Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Maegan Saved the Day! ...and started this post before she saved the day, and finished it after, which hopefully explains the dejected beginning!

I haven't posted in a while. You want to know why? Because I haven't even come CLOSE to being a wonder wife lately. I know that you all come here for spectacular recipes, for priceless baking tips, for words of wisdom on keeping your bathrooms clean. But lately I have encountered terrible luck in the kitchen.... Thanksgiving took up all my magic.

Consider, if you will, my Christmas baking...

(This is where I stopped writing this post, looked sadly around my kitchen, and decided December 15th was too soon to talk about Christmas Bakefest 2010, which at that point was a horrible disappointment.

And this is where I proudly resumed posting victoriously. Read on!)

...which is finally finished and boxed up. So, yes, I'm okay to talk about it.

Anyway, I made about two dozen batches of my favorite toffee recipe to hand out as gifts to friends and neighbors. Near the end of the process, I was feeling pretty darn good about my Christmas Bakefest 2010 choice - the toffee froze well, it was simple to make, and it looked great spread out in sheets across the dining room table. Yes sir, this was the right thing to make in bulk. No more individually wrapping cookies so they wouldn't go stale, or blending up hot cocoa mix to try to divvy amongst messy plastic bags. Yeah baby! Toffee! Toffee all the way!

Until about a week later, when I took it out of the freezer and began breaking it into chunks to box up for my office in Michigan. The toffee broke cleanly and easily, and the chocolate sheeted up and fell completely off the toffee. So I had a thin chocolate-nut layer, and a bunch of naked toffee.

And every batch did this. The chocolate fell completely off every batch.

So I decided to whip up some toffee cookies. Delicious, right? So after dinner, while Brian was relaxing on the couch, I threw together some regular chocolate-chip cookie dough, instead substituting the chocolate for a small amount of the toffee and chocolate I had chopped so meticulously. The dough tasted great.

Unfortunately, when I baked it, here's what happened:

The toffee, which of course is supposed to cool at room temperature, melted in the oven, turned to liquid butter and sugar, and made the cookies spread out faster than a girl trying to tan by the pool in June. You can see toward the back of the sheet that I as trying to shore up the cookies with a spatula. You can see toward the middle that I abandoned that pursuit as a waste of time.

The cookies didn't taste terrible..... so I ate them all. I didn't mean to. But I was just so sad about my toffee... and the cookies... and Chrismas Bakefest 2010 turning into Christmas BakeFrustration 2010.

Now you will know why I am 15 lbs. heavier upon my visit to Michigan.

Are you still following this? I tip my hat and thank you kindly. Here's a ha'penny, and God bless you.

So on the Saturday before Christmas, I forlornly gazed upon my naked toffee and my sad melted chocolate sheets, and I dejectedly walked over to the fireplace and sat on the hearth. Brian was hunting, and Bo and I were all alone. My dog looked up at me as if to say, what's wrong?

"I don't know what to do, Bo. I don't want to throw away all my hard work. And have nothing to give our friends and neighbors." He sighed and set his chin on my foot. "I guess I could melt the chocolate back down and dip the toffee." Bo didn't lift his head again, but looked up at me from the floor. "I could do that," I acknowledged, the hope of an idea flooding my darkened, woebegone soul. "That's what I'll do!" And Bo lifted his head and gave me a nod of encouragement, a bark of approval, and a wide doggy smile. (Ha! Not really. But that would happen in a movie.)

And though it took me the whole day and lots of extra chocolate, that's just what I did. By golly, I dipped every piece of that naked toffee and it turned out even better than before. And I boxed it up and I've given some of it away and I have more to bring to church on Wednesday! And so, I guess I am a Wonder Wife after all!

Hooray! Christmas Bakefest 2010 was saved!

I'm looking to sell the movie rights to this story. Let me know if you know anyone who's interested.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

December in Raleigh

The ornamental grass is broken and not sticking upright anymore, which has nothing to do with winter but instead with the fact that I dropped the plant before putting it into the ground.

The dogwood tree is down to buds only...

Beau is as handsome as ever.

All the leaves are pretty much gone, but the sweetgum trees are still brilliant.

There are still raspberries on our plants, despite nights that dip below freezing.

The coneflowers are dried up and looking quite spiky.

The camelia bushes are in bloom...

... and the vinca vine is still green and pretty, setting off leaves that look way cooler than this photo makes them look.

There are just one or two yellow redbud leaves still hanging on. Their heart shape is my favorite.

The tea olives are in bloom.

The delphiniums are still rocking it.

