Everything has its place

2011 July 8
by Jennifer

The big move happens tomorrow but I couldn’t help but take a small load of the essentials over during my lunch break today.   The essentials, loosely translated, are those few items that were not in boxes this morning as I was leaving for work: a winter coat, a few bottles of wine, and these boots.

Today, I put the first thing where it belongs.  Grinning ear-to-ear, I walked in the door to the smell of fresh paint and marched my boots right to their new home.

Evvvverything has a place.  Do you know how good that feels?  ((I’ll tell you who knows how good that feels–All of those type As who live and die by Real Simple, label their clear Ziploc bags and can think of 101 ways to use a coffee filter.))

Tomorrow will feel a lot like this:

Only waaay cooler, because just some, not all, of our stuff is made of plastic.

I am beside myself with glee.

Everything has its place, now I have mine.

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Packing, Procrastinating, and Preparing to Move

2011 June 24

We move into The New House exactly two weeks from tomorrow. I am first and foremost supremely elated to be moving into a place of our very own. I am second and secondmost supremely overwhelmed about all of the things that need to happen between now and then. If I’ve learnt anything during this process, it’s that organization is the key to a stress-free move. Of course, the chances of you being completely free of stress is very unlikely but if you know what needs doing and when it could help to make all of the difference. For example, figuring out when to hire a professional moving service should be at the top of the list, as this will ensure that everything gets transported to your new house in the best condition (and at a reasonable time). That’s when the packing part of the process comes into action.

I have to admit, the packing has been hanging over my head a bit. For some reason, I can’t buckle down and just do it. I am afraid to put things in taped-up boxes for fear that I might need something in them. I’d much rather use something more robust from www.teacrate.co.uk or some similar site, but sadly this time that’s just not an option. I’m left with the cardboard boxes, and the fear is paralyzing and is causing me to spend my packing time clearing out the DVR queue instead-another priority of arguably equal magnitude. There have been certain things sorted and we have some rooms more or less packed, our vehicles should also be getting picked up tomorrow by a vehicle relocation company (like these motorcycle shippers for example) to move some of the project motorbikes out of storage and into the new place, as well as the car so we’ll be able to commute when we’re all settled in.

I had a heart-to-heart with myself the other night about packing a certain kitchen item.

Me: You should probably go ahead and pack the mini muffin pan.

Me: I don’t know. What if I need to make mini muffins between now and the move?

Me: You haven’t made mini muffins in the three years you have owned the mini muffin pan. Pack it.

Me: But what if I am craving mini muffins over the next few weeks? Then what?

Me: PACK THE DAMN PAN!

One thing is for sure. In the new house, I’m going to be the kind of woman who bakes mini muffins. I’ll be known for my mini muffins. I am going to wear that damn pan out.

Although I may not have done much packing, I have done two very important things:

1. I have changed over all (# censored so you don’t judge me for frivolous spending and superficial reading habits) of my magazine subscriptions to the new address. It was the first move-related thing I did after we signed the papers at the closing. Priorities, people. Priorities. My friends at Vanity Fair and New York Magazine, among others, now know exactly where to find me.

2. I have selected, purchased and scheduled delivery for two-yes two-matching sofas for our new living room. Having two parallel sofas has been a dream of mine since I saw Father of the Bride Part II.

Now if we could juuuust figure out a way to convince my mom to have another baby. At the same time time as me…

Here are a couple of designer examples of the two sofa scenario. I think the setup is ideal for conversations and entertaining.

Source: Urban Grace Interiors

Source: Nathan Egan Interiors

Source: Somewhere on the WWW.

So come on over anytime! We can read magazines while we lounge parallel on the sofas. I’ll make you mini muffins.

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Hit List

2011 June 17
by Jennifer

So far on the blog, I have officially and publicly endorsed:

I have officially and publicly ridiculed and scorned:

I am delighted that the first list is far longer than the second.  After all, Dear Reader, you come here to be uplifted, informed, and complimented for your good looks and good taste—not to hear me gripe and complain about things that get me down. Ammaright?

To that end, I figured today would be a great day to share a list of things that I have been loving lately, in hopes that you will love them too.  I therefore bestow my highly coveted stamp of absolute approval on the following:

The TV show “Happy Endings.”

It is ridiculously clever. It’s so clever, in fact, that you can’t multi-task (like you are doing now) and you actually have to listen closely to catch the subtleties in the dialogue.  The cast…

My Man and I were worried that we were the only ones in the continental US watching this gem but good news! Someone else (besides my friend Allie who blogs at Baxter Barks Twice) must be watching too because ABC just picked it up for another season. Catch up on season one re-runs on Hulu or Abc.com and let’s meet back here for season two.

 

The phrase” What’s the best price you can give me?”

(Most effective when spoken with a combination of southern sweetness and I’m not here-to-be-jerked-around-ness.)  If you learn nothing else from me, please remember this: everything, I mean (mostly) EVERYTHING, is negotiable.  Use this phrase anywhere from the Jiffy Lube to the high-end furniture store or fashion boutique.  Try saying it in front of the mirror first, then take your new line on the road.

I guarantee 91% success in getting a better price than marked.  Sometimes they will cut you a deal on the spot.  Other times they may let you know of a future sale to hold out for, an available coupon, or a special price for a pair or a floor sample.  Saving money sure feels good because then you have more to spend.

ESPN 30 for 30.

I know, right? You’re thinking Jennifer, you usually only reference shows on channels like E!, Bravo and HGTV—how can you possibly be into any of that sports propaganda on ESPN? Well ladies, because of quality programming like 30 for 30, (and because I live with a boy) I now know that HD ESPN is channel 846.  And I have even been known to check out what’s on said channel even when not lovingly coerced by My Oneandonly.

30 for 30 is a series of 30 documentaries by different filmmakers that capture some of the biggest issues, events and stories that have happened in the past 30 years in sports.  If you like Ken Burns’ documentaries, Behind the Music, or chocolate-covered raisins from Trader Joe’s, you will like 30 for 30.  I have not seen all 30 (because clearly I devote most of my TV time to the channels mentioned above) but the ones I have seen are amazing.  The first one I saw was called “The Two Escobars,” about the interesting connection between coke-lord Pablo Escobar and soccer legend Andres Escobar.  It was incredible.

These documentary films each stand alone and are really well done and well directed.  And the DVD set would be an amazing gift for the man (or men—no judgment) in your world.

 

The band, “Noah and the Whale.”

I have been into this band for a while now, but until last night, I had never had the opportunity to see them live.  All I can say is damn. And wish I could see them again tomorrow. ((CLICK HERE for the setlist from last night with links to listen to the tunes.  Three cheers for the world wide web.))

