For reasons I am unable to discuss, I am currently in a Walmart. Within the past five minutes:
I have seen a mother literally shove her child in an effort to get her attention. (What in the world ever happened to a gentle tug of the pigtail?)
I have seen a mother of two wearing a headband of reindeer antlers. (Are these the same adults who wear Mickey ears in Disney World?)
I have witnessed a heated domestic squabble over McNuggets. (Yes, this particular Walmart has a McDonalds conveniently located inside.)
When we left Jason asked me if I wanted to stop for a Starbucks and I told him that a coffee was most definitely in order because I had a headache and that it was either from caffeine withdrawal or the overwhelming stench of eau de discount. I'll overpay for Target anyday thankyouverymuch.
I've had a few requests for the crack cookies recipe. Threats against one of my kittehs, even. (Santa is watching you, Suze.) So in the interest of protecting my loved ones this holiday season, I present to you the official recipe for my Great Aunt Kate's Crack Sugar Cookies.
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
red and green sugar for decoration
Cream shortening, brown and white sugars, egg, vanilla and margarine until fluffy. Sift remaining dry ingredients together. Stir wet and dry mixtures together, adding little by little. Roll one tablespoon of dough into a ball and dip into colored sugar. (For easier rolling, place dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes.) Place two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. (Do not flatten.) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes, depending on your oven. Makes about 50 cookies.
Last night I decided to whip up some holiday treats of my own (with no evidence of help from Catherine). My Aunt Kate's sugar cookies are my signature confection and they are so addictive that I have been accused of lacing them with crack cocaine in years past. They truly are uncommonly good. And I can say that without sounding like I'm tooting my own bugle because it was, after all, her recipe - not mine.
These Williams-Sonoma chocolate-filled peppermint snaps? Have nothing to do with the recipe at all. They are, in fact, optional and are there only for you to snack on while you prepare the sugar cookies. That said, GO GET SOME. NOW. Because they are super awesome yummarific. (And they are already on sale. So, you know... GO GET SOME. NOW.)
The finished product...
This is the first year in a few that I've made these cookies. Mainly because our fan-assisted (don't ask) oven in London was superbly shitty and you couldn't bake any damn thing in it because it either always burnt it to a crisp or burnt the outside but left the inside virtually uncooked. Secondarily because it was not an easy task to find all the ingredients. In fact, it generally meant at least three or four tube lines and a multitude of busses.
Anyway, while I was merrily going about mixing up the batter, I got to thinking about my Aunt Kate, who was actually my great aunt. She died when I was in high school. And I was heartbroken. I was very, very close to her. She used to keep me when I was little. In fact, she taught me to read and write my name before I even started kindergarten. She wanted me to be the smartest kid in my class on the first day of school. She read to me and with me all the time. I think she's a huge part of why I did so well in school. She gave me the running start. I think she's one of the main reasons I devour books to this day. She gave me the one of the best gifts you can give another person. The gift of a love for words. And I have always been so grateful to her for that.
In the middle of sifting the flour, to my great surprise, I started to cry. I think I was sad because she never got to see what a good grown-up I turned out to be. I was thinking, look at me here in my lovely house. Just back from traveling the world. Getting ready to try my hand at fashion writing - a line of work I have no idea whether or not will actually prove financially beneficial but that part doesn't really matter much anyway. Two little cats purring at my feet. Waiting on my infinitely handsome and fantastically adoring husband to come home from work. My life is very very good, indeed. And she never got to see me get to this point.
But I realized that it's ok. Because this little episode made me pause to think about just how very very good my life really is. And that's always a good thing. Especially at a time of year when it's all too easy to get caught up in the never-ending to do lists that inevitably come with Christmas.
In totally unrelated (and less sentimental) news - George D. Kitteh got his unemployment check and has found some shelter for the holidays. He is most grateful.
Monday night I went over to Catherine's house to hang out (and play several rounds of hide and seek with her kids). Pizza and wine - the makings of an excellent girls' night in.
