Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving, Linda-Style

My mother-in-law, Linda, outdoes herself every year. Isnt that the most gorgeous Thanksgiving table ever?

A Linda-Style Thanksgiving consists of mis-matched china place settings. I tried to put one of those little bowls in my purse, but she caught me.

We cleansed our palettes before the meal. This was a new tradition introduced to me when I got married. In my house, I cleanse my palette with a bite of cold pizza from the fridge as I forage for ingredients. Linda's way is much better.

We have sprinkles on our desserts.

There are vintage tablecloths in the kitchen...

... and pillows everywhere.

And I'm thankful to have a mother-in-law who puts Martha Stewart to shame. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to nestle happily into Linda's overstuffed couch, watch some more HGTV Christmas shows and peruse a giant stack of Country Home magazines. Sigh.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Remember the Pickles

Is it just me? Does anyone else seem to get loads of bills and expenses that pop up JUST before the holiday season? Wow. We do.

Oil changes and vet visits and premiums. Check.

Drippy faucets and inflated grocery prices and clunky heaters. Check.

It all comes crashing in before Christmas. Isn't this the season of sparkly icicles, retro ornaments, Bing Crosby, chocolate covered cherries, and happy children on school vacations? Then why are so many of us sporting the new holiday chic look of ' I just pulled out a small chunk of my hair in frustration, tears are now flooding my eyes and I cant find my cell phone because it's buried beneath the Mt. Everest of bills on the living room floor ' ?

And then there's me, giving myself accidental papercuts with the bank statement and shrieking at a suddenly absent Matt, "Hey, you just got a $15 parking ticket in the mail. Wait.. no... you got three!"

But we've seen it before, Matt and me. We're a team when it comes to unpayable dentist bills and bald tires and cokes bought with quarters unearthed from the couch. We started our marriage smack dab in the middle of Poorville; barely 21, still in school, living off student loans and credit cards. Compared to 'back then,' we SHOULD be grinning and laughing at the supposed struggles we face now.

So it always helps to remember the pickles.

Our second anniversary rolled around during a time of tremendous confusion and stress. That was the year I'd had gallbladder surgery with no health insurance, graduated, and secured a job that was (at the time) eating my soul. I was a wedding registry coordinator at a local bridal store. Sounds fun right? Nope. I was surrounded by beautiful Lennox platters, Oneida silver, sparkling crystal, and a pair of shop owners who always loomed close by, their forked tails flickering as they carefully guarded the gates of hell. Hands down the worst job I've ever had.

And of course, that year I had to work on our anniversary. As I drove home after a grueling day of registering a couple who horrified me (the guy insisted on selecting everything from the deer motif dinner plates to the bone handled silverware while his girlfriend eyed the pink floral china with a depressed glint in her eye), the rain began to fall and I tried my best not to cry. I tried my best not to wish tar and feathers on the boss who'd asked me to pick gum off the storeroom floor with my fingernails. I tried not to think about the fact that we'd eaten crock-pots full of beans for weeks because we were too poor to buy anything else. I tried not to think of my mountains of student loan debt (ok, I still try not to think about that).

And as I drove toward home, I saw Matt's car whip into the driveway in front of our house. He jumped out, glancing back frantically at me, and ran through the rain, arms full of grocery sacks. It was obvious he had a surprise for me and was trying to hide it.

And then he went down.

I'm not sure if you guys laugh at people who fall, but there's something about watching a 6' former football player bite the dust on a rainy front porch that renders body-convulsing laughs.
One minute I could see his dark head bobbing and weaving through the rain... and then BAM. He went down.
Sure, I know, it makes me a terrible wife. It should have given me a heart attack and rendered a series, "Oh baby oh baby are you ok's?" Perhaps it was my hellish job, perhaps it was my 'this-close' distance to a nervous break-down, or perhaps it was my week-long diet of beans and peanut butter; but all I could do was horse laugh.

And then he was up. As quickly as he fell, his dark head jerked up, whipped back to see how close I was and he was off again, running into the house, his big arms scooping and pulling the burst shopping bags from the rainy ground.

I parked just in time to catch a glimpse of Matt, big eyed, disoriented and wet just as he slammed the door behind him in a panic. I pulled a hood over my head and stepped into the rain, eyeing the front porch.

