29 September 2009

What I'm Watching

I really love the beginning of autumn. I love the crisp days and the hearty meals, the thought of wearing sweaters and hats and scarves. But one of the best things about this time of year? A NEW SEASON OF TV!

Here are some quick reviews of five shows that will get me through the school year:

1. The Office. I wasn't thrilled with the whole pregnancy thing, but I have faith that the writers will pull it off with plenty of awkward, I'm-embarrassed-for-them moments. And I'm particularly excited for the upcoming wedding episode. I love me a good tv wedding episode. Don't let me down, Office writers.

PS--The original version of The Office is quite the treat. Ricky Gervais, oh dear God. I'm uncomfortable just thinking about his interpretation of the boss, David Brent. It's like the American Office, only on crack.

2. The Hills. Out with the old and in with the new. Lauren's gone, Kristin has arrived, and all hell is about to break loose. (She's trying to snag Justin Bobby!) My 30-minute elliptical workout flies by when I'm watching--and by watching I mean feeling superior and passing judgment. I think I hate every single person on this show.

3. The City. This show is the tv equivalent of a Little Debbie snack or a Savory Toaster Strudel--so horrible, but absolutely delightful. It actually makes The Hills seem credible. Whitney's vapid New York friends and coworkers (particularly Olivia and Roxy) make Spencer and Heidi look like Gandhi and Bill Gates. Even though I'm a girl whose idea of fashion is a ratty tshirt, jeans, and flip-flops, the artificial glimpse into the fashion world fascinates me. But so do train wrecks.

4. TOP CHEF! What great fun. After a healthy dose of reality tv garbage, it's nice to watch a show where the contestants actually have talent. And this season may be the best yet. It's Vegas, Baby, and the stakes are higher.
Matt and I actually play a game when we watch quality reality television. During the season premiere we pick contestants to root for. Matt has bearded Kevin, weird Ashley who looks like a boy, and Mike, the younger Voltaggio brother. Team Mandy is Jenn the super bitch who is awesome and just might win, Bryan the older Voltaggio brother, and kerchief-wearing Mattin, who has already been eliminated. Dammit! He had a kerchief! I thought for sure he'd be in the final three!

5. The Amazing Race. This show is actually the best reality show on tv, and we pick teams for this one, too. I have done pretty well with picking teams in life; I've thrice picked the winners. THRICE! Matt has the Harlem Globetrotters (and I'm so jealous) and the good-looking blonde soccer-playing couple. I have Justin and Zev (Matt's so jealous) and the older couple who met on the internet. I always pick the older couples.
What are you watching this time of year? Any suggestions?

A Stomach Never Forgets

Me: Oh man! Yesterday was my 28 1/2 birthday and I completely forgot to celebrate. . .well, at least I'd already made cupcakes.

Matt: Your stomach didn't forget.

28 September 2009

Best Friend Portraits

Matt and I first started dating in September of 2002. I spent A LOT of time at Matt's apartment, hanging out, drinking, watching Friends and Jeopardy and The Daily Show. It was my senior year of college, and looking back, it was one of the most fun times of my life. I was surrounded by wonderful friends and roommates and coworkers, I had just started dating the boy I would eventually marry, and the whole world was ahead of me.

Oh, and that was when I became friends with Best Friend. Best Friend (whose real name is Alex Luther--yes--LEX LUTHER!) was one of Matt's roommates. At the beginning of the year he was not on the lease and did not have a bedroom in the apartment; instead he slept in the closet of one of Matt's other roommates. It wasn't a big closet, either. In fact, it was just long enough and wide enough for Best Friend to lie down and sleep. Best Friend doesn't need luxury.

Best Friend and I hit it off immediately. He's my favorite kind of person: cranky, smart, creative, kind of quiet, hilarious, dry sense of humor, mean on the outside but kind on the inside, quirky as can be.

