Friday, July 30, 2010

She's Here

I interrupt this regularly scheduled theme week to announce the arrival of Rebekah Sue.

Remember this?

Well, that little one is now on the outside and is perfectly pink and lovely.

And her mama looks like she just walked the catwalk. How in the world is that possible? And since Rachel is a bridesmaid in Jenn's wedding next weekend (more on this later because I have lots to tell you about a certain groomsman, a purple dress and three days of fun), she couldn't have come at a more perfect time.

Well really anytime would have been perfect because she is completely perfect.

So completely sweet and soft and sleepy and perfect.

Welcome to the world, baby girl. You are dearly loved already.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Best Thing I Have Ever Eaten: At Thanksgiving

Just the mere thought of Thanksgiving makes me want to wear stretchy pants. I love this holiday more than most and it is entirely and completely due to my mom's Thanksgiving menu. It is incredible. And it is also coma-inducing. And when you combine that with a buffet of desserts, college football and a couple of days off from work, you have pretty much reached utopia.

Is it November yet?



It is extremely difficult for me to choose from all the carbo-rific dishes that grace our table every year. I am a huge fan of cooked cranberries. I heart them. I also love dressing and pumpkin pie, but not together of course. And I am in love with this brussels sprout dish that we make with bacon, caramelized onions and apple cider vinegar.

I think I just drooled on the keyboard.

It's my sister's keyboard.

Don't tell her.

But of all the things that I shovel on my plate, the best, most delectable, most comforting food that I eat at Thanksgiving are my mom's homemade noodles.  Did you get that, peeps? Noodles. You have not lived until you have piled these puppies on top of creamy mashed potatoes. Truly, your life may be less than it could be right now. But don't be sad, that can be remedied in a mere matter of months.

They are simple, really. Just eggs, flour, salt and pepper. You mix it up, knead it a little, roll it out and cut them into thin strips. You lay them out to dry overnight and then you dump them into your turkey stock the next day. And then angels sing and all is right with the world. They are completely and utterly perfect. And exactly what your soul needs.

I should probably learn how to make them but I would hate to take that privilege away from my mom. However, I will plan on making a step-by-step blog post on them, but you will have to wait until November because it is too bloomin' hot for me to be making them right now.  Or, if you are in dire need of a carb fest, you can give my mom a holler and she can tell you how to make them. You can reach her at 555-123-4567. She is standing by.

So friends, what is your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Is it green bean casserole? Pecan pie? Some sort of jello mold? Let's hear it! And if you have a recipe, feel free to share.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Best Thing I Have Ever Eaten: On A Stick

Oh, this one is easy.

In 2005, I loaded up a dozen sophomores in high school and headed to Mexico to build a house. We pitched tents in a dusty field, cooked all of our meals outside and built an entire house by hand, no power tools allowed. Bucket showers were the only thing that kept us coexisting because high school boys start smelling like roadkill before too long. And on top of that, one kid counted over 200 bug bites on his legs and three girls came down with Mexican Two Step on our only day off.

So, the only thing that kept me from either running away or being committed was the most delectable thing I have ever tasted on a stick: the Magnum Bar.

No words can describe the Magnum Bar. You can never find them in the U.S., which makes their discovery that much more sweet. It's the world's best ice cream wrapped in the richest, darkest chocolate and frozen solid on a stick. And they come in dark, shiny wrappers that make you feel like it is Christmas morning, only it's not, it's June and you're in Mexico with smelly teenagers, sandy food and a bucket shower that has long sense lost its effectiveness.

Since I had the keys to the 15-passenger van, I would sneak out for a moment of peace to the nearest gas station and eat a Magnum Bar in total silence, praising the good Lord for chocolate, ice cream and the beloved peso that made those suckers affordable.

I am pretty sure it kept me going that week. That's probably why they are mostly sold in other countries, just to keep whiny Americans who can't hack it in the Mexican desert from going insane. If that's the case, then it has my undying devotion and the thanks of many high schoolers who should never have to witness their leader teetering on the brink of reality.

So, after a week of sweat, hard work and bug bites, our team finished the house and handed the keys over to a smiling family.

Was it worth it? Yep, definitely!

Would I do it again? Only if I was paid.

Is the house still standing?  

crickets chirping...

So peeps, let's hear it: what is the best thing you have ever eaten on a stick?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Best Thing I Have Ever Eaten: In the Middle of the Night

There is nothing like a midnight snack...or meal. It's almost like you are getting away with something. To feel that glow of the refrigerator light on your face as you stick a fork into last night's cheesecake or left-over lasagna is almost priceless.

