Monday, May 30, 2011

Trip Advisor

I’m sitting in my home office this lovely Memorial Day afternoon—looking out at the sun shining on our back patio and hill—and hoping TLC is feeling better. She’s a bit under the (warm, windy Texas) weather, so I’m filling in for her today. She was going to do a post with some recently discovered recipes. Instead y’all have moi!

So you know how TLC has dreams of being one or more of the following: a country western singer; a “name” designer for OPI; a party/wedding planner; The First Woman President of the United States of America; the first official American “Princess"; or a cRaZy person that swims with sharks? Well, I have dreams, too, of possible new adventures. For one thing, I’d like to be a Trip Advisor and this would be my “job description:”

A person(s) would pay me to go with them on trips that last at least one hour—one way—but could last up to nine days. Much past that time frame and I start really missing my own bed, Cobbler and Morty. Oh, and Hubby. I’d ride in the front seat with my client and let them know if they were speeding or tail-gating. I’d help this person find where they were trying to go. Even if they thought they knew exactly where they were going, I’d probably be forced to tell them they weren’t going the best way and help them find a better route. I’d do all of this in a quietly patient manner. But with authority and knowledge. Occasionally, I could see the necessity of having to be a little firm—if the client didn’t seem to be taking my advice.

You’re thinking of (at least) two questions right about now, aren’t you? (Yes, I border on having psychic abilities, too—there’s another possible endeavor.) You’d like to know how much I would charge for this “service,” and why, pray tell, anyone would need me (because of things like Garmin and other GPS systems, cellphones, the ability to Google Map where you need to go on your home computer before you leave, etc., etc., etc.)?

Here are my answers:

(1)  I’d charge $30 an hour (only the actual hours I’m in the car with the client, though)—plus expenses. This could get quite technical and detailed, depending on where the destination is and how long I need to be gone. If it’s a long trip, say, to Florida from Texas, I’d also need Diet Dew, food and hotel money. I’ll need to know what hotels I’ll be staying in. (I’ll admit I am a little picky. I would not be agreeable to a place that could have bed bugs.) If I’d be staying at one of the client’s friend’s or relative’s homes, I’d need to see lots of pictures and would reserve the right to demand an alternative option if those pictures had obviously been cut out of a Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

(2)  One should not be looking down at a cellphone or even at the Garmin. It’s distracting and dangerous. I would be tres better than that wacko GPS lady that cannot truly see where you are and who often says: “Recalculating. Recalculating. RECALCULATING!” until you want to throw her out the car window while traveling in excess of 70mph. (I’ve called my Hubby’s Garmin GPS lady “Nina” for at least six years. If you’re a 24 fan, you’ll remember her from the first couple of seasons. At the beginning, she seemed to be nice, law-abiding, attractive. A smart woman and CTU patriot. In reality, she was a traitorous, conniving Devil-Witch mole, intent on sabotaging and destroying any and everyone in her path. We were so trusting and naïve, weren’t we?) Plus your “Nina” cannot tell you things that I can tell you, such as:

SLOW DOWN. The speed limit here is 45! Okay, now it’s 55. Go faster! NO—it’s NOT 70 yet! Watch that car in front of you—they’re acting a little confused. You need to back off from that 18-wheeler! What if he decides to put his brakes on? Then what will you do, going 70 MPH? Huh? I’m right, aren’t I? Are we truly in that much of a hurry? Ignore that RUDE gesture. Seriously. You’re doing great. I think you missed your turn, but I need to use the restroom, so could you please stop at that Diamond Shamrock up there? If it looks yucky inside, we’ll need to try another service station, okay? Are you trying to scare me and make me a nervous wreck? I’m here to help—not criticize, but you have to be open to my fabulous assistance, Silly Hubby.” Oops—I meant Silly Person Who Has Hired Me As Your Trip Advisor.

image via ELC's cell
(Yep! It's at her casa!!!)

These are only a few examples of how I can support a client as they’re navigating their trip(s).  I can encourage the driver to stay focused and get him/her to his/her destination, minus speeding tickets from the Highway Patrol and/or accidents. Or help prevent huge arguments with the client’s spouse, children, siblings, loved ones or friends. (Those people can fly—we’ll pick them up at the airport.)

And another advantage to hiring me: I can pop in my iPod. If I’ve remembered to charge the battery. Right now it has 231 songs that include country western, Broadway show tunes, Frank Sinatra, Il Divo, Celine and many other awesome singers and genres of music. My client would love it—because I could also SING. OR tell them the words they might not understand (except for some of those Il Divo songs that are in Italian). Or give some interesting background on the artists. A true educational experience.

If I need to provide references as to just how good I would be as a Trip Advisor (Is that a catchy-enough name for my new business? Actually, I think that's already been taken by some company. Hmmm. How about Trip Boss?), I can give Hubby and TLC. They'll be honest. Promise. (I might be able to impose on Sunny and Nelly, although I’m a little worried they’ll suggest the client make me pay to tag along.) I’ve helped Hubby and TLC tremendously over the years. In fact, Hubby and I arrived home last night from our second trip to Houston in two weeks—it’s five hours one way. He couldn’t have done it without me. I’m confident he’d love for me to make some money of my own, not to mention having some “breaks” from me now and then so he can watch Pawn Stars without having to beg.

