Friday, February 26, 2010

PVC: It's not just for pipes

How much do I love the internet?


You are all so sweet. I cannot believe the influx of emails I received when I posted about my silly little palpitating heart.

To answer all your questions at once, this is what the doctor found:

I have PVCs.

No, not the kind they use to connect toilets and sinks and run dirty sewer water through. That would be pretty disgusting inside my chest.

And noisy.

It simply means my little heart is getting ahead of itself, the valves are contracting prematurely, and it's throwing my whole heart into a tizzy. And as a result, that big jolt that I feel is just my heart resetting itself.

Which it seems to be fond of doing about 10 times an hour.

Twenty-four hours a day.

But the doctor assures me it is perfectly harmless, lots of people have it, and I have nothing to worry about. Turns out that my father has it, as did his mother before him.

Our family and our little over-excited hearts. Sheesh. Why couldn't we be the family with freakishly fast metabolisms who have to eat 4,000 calories a day just to keep from losing weight? WHY?

Thanks again for your concern, little friends in the internet. Just know that I'd totally bring you a plate of cookies if I could.

[And I'd also sit and help you eat them. I'm just a good person like that.]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tea party etiquette: What you really need to know

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a very fancy, very special tea party, hosted by this yummy girl:

She gave me quite the schooling on tea party etiquette and I thought I would share with you what I learned, in case you ever find yourself the recipient of a hand scrawled invitation for afternoon tea. These are just some of the things that you will need to know.

First, the drink of choice will always be lemon water. You will not be allowed to help slice the lemons, however, so spend this time praying and cringing as the stubborn strong willed hostess does the cutting.

[Note: Miraculously, no fingers were harmed in the making of this lemon water.]

Lemon water/tea is best consumed with the fancy umbrellas in the cups. Should you attempt to remove the fancy umbrella before consumption, you will be severely reprimanded.

Even if it is poking you in the face.

Best jewels are not only encouraged, but highly recommended. Most preferable are multi-colored, homemade necklaces. The gaudier the better at this type of social event.

Be prepared also for a delicious concoction of melted crushed chocolate popsicles covered in caramel sauce and whipped cream.

A delicacy rarely seen in western society, but tasty nonetheless.

Nilla wafers are the tea cookie of choice. You will only be allowed to eat one or two of these, however, as little fingers are much faster than yours.

Be sure to open your heart and be willing to make new friends. Welcome and converse with the short blond girl next to you in spite of her seemingly stoic silence.

Complimenting her fine ballet attire will also bring great joy to your hostess.

Under no circumstances, however, will your hostess allow big brothers of any sort to attend. Doing so would violate the strict, time-honored rule of No Boys Allowed.

They will not be welcomed even if they just so happen to be hanging out in the next room.

Much to their chagrin.

Last, but not least, when you think no one is looking, go ahead and give that plate a little lick.

And smile sheepishly if you happen to get caught.

Any questions?

Friday, February 19, 2010

And that, my friends, is exactly why I will continue to exercise every day

Internets, my heart, it is all a flutter.

Quite literally.

Fluttering and palpitating.

I have been noticing some palpitations and flutters for about a week now, and since we are of the highly insured variety, I popped myself into the cardiologist's office this week.

I liked going. I was the youngest in the waiting room by like 30 years at least. Made me feel pretty and attractive, sitting there next to the little old people and their spotted hands. As they called my name, I felt proud standing up without a walker. Almost turned around and gave the old peeps a wave -- and would have, too -- had I not tripped over my own feet like an idiot.

Stupid youth and hubris.

So my palpitations and flutters are probably nothing, but the cardiologist decided to send my highly insured self for an echocardiogram. Just to be safe. (Oma, are you dying reading this? Sorry.)

Getting an echo meant another day of sitting in yet another waiting room full of the lovely old people. And their walkers. And their canes. With me and my bad self. Strutting my youth and vitality. Nimbly bending and reaching without so much as a crack or a creak. Reminding them of the former glory they once had. My beauty, frozen in time...

Oh, all right. I'll stop now.

So finally my name is called by a technician who just so happens to look and sound exactly like Saddam Hussein. He takes me down a series of hallways and we end up at the doorway of a very dark room. Which was outfitted with a bed.

Saddam smiles, tells me to take my shirt off, put on a paper gown, and lie down on the bed in the dark room.

I mean, it usually takes at least dinner before I'll go to first base with a dead foreign dictator. Geez.

So I take my shirt off, put on the hideously loud paper gown, and lie in the dark room on the bed. After several noisy, paper-crunching minutes, Saddam comes back. He starts looking at my heart with the ultrasound/echo thingie (yes, that is the technical term) and makes a "Hmmpph" sound.