There were pickles everywhere. Big, green, glorious Claussen pickles scattered amidst a broken jar all over the front porch. And then I knew what had happened.

Pickles, you see, were the height of riches at the time. We dreamed of having a fridge stocked with salad dressings and marinating sauces, and ketchup and above all ... pickles. It had been so long since I'd had one that I almost plucked one out of the puddles and chowed down. Anything but beans. And then I realized that my precious partner in poverty had managed to scrape up enough money to bring home some dinner treats for our anniversary.

I stepped into the house and yelled hello toward the kitchen. Matt leaned around the doorway, humiliated and dripping, "Sorry. I fell on the pickles. Happy Anniversary."

I eyed the burst bags full of marinade and steaks and jelly... all the things I'd been sobbing about doing without. And there they were, my sweet rain-soaked husband's anniversary gift to me.
So now, when the premiums arrive expectantly or the doctor's office demands full payment or I forget to write down a check and it throws off the bank balance, I just breathe deep, say a prayer and remember the pickles.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pre-Holiday Lull

It's a weird day today, as my Christmas tree stands proudly amid thanksgiving pumpkin decor. In the words of Matt, "It looks like somebody went crazy." Yeah... he means me. Apparently we're having a schizophrenic Thanksgiving here at Mabel's House

It is a quiet day, the calm before the storm of eating/driving/unbuttoning my pants after dinner. I wanted to give a big thank you to a few people before the holiday eat-fest begins and my blood-sugar skyrockets and I forget my own name:

1. Thanks Barbara for the fun interview!

2. Thanks to Susan for including me in her Top 10 Blogs About Life list.

3. Another big thanks to Natalie for letting me be a guest blogger last month at Micasastyle.

4. And thanks to a ton of new people who are de-lurking! I have fallen off the comment wagon here lately, but be assured that if you leave a comment, I will visit your blog.

And now I'm off to de-tangle this. Matt refers to it as the "Yuletide Conglomerated Hook Ball."

Wish me luck.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Two Posts In One: Twilight Recap & Giveaway Winner

Part 1: Twilight-O-Rama

This was one for the history books. After work, my sisters and I (along with our honorary sibling-for-the-night Becky) arrived to the theatre early, grabbed our hotdogs and jumped into line along with a thousand other girls. And by jumped I mean plopped on the floor while we ate our snacks.

Twilight was showing on five screens, and the theatre was overrun with estrogen and enough perfume to convince a blind man that he might have stumbled into a middle school dance. As the movie opened shrieks abounded, while my ever-vocal and self-assured sister Rachel yelped “KNOCK IT OFF” toward a group of giggling 12 year olds who were flashing their cell phones open and shut. I’m assuming it was light-show Morse code for “I put a bite-mark on my neck with my mom’s lip-liner pencil.”

As the movie progressed and the 90’s style electric guitar score swelled to a crescendo, I watched Edward and Bella fall in love while snorting uncontrollably into my hand, only to be shushed by a nearby group of very serious teachers decked in bejeweled ‘I love Edward’ t-shirts. It was a cheese covered teenage love fest, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Yes I guffawed at the cornball of it all, but that was half the fun. To the naysayers I say this, “Lighten up.” It’s a movie based on a book about a vampire that glitters in the sunlight. If you’re looking for the next Sophie’s Choice, you may have picked the wrong flick.

Part 2: Name Your Metabolism Giveaway Winner
Before I announce the winner, I want to thank you ladies for some of the best laughs I’ve had in a long time. In this world of sisterhood here in blogland, I’ve found so much comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in this battle over the size of my butt.
After watching Twilight, we printed off all your comments and began to read them aloud. My sisters had a VERY hard time picking a favorite, so before I announce the winner I’ll list four of the runners up:
“James. I’m quite sure my metabolism is James. When I was little (speaking in terms of age and girth), I’d blame everything that went wrong on my brother, James.
“Who broke this?”
“Who took the remote?”
“Who left the dishes in the sink?
“Why is you’re a** so large?”
“I think I will name mine: kantisie. I try so hard to tie my shoelaces straight but I ‘kantsie’ my feet! And, I ‘kantsie’ the treadmill for the clothes. AND… I ‘kantsie’ why brownies aren’t made of diet (whatever that is).”

“I suppose it would be too simplistic to just call it what it is: Eyore after smoking a joint. Slow, depressed, munchie, and whiny.”
“Welfare Mama. Cause she don’t work.”

