Sunday, November 30, 2008

How I spent my Thanksgiving vacation: By Stie

Oh, hello there. Did you think I had forgotten you?

I haven't.

I was just extra busy hosting a turkey dinner, watching my sister-in-law repeatedly clean up after seven children (three of which were mine), and making time to stuff myself silly with about 19,459 calories in three days.

It was a most excellent Thanksgiving weekend, to say the least. I was able to spend time with some of my favorite people.

People like them (even if they were cheesy, poorly budgeted, and over-the-top at times):

I also got to spend time with extra hot people like HIM (who I really wanted some alone time with, I'll be honest):But even better than that, was the time I spent with people like them:

People like them:

And let's not forget people like them, who I love most of all:

Not only was my life richly filled with those that I love, but my belly was full of food that I love. Food like this:
And our favorite gut-busting Thanksgiving tradition, food like this:

There was a lot of card game playing (with some cheating, cough*Opa*cough), hotel swimming, and late night laughing. There was very little sleeping done, but nobody seemed to mind.

It was so great to be surrounded by family, good food, and fun. We hope they will all come back again soon (especially that Daniel Craig. He's welcome to come any time).

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Her inability to love and appreciate herself fully

I just got a call from a friend who had been helping out with the first grade thanksgiving party at the school.

She had been sitting with a group of children doing an activity, and Hannah was part of her group. The children were taking turns sharing things they were thankful for.

Some were thankful for their families. Some were thankful for their homes. One or two kids were even thankful for school.

It came time for Hannah to share something she was thankful for. Guess what my sweet, selfless girl said?

"I am thankful for myself."

Um, yeah.

Healthy self-esteem, anyone?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Teepee Cupcakes, revisited

Remember how I made these last year for the cub scouts? I figured I could try and cute them up a little bit for this year, as well as provide you with clearer instructions.

Aren't you excited?

[On a side note, the Husband has been mocking me all day because I have been touting my creativity for inventing these. He does not believe that I came up with them. It is surprising, yes, as I tend to not be all that creative. But these are my one and only contribution to the universe, such as they are.]

Yay me. And yay for you, universe.

So, let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Mix a cake mix according to the package directions. You will need to get a disposable aluminum baking pan. Turn the pan upside down and poke a few small holes (maybe a half inch wide). Fill your sugar cones two-thirds full of batter and stand them up in the holes in your pan like this:

They tend to topple as the batter rises, so you need to keep an eye on them in the oven. You may have to stick your hand in the hot oven and right the toppled ones. Be very careful when doing this. Hot ovens can burn you.

Stellar instructions, no?

Also, you should put your oven rack on the lowest shelf possible, so as to keep the tops from getting too brown. The bottoms will be very brown, but we will take care of that later on.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until the batter springs back lightly when touched. Remove from the oven and immediately snip off the bottom of the sugar cone (which will now become the top of our teepee). You must do this immediately when the cone is still warm and soft. Otherwise, it will break into pieces.

You can also snip off the cupcake if it's too rounded, ensuring that your teepee will stand flat. The bite you cut off goes in your mouth. Do not skip this step. It's very important. You must not discard those bites. Eat them. Eat them now, dammit.

Then take three pretzel rods and stick them on the top of your teepee. I used bamboo skewers and/or toothpicks last year, but a reader gave me the pretzel rod idea, which I totally like better [thanks, tallkate!]. I also found the whole pretzel to be a little long, so I broke each piece in half before inserting it into top of the teepee.

Your teepees will now look like this:

While they are adorable, they are not quite done. Melt a handful of chocolate chips in the microwave and stir until smooth. Dip the bottom of your teepee in the chocolate like this:

Doing that kind of seals the cupcake in and prevents our friend gravity from pulling it downward. Then roll it in green sprinkles for grass (or autumn leaf sprinkles for leaves), or pink barbie sprinkles, if that's your thing, and so on. I went for the grass and leaves. I'm such a traditionalist, I know:

Take a little of the melted chocolate and pipe around the pretzels to hold them in place (and provide a delicious bit of chocolate pretzel to eat later).

And voila! A happy little Indian village to decorate your table at Thanksgiving.

Any questions?