Let me know what you think about this possible “job” and/or if you’re aware of anyone who would consider hiring me. (Okay, that $30 per hour is negotiable and I do mean downwards.) I feel I need to get on it—before someone younger than 57 decides they’re gonna steal my idea. It’ll be hard to compete with recent college graduates that look like Victoria Secret models or who can sing like Miranda Lambert.

{PLEASE say a prayer sometime today for those who are serving our country—and for those who have served and/or have given their lives or become injured or disabled so we can live free. And for their families.}

God Bless America!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sounds Like A Good Excuse For A Cupcake!

Seventeen years ago today, My Sweet Hubby turned fifty years old. Instead of a surprise party or dinner at a favorite restaurant with cherished friends, he spent the day and night with me at All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth (now Baylor All Saints). It was the day I had a modified radical mastectomy of my left breast. I was forty years old.

To this very moment, if he hears me tell someone I had a 5-hour surgery on his 50th birthday, he says: “Why do you remember that?” OMGosh. Seriously? WHY DOES HE NOT??? Men mystify me every second I’m on Earth.

To back up a tad: I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer only one week before. I had NO family history of breast cancer. Heck, no history of any kind of cancer. We held on to the hope I would be fine. We were blessed to have amazing friends, our church, and churches all over our small town praying for me—putting me on Prayer Lists. In the end, cancer was determined to be a significant part of my life.

That Thursday before my operation, after a biopsy did reveal the aggressive evil in my body, Hubby and I spent the hour-long drive from the hospital to our home discussing what to do about TLC. His boys were grown and gone, all but one out of college—no longer even physically close by. They weren’t going to be affected as much as TLC—who was ten years old. Our baby. My only child. I desperately wanted her sweet life to be as routine and “normal” (What is normal, anyway?) as humanly possible.

We decided we had to tell her the truth. She’d been raised like another “adult” in our family and the chances were great she’d hear about it eventually—perhaps from another child at school. One of my sisters was with her when we got home that night. I will never forget her support and help. The four of us lay on our king-sized bed, laughing about many things—funny moments of everyone’s day. Then I gently, but candidly, broke the news to TLC. Hubby, Sis, and I fought back tears as she asked some questions. Our acting must have been Oscar worthy, because if you ask TLC now, she’ll tell you she doesn’t remember much about that evening.

One of my most touching memories of those shocking days was TLC singing Mariah’s “Hero” at a 4th grade “talent” show—two days before my surgery. She did it flawlessly. She was not only good (you ain’t gettin’ any younger, TLC—American Idol has an age limit! LOL.)—but calm, poised and, well, fabulous. Our tears, that morning, could not be stopped.

Hubby took me to all six of my chemo treatments. He wouldn’t let anyone else do it. TLC went to three of them with us. They couldn’t stay for more than a few minutes during the hours I was there, but they were allowed to check on me. She remembers that part—“kind of.” Mostly because they’d make a trip to the nearby Mall while they waited. (Hmmm. Could that have been where her obsessive love for shopping began?)

The night the first of our four sons got married, four months after my last chemo session, I cried myself to sleep in a hotel room in Dallas, while Hubby snored and TLC dreamed of her own fairytale wedding. I was extremely worried I wouldn’t be around to be with her on her magical day.

My first significant personal goal was to be cancer-free at two years. Then it was five years. Then for TLC’s high school graduation. Then ten years. Then for her college graduation. Then fifteen years. Seventeen years (and three implants—the first being all saline, the second being a combo of saline and silicone, the last being all silicone) and one beautiful Princess TLC Wedding later, I actually don’t think of myself as a “survivor.” I believe each one of us—women, men, and children—are all “survivors” each morning we wake up to face the future. We’re all confronted with uncertainty we must simply plow through on a minute-by-minute basis. I haven’t been in a tsunami, hurricane, horrendous flood, or any other kind of violent, unexplainable tragedy. Living where we do in Texas, we’re exposed to the terror of tornadoes several months out of each year. I’ve only seen one from a distance. I can barely watch the TV news as the heartbreak of Joplin, Missouri (and many other states) continues to unfold.

So the truth seems to be what we all have to learn: None of us is ever totally exempt from scary, awful, UNFAIR experiences. It’s reality. The price we pay for life. We’re all survivors.

My Hubby is an incredible man. I’m honored to share with him (and those drop-dead gorgeous brown eyes) our 34-year commitment to our relationship. He has always been here for me. I don’t like that I’ve had too many accidents, emergencies, surgeries and illnesses. It makes me embarrassed and, well, often cranky. Yet, with his help, I’ve been able to recover. What I’ve suffered from in the past has (mostly) healed. I retain constant hope for improved health and I’ll never give up or in. I can’t. Not an option. He wouldn’t let me if I tried.

Instead of dwelling on my “cancer” anniversary, I’d much rather celebrate Hubby’s Special Day. I want him to know how certain I am I wouldn’t be sharing this joy with y’all if it wasn’t for him—and TLC—their patience, devotion and, most of all, their unconditional love. I want him to feel how fortunate I know I am that he was born.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Man O’ Mine! Today it’s all about YOU. Who cares where we were 17 years ago? We're here. Now. And life is good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Yeehaw for Y'all!

Remember in the movie Steel Magnolias where Shelby has broken the news to M’Lynn that she’s pregnant? M’Lynn gets extremely upset—because Shelby is diabetic. As they’re talkin’/arguing/’, Shelby says this:

Mama, you worry too much. In fact, I never worry ‘cause I always know you’re worried enough for both of us.