The pansies on the front porch are all sorts of Christmasy.

And funniest of all, I have a very confused forsythia bush. Over the dry, hot summer, many of them shriveled up and - I thought - died. But when the rain came they sprung back to life, and now they look appropriately fall-ish. See exhibit A:

But the ones that lost their leaves also tried to come back. But the problem is, they think it's spring. See exhibit B:

See the weak and wimpy flowers? I feel so bad for it! I just know it's thinking, What the heck?! I want to tell it, "Go to sleep!"

Three hours after I took these pictures, we got three inches of snow. Go figure! All the pretty blooms shriveled up, all the leaves finished falling, the raspberry bushes melted into frost, and the three of us went inside to curl up by the fire. But days later, when we emerged, those darn forsythia flowers were still hanging on. It's winter, shrub. Go take a long nap.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Blues and Blotation.

Thanksgiving was a smashing success yet again, with one exception:

WAY too much food. Way.

I realized this when I had to put my mom to work all day Wednesday and Thursday, baking pies late into the night and running back and forth in the kitchen until our feet were killing us. There was no way I could have done it myself. Bad hostess.

It was confirmed to me after setting out a table of appetizers a couple hours before the meal: hot spinach dip and bread, baked stuffed shrimp, hummous and veggies (thanks to Mom!), apples and homemade caramel dip, and beef nacho dip and chips (thanks to Erin). People took time during football-game commercial breaks to fill their plates, and after they descended back into the basement, I looked at the table and realized that we still had a lot of leftover food. Leftover appetizers. And I thought, we haven't even sat down to dinner.

So when we finally sat down, each of us taking tiny spoonfuls of everything, I told myself that Thanksgiving isn't that great when everyone's too full to eat the meal itself. And as we wrapped up entire leftover casseroles that wouldn't nearly fit into the fridge, I told myself that next year we are cutting back.


Otherwise, it was an absolutely fantastic weekend that flew by far too fast. We played games, watched movies, worked a puzzle, hunted, took walks, played with the dogs, and found out that Brian's sister and brother-in-law up in Michigan are having a BOY in April! And, of course, we ate leftovers for the rest of the weekend. The microwave didn't rest.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Snapshots of Thanksgiving baking!

First of all... HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dear Dad! I'm so blessed to have him... and I'm pumped that it's now exactly a week before he and the rest of my family will be visiting HERE for Thanksgiving. I can't wait!

And it's with that attitude that I'm getting my Turkey Day Prep on!

"Sneaky Snake Bread" -

- for our Thanksgiving stuffing!

Making the streusel topping for our sweet potato casserole...

Testing a new recipe for rolls (awesome).

Wrapping up a chocolate flourless cake for the freezer.

A big ol' loaf for our Spinach Artichoke Dip appetizer.

I'm getting excited!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh yeah! I have a blog!

I really ought to bookmark the post below, because I keep coming back to it for my Thanksgiving Extravaganza Preparation Week. Who would have thought that the blog post I threw together would become my central meal planning hub? I suppose I am quite disorganized this season! I cannot believe I have only a week and a half before The Meal. And you know what I have done? Not much! Thankfully, my family doesn't mind if the meal is served three hours late, or if I need all hands on deck to help me pull it off.

Still, I'm hoping to be a bit more prepared this year than I was last November. I think my mom, sister, and I collapsed in three heaps and did not move after all the dishes were put away. I worked them to the bone - but this time, if I have enough prepared the day before, it won't be such a massive labor force. (It also didn't help that our dishwasher broke THE DAY before Thanksgiving. My mom was washing dishes non-stop!)

I promise to give a more thorough update this year. Last year was such a success that I've felt a bit concerned we won't be able to pull it off again. But when I think that, I just remind myself of all the things that DID go wrong last year - and I tell myself that we certainly can attain that level of achievement again, at least!

Part of the reason I find myself scrambling with only a week and a half left is because we just got home from our annual fall trip to the mitten. Besides a few days in beautiful Charlevoix, I spent time working and hanging out with my family in Detroit. Meanwhile, armed with bow and arrow, Brian roamed to and fro across the land in search of the elusive monster buck.

Someone else that roams to and fro across the land comes to mind, but if you think I'm comparing hunters to Satan, I certainly am.

Am NOT. Am NOT. Excuse me. Ha ha ha. Ha.

Anyway, Brian ended up bringing home two very respectable animals, the skulls of which were boiled in my stock pot late last night, emitting their unmistakable brainy smell. It was so undelightful that I quite seriously told Brian we might as well wait to get pregnant until after next hunting season is over, because any pregnant nose would not be able to handle the atrocities that go on in this kitchen from September to December! Our non-pregnant noses barely can!