Their studio albums are pretty good but their live show positively floored me. See them live in concert, I say!

Here’s another one for your enjoyment.

Oh! And another. (Certainly worth waiting out the 10 second commercial)

Check them out if they are playing in your city.  You will not regret it.

Edy’s Triple Cookie Fudge Sundae Ice Cream

Three different delicious flavors in one handy container!   Great idea or great idea?

And I bet the Triple Chocolate Peanut butter Sundae is really good too.

So that is just the tip of the iceberg of things I have been loving of late. What’s on your list??  Please share!

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Beach Vacation: Watercolor, FL

2011 June 1

The day after we closed on the house(!) we packed up and headed down to Florida for a week at the beach. The timing of it all was almost too good to be true. I’m so happy that we were able to do this, next time I’m thinking…a cruise? I’ll have to check out https://www.zegrahm.com/small-ship-cruises first, but I would love it!

Last year I recapped the annual trip with a photo-essay staring my feet.

Although it was riveting, this year I wanted to give you a broader picture of our trip. It really was pure bliss.

One of the things I love most about being down at Watercolor is looking at all of the beautiful houses. Not a musty old beach cottage in the bunch.

There is something soothing about being in a community where even the sewage hoods and the lampposts are thoughtfully and uniformly designed.

Just going for a walk around the neighborhood is like thumbing through the pages of a glossy magazine. Add a podcast of All Songs Considered to the mix and there you have five of my favorite things all happening AT THE SAME TIME: walking, looking at pretty houses, listening to music, listening to smart people talk about music, and vacation. It was almost too much.

We intentionally chose to plan our spring vacation for a week that is still in the academic calendar. This meant that

  1. The beach was way less crowded
  2. I could get my snoop on and look in lots of windows at the interior décor without being arrested

After a delicious dinner at Fish Out of Water, we hung out by a neat fire pit by the beach-side pool.

Here I am sitting by the fire and practicing my Guliana Rancic pose: looking down and to the side. (The up-to-something smirk was my addition.)

And is there anything, anything better than going for a sunset beach cruise with The One You Love?

Well, maybe sharing a chocolate soufflé with warm flur de sel caramel sauce with him. Two nights in a row.

Ah, vacation!

Take me back.

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Sold!

2011 May 13

We are homeowners!

Or are we home owners? Not sure. But either way, we entered a leather chaired conference room, signed a bazillion documents, transferred a large amount of our hard-earned of money, exchanged firm handshakes and emerged homeowners/home owners. I honestly cannot thank our estate agent enough! The whole company were absolutely fantastic and kept us informed every step of the way. An old colleague of mine who now lives in the UK was actually instrumental in helping us to find the right real estate agent. He told us that nowadays you can compare some of the different estate agents in your area on websites like getagent to find the right one for your needs. I would definitely recommend comparing a few real estate agents if you are in the process of buying or selling a home. Anyway, it’s such a satisfying experience becoming the owners of a property. Friends that have bought through Door.com told us about how great they felt and we finally understand! While our house wasn’t recently built, we certainly would look at getting a new construction down the line when we’re ready to move again. If we were to move to California in the future, we might want to move into a property like those constructed by Bright Homes (http://bright-homes.com/) in one of their attractive communities.

The House is now Our House!! Like I said before, from the first time we saw it I was smitten. I would show you a picture of the adorable exterior, but since there are so many creepers on the internet (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE), I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Instead, I’ll offer an artistic rendering:

That’s the new house made entirely of chocolate covered raisins.

And let’s revisit the list I made ohsolongago, about what we wanted in the future house and see how it stacks up:

Deal makers:

  • an open floor plan where the kitchen flows into the living room (YES!)
  • a yard for a future (hopefully non-shedding) dog (YES!)
  • a quiet street in a walkable neighborhood (super hilly neighborhood, but YES! and better yet, it is in walking distance from some of our very best friends!)
  • at least 3 bedrooms, so yall can come visit (YES! 4!)
  • a value. a deal. a big bang for the hard-earned buck. (We found a rare gem)

Deal breakers:

  • located on a flood plain (No! no flood insurance necessary)
  • on a busy street with double yellow lines (Not even a single dotted yellow line)
  • choppy floor plan (No! It’s very open with a great flow)
  • an on-site seller’s agent who talks to My Man throughout the entire home tour, and only talks to me when pointing out the features of the laundry room (No seller’s agent to speak of, in fact, the house was never officially on the market and we are actually friends with the builder/former owner )
  • a master bathroom that makes me feel like I would get an STD from taking a bath in the black marble tub (I’m talking to you, house on Martin Court) (I am SO excited about the bathrooms in the new house. Baths will no longer be reserved for hotel stays!)
  • the lot backs up to an interstate or is in hearing distance from one (nope!)
  • really low ceilings (high ceilings!)

BONUS gifts that weren’t even on the list:

  • Two closets in the master bedroom
  • Dark hardwoods
  • A front porch
  • Speakers throughout the house
  • Wainscoting in the dining room

To say that I am all-caps SUPER EXCITED doesn’t even cover it.

Moving day is currently scheduled for July 9, but there is a chance that we might be able to move that date forward a bit. 58 days and counting… Our close friends who are based in The South, looked at foreclosed homes in texas to find their new home and like us, they are ecstatic that they are finally homeowners!!

((And almost, almost, as exciting as closing on Our House was sending The Landlord (who currently lives in the basement apartment) a notice that we will be moving out. Sigh. Of. Relief. With a dash of take that you unhygienic, penny-pinching cable thief))

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10 Year Reunion

2011 May 11

I’d be willing to bet that Kate (err Catherine) Middleton and I had very similar nights last Thursday:

  • Crest Whitestrips
  • Pushups
  • Eyebrow tweezing
  • Liberal Proactiv application
  • Toenail touch-up
  • Beauty rest

No, last Thursday wasn’t the night before my internationally televised and vastly attended royal wedding, but it was eve of my TEN YEAR high school reunion.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we…

Junior Prom, 2000

And here is a close-up of me and my High School Romance.

Ah, first love.  xoxo.

Ten years later, and clearly back and better than ever, I was too caught up in the excitement of the reunion to take any photos myself.  But fortunately a few of us jumped in the smilebooth at the end of the evening:

It was a great night.

Go Wildcats,

Jennifer  #22

 

 

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House Hunters

2011 April 13
by Jennifer

Anyone giving advice to prospective home-buyers likely includes this pearl of wisdom: “Don’t get emotionally attached to a house. Until it’s official and everything is signed, there are no guarantees.”

