Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Admission

I have officially become the kind of person I used to make fun of.

My first year of college in San Diego, I was still an Oregonian at heart. While part of the appeal of living in Southern California is the mild, sunny, breezy, and generally perfect climate, it gets a bit depressing around Christmas time. There's just something about listening to Christmas music when it's 75 degrees outside or stringing Christmas lights around a palm tree that just doesn't quite spell Christmas to me. Up until that first year of college, I had lived in Oregon my entire life. In Oregon, for a better part of the year, it's rainy and cold. And in the winter, it gets particularly rainy and cold, which means everyone hunkers down, bears the cold like a champ, and maybe even throws on a few flannels and axes some firewood for the fireplace. Basically, you deal with a real winter (and you have the option of being a lumberjack).

So naturally, in California, I made fun of all the Californians who would bust out their scarves and boots and mittens in November when the temperature would drop below 60 (I think I've sun bathed in colder weather in Oregon). I would mock their weakness and taunt them over their sweater clothing choices because, quite simply, it wasn't cold.

But unfortunately, I haven't been home in a long time. That means I have been living in heat-death, humidity central for the past year plus. For example, last week, it was still 76 degrees. 76 degrees in December. I wore sandals and capris. I had to turn on the A/C in my car. I ordered iced coffee at Starbucks.

And now as I face the realization that I will be boarding a plane tomorrow to head back home to Oregon, I feel like I have to admit that I am one of those people. One of the weaklings, anyway (not a Californian). Now, I freeze if the temperature drops anywhere near 50. And 20? That's inconceivable at this point. Now, I'm so excited when the it's in the low 60s because it means I can wear a sampling of my dusty winter wardrobe.

And now I realize that starting tomorrow, I'm in for a world of frosty pain.

But I hope Oregon welcomes me back as one of its own, even in my weakened state. Though I may actually physically die if it snows, I promise not to complain too much. And if it matters at all, I did not put Christmas lights on the palm tree in my front yard this year.

Surely that must count for something.

Friday, December 9, 2011

So Close

Getting me through finals week right now: homemade pumpkin coffee creamer.


Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer: (adapted from Deliciously Organic)

1 cup milk
1 cup cream
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice (or any combination nutmeg, cinnamon or cloves)
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)

Combine all ingredients and heat in a saucepan over medium heat, just until the mixture begins to steam. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar. Refrigerate and then pour into your coffee at all hours of the day or night.

I seriously love this stuff. And I only feel slightly guilty for the realization that I drank the last jar in a five-day period, meaning both that I drank way too much coffee and that I drank a cup of cream on my own. Such is life sometimes.

In other news, after I turn in a billion papers this coming week, I'm only a few days away from our much anticipated trip to Oregon, which means we have to eat all the food in our fridge in the next 10 days. Fortunately, it also means that after a year and a half of being gone, I finally get to come home.

Viva la Oregon and coffee creamer!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My New Friends

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I have essentially finalized all the foods I want to eat. In fact, I think for the past week or so, every other thought in my mind has been about this meal and what I will eat and how I will eat it and what I will do with the leftovers and how I will rebuild my self worth after all the eating is over. My larger dilemma, though, is what type of cinnamon rolls to make for Thanksgiving morning. Andrew is no help in this area. His metabolism often inhibits him from actually tasting food, and I think I could sprinkle a Top Ramen packet on the inside of these things and he would like them just the same. The cinnamon rolls, then, are really just for me.

And there are so many worthy options:

Regular cinnamon rolls with vanilla glaze.
cinnamon rolls pan

Or super awesome cream cheese frosting.

Or Buttermilk syrup (which my southern lady friend calls Buttermilk "gravy").

 Or pumpkin cinnamon rolls with pumpkin pie spices.
pumpkin crolls2

And, of course, super awesome cream cheese frosting.
pumpkin crolls

 Or I could be really ridiculous and make cookie dough again.

Or stuff the cinnamon rolls with apples sauteed in brown sugar and butter.

Or, I could commit the mother of all sins and make the worst thing ever: cinnamon rolls filled with crushed Oreos.

All with super awesome cream cheese frosting.

The problem is, I want all the things. I want all the flavors. And all the cream cheese. And none of the insulin consequences.

Either way, this week I am thankful for cinnamon rolls (and love [and family (and Andrew)]). And next week I'm sure I will be thankful for running shoes that can help me rebuild my self esteem again.