I’ve recently confessed this truth to y’all: I’m a Worrier. I honestly believe I was born this way. Growing up, I worried about my siblings, bad weather, burglars who would not only rob us but also hurt us, money, failing/disappointing, being chubby. That I was going to have a fatal asthma attack. And on and on. And on. My worries were 18/7. Sometimes 24/7. (I had insomnia from the time I was about 11.)

When TLC was four months old, I took her to her first “Mother’s Day Out” at the big Baptist Church. She was to be there for six hours. After reluctantly walking out of the building and then sitting in my car in the parking lot, unable to drive away for at least fifteen minutes while I balled my eyes out, I made it a total of barely two hours. I got better—eventually.

She broke her right ankle on a trampoline at a dear friend’s home, while I stood there watching her jump, a few weeks before she turned three. She had a full leg cast and got quite excellent at running with it on.

It goes on. She broke her right arm the third day of second grade when she fell off the monkey bars at Recess. I took her directly to the Orthopedic doctor—45 miles away. At that point, we discussed putting him on a retainer, since I was convinced her bad luck was moving up her little body. I was extremely relieved when she didn’t want to do tumbling or gymnastics—like many of her friends—in the fourth grade. Seriously. Grateful.

The truly hardest years were junior high and high school. I worried about her safety. Her self-esteem. Her heart. She worked at a flower shop from 8th through 11th grades. When she was 15 ½, the owner asked if we’d allow her to get a hardship driver’s license—so she could help deliver around an area of about twenty miles. In a (long) van. WHHAAAATTTTT? Her Dad and I were very conflicted, but gave in. I’d been letting her drive out in the “country” near our home for two years prior to this and had worked with her to be careful, responsible and accountable. Still, I wanted to "tail" her every day—discreetly, of course—using my Nancy Drew techniques to keep from getting caught. I never actually did “surveillance” on her. Instead, I spent those years (okay, and her college years—and her first five years of life in the Real World after graduation—okay and even now) in worried prayer.

Finally... drumroll... The Yeehaw:

Recently I discovered a book in my home office closet I can’t even remember buying. I think it’d been in there for about three years! I LOVE IT. It’s called “The Worrywart’s Prayer Book—40 “Help-Me-Get-A-Grip God” Meditations and Prayers” by Allia Zobel Nolan.

To intrigue you, here are a few of the chapter titles:

Chapter 1—Get Ready, Get Set…Worry
Chapter 8—Chasing After Time
Chapter 10—Finding A Mate
Chapter 14—Who Stole My Body?
Chapter 18—Don’t Worry, Be Silly
Chapter 23—Angels Abiding
Chapter 24—Attitude of Gratitude
Chapter 31—What’s Done Is Done
Chapter 36—God Is My Sleeping Pill

The other thirtyish chapters are just as wise, witty and wonderful. Ms. Nolan is full of honesty, suggestions, and hope. She references lots of scriptures and ends each chapter with a beautiful prayer that sums it all up perfectly. It will continue to be an important resource for me, as I don’t see myself waking up tomorrow a completely different and changed Wife/Mom/Person.

Even if you’re not a Worrier 24/7, you do have those moments, right? This could provide insight and understanding into how you can overcome that immense anxiety and those unnecessary fears.

I’d like to end with one of Allia’s prayers (I capitalized the “Yous” and “Yours”—that’s one of my personal requirements in typing prayers):

Today, Lord, I will remember to look to You first and foremost before I start anything. Let me trust Your plans for me. Let me anticipate new beginnings—the way I’d imagine You’d want me to—as a child looks forward to a birthday gift. And, Lord, once I do get started, let me trust that You have my very best interests at heart, whatever the outcome, even if it’s not what I expected.

Amen.

And YEEHAW!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Where The Sun Don’t Shine

Preface:  I realize today is Saturday, but I thought I would recap last weekend with y'all. It's cloudy outside. I'm in my comfy yoga pants and one of my favorite tees ELC purchased for me in Canton. I’m procrastinatin’ laundry and cleanin’. So, here goes:

Last weekend was lovely. We had ZERO plans. In my book, that's the perfect way to recoup from the hum-drum of the work week. Saturday, I woke up extra early. My dearest friend, Lauren, asked if I wanted to join her and her sweet Hubby in a 5k to raise awareness/money/hope for a very worthy cause. Notice I didn't say run in a 5k. We don't run. We walk (at a brisk pace), chatting, commenting on attire, and looking at cute babies (including "fur" babies). It was the best way to jumpstart a Saturday. I was invigorated and motivated.

After the 5k, I knew this would be THE day I would purchase my new computer. I had been delaying this action for several months because:

1. I'm not always good with change. I decided five months ago I would get a Mac. I've been a PC Girl since the beginning of my "computer age." The thought of a conversion was intimidating. Apparently there's no "right click." I right click. A lot.

2. I'm a lazy procrastinator. I figured it would take some time to learn my new computer and Hubby and I have been uber busy. Any free time I've had has been spent catching up on my DVR (two new favorite shows: The Voice {Who else just discovered how yummy Adam Levine is?} and Happy Endings {Thank you, ELC. Hysterical. Must. Blog. About. Soon.}).

AND, I need to be completely honest:

3. I heart catching up on naptime zzz's. Yep. I like to sleep.  It's a hobby of mine.

The fresh air from the morning's 5k had done me a world of good. Cleared the cobwebs from my mind. I was rarin' to complete my new computer task/dream/purchase. I loaded my ginormous, 50-pound PC tower (I might be exaggerating. But makes for a better story. Plus, I don't feel so much like a wimp since it bruised my hip after a mere two minutes of carrying it through the mall) into my car and headed to the land of "pretty and shiny things for sale."