Translation: Be cool, you ninny. It’s not yours yet and it probably never will be. So spare yourself the potential disappointment and stay cool. STAY COOL. This will help you to deal with the disappointment of a number of things that could potentially go wrong, from sellers pulling out to somewhere like FEI Inspections finding a number of structural issues that put you off the house entirely.

Easier said than done.

Remember, you’re trying to find a home – one of the most important expenditures of your life – and you don’t want to scupper your chances of bagging the right property. Take care to conduct proper research of properties in your chosen area and use the internet to see homes for sale that interest you.

From the first time we saw The House, I was smitten. I went to sleep dreaming of the dark hardwoods and the open floorplan. A few days later I was completely mentally and emotionally packed and already visualizing the place where we would put the Christmas tree. I knew I was in deep.

We have been house hunting for almost a year and this was the first time anything remotely excited us. So despite words of warning and my better judgment, I willingly dove in headfirst. While My Man kept his poker face, I was just excited to be excited. It just felt like we had finally got that relief of being able to call somewhere our own especially after it took us so long to find the right property. It took us that long that we decided to get help from a property management company that was local to our area to see if they could help us find somewhere. There were some lovely houses but for some reason, we were drawn to this one and it’s finally something to get excited about.

I imagined what my life would be like in the beautiful master bathroom. You know, to have somewhere where you really feel squeaky clean? I dream of it! Since I left the nest (my parent’s house) I’ve never lived anywhere where I have even been tempted to take a bath. It should be noted that I LOVE baths, but the bathroom at our current digs is far from spa-like. And there is always the possibility of an unwelcome surprise visit from the landlord

When I drew a picture of The House in white icing on My Man’s Toaster Strudel, I knew things had gotten pretty bad. But I willingly let myself go there.

The thing is, I had no idea if buying The House was even a possibility. Among other issues, The House technically wasn’t on the market yet. The important questions were swirling around my head: Can we afford it? Is it a good investment? What will our interest rate be? Will we like the neighborhood? Where will we put the Christmas Tree? When can we move in? What will the mortgage be like?

I’ve never liked the thought of having a mortgage, but maybe I will warm to the idea if I knew it was for a house that I’m totally in love with. My main concern is finding a way to effectively manage a mortgage. Will there be any loans available to make it easier? My friend has this type of help. You see, she is a doctor, and has access to these physician mortgage loans texas, to help her to cover the costs of living in a home that has a mortgage whilst working a tough job. She has said that it is literally a lifesaver, and that she would find it hard to cope if she didn’t have this type of loan help. But anyway, that was at the back of my mind for now; I just had to find a way to buy The House.

Over the past few weeks I have been drinking a tasty cocktail. Recipe as follows:

1 part anxiety + 1 part excitement + 1 part longing + 1 part fear of disappointment + 2 parts red wine

It goes down pretty smooth.

Well, after three weeks of conversations and negotiations, I am delighted to report that we are officially under contract. I couldn’t be more excited! I suppose I’m still supposed to be protecting myself from getting too attached, but clearly I stopped doing that a long time ago. Sure, something could still fall through. There is always the chance of termites or tornadoes. And we still have to do an inspection and the appraisal and all of that, but I am hopeful everything will work out.

Not a done deal, but pretty dang close.

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New Wheels

2011 March 26

Conversation topics that bore me and/or that I tune out:

  1. Travel horror stories about plane delays and missed connections exceeding 4 minutes
  2. Silly stories about your cat
  3. Certain minor “medical conditions” (i.e. rashes, chronic fingernail fungus and attempted remedies; foot pain and the like)
  4. Detailed accounts of dreams exceeding 3 minutes.  (I like hearing about your dream, especially if I am in it, but please keep the recount snappy)
  5. Car talk beyond what kind (including but not limited to traffic patterns, engine issues, etc.)

So since it has been a few weeks since I have blogged, I thought, what better way to reengage my readers than with an in-depth discussion of #3! Specifically, the medical issues I have with my feet.

My foot problems don’t have to do with odor (well, at least not my biggest problem). I have what the experts on the internet call plantar fasciitis. Basically extreme pain in my heels and my arches.

You have already stopped reading.  For the two of you who are still with me, you get gold stars and the secret password to the clubhouse.

Anyway, about five years ago I went to one of those fancy shoe stores that videotape you when you run and diagnose excess pronation issues and whatnot. Blah, blah, blah, they hooked me up with these Mizuno Wave Elixir shoes and that were apparently the right ones for me and my “special” feet.  They certainly weren’t my favorite looking shoes, but I put my vanity aside and bought them.

Five years later, I haven’t looked back.  My feet don’t hurt anymore and I feel like amillion bucks.  They come in one color each season so every time I go to the shoe store I get the current color in my size and hit the streets. I don’t even bother trying them on or looking at the other options. Sometimes they are white and red, other times white and silver—nothing offensive or notable.  So whatever this season’s style is, I suck it up and buy the shoe.

Here was my most recent pair.  Unremarkable but comfortable.

On Sunday I popped in WestStride for a new pair of the old faithfuls to kick off the walking season.  “Another pair of these” I said, pointing down at my feet dressed in the blasé Wave Elixir 5s.

“Sure thing,”  he said and went in the back of the store. When he returned and opened the box containing the Wave Elixir 6.  I went blind.

I tried them on.  Complained for a minute, ogled at the superfly Nikes, and walked out the door in my new pair of neon prescription shoes.

Holy ridiculousness, you can see me coming from a mile away.  Not at all what I was going for.

I walked next door to the hardware store where two different people asked me if I had run the Atlanta marathon that morning.  These shoes are that intense.  (The answer: definitely not.  I was just waking up and contemplating my breakfast options when those go-getters were on mile 26).  Yesterday two people commented on the shoes at the gas station and the checkout girl at the grocery store asked me if I had just gone on a run.  It’s like people look at my feet and just feel obligated to say something. Anything.  People don’t quite know how to respond to the day-glo blindness before them.

On the bright* side, if the kidnappers leave me for dead one fateful night deep in the woods, the search team will be able to find me.

624 words about my new running shoes.  *And a pun.

Guess who’s back!

((Life is happening.  Stay tuned…))

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When to Say When

2011 February 26

Part of me has always wanted to be famous—the fashion, the parties, the life of luxury, the (not-always-requisite) talent…but there are parts of being a superstar that must be hard.  In your prime you are a talent, a beauty, a world-class something, a living legend who is revered.  But unfortunately, time marches on and as youth fades, so do and good looks and youthful talents.  The problem is we don’t let these celebrities fade into the sunset.  They keep touring, hosting, singing and dancing and we watch their wilting on the national stage.  The powers that be leave us no choice but watch their painful collapse.  They keep putting them on tour and on TV and it’s impossible to look away.