This was during the time of the apartment party at JMU. Neither Best Friend nor I was a big fan of that party scene, so we had to find ways to entertain ourselves other than kegstands or dancing to the latest Nelly song. We decided to lie to people. Although we had only known each other for a week or so, we decided to convince people at the party that we were best friends, and had been best friends since we were children. To make the lie more believable, we began to refer to one another as Best Friend. (An exchange between us would go something like this: "Hey, Best Friend, whatcha doin'?" "Oh, nothing, Best Friend, just working on writing our best friend sitcom." "Cool, Best Friend, can I help?" "Sure, Best Friend. Maybe afterward we'll go get some chocolate milk.")

Best Friend and I would improvise the most elaborate lies about our childhood and the history of our friendship. We convinced so many people that we had been friends since we were nine, that we went on vacation together in Disneyworld and he got poison ivy on his feet and had to ride around in a wheelchair--but it was okay because then we got to go to the front of all of the lines. We convinced people that in the eighth grade we had an "experimental summer," the details of which are not blog appropriate. We played off of each other's lies beautifully, and in the event that somebody didn't believe us, we would go one step farther.

After knowing each other for two weeks, Best Friend and I decided that we needed some proof of our lifelong friendship. We found this proof at Wal-Mart's portrait studio. Best Friend portraits, we decided, would make it undeniable that we'd been friends forever. Plus, they only cost $3.95 for like 1,000 pictures.

Tell me these aren't the best Best Friend portraits you ever did see.

I was donning my newly-purchased jean jacket and nail polish from the Mary Kate and Ashley line, and Best Friend was wearing a tshirt with a dinosaur and a hat with a bald eagle. I believe my great-grandfather had owned a similar hat at one time. You can't see it in the picture, but there is a rope on the bill of the hat. Rope = classy.

And for some reason he had been walking around with an empty cigarette in his mouth for days. He refused to take it out. Quirky.
Best Friend and I were laughing so hard during our portrait session that I was crying. The Wal-Mart photographer was NOT AMUSED. She pulled down the Christmas background (which we did not request), and yelled--seriously, she yelled!--"BE SERIOUS! IT'S CHRISTMAS!" which only made us laugh harder.

Below is my favorite of the Best Friend portraits. We actually made tshirts with this picture on it and would wear them at the same time. There was a minor falling out, though, when Best Friend lost his in a beer pong-related bet.

Our lives have taken us in different directions since, and we don't talk all that often, but Best Friend is and always will be my best childhood Best Friend.

A Rebuttal from Grandma Carol

Yesterday I said Grandma Carol had been mean. Today she emailed me and said I had been obnoxious. Touche`!

I received this email today.

". . .I have made a list of subjects that I will share with you from time to time that will be my personal version of a "blog" because I really don't understand exactly how that all works. My friends, most of whom are at least 70, have asked me to explain what a blog is? My explanation is: something like a diary or scrapbook of thoughts, only on the internet!

My first comments are on the view we share of obnoxious teenagers.

I remember a visit to Maryland for Thanskgiving a number of years ago. I believe the teenager mentioned in this note, who shall remain nameless at this point, was 16 and had her best friend Tanya visiting from Florida.

Her parents asked that she "give up" her room to Grandma and Grandpa and she was not happy about it. She and her friend were to sleep on the fold-out couch in the living room. Of course that meant they would want to sleep 'til noon and the rest of the family had to walk around them the entire morning to get to the kitchen! The rest of the time they found things to do that were away from the house. . .so they did not have to deal with the adults. Fortunately this obnoxious teenager has grown to be an intelligent, funny, talented young woman. Hooray for Mandy! And yes, Grandma loves and appreciates you a lot more as an adult!

More Later, Grandma Carol"

I believe that Grandma Carol's insights will be showing up here from time to time. And look forward to November posts, because she and Grandpa B are planning to visit Savannah for Thanksgiving!

Fortunately, we have a guest room, so I won't have to give up my bed anytime soon. . .