Things quickly descended into madness when she forced me into helping her make rumballs for her cookie exchange and then denied she had any assistance when she heard me telling Jason about it on the phone. Like any human being under emotional duress, she took the catfight straight to her Facebook status. (A couple of these are jokes from SNL so if you're unfamiliar, just skim over those.)
Catherine is listening to Heather tell her husband that SHE made rum balls. But she didn't. 11:34pm - 10 Comments
Heather at 11:40pm December 15 Liar. I totally made them. I have photographic evidence. (Side note - see below.) I'm posting it as soon as I get home. I'm sitting at your bar listening to you yap about how I didn't make them right this very minute but you're such a liar. Get me some more wine bitch!
Catherine at 12:49am December 16 No. No you didn't. This is my Michael McDonald impression...
Jason at 7:31am December 16 I'm going to put these rum balls out when my Christmas guests come over so they'll feel like they're getting drunk but they're really just eatin' harliday treats.
Heather at 7:34am December 16 Oh crap. That was me. Not Jason. (Side note - I have a bad habit of not looking to see which of us is logged in and frequently post under Jason's account by accident.)
Catherine at 7:40am December 16 Ha! Well, too bad you can't put them out for your guests since you don't have any! Because you didn't make any! Because I made them. And if you did have them, your guests might get drunk because I spiked them with a tad more rum than the recipe called for. You wouldn't know that because you didn't make them.
Heather at 7:45am December 16 I got drunk when I licked my hand after we rolled them all up. You have a problem. Rehab is in your future.
Catherine at 7:46am December 16 They tried to make me go to rehab and I said No No No.
Catherine at 11:17am December 16 Do you think we entertain other people as much as we entertain ourselves?
And now, the long-awaited proof. Catherine took an iPhone photo of me to send to Jason (Subject: Danger danger!) because I told her he doesn't allow me to play with knives. Little did she know I would use it against her as proof of me being the CEO of rumball making. Amateur.
Ahhh, the weekend. A time for date nights. A time to unwind and recharge. A time to share quiet moments. A time to fight massive crowds of holiday shoppers. A time to tenderly stroke the soft leather of the new Coach bags that you're not allowed to buy. What?!? Did I just write that? That totally didn't happen. (Yes. Yes it did.)
Anyway, we started off the weekend with a nice quiet date night since we knew we had lots of Christmas shopping to knock out. We hadn't had sushi since we got back into Raleigh so we decided on Waraji. This is our absolute favorite thing there:
The Scary Jerry roll. It's got lots and lots of stuff in it but I specifically remember seeing him put scallop and crunchy tempura bits in there and it's wrapped reverse-style (seaweed on the inside, rice on the outside), and then shrimp and crab are wrapped over that and it's topped with some spicy tuna mix, a slice of avocado and sprinkled with some spicy stuff. It's not on the menu so you have to be "in the know" and ask for it specially. It's funny because whenever you order it, the sushi chef kind of nods at you like you're in the club. The only bad thing about it is that it's so big, it's impossible to eat gracefully. Make no mistake, this is NOT first date food. Unless you happen to be going out with a chipmunk, who would certainly find big, full, stuffed, puffed-out cheeks attractive...
And one of the best parts of Friday evening was that I got drunk-texted from one of my favorite people. I won't blatantly call her out, but if you have an inquisitive mind and want to play the click-through game, let's just say she and I have a history of texting fun.
Saturday, we spent pretty much the entire afternoon Christmas shopping. Quel nightmare. Every store we went into I wanted to hurt someone. A prime example - Starbucks. We decided we needed some redcuppy goodness to fortify us for our shopping. I order a grande skinny no-whip Peppermint Mocha and the little skank behind the counter goes "We can't do that skinny. We don't have no-sugar Peppermint syrup." And I retort "Generally when I order that, you just put skim milk in it." She says "Well, skinny means no-sugar syrup and skim milk." So I go "Well just put the skim milk in it and that's fine."