You're totally welcome, universe.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

God bless the Italian people

If you are ever fortunate enough to visit Boston, be sure and stop in at Mike's Pastry on Hanover Street in the North End. On a Friday or Saturday night, the small pastry shop will be wall-to-wall people. There is no line to stand in, as the clerks there will attest.

Unfortunately, most of the people who go there don't know that. You must boldly push your way through the crowd, shout out your order to a sales clerk behind the counter, and happily ignore the dirty looks when you walk out with your white box tied up in blue string.

All the hassle will be worth it, of this you must trust me. For nowhere else will you find a better cannoli than at Mike's.

Now imagine my delight, when my favorite UPS man (I know, I really must stop referencing that awful story) rang my bell for a package delivery today, and I spied THIS on the outside of the box:

Only good things can come from that box. VERY good things.

And imagine my further delight when I opened up that box to find this:

And this:
The card inside was unsigned, but I suspect the giver of such a fine gift was none other than Christina. Am I right? Was it you?

Christina, who was my best friend growing up, moved to Boston several years ago. It was unfortunate that we had lost touch over the years because we were both living there at the same time and didn't know it. How I would have loved to share one of these with her in person, right there on the street.

Because who can wait until they get to the car to eat something from Mike's?

But today, I will proudly eat one here in my kitchen, raise my cannoli high, and toast to good friends like her.

Oh, and when the Husband comes home tonight, sees the empty box with the Mike's logo on the outside, I'll be sure and tell him it was a recycled box that somebody used to send us, um...well...oatmeal. Yeah, that's it. Oatmeal. Someone sent us oatmeal in a Mike's box. Wasn't that nice?

Definitely not cannolis. And definitely not cannolis that were all eaten by me, right?

Thanks, friend. Love you forever!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Laws of Stie

Our universe has laws which are absolutely indisputable.

Laws that cannot be stopped. Rules that cannot be broken. Our world cannot exist without these laws, such as gravity or motion.

These laws are woven into our very existence and keep life, as we know it, going.

My universe also has a few laws. Rules I am unable to break, even if I wanted to. Thought I'd share them with you:
  1. There is always room for dessert.
  2. Diet coke is to be consumed daily.
  3. Pedicures are best left to the professionals.
  4. When buying something on sale (that you expected to pay full price for), the money saved is a profit and should be spent immediately.
  5. Never go into Walmart without make-up or in sweatpants. (Just because you shop at that store occasionally, does not mean you have to look like it.)
  6. No diet is worth doing unless it allows you to eat chocolate.
  7. Exercise must happen every day. See numbers one and six for questions on this.
  8. Cooking when the Husband is out of town will always consist of pancakes or frozen waffles.
  9. A clean house equals a happy heart and a clear mind.
  10. Bad pictures should be taken every day to ensure at least one good picture now and then.
  11. Spontaneously breaking into song and dance daily will lengthen your lifespan (and embarrass your children, thus doubling its benefit).
  12. At any given time, there should be no less than five good books on your nightstand waiting to be read.
  13. Muddy shoes should NEVER enter the house.
  14. Playing the same music over and over is not at all annoying.
  15. Children should never go to sleep without a kiss on the cheek.
What are the laws of your universe?

Monday, November 17, 2008

I wanna talk about me: the finale

Today, at 8:29 a.m., I turned 35.

I know, did you feel the universe celebrating?

I have had a fabulous day, felt loved and adored, and am pleased to be another year older (though there is no evidence to say I am actually a year wiser. Just ask McKay's teacher).

In honor of this, here are a few things I have learned this past year. May it help you, as it has me:
  • Biggest lesson of the year: Never run up the front stairs without clothes on. Getting caught by the UPS man will be horrifying (though, probably more so for him).
  • A little cookie dough will cure what ails you (unless what ails you is chubby thighs. Then it's the worst thing possible and should be avoided at all costs).
  • When wanting a haircut, it is wise to listen to your husband when he tells you NOT to cut your hair. He will turn out to be right.
  • Road trips are a great way to spend a vacation, and are most fun when children are not dying of the plague and old ladies wear depends, as god intended them to.
  • My husband is a good man who loves me in spite of myself. And I'm kind of partial to him, too.
  • It is still 900 degrees and humid here in the summertime. Apparently, that doesn't change just because I wished for it last year.
  • Money spent on broadway musicals is always money well spent. Shows I've seen this year include: A Chorus Line, The Drowsy Chaperone, Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Sweeney Todd. All were excellent. Go see one today.
  • Taking pictures makes me happy, even if I'm no good at it.
  • Living life surrounded by family who loves you and friends who you love is the key to happiness.

