Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolve This

This is not what I would call my favorite time of year. Christmas is over, the gifts have all been opened. the pretty decorations are all going away and we are also expected to stop eating decadent goodies and drinking cocktails with candy canes hanging off the rim and instead, makes lists of all our frailties and how we are going to overcome them in the next 365 days. No pressure there.

No matter who or where you are, the resolutions are always eerily similar: lose weight, work out, stop spending $1847 a year on coffee at Starbucks. This year I decided to think out of the box and come up with some real, dig-down-deep resolutions. Ones that will really implement some lasting change.

My list of New Year's resolutions for a new and improved me in 2013:

1. Drink fewer cocktails. Undoubtedly, this will mean making my drinks stronger. It will take commitment, but I believe that with diligence and hard work, it can be done.

2. Go for quality over quantity in cases involving friends, clothes...anything except food. I am what they call a volume eater and I would rather eat 20 rice cakes than one of those stupidly small two-bite desserts that belong on the buffet table in the Barbie dream house.

3. Finally figure out who let the dogs out. Seriously, we've been wondering since, what, 2000? That's a mystery that begs to be solved.

4. Build up my biceps by increasing my cupcake curls to at least one day a week. Decide. Commit. Succeed.

5. Love, honor, cherish and obey sparkly things. I did that in 2012 and most years before, too. It's just a good rule of thumb for awesomeness.

6. I also plan to use the words hussy, jezebel and tart more often. I don't have anyone specific in mind, but they're fine words that deserve more usage. I'm sure I can find some perfect instances for these timeless terms.

7. I will wear pants with an actual button and/or waistband at least a few times a week. What with leggings, jeggings and yoga pants, it's been a stretchy clothes December. But it needs to stop or I will wind up being one of those people who get so fat they are trapped in their home and have to be cut out with the jaws of life.

8. Conversely, I am also going to resolve to spend more time in my pajamas. It's when I get out of them that things start to go awry, and I usually wish I had just stayed home, comfy and cozy and not hot-rolled.

I've shown you mine, now it's your turn. Make your own list, you hussy, and resolve to have the a New Year so happy, it will drive your enemies nuts! Go get 'em!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

You Really Shouldn't Have

What's the worst Christmas gift you've ever gotten? I'm not talking socks, underwear or a homemade sweater--I'm talking horrible, terrible, no good, very bad gifts. I've gotten a few doozies over the years, and I'll tell you what: if you can beat my worst, you win a prize.

But before I get to the ultimate worst, let's visit with the runners up. One year I opened a pair of what I would have sworn to be mens gray flannel pajamas. In a size large. Basically, it was a big flannel elephant costume. The only thing that convinced me these were womens is that they came from a popular lingerie store (and the Secret is that Victoria wouldn't be caught dead in them). Apparently, the giver thought I had a burning desire for something that resembled prison garb from the Shawshank Redemption. I took these lookers back to said store in an attempt at getting a refund, waited in a line about 20 bra and thong toting people deep, and was then told the retail value of my gift was...drum roll...$3.99. That's right: someone didn't even like me enough to spend a five-spot on a real Christmas present. I gave the clerk the pajamas and told her to keep the $3.99. That's the cost of a lesson learned.

Another year, my husband's family drew names. Everyone took turns opening their treasures, and when it was my turn, I saw everyone exchange glances in anticipation. My gift came from one of the cousins who lives in Alaska, and I know now that she is a notoriously bad gift giver. She wasn't there to see me open the gift, and it's probably a good thing. Chick bought me a poster of a brown bear running through a field. Seriously. It was like a National Geographic centerfold, all wrapped up with my name on it.

Now listen, Eskimo girl: I don't know how they roll up in Anchorage, but down South, that is not cool. I am thirty some-odd years old and that bear is not going up on my bedroom wall, a la something during my junior high years out of Tiger Beat. I am not a poster lover and I am surely not a nature lover, and I suspect that bear cost roughly the same price as the gray flannel jammies. Man, people have just got to stop spoiling me with these extravagant gifts. Next time, send whale blubber. At least it's novel.