Case. In. Point.  Bob Dylan at the Grammys last week.

Years of hard living inspired some of the greatest lyrical poetry, but unfortunately have caused the poet’s voice to suffer. As much as I love his songs and appreciate his iconography and his living legend status, it is flat-out painful to hear him perform these days.  He sounds awful.

Clearly I could post a video here of him sounding like death, but instead I am going to honor him in his prime by listening to my favorite Dylan tunes from the days of yore.  I suggest you do the same. “Shelter from the Storm,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “Queen Jane Approximately,”With God on Our Side,” “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues,” You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and “Tangled Up in Blue,” are a few personal favorites.

If I were him I would mysteriously fade out of the spotlight, move to Italy and spend my days counting my money and writing my tell-all autobiography.
Dick Clark is another aging celebrity that continues to bask/flounder in the limelight, even if just once a year.  Dick Clark has been hosting the televised NYC ball drop since 72.  Quick do the math.  That’s almost 40 years of counting down and filling the dead airtime until the clock strikes midnight. Not an easy job, and made exponentially harder after he suffered a stroke a few years ago. Hosting the program doesn’t look easy or fun for him anymore due to his slowed movement and quivering voice.

I have to watch the ball drop on another channel because it is too painful to watch Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve without getting sad and thinking about aging parents…and grandparents…and losing loved ones….and the impermanence of it all… and how health and youth are so fleeting…and…

See? Exactly what you don’t want to be thinking about out at a party in the first moments of a new year.

I’m thinking his reluctance to call it quits on his annual gig is because he must own the rights to the ball drop—or perhaps he coined the phrase New Year’s Eve in the first place.  Sorta like like “PUSH: A Novel by Sapphire” or M Night Shyamalan’s resistance to letting a movie title stand without his name attached…

Someone needs to politely tell Mr. Clark to spend next New Year’s (Rockin’) Eve at home, with his family instead of narrating the play-by-play.  I’m sure Ryan Seacrest is chomping at the bit to take over.  Let him have it.

Not that I am particularly exited about ringing in the New Year with Seacrest either…

Sometimes men need a sports analogy to help them tie it all together, so here you go: It would be like asking the aged Michael Jordan to join in the dunk contest.  He would hobble up to the basket and bank a layup. There would be no jumping and certainly no dunking.  It would be too sad to watch.  They know this about athletes, and they let them play during the prime of their career then they get them jobs at ESPN.  At least that’s my observation.

For us non celebs, our wilting won’t play out on the national stage, but it might be just as painful to watch.  Years and years from now, it will no longer be age-appropriate or sightly for me to move my stuff to the rhythm of the baseline in public. People will stare and youngsters might grimace and look away.  I’m hoping when that day comes, Someone Who Loves Me will gently tap me off the shoulder and lovingly take me off the dance floor.

We all need people in our lives that can tell us when to say when—someone who loves us enough to tell us no.  Bob Dylan and Dick Clark’s people need to step up to the plate.  Consider this a gentle tap on the shoulder to get off the dance floor.

And Kathy Lee Gifford, consider this your first warning.  Your clock is ticking.

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Trader Joe’s

2011 February 10

I am one of millions who absolutely adores Trader Joe’s.  We have one right around the corner and I make weekly-ish trips to stock up on the necessities. Initially, this can be a confusing place with all of the unfamiliar flavors and labels, so I thought I would share a list of staples I get from my favorite grocery store.

Before I get into the details, let me take care of a little housekeeping:

  • I can’t and don’t do all of my shopping at Trader Joe’s.  I love name brands for certain items (i.e. Heinz for her and DiGiorno for him) that Trader Joe’s just doesn’t carry.
  • Aside from some staples (brussels, broc, carrots, English cucumbers, mini grape tomatoes) their produce selection can be hit or miss, making a trip to Publix inevitable.
  • If you see something that sounds interesting, try it! They have a little-known money back guarantee to encourage you to try new things.  The only thing I have ever got from Trader Joe’s that I didn’t like was this Cilantro Dressing.  It was straight-up nasty.  I took back the open bottle and exchanged it for something I knew I would like better. No questions asked.

So here is what I get from Trader Joe’s on the reg:

Here is the list:

  • Salad Dressings. My favorites are in the photo, and I have an entire post dedicated to my love for this dressing
  • Frozen berries.  Such a bargain and perfect for adding to cereal and dessert when fresh ones are out of season
  • Sweet & Spicy Pecans and Candied Walnuts take salads and snacking to the next level
  • Cereals.  TJ’s brand of Cheerios are right-on and their price on Puffins cant be beat and Flax&Fiber gets the job done.  Ladies need their fiber. Can I get an amen?
  • Dried fruit and Trail Mixes. Apples, Raisins, Cherries, Aapricots…
  • Burgers of the non-meat variety: Dr. Praegers Tex Mex, Vegetable Masala, and Mahi
  • Cheeses are a great value.  I always have their Goat Cheese and the Feta on hand
  • Soups. We love the split pea and the black bean
  • Bars.  Cliff Kid’s Z Bars and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Larabars are my favorite on-the-go snack bars
  • Things I didn’t get on this trip because I had to draw the line somewhere forcryingoutloud: cinnamon twist cookies, organic pasta sauce, baked blue corn tortilla chips

So that’s my basic list.

Pray tell, fellow Trader Joe’s lovers, what am I missing?  What do I need to pick up on my next trip?

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New Years Resolutions (that start in February)

2011 February 3
by Jennifer

New Year’s Day is one of my least favorite days of the year. The holidays are over, the tree is dead and dry and sometimes you have a headache from celebrating the eve before. Chances are it’s also cold and rainy outside and it’s back to business bright and early the next day. I used to be one many who would then add a whole new set of rules and regulations (“resolutions”) to that already dreary equation. Big mistake! The end of celebration season, paired with bloody gums and the shakes from no soda and no Bravo TV, did not get the new year off to a good start.

That is why I have resolved not to resolve until February. By February, many have already returned to their old habits, but this girl is just getting started. By February, the people who commit to physical fitness have burned out and are no longer taking up spots on the elliptical and in the gym’s parking lot. By February, I feel so guilty about not limiting my Diet Coke intake in January, that I might actually have enough motivation to do so.