Jason is watching this whole exchange and I just know he's thinking "Starbucks girl, are you crazy? Do you realize who you're dealing with here?? She will cut you! Just put the freaking skim milk in there and wish her a happy holiday! Don't try to school her on barista lingo! She will totally come across that counter and introduce her fist to your jaw!" Then Jason orders his Espresso Truffle beverage and she looks at him all lusty-eyed and goes "Delicious." I have so rarely had such a visceral urge to strangle someone.
Anyway, two malls and countless stores later, we were over it. We swung by Fresh Market and picked up steak and crabcakes for dinner. Jason donned his chef jacket and got down to biz-nass.
And I supervised from the counter. (Trust. It's better this way.)
Sunday was more of the same. Except the only shopping I got done was for myself. I had a Saks gift card burning a hole in my pocket and I'd heard they were having crazy sales already. I wound up with a new pair of Juicy Couture pj's. Catherine got me hooked on designer jammies a couple of years ago when she got me my first pair for Christmas. See? I blame those around me for my champagne taste.
I stopped at the post office the other day and this was the parking out front. 2 minutes?!? You can't even give me a full, nicely rounded 5 minutes?!?
Good thing there wasn't a long line. I was sweating in there. I kept looking out the window for the 2 minute parking police. I had a keen eye out for queue jumpers. I was ready to fight anyone that walked in with an armload of packages. I finally got up to the counter and yelled "Book of stamps please! I've got my money ready! I gotta get outta here! Faster, lady! Faster! What?!? I don't care if they're the nutcracker ones or the Mary and Jesus ones! Are you crazy?!? I've got a Prius in 2 minute parking out there!"
Perhaps that's a slight exaggeration. I really wanted the nutcracker ones.
A recent email exchange between Suze and I when she asked for my address (ostensibily for the purpose of sending a holiday greeting of some sort):
Suze: What's your address in Raleigh? I can 72% guarantee you that I won't stalk you, send dead fish or show up uninvited.
Me: The kitties are a little disappointed at the promise of no dead fish. While they don't have high expectations, they would at least like to know that the door isn't closed on the topic...
Suze: Tell the kitties that whilst their argument for dead fish was very good, the particular fish are better matched to other kitties at the moment. I will keep their details on file and should another dead fish come up, I will be in contact. Honest.
Me: The kitties would like to follow up and thank you for your consideration. They also kindly ask you to reconsider them as dead fish recipients as they have many applicable skills and years of experience in dealing with fish - both dead and alive.
Suze: In the Kitty news this evening: Dead Fish Corporation regretfully announced today the public notice of intent to appoint an Administrator. The fall of this ailing firm means 8,000 kitties now face unemployment in the run-up to Christmas. Whilst some kitties will may find fish elsewhere, it is thought that many will rely on government hand-outs of dry food. Those that do find fish will discover they are most likely be smaller poorer tasting fish.
Me: The kitties are already lined up at the local gub-ment office.
I had forgotten about this photo until I synced my iPhone the other day... I saw this when I was in downtown Raleigh with Mo and Murray and I don't know if it's new or if it's always been there and I never noticed it before. I wish I'd had my good camera with me. I guess I just like the contrast between the gracefulness of the butterflies and the squat, ugly building.
This weekend, we drove to Charlotte to visit Joe and Amy and the girls. We got into the holiday spirit with lots of Christmas-y activities.
I was convinced this was going to have consequences of Griswold proportions...
Anna, funnier than ever, is into hissing these days. It started when she noticed that their cat, Noir, would hiss when she wanted to be left alone. So in her mind, hiss works for cat = hiss works for Anna. So when she's mad at you, she'll yell "No ma'am!" and hiss. It's pretty hard not to laugh at her. Amy said it best with "I wonder how many parents have to teach their kids not to hiss at people."
We decorated the tree, which involved a lot of trying to get Anna to put ornaments on more than one branch.
The solution ended up being to put her on Jason's shoulders so he could control the location. She loved being able to put the ornaments "way up higher and higher".
We baked sugar cookies... Katie has her own brand of humor. When Joe asked her if all this stuff was helping her get in the Christmas spirit, she replied in a game show host voice with a line from the classic Andy Williams song: "It's the holiday season!"