But now let's get down to business. There is one gift that is so terrible, no one can beat it. A family member of mine gave me the ultimate crap gift. Before I even opened the box, she had already proclaimed, "you aren't going to like it." Oh, goodie, now I really can't wait. The year before she had gifted me a Dust Buster and I really thought that was our low point, but she proved my dust busting arse wrong. I pulled back the box lid with timid anticipation and found: two smoke detectors.

I swear to you that I looked around for someone to confirm it was a joke. No such luck. Who does that? Unless you are buying for Fire Marshall Bill, smoke detectors aren't on any sane person's wish list. It was like she cleaned out the garage and found my Christmas present on a shelf with some leftover paint and a can of Raid. They even spelled "guard" wrong on the box (although it does state that is has a hinged cover--only the luxury models have those). Not only that, she didn't even bother to put batteries in the things. So now I've got a crummy present that will also allow me to sleep peacefully while my house burns down around me.

I still have one of them, just as evidence that I was the recipient of the worst Christmas gift in the history of the world. Any time someone complains about a present, I go to my laundry room and pull out the trusty smoke alarm and trump that whining. And I'll take it one step further: if you got a Christmas gift that's worse than mine, I'll give you my smoke detector.

Here's hoping you had a fireproof, flannel pajama free, merry as a bear in a field Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dear Santa

Dearest, sweetest, most handsome Santa,

We both know how angelic perfect good I have been this year. Okay, maybe not totally flawless, but that would be annoying and not much fun at all. This girl believes she has been just the right mix of naughty and nice to earn some real finds under the tree Christmas morning.

There are some things money can't buy. Please don't bring me any of those things for Christmas. Your taste is usually impeccable, however, I wanted to make it easy on you by offering up some suggestions. I have come up with a short list of some items that I cannot find in stores and would especially thrill in getting. I have not doubt that the elves can make these wonders with minimal North Pole magic, no sweat. So, without further ado, I present my Christmas list:

1. This is what my little heart desires the most: one of those stick-your-head-inside hairdo machines that Jane and Judy Jetson had. It would give me hours, nay years, back to enjoy that I normally spend wielding a curling iron like a weapon and praying over my follicles. Do these two look like they are slaves to their hair? I think not.

2. Pajama Jeans. You see, they allegedly look like designer jeans but feel like you are wearing pajamas. Love that. Yes, I know that these are "as seen on TV" and technically are sold in stores, but they don't come in an extra small. Now Santa, don't get all big boy on me and begrudge me this fine gift just because I am petite and need a small size. I can practically picture Mrs. Claus rolling her eyes on this one, but hear me out. After all, they are Pajama Jeans and made to be roomy. If I were asking for skinny jeans, you bet your big black boots I wouldn't be requesting an extra small. While we're at it, Pajama Dress Pants and Pajama Cocktail Dresses would also be delightful.
3. A pair of cute shoes that don't make my feet feel like they have been clubbed with a sledgehammer while I am wearing them. Outside of the elves magical North Pole workshop, these do not exist in my world, but I would love for them to--oh the bliss! (Please, do not send me the curly toed wonders the elves always sport--not what I had in mind).
4. Some sort of low-voltage shock device to zap Clint when he's snoring/hogging the covers/invading my side of the bed. Nothing that will do any permanent damage, but something with enough kick to get his attention and give me a little satisfaction while using it. Since you see me when I'm sleeping and you know when I'm awake, you no doubt understand my need for this little ditty. Oh, and it should be shaped like a small pitchfork. Not for any functional reason, just for aesthetics. Zap, zap.
5. An apparel thermometer. Why these aren't sold in every store is beyond me. That's super great that it's 57 degrees out there, but what I really need to know is what the flip to wear in said climate. Sweater? Jacket? Gloves? Is wind chill involved? The apparel thermometer will just say t-shirt, or flip flops, or bundle up like Ralphie's brother in A Christmas Story so you can't put your arms by your sides. It can also include the actual temperature, you know, for anyone who might want to know that, too.
6. Number six on my list, no coincidence, is six-pack abs. Because you are all-seeing Santa, surely you know that I have been working on my "flabs" since about 1993 and alas, abs of steel have not yet materialized for me. So if you could just go ahead and bring me some washboard ones, I can finally enjoy crop tops come spring time.
Also, if you have time, please make the carrot cake pancakes at IHOP calorie-free and bring back the television shows 24 and Felicity. And although I do not have a pool, I could still use Ryan Reynolds as a cabana boy and put him to very good use. Oh yeah, and world peace and stuff, too.
Love you. Mean it.
P.S. I'm not leaving any cookies out for you this year because I burnt the first batch and gave all the rest away to my neighbors who, I'm sure, were overwhelmed with gratitude. I recommend you stop at Ben & Jerry's at the entrance to my neighborhood and make it a Cherry Garcia Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Cat's Away...