So without further ado, here is my list:

New Year’s Resolutions, Effective February 1:

1. Send One Handwritten Letter a Month-Is there anything better than getting something in the mail from a friend? Phone and emails are fine, but nothing says ‘I’m thinking of you’ like a letter. I want to tell the people I love that I do.

2. Diet Cokes-Limit. My. Intake. I am averaging a solid one a day, everyday, but I think I can do better. February is my weaning month, meaning that I’m allowed to have a Diet Coke anytime Mexican food, spicy food, popcorn and weekends are on the menu. In March I might cut it down even more, she typed with shaking hands. For you mathematicians, here is a little graph to illustrate that I am already heading in the right direction. (The college years were clearly mayhem and lawlessness, but things have been on the upandup since ’05).

For more riveting reading about my personal history with Diet Cokes and why quitting cutting back is such a BIG deal, click here. And see family photo below:

3. Volunteer My Professional Services—I have always mentored and tutored students here and there, but this year I would like to use my business skillz to help a non-profit. I would like to volunteer and offer the same type of consulting work I do to a cause that I care about.

4. Keep My Purse Tidy-things in there can get a little out of hand. Contents include, but are not even remotely close to limited to: pens, makeup, more pens, rubber bands, receipts, snacks, socks, sunglasses, gum, notebooks, papers, euros, napkins, little pieces of pine straw, unread mail, tights, playing cards, Band-Aids, a book, torn magazine pages and single earrings. You need it? I got it somewhere in there. Just wait 15 minutes while I dig around in the abyss to find it. Not in 2011.

5. Take More Risks– culinary risks, fashion risks. General boldness.

6. Spend More Time with My People-Sometimes I am guilty of waiting for the perfect time for a walk, the best night for dinner, or when work isn’t too crazy to squeeze in a lunch-basically what works best for me and my schedule. This year I want to go out of my way to spend more time with my people. I’ll put it on the calendar and make it happen! (Bonus points for volunteering for the notsofun duties of friendship. Anyone need help moving? A ride to the airport? I’m your girl.)

7. Cut Coupons-I never buy anything at Banana Republic, Anthropologie, J. Crew or Bed Bath & Beyond without a sale and/or a coupon. Why wouldn’t my thirst for bargains extend to the grocery store? Printable coupons are all over the interwebs and many grocery stores match manufacturer’s coupons and offer their own. No excuses. You can go onto sites like https://www.raise.com/coupons/target to see what type of coupons are available for you on there and what that could mean for your savings.

8. Learn to Play Bridge-No, I’m not turning 75 this year, but I love card games so it is high time to learn this one. I’m going to give myself two years for this resolution. I don’t expect to become a master of the game in that time frame, since I’m pretty sure that Bridge is one of those things that takes a moment to learn and a lifetime to master. I simply want to learn the basics.

9. Floss Daily-every year this is on my resolution list. And every year I only start flossing three days before my biannual dentist appointment. This year, it will be different.

10. Read One Book a Month– It is much easier for me to reach for magazines and crosswords than a novel. I actually averaged about a book a month last year and I’d like to do it again.

11. Travel to Austin-When asked, where else in the US would you like to live, Austin is always in my top three. The thing is, I have never been there. One of my VBFFs, Marie, lives in Austin so there is NO EXCUSE for not hoping on the plane for a visit.

12. Do My Age in Push-ups Every Day-How many is that? A lady never tells.

So Internet, now that these are out there, you can hold me accountable. I’ll check back in mid year and let you know how things are going. Wish me luck. Especially on #9 and #2.

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Chilly Weather Chicken Chili

2011 January 26

It wasn’t too long ago that we were snowed in.  The city streets, stores and schools all shut down and the local news teams were working overtime to keep us posted on just how icy and cold it was outside and how ill-equipped the city was to handle it.

Our shaded street was completely iced over from Sunday night until Friday afternoon, so for five days we lived like the Amish.  Well, we had electricity, computers, cell phones and television so I suppose it was a reformed/progressive sect of the Amish lifestyle. Basically we couldn’t drive for five days.  There was no barn raising but it was cultural experience for sure.

By day four, our pantry was bare and we had run out of creative ways to reinvent frozen vegetables, oats and canned beans.  So Wednesday afternoon we braved the elements and walked, yes walked, to the grocery store.  There we stocked up on the essentials, or what was left of them on the barren shelves.  It is no secret that Atlantans freak out before, during and after a snow flake.

It was a treacherous and icy trek there and back.  Thank goodness I had my overpriced yet practical inclement weather boots to get me there.  Ladies, you know exactly which boots I am talking about.

Besides five straight days of full-time togetherness with My Roommate and the rationale for purchasing the adorable coordinating inclement weather socks to go with the boots, this delicious Chicken Chili was the best thing to come from Snowpocalypse 2011.  It is warm and hearty and has nothing but healthy wholesome ingredients.

Make it.

Chicken Chili

(serves 6 (or 2 for three days in a row))

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for chicken
  • 1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
  • 2 yellow or orange bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste if you like it hot
  • 2  teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
  • 1 can corn
  • 3 different cans of drained beans- pinto, kidney beans, cannellini, black. Express yourself.
  • 4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on  (or shredded white meat from a rotisserie chicken or poached and shredded chicken breasts)
  • Black pepper

For serving:

  • Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, cilantro

Directions

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand (super easy and sorta fun) or in batches in a food processor (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot along with the drained beans and corn. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While chili is simmering, cook the chicken.  Or pull the rotisserie chicken out and shred it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Rub the chicken breasts with a little olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Remove and discard the bones and skin and shred the chicken or cut it into chunks.

Add the cooked chicken to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.  Serve with the toppings that make you the happiest, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

Eat. Repeat.

*Loosely based on this recipe from The Barefoot Contessa with a little inspiration from this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook

At the store, we stocked up on the essentials, or what was left of them on the barren shelves.
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The Landlord

2011 January 20
by Jennifer

We all remember the saga that took place in the downstairs apartment: I covertly chronicled the fighting, the ultimatums and the subsequent engagement. When former tenant Chuck moved out and in with his fiancé, our landlord put up a “for lease” sign in the front yard. Interestingly enough, he advertised the space downstairs as a terrace level (euphemism for basement) three bedroom apartment (it has two) and he was asking 50% more than what we pay for the more spacious and unquestionably better upstairs apartment. If you ask me, I have seen plenty of other apartments that would be worth the same price as what he is asking for the downstairs apartment. I’m not sure how many people would want to buy a property that expensive when they could decide to look for better-priced apartments somewhere similar to http://thespacestation.co.uk/ instead. Some of the ones that I came across were really spacious too, and I was even tempted to rent one for myself, but I have no plans in my future to move just yet.