But the freezer is now as it should be, stock full of foil-wrapped bricks of venison. One of them is defrosting on my counter as I type, ready to be browned and boiled for dinner. What would that buck have thought if I'd told him that just weeks later, he'd be a pot of enchilada soup? I'll bet he would have laughed in my face.

One final thought, before I escape this empty, echoing blog for yet another month. (JUST teasing. I won't let it happen! My dad refuses to change his homepage from The Wonder Wife, so for his sake, I will post! Post more, that is.)

But back to the news: Brian and I have our very first little niece EVER! (We don't have a nephew, either, but is there a gender-inclusive term for nieces and nephews? It doesn't sound right to say that we have our 'very first niece or nephew.' Aunt-child? Uncle-children?) Anyway, Brian's extraordinary sister, Kelly, after 48 hours of unmedicated labor, gave birth to beautiful, precious Lake Leigh on November 10, 2010. She and her husband David (married in the Bahamas only February) were so ready for her! It was wonderful to be able to see Kelly's last days of pregnancy during our visit.

(Her very smart and loving Aunt Maegan guessed her weight (8 lb. 2 oz.) down to the ounce!)

Anyway, David and Kelly could not have brought such a beautiful little girl into a more loving and anxiously waiting family. Lake is going to be absolutely surrounded by love, and this Christmas, I guarantee Uncle Brian and Aunt Maegan will add to the throng! Thankfully, Brian's older sister Christie (and her husband Mike, married in Mexico in May!) will be adding another baby to the mix in April. And in less than two weeks, we'll know if it'll be another niece or a nephew!

This is such a wonderful feeling, to be seeing the family grow by all these little feet. Maybe by this time next year, we'll have an announcement to make too!

Oh WAIT. Gotta remember! Not getting pregnant until AFTER hunting season. AFTER. Please remind me of this. Those skulls in that stock pot were... unspeakable.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Twenty-Ten

It is a simply glorious fall day today. I walked the dog this morning before the sun came up, and the temperature had dropped to the mid-forties overnight. The sunrise had just begun as we finished our lap around the lake, and the thick, white steam rising from the water made the trees look like they were hovering against the pink sky. Beau ran around with exaggerated energy, frisky in the cold air. I love this time of year. After such a hot, dry summer, it seems like an impossible wish has been granted. It's cool again!

The weather - and the fact that it's mid-October - startled me into realizing something this week. It won't be long before our extended fall trip to Michigan. When we come back, it won't be long before Thanksgiving.

And since we're having even more family this year...

I need to start my menu planning! And my Thanksgiving baking! I need to start it now!

After I publish this post, I'll be mixing up a double batch of cornbread to dry out for Brian's favorite stuffing. On Saturday, I'll be baking some challah bread for my Mom's favorite stuffing and freezing a big old pound cake to pull back out for Thanksgiving dessert. (Just one of those things that gets better with time!) And if I get the time, I'll freeze a batch of unbaked biscuits and maybe even some rolls - though I think I'm going to need to do some research for a better recipe than last year's. They were kind of dry.

Any suggestions?

I'm going to be sticking with last year's menu, pretty much, since almost everything turned out great. Let's see. I better write it down someplace.

Turkey and Traditional Dressing (I'm leaving the cooking of this item all up to my mom. Last year was the last time I'm going to brine a turkey. I never noticed a difference. And what a pain.)
Glazed Ham
Brian's Cornbread Pecan Stuffing
Baked Spinach and Gruyere
Sweet Potato Casserole
Baked Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Wild Rice Dressing
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
Cranberry-Cherry Chutney
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
Buttermilk Biscuits
Dinner Rolls (suggestions!)
Sandy's Cheese Bread
Cinnamon Honey Butter

Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake
Cold Oven Pound Cake
Autumn Spice Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting
[Some kind of chocolate dessert]
Pumpkin Tart
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Apple Pie
Whipped Cream
Raspberry Sauce

I can't wait to get started! :)


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Something cute for you to look at....

...while I get my act together long enough to post a real entry.

We had a BUNCH of rain here last week (thank the Lord - we needed it) and every wet morning, when I went to let Bo out first thing after waking up, I saw this:

What's that, you ask? It's a lone, fluffy little bird! Taking shelter from the storm underneath the roof of our porch! He's puffed all up with his nose in the corner.