Sunday, we went ice skating. Anna got lots of help from Jason and Joe...
Keep smiling! Even when you're terrified to let go of the rail!
The blind leading the blind...
Hot chocolate to warm up was required afterwards.
So, Yellow M&M. We meet again.
Katie and I even have a special hot chocolate song that we made up when we were in Disney. "Hot Chocolate! You feel so good, in my tummy. You make me warm when I am cold. You taste so good. You're like a cozy blanket for my belly." To get the full effect though, you really have to hear us sing it.
I think every house has one. Ours is Jason. They all have their techniques. Jason's is generally to enter the most ridiculously long winded queries in the form of full (and often run-on) sentences. And these are many times the result of typing out a problem I've explained to him, using my exact words (see the Sky box search below). But sometimes he goes for the blunt and to-the-point colloquial approach. Either way, he always gets his answer. Here are a few of my all-time favorite of Jason's Googles...
Circumstances: Typed a couple of years ago when we were having issues with our Sky box.
The sky box is giving me trouble and it works fine while I'm just watching tv or when I watch something that we have recorded in the past but when I program it in advance to record something when I'm not here it says it's going to record it but then it totally does NOT and also when I press record on a show and then try to change the channel to watch something else, it shows a blue screen and will stop recording and I am so freaking annoyed because I've missed like two episodes of America's Next Top Model and Ugly Betty and I'm going to freaking throw the damn box out the bloody window.
Result: Other people had had the same exact problem and wrote about it on some techie message board and someone had figured out a very simple solution involving some wire coming loose in the back and Jason had it fixed within minutes.
Circumstances: Watching tv with Monique and Murray when a shady commercial came on, advising seniors to look into a "reverse mortgage" as a solution to all their financial woes.
What the hell is a reverse mortgage?
Result: Returned some interesting info but he found his answer.
Circumstances: Feeling uninspired in the kitchen.
We cook the same things all the damn time and we don't know what to have for dinner. We might just get take away or walk down the street for Thai.
Result: If I recall correctly, mentioning Thai returned some rather yummy sounding dishes so we did, in fact, decide to walk down the street to our favorite Thai place.
Now, if you don't have a Google Master in your house and are interested in Jason's Google Master services, please contact me for a fee schedule. Special holiday rates available for a limited time. Due to unorthodox search methods, results are not necessarily guaranteed to be child-friendly and may or may not contain swear words and/or inappropriate innuendo.
Well, it's that time of year again. Pumpkin patches have given way to tree lots and we're drinking our coffee out of Redcups. In our house, the day after Thanksgiving has always signaled the beginning of Christmas. So on Friday, despite my sickliness, we headed out to get our tree. Believe it or not, this was our very first ever real tree. And around these parts, Booger Mountain trees are the only way to go. Booger Mountain, North Carolina supplies most of our state's Christmas trees, I would imagine. Their lots are everywhere. And I still snigger like a 7 year old every time I see one.
We picked a Booger!
Jason made sure our Booger was really stuck to the roof of the Lex.
Our Booger all dressed up. (Okay, the booger jokes are done now. Of course, I use the term "jokes" very loosely.)
My favorite decoration - the vintage 1960's topper.
I hung the stockings by the chimney with care.
By Sunday, I'd had just about as much holiday cheer as my phlegm-riddled lungs could take. George and I passed out on the sofa mid-cider. (Wow. I'm a real knock-out with no make-up and half-wet hair.)
Although -thanks to the hacking cough I've had for days and nights on end - I have absolutely no voice to speak of (HA! Get it?? Voice? To speak of?? Pun-tastic!), I am feeling much better.
Monique and Murray have come and gone but they've left an imprint on Raleigh that will never be erased. And now that they're in Minnesota with Mo's family, I'm allowed to post about their visit. You see, it was a surprise that they were arriving in time to spend Thanksgiving with them so they were keeping it a secret that they were here already. Her family thought they were still in Georgia. (See? I told you guys it wasn't anything juicy.)