But for now, me and the fatty rolls are going to be BFFs.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Several weeks ago, I convinced Andrew to carve pumpkins with me. The 80 degree "fall" weather was beginning to depress me, and I wanted an excuse to make pumpkin cookies and roast pumpkin seeds. He agreed, and after our festivities, I readily set the pumpkins on our front porch so that all could see what a merry and festive family we were. I even lit some tea candles in the pumpkins so that our neighbors could behold our glee, even at night.

The next day, however, I took a walk around our neighborhood and noticed that no other house on our whole block had any carved pumpkins out front. Suddenly, I began to question my squash sculptures: do people here still carve pumpkins? Because the South is ultra religious, are they going to think I'm a pagan of sorts? Not backing down, I left my pumpkins on the porch.

Then, one week later, I had my answer.


Though I have been in Georgia for a year and a half, I still manage to underestimate the power of humidity. I had essentially placed rotting vegetables on my porch, in 80 degree weather, and assumed that the outcome would be jolly and spirited. I wanted to tell people that in Oregon, you can carve pumpkins and set them on your porch and the cold weather will preserve them, not devour them. But it was too late. The mold had eaten the pumpkins alive, from the inside out. The cute beady-eyed little pumpkin was now a fuzzy-eyed little pumpkin and their mouths were no longer housing little tea candles, but large dark clouds of things I would rather not describe.

I'm sure my neighbors did think I was crazy, and I have since learned that southerners do in fact carve pumpkins, they just typically set their pumpkins out the day before Halloween.

While this story is mildly embarrassing and disgusting, I believe it can still work to my advantage.

Last year, I grossly underestimated the amount of children who would be trick-or-treating in my neighborhood. I bought 1 bag of candy, and anxiously waited for the small people to arrive (I grew up on a farm-like orchard, and hence have never had the opportunity to give candy out on Halloween...I think I've romanticized it a bit). When the children finally began to arrive, I opened my door, went outside to greet them, and was immediately alarmed. Swarms, I tell you, swarms of children were crawling down the street. Obviously, within minutes, I was out of candy (to be fair, I was a little too lenient last year with my candy rules. This year, "No, you may not have two," and "I don't care if you don't like Whoppers" will become my new mantras).

Seeing that I live on a quiet and idyllic street, I thought the masked children would understand why I was out of candy. But when the next set arrived and I displayed my empty candy bowl, an uproar began. The group began shouting in all different directions: "She's out candy! She's out! She doesn't have any candy!" Suddenly, an echo of sorts picked up down the streets and everyone began repeating the shameful news and pointing at my house. Trying to hide my embarrassment, I gave a few half-hearted waves and head nods and tried to slowly walk backwards into my house. At the same time, I caught sight of a mom whose children were just relaying the news of my candy failures: "She's out!?" she cried. "Already? Well....then...Take her pumpkins! We deserve something!" With swift movements, her little minion ran onto my porch and started trying to carry off my (uncarved) pumpkins. As he began to pick them up, the mom laughed and called him off. And he hung his head and slowly stomped off my porch. I stood in disbelief, not five-feet from the kid, unsure of what sort of place I had moved to. They all laughed about the little escapade and the mom passive-aggressively joked that although she had been kidding, maybe I shouldn't run out of candy next year.

This year, I'm fully stocked up and supplied for tonight.

But I may run out on purpose, just to see what happens.


Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

An Anniversary Story {in which I am a pretentious know-it-all towards all things Charleston}

Recently, Andrew and I celebrated our three-year wedding anniversary. Since we've been in the South, I've been begging to go to Charleston. I seem to have some romanticized notion of Charleston that may stem from Scarlett O'Hara, or country music, or my feelings that South Carolina is like the California of the South. Thankfully, Andrew doesn't have romanticized notions about anything in life and definitely not about cities he's never been to, so he let me navigate the weekend celebration.

While there are many things to do in Charleston, somehow I got it into my head that I really wanted to visit a plantation (that is a southern thing to do, right?). So I found the oldest and largest plantation that South Carolina had to offer, and Andrew and I started our anniversary bash with a trip to Magnolia Plantation.