I was certain I'd want Apple Peeps to transfer my files from my circa 1999 desktop to a new and totally hip laptop. Goodness knows I would have zero clue how to do that. If you haven't already deducted from past confessions, I'm not technologically savvy in the least bit. Of course, the "transferring" cost me extra. Money/clams/moo-la, that is. Go figure. However, it also came with a few "tutorial classes." I was thrilled! Someone to teach me how to use my new toy. Versus reading some silly manual. I signed up for the Sunday afternoon class immediately.

Saturday evening, Hubby took me on a date to the most delish Greek restaurant in our ‘burb. It's BYOB, too. We enjoyed our scrumptious dinner and bottle of wine as we discussed things we would have done differently in college. There were a lot. Yikes. We decided this is why you have kids. To make them do things differently/be smarter than you. Then we realized our parents probably thought the same thing, right? We know how that turned out. We laughed. Swore we would just lie to our kids about all we did/didn't do. That must be the way parenting really works. Not that either of us did anything (too) illegal. Kidding. We ended our date at Walgreens. Hubby bought me some Gummi Bears. For dessert, of course. He’s a keeper.

Sunday morning I woke up still motivated to protect the productive vibes I had experienced the day before. I threw some orange rolls (one of Hubby’s all-time favorite breakfasts) in the oven. Whipped up some delicious Mounds Brownies (Recipe courtesy of Aunt Robbie. Oh. My. Sinful. I'll post soon.) and headed to the grocery store. For a couple of weeks now, my amazing friend, January, and I have been swapping tasty (and EASY) recipes to encourage each other to do more cooking at home. We call it our "fresh food movement." I think I might have stolen that from the Naked Chef. Oh well. We're still ordering t-shirts and startin' a club (membership dues will be nominal). LOL. She had emailed me a recipe she found on a blog for lemon chicken you cook in a Crockpot. Crockpot = SIMPLE. While grocery shopping, I picked up my little 4-pound "fryer" and all the necessary ingredients.

Now comes the super gross part. Did y'all know they keep the gizzards of the chicken where the sun don't shine? (I wouldn't know about this since ELC has never cooked a whole chicken – or a turkey – in my lifetime. Or her's. My Dad's in charge of Thanksgiving. AND, the recipe did not mention this step.) I had to pull horrible things out of that bird. Things I can't even type. Yet, I was so proud of myself. I totally rocked it. I felt like Martha Freakin' Stewart. The more gizzards I withdrew, the more resolve I had to make this the best dang lemon chicken in the world (I'll share this recipe soon, too.). That bird owed me.

After I threw the poultry into the CP, I headed back to the Apple store for my class. It was like the first day of school. Eeekkkk! I took notes as the nice Apple employee taught me and my classmates how to turn the computer on, check email and surf the ‘net. Score. Mission: Accomplished. That’s all I really need to know how to do on the computer. I’m not usually an over-achiever.

Sunday was concluded with a super delectable dinner. It turned out pretty dadgum good. If I do say so myself. All-in-all, I give last weekend two thumbs up! Despite the gizzards. What fun/challenges/mysteries await Hubby and I this weekend? Hmmm. Can't wait!

P.S. If you made it to the end of this LONG and random post, you win an award! Go treat yourself to a mini cupcake.  On moi.

P.P.S. GO MAVS!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy Decade

Mostly, I don’t drink. Alcoholic beverages. Diet Mountain Dews—yes. Harvey Wallbangers—no. I might have half a glass of Pinot Grigio every two to three weeks. A very cold beer—so cold it’s got ice crystals in it—on a horrendously hot July or August day in Texas (especially if watching the Rangers) is never completely out of the question. But real drinks like Cosmos, Gimlets, Daiquiris, Margaritas, Martinis? Nope. Not interested. TLC’s Crack Brownies? Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce? Crème Brulee? Now we’re talkin’.

I have, however, always liked the concept of “Happy Hour.” Who doesn’t need a Happy Hour every now and then? The laughter—the bonding—the welcome distraction from our everyday lives—not a bad idea, overall. Being with friends—chillaxin’ (as TLC has taught me) and just generally letting go of cares and worries—for an hour or two—GREAT therapy. (As long as there is a Designated Driver. Seriously. Truly. Please.)

I say we need Happy Days! Happy Weeks!! Happy Months!!! This World could use a Bigtime Happy Decade—or Century. Soon.

Over the past 20 years or so, I've collected a few napkins—maybe not quite as many as my fridge magnets—but enough to tickle my funny side.


image via ELC
this is literally only 1/4th of my "collection"
notice 99.9% are unopened

Here are a few of my favorites:

“I’ll have a cafe mocha vodka valium latte to go, please!”
                        Leah Dylan, Mother of 5
(designed by Terri Puma Designs)

Exactly how much fun can I have before I go to Hell?
(Bad Girl Art by Lolly Lu)

To save time, let’s just assume I know everything.
                       
and . . .

I’m not a nag, I’m a motivational speaker.
(Got these two sets at Stein Mart—it's uncanny how true they are about moi. My Hubby would totally agree.)