He was there both mornings. The first time I saw him, I was taking Bo outside. I ran into the house and retrieved Brian. Then I ran back into the house to get my camera.... and at that point, the bird had woken up, turned around to face us, and was watching us rather grumpily. It wasn't long before he said "See ya!" and flew off into the dark morning.

Have a good day!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

The gym saga continues, part three, and part THE END of a story that's lasted too long for its own good.

"Honey, I'm kind of upset with you," said Brian quietly. I'd just told him I spent $125 signing up for a gym membership I wasn't sure I wanted.

"I can get the money back if I decide to cancel!" I said.

"Honey," Brian replied, "you should have called me. Gym memberships are down right now with the economy. They want people to sign up. You could've gotten them down to no enrollment fee."

Hmm, I thought. That sounded right. I'd read that somewhere. I should have thought of that. I also should have remembered the $0 enrollment fee on their stinking website.

"And are you even going to use that membership?" Brian asked.

"Well, I don't know," I replied. "I guess I have a month to figure it out... right?'

"Canceling that membership is going to be like pulling teeth."

"Nuh-uh," I argued. "I asked the guy if it would be a pain to cancel and he said no."

"Yeah, he said that..."

I was quiet.

Brian said, "Honey, it's up to you. If you're going to use that membership, fine. But I'm going to be really upset if you don't go. And I really wish you would have called me. You could have paid less." This was coming from a guy who went to his (free, work-paid) gym every day without fail. I wasn't sure I would be as... faithful.

I told Brian I would think about it. I hung up the phone. I was already having buyer's remorse.

With taxes and extra fees, I figured my gym membership would be costing me close to forty dollars a month, not thirty. And even if I went five days a week - which I wouldn't, unless I was entering a bikini contest in an alternate universe - it would be $2 per visit. And AFTER each visit, I would have to go home and... walk the dog. Walking is free.

And I was already feeling the crushing guilt of each day I wouldn't be able to go for one reason or another. And each month would mean thirty bucks charged to my credit card, just like that, whether I liked it or not.

Gah! How come this is such an easy decision for other people?! I just kept thinking, You can exercise for free.......

So I canceled, the very next day. I walked in and filled out a cancellation form and when the guy asked me why, I told him I hadn't planned on signing up for a membership. "You didn't mean to do it?" he asked sarcastically. "Oops, I'm signing up," he said in a high-pitched voice, imitating me as I put my signature on the paper.

"Yup," I shrugged. "You guys are good salesmen."

He watched me fill out the rest of the form. I asked, "Will there be any problems getting the credit?"

"No," he answered. "It's within the three-day cancellation period, so you should be fine. You're not the first person who's done this."

I didn't argue that I should have had a month to cancel. I was just glad I was canceling now.

The end of the story is this: I still might join a gym. I don't know. But I won't pay an enrollment fee and I won't get sucked into signing my life away. It's just that when I think about spending thirty bucks a month, I'd rather walk my dog - for free - and spend $30 on shopping.

Maybe I'm just weird. Or stingy. Maybe Brian's gotten his frugal fingers into my brain.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The gym saga continues.

In my last post, I kept you breathless and spellbound as I informed you that I was thinking about joining a gym. And since I throw myself headlong into any new project or idea, there was little else I could think about until I did something about this new plan.

So I signed up for a guest pass at the Gold's Gym down the road. It was a seven day free pass and I thought, "Well, I'll take a class each day and at the end, I'll see if I want to commit!"

That's a good idea, Maegan. A nice, level-headed decision.

So at 9:30 on Monday morning, I walked into a big studio room at Gold's for a CardioSculpt class. There were about fifteen women (NO men) bouncing around the room with me, and at first I wondered if maybe the class was intended to be... fluffy.


I worked my butt off! After forty minutes, I was dying. When is this class going to end??? When the instructor finally gave us the go-ahead to slow down and start stretching, I breathed many sighs of relief. It was a hard class! (In fact, it's Wednesday morning, and I'm STILL very sore.)

After the workout, I was pumped up and feeling healthy. On my way out, the general manager stopped me. "Wait," he said, "do you want me to show you around the gym?"

I shrugged. "Um, sure."

So while he showed me the free weight room and all the fancy equipment, I told him I was mainly interested in the classes. "Great," he said. "When we get back downstairs, I'll go over membership options with you."

"Actually, I was planning to use my week pass before deciding anything," I told him.

"That's fine, but I wanted to tell you about the two-week trial we offer on your first visit."

Not wanting to be rude, I said, "Okay." And I thought, Hmm, two weeks? That's better than one!