And the winner is… Katy and her metabolism: Lazy Ho. Katy, my sisters and feel you are certainly a kindred spirit. As we sorted through the comments and deemed you the winner, we thumbed our noses at our own metabolisms and toasted you by eating an entire sausage pizza. So congratulations! Email me your address and I’ll send this to you ASAP.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Carry Me On Your Back Edward, Um, I Mean Matt

Let's go on a flash back to our trip to Oregon last September, aka the most beautiful state ever. Matt and I were strolling along the path to see Multnomah falls and I became enraptured. I smiled like an idiot, gazing into the forest of lush ferns, moss covered giant trees, glowing green light and nearly swooned.

"I can just SEE Edward running through this forest."

Matt sniffed, loudly, "What?"

"Edward, the vampire from Twilight?" I responded, my voice laced with disdainful disapproval.

Matt sniffed again and held the back of his hand to his forehead, "I think I've got fever."

I did what any good wife would do: I developed selective hearing and returned my blissful gaze toward the forest.

You see, Matt caught a cold midway through the vacation. And between his sniffy nose and low grade fever, he wasn't feeling any excitement about Edward. Especially since he didn't (and I suspect still doesn't) know who the heck he was.

"Come on, let's take a picture."


My face brightened with the genius of an idea, "Come on, let's pose with me on your back. Like you're carrying me. Right in front of the forest... like Edward and Bella."

The wheels began to turn in Matt's head. He wasn't sure what was worse, his cold or being a stand-in for someone named Edward. It was probably one out of a million marriage moments where he's had second-thoughts about his bride choice. Either way, he obliged me my picture. So here you have it. On the eve of the Twilight movie... my picture with Edward. I mean Matt.

Tonight I'll be with my sisters and friends. We'll be at the theatre early, eating hot dogs and standing in an obscenely long line, trying our best not to pee our pants. And I cannot promise that when the lights go down and Robert Pattinson's face appears on the screen that I wont scream, "Carry me on your back Edward!"

* I'll be posting the winner for the Christmas banner drawing Monday.

**Here are a few answers to the table/bed broom questions:
1. How did you paint it? What were your steps? I sanded it, wiped it down, spray painted three coats of of Kilz spray paint primer and then two coats of an off-white spray paint that matched our bed. It wasn't complicated, but I took my time with thin coats to make sure it was as 'chip' proof as possible. And my pointer finger is STILL in a cramped and crooked position.

2. What paint color is on the walls? I BELIEVE it is Valspar Valley Mist... but check out the paint sample first to make sure I'm right on this. It's been a while. But it's a really great color. Very aqua-ish without being overpowering.

3. Where do you find your quilts? Finding quilts is a really hard quest. They're rare, and when you do find them be prepared to jump and buy them and pay whatever is on the tag. Especially if you find a grandmother's flower garden quilt. Luckily, my mother in law makes beautiful quilts. Don't hate me.

4. Who is in that picture hanging above the bed? My grandparents, Grandad and Meme. It's my favorite picture of all time. This was taken while they were dating, before WWII. Their chaperon took the picture. It doesn't get any sweeter than that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New/Old Bedside Table Redo

My mother-in-law Linda (aka The Saint) recently called me. The conversation went something like this:

Linda: "Liz, I've got a little table with drawers that doesn't fit in the dining room and was wondering if you wanted it. Because if you don't have room for it, that's fine. I don't want you to feel like you have to take it. And if you do you're welcome to paint it."

Me: Gasp. Sputter. Spike in excitable blood pressure. "I WANT IT!"

And so, once again, Linda contributed to the decor of Mabel's House. Whenever I give people a tour of the house (and that sounds much more fabulous than it is, a tour consists of four steps into the bedrooms, five steps into the kitchen, a glance around the living room and you're done), I always say the same thing, "If it wasn't for my sweet mother-in-law... this house would be empty."

And doesn't it crack you up how these before/after pictures are different, the before pic the reality of the bedside table... the 'after' pictures all arranged and styled. Yeah, that's probably not going to last, because rest assured that giant Advil bottle in the first picture is coming back.

I bought this aqua planter for, get ready for it, $3. I love having jewelry (which is all cheapo jewelry btw) in bowls where I can see and grab things easily. Plus, it justifies the planter purchases.

