Monday, November 29, 2010

Grown up Christmas To Do List

1) Do the Christmas Shopping for friends and family.

2) Figure out when and where we will celebrate with both sides of the family.

3) Get the youth choir ready to sing Christmas music in two weeks and sew costumes for the children's musical this weekend.

4) Buy Christmas flavored coffee and a Santa hat for Baby P.

5) Select the perfect Christmas tree and decorate it.

Well, at least the really important things are done. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Scone Schmone...

Last night I thought it would be a nice treat to wake up to fragrant coffee and fresh, homemade scones.

Bah humbug.

This was my first attempt at scones, but I know that they can be finicky and the ingredients have to be added just right so I was really concentrating. The dough looked perfect and smelled so good. I started to roll it out and by some weird fluke I hit the espresso pot with the rolling pin, it shattered and flung slivers of glass all over the kitchen. There is nothing more frightening than seeing a hunk of something edible covered with sharp bits of glass.

"We here at Shards of Glass have determined that there is no safe way to eat a Shards of Glass Scone."

So obviously I threw it out and luckily had just enough ingredients to start a second batch (after cleaning up from the glass disaster). I mixed and rolled and sliced and just as I was putting the little guys in the oven I realized that in my hurry I had left the egg out of the dough. Bleepety bleep bleep bleep!!!

I tried to bake them anyway and they melted out into a flat, hard piece of yuck within minutes. Fail!

I'm going to eat you, Scones, if it's the last thing I do. Since I threw away six cups of flour, a quart of heavy cream and a pound of butter yesterday (among other things) I'm going to need supplies. Troops!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Time is Here...Happiness and Cheer...


Turkey Time is here...Lots of Ham and Beer...?


Thanksgiving Time is here...Bagels, lox and "schmeer"...?


Thanksgiving has come and gone, although I like to think that the Thanksgiving season continues on until December 1 then we can get down to serious Christmas business. Thanksgiving time is here with lots of turkey, ham, cheese grits, brussel sprouts, potatos, yeast rolls, three different kinds of pie, stuffing, you name it and we probably ate it. I have enjoyed two Thanksgivings thus far and have one more to go this weekend.

On Wednesday (W had to work) so me and Baby P went to the lake for Thanksgiving with my side of the clan: parents, my brother and his wife, my other brother and my sister. We literally cooked for two days and had probably one of the best meals I've ever eaten. The turkey was to die for. We used Pioneer Woman's Brining Recipe. I'm telling you: Best. Turkey. I. Have. Ever. Eaten. I keep going back to the fridge for little nibbles (even cold it's fabulous) and the flavor was unbelievable. You boil together water, apple cider, brown sugar, lots of salt, peppercorns, orange peel, some herbs and lots of garlic. Then you stick the turkey in that delicious smelling broth and put it in the fridge for about 16 hours. I'm drooling again. Really, do it sometime...not drool, make this would even be good in miniature with a little, bitty, whole chicken.

Here's our turkey! That's really our turkey, not just a turkey leg model.

Then we had the cheese grits. We borrowed the recipe from Josie's (a little restaurant/diner here) and they're amazing. They involve a little something called "processed cheese food" (that's velveeta, to the common man), chicken broth, some diced tomatos, garlic and cayenne (the secret to their greatness). Yum, yum, yum...I rewarmed them for my second dinner yesterday and I'm eating them for breakfast right now!!

Then there was the gravy, brussel sprouts (done with pancetta, salt, pepper and chicken stock), baby red potatoes braised in butter then tossed with assorted fresh herbs and I'll stop there because we really went out of control with the side dishes. My sister got halfway through dinner and had to go lay down on the couch.

Then yesterday, W had to work and several family members had a stomach bug, I did an entire separate Thanksgiving dinner for us. He requested a Honeybaked ham (always a crowd pleaser), I made the green beans that his mom always makes (mushrooms, ham, cheesy sauce, green beans baked in a casserole), cheese grits (duh!!), potatoes, and coconut cream pie (our fave!).