Take yourself back in time to the 50s and picture two women, sitting on a couch—one is saying:
for the record… the only problem I have with alcohol is that I’m running low on vodka.
(designDESIGN)

Lauren recently gave me some charming little napkins by Lolita that have the recipe for a “Queen” drink, which consists of red wine, ginger ale (one of TLC’s most favorite choices when it comes to all things carbonated), lemon lime soda (I’d use Sprite, probably), a splash of OJ and a lemon twist. YUMMO. The napkins have several different crowns on them with the word Queen everywhere. Perfect for Queen B.! (That’s moi, remember?!)

My newest napkins were gifted to me by TLC for Mom’s Day and say:

All I want is
WORLD PEACE
and a Pedicure
(Naughty Betty for Inviting Company and hot! Plate Designs—just these names crack me up.)

Sounds heavenly and is exactly what I do always want—peace and pedicures. Absolutely.

I don’t just collect funny Happy Hour napkins. I also have some pretty special and/or sweet and/or cute birthday, shower, wedding, general etc. napkins. If I didn’t buy any more for about five years, I’d probably be good to go.

Now, if I could actually share any of these precious napkins with guests, it would be great! I basically take them out of my Hutch drawer occasionally, look at them, giggle, then put them right back. Hence my growing-out-of-control collection.

Maybe I should open up a Fridge Magnet/Silly Napkins Shop? I’d need a catchy name. And I suppose I’d have to actually, probably sell a few of them—eventually. No, never mind.

Gotta scoot… it’s 5:00 o’clock… somewhere…

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Yummy For Y'all

This post should really be titled YUMMIES For Y'all because I wanted to list a few things I'm currently digging. It's Friday the 13th. I'm feeling frisky. Humor me.

(Be sure and click on all of the links!)

1. Kathy Womack's Women and Wine Series. I LUV KW. She's a magnificent artist based in Austin (one of the yummiest towns). I have to give CeeCee credit for introducing me to the fabulousness that is Miss Womack. Her art will knock your socks off. It's so unique and bold and FUN. I'm the proud owner of three of her prints (and want many more)!

image via TLC's iPhone
this is the "Tiara Tuesday" print that hangs in my office
I think I might start wearing tiaras on Tuesdays
why the heck not?
SWOON

2. Piggy Pajamas. I big-pink-puffy-heart adore owls. Cute ones. Not scary ones. You can imagine my sheer ecstaticness (that's totally a word) when ELC surprised me with this yummy pair of OWL pj's for my b-day. Oprah wore them on her show (on her camping trip to Yosemite with Gayle) and featured them in her magazine. They are DIVINE. AND, their customer service is, in the words of Rachel Zoe, "BEYOND."  Totally over the moon.

image via Piggy Pajamas
these are much sassier and classier than my yoga pants
can you picture me rocking these around casa de c?
now that I think about it, they would look extra HOTT with a tiara

3. Recipes. My new hobby: collecting and organizing my recipes. Please send any of your favourites (very Royal-ish, right?) my way ASAP. I file them in the same plastic, three-ring binder I used for a Home Ec project in high school. Tres fancy. LOL. Here's a little sumpin' sumpin' I'm testing out this weekend for my sweet Daddio's birthday. It's right around the corner. Though I'm thinkin' about makin' cupcakes. What a shocker.

German Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
No-stick/flour cooking spray
1 German chocolate cake mix
1 c. water
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 c. veggie oil
1 14 oz. can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
(I eat this straight from the can. You know you do, too. Yes, let's be honest – we have no shame.)
3 Tbsp. butter
1/3 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. flakes coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
(Every time I see, type or write “tsp.” I think of Sleeping Beauty and those precious good fairies: Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. One of them called it a “tisp” – when they were making Aurora a cake. Remember? So darling.)

Instructions:
1. Heat oven to 350. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with the cooking spray.

2. Combine cake mix, water, 3 eggs, oil and 1/3 c. Eagle Brand in a large bowl. Beat on low speed with an electric mixer until moistened. Then beat on high for 2 minutes. Pour into pan.

3. Bake 40ish minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

4. Combine remaining Eagle Brand, egg yolk, and butter in a small sauce pan. Cook and stir over low heat until thickened (about 6ish minutes). (ELC will be trying to do this part in the microwave – trust me!) Add pecans, coconut and vanilla. Spread over warm cake.

Three Tips: I like to poke a few holes in the cake so the frosting melts down into it. You might also consider substituting milk for the water. (ELC always does that with mixes. And pancakes. And waffles.) And maybe add a splash of vanilla into your mixture. For a twist and good measure.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pearls, Peonies and Petticoats

When TLC had just turned nine, she and I had an opportunity to go to Seattle with my husband. He had a convention. It would mean a few days out of school, but we felt it would be tres educational for her. Hubby suggested she and I take the ferry over to Victoria, British Columbia and stay three nights—while he was in meetings and workshops. It sounded like a grand idea!

Who knew Victoria was a little too FANCY for a Small-Town Mom and Daughter from Texas? We stayed at The Empress Hotel. If you’re not familiar with it, you should Google it. It’s world famous and stunningly beautiful, majestic, historic, traditional, charming—FANCY. We arrived in the late-ish afternoon our first day, so really only had time for dinner near the hotel before turning in. The next morning we got on a double-decker bus (FANCY) and went on a City Tour and to Butchart Gardens (positively, absolutely, heavenly-ish FANCY). TLC was not impressed.

On our third day, I signed us up for “Afternoon Tea” in the Lobby of The Empress. I had to pay about thirty American dollars—a piece—for a total of $60 before taxes and tips—to have this FANCY tea.