And don't forget the giveaway for this Christmas banner. Isn't she a beauty? Doesn't she look perfect strung across the headboard like that? Whew, it's hard to give this away.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

OK ladies. Start your engines.

After writing this post and naming my horrendous, sluggish, witch-like metabolism Maleficent the Vindictive... I got a big laugh out of Megan when she left this comment:

"I know how you feel! I should name my metabolism...hmm... I think Ferdinand the Bull... Do you remember that cartoon? The bull who just wanted to sit and smell the flowers? No matter what anyone said or did? "

So here's what I'm gonna do. It's dark. It's dreary. My skin is pale and ashen like some vampires we all know and love. I need a laugh. Or four or five. So, leave a comment and name your metabolism. Wally, Big Bertha, Tiny Tim... whatever strikes your fancy. This will enter you in a giveaway for this marvelous Christmas banner made by the ever-talented Jerusalem. The actual banner is a teensy bit more pastel than this picture, a hint more aqua and pink (my camera lost it's mind and I couldn't upload my pictures this morning). Frankly, I'm really conflicted about giving something away that causes me to have to carry around a drool cup.

The judging will be done by my sisters. I will have no say in the matter. So if you want to win... make these cackle-boxes do what they do best... laugh so hard they snot a little. If you don't make them laugh... they'll make this face.

The person that names their metabolism and makes my sisters laugh the most wins. See how cute they are when they laugh? Feel free to upload the contest pic and pass on the good news (if you're feeling generous, if not, keep it to yourself... that's probably what I'd do).
The drawing officially closes Friday at noon, so good luck.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tomato Nests and Big Brownie Points

Matt's going to be unhappy with this post. Whenever I post about him he gets, well, embarrassed. I don't blame him. He lives in a home where everything from a new lamp to the soup we eat is fodder for the blog. But this is too good. I had to tell it.

We were recently watching The Breakup. I have been a fan of Jennifer Aniston since I first copied her haircut The Rachel in 9th grade. And suddenly, I was very curious.

"I cant believe Brad Pitt left her. She's adorable."

Matt nodded, probably once again wishing I'd watch a movie in silence (which is, by the way, never going to happen).

"Who do you think is prettier? Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie?"

Now secretly, I was rooting for Jennifer. Don't we all? Angelina is a husband stealer. And it doesn't help that she's breathtakingly stunning. Husband stealer + gorgeous + my inability to lose five pounds = I heart Jennifer.

But I honestly thought I knew the answer. All men love Angelina. This was, as they say, a Matt test. I'm not proud of it, but it's a wife thing.

"That's easy. Jennifer Aniston," he stated simply.

I grinned, "Really?"

He nodded calmly, still watching the movie, "It all goes back to Gilligan's Island. There are two categories: Gingers and Mary Anns. Angelina is a Ginger and Jennifer is a Mary Ann. I prefer Mary Ann."

"You mean like when Elizabeth Taylor stole Debbie Reynold's husband? Elizabeth Taylor was a Ginger and Debbie Reynolds a Mary Ann?"

"Yep," he agreed, "and Debbie Reynolds was cuter."

I snuggled down in my quilt, already mentally awarding him big brownie points. Because let's face it, us average girls have a way better chance of being a Mary Ann than a Ginger.

In other news, we had these for dinner and they were delicious, not to mention super easy.

Tomato Nests

4 ripe tomatoes
4 large eggs
4 tbsp heavy cream
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut a slice off tops of the tomatoes and, using a teaspoon, carefully scoop out the pulp and seeds without piercing the shells. Turn the tomato shells upside down on paper towels and let drain for 15 minutes. Season the insides of the shells with salt and pepper.

2. Place the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Carefully break 1 egg into each tomato shell, then top with 1 tbsp of cream and 1 tbsp of grated cheese.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set. Serve hot.

PS.. Check out Erin's cool giveaway here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Someone Better Give Me Back My Polka-dot Umbrella Or Else

In the past few weeks, the rains have come. Big, long day-filled rains with foggy grays and blues and leaf spattered sidewalks. I’m equipped for these. I carry boots in my car, a pink rain jacket and matching hat, and my favorite polka dot umbrella. I come prepared for the rain, much like a fireman with a hose or a policeman with his badge… I am serious about wet weather.