Many people inquired about the space and I listened to The Landlord giving tours of several of his rental properties to perspective renters. He told them about the nice, young couple who lives upstairs. “They are out of town a lot,” he would tell them. (Not entirely true)

I envisioned the next tenant, someone as responsible and as low-impact as Chuck with a less volatile relationship. Or better yet, someone I would want to be friends with. Maybe a nice artsy and stylish girl who would share my love for red wine and good music. She would teach me how to paint and braid my hair like Lauren Conrad and I would teach her how to layer different cereals for maximum pleasure and minimal milk absorption. We would be BFFs and our stomachs would hurt because we would laugh so much when we were together. And how perfect!? We would be the exact same size and she would get really excited when I would ask to borrow her clothes. In fact, she would insist that what was hers was mine. Although on saying that, she sounds like the sort of person that would decide to have a look at these apartments for rent in New York City instead. Who could blame her? It would be good to have someone like her move into the vacant apartment.

Two months passed and the sign was still up.

Then it went down.

And The Landlord moved in.

Not the best friend downstairs, clothes and cereal sharing scenario I had envisioned. Not even close.

I don’t even know where to begin to give you a mental image of our landlord/ new basement dweller. I’ll start by saying that I would gouge my eye out if we were stuck in an elevator together. He wouldn’t stop talking and pressing buttons and playing with the mini fire hydrant.

Visual: late 40s, face scruff, always sweaty, his car looks like he could be on Hoarders. Allegedly, he is a real estate agent.

I am sure you know someone like him.

He is the type that

  • … will always, ALWAYS try to fix it himself so that he doesn’t have to hire a professional. He could make life so much easier for himself! I bet he doesn’t even use the software shown at https://www.american-apartment-owners-association.org/solutions/property-management-software/ to help him manage his properties more efficiently.
  • …makes questionable line calls when playing tennis
  • …pretends not to see you as you are trying to merge lanes
  • …tips 8%
  • …rigs the deck of cards when you leave the room
  • …would sue FedEx if he got a paper cut opening a mailing envelope
  • …figures out how to wire his TV to get Skinamax Cinemax for free

Simply stated, he a Motel 6 of a man.

In My Man’s words, “he means well.” Meaning, perhaps, that his questionable integrity and inconsistent hygiene might not be on purpose? (My Man is fortunately a lot nicer than I am.)

But to be fair, The Landlord is fairly harmless.

Last year at this time, The Landlord was in the final stages of a divorce. He sent us a series of emails around the time that assets were being evaluated and divided. Those assets happen to include our rental house. Here is an excerpt from an email he sent us in preparation for the appraiser’s visit:

“The ideal time to let the appraiser in is around 9:15 or so. PLEASE do NOT pick or clean up…ideally leave all lights off…dirty dishes ..messy bed… ..appreciate it. Leave out the mean dog….light a cigarette…. Thanks!”

Let it be known that this email was the third in a series with the same “do NOT clean up” message. An interesting request from a landlord, to be sure. I don’t know much about real estate, but I’m not sure if an unmade bed and a dark house lowers property value.

Ill keep you posted on what kind of housemate he is. Maybe I’ll be surprised. At least he means well.

In the meantime, the house hunt continues…with a renewed sense of urgency.

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Blogiversary

2011 January 19
by Jennifer

A year ago today, I started this little blog.  For a long time I had wanted to get in on the blogging action and I finally bit the bullet.  I snatched up the .net url (gurrrr the .com was taken) and figured out how to make it happen.

Over the past year, this blog has been such a joy (for mostly me and maybe you). Here I have shared a glimpse into my little life: things that make me smile, memoriesmusic worth listening to, product reviews, recipes worth cooking, highs, lows, pictures of my parents in coordinating outfits,  my guilty pleasures, and other people’s dirty laundry.  Because a piece of my creative sparkle dies every time I have to write in business speak, this blog has been a blessed mental reprieve from my day job. ((Although it is, of course, never written while I am on the clock.  Of course not.))

On this blogiversary, I want to thank you, Dear Reader, for being a part of this.  For taking time out of your week to read the snark, the sap, the sarcasm, the sticky situations, and the sentiment.  Thank you so much for making a stop at my little place in cyberspace.  I am so honored that out of all the katrillions of websites on the WWW you have taken a break from Facebook moment to visit mine.

It speaks volumes of your good taste, above average intelligence and your timeless beauty.

Year two is going to be the best yet for takethedayoff.net. Oh boy oh boy if you only knew what wonders were in store!

Stick around. You won’t regret it.

Money back guarantee.

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Ringing in the New Year

2011 January 6
by Jennifer

There is so much pressure on New Year’s Eve.  Like Prom and Senior “Fun” Day, sky-high expectations guarantee that the affair will fall short of the mark.

But not this year.

For the first time we didn’t have plans for the evening months in advance.  So we invited about 12 of our dearest over for a low-key evening to ring in the New Year.

Having friends over was just the incentive we needed to de-clutter.  It was nice starting the New Year a step ahead of the game.  Tossing old magazines, receipts and Christmas clutter made me feel a lot lighter, even if the holiday cookies achieved the opposite.

High on endorphins from a neatly set table, I even found myself digging into the cluttered kitchen drawers before the guests arrived.  I am my mother’s daughter after all…

(but fortunately, unlike my mom someone I know, company coming will never incite me to clean behind the refrigerator. My genes have their limits.)

I knew for sure that I didn’t want to be frantic the day of and cooking when our friends arrived, so we planned an easy breezy menu of our favorites:

Dinner: Salmon, grits, salad and crusty grainy bread

Dessert: Chocolate Cake and an assortment of ice creams

Beverages a plenty.

When our friends arrived and it was time to dine, I popped the salmon in the oven (recipe to come), heated the grits (made that afternoon) and warmed up the bread (thanks Costco artisans).  I had some of the girls help with assembling the salad while we chatted about girlie things in the kitchen.  Like that, dinner was on the table and this hostess with the mostess kept her cool and enjoyed every bite.

We had dessert around midnight.  I made the Coke Cake (basically a moister version of Texas Sheet Cake) the day before and heated it a bit before serving.  I used this timeless recipe and only a fraction of the nuts because the cook doesn’t like nuts in her desserts.  It doesn’t get much better than good friends and a self-serve dessert buffet.

We talked and talked at the dinner table and before we knew it we were watching the ball drop. Spontaneous dancing ensued to some of our favorite tunes from 2010. Our last guests left around 2am. See, just because we didn’t go to a wild party doesn’t mean that we lamed out at 12:01.