It was a great Thanksgiving! Can't wait for the one on Saturday with W's family!
I'm making cheese grits.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Five Things I'm Thankful for this morning...

1) Boiled Custard: I love it. It is delicious and thick and creamy. It involves cooked eggs, thank you! Unlike, egg nog which is slimy and disgusting. You can add nutmeg or cinnamon or whiskey or rum to it and it is even more delicious.

2) The six hours of uninterrupted sleep that I got last night.

3) Scrabble for iPhone. It helps me to be addicted in a highly portable and unembarassing way (even in public places).

4) Food, cookbooks and food blogs. I love browsing for new, interesting recipes. I love trying them out and discussing the pros and cons with other foodies. I love eating these tasty treats and I am very thankful for food, it's one of God's good gifts. Not just because it nourishes and sustains our bodies. God, in His mercy, also gave us tastebuds to enjoy a multitude of different flavors and textures, the creative ability to enjoy making it, eyes to enjoy its beautiful colors and appearance, and a sense of smell to enjoy its delectable odors- which makeThanksgiving fifty times better.

5) I'm thankful that my Mom invents shorthand for text messaging. The latest addition to her lexicon is 'PTL'

My sister had this text convo with Mom last week:

Chloe: "I aced my math test. :)"
Mom: "Yay!!!!! We were praying!!!! PTL"
Chloe: "OH MY, PTL? If that means Praise the Lord I'm going to pee my pants. "
Mom: no response

More Thanksgiving to come. PTL, ya'll!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's Christmas Time in the City...

I think stores are jumping the gun, putting out Christmas decorations and merchandise way  before Thanksgiving. I'm usually not excited to see it, but I walked past the seasonal dishes area in Target (one of my favorite, I always get sucked in...) and saw this:

Just look at it!

Little stubby legs, little stubby arms, huge beard!

And I have a thing about Christmas coffee mugs...

I collect them.

I use mugs every day!

And it was only $3.99...

So here sits Santa in my living room, with his funny little grin and his gift-wrapped package, filled with warm half & half...and Coffee too, of course...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Disclaimers and One Observation

1) Do not read Voyager, the third book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. It is hideous.

2) Do not order anything from Pepper Kids . W ordered an amazing bracelet for my birthday (two months ago) and it never came. I emailed them about it and got this response.

Hi Chelsea, Thanks for contacting us. We are sorry about the misssing package
and will send out a new bracelet asap this week.


Still waiting...

It's been 5 weeks since that email...

Missing package? Sounds like you never sent it...

I still want the daggum bracelet because I love it...

3) I think Starbucks sells coffee by describing it in language that people can relate to in a personal way.

large image
House Blend: "Well-Balanced and Lively." Seriously...
isn't everyone trying to be responsible and grounded,
yet fun, spontaneous and entertaining at the same time?
large image
Breakfast Blend: "Crisp and Tangy."
Who doesn't want to be Crisp and Tangy?
You Certainly don't want to be the opposite:
"Soggy and Bland."
Starbucks Coffee - Medium Roast, Ground, Costa Rica Tarrazu - 12 oz
Here's the Costa Rica Tarrazu that I drink. I was inexplicably drawn to it and it really is my favorite now. "Tangy, Elegant and Refreshing." Yep, me and Audrey Hepburne.

Grocery List...Laundry List

So the first thing I did this morning after getting up, was make a grocery list. Well, I mean, after being woken up by a hungry baby, then feeding and changing him, I made a grocery list. Some dear friends of ours are going on their 16th day in the hospital after what seemed to be a routine I thought I'd take some food over to their house. For me, recipes mean lots of specific ingredients.

I used to be able to remember lots of specific ingredients when I went to the grocery, but now I have a small distraction.

Baby P. "Screamer on Aisle 5." Little Stinker (that's what I call him).