I am also serious about my vindictive metabolism. My metabolism has taken on a life of her own. Two solid months of running and the weight loss has flat lined. Dimples have not moved. Pants remain snug. She’s so mean, this metabolism of mine, that I’ve named her Maleficent the Vindictive. Any metabolism that causes a girl this much trouble deserves to be named. So despite the rainy weather, and to spite Maleficent, and in addition to the running (which has slowed down dramatically because, well, it’s cold now), I’m making a concerted effort to walk everyday during my lunch hour.

I don tennis shoes and trek to the indoor gym nearby to trudge loop after loop listening to a Twilight podcast on my iPod. I go in work clothes, walking determinedly in tights and skirts and tennis shoes, daring anyone to make fun or call me crazy. But no one really makes fun. Most people are too busy running and sweating to care, but I do catch a few looks that say, “Aw. That poor girl is walking in her panty hose. She must be really desperate.” And I look at them and snap, “I am, Maleficent refuses to let me eat Snicker Bars anymore.” And THEN they look at me like I’m crazy.
So this past week I made my trip to the gym and carefully placed my umbrella in a corner beside the track. Lap after lap I plodded, my tights and skirt shifting so fast I could have touched one finger to a metal flagpole and created enough energy with static electricity to qualify me for membership into the X-Men. I pondered that concept as I walked, considering that my X-Men superhero name would probably be “Static-Queen” or “Thighs-Rub-Together-Electric-Walker.” After 40 minutes of solid friction, I made my final lap and detoured to the corner to pick up my polka dot umbrella.

Gasp. She was gone.
I don’t know whether it was my sweaty armpits in a turtleneck, or perhaps that my skirt had shifted completely backward during the walk, or the fact that at that exact moment a woman walked past that looked like life-size Barbie doll. But suddenly I felt very short, hot, and enraged.
I marched to the front of the gym, filled with righteous anger at Maleficent, my sweaty tights and the monster who had absconded with my favorite umbrella. It was the perfect storm.
I rapped my knuckles on the front counter as the teenage girl working the phones peered at me with disinterest, picking her French tipped fingernails (which, by the way, were tipped with black instead of white, very goth).
“Excuse me, someone stole my umbrella.”
“What did it look like?” She didn’t care.
“It’s black with pink polka dots, and I want it back.”
She sighed a long sigh that can only come from a teenager with a perfect metabolism and glanced half heartily under the counter. “No one turned it in. Someone probably took it.”
“Have you seen anybody leave with one?”
“I haven’t paid attention to people’s umbrellas.”
I felt my pupils narrow into catlike slits, “Is there anyone who works here that IS in the habit of paying attention?”
I know, I know. You’re all saying the same thing, “Sheeze… scale it back Liz. She didn’t steal it.” And mentally, I knew this. The tiny reasonable voice that resides in my head said the same thing. But this, my friends, was a ‘I’m feeling fat and could set someone on fire” day.

The teenager sighed again. Obviously, she had a death wish. “Come on, let’s go look and make sure someone didn’t move it.”

I stomped back to the track in self-righteous indignation, “It’s not there. Someone took it.”

The teenager examined the corner where the crime had occurred.

“See.” I stated, smug, sweaty.

The teenager dropped to her knees and kneeled down, peering underneath the nearby elliptical. She reached in and plucked something from the darkness. I peered closer to see what she had resurrected.

There it was. My polka dot umbrella.

“Someone probably accidentally kicked it under there.” The teenager calmly handed it to me.

Shame washed over me. And with the shame came the burbling, “I’m sorry I was so snappy, but you see, I’m walking during my lunch hour because I think my metabolism has changed. I eat one package of peanut M&M’s and BAM! I have to wear my skirts with the elastic waists for the next week. And I get really sweaty and irritable in my work clothes… you know how it is.”

The teenager blinked once, slowly. She obviously did not know how it is.

I exited the gym quickly, thankful to disappear into the rainy fog outside. As of right now, I’m considering locking myself in the office supply closet and running in place during my lunch breaks rather than going back to that gym. Or, I might just let Maleficent win altogether... elastic isn't that bad. I’m sure I’ll forever be known to that poor teenage girl as ‘Crazy Polka-dot Umbrella Lady.”