All seemed impressive enough. There were large mansions:

Some famously photographed bridges:

And even some friendly Flannery O'Connor peacocks:

Things went a bit south for me (punnn), though, when we decided to take a trolley ride around the premises. It seemed innocent enough. We were happy. Someone had given Andrew a green sticker. And it was only 95 degrees instead of 105:

But...I'm not sure where I missed the memo that this entire plantation is built on a swamp:

And by entire plantation I mean most of the South. There was a little too much of this:

And a little more of this:

And a bajillion of these. There were seriously the biggest banana spiders, an arms length away, on every single tree we passed. This caused a rather large case of immediate onset PTSD (Post Traumatic Spider Disorder) in which I basically started to, in the words of Andrew, "freak out."  I then copped some type of, to use a southern word, "ugly" attitude (as in, "I wanted the guests to leave my house, but I could never be ugly to them").

I thus felt it necessary to share the following advice with Mr. Tour Guide Trolley Man: calling them "Golden Silk Spiders" for their "golden" webs does not make me think they are pretty or valuable. 

The spiders, coupled with the heat, tripled with the alligators and quadrupled with the gnats, led to a minor nervous breakdown.

But like any childlike tantrum, my attitude was pacified by diversion. So we left Spider Farms to go see the final Harry Potter installment. I thought this would be a good idea, but then I remembered why I haven't gone to see the movie yet: Because once I did, I would have nothing to live for. Ever again. Except maybe this.

I need you, Peter Jackson. Now more than ever.

Finally, on our way home, we stopped at a little roadside stand to try some boiled peanuts (this has been on my southern to-do list for awhile). Unfortunately, where I come from, "boiled" means you do in fact eat the product that has been boiled. Thus I tried to eat the whole thing, shell and all, which was a bit like chewing on a stick, before choking violently and being informed matter-of-factly by the store owner that you do indeed have to peel boiled peanuts.

My advice to Roadside Cider Ma'am: Maybe you should have a sign with instructions? Not all of us know how to eat boiled peanuts. Or jambalaya or low-country boil for that matter. 

In the end, though, I feel I owe Charleston an apology. While the hostile wildlife and tree-bark-eating experience made me feel unwelcome, the locals should be respected for their knowledge of arachnids and legumes, and my husband should be allowed to enjoy a swamp vacation if he so desires.

And on my end, I did receive two of the best lattes ever (complete with organic milk from glass bottles), and I am easily persuaded by all things coffee. So I think we can call it even.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Mostly Finished Living Room

I have this ugly orange folder where I keep my house decorating inspirations. It's like a more archaic form of Pinterest. I call it Staplering:

orange folder

Anyway, this month we officially celebrated our one-year anniversary as Savannah homeowners. Though I have completely underestimated how long it takes to finish working on a home, our living room is for the most part complete. This is what it looked like when we moved in:



And this was my inspiration page that looks like it was compiled by an elementary school kid (I did use crayons). I really fell in love with a neutral cream and gray palette with some soft blues and greens. And I would never say that sentence out loud in real life...


And here's what we did:


We recovered our existing sofa, thrifted and repainted the white side table, I sewed the curtains (and the bottom pieces may or may not, but mostly just may, be from a shower curtain), bought a new side chair and some pillows from Pier1, and gathered an assortment of other items from HomeGoods and World Market.



pillow collage w space


I say our living room is "mostly finished" because I want to ninja kick our we-were-married-for-one-month-so-it's-all-we-could-afford IKEA Lack table and replace it with this "grey-weathered farmhouse coffee table" from World Market:

World Market Farmhouse Table

And I sort of want this "put a bird on it" silver fireplace screen:
Fireplace Screen
Then I think I would be done. The big question is whether I should pin these images on Pinterest, or cut them out and scotch tape them to a blank piece of computer paper and scribble around them with crayon and place them in the orange folder.

Pinterest: A virtual pinboard.
Staplering: A real life piece of paper you can staple things to.

I choose crayons and real life!

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Favorite Salsa

I finally have tomatoes.

I have literally been waiting months for these things. Every time I would complain to garden folk back home in Oregon about my plants not producing tomatoes yet, they would remind me that it takes a lot of heat to turn those little orbs red. But after months of hundred degree weather, I was beginning to doubt whether heat had anything to do with their delay, and maybe my poor gardening skills were to blame. So imagine my delight when I recently ventured out to the garden to tame my basil jungle and discovered these cheery faces.