To begin with, I left my carefully made list at home, so while sitting in the Starbucks drive-through with my tall/one pump/pumpkin spice latte and single tiny, vanilla scone, waiting for the idiot tow-truck driver blocking the exit to move, I tried to remember everything and write it down again before heading into the seventh circle of hell...I mean, the grocery store. One of the most important things to remember when grocery shopping with Baby P is speed. Few stops + Fast buggy = Better experience for everyone.

Enter "Mean Grocery Lady" and my Laundry List of grocery related complaints.

I was parked in the vegetable area, right where I needed to be to grab my 4 things and get going like the speed demon that I am, when "Mean Grocery Lady" (heretofore referred to as MGL), parks directly beside me, blocking the entire aisle and my access to the avocados, using body and shopping cart language to try to get me to move. I was 'body languaging' right back that I needed to get past her for the avocados and she ignored me and just stood there (wanting to get to the peppers on my side), completely avoiding  my eye contact at all costs. Plus, I had a fussy baby in my shopping cart, I think that entitles me to vegetable right of way!

Laundry List Item #1. People need to make eye contact with other people-even strangers-if you are going to be a courteous member of polite society. It is sad to me that this woman thought it was perfectly appropriate to be involved in a non-verbal dispute with me over vegetables and never make eye contact. I was so close to telling her how rude she was being-beyond the huffing and eye rolling I was already doing (if she had looked at me it would have been perfectly clear what I thought).

Laundry List Item #2: What is wrong with waiting two seconds while people finish getting what they need? You are not more important than anyone else. Why do you feel like it's ok to elbow someone out of the way for your disgusting packet of beef-a-roni while I'm getting my long-grain, brown rice? (of course, I buy brown rice, it's not lumpy and's healthy...)

So we got past MGL, then went back to got our avocados (she would not move) and continued on around the store. I was now hypersensitive to all the people who would not make eye contact (try it sometime folks, it's disturbing). Now Baby P was really screaming so I started chanting my grocery list to him. Brocc-o-li, cream cheese, yo-gurt, cof-fee fil-ters...(he laughts) Cof-fee fil-ters! Cof-fee fil-ters! After about five times, it lost its magic and I had to move on to other items of my list. Green chi-les! Toi-let Pa-per! Yo-gurt! I thought about singing somethings else like "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but then I'd lose all chance of going home with the items on my list and that was the whole point of this flippin' trip. (I've started saying flippin' in a Northern accent because I watched Sarah Palin's Alaska the other night)

Speaking of yo-gurt, I was by the yogurt collecting my delectable Emmi flavors (pink grape-fruit and ap-ri-cot!!) when I ran into MGL again. This time she was coming the opposite way and in a place where there really wasn't enough room.

Laundry List Item #3: It is not ok to squeeze through a small space beside someone, nearly smashing their fingers, and scraping their buggy without saying sorry or even making eye contact! I wanted to slap her and then I gave Baby P a long talk about the importance of eye contact - in sing-song, of course.

We finally got to the checkout, went back for the cream cheese that I forgot, and then back to the checkout. I was chanting to Baby P and trying to put all my stuff on the conveyor, when I got a whiff of the cashier.

Laundry List Item #4: It is not ok not to bathe, then go out into a public place.

We got out, after I had to bag my own groceries, (it's ok, calorie burning opportunity) and headed to the car. Baby P has really had enough by this point and when the icy wind blew in his face, he became absolutely livid! I'm unloading groceries into the back of my car and singing "we're almost done, almost home, almost done..." with pumpkin spice latte in one hand, bags in the right and holding the cart still with my foot. I lifted Baby P's carseat out of the cart, latte still in one hand, and realized that he buggy was heading down a hill and directly toward a line of cars. I set P down and grab the cart, then jog toward the area where they want you to leave the buggies, and try to push it away with enough momentum to soar into the buggy receptacle. Unfortunately, I sent it on the wrong trajectory, because I pushed it one handed (flippin' pumpkin spice latte) and it was heading at high speed for the smooth finish of a brand new looking SUV. I literally sprinted (it was like a suicide for those of you familiar with basketball practices) to overtake the buggy and save the SUV. Well, I was actually thinking of saving myself. It looked like a car that might have one of those "On-Star" systems. According to the commercials, those things can do everything from give you CPR if you're not breathing, to pull you from a burning I was concerned that it might take a photo of me and report me to the police if I damaged its finish.