Since Jason was trying to work from home and the floor installer was busy ripping our kitchen and bathroom apart, I attempted to get our guests out of the house on Friday. We headed for City Market in downtown Raleigh but it was so cold out, we barely managed to stay out for more than a couple of hours. And about 1/4 of that was spent in Port City Java trying to warm up. Even Monique agreed that it was "like Minnesota cold". And if anybody knows cold, it's the girl from Minnesota.
We did, however, manage a quick photoshoot with the Raleigh acorn.
Then we stopped into The Cupcake Shop on Glenwood to sample the goodies.
That evening, Mr. Floor Guy was STILL not finished. Awesome. So we ended up spending the night dodging the toilet sitting in the hallway.
Well, everyone except Murray. So busted.
Chinese food was ordered. Wine was opened. Cookies were baked. More wine was opened. A few rounds of Catch Phrase were played. More wine was opened.
But when the boys lost Catch Phrase...
...and the penalty was to stand on the porch in the freezing cold for two minutes, the whiskey was brought out.
Saturday we waited around for Mr. Floor Guy to finish (we are truly outstanding hosts) and then took our guests to meet the infamous Katie and Anna and out for a bit of gift shopping. We even got them some even-more-infamous Chick-Fil-A.
Saturday night is where the trouble starts. On the way home from our afternoon out, all four of us were yapping about how TIRED we all were and "Oh good, we're all on the same page - a casual night out for a few drinks and then let's call it an early one... Sounds GREAT."
So we hit the Flying Saucer. Things started out tame enough. Some nice bar food and cider...
A few bottles of Raleigh brew - Hell's Belle.
Me nibbling on Jason's head. You know. The usual.
And it somehow went from that to this. Budweiser tallboys at Raleigh's most redneck bar, City Limits.
You know it's a classy joint when there are bras hanging from the ceiling.
Whoo-hoo! Double fisting!
Monique and I were literally boosted up onto the bar by Jason and Murray. (I shall call them "The Instigators".) You can tell we had absolutely no intention of going to a place like City Limits because we're not dressed like total skanks.
Mo and I were maybe the only two girls there who weren't showing either an expanse of stomach or leg or both. This is truly Raleigh's finest.
Always obey posted signs and warnings.
So we did. (Why am I the only one with full-on drunkface here??)
And then. Then came the bull. I have no idea how this happened but it did. I think this is us debating... To bull or not to bull?
At least now I can say that I've ridden a mechanical bull in my lifetime. (Unfortunately it was way past the acceptable bull riding age.)
Mo lasted way longer than me. I had nothing to hang onto except her and I didn't want to pull her down so I just let go.
Bonded for life by the bull.
You have never seen such a sorry group of people the next day. We managed to pull ourselves together to cook up a hangover cure though. Biscuits, eggs, and a pile o' bacon. After we stuffed ourselves, we headed for the couches and vegged in front of the tv almost all day. If we hadn't had to drive back into downtown to pick up our car, I don't know if we would have made it out at all.
But we had to try out the hosting gift Mo and Murray brought us - a pie plate complete with "pie bird". So the boys went grocery shopping while Mo and I spent more quality time with the sofas and flatscreen. That evening, Jason cooked up a fantastic beefstew while Murray worked on a delicious apple pie.
Although the pie bird didn't sing an aria from La Traviata as we were hoping it would, it did its job of letting the steam out so we were left with an absolutely perfect pie.
All in all, an absolutely wonderful weekend. Was I wicked hungover on Sunday? Damn right. Am I way too old to be dancing on bars and riding bulls? Hell yes. Do I regret one single minute of it? No way.
It was so so so nice to spend some fun times with our very first London friends. After not seeing them for over a year, I think we were allowed to cut loose a little bit. In fact, I think it was required of us. What else do you expect when two childless couples get together for one last blast before one of them moves to the other side of the world?
We will miss them so much and are so sad that we won't live nearer to one another. The expat life strikes again I guess... But we're so grateful that we have had the chance to become such good friends and we'll never forget all the fun times we've had in London and now here.
*I should say thanks to Murray and Mo for sponsoring today's post since most of these photos are theirs.