So at the end of the tour, we sat down at his desk and he flipped his computer around to show me the membership options. "If you want a month-to-month plan with no commitment," he said, pointing to the images on his screen, "it's a $299 enrollment fee and $49.99 per month after that."

Holy cow, I thought, and I'm sure my face showed it, because he said quickly, "But if you commit to a year, it's only a $199 enrollment fee, and $29.99 per month after that."

Um, that's still a crapload of money. But my sucker-butt was paying attention, and I was falling for the pitch.

"But," he continued, "if you sign up today, on your first visit, it'll only be $99 to enroll and you can have a free two-week trial period to cancel."

I was quiet for a minute, and he added, "Tell you what - I'll give you a month to try it out, instead of two weeks."

You want to know something? On the Gold's Gym website, there's a $0 enrollment fee offer. You want to know something else? I didn't remember that, despite having visited the website to get directions to the stupid gym.

So my dumb butt nodded like a bobblehead doll and signed myself up for a year commitment, a $99 enrollment fee, and $29.99 per month dues. An initial credit card charge of a hundred and twenty-five bucks.

"Oh, just to let you know," the manager added, "every November, there's an additional $29.99 fee for facility maintenance. But it's just once a year. And it all goes to the building and equipment."

I should have realized - There goes my "free" month.

So I walked out the door with an expensive gym membership that I wasn't even sure I wanted when I walked in.

And when I told Brian over the phone as I drove home, he was silent for a minute. Then he said, "Um, honey, I'm kind of upset with you."

TO BE CONTINUED! I've run out of time!


Friday, September 17, 2010

My favorite thing to eat in the world, and also what I'm going to do now that I've eaten so much of it throughout the summer.

I took a bunch of pictures of my sandwich the other day, intending to show you all my very favorite thing to eat. But then the ridiculousness of that idea struck me, because the sandwich is literally this:

Toast a single slice of good bread. Slather with mayonnaise and cover heavily with ground black pepper. Slice a tomato thickly and arrange it on top. Generously sprinkle with salt. Eat zealously. Repeat as often as your loaf of bread will allow.

So that, my friends, is something for which you do NOT need a photo tutorial. No matter how little you know about cooking. But sliced tomato on toast with mayo, salt, and tons of pepper is probably what I would eat for my last meal, IF I had to choose one. Unbeatable garden tomatoes are one thing I will greatly miss about summer.

They are, however, probably the only thing I will miss about North Carolina summers. I'm still waiting for fall, and as the forecast is showing 90-degree days with no chance of rain well unto the end of the month, I'm thinking I'm going to be waiting longer than I'd like.

But you don't want to hear me complain about the weather anymore! "Maegan," you're going to say, "I feel like your blog and I are mere acquaintances! All we discuss around here lately is the weather!" And I'll nod sheepishly, then protest that, well, there's nothing really going on around here, except fall cleaning and hunting season and - oh yeah! I changed Beau's dog food brand again! See?

One new development is that lately, I've felt a stirring in my bones and in my sluggish circulation and an urgent prompting of my bathroom scale to join a gym. I've hated the idea of paying for a gym membership, because I can jolly well work out at home, for goodness' sakes, but lately I've had to acknowledge that I despise working out here. If I do a video workout, I get irritated with the repetitiousness of it and the way the instructor says the exact same words every single time. If I follow the weight lifting plan that I asked Brian to develop for me, I find myself staring at the basement wall while I count reps and listen to myself breathe. Motivation to work out is something I greatly lack.

But what if I could join classes and meet people? What if the knowledge that I was shelling out big bucks forced me to go? What if I could do Pilates on Mondays and Boot Camp on Tuesdays and Kickboxing on Fridays? I'd pay for that.

So I signed up for a seven day pass at a gym a few minutes down the road. I'm hoping it's the turn of a new leaf for me. Now, I just have to get over my nervousness of going. When did I become so apprehensive of new places and new people? Hmmm.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Morning person.

Beau is whining to go out and I am sitting at my computer with writer's block. I keep telling him "one more minute," at which he tilts his head and walks off whining still. We don't have a fenced yard, so I walk him every morning that we don't go jogging before Brian leaves for work. I feel bad for him, as I'm sure he needs to go to the bathroom, but if I don't post now I probably won't have time today.

So, lucky you! You get the benefit of my writer's-block-ramblings because I'm forcing myself to post at 7:00 AM. Lucky, lucky reader.

Mornings are not my time. I'm a night person. I always thought one could train oneself to change, but after four years of getting up early with Brian and going to bed early with Brian, I haven't changed. One night he's away and I stay up until the wee hours of the morning, busy and happy.