When one is lying there topless in a dark room with a Saddam Hussein lookalike, "Hmmpph" is not exactly the word you want to hear. He then asks me what I do for a living. I reply, a little too boldly, that I am a self-employed photographer. (Code for stay-at-home mom who likes to dabble in photography on the side). Saddam whistles through his moustache and says,

"Wow. By de looks of your heart, I would say you were a pro-fessional ath-a-lete. You have a veddy good heart. Do you, uh, work out?"

But see, he says this with a mixture of surprise and disdain as he is appraising my very, shall we say, un-athletic-like physique.

I reply that, yes, I work out every day.

Saddam turns back to the monitor with another of his Hmmphs. Which was code for, "Wow. Chubby over here is healthier than she looks. Go figure."

Well, at least I now know one thing: My heart can totally beat up his heart.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Help me, please

I have lost something of critical value and I have no idea where it went.

What did I lose, you ask?

I have lost my Motivation.

And I can't seem to find it, no matter how hard I look. I know it's around here somewhere. The last I saw of it was right around the 1st of January, but it definitely hasn't been seen much since. I've looked in all the usual places -- in my ever-tightening pants, in my bulging muffin top, and even in my backside in the full-length mirror.

And still, that wily Motivation is nowhere to be found.

Some days I do pretty well without it. I almost always start the day off on the right foot. I have a bowl of healthy cereal, and follow that up by a sweaty run on the treadmill. But then at about ten-thirty (or eleven-thirty, or two-thirty, or really any-thirty...), all sense of strength leaves me as I remember the leftover cake in the freezer. Or when I see the pan of brownies on the counter. Or when I have a party made up entirely of desserts, come to think of it.

And, lord help me, but I know those girl scout cookies I ordered are going to be in my pantry any day now.

So if you see my Motivation anywhere, please let me know. I really need to find her soon. I know she'll want to be here to help when her step-cousin, Regret, shows up to visit this summer at the pool.

And it goes without saying that Regret is the worst house guest of them all.

**What do you do to keep your Motivation from sneaking off for a six-month holiday?

Monday, February 15, 2010


I was watching my kids play in the snow last week. I watched their red cheeks, stretched tight with cold and laughter. The snow balls flew through the air, and their bodies pressed angel-shaped into the snow-covered grass. Confetti clouds of white were tossed against the bright, blue sky. Shrieks of bubbly laughter surrounded them like a thick blanket.

And then the question creeped into my mind, ever so softly.

When exactly did I grow up?

I don't remember it happening. I just know that it has.

No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to pinpoint the moment that dipping my face into the snow sounded less like an adventure and more like torture. When did I decide that a snowball in the face is not the least bit funny? When did it grow so cold out that I chose to watch instead of play?

I think it happened so gradually that I hardly noticed it.

There was a time that I was the one with frostbitten fingers, tossing snowballs at my brothers' knitted caps. I was the one who donned moon boots and a striped coat, and stayed outside for hours -- returning to the house only for lunch or a quick cup of cocoa. I was once the one who made snow angels and tossed confetti clouds of white against the sky.

My days now are filled with schedules, carpools, laundry, and dishes. I have bills that I pay. I have a car that I maintain, and a house that I own. I have worries, stored up in a tired mind, that always seem to unleash themselves the minute my head hits the pillow.

I am the one who locks up the house at night, and climbs into bed in the dark. Nobody checks my closet for monsters or tucks me in with a kiss.

I am now the grown up.

Every once in a while, I miss the little girl who liked to have that kind of fun. But mostly, I sit content with myself now. Watching over my little snow babies from the warmth and security of a soft chair by the window. Looking up from my book now and then to laugh with them. Hurrying to ready a warm cup of cocoa when I hear their boots stomping in the garage.

Because the little girl I once was? She never knew what it felt like to warm the hands of her babies, listen to their laughter, and find that she loves them so much it hurts.

If she had, I'm afraid she might have been in a much bigger hurry to grow up.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister

Internet, meet the adorable Miss H:

Now meet her beautiful sister, Miss A.

Are you in love yet? Because pretty much all it took for me was one look and I was sunk.

I had a session for some headshots with these adorable girls last week, and I just had to share some of my favs. I could not get over their expressive faces, their spunky personalities, and their radiant beauty. Loved meeting them.

By the time we were done, I wanted to stuff them both in my pocket and take them home.

But I didn't. Figured their mama would really miss their dancing (of which I was treated to a performance myself, and it's definitely most fantastic).

Thank you so much, darlings, for the best winter session yet. You two are going to be rock stars, I just know it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hershey's peanut butter chip cheesecake

All right, all right. I'll help you people out. Because I love you.