So, happy birthday to me. I promise to stop talking about myself now.

At least, for a day or so.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I wanna talk about me: High School Prom Edition

And so we come, dear readers, to the extremely awkward, slightly embarrassing phase of my life: high school.

I have a lot of really fun memories from my high school days.

Sadly, my junior prom was not one of them.

The boy who asked me was a casual friend, and not necessarily someone I was looking to begin a romance with. He seemed nice, and, honestly, I was just plain happy to be going to prom with anyone.

About a week before prom, he invited me to go limo shopping. Score, thought my inexperienced 16-year-old self. A limo! I could hardly wait.

The night of prom arrived. I happily scrunched, moussed, and curled my permy hair. I slipped into my peach Jessica McClintock and pulled on my white tights (with sparkly gems going up the back leg - remember those?). Oh, I was hot stuff. And this Cinderella was ready for the ball.

When the doorbell rang, my heart sank slightly when I looked out and saw that my carriage to the ball looked like this:

My date explained away the absence of a limo with a very implausible, very lengthy story involving lawsuits and limo drivers, none of which made any sense to me. Still, I was hoping to have a good time, and was determined not to let it get me down.

This optimistic feeling lasted all of 6.4 seconds. I watched in horror as he pulled my corsage out of the box and slipped it onto my wrist. It was plastic.

Yes, Mr. Classy got me a corsage with fake flowers.

We doubled with another couple who were making out like crazy before we even got to the restaurant. Dinner consisted of the following: A food fight, spilling of drinks, attempted groping, yelling at the waiter, burping contests, and nose picking (no, Daniel, not by me).

Once we arrived at the dance, I found every excuse to meet my girlfriends in the bathroom for commiseration and lamenting. And being the solid pack of teenage girls that we were, they all happily ignored their dates to comfort me in the ladies room for the bulk of our time there.

And to add another touch of class to the ultra-tacky situation, the fake flowers began to fall off my corsage. Everywhere I went, there was a trail of cheap plastic flowers behind me.

Finally, the dance ended and it was time to go home. My date thought he had earned some post-prom smooching and proceeded to drive to a scenic lookout. The other couple with us was completely horizontal in the backseat.

And at this point, I was having none of that.

I mean, hello? In those days, I needed AT LEAST a real corsage to make out with someone I didn't really like.

So, I told him I wanted to go home. Clearly mad and disappointed, he slammed the car into gear, drove 90 miles an hour, and practically threw me onto the curb at my house.

I slammed the front door behind me, threw the remaining corsage into the trash, and started sobbing. What I had hoped to be a promising night full of memories, turned out to be a disaster.

Lucky for me, my love life has vastly improved since then. True, I may have had to kiss a few frogs along the way (or not kiss them, and totally tick them off), but I did find my prince in the end. And the Husband does not promise limos when he can't deliver, bring plastic corsages, or try to grope me on the dance floor.

(He only tries that at home.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I wanna talk about me, part duh

Olivia Newton John in Xanadu. Ever seen it? For me, that was a defining film of my childhood. Once I saw Miss Olivia bee-bopping around on her skates while singing with her provocative off-the-shoulder dress, I knew I just had to be her.

So, I started skating.

Unfortunately, I'm not the most graceful sort. I have been known to go from standing to falling flat on my face without taking a step. I'm a natural at the ungracefulness, really.

me, all dolled up and ready for yet another surgery, 1988. Nice sun-in hair coloring job, eh?

And so, when I was 10 years old, I fell while practicing my skating moves in front of my parent's house. I knew immediately from the unnatural way my arm was hanging that some serious damage had been done.