I love being up in the morning, drinking a cup of coffee sleepily while black turns to gray outside my window. But there certainly aren't any creative juices or bursts of industriousness that come to me. At night, conversely, I can feel my body humming with energy. I lay in bed thinking of all I didn't accomplish that day. I tell myself, "Tomorrow morning, right after Brian leaves for work, I am going to get my butt in gear and do X, Y, and Z in an hour." I wish I could transfer the energy to the morning hours, but I think it just works itself out in the constant nighttime movement that drives Brian up a wall.

"So stay up later," you say. "Don't go to bed so early." Ahh, I know that could be a solution, but I don't want to. I worry that going to bed later will rob me of the minutes I have to talk to Brian before he falls asleep. I also know I wouldn't be able to join him on 5:30 runs after a while. Granted, he's the one that pushes me out of bed to put my exercise clothes on anyway, but if I wasn't going to bed when he did it wouldn't even be a possibility.

I also worry that going to bed at a different time will somehow distance us.

So I will continue to train myself to be a morning person. Look at me, all motivated, posting so early. Maybe four more years of marriage will give me a better start.

Are you a morning person or a night person? Have you trained yourself to change? Do you go to bed when your spouse does or at a different time? I'm curious. :)

Happy Friday, all!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

One good way to look at it.

Press Release: Raleigh Dog Creates Self-Portrait in Leather Couch

Beau W., a combination pit bull, chow, lab, and boxer, has created a self-portrait of himself in Brian and Maegan W.'s leather furniture. "The couch was a bummer, sure," said Brian W., 29, of Raleigh, "but the fact that he created such an amazingly accurate self-portrait blows my mind! He truly is an artist in his own right."

The lovable Beau found himself in a creative mood while the couple was at church last Sunday, and tore an image of himself into one of the leather cushion. "The couch can be replaced, no problem." said Maegan, 22. "We saved for months to buy the set, but it's just money. I'm just amazed that our dog has expressed himself in such an intelligent way." The couple added that they will now be giving Beau free reign of the house, in hopes of another masterpiece.

Brian and Maegan will be displaying Beau's work at the North Carolina Museum of Art, where an auction of various artwork will be held to benefit the local animal rescue center. The framed piece will be included in the auction lineup.

Press release courtesy of Identity Graphic Design.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday Fragments.

Yesterday, something kind of magical happened.

I was working on my computer at the kitchen bar when I noticed a hummingbird hovering outside the glass doors on my deck. He seemed to be peering in, which I found odd. We've got bright red plants on the deck, and they often attract hummingbirds, but never have I seen one not engrossed in the flowers.

But he stayed outside the glass for a whole minute, hovering in the same area, and the whole time he was looking right at me.

After a while, he tapped on the glass with his long beak, twice. It was loud enough for Bo to notice, and he ran barking to the front door.

But my hummingbird buddy hovered a bit longer, then flew away.

It kind of felt like he was trying to tell me something.


Something funny happened, too, just the night before.

I was dreaming something very sad. Something terrible had happened to me and in my dream, I was sobbing as I ran home to tell Brian. He stood in the kitchen, holding a glass of water in front of the sink. As I told him my awful news, he just stared out the window and didn't say a word.

"Brian," I cried, "why aren't you saying anything? Don't you care?"

Finally, he said, "Honey, could you turn around? You're kind of breathing right in my ear."

I was shocked. I couldn't think of anything to say.

Then he repeated himself, annoyance in his voice. "Honey, could you roll over? You're breathing in my ear."

Suddenly, I began to wake up... and realize that I'd huddled over to Brian's side of the bed and was, in fact, breathing right in his ear. "Sorry," I muttered, and rolled over.

It's just a sad dream, I told myself. And then I laughed to myself, thankful that Brian isn't really so cold as he was in my dream.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflective Tuesday.

I've been holding anger in my heart for a couple of days.

On Saturday, a neighbor of mine told me all about the latest neighborhood scandal, and I listened with horror and disgust.

A grouchy, middle-aged man (we'll call him Pete), who lives a few houses down from me, recently hit and killed another neighbor's dog (we'll call them Adam and Jen). Pete was obviously speeding when he hit the dog, which, I'll grant it, shouldn't have been in the road. The dog flew several yards before hitting the pavement. But his response was appalling. He stopped, got out of the car, and said, "How's the dog?" When Jen answered, frantically, "Not good, I think she's dying," Pete got back in his beat-up car and drove away without another word.