I hope you’re happy Maleficent. I hope you’re happy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Watching the Leaves Fall

The giant 50 year old oak trees in our backyard have begun to shed. Leaves, leaves, leaves everywhere. Mabel revels in this time of year, tromping and skipping through piles. Especially the piles neighbors so carefully line on the curb for the leaf-truck to pick up, she really makes a mess of those when we walk.

It's an odd time of year. A time when geraniums are still struggling to make their final stand, shooting the last of their red flowers into the cool air. The elephant ears behind the house are still a glorious green against the browns and reds of fall.

The herb garden finally gave up the spearmint and basil, but the pineapple sage and rosemary have grown taller and fuller, dozens of red flowers sprouting from the top.

We've already begun to see days full of rain, orange leaves floating in puddles and coworkers sniffling and sneezing up and down the hall. After all, it wouldn't be a true Thanksgiving season without someone catching a cold.

As the holidays approach and travel plans are made and rain boots piled next to the garage door, I'm going to try my best to appreciate it all while it lasts, to not get so caught up in my work and commute and 'I hate that it's dark when I get home now' complaints. I'm going to try my best to spend time watching the leaves fall, to laugh when Mabel roars through a pile and emerges with the biggest doggy grin. After all, just like our beloved Christmas and birthdays and summer vacations, fall only happens once a year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Flip Side

On the flip side; I present pictures of this little angel as evidence that children are marvelous. I love my niece Elizabeth and miss her so much. I've decided that the next time I see a horrendous child throwing a fit in public, I'll just stare at these pictures for a while and my ovaries will stop cringing and all will be right with the world again.

I didn't know the little red-haired demon girl in the frozen food section. It was easy for me to look at her and think, "Whoa, that's scary." But the fact remains that if it had been my daughter, I'd still think she was the best thing that ever happened to planet earth. What's more, I'd stand over her and dare any childless onlooker in a suit to say anything. Granted, after I stared the onlookers down, I would have yanked her out of the store and had a 'come to Jesus meeting' in the car, but that's another topic altogether.

Thanks ladies for your varied opinions. Last night, as I was reading through everyone's thoughts, I couldn't help but think, "This blogging thing is better than therapy." Edie wrote a really inspiring post about this very thing, about the net of support blogging offers to all of us. All I can say is thank goodness.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Reproduction Circus

This past week Matt and I lounged peacefully in the man-cave (Matt’s den, domain, and kingdom… the brick room I've vowed with my very soul that I'll never try to decorate). His eyes were glued to the Texas Tech game as he sang the praises of their kicker, a ‘star’ discovered from the student body.

“He’s living the dream,” Matt stated as his lovely blue eyes glossed over with admiration.

“I read an article on women’s health the other day,” I stated.

“Hmmm,” he responded without taking his eyes off the screen. Hmmm is his auto-response and means he didn’t hear me at all.

“It was about reproduction.”


“Did you know a woman’s eggs die off every day? 30 a day?”

Matt snapped out of his football trance, reached across the sectional and patted my foot, “It’s fine. We’ve got plenty of time.”

“A woman’s peak time for reproduction is between ages 20 to 25. We missed that boat.”

“Really, its fine,” Matt patted my foot again, clearly not wanting to get into a discussion about procreation when his favorite college kicker was on tv. Who could blame him? It would be like Matt discussing the ins and outs of Japanese cars when I'm trying to watch the season finale of Design Star.

“Hmmm,” I responded, thinking about my dying eggs.

What does a dying egg look like? What happens to it? Does it expire like a bad piece of fruit and just, poof, evaporate? I glanced over at a bowl of overripe pears on the breakfast table. Ew.

The next day I made a trip to the neighborhood grocery and found myself perusing the frozen food section. I was deeply immersed in deciding which Marie Calendar meals to eat all week for lunch when I saw an adorable mom and daughter out of the corner of my eye. The mom was pushing a cart, a petite chic brunette with sassy hair and an adorable sweater dress. I made mental note that the mom was at least five years younger than me. The daughter was precious, her red hair in bouncy pigtails, her fluffy dress and pink and white striped tights adorable.
Something deep inside me, a mushy gushy place I generally try to smother, went pitter patter.
I stared at the Marie Calendar section and lectured myself. We shouldn’t wait for financially stability. I don’t have to stay home with kids; lots of kids go to daycare. I could work and have children; millions of women do it everyday. And just as I was mentally preparing myself to jump off the reproductive diving board, the emotional atmosphere over the frozen food section became dark and stormy.