You know what they say: when the cat's away, the mouse will play. My adoring husband and I don't exactly have a cat-and-mouse relationship, but I do enjoy my free time when he is out of town. Last week found Clint away for the night on business, so I declared it a free day. And free days are awesome.

Free days are when you can do all the things you don't get to do when you're being supervised. I don't have to make up the bed, there are no meals to cook, and I don't have to be productive because there is not a soul around to notice. (Except Cotton and he can easily be bought. A walk and a chew treat, and his lips are sealed).

Last week was a particularly fantastic free day. I got caught up on some reading (InStyle, a couple of People magazines that had been piling up in the magazine rack and making me nervous...something about a royal baby). Then I systematically watched every guilty pleasure show that makes Clint whine/sigh/beg to change the channel. Cue marathon run of  Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team, Fashion Police, a Christmas movie, and then the capper: I rented Magic Mike (which, to clarify, is best viewed with no sound and a heavy hand on the fast forward button).

That's right. The cat is away, and the mouse is at home, ogling scantily clad beefcakes on the cat's new wide screen HD television. I just knew that purchase would make more sense to me if I gave it time. Magic Mike was just the right time.

Free days are also an awesome time to eat things that my other half hates. Pizza Hut is about 100 yards from my house, but carryout would have meant changing out of my fuzzy pink slippers and leaving the warm glow of my Christmas tree. Needless to say, I called for delivery. One Veggie Lover's pizza, all for me. I got to eat black olives on said pizza without anyone pointing out that they are disgusting and gross and making gagging noises. And another trick I've learned to really enjoy free day?

Can you spot the free day bonus in this picture?

Yep, I'll admit it. I hid a pint of Ben & Jerry's behind the frozen vegetables so I could eat the entire carton all by myself. Hey, if you are afraid of frozen broccoli you get what you deserve. It just tastes better when it's devious, believe me on that.

And there you have it: a do nothing day of magazines, chick shows and junk food. It's probably a good thing I didn't marry a traveling salesman, or I would weigh 300 pounds and regurgitate nothing but pop culture when I finally ventured out of the house for more Doritos and US Weeklys.

The cat, er, Clint came back the next night. There were clean sheets on the bed, two loads of laundry done, vacuum tracks on all the carpet in the house, and dinner cooking on the stove. The magazines and ice cream carton trash had been taken out and Magic Mike and all his dancing glory was promptly returned. Happy wife, happy life? Talk about a happy home.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Smoke Monster

It kills my inner domestic goddess to tell you this: I hate to bake. I don't mind cooking, but baking is so messy, time consuming, and unpredictable. After all the sweat, toil, and trouble, you have about equal odds of producing a masterpiece or turning out something that makes everyone who tastes it feel sorry for you.

My brother once dated a girl who would bake obsessively when she got nervous or stressed. Apparently, they had a fight one weekend and he woke up the next morning to a pile of pies, stacks of cakes, and mountains of cookies. It's probably good for everyone that she didn't last. I can just see our family trying to flip this girl's lid just to get our hungry hands on some fresh baked goods. Personally, I like to eat them, not create them. I have such an appreciation for anyone giving the gift of baked delicacies that it's right up there with gold, frankincense and myrrh in my book.