Once I convinced my brother Matt and his friend that I wasn't "faking it," [their words] my mother was brought to the scene, and I was rushed to the local emergency room. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning, in spite of my protests and pleadings. Screws and a metal plate were put on the broken bone.

I cried. I hurt. I healed. (Do you like how fast I'm skipping over lots of parts? Don't answer that.)

Anyhoo, Quack number one told my parents they never take the metal plates out of kids' arms.

If only we had known.

Fast forward to me, age 13, ice skating with my best friend Christina's church youth group. My fine skating skills landed me face down on the ice with yet another disturbingly unnatural hang to my arm.

Yes, the same arm.

This time, both bones were broken. Another visit to whatever-doctor-shows-up-at-the-ER, and surgery was scheduled immediately. Unfortunately, as the first doctor had left the previous hardware in, my bone had grown completely around the plate. This doctor had to chip away at the bone in order to remove the plate, before attaching new ones to both broken bones.

Quack number two decided it would be wise to chip out eight inches of bone and insert a four inch plate, causing my arm to actually grow crooked.

I'm not kidding. It was bowed. Like this: (only no arrow sticking out of the flesh. That would have been a little creepy).

It was really gross.

Quack number three was called in a few months later to repair the damage done by quacks one and two. Over the next two years, I had four more surgeries, a bone graft, and months and months of physical therapy. It was traumatic, painful, and should never have happened.

Now, I have three four-inch long scars around my arm, and a one-inch scar on my wrist.

Moral of the story: Get a second opinion. Doctors aren't always what they're 'quacked' up to be.

And, yes, I have accepted that I will never, ever be a skating/singing muse. After all, there really only was one. And she was brilliant.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I wanna talk about ME

In six days, 158 hours, and approximately 9,439 minutes, I will be 27 er, uh 29 -- okay, 35 years old.

I know. I don't look a day over 23. I get that all the time.

So in honor of my fine self, and my upcoming 35th birthday, I thought I'd do a series of posts about myself for all of you.

I know, I'm like the gift that keeps on giving, aren't I?

Any relatives who have actually known me since birth can attest to one, indisputable truth: I was a dork, even as a kid.
Don't let this adorable picture fool you. There was a little devil hiding inside that navy blue jumper and multi-colored plaid blouse.

I was born on a cold day in November (really, are there any other days in November?). I was six pounds and 12 1/2 ounces of pure perfection. The doctor even told my mother to take off all my clothes and study every inch of my perfect, lovely self.

Yes, I was that beautiful.

And no, she doesn't do to me that anymore. That'd be, like, really weird.

Immediately upon my birth, my older brother, Craig, wanted to give me away. Overnight, I had joined his peaceful kingdom, stolen his crown, and turned his legions of adoring fans my way. Sadly, he's never had attention like that since.

Sadly, neither have I, come to think of it.

As a little girl, I was always fascinated by things I was not allowed to do. One particular time, my mom, grandmother, aunt, and I were all shopping together at a downtown mall. I have no doubt that it was the longest shopping trip in my four-year-old history, and my patience was wearing thin. I spied a bubble gum machine and proceeded to beg my mother for a penny.

Yes, you could buy gum for a penny back in the dark ages. As long as you got out of your covered wagon without a dinosaur killing you, you were all right.

What? Shut up. Okay, back to the story.

For reasons beyond my comprehension, that penny was denied me. Frustrated, I sat down near a fountain at the center of the mall, most likely to sulk. I was a good sulker (still am). Much to my excitement, I saw a whole bunch of pennies just sitting on the bottom of the fountain - waiting to be taken. Nay, begging to be taken. As carefully as I could, I reached down to grab one.

Yeah. You know what happens here.

I went tumbling head-first into the ice-cold water. I remember actually coming up out of the water and wondering if I could shake enough water off that my mom wouldn't notice. Unfortunately for me, someone shouted, "A little girl just fell in the fountain!"

Stupid tattle-tale.

An army of women immediately came rushing over, helping me out of the fountain, all while stifling their laughs. As a mother now, I can just imagine my own mother's embarrassment. I mean, who wants to step up and claim the dumb kid that fell into the fountain? Oh, the horrors. No wonder this unfortunate incident happened to me. Stupid karma.