Of course, having tomatoes has already presented its share of garden evils (lest we forget the zucchini larva saga so soon). Just recently I went out to monitor their progress and discovered this seemingly innocent caterpillar friend:


After talking to it for a few seconds in a baby voice (What are youuu doing out here, little guy?), I crouched down next to it just in time to choke on my words and spout curses towards all things garden-related in the South.


It had a stinger. Or a hook or a spiky tail. I don't really know what it is. And I don't really care if that spike is completely harmless and doesn't have venom in it. That caterpillar had already eaten half of the leaves from one of my plants, and scared some fourth-grade level swear words out of my mouth, and thus earned a spot on the pavement for the birds to devour. I think gardening is hardening my heart. And making me hate the outdoors.

So to sum up: I have a caterpillar with a horn for a tail, but I also have tomatoes, which means I can make my favorite salsa. It is as follows...

3-4 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped (or one can of diced tomatoes)
3 garlic cloves
1 jalapeño
1 lime
1/2 an onion (optional)
A lot of cilantro

Roast the jalapeño and garlic (unpeeled) in a pan until soft and slightly charred.

Once cooled, remove the garlic peels and slice open the jalapeño to remove the seeds and stem. Throw the jalapeño, garlic and tomatoes in a blender (Andrew will later complain that this salsa is too "hot" due to the five seeds I left in the blender):

Add the Roma tomatoes (or can of diced tomatoes) and the onion and purée to your desired consistency:

Pour the salsa in a bowl and add salt and the juice of one lime:

Then add a whole lot of chopped cilantro:

Stir and serve.

Two things I have learned from this recipe: You can never have too much cilantro and nothing with a spike for a tail should be allowed to live (case in point), except maybe a Stegosaurus.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Laundry Room Update

Our laundry room debacle is officially over, and I stayed true to my word. At least the part of my word where I said I would paint my laundry room pink -- not so much the part about actually doing laundry more frequently.

Before: tattered walls, dust everywhere, androgynous decor.  

blog 3

After: overpowering estrogen-haven of pinks, pastels and florals.




Though this room is typically littered with manly items like Army uniforms and muddy boots, I appreciate the feminine backdrop while I neglect Andrew's dirty socks and curse the smell they emit lovingly and gracefully launder and fold crisp linens and hum a soft melody.

I also think my laundry room decorating choices may represent my latent desire to decorate a nursery, and, apparently, I'm pulling for a girl. No need to worry, though -- I'm merely speaking about a hypothetical nursery for my non-baby.  I stopped short of hanging a mobile of coat hangers from the ceiling, so I think I'm good.

P.S. Thanks Carmen and Jenny for your ideas. I owe you one scoop of Tide bleach in exchange for your laundry room advice.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An R-Rated story about Gardens

I have sleep problems. Those of you who have ever lived with me know this is the case. My sleeping habits are questionable to say the least: I'm hypersensitive to noise, I have strange rituals involving socks and chapstick, and I tend to take out my sleep frustrations on those around me.

However, over the past year or so, I have developed a different sort of sleep problem: hallucinations. The combination of stress and sleep deprivation tends to result in me waking up in the middle of the night because I see something that isn't really there, think it's real, freak out and shout a lot of incoherent statements until Andrew, in a monotone voice, assures me that all is indeed well in the world.

What is most notable about these hallucinations is that they almost always involve bugs. I'll shake Andrew awake in the middle of the night because massive amounts of fire ants are crawling out from under our dresser. I will swat at the curtains with my pillow because a 6-inch spider is crouching in the corner of our window. Or, I will run around stammering, ducking my head while batting at the air because giant flower pots are hovering above me waiting to drop insects in my ears.

I'm no Freud, but I think this means I am afraid of bugs. In fact, I think this means I am more afraid of bugs than anything else in the world.

You can imagine my horror, then, when my zucchini plants got involved with my greatest fear.

Until recently, the zucchinis were winning MVP in the garden (and I don't give awards easily). Wherever I looked, their little jagged-leaved faces were sprouting up all over the place.

I finally contained their growth to two plants and they took off like the world really was going to end on May 21st. Their leaves were massive and they were producing fruit faster than I could keep up with.


The tomato plants might have been cowering like little babies, but the zucchinis were the brute force of the garden. I never worried about them.