27 September 2009

Grandma Carol and Pumpkin Cupcakes

My Grandma Carol, who reads the blog (Hi, Grandma!), emailed me the other day and said that, excited about the fall weather, she'd just made a pumpkin roll. I forgot to get her recipe, but the mention of pumpkin roll made me salivate and crave other pumpkin treats. Yes, Grandma, I do want you to email it to me. . .

(Sidenote: When I was a kid I thought that Grandma Carol was mean. I thought this because, well, she kind of was. She wasn't actually mean, but she's just never been one to dote over babies or enjoy the antics of children. In short, Grandma doesn't like kids. Perhaps her disdain for children came from being a single mother of five hellions, or maybe she's just not a fan of noise and messes. It wasn't until I was older--and crankier--that I came to fully appreciate how cool my grandma is, and to realize how much I am like her. She's an adventurer who is on a hot-air ballooning team in Albuquerque, she's an amazing cook, and she's funny as hell. I think she likes me much better, too, now that I'm an adult.)

Now, here in Savannah we have yet to enjoy this "fall weather" others speak of, since it's 90 degrees and humid, but yesterday I attempted to create our own autumn. I cranked the AC down to about 54 degrees, put on a hoodie, and made pumpkin cupcakes.

I wish that this was a scratch-and-sniff blog. The blend of spices smelled incredible.

Um, these babies take two sticks of butter. I never said they were health cupcakes!

Delicious, delicious batter.

An army of cupcakes!

Proper baking etiquette dictates that whilst the cupcakes are baking, the baker must lick the remaining batter from the bowl. . .

. . .and do it like nobody's watching.

Let's be honest--cupcakes are really just there as an excuse to eat cream cheese frosting.

I garnished them with some crushed walnuts, which provided a nice little crunch.

Instead of buying pumpkin-scented candles this fall, I'm just going to bake these cupcakes daily. Gastric bypass surgery, here I come!
From Martha Stewart Living
Makes 24
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whick until smooth. Add pumpkin puree
  4. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester insereted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Happy fall! Happy baking!

26 September 2009

Voice Mail from Mitch

"Hey, Mama, it's me, Mitch. Um, so, I was just wondering what you were doing. . .I was kind of bored here at home. Not a lot of kids or cats walking by the house, so I haven't had to bark at too many people. . .Those green bones you got me are SOOO good. Where did you get those? Oh, and also I ate them in the bed and I got some green gunk all over your white sheets and duvet cover, so you might want to pick up some stain remover or something if you stop by Target. . .
. . .Oh, and um, I was reading that 500 Cupcakes book that Aunt Christina sent. Oh man, it was making me so hungry! I think we should make some when you get home. I really like these pink ones with the little silver things on top. They're sooooo funny. . .
. . .Anyway, well, um, give me a call back or text me. I gotta go bark at the mailman now. Oh man, I'm such a stereotype! Love you!"

24 September 2009

That's just BANANAS!

Sometimes I fancy myself a trendsetter. For example, when I was in high school, there was a creepy kid who sat behind me in government, Jason, who wore a trenchcoat and would talk about blowing things up. He was kind of like Brain from the Animaniacs "Pinky and the Brain." I coined him "Unabomber Boy." It stuck. By senior year, pretty much everyone referred to him as the Unabomber. Looking back, I see that I shouldn't have been bitchy to the boy who was always talking about bombs, but fortunately for me nothing ever came of it. Of course, he did give me a rose one day. That was both weird and embarrassing. I think he's some sort of engineer in the military now. Hmph.

But I digress.

Back to trendsetting. I'm not actually a trendsetter, much to my chagrin, but I think that will all change when I give you my new favorite word and its use. Now, I'm not completely sure if I came up with this on my own or if I heard it somewhere, but I've decided to be the one to make it TAKE OFF.

I give you BANANAS!. The exclamation mark belongs there because every time you say BANANAS!, you have to say it enthusiastically, and sometimes with a hint of anger.