From the moment we sat down in the “Tea Lobby,” TLC was uncooperative—almost fiesty. Hmmm. . . a better word? BORED. She missed her Dad and was tired of me trying to play up this very European, adult city. I was growing weary of that myself. She couldn’t wait to leave the next afternoon and kept reminding me of that fact—always with a charming whine. When they (finally) brought the three-tiered serving dish full of small finger—FANCY foods, her eyes got HUGE—and not with happy surprise. She was mad. There was nothing on those pretty trays that interested her—nothing at all. Tiny little bites of smoked salmon pinwheels, mango and curried chicken, egg salad croissants, mushroom pate crostinis, lemon curd? Nope. (She would, however, adore all of that now!) Where, she wanted to know, in a somewhat haughty voice for a 9-year-old, were the chicken nuggets and fries?

Although Afternoon Tea currently costs $47 to $58 per adult—before taxes and tips—they have a special “Prince and Princess Tea” for children under the age of 12. It’s half the adult price and has treats like fruit in a mini glass cup, a Teddy Bear cookie, a mini chocolate cupcake (sooo sorry, TLC!), a mini ham and cheese sandwich and Pringles. SURE—now they think of this. Sheesh. (Actually, that’s the menu I’d prefer! I’m not even kiddin’.)

We survived. But it wasn’t hard to decide we would not be doing anything “fancy” for several years.

The Royal Wedding stirred up a discussion between the two of us about what constitutes “fancy.”  

TLC’s List of Fanciness:

  1. British accents. I often try to emulate them around my house. (I am from English descent, you know, chaps and chappettes.) Hubby doesn’t seem too impressed. Apparently he’s a Commoner. I’ve also taken to using words like “Cheerio!” And “queue.” And “holiday.” And “arse.” And “crisps.”
  2. Velvet. It makes me think of fancy holiday parties. Where they serve wassail.
  3. Crème Brulee. The fanciest dessert. Eva.
  4. Embossed stationery. Oh-so-chic.
  5. Ginormous cocktail rings. Swoon. The bigger and blingy-er, the better.
  6. Champagne. Bubbles = fancy. Period.
  7. The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Miami. They serve $20 pina coladas. They clearly think they’re pretty darn fancy.
  8. Chanel. Timeless. Classy.
  9. Peonies. The name alone sounds fancy, ne croyez-vous?
  10. Gone With the Wind. The book AND the movie. Southern. Dramatic. Romantic. Just plain fancy.
ELC’s List of Fanciness:

  1. Taffeta, chiffon, organza and tulle!
  2. Petticoats.
  3. Short and long white gloves.
  4. A fur (faux is fine!) muff. (It keeps your hands warm, Sillies.)
  5. Hats and Fascinators (except for those worn by the Wild Cousins at the Royal Wedding—those were cRaZy/ridiculous/ugly/seriously).
  6. Sterling Silver roses and pale pink peonies (TLC’s bridal bouquet was divine with pretty peonies and pale pink feathers).
  7. Pearls.
  8. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in (FANCY) New York City.
  9. Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.
  10. Town & Country Magazine.
Fancy is defined in very individual and personal ways. PLEASE share with us and everyone your “fancies!”

Ta-ta for now, Darlings . . .

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Miracles and Mama Bears

The truth is this: I didn’t grow up wanting to be a Mom. I was the oldest of four kids—in a challenging situation. Always The Worrier. The one who felt such little control in an extremely strained and stressed family. I think I was afraid to have children. Afraid for at least a hundred reasons. So, when I met my Hubby, who was divorced and the father of four boys, and who could no longer have children, I believed God had solved that fear for me.

I was 24 when we married. Three years later, three of my husband’s four boys had moved in with us. Watching my husband in his now (once again) daily role caring for his sons caused me to yearn for what I was going to miss. Through some dear friends, I learned about Dr. Sherman Silber’s vasectomy reversals. Bless My Sweet Man’s heart: he was game. (But... picture a man kind of shivering at the very idea. Yikes.) My husband was willing to do this for me because of his unselfish love and loyalty.

We were extremely lucky to find a surgeon in Dallas, as opposed to being on Dr. Silber’s waiting list in St. Louis for months—maybe years. While Hubby was in his three-and-a-half hour surgery (that was supposed to take two)—I had the most incredible remorse. What if he didn’t make it? What would I tell his boys? What had I been thinking?

When we learned, about four months later, the surgery had been successful, I then had some problems becoming pregnant. Much to Hubby’s confusion/frustration. I had promised him there was no reason to think I couldn’t conceive. The day I saw that my at-home pregnancy test was finally positive was the exact moment both of our lives changed—forever.

TLC was a week overdue. I had gained 60 pounds and had been lying on my bed at home for almost three weeks—unable to fit into anything but a (BIG) nightgown. I was beyond cranky and ready for her to be here. And I did know—without a doubt—she was a girl. The one sonogram I’d had wasn’t even remotely close to providing an educated guess. Everyone from the doctor to family members to Hubby was speculating the baby would be a boy. As Hubby put it: “I don’t think I have any girls in me.” I had faith God would give him a daughter—after what he had sacrificed for me.