A week or so later, Pete went to Adam and Jen's house and knocked on their door. He told Adam that their dog had caused damage to his headlights, and if they didn't pay the bill, he'd take them to court.

Of course, the neighbors who know about this are outraged, and I admit that I've been outraged, too. I've been putting myself in Adam and Jen's shoes - what if that had been Bo? How could I have kept myself from taking a bat to his car the moment he killed my dog, let alone when he threatened to sue me? And then I put myself in Pete's shoes - what if I had been the one to hit the dog? How could the proper response not be apologies and guilt, even if the dog was in the street where she shouldn't have been?

I'm so much better than him.

Pete's a dog owner, too, I kept thinking. He should have more empathy. And every time I walked by his house, I felt myself seething.

I told this story to my mom yesterday. She, too, was appalled. But then she made a good point.

"How sad," she said. "But you know, we usually feel sorry for a dog who's been beaten or neglected and becomes mean or aggressive. We're much harsher toward the way people act."

She was right, and that stuck with me. Along with the fact that holding pent-up anger in my heart was doing nothing good, I was not thinking like Jesus.

Remember the story of Zacchaeus? (Yes, I totally had to Google how to spell that.) He stole from anyone and everyone. But Jesus had mercy on him.

You might say, "But humans aren't dogs." True, true. But like dogs, we rely on instinct and emotion when we act. Like dogs, we're flawed. We're capable of much greater things... but also capable of much greater evil. We're also, compared to a perfect God, pretty stupid.

Maybe Pete, as a child, was beaten or neglected. Maybe he had to work in a job that stripped him of compassion or empathy. Those things don't excuse his behavior, but they would explain it. And they would give us reason to pity him.

Christ would have compassion on Pete. But I only felt judgment and anger.

My mom's comment really impacted me. People like Pete are often a product of their past. Without the redeeming blood of Christ, how can he overcome it? Truly, there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Things to think about on this Reflective Tuesday.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Three things.

I learned three things about Bo this weekend.

1. I learned that my dog - Brian's "vicious pitbull" - is truly, without a doubt, an absolute wuss.

Bo and I met his arch nemesis on the way home from the lake. Bo is always on the lookout for Big Boy, the neighborhood cat, but rarely does he get an opportunity to meet him face to face. But right then, behind a blue pickup, we could both see Big Boy before the big, black cat spotted us. Bo raced ahead to confront the beast once and for all, and I ran behind him, anxious to see what might happen. I had my doubts about Bo's courage in the face of such danger.

I heard a hissing noise and a loud whimper before I circled the pickup and saw the two pets. Big Boy was massively puffed, a great black furball standing stock still in the grass. Bo was a healthy three or four feet away, tail between his legs, looking sideways at the cat. Bo began running in a jolting circle around Big Boy, who stood his ground, and each time Bo moved, the dog let out a high-pitched, anguished whine.

I was doubled over laughing at my dog. I'd never seen him so frightened in his life, but he couldn't tear himself away from the cat. He maintained his distance, still trying to work up the courage to approach Big Boy, but with each move, he yelped as though he was being beaten. For a few more seconds I stood there in tears, then said, "Come on, Bo. Let's leave Big Boy alone." Bo finally followed me home, but his head hung low and his normally buoyant tail stayed between his legs. He remained so edgy that when I opened the mailbox, he jumped. Once inside, I told Brian about Bo's encounter, and it almost seemed as though our dog knew he should be embarrassed.

(By the way, I don't hate cats. I wouldn't have let Bo near Big Boy if I hadn't known that my dog (who still possesses his testicles, in fact) would have been on the losing end of the encounter.)

2. The next thing I learned about Bo is that he is, contrary to all of my boasting and pride, one of those dogs.

I'm too disappointed for many words right now. If dogs could understand lectures, Bo would have been duly ashamed when we came home from church. As it is, he probably won't understand why he winds up in the basement during our outings. Sigh.

3. Finally, I learned that Bo and I share a longing.

He wants a baby, too.

Or at least, he longs to decorate the nursery of his dreams.


Friday, August 27, 2010


Oh boy, folks.

This is the post you've been waiting for!

As we do every morning before Brian leaves for work, we prayed together on the morning of our fourth anniversary. Brian included the usual requests... and then he said, "And Lord, help our marriage to glorify you, and our family, too, soon."


Now that our fourth anniversary has come and gone, I can say that we're officially in the home stretch before trying for Baby Dubs.

One. More. Year.

It's going to be a good year. We're planning on lots of trips - to the beach, the mountains, to Michigan... and then to Maine.