BANANAS! is my synonym for crazy/stupid/weird/unbelievable/ridiculous/insane/wild. It's an adjective, and like the word crazy, BANANAS! can have either a positive or negative connotation, depending on how you are using it. Here are some examples of using BANANAS! appropriately:
  • "You can't make a U-turn in New Jersey? That's just BANANAS!"
  • "Brad tried to take my pizza? He's just BANANAS!"
  • "I've been out of high school for ten years? That's BANANAS!"
  • "The raise I received knocked me into a higher tax bracket? BANANAS!"
  • "Well, he's BANANAS! if he thinks I'm going to do that. I'm a wholesome girl."
  • "These teabaggers are just BANANAS!, I tell you."
  • "I'm BANANAS! for cupcakes."

As you can see, BANANAS! is highly versatile, and it's wildly fun to say. Give it a whirl today.

Next favorite word: Bonkers.

Poison Tax

This summer, when the healthcare debate was in full swing, while the crazies were out taking guns to town hall meetings and screaming about death panels, I saw this commercial. When I saw it my anger swelled within me (which, in addition to the gallons of soda I consume each week, may be part of why I'm so fat!). Really, stupid people? Really?

And then just the other day, I saw this one. Watch it. Watch the anger oozing from this woman as she discusses how the tiny tax on the soda [that's poisoning her children and making them fat and lazy] will break her. Priceless. Well, not really priceless. It has a price--a big price if you ask her. I just hope this genius of a mother will be able to afford her mortgage after the tax goes into effect. I mean, will little Cody and Madison get to go to college? Probably not. Damn soda tax!

I'm a big soda drinker, I'll admit. It's one of my many vices. Occasionally I'll go on some kick where I eliminate soda from my diet, but I always revert to old, bad habits. I crave it and I love it, even though I know that it's poison. I've also calculated before how much money I spend on soda, and it's frightening. We spend hundreds of dollars each year--completely unnecessarily--on soda. If I can spend that much money each year on something so silly, then it won't hurt me to spend an extra nickel or two on it--especially if that money goes toward providing healthcare for people who need it.

OR--if the extra pennies really keep me from being able to pay my bills, perhaps I could make a better choice and drink WATER. Or boxes of wine. Either will make me happy.

Office Space

Sometimes I sit in our house, pretend that I own it, and imagine all of the amazing renovations I would do if I did. Knock out some walls here, extend the kitchen here and here, refinish the floors, paint the exterior, plant hydrangeas and gardenias all over the place, move the entire house about 6 streets up, etc. But because we rent our house, I'm not in a position where I can pursue any of that, and when I find myself unhappy with the look of a room, there's not a whole lot that I can do. Usually I paint, which is a quick way to make a dramatic difference.

But one room would have none of that. Meet our office. Our ugly ugly office. Wood walls, wood floors, wood shelves, wood desks, and junk throughout. It was, by a mile, the ugliest and least comfortable room in our house. It looked like it belonged on the set of The Wonder Years.

I forgot to take specific before and after pictures, probably because I was so disgusted with the office in its before stage. But I did manage to dig up a few.

Note the way the office seems to be a magnet for all junk in the house. Note the small window which is the only source of natural light in the room. Note the wood on wood on wood look.

See all of the junk in the back corner? See the dilapidated bookshelf? Gross. Just disgusting. Oh, and pay attention to the desk to the right in the above picture. Below, "Oh, what a great place for garbage! To the office it goes!"

And one day (probably as a result of a horomone-induced rage), I decided that I HATED IT. I couldn't even sit in the office without getting angry and wanting to scream. So I brainstormed and then called Matt's mom, HGTV addict and Super Woman of home decor. She gave me some ideas, and I had a few ideas on my very own, and $104 later, this is what I had.

(I would have actually removed the ironing board and wedding gift from the left, but I needed to iron, and the gift is there to remind me to wrap it. Don't judge. Just pretend it's an IKEA catalog, all lived in and such.)

Above: painted IKEA stool, painted desk, hung paper lantern. And, of course, made a Mitch pillow.

Below: covered cork board with fun fabric, hung new floating shelf.