That whole final week, I began to worry I could be the first woman on Earth to have my baby become a permanent part of my body (you do become irrational and almost psychotic at times, remember?). On a Wednesday in February, I made my (last!) daily call to the nurse, who told me I could check-in to the hospital mid-afternoon.  (Actually, at this point, I am confident they were tres sick of moi. I’d picture the receptionist saying, each morning as she put me on hold: “It’s that cRaZy lady, again.” Then the nurse was surely rolling her eyes—or looking for some vodka to add to her coffee. Bless their hearts.) Come hell or high water, that baby was coming out today.

Around that night, with my doctor sitting bedside (he’d told the labor nurse he’d stay with me while she had a dinner break), I could hear the heart monitor getting quiet. Sometimes it completely stopped. He calmly explained the baby was going into stress and he needed to do an emergency C-section. It was at that second my Mama Bear instincts took over and I felt the urgent need to protect my child. It all happened so fast—in nine minutes, I later learned. The anesthesiologist almost didn’t make it in time to put me to sleep. In those last frantic minutes, I was petrified I’d be awake—thinking that might not be good. With a calm urgency, I pleaded with my doctor (and silently to God)—“Save my baby.”

I woke up at in Recovery, watching my Hubby come towards me with an enormous grin on his face and tears rolling down his cheeks. “Guess what?” he asked me. “It’s a girl!” I almost screamed, tears starting down my relieved face. “How did you know? Did someone already tell you?” He seemed genuinely shocked. “I’ve always known,” I said. Sheesh—I’d told him and told him. When, oh when, will they ever listen—and learn? She was born at That day and time became, in a sense, my re-birth.

Y’all know how much TLC and I ADORE Designing Women. In the episode entitled “The First Day of the Last Decade of the Entire Twentieth Century,” Charlene (Jean Smart) is in the hospital to deliver her first child and falls asleep. Dolly Parton appears in her dream as her “movie star angel.” Like the angel in It’s A Wonderful Life. Dolly seems to have a lot of info about Charlene, so Charlene has just asked her how she knows she’s from Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Here’s their conversation:

Dolly: ... I know all about you. I also know that in a few hours you’re gonna meet the best friend you’ll ever have... your daughter.
Charlene: I knew it! I knew it was gonna be a girl. I have a name all picked out, too—Olivia Frazier Stillfield. I hope she grows up to be just like you. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the greatest hick who ever lived!
Dolly: Well, thank you Charlene. Actually, she is a little like me.
Charlene: Which part?
Dolly: She’s no angel either... Oh, it’s so exciting... Everything’s changing. This whole world is just opening up. Why that youngun could be anything!
Charlene: Wow! She could be the next leader of the free world!
Dolly: Well, that’s right, but she could also work at a car wash.
Charlene: Wow! A car wash! That could be interesting, too. I’m just a little sad, though. Whatever she is, my grandma and grandpa, and my sister Pat who died—they won’t be here to see her.
Dolly: That’s where you’re wrong, Charlene. When Olivia comes into the world tomorrow, they’ll be with her. I mean, everyone in your family that’s gone on before you—everyone you’ve loved—you’ll see them in her eyes, and her smile, and in the way she walks. And when she takes her first step and says her first words, they’ll be there. When she has a fever at three o’clock in the morning, when she gets caught in the rain walking home from school, when she hits her first baseball, they’ll be there... when she’s afraid of the dark, when she forgets to say her prayers, when the wind catches her voice on a warm summer day, they’ll be there... You just remember that tomorrow, when you meet your daughter, you’ll be meeting the person that’ll be holding your hand when it’s your time to go. And even then, Charlene, she won’t be alone. They’ll be there.

(Brilliant/touching writing/words, yes? Must pause to sniff and find a tissue. Sorry.)

As it turned out, my child-bearing came to an abrupt end when TLC was fifteen months old and I was told, by two doctors, I needed a hysterectomy. I cried—buckets of heartbroken tears. Hubby—well, he didn’t. He tried not to jump for joy! I understood. Five children is a lot in this frightening world. Life happens the way it’s supposed to—the way God plans. TLC has given me more than I could have ever asked for or dreamed possible.

My daughter has made me stronger than I thought I could be. She’s taught me to laugh, sing, dance, think, hope, believe, wait, act, listen, pray. Lordy, has she ever taught me how to pray. I’ve made my share of mistakes—as her Mom—as a person—and she’s forgiven me. But, most of all, she’s made me deeply grateful for understanding what true, unconditional love is and how that love can get you through life’s roughest stuff. You surely don’t have to have a child (or a daughter—all of you Moms of Guys!) to feel unconditional love—we all know that. I’m just deeply and profoundly grateful I was blessed with her.

Today, on my 28th Mother’s Day, I thank God, again, for my amazing and selfless husband and my smart, beautiful, funny, kind, sweet, sassy, silly, precious daughter. I love them both—with all of my heart and all of my soul. I feel like the luckiest Wife and Mom on this glorious Earth.

Amen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Yummy For Y'all

Five words:  Water For Elephants – The Movie

Oh! And two more:  Robert Pattinson

image via Vanity Fair
this image clearly speaks for itself

Swoon. That should be all it takes to get your tookus (aka:  tush) to the theater. Like yesterday.

Last Saturday, ELC and I spent the most perfect day with three of the loveliest ladies – January, Lillie and Robbie. January and I have been friends for nearly five years. She was my first buddy at my new (and current) job. Lillie is January's Mom. Robbie is Lillie's sister. They are now my adopted "Auntees." ELC and I adore these women. They are gorgeous, crafty, smart, witty, funny, and treasure RPattz, to boot. What more could you want in dear friends? January also has a beautiful, precious and absolutely angelic baby girl that I love. I'm her "Aunt T," and for that I'm truly honored.