“NO!” the adorable red-headed child shrieked.

Apparently, while I was having a mental discussion with myself, the happy mother-daughter grocery trip had gone south.

“Millie,” the chic mother stated firmly (I glanced closer and realized mom's sweater dress was stained with cool-aid splatters and there were two very distinct purple circles beneath her eyes), “You have to stay next to Mommy or you’ll have to ride in the cart.”

I bit my lip, peering back at my Marie Calendar meal with feigned interest.


“Come here, you’re going to ride in the cart then.”

And with that, the top blew. The adorable little girl plopped down in the middle of the frozen food section, her fluffy dress splaying out around her, her striped legs sticking out in rigid defiance. Her face flushed to match her pink ensemble and then, she stopped everyone in their tracks, “No! Mommy. You POO FACE!”

I tossed the frozen lasagna back into the case like a bee-stung hound dog and wheeled my buggy away from battle. But ringing behind me, the fight still raged, “POO FACE… POO POO FACE!”

My forehead knitted and wrinkled as I check out (the exact facial expressions I try to avoid these days because I can’t afford Botox). Sure my eggs were dying at a rate of 30 a day. But I’ve got millions, right? And every morning when I’m running to work in a crazy rush, my suits are cool-aid stain free and my eyes are well-rested from uninterrupted sleep. No screaming from a child seat in the back of the car, no feeling guilty at work, no tripping over squeaking-light up toys in the living room.

I wheeled the groceries to the car as one of those weird inner voices piped up in my head, “Don’t worry about having children. You’ll get there eventually. You’ve got plenty of time… Poo Face.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's a Dress. It's an Apron. I'm not Quiting My Day Job.

This past week I started unearthing my winter clothes from beneath the beds. Three plastic bins on rollers, all of which needed to be sorted and washed clean of that musty, cedar-ball, plastic smell. I sorted and washed clothes like a madwoman, winter shirts hanging to dry in every doorway throughout the house. It should have been the picture of domesticity; but as my hair matted to my sweaty forehead and I burned several fingers on our old, rusty iron... I realized I'm no Donna Reed. I'm much more like Rosanne from the beginning of She-Devil. Does anyone else remember this movie? Didn't you just feel so sorry for her while she stumbled around the house in her mumu doing housework? Well, I wasn't far off that as I stifled a few curse words, ran cold water over the ironing-induced blisters on my fingers and simultaneously hitched up my baggy, unattractive jogging pants.

What does any of this have to do with aprons you ask? I started throwing away unworn summer clothes. It's hard for me. But I squinted my eyes shut and tried to hear Tim Gunn speak to me, like a fashion Obi Wan Kenobi, "You haven't worn this in two years, send it to the other side. Let it go. Use the force." So I began to throw anything away I didn't wear this summer. It felt good. But then, I began to eye the dress section of the closet.

I have one sundress I never wear. I love the fabric. Hate the fit. The top is too big, the waist too tight. I've owned it for four years; worn it once. But as I struggled to find some excuse to keep it, a light bulb flashed into the back of my brain.

"I'll make an apron!" I cried, and immediately left my piles of clothes helter-skelter throughout the house and began to cut the back out, saving the scraps to make the tie for the back.

Never fear Anthropologie, your adorable apron monopoly is safe. I cant sew straight to save my life and the ties in the back are uneven lengths But, as I wore it last night, it did its job. That cute little retro print dress/apron shielded my clothes from some vicious squash soup splatters. I'm sure Tim Gunn would click his tongue and say, "Elizabeth," (because he would use my full name, he's very formal that way), "Elizabeth, you should have just parted with the dress." But it's probably safe to say Tim doesn't share my rabid affinity for retro floral print.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Book Review: Somebody Else's Daughter

*** photo taken in Cannon Beach, OR on vacation last September. And I'm afraid there's been a misunderstanding. I have participated in target practice with men who have a penchant for dipping tobacco. I have never spit tobacco. Ew. I may be a plate-licking, fall-down-in-the-middle-of-a-busy-intersection wood chopper (I can TOO do that), but I promise, you'll find no snuff ring in my back pocket. I use my plastic gas-station cups as heaven intended... drinking enamel eroding coke. Not spitting. Now, let's all put our serious hats on for this book review.