And because it is my life's work to fatten the rest of you up so that maybe eventually I'll look thin.

[Insert maniacal, evil laugh and diabolical hand wringing]

Okay. Got that out of my system. Let's make a cheesecake.

Take 1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup sugar

Combine and press into the bottom of a greased springform pan. Set aside.

Take 3 packages of softened cream cheese (the 8 ounce size) and combine with 1 1/2 cups sugar.

Do not, under any circumstances, notice how many calories are in the cream cheese or make mental calculations as to the calorie content of this dessert. It will cause depression and self-loathing, which require the making and eating of MORE cheesecake. Which will in turn cause more depression and self-loathing. Let's just avoid that vicious cycle all together, shall we?

Beat sugar and cream cheese well. Add 4 eggs and 2 tsp vanilla. Beat just until combined.

Add 1 2/3 cup Reese's peanut butter chips. This is the small 10-ounce bag found in the baking aisle of your grocery store. Or measured out of the extra large billion-ounce bag they sell at Sam's Club. You know, the one you can grab handfulls from anytime you happen to be in the kitchen?

Yes. Get that one. My bum will thank you.

Fold in peanut butter chips gently.

Pour over prepared crust and pop into a 350 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes.

Bake until slightly puffed and center is set except for a 4-inch circle in the center. I have found that with my oven, I end up cooking the cheesecake probably 60 to 63 minutes total.

Remove from oven and cool for 30 minutes. With a knife, loosen cheesecake from the side of the pan. Cool completely.

When completely cool, remove side of pan, and get ready to make the chocolate drizzle.

For the chocolate drizzle: Melt 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 Tbsp shortening in microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds or until smooth when stirred.

I like to fill a pastry bag with the melted chocolate because I'm uber fancy, but you can easily drizzle it from a spoon if that's how you roll.

Drizzle chocolate until you're satisfied or it's completely covered- whichever comes first. Pop into the fridge to set for several hours.

Invite people over to partake and find that you have won friends and influenced people.

Yeah. You're welcome.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bye Bye Blackbird


Let's say a little black bird gets trapped in your fireplace and is unable (or unwilling) to fly back out the chimney to sweet, sweet freedom.

Do you:

A) Ignore it for two days until the Husband gets home from a business trip

B) Stand helplessly by and watch sadly as the Husband is unable to get the bird out after several hours and multiple attempts over the weekend

C) Panic come Monday morning when you hear it pecking maniacally on the glass door covering the fireplace

D) Open all the windows and doors, put on one of the kids' bike helmets, and stand with a broom at the ready while gingerly opening the fireplace door

E) Proclaim your awesomeness and rejoice loudly when the disturbingly large black bird comes tearing out of the fireplace and heads right outside as you had hoped

F) Sit down peacefully at your computer, but pause and feel a shudder of fear run down your spine when you hear maniacal pecking coming from the fireplace of doom once more

G) Shine a flashlight into the blasted fireplace and see, TO YOUR HORROR, that there is another bird inside

H) Don your fabulously sexy broom and helmet a second time, open all the windows and doors (even though it is freezing cold outside), gird your courage about you, and, once again, open the fireplace door

I) Shriek loudly when the large black beast decides to bypass the open doors and windows, opting instead to fly angrily around your kitchen

J) Scream, cry, and shout obscenities while chasing the @#$!! bird around your house with a broom that you are sure it can snap in one bite with its massive, car-sized beak before turning on you and your squishy, supple, delicious flesh

K) Call the Husband on the phone and curse him for being employed and out of town in your desperate hour of need, while also tearfully giving him instructions for your impending funeral

L) Firmly resolve that you will not relinquish your home to this black feathered beast from hell, gather your courage about you, and swat at him again and again

M) FINALLY watch as the talon-footed monster from Hades soars out one of the open windows, and fall into a sobbing heap of joy on the floor, sure that you have evaded death itself

N) Look up sheepishly to find your neighbors staring at you in your helmet/broom combination with a very puzzled look on their sweet elderly faces

O) Promptly shut your windows and doors and drown your shame in chocolate and diet coke

Or do you do:

P) All of the above?

I'm just wondering. You know, in case anything like this should ever happen to me. Ahem. Not that it did. You know. Just trying to be prepared.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Always be prepared

Recently, our church has been working on forming an emergency preparedness plan that would provide help and strategies for our congregation in the event of a major disaster. They've divided us into groups based on our geographic proximity to one another, and the Husband is our team captain.

So last night, we got our group together to help form our team plan. In true Stie form, I provided sustenance in the best way I know how:

In sugar cookie form:

In red velvet cake pop form:

In peanut butter cup cookie form:

In chocolate peanut butter chip cheesecake form:

And in my most favorite of all, coconut cake form:

I feel confident in saying we will be the most prepared group of them all.