We decided we'd meet at the movies mid-morning. The tickets were only $5/each! Not quite as economical as the little theater in my home town, but still outstanding for my suburb of Big D. In fact, the popcorn Auntee L purchased cost more than the tickets! We got a good chuckle from that and Mom's monstrosity of a "small" diet soda.

We settled into our cozy seats, impatiently waiting for the movie to begin. OMG – there were 1000 previews. I thought Auntee R might start throwing her popcorn at the screen if she didn't see her RPattz STAT. LOL. Once the movie (finally) began, we were all transfixed. It transported us to a magical world of secrets, murder, love, danger, and, of course, the circus. Queenie, the Jack Russell terrier, and Rosie, the big, beautiful and brainy pachyderm, were incredibly FUN to watch. (Side note:  Do you think Hubby would let me get a smallish elephant for our backyard?) It was a magnificent movie (even though there were a few tough scenes). Not a chick flick in the least! (I heard Pepper, a SPECIAL friend who lives in Houston, went to see WFE with her hubby, who also read the book! Wow – he gets lots o' MAJOR points for both of those efforts, right?) You ladies need to drag your fellas to see it. Better yet, make them take you! Tell them it's about a war. With lots of "shoot 'em up" scenes. And robots. And aliens. And really mean, thirsty elephants.

(Disclaimer:  I only condone lying when it's positively necessary.)

I'm not just partial when I say this, but I feel RPattz was truly perfect for the role of Jacob. He became Jacob. He WAS Jacob. It's a very different role from his sparkly Edward. Nonetheless, he "shines" even brighter (pun intended). My fav gal, Reese, was darling as Marlena. Her costumes were to-die-for. Christoph Waltz (the scary man from Inglorious Basterds – no, ELC, not spelled wrong) played another frightening man, August, and brilliantly. Wow. I was left (nearly) speechless.

After the movie, we simply HAD to continue our "Girls' Day Away" at Cheesecake Factory. We were definitely "ladies who lunch." The waitress couldn't dynamite us from the booth. We were glued to it for over two hours. The "crown" of the eventful day was the scrumptious cheesecake:  Dulce de Leche AND Chocolate Coconut Cream. My mouth is salivating as I type this. Those deserve their own "yummy."

I can promise you this:  you will be remiss if you don't see this wonderful piece of cinematography. Thank you, January, Auntee L and Auntee R, for being the best movie dates – EVA.

Here's lookin' at you, RPattz!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rent

Service to others is the rent you pay for living on this planet.
                        Marian Wright Edelman (1939 - )

Y’all recognize her name, right? I did—yet I wasn’t sure why. I think she may have had a postage stamp in her honor—and I’m all about postage stamps (more on that to follow soon). So I Googled her:

She was a lawyer, educator, activist, reformer, children’s advocate, administrator. (All that just makes me pooped—and makes me look and feel like the slug I know I have become.) She was born in South Carolina, one of five children. Her father was a Baptist preacher who taught his children that Christianity required service. He died when she was 14, but told her to never let anything get in the way of her education.

She became involved in the civil rights’ movement after college and studied at Yale, becoming the first African American woman to practice law. She established the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973 as a voice for poor, minority and handicapped children.

Clearly she is an amazing woman. I adore her definition of “service,” and I’ll admit I probably wasn’t committed to true service until I had TLC. Up to that point, I was mostly concerned with my own survival. I worked from the time I was ten years old—beginning with babysitting (50 cents per hour—seriously)—until I was eight months pregnant with TLC. Even with a B.B.A., I made little money. Once I had TLC and was blessed with the opportunity to be a stay-at-home Mom, I became committed to volunteering.

One of my most favorite peeps on Earth, Jackie, has been a role model to me and many others for her unselfish service. After volunteering in our community for over 36 years, she is still going strong as an advocate for many causes. I’m proud to call her my friend. I truly treasure her—despite the fact that she makes me slightly (okay, VERY) jealous, because she’s also tiny and gorgeous! (Please—have a Crave cupcake, Jackie. I beg of you.)

On January 1st this year, hubby and I started our own little RAK program (Random Acts of Kindness). Each month we contribute cash to our “RAK Jar.” We also write down the random act(s) of kindness we’ve accomplished in the past thirty-ish days.  At the end of this year, we’ll let an impartial “judge” (hmmm—sounds like a great job for CeeCee, my forever candidate for President of the U.S.—see our post Welcome Home a Hero in March) decide which of the two of us did the most meaningful Random Act of Kindness. Yep—it’s kind of a competition. Can’t hurt, right? Go moi!  Then that person who “wins” will choose the charity or service organization to which we’ll donate our money. If this contest makes it "un-random," well, it's the thought that counts. Plus it makes it much more challenging!

One of the many things I cherish about my Sweet Man is the fact that he has always participated in Random Acts of Kindness, although he rarely shares or brags about them. He’s simply not like that. I usually have to find out what he’s done from others—or from conversations we have where he slips up! We both plan to continue to encourage our children and grandchildren to spend their lives thinking in terms of service to others.

Let’s have a drumroll before lifting our glasses of Diet Mountain Dew (or insert here the beverage of your choice)—aannndddd . . . CLINK:

To SERVICE: the ultimate act of love, gratitude, and hope—and “the rent” we must pay!