Above: painted wacky chair, lined inside of desk (this desk used to be black metal with a fake wood top) with remaining fabric, painted trash can.

Below: bought and painted wicker basket to use as a place for mail.

Above: purchased longer curtain rod that would extend an extra foot on either side of the window to create the illusion of a larger window. Hard to see in this picture, but it actually worked.

Above and below: awesome cube shelf from Target.

Below: painted large bookshelf white, reorganized it. Look how I can watch two TVs at once! I know you're jealous.

Ah, Sharpies. How I love you, Sharpies.

And what office is complete without a dog under the desk keeping cool and hiding from his football-watching dad? Oh, also note the new floating shelf and floating cube shelves painted white.
The office is now a much brighter, much more cohesive room. I eliminated the junk, made a nice spot to sit and talk on the phone or read. I'm actually happy when I come in here now.

I gave myself a budget of $100 to redo the office. Here's a breakdown of the cost:
  • Curtain rod, $4

  • Large cube shelf, $40

  • Baskets for cube shelf, $16

  • Spray paint, $18

  • Starburst fabric, $7

  • Fabric for Mitch pillow, $4

  • Hanging shelves, $5

  • Fake strawberries (why did I buy these?), $2

  • Basket [for mail], $5

  • Trash can, $3

Grand total, $104. That makes me very happy. Now if only I could figure out how to knock out walls without the landlord noticing. . .

23 September 2009

JMU Reunion!

During the wedding weekend, Matt and I got to reunite with several of our old college buddies. Clarissa, I mean, Larissa was there, and so was her boyfriend, Tedd.

Poor Tedd. Matt and I decided that he is a keeper because he not only has the patience to be with Larissa, but he also had the patience to hang out with her and all of her old college friends, and to be fun and cool throughout. At no time did he scream or head butt anybody, which is more than I can say for myself.

At the wedding, I actually got to see some people from high school (Bethy and I went to Westminster High together and then both went to JMU). It was really nice to see people I hadn't seen or talked to in 10 years, and it was amazing how I succumbed to peer pressure in their presence.

Chorus of high school classmates: Everyone take off their shoes!

Me (even though I don't really want to): Okay! [kicking off shoes]

Bad choices. In spite of the pedicure I'd had earlier that day, by the end of the night my feet looked like this:

It really wasn't pretty. And here's Brad. Like most of us, Brad had imbibed too much. He decided that he would put his head in a shoebox.

And I decided that I would put my dirty Wal-Mart foot in his mouth. I don't know why I decided that was a good idea, and I don't know why Brad 1.) let me put my foot in his mouth, and 2.) let me take a picture of it. Like I said, bad choices.

VERY bad choices. It was around this time that I screamed at Brad for biting my toe, fearful that he would mess up the fresh coat of nail polish.

Matt hung his head, ashamed of the woman he married and the friends he's made.

Later, after the toe-biting/pedicure-ruining incident, we all migrated to the room that Brad, Missy, and Trina were sharing. While there, Porky Jean made an appearance. Brad and I were eating some leftover pizza, and even though Brad had his own piece of pizza, he tried to steal mine. My animal instincts took over. I shot him a look of death, head butted him [very, very hard], caused him to drop his pizza on the floor, shoved the rest of my pizza in my mouth, almost choked, picked up his pizza from the floor, and inhaled his, too. Bad choices all around. (Also, how have I avoided the H1N1?)

On Sunday morning, dehydrated and craving protein-rich greasy food, we all headed to Alexis's Diner before our painful drives home. Matt explained to Brad that he should never enter a gross out competition with Mandy, and he should never try to come between Mandy and food. Missy listened and agreed.
Brad remained in disbelief about the greatest head butt of all time.

Trina wondered if a lawsuit may come of this episode. Could she be the lawyer if she was a witness?

And Missy decided that Brad was annoying. She plotted ways to kill him, the whole time wishing that she had been the one to deliver the painful head butt.

In the years since we've left college, everything has changed. And yet, somehow, nothing has changed at all.


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