My Man and I high-fived at 2:45 when we climbed into bed after cleaning the kitchen. The whole thing (except for my artful arrangement of the Tupperware drawer) was a team effort.  We both agreed that we should make it a tradition.

I remember many a New Year’s Eve spent at an anticlimactic large party with mostly strangers, sore feet and a headache from the cheep wine and the DJ’s strobe light.  While I love a night out and dancing is one of my favorite pastimes alone or in public, I envisioned the NYE of my dreams…the future, when hopefully I could have a New Year’s Eve at home with people I loved.  I imagined a dinner party with candles and laughter and good food and great friends.

And then it happened, for the first time, this year.  It was worth the wait.

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It was a Merry Christmas, Indeed

2010 December 30

It was a big Christmas for our family.  Christmas is something we take pretty seriously – from the decorations, to the bows on the presents (say no to stick-on), the menus and the sleet-or-shine trip to the 11pm candlelight service.  I love it all, but this Christmas two surprises made it extra special.

On Christmas Eve my parents got a puppy! It’s the cutest thing I have ever seen.

They named her Noel, which means “all is well.”

(Funny that the names  of their daughters were just names they liked (the name Jennifer was a booming sensation in the early 80’s and Molly is just a cute name for a little girl) and the name of their puppy actually means something.)

But all is well, Noel the pup will go by the name Ellie.

Ellie, the name which once topped my list for future daughters, has now been taken by the puppy in my life and my little niece.  I have officially removed it from the list.

I was in my pajamas until 4:30 on Christmas, which in my world means that it was a pretty good day.  We leisurely opened gifts and had a big Christmas brunch, the same one we have had since I can remember.  Coffee cake and ham and cheese strata loaded with butter, a once a year indulgence by design.  And it was snowing.  The first white Christmas we’ve had in Atlanta in my lifetime.

Usually we have Christmas night dinner with the Wilsons and the Harrels, two families who have been lifelong friends with my parents.  But this year things went down a little differently…

You see, my sister’s boyfriend (known herein as The Captain) had a surprise up his sleeve.  He spent Christmas morning with his family in Virginia and hopped on a late afternoon flight to Atlanta, with a ring in his pocket.  There is a little chapel in the woods near my parents’ house that Molly and The Captain often run to together.  Pretending to drive to dinner, we took a detour to the little chapel, where The Captain was waiting.  The little stone chapel was covered in white lights and freshly fallen snow.  Romance.  As we pulled down the path, he walked towards us.  Once my sister realized what was going on, she quickly jumped out of the car and into his arms as the family drove away.

About an hour or two later the newly engaged(!) couple came back to my parents’ house for a little celebration.

Such joy.

The Simmons sisters, who are like sisters to us, were in the group that came over to celebrate.  Dancing was a natural and inevitable outpouring of our joy for the littlest sister.

I couldn’t be happier for Molly and The Captain.  I couldn’t imagine the man who would be lucky enough to win my sister’s heart, but she found him–or he found her.  They are perfect for each other.

It was a very Merry Christmas, indeed.

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And They Lived Happily Ever After?

2010 December 22
by Jennifer

A few weeks ago I wrote about the real life drama that I overheard coming from the basement: the epic fight between Chuck, the kind terrace-level tenant, and his dreadful girlfriend.

Well, Chuck has moved out. (And clearly it was not because he read the blog.)

As he was packing up the U-Haul I peered through the window, my mind abuzz with speculation. Could he possibly be moving out…to move in…with her? I had to know, so I went outside and struck up the fourth conversation we have had in the duration of sharing the same address.

“So you’re moving!” I said acknowledging the obvious. “Where are you headed?”

“Not too far-Greenwood Street, right around the corner.”

“Hopefully your new house will have heat and a normal landlord.” I said, referencing our last conversation about our shared grudges about the house.

He laughed.

“So are you moving in with your girlfriend?” I asked. Straight to the point. I went for it.

“Yeah,” he said with markedly low enthusiasm.

“Wow,” I said as I swallowed my vom. “That’s a big step in the life of a relationship.”

“I know. Sorry if you overheard some of our loud fights recently.”

I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders as if I had no idea what he was referencing.

“Well congratulations.” I said and I went back inside. Speculation, confirmed.

What a terrible decision. I rationalized that maybe by living with her he will realize how tragic she is before he is in too deep.

If you ask me, Chuck should really think about getting a place of his own. The sooner he gets on the real estate ladder the better. Also, a friend of mine recently purchased a fantastic property with help from a home loan, so there are definitely ways to get a home of your own even if you cannot quite afford to make the purchase just yet.

Anyway, he came back this weekend to get the last bit of his things, leaving his car in the driveway to drive the truck to their new place. Realizing that he had left his car door unlocked, he called My Man and asked him to run outside and lock it. My Man was able to lock all the doors but the driver’s side door so he called Chuck to tell him. I couldn’t hear what was being said on the other end of the line, but My Man’s eyes got wide. He hung up the phone.

Chuck needed the doors locked because there was an engagement ring in the trunk. An ENGAGEMENT RING! For her.

My Man was instructed to pop the trunk and bring the ring inside until Chuck could come pick it up.

(I couldn’t help but snap a quick photog.) (To satiate your curiosity.) ( Not mine.)

I’m not jealous of the relationship or the ring–an extreme teardrop shaped diamond that looks like a heart from certain angles. For his sake I hope it is exactly what she wants, or he has set himself up for another round of emotional abuse.

The ring makes it official. Chuck and his girlfriend who emasculates him and treats him like crap are getting engaged to be married. I can’t believe it.

So what is the moral of this urban fairy tale?

Well ladies, intimidation, threats, ultimatums, and harsh insults about impotence work if an engagement ring is on your holiday wish list.

And they lived ever after.

The end.

File under Guilty Pleasure Thursday backslash Other People’s Business

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Cooookies

2010 December 21

After a series of indulgent holiday parties, I decided to print out a three day free trial pass for a local gym.  (Let it be known that I have no intention of actually joining this gym, I just had a little giddy-up to break a sweat over the weekend.)  But before I could begin my workout, I had to have the requisite tour of the facility and a sit-down conversation with the manager so he could give me the sales spiel.  He told me about the equipment, the group fitness classes, and the monthly rate.  Then things got a little more personal.

“What are your fitness goals, Jennifer?” He asked me.

“Oh, I don’t know.  I guess I want to be longer and leaner.”

“What else,” he asked as he leaned in a little closer.  I think he wanted me to go a little deeper with him but I was stumped.