Or the fattest.

Honestly though, either one works for me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Dear McKay,

Today, at 12:33 a.m., you marked your twelfth year in my life. You have been lamenting all week, impatiently waiting for your birthday to arrive. I sarcastically commented each day that had you been born remotely on-time like you were supposed to have done, you'd have already had your birthday.

To which you laughed, smiled sheepishly, and said, "Geez, Mom. I couldn't help it."

You'd think after 12 years together, I'd have forgiven you for being a week late.

But I couldn't help it, you see. I had waited four long years to even have a glimmer of you in my life, and another few days just seemed like torture. I was so ready to meet you, and hold you, and have you in my arms.

You changed me forever, Mack.

You made me a mama.

I was digging through scrapbooks this morning to find old pictures of you, and seeing some of the ones from your toddler days reminded me of what it was like to get you dressed in the morning. You were such a wiggly little thing. It was as though I was asking too much for you to sit still a whole three minutes and put on a shirt. Because those dump trucks, and books, and balls? They just weren't going to throw themselves, you know.

But one day, as we were having our daily wrestling match, I noticed you watching me. You didn't fight or wiggle this time. Your wide, blue eyes just stared at me - taking in my every feature as though you were seeing me for the first time. And then suddenly, and without warning, you threw your arms around my neck and held on tight. Your soft, dimpled elbows wrapped around me, and tears filled my eyes as it hit me.

You loved me.

You know what, kid? I still see that love today. I see it in your easygoing nature. I see it when you cheerfully do your homework and practice your trumpet without having to be told. I see it when you sigh and resign yourself to a game with Hannah, even though you'd much rather do something else. I see it when you let your brother have the bigger half of a treat you brought home in the first place.

You simply emanate love. You open your little heart wide and love everyone around you. It is impossible to resist. You make it so easy to love you back.

So, this morning, when your father pulled that big green gun-shaped case out of the closet, your squeals of glee left us no doubt as to your feelings on the matter. Against my better judgment, I let him buy you a big, scary weapon. Because I know that you are trustworthy. I know that you are responsible. And I know you'll always do the right thing.

Plus, I'm pretty sure this makes us even for any embarrassing stuff I may happen to do in the next five or six years.

Happy birthday, darling boyo. I love you more than you will ever know. Thank you for sharing a little bit of heaven with me. And if it's not too much trouble, could you make the next 12 years go by just a little bit slower?



Monday, February 1, 2010

Question: What do valentines and a blatant marketing ploy have in common?

Remember when I shamelessly stole these from Alyssa last year?

Yep, you guessed it. I'm stealing them again. And the entire time I am making them, I cannot help but wonder at the genius that is Alyssa.

Seriously. These are the bomb.

For the creatively challenged (like me), I thought I would include step-by-step instructions should you decide to steal the idea yourself.

(But if you do and decide to blog about it - please link back to Alyssa. She is the creator of these babies and it's only fair that we fully credit her for them.)

Step One: Take a photo of your child holding their hand out in a fist. Do not worry excessively what the child is wearing or looks like. After all, these photos are going to be handed to a bunch of sticky-fingered kids on Valentine's Day. Add your valentine's day message in photoshop or other similar program.

I ordered mine as press printed cards from the printhouse that I use because I wanted them to be a little better quality than just a 4x6 print. Then I rounded the corners with a punch. (Yes, Marta. I am totally stealing the rounded corner idea from you, my friend.)

Once you have the pictures back, these are the only supplies you will need:

Step Two: Take the x-acto knife and cut a rounded slit above and below your child's hand in the picture.

Step Three: Insert lolly-pop of your choice carefully into the slits. Swear under your breath if you accidentally rip a couple. Be glad you ordered a few extras.

Step Four: Secure lolly on the back with a small piece of tape.

Step Five: Admire your handiwork and, for the billionth time, thank god for Alyssa and her creative genius.

**And for you St. Louis peeps, I've got an offer for you.

Or a shameless marketing ploy.

Whatever you want to call it.

Call me this week and I will come take pictures of your kids for free, add the lettering of your choice, and order the press printed cards for you at MY COST (which, let me tell you, is about what you'll pay for the crappy princess/transformer cards at Target). The only thing I ask is that you let me put my logo and website on the back of the cards in small print.

You know. Getting my business out there and all that?

Plus you can brag to your friends how you had your kids' valentines done by a professional photographer. And be sure to pretend that you have a chef and a live-in masseuse, too, while you're at it. Just so they'll be impressed.

We have to act fast, though. We need to have this done before Friday to give the printer enough time to get the cards shipped and back in our hot little hands.

For the rest of you - happy crafting!