But it's Christmas and everyone is making freaking cookies and I will not be outdone (thank you, Pinterest, this is all your over achieving fault. Again.). They say you are only as good as the equipment that you use, which is probably why I am such an awesome baker. Meet the Smoke Monster:

He's a beaut, right? I inherited the Smoke Monster from my granny (yes, I am an heiress, don't hate) and although a Sunbeam never tells its age, we estimate it to be about as old as I am--in other words, a fine young thing. This machine is such a 70s time machine, I have a theory that if you attach a flux capacitor to the beaters, it will mix you right back into the disco era.

Smokey got his name because he doth protest too much whenever I get him out. The 'Monster makes a high pitched, angry screeching noise and crawls its way across the counter while mixing as if trying to escape the torture of hanging out with butter, eggs and sugar. He gets <literally> hot and bothered and will smoke if you don't get in, get out, and get it over with. The Smoke Monster clearly had other ambitions (blender? cement mixer?) and had to settle.

If you are wondering why I don't go out and buy a new mixer, perhaps you have never taken notice of the price of these things. You can stay a night at the Four Seasons for what a KitchenAid costs, and baby gets a new pair of shoes for less than one of the "lesser" brands fetching price. The Smoke Monster was, and is, free. We soldier on together. Get 'er done and all that.

A few days ago, the 'Monster and I decided to spread some yuletide cheer with some Christmas cookies for the neighbors. Break out the Crisco and pass the vanilla, here we come. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in my kitchen window about 15 minutes in and found an odd resemblance to Al Pacino from Scarface, when he is at his desk with that big pile of cocaine. No, I'm not making any nose candy cookies, I was doused in flour. It really goes against my neat freak code of conduct, but in the spirit of Christmas, I pressed on.

I need to add some of my own notations to the recipe I used. Note one: recipe suggests that you drop the dough by teaspoons to form the cookies. Um, perhaps if you are making batches of cookies for the Smurf village these would be an appropriate size. I have seen bigger cookies in a box of Cookie Crisp cereal. Two: Yields six dozen cookies. Are you talking about six dozen of those dime sized elf nibbles? I like my cookies the size of hubcaps, thankyouverymuch. Note three: the recipe says to bake these mini masterpieces for 10 minutes. Seven minutes in, I smell burning cookies. Dancing on the edge of incinerated. My cookies look like that Tanning Bed Mom who was all over the news a few months ago admitting she was addicted to tanning.

Luckily for me, I have a husband who takes joy in eating pretty much everything burnt cookies. So we kept the Bain de Soleil batch and passed the ones that I hope and pray were edible on to some of the friendly folks who live around us. Next year, I fully intend to give the gift of Chips Ahoy.

And so, Merry Christmas from the Smoke Monster and me. Let it be a lesson to you that it is perfectly productive to screech, squirm and get all hot and bothered!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve Days of CarbFest

I have a love/hate relationship with food, in that I love to eat it and I hate when I can't. I think it's safe to say that by this point in the yuletide festivities, most of us have shoved the skinny jeans to the back of the closet, right behind the acid washed Jordache ones you're still hoping will come back in style. Since Turkey Day and all its gravy coated wonder, I've been opting for roomier options since I am afraid anything fitted might pop a button and potentially put out some unsuspecting bystander's eye. This time of year, it's even beyond hard to bend over and tie your shoes (Oh wait? Is that just me?). Whilst sitting here in my elastic waistband pants, I happen to feel that it was worth every bite.

Perusing a magazine in the grocery store checkout line, I read that the average American gains just one pound over the holidays. As usual, I am way above average. How awesome for me. I was telling a freau (pronounced "fro"--that's my term for an ex-beau who is now a friend) that this time of year is so hard on the diet. "Cut out the carbs," he said. "All they do is make you tired and puffy, anyway."

Let me assure you when he said "you," that boy was using a generalization. I never let freaus see me looking tired and/or puffy, so I know that comment was in no way directed at yours truly. I very quickly assured him that carbs make me feel warm, cozy, giddy, euphoric and full. They do not make me tired. And if I am dragging a bit, there is an easy explanation: cold, flu, insomnia, carbon monoxide poisoning, vitamin deficiency, boredom, stress, over caffeination, under caffeination, exhaustion, sleep apnea, tranquilizer dart...anything but carbs. My precious carbohydrates would not do that to me. Our love runs both ways, I can feel it.