I recently finished reading Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage for Trish at TLC Book Tours. The book begins with Nate Gallagher and his dying girlfriend as they give up their baby, Willa, for adoption to a wealthy couple living in the Berkshires. Years later, Nate finds himself moving back to that community and teaching in the expensive school Willa (who is now a teenager) attends. There are many different characters that live in the beautifully described rural community, and they're skillfully interwoven together. But somehow, for me, the book always comes back to Willa (for a more in depth review, click here.)

I have to say, this book was, at times, pretty darn graphic. Not graphic in a Danielle Steele, romancy, smutty sort of way, but Elizabeth addresses some hard issues (drug addiction, abuse, eating disorders, perversion) in a pretty stark way. I understand that Elizabeth is seriously and realistically addressing the objectification of women, the abuse they suffer. But at the same time, brace yourselves. I read some parts with one eye closed and the other squinted.
I particularly enjoyed the honest way Elizabeth approached adoption. I have family members that are near and dear to me who are adopted, and I’ve always bristled at the ignorance they’ve encountered. Whenever someone looks at an adopted child, someone who has only ever known and loved the one set of parents who raised them, and says, “Do you know who your real mom is?” it makes me nuts. I’m a firm believer that ‘real parents’ are the people who love you, care for you, and devote their lives to you. That is real family. Has anyone else ever encountered that kind of thing? I hope I'm not the only one that feels that way.

Again, this book is not for the faint of heart. It is not going to make you feel good afterward, and I promise I'm not sheltered, or squeamish. It reminded me of being a counselor at a summer camp for 11 weeks after my freshman year. For the majority of the summer I had a cabin full of girls from foster care. I heard stories and confessions from those kids that still make me cringe in the night. So I understand the side of life Elizabeth is addressing, I understand what abuse and addiction looks like. I just didn't particularly care to revisit it.

On the flip side, it's a well written book. Elizabeth writes beautifully, describing people and settings with absolute and breathtaking clarity. I adored Willa, I rooted for her and twisted my hands for her when she was in danger. Willa was shining star of the book. I loved this particular quote about her, and I’ll leave you with it.

“She wanted to fight the world sometimes. She imagined herself on a galloping horse, holding a spear like Joan of Arc. She just wanted to be different. She wanted to be free. She wanted to travel. To wear long skirts with bells on her ankles. She wanted to go to India. She wanted to fall in love. She wanted to fall madly in love with someone who would whisper to her and write songs about her. She wanted to have babies, lots and lots of babies, and live on a farm somewhere and grow her hair down her back. She would be very beautiful. These things would happen, she knew. One day.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Matt Cooks: Let Them Eat Soup

Today officially feels like fall. Windy rain, dark blue skies, and bright orange leaves are scattered across the black pavement. I'm wearing my favorite purple turtle neck and chunky blue beaded necklace and pink polka-dot rain boots are in the front seat of my car. All is right with the world.

Every year at this time, I begin to hear some weird internal clock whisper, "Let's eat soup for the next four months." And, I'm OK with that. I also hear my cleaning conscience whisper, "You've got 15 unfinished projects and some alarming piles of dust building up in the corners of the living room." But I'm not OK with that and choose to pay attention to the soup voice instead.

Matt made this wonderfully filling cheesy soup and it was GOOD. The only thing that would have made it better was a crackling fire, but we were out of those self starter logs and I refused to show my hillbilly heritage by chopping wood in our chain-linked suburbia-central backyard. Cause guys, I can swing an axe. And target practice with men who spit tobacco into cups and yell, "Git 'R Done!" But not in my back yard. The neighbors would freak. So, no fire.

We found this recipe in the October 2008 BH&G magazine... here's the scoop.

Broccoli-Potato Soup With Greens

3 medium red potatoes, chopped
1 14 oz can chicken broth
3 cups small broccoli florets
3 cups milk
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups smoked Gouda cheese, shredded (8oz)
2 cups winter greens (romaine)
(Matt added carrots too)

1. In a large saucepan combine potatoes and broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat. Simmer, cover, 8 minutes. Mash slightly. Add broccoli and milk; bring just to simmering.

2. In medium bowl toss flour and cheese; gradually add to soup, stirring cheese until melted. Season to taste with black pepper. Serve, top with greens.