from one of my favorite Tweeple. She reads Vanity Fair. I myself never have, but maybe someday. Apparently, in this magazine, they give the same questionnaire to a different celebrity in each issue. It is called the Proust Questionnaire. Don't ask me why. I'm quite literate but have no intention ever of reading Proust.
Anyway, stumped for writing ideas, she answered the questions. I loved it! See her excellent answers. Now see me try not just to copy her answers outright.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Spending an entire day with my family within view of the ocean.
What is your greatest fear?
Not being able to handle something that comes my way - be it an opportunity or a tragedy.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What I spend the most money on that is just for me? Wine, I guess. Or maybe funky jewelry.
What is your favorite journey?
The many I've taken from self-doubt to self-confidence.
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
My right shoulder blade. Oh, you heard me. Not just because 18-year-old me got that overly large dragon tattoo. Also, thanks to a broken collarbone courtesy of 13-year-old me, my shoulder blade is all cock-eyed. 
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Like. Um. I'm sorry. I'm sorry but.
What is your greatest regret?
That some of the journeys from self-doubt to self-confidence took too long.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Who: my husband & my daughter. What: Florida - ocean, sunshine & it brought me the "who".
When and where were you happiest?
Big picture? Happiness as a total state of contentment - here & now. One moment in time? Happiness as a state of a rapture that pushes everything else out of your mind - my labor with my daughter; snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef on our honeymoon.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To effortlessly learn new languages.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
(Mostly) overcoming my self-doubts, choosing a path & sticking to it
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
I'd like to come back as a whale. I heard a RadioLab story - when a whale dies & sinks to the bottom of the ocean, its body becomes an ecosystem that can last 50-75 years, which is about as long as it lived. How cool is that? That's my spirituality.
What is your most treasured possession?
My wedding & engagement rings + the opal I got on our honeymoon. About other things, my husband & I tell each other "they're just things." But these things are one of a kinds & not replaceable. I would throw up if I lost any of them.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Powerlessness in the face of something terrible.
Where would you like to live?
Walking distance to the ocean.
What is your favorite occupation?
Projects with the little one or playing outside with her. Watching the tube or doing something equally lame with the husband after the little one goes to bed.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Indecision, or maybe not.
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Madeline L'Engle, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Ann Patchett
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Meg Murray
Who are your heroes in real life?
My parents & grandparents. Some of my patients & their families.
What are your favorite names?
Owen, Simon, Kyra, Charlotte
What is it that you most dislike?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?
"Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again." -- Captain Picard, Star Trek: TNG
Also - Resistance is Futile. ;)

Now, your turn?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Redefining Intimacy

My top 3 readers are my Mom, my Dad, and my Grandpa. Sooo ... NO, this post is not about intimacy. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

In fact, it's about exactly not that.

That is all fine & good, and very important for a marriage. BUT, I think we all know you don't have to be married for that.

What I had to be married to discover is the intimacy of day-to-day life.

My husband is working on a budget. Of course, I am involved. He's the keeper of the Excel file; I have a big red veto pen.

I like my job.

I also like that we're having fun.

This is a big, serious deal. Money is one of the biggest sources of stress for couples (and individuals). Yet, I'm having fun. (Probably more than the keeper of the Excel file.)

We are making big decisions and talking seriously, but also poking fun at things the other considers a necessity and cracking unrelated jokes.

I think what has made this fun for me is that it's part of deepening our partnership. That's kind of the gist of our wedding vows - here's a choice quote: "Marriage is a promise that takes a lifetime to fulfill."

It's not all fancy dinners and exciting trips. It's budgets, yard work, and shuffling kids to school. If you can do those things, and not only not kill each other but have fun doing it ...

You're on to something! Here's to your lifetime & ours!

A lifetime ago ... our daughter's, that is! :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Past Perfect

Last night. My backyard. Sitting with my baby in a 70-year-old glider. (Unfortunately, I did not have my camera-hand available! But you get the idea)

I am the 4th generation of my family to sit in this glider. My parents gave it to me about a year ago. Here we are then -

My parents now live 30 minutes from me; I see them at least twice weekly and talk to one or both daily. I talk to my grandpa at least once weekly. I don't really need a connection to the past. Yet, it occurred to me that I certainly have one is this bit of furniture.

My daughter & I sit there after a day apart. She straddles my lap and rests her little head on my shoulder. We glide and watch the birds and listen to their songs. (And by the way, she's not a baby anymore. She turned TWO Sunday!)

Yesterday, as so often, there were many cardinals among the melee. I let my mind drift.

First, I had a perfectly silly thought. I wondered whether Cardinals were named after the bird or vice versa. Then, just as quickly, I realized that was totally ridiculous, that of course high-ranking Church officials had not chosen their names or wardrobes to resemble a little bird. Sometimes you have to wait for inspiration to strike.

Then I saw a cardinal that was simply perfect. His red so brilliant. I thought, "why aren't they all that red?" Evolution and all. Being more eye-catching, he's at a competitive advantage. After thousands of years, here he was - a total stand-out. Yet, the duller (still beautiful) birds would also procreate.

This struck me as a cheerful thought. If an entire species hasn't quite gotten it right, and after thousands of years - then surely I can be excused for my imperfections. Yesterday was a near-perfect day, but today? Today, this thought was a handy one - forgotten wallet, dropped & exploded soda, leaking lunch bag (balsamic vinegar!) and so on.