And so, with my Cheetoh stained fingers, I have created a little ode to my beloveds to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Rather than being repetitive, I skipped right to the last day with all the marbled rye--oops--marbles. Now, twelve days is just a suggestion; it's the holidays so you go right on loving those goodies all month long, right into the New Year. Do not stop on my account. No carb left behind!

The Twelve Days of CarbFest
On the twelfth day of CarbFest, my true love Channing Tatum sent to me:
Twelve doughnuts glazing,
Eleven french fries frying,
Ten buttered biscuits,
Nine Belgian waffles,
Eight cakes a-baking,
Seven pints of ice cream,
Six chips a-dipping,
Five onion rings,
Four waffle cones,
Three french bread pizzas,
Two turtle brownies,
And a big bowl of spaghetti.
Ah, what a happy little tune. Feel free to sing with your mouth full. And I promise to practice what I preach, er, sing. One final note: I love them all, but the couch potato will always be my favorite. Viva la carb!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Lights and Champs (and Segways), Oh My!

I'm just going to come right out and say it: the North Carolina Department of Tourism would be in awe of the weekend we just had. After I post this and word gets around, I expect some sort of certificate of recognition or plaque to be presented.

We had friends visiting Charlotte for their very first time. They came in from San Diego and we had 54 hours (or so) to show them the town. Which basically meant a chance for me to do all the fun things I have been wanting to do around this joint but haven't had an excuse. First, the boys wanted barbecue, so we did that. Pulled pork sandwiches and cole slaw and the whole lot for lunch. But let's fast forward (which I rarely do where food is concerned, so that should tell you something). I have two words for you: Segway tour.

If you haven't ever ridden one of these things, they are so much fun. Super fun. Crazy fun. And we spent an hour and a half touring Uptown, Bank of America stadium, historic Fourth Ward, etc. on our new sets of wheels Friday afternoon. Did it rain? Yes. Was it cold? Indeed. Did I make the tragic decision to leave my coat and gloves in the car? You know it. And it was still one of those grin ear-to-ear experiences.

That would be me, geeking out on my Segway. If I ever go back to work, I am going to give tours. On Segways. The bad news is that you can never have a good hair day wearing a helmet. The good news is that you can never have a bad hair day in one either.

I told our tour guide that I wanted a Segway, and he informed me that you can buy them on Amazon (duh...I could have told him that) and they go for $6,000. Yeah, I wanted one but I didn't want to trade my car in for one. So if anyone is looking for Christmas gift ideas for me, I'm just floating it out there....
Friday evening our adorable neighbors joined us for dinner, and then we limoed it (that is probably not a word, but it should be, so use it in a sentence before the end of the day and let's get the ball rolling on it) to McAdenville, North Carolina a.k.a. Christmastown USA. McAdenville has a town population of about 650 people and more Christmas spirit than Whoville on Christmas morning. Every house, every tree is dripping in clear, red and green lights and the whole town is a soundtrack of church bells and carols. Richard and Amy (adorable neighbors) even had the genius to bring champs. I'd like to thank Heather from Real Housewives of Orange County for teaching us to call champagne "champs." It just classes it up even more.

I could stop there and you would be slightly impressed. Maybe even a little jealous. But I wasn't finished (although apparently I was finished with taking pictures, because I don't have any photographic evidence of what followed). Saturday we loaded up the sleigh and took our guests to Asheville for a candlelight Christmas tour of the Biltmore Estate and a stay at the Grove Park Inn.
If you like beautiful mansions, Christmas decorations, fireplaces, hot toddies, cozy spaces, the National Gingerbread Competition (it is held every year at the Grove Park and the only thing no one has done <yet> is make a working gingerbread space shuttle) and/or good times, you would love Biltmore and the Grove Park. If you don't like any of those things, well, you would probably forget yourself and wind up having a good time anyway.
After a brunch of goat cheese grits, fresh biscuits and fried egg BLTs (and a sweet potato pancake or two), it was time to send them back to the West Coast. I think we sent them back with a little more Christmas spirit and maybe even a little dose of Southern-ness in their back pockets.
Christmas lights and champs and Segways, oh my! Consider this town painted.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fine Feathered Foe