But I'm also planning on lots of vitamins. Doctors say to start folic acid supplements three months before getting pregnant. Well, HA! is what I say to that. I'm going to give it twelve! Going for a model neural tube here, people.

I'll also be taking plenty of fish oil.

And playing Mozart and Bach to my empty uterus.

Oh, just kidding about that, but do you know what else I'm doing? I'm loading up on DAIRY. Cheese, yogurt, milk... and not just any milk, either. I'm going for the cheap, store-brand milk taken from cows who've been all jacked up on growth hormones for their entire lives. Because according to random Google searches that I'm assuming reference actual scientific studies (but am too lazy to verify), growth hormones in milk can cause hyper-ovulation.

And we all know from health class (riiiiiight?) that hyper-ovulation means twins.

Let's all pause for a collective, dramatic oooooooooooooooh.

I'm serious about it, I really am! My morning coffee, which used to be flavored with a little bit of half & half and sugar, has now become a coffee-flavored mug of milk. I'm really trying. In fact, when I came home from the grocery store last night with a brand of milk I don't normally buy, I was dismayed to see "From cows not treated with rBGH," Come on, people! The only reason I'm drinking this stuff is for the rBGH! I need that synthetically produced bovine hormone! Dairy farmers, please! Unite for the cause of recombinant DNA, genetic modification, and artificially stimulated milk production!

I need it because I want twins! (Sad, frowny, pouty face inserted here.)

Ugh. You folks out there pushing for regulation... trying for all things pure and wholesome... you all are making life reeeaaally difficult for me during my final-year home stretch. And let me tell you what, you'll really pay when I get pregnant with a single baby. If I'm not lucky enough to get two for the price of one, what in the world am I going to be thankful for?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

I now pronouce you married 1,460 days.

Today's my fourth anniversary. Almost fifty months of being married to The Bri! (In terms of months, it doesn't really sound that long, huh?)

A few thoughts on this momentous day:

1. Four years! That's a high school career or a college degree. I have a Bachelor's degree in Brian Management. (Haha! Everyone knows who does the real managing around here. :)

2. Four years! I remember reading that Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey divorced after their third anniversary. That stuck in my head and, for some reason, I thought that when my marriage hit the four-year mark, I'd have really made it, baby. So congratulations to me! I beat Jessica Simpson.

3. Four years! If someone had told me we'd be successful in pregnancy prevention this long, I would have laughed, laughed, laughed. Oh, silly Brian! Babies are for YOUNG people!

4. Four years. Is this the end of newlywed-ness?

5. It doesn't seem like it's been this long. But then again, I guess we've done a lot together during these four years. The amount of time doesn't seem to have been able to fit all the memories we've made. I don't know if this is happy or sad or sobering, and now I think I've confused myself.

6. Four years! I'm so blessed. Every day I realize how blessed I am. I started married life in a dream, thinking Brian was absolutely perfect, obsession-worthy, star-hanging warrior material. Then I discovered he was human, capable of being insensitive or selfish, just like me. But each day I still believe I couldn't be a luckier girl. If there was one word I could use to describe Brian's character, it would be solid. And like anything really solid - a boulder or an oak tree or a mountain - there are flaws, but usually the strength and steadfastness overwhelm them. That's how Brian is. I'm so blessed to have him sticking here beside me. I love him so much.

7. I hope the next four years go by a little more slowly. I hope they're made out of the same stuff these last four have been - smiles, hugs, memories, good food, deer-butchering, tree-planting, morning jogs, evening fires, lake walks with Beau, road trips, friends, family, etc., etc. And I hope for more, too. I hope for healing for Brian's eye, for guidance and direction, for vision and a sense of purpose, and maybe a baby or two. And then four more after that.

Thank you, Lord, for Brian. Thank you for your blessing on our marriage. Let it glorify and bless you continually!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The head tilt.

Completely selfish post. I don't expect you to think my dog is as cute as I think he is.

That would be like asking a nine-year-old to appreciate modern art.

Ha, ha! Only kidding, only kidding.

Anyway, for your consideration, a brief Tuesday Tale:

So I'm standing in the entryway and I look up to see Beau, regal as ever, staring down at me from the top of the stairs.

Fat rolls aplenty.

"Bo," I ask him, "are you hungry?"

Perhaps having not heard me entirely, he descends halfway down the stairs to understand.

"Bo, are you hungry?"

"And after you eat, do you want to go outside?"

"And play with Hannah?"

He carefully considered my proposal, then continued down the stairs for dinner.