Laundry List Item # 5: I hate walking around a parking lot trying to find a place to put my shopping cart and I especially hate sprinting.

So we went home. I had a few sips left of my Pumpkin Spice Latte to appease my wounded psyche, until I started to cook and realized I had forgotten my green chiles...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Five recent purchases that I really like:

1) This is a ruffled sweatshirt from New York and Company, but the picture doesn't really do it justice. The collar actually stands up, not flat like in the pic and should never be clipped in the middle. NY&C can be hit or miss, but sometimes they hit it right on. I love a sweatshirt that I can wear with my Target yoga pants or with a nice pair of black pants with almost anything underneath. Also, I can wash it over and over again after a dousing of baby spit up and it bounces right back.

Product Image Merona® Reversible Puffer Vest - Blue/Green

2) This reversible 'puffer' vest from Target for only $15.00! The thing that I love (besides its reversible-ness and the two great colors) is that it's very thin. It doesn't feel or look all bulky.

3) Kroger brand White Cheddar Rice Cakes. I'm sure there are better ones at Trader Joe's (don't rub it in Ashley and Sarah), but I always crave crunchy, salty snacks. These are only 40 calories each, they're cheap and they taste really good so I'm not trying to go back for a round of potato chips later. Being at home long chunks of the day is good for laundry, but not so good for the snacking.


4) Dan in Real Life: I love this movie! It's so clever and moving and witty and I'm so glad that I own it now! I like to watch it every other day or so and it's the perfect movie for a farm or lake weekend! I got it used at Blockbuster-that's a great way to buy movies because they're $10 and you can take them back if there's anything wrong.

 5) I'm completely obsessed with this Emmi Swiss yogurt. It is amazing! The flavors are so unique - pink grapefruit and apricot and more, plus the typical strawberry and raspberry- and it's lowfat, but is much more creamy and rich than other kinds of yogurt. I've never been a particularly big yogurt fan, but this makes me crave yogurt and want it for breakfast and snacks and everywhere in between. That's a good thing because Dr. Oz says that it's one of the best ways to boost your immunity and fight off colds. You will love it!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The tough guy that I made cry...

I've had several requests for what I did to make that poor young man cry. Yes, I said cry...I'm still crying over it myself.

Well...let me just say that in a college choir setting, if you can't match pitch (this means, sing the same pitch as others or the pitch being played on an instrument...i.e. the right pitch), then you know about it. Actually, you probably aren't in that choir in the first place, but if it's just a momentary lapse, your neightbors give you the stink eye and the director may point at you and say, 'You're flat, dummy.' This is completely acceptable in a semi-professional setting like a college choir.

In a non-professional group full of teenagers, this is not a good method and it is very difficult to gently let a student know that they cannot sing. Really...can not sing...while still keeping their young, fragile egos in tact.

The problem is, that the tough guy that I made cry is not the student that can't sing. Go figure. The student that can't sing is completely unaware of this fact and I can't get him to realize that when he thinks he is singing the same pitch as his neighbors he's actually singing a dissonant interval below them (a note that absolutely does not belong with the right one to any ear, even crazy 20th century composer's).