That is, until they started looking a little sick. I thought maybe I wasn't watering them enough at first -- their leaves were beginning to turn yellow and wilt and they looked quite weepy.

Then they stopped producing zucchinis altogether and the roots starting looking like some type of rot was taking over.

Then I got worried.

So I went to battle for my zucchinis and turned to Google for advice on some type of spray that would kill whatever was harming my little troopers (so much for organic). Within minutes, I came across something that made my stomach turn a bit. A bunch of online gardening boards were blowing up about something called a squash vine borer. It was a bug. A bug that lays its eggs in the vines of squash producing plants. A bug whose larvae bores into the stem of the plant, blocking water flow and killing the plant. A bug that is common in the southern states. A bug, that once it begins its work, can't be stopped.

And if that wasn't enough, there was another bug mentioned, called simply, squash bug. This bug removes sap from squash plants and causes their leaves to wilt and turn yellow. This bug injects disease into a plant. This bug, much like the vine borer, doesn't go away.

I started feeling a bit ill. All the symptoms and descriptions seemed to line up, and were it not already 10:00 at night, my bug-fearing adrenaline probably would have been enough to drive me into the garden to slice open a stem to look for the little sin-incarnate beasts. But alas, it was dark, and I would probably feel a lot better if I could convince Andrew to do the dirty work anyway.

Unfortunately, Andrew was more or less already asleep when I started spouting off the drama, a hundred miles an hour, demanding that we take the camping hatchet to the roots to determine if the vine borers really were present in our defenseless plants. His non-sympathetic answer seemed to indicate that he didn't actually buy my story, like I had some type of garden hypochondria. However, he reassured me we would check on the plants tomorrow.

But I couldn't sleep. All I could do was lay awake and think extensively about the word "larvae." Perhaps the worst word ever.

The next morning, Andrew left at 5 a.m. when it was still dark and when I obviously wasn't going to get up. I thought I would be able to wait until he got home, but by the time the afternoon rolled around, I just had to know.

So with a mysterious prodding driving me forward, I took my garden shears and a butter knife and crept out into the lawn. Once I arrived at the plant, I became aware of the multitude of mysterious bugs flying around -- ones I was sure were on to my plan and were determined to keep me away. Not backing down, I trimmed away some of the excess vines until I had a clear shot at the roots. And then, with a shaky right hand and queasy stomach, I started sawing.

Then I saw it.

Because I know some of you are pregnant, if you would rather not see what I saw on that God-forsaken day, just look at this teeny tiny bunny on this puppy's head or think about hugging baby orange kitties. If you would like the graphic detail, just mouse over Thumper.

It was my worst nightmare, literally. All I could do was drop the knife, weakly shake my limp hands in the air while making a lot of whimpering noises, and then stumble back into the house.

Several emergency phone calls later to Andrew, who, by the way, never answered, I realized I had to face this evil alone. I gathered my courage and dauntingly reemerged outside. I crouched near the cursed little larvae to see just what I was up against, and then, as if to mock me, his vomit-inducing partner sauntered right past. It was the squash bug.

Again, enjoy a cup of bunny tea, or see more bugs at your discretion.

In the battle for my zucchinis, I had lost. Like a madwoman, I went about hacking the garden, searching for more of the spawns of Satan. Unfortunately, I think most of them had already reached teenager stage, as several little red bugs violently hovered over my head and the rest of them, no doubt, burrowed deeper into the soil.

And in the end, all that remained in the wake of my axing and chopping was devastation.


With my MVPs now neutralized, I admit defeat. The zucchinis are gone, never to be seen again this summer. And I somehow have to convince Andrew to conduct a controlled burn in our 8-foot garden (because seriously, the larvae are in the soil now).

With my squash saga closed, I have resorted to making bread with bananas instead of zucchinis and offer my many reassurances and condolences to those out there whom I gave zucchinis to -- there is no need to issue a recall because those zucchinis were pre-infestation. You have my word. And my Sword. And my bow. 

Since larvaegate 2011, the basil is the new reigning garden champ. And my sleep hallucinations have gotten much worse. Two nights in a row, I have seen a giant spider crawling on Andrew's neck that always disappears under his pillow by the time I get a paper towel and a flashlight to kill it.

Or at least I think it's a hallucination. For all I know, it may in fact be real life. And at this point, I wouldn't be surprised either way.