Despite the fact that we live in Charlotte proper, right off a major thoroughfare, our backyard is critter central. A few weekends ago, I walked out to find a doe as tall as me (not that that is saying much since I am a towering 5'4) grazing in our grass. Over the summer we had a black snake the size of a python (on this, I am not exaggerating) and two copperheads. We've had owls, bunnies, hawks, possums, and neighbors have mentioned that there are also raccoons in the neighborhood. While I'm no nature lover (wearing animal print is about as close to nature as I like to get), I can usually deal.

However, I am deathly, deathly afraid of birds. You all should be. They are just waiting for the opportune moment to pounce and peck all our eyes out. Horrible, terrible, gross creatures (H1N1 bird flu, anyone?). I have felt this way as long as I can remember and my family swears it is not due to some traumatic event during early childhood involving a toucan or something. And they never miss the chance to tell a good story, so there must not be any material there. If you have never seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds, watch and learn. A picture from that cautionary film to illustrate my point:

When I was fourteen or so, my parents got my younger brother a pet. Specifically, Pete the parakeet. You read that correctly. Knowing that I have a phobia of birds, my mom and dad brought one into our house. To live with us. Every time that bird fluttered in his cage, I lost years off my life. I was living in my own house of horrors. Luckily for me, on day two of his stay with us, Pete ate the little rubber ball in his cage and died. Although the only thing scarier than a bird is a dead bird. The thought sends shivers up my spine.

Fast forward to present. I really think they can smell fear. And then they come calling. Several weekends in a row, we have gone for our once-a-week dinner out. This usually consists of Jason's Deli and a trip to the bookstore--and I swear we are, in fact, under the age of 80. Anyway, upon returning home and going to unlock our back door, this winged creature of doom flies out of the porch over our door and scares the bejeezus out of me. Sometimes he is there, sometimes he is not. He enjoys the element of surprise. Allow me to introduce my nemesis:

There he is, all cozy and warm and waiting to inflict death upon us at any minute. And here I am, having heart palpitations just looking at the picture. We have tried various methods to scare this beast away and he is not bothered in the least by any of it--tack strips, sticky "bird away" goop, tape, nails, death threats....

Since he usually appears at night, I falsely assumed I was safe in the light of day. Last week, I walked up to the back door with plastic grocery bags stacked 47 deep on each arm--gotta get it all in one trip--and that terror swooped down from his perch and right past my head. I threw grocery bags like they were confetti and I was in Times Square on New Year's Eve and let out a blood-curdling scream that would wake the dead. Bird: 1, jar of olives: 0. Did I mention that I really love olives? I think he knew that.

The pathetic part is that I am such an animal lover, when Clint attempts to get rid of my fine feathered foe, I actually start worrying that he will hurt it. This creature is out to get me and I don't want anyone swatting it with a broom. My only hope is that it is steadily getting colder in North Carolina. Don't birds hate that? I hope our guest will leave his suite by the back door and head it on down to Florida to spend his winter sunning himself and learning backgammon at some fabulous retirement village.

Until then, unless I have a bodyguard in tow, I'm using the front door. Bye-bye, birdie.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Ten Commandments for the Fantastically Fabulous

Once upon a time, I wanted to start a blog but quickly discovered that I am technologically inept. After much frustration, heavy sighs, and eye rolling, a wonderful friend did a wonderful thing: she told me about Wendy at A Southern Accent.

You see, not only is Wendy cute and fun and Southern, she's also a computer whiz about this whole blogness. And she's creative. And she saved me from myself, so there are quite a few reasons I like this woman.

She asked me to write a guest post for her blog, which I was thrilled to do. I wanted to prove that I can actually do some things for myself and let her know I'm not totally useless. I wrote an additional ten commandments, a supplement to The Originals, as a guide for fabulosity.

Check out Wendy's blog, A Southern Accent here to see what I wrote. After all, you know when you think of a Southern accent, you think of me!