To enlighten the singers to pitch problems, it's common practice to stand in a circle and sing. They hear the right thing coming at them from all directions and it usually fixes the problem, in this case the ones singing the right thing started holding their ears, crossing their eyes and doubling over in pain in the effort to stay on the right note. So, I changed the drill. One person starts singing, then his neighbor starts, and so on around the circle. This makes them really listen and hopefully hear themselves a little better. The 'student that can't sing' went merrily along singing the wrong pitch and the tough guy got embarassed. I looked up at him (he's about twice my height, curly brown hair and dark complected) and he started to blink back tears from his huge brown eyes. My heart melted and I stopped that excercise immediately and said 'Good job guys, blah, blah, blah...' and he left the room shortly after. He did come back and I tried to diffuse the situation some more. He was smiling by the end, but only time will tell...Ugh...

There you go.

The fist bump is something that can only be passed on from master to pupil, you couldn't possibly get the coolness of it through the written word.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The difference between children and teenagers...

               As a choral director, I get to work with lots of different age groups. Right now, I'm helping direct a college choir, an adult church choir, a children's choir and a youth choir (teenagers). I love the challenge of being 'everything to everyone,' but sometimes I'm surprised by how much it takes to keep each different group interested and enthusiastic and confident. The college group is pretty easy: they like to laugh and hear stories about your life (there's a squirrel eating my fake berries right now, by the way), but they don't have to be funny. They like to talk about their studies and clothes and the music we're working on. The adult choir doesn't need to be entertained, they just want me to explain things clearly and be consistent with my decisions about directing. It's more about the music for them, since they all have busy work days and are taking time from family to be a part of a choir. It's nice to work with a serious group like this, we make some beautiful music!

               Now, the children and teens are about as different as water and coffee. Well, water and coffee should be very different, it's too bad some people don't know how to make coffee and it ends up more like water. You shouldn't be able to see through coffee, sorry, tangent...they're as different as night and day. Maybe a list would be the best way to convey this:

1) Being the center of attention: 

Children: love it, thrive on it, try to do things to be it

Youth: Not including the 'class clown,' make them the center of attention (particularly with something like singing) and they may cry, leave, and never come back. I made this mistake last night and am trying to put out the flames (totally unintentional).

2) What I have to do to keep them coming?

Children: They always think you're fun and awesome, just email parents when and where.

Youth: Jump through major hoops, invite them individually, bring candy and food, send lots of reminder emails, be cool and funny and musically talented, pick music that they like, make each one of them feel wanted and talented and missed if they weren't there (althoug not too much or they might be the center of attention), sometimes guilt trip ("you're a leader, dangit"), make sure to call them by name. It's completely exhausting, I go home after a Youth rehearsal, curl up in a ball and cry then sometimes dream/nightmare about it.

3) Time spent building morale and enthusiasm:

Children: None, they are totally excited about everything we do. They actually make me more excited and enthused. They bring their buddies to choir because they love it. You can have 2, 10 or 50 children and they will be at the same level of enthusiasm.

Youth: Hours, days, weeks, years.... I'm not joking about years. It took me two years to build the youth choir from zero teens to about 30-35 who come consistently. It is a hell of a lot of work. I have to try to do things, like activities and food, that give them something to look forward to. Heaven forbid they invite someone to come--too embarassing. If we have rehearsal and are missing a number of our singers or leaders, it's like someone took away their iPod Touch. There is no enthusiasm and they are way too cool to be there if 'so and so' isn't here and smiling is totally out of the question. I'm so, so glad I'm not a teen anymore (especially a middle-schooler)

4) Time spent babysitting vs. time spent having fun and making music:

Children: 30 or 40% babysitting and 60 or 70% making music. Depends on how many preschoolers are on the front row. Last night two adorable little preschoolers were having a tickle fight in the middle of one of our songs--not kidding. 
Like this but more smiling and less choking.

Youth: 3% babysitting 97% having fun and making music. Besides the occasional "put away the gol-durned cell phone and quit texting," we can be goofy and silly and make lovely music all at the same time. I love taking a surly teenage boy who never smiles and teach him how to sing and have fun doing something other than strolling the mall or punching unsuspecting siblings in the bicep. 