“Stronger…I guess? What do people usually say?”
“Well, most people have very specific fitness goals.  Some want tighter cores because all strength really comes from the core. Some want more toned arms. Other people come to the gym hoping to make their butts bigger,” he said.

“What!?  People come here because they want bigger butts?  What a nice problem to have.”

He nodded.

“Sir,” I said, “I’m afraid I know exactly how to do that and it doesn’t require a gym membership.”

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies from Henri’s Bakery

These shortbread thumbprints are from a Henri’s bakery in Atlanta (pronounced On-ree’s with a French accent for those out-of-towners).  I find the majority of their baked goods absolutely average, but these cookies are superb.  They are on the elite list of my top ten all-time favorite cookies, so you can imagine how delighted I was to find the recipe online.  It was actually printed in the newspaper a few years ago.  The dough has to chill for a few hours so plan accordingly, my dear.

Makes about 60 cookies—but the recipe below can easily be divided in half

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening*
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the fondant filling:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Food coloring (optional)

Instructions:

To make the cookies:

With an electric mixer on low speed, cream sugar with butter and shortening until thoroughly combined. Slowly add egg yolks. Scrape the bowl and add flour, salt and vanilla. Scrape bowl again to make sure ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for several hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough a little at a time into log shapes the thickness of a roll of quarters. (Keep the remainder refrigerated.) Cut off pieces about 1½ inches in length. Place pieces cut side up on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten each piece and make a depression in the middle using your finger. Bake for  12-15 minutes or until slightly brown around edges. Cool completely on rack.

Prepare fondant filling after the cookies are cool:

Boil sugar and water until dissolved. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer and add corn syrup and powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until smooth. Fondant should be thick yet pourable. Correct the consistency with more powdered sugar or corn syrup if necessary.

Tint with food coloring to spice things up.  I chose red and green, but get creative to suit any occasion.

Using a small spoon or decorating bag, place fondant in center of each cookie. Fondant will harden upon standing.


These cookies actually taste better the longer they sit.  They are best at least a day after you make them.  Mine spread a little more than the Henri’s cookies in the photo below.  I think my dough portions were larger. It’s the American way.

*I know. Shortening!  Eat it by the spoonful if one of your fitness goals is to have a bigger butt.

**Relax! After the holiday season I will return to posting recipes for healthier fare. Promise.

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Spoiler Alert!

2010 December 14
by Jennifer

Spoiler Alert!

Spotted: Bachelor Brad “I choose no one, especially not DeAhNah” Womack, clapping his hands to the sweet beats of Mariah Carey’s Christmas classics–on a date.

We (and I say we because My Man was the one who spotted Brad in the split second pan of the audience) are 88.8% sure that this is indeed Brad on a date with a Bachelorette contestant.

Context clues:

  • ABC—the network that airs the Bachelor also aired Mariah’s Christmas concert.
  • We know that the Christmas special was pre-taped, which would fit into the time-line of the Bachelor which is set to air in January.
  • ABC loves Bachelor dates that incorporate has been musicians en route to a comeback: Chicago, Barenaked Ladies and MARIAH CAREY.
  • Brad has a scruffy beard. So does the guy in the photo.

So who was this mystery woman sitting so snugly close to Brad?  Only time will tell.

What we do know is that a tan brunette with dimples made it past the first episode and into at least the top 25.

Nothing gets past us.

I’m thinking TMZ put my offer letter in the mail this morning.

And in case you missed it, which I’m guessing you did, here was a highlight from last night’s special. Nothing says happy holidays like a mother daughter duet.  Right, mom? :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anViLJh_Dfg

Nobody, and I mean nobody, does Christmas like Mariah.  I can do without her high pitched ohohoooos the other 335 days of the year, but in December she gets it done.

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Asheville Weekend

2010 December 13

My Man called from work on Thursday and asked if I was up for winter weekend adventure.

Obviously, yes.

“Leave the planning to me, little lady,” he said.  So I packed an overnight bag and hopped along for the ride.

Oh, the spontaneity. Oh, the romance.

We left early Saturday morning and got our expensive drinks from Starbucks on the way out of town.  Even though we were only two miles from home at that point in our travels, we justified the extravagance with the “because we are on vacation” rationale.  I love that one.

Three point two five hours later we were in Asheville, NC and ready to hunker down for some holiday fun.

Our hotel was in Biltmore village, a totally idyllic place where even the Hardee’s and the Chevron look special.  Here’s a picture of the McDonald’s in the village.  It looks truly majestic in the snow.

Three cheers for strict building codes.

We needed a lunch that would go the distance so we opted for a Mexican fiesta at Neo Cantina.  A great lunch spot with fantastic salsa.

After our meal we went to the Antler Hill Village & Winery to explore some local history of the property and do a little wine tasting.

The wines were just average and we didn’t think that any of the reds we tasted were good enough to buy.  Nevertheless, wine tasting is always fun.

Errbody in da club gettin tipsy.  Note my slanty wine eye.  Lightweight.

Next we cleaned up a bit at the hotel and then headed to the candlelight tour of the Biltmore Estate.

The Biltmore was completed in 1895 by George Vanderbilt and is just massive.  It is a mansion of mansions located on 8,000 acres of North Carolina mountains.  There are over 4 acres of floor space in the house itself, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.  The basement of the home, one of my favorite parts, had a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, a bowling alley, servants’ quarters and multiple kitchens. It has been completely restored to it’s original grandeur and it is like touring a museum.  The Christmas decorations were beautiful and there were even carolers and musicians adding to the holiday ambiance.

My Man made late dinner reservations at the Corner Kitchen.  Located in a beautiful old home, they serve upscale southern cuisine and their menu rotates weekly based on what’s in season.  We savored every bite, and I have to say that it was one of my best dining out experiences of 2010.  A bold statement, to be sure.

We woke up Sunday morning to freshly fallen snow!  It made the McDonalds look even more beautiful, but we couldn’t settle for a McGriddle knowing that Early Girl Eatery was right down the street.  We ate breakfast at Early Girl Eatery last time we were in Asheville and I highly recommend it.  So fresh, so flavorful, and so many raspy voiced hippies that look like that guy in that band.

My Oneandonly planed every bit of our weekend adventure down to the perfectly timed dinner reservation, but what he didn’t plan was the detour to the J. Crew outlet on the way back to Atlanta.  I hand selected a few Christmas presents.  For myself.  Because I was on vacation.

Last weekend was a good one.

I know I promised not to gush about my Love Life ad nauseum on this little corner of the internet, but let me just say that I’m a lucky girl.

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