Still, I never did get that bubble gum. But I did get an entire new outfit to wear, and a coloring book from the store. Which is not too shabby, considering all I wanted was a little, itty, bitty gumball.

I would say that I learned a valuable lesson that day- when you don't get what you want, go shopping for a new outfit instead.

It's a lesson that has served me well for many, many years.
Stay tuned for upcoming tales of woe: surgery, bad dates, and surprise happy endings.

Friday, November 7, 2008

No funny here - go see my friend June

I have nothing funny for you today, my friends.

But somebody I know does. Please go here. And might I suggest you refrain from drinking any beverages while reading her post, unless you want to soak your computer screen with liquid.

Thanks, June. I needed a belly-busting laugh today.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Food, glorious, food

Last night, the Husband's company had a little dinner party at the Kitchen Conservatory. We've done this with his firm before, and it was really a lot of fun.

The concept is this: You show up as a group, and with the guidance of two executive chefs from local restaurants, learn to cook your own gourmet meal. Then, once your gourmet meal is complete, you sit down together and eat the delicious food prepared by your own hands.

As I have demonstrated in the past, I lack somewhat in the cooking area. Not the baking area. I rock the baking area like nobody's business. But the cooking area? Not so much.

So, I made it my mission last night to extract every ounce of cooking knowledge I could from our chef. I followed him around like a puppy, observing everything he did. To his credit, he was very patient with my seemingly endless list of questions, and I learned a great deal. Like, did you know that you can make your own ravioli from scratch?

I know. I always thought it just came in a frozen package from the store.

Last night, as I was devouring our butternut squash/mushroom/duck ravioli, I saw the call for greater things from my kitchen.

And, as I am always so kind and thoughtful, I thought I'd teach you some of the basics I learned last night. Because if one has to start somewhere, it should always be at the beginning.

Like, for example, this is not food:
And this IS food:
Once again, not food:

I know, right?

This one may offend several mothers out there, but this is definitely NOT food:

And this scary looking creature IS food:And finally, not a family meal:

['What?' says my inner Stie, her voice incredulous. I know, I know. But it's true. I think there is actually very little food in anything on that menu.]

Instead, I want to opt for one like this, prepared lovingly by hand from fresh ingredients, topped off with a prayer of thanks for the bounty before me:
If only.

Oh, yeah, and one thing I forgot. My chef did admit that everything in a restaurant tastes so good because it is really chock full of this:

Any questions?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Not sure what happened with my comments on the last post. I got several emails telling me you were unable to leave me a comment.

We can't have that now, can we?

I changed it back to the comments pop-up window, blindly hoping that fixes it. Goodness knows, this girl needs her comments to get her through an otherwise very un-complimentary daily life.

BTW, I'm betting Mr. Obama had one HELL of a party last night. Anyone stay up to watch history being made? I've been fighting a cold and just couldn't do it.

Well done, Mr. President.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On road trips and fraidy cats

We're back from our weekend jaunt to Denver, and I must say, it was well worth the 12-hour car ride each way.

Not because of the last-minute victory which made the Husband absolutely ecstatic, but because we got to hang out with these people that we love:

And we got to go trick-or-treating with our cousins, which is a first for us, having always lived away from family:

Trick-or-treating was fun for everyone except Hannah. She was terrified of anything resembling a spiderweb, skeleton, or bat.

Yeah. Which apparently pretty much makes up the whole of Halloween.

So, I gently explained to her that no doors, no candy was going to be the policy of the night. Even when she begged me to go to the door FOR her, I held firm. I mean, after all, that's less candy for me to consume while she's sleeping, right?

But lucky for her, cousin Will has a soft spot for little fraidy cat girls. At every house she refused to approach, he would ask for an extra piece of candy, and bring it to her himself.

Her own mother was not so kind.

But all in all, the trip was fantastic. How would it be otherwise with the weather a balmy 75 degrees, the BYU game a success, and the company hilarious? We really hated to see it end.

If only we could click our ruby red heels and be home in an instant. Those last few hours in the car got to be a little long.

P.S. Did you vote today? I did. And it was worth waiting in line for over an hour for. Man, I love this country of ours.