So, while the children are easy to inspire and make me cheerful after every rehearsal, there are few things more rewarding than helping teenagers, who could be up to no good, learn to sing and take pride in creating music with other young people for the glory of God. Plus, that surly teenage boy who never smiles taught me how to do a fist-bump handshake the other day...'not the white way, the right way.'

Thursday, November 4, 2010


                The past few weeks, I've been reading a series of books by Diana Gabaldon called Outlander. I'm already on the third book of the series, but haven't written about them yet because I wanted to see how the series progressed. I started Outlander because it was free on the Kindle, I really enjoyed the mix of romance, drama and history the author incorporates into the story. It's about a young woman, a nurse, who travels back in time from World War II era to the year 1745 in Scotland, when the Scots were attempting to overthrow English rule. I hesitate to call it historically accurate fiction because Gabaldon has taken many liberties, particularly with the way that people lived, medical practices-or lack thereof- and other small details. The overall story, dates and major figures seem to be accurate though and I do enjoy having a gap in my knowledge filled while enjoying a good story.
               I was surprised to find, on a recent trip to Joseph Beth, that the books are classified as romance (not fiction) and in a section that I never, ever approach because it makes me physically ill and disturbs my sense of literary morality, amongst books like this:  

His Lady Mistress (Harlequin Historical)

Yuck, yuck, yuck...While the Outlander books do include a number of steamy liaisons (between married people, I might add), I would never have put them in this genre. They deal with so many other ideas as well and focus on the internal struggles of the characters, their relationships with family and friends, personal sacrifice, political intrigue and more. Look at the cover!

That's a pretty serious looking book if you ask me, and they're about 800 pages each. Maybe the Kindle is teaching me not to judge a book by its section...

                Anyway, I do recommend these books, unless lengthy mention of kilts, dialogue in Scottish burr, and a hugely tall, red-haired Scotchman bother you. While the series probably will not enter the ranks of 'classic,' they have more substance than the typical 'chick lit' and in many passages Gabaldon writes really beautifully. Let me know what you think! 

Monday, November 1, 2010


               We had a great time last night celebrating Baby P's first Halloween! Pizza and wine, brought by Auntie Caris and Uncle Rick, combined with gorgeous, fall weather, dark chocolate oatmeal cookies, and lots of little chillens in adorable costumes topped off our fun! We handed out about 5 pounds of Dumdums (one of my favorite candies and probably the cheapest) "ooh'ing and ahh'ing" over a tiny Superman; little-bitty hillbillies in overalls; a small girl with vampire fangs who bared her teeth at us growling through the front door; a boy mustard, girl ketchup and their dog, hot dog; followed by lots of fairies and princesses and mummies. By far our favorite though, was Baby P (no surprise there) in his... are you ready?...wait for it...LION COSTUME complete with wired tail, paw print shoes and mane. The result of my poll was a three way tie between monkey, cow and pea in the pod so I just chose a different one (plus I'd been hunting for a lion costume for months). Here he is, the "King of our Jungle!!" Sorry, couldn't resist.

Am I really going to be subjected to this kind of torture?

                 Happy first Halloween, Baby P! We had way too much fun looking at him, walking him around the neighborhood and trying to get him to smile for pictures. He was such a good sport! I've been putting this costume on him every few days for the past 3 weeks or so to help him get used to it. He handled the the bundle of fir on his head and fir flaps covering his precious fingers (no longer available for the slurping) like a champ!

         Yes, we even stooped to laying him in a pile of leaves...he didn't make a peep. Maybe he was glad to be set down for a bit after all the jiggling and singing songs trying to get that luck, not one smiling picture!              

Poor, Baby P! Is there no end to the pictures? Eventually there was, but I'm definately going to dress him up again to take some more!
Don't you love those little orange ears peeking out?