Almost. But thankfully that's where Spanx come in handy.

So when I think back to my favorite middle of the night meal, I immediately remember the summer I went salsa dancing  every weekend and sometimes on Thursdays. I had a salsa partner and he and I spent hours on the dance floor, trying to act like we were part Latino and keeping casualties to a minimum. We even went to competitions so we could learn new moves, some of them were successful, some of them ended up with me on the floor.

Most Saturday evenings would start around 9:30, after the free lessons had cleared the dance floor and the live band began to play. And almost every week we stayed until it closed, which was between 1:30 and 2:00. On the ride home, feeling both completely exhausted and exhilarated, was when the hunger kicked in. And you knew that if you didn't find food IMMEDIATELY, you would eat the upholstery off the seats.

So, do you know what I ate every single Saturday night? Are you ready for this?

Taco Bell.

Oh that glorious golden bell that beckons both young and old, rich and poor, hillbilly and snob. You may laugh at my dubious taste in late-night cuisine, but you have never tasted anything quite so delicious as two crunchy tacos with medium salsa after a night of trying to be the next Shakira. Words cannot describe such a feeling of contentment and satisfaction. And to this day I can't go to Taco Bell without busting out a little rumba or meringue.

After the feeding frenzy, I would go home, hang up my salsa shoes and sleep like there was no tomorrow.

Or until my alarm clock went off for church.

Either way, it will be hard to top that because there are few things that I love more in this world than salsa, both the dancing and the condiment.

So, what is the best thing you have ever eaten in the middle of the night? C'mon, don't be shy. It can't be worse than scarfing down fast food under the buzz of a parking lot lamp.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Best Thing I Have Ever Eaten: Jet Lagged

It's Theme Week, peeps! Oh, I love a good theme, don't you? And since this does not require any sort of costume, identity change or foreign accent on your end, I hope you will participate with me.  Because really, I am nothing without you...all four of you.

Here's the background:

Last night, after a weekend full of parties, napping and shopping, my family and I had a fabulous dinner on the back patio. It was the kind of meal that makes you sit back and sigh with contentment and think that all must be right with the world...or at least in your small world anyway.

So naturally our conversation was steered into the direction of favorite meals. People, you know what I am talking about. Those meals that not only define a moment, but perhaps even define a weekend, a trip or an entire experience. It is amazing how much food plays a role in our everyday lives and sometimes we get to eat something that changes the way we view life, even for a brief moment.

So, I have decided that this is the theme for the week: "The Best Thing I Have Ever Eaten."  Apparently there is a TV show about this on the Food Network. I would like to think they stole my idea, but since I am the one blogging about it instead of starring in it, I'll give them the credit.

But we all know the truth, don't we?

So, let's get this started!  The topic for the day is "The Best Thing I Have Ever Eaten: Jet lagged."

Oh, we've all been there. It's that horrible, surreal, dream-like state that we get in after we have traveled for way too long. And it doesn't matter if it is a three-hour trip or an 36-hour trip, jet lag makes you feel like life chewed you up and spit you out and then expects you to look good afterward.

Jet lag bites the big one.

So, my favorite jet lag meal took place in South Africa. I had traveled by myself from Denver to Washington D.C. to Johannesburg and then down to Durban, South Africa. I am not sure how many days passed during this flight, but I do know that my biological clock was out of whack for a while and I wasn't sure how old I was anymore. And I think I spoke in my Oklahoma accent when I arrived. I tend to do that when I am jet lagged or nervous, which never bodes well for a blind date.

Moving on...

To top it off, I had a broken foot (oh the saga!) and I had to wear a boot cast. And let me tell you something, economy seating does not know how to handle a boot cast. So, by the time I arrived in Johannesburg after spending an unknown amount of hours flying eastward, I had to get through customs and immigration before finding my connecting flight to Durban. And this was to be done at a sprint with a broken foot on approximately 26 minutes of sleep.

The drama that ensued upon my arrival in Johannesburg can only be described as illegal and blurry, as I was quickly thrown into a wheel chair by a skinny man half my size who only spoke Zulu and was wheeled through customs, immigration and security without so much as a question, x-ray or baggage search. Shoot, they may not have any record that I even visited their country! But, I do know that without this man I would have not made my connecting flight and would probably still be in the immigration line with my boot cast, saying "y'all" and "shoot fire" to everyone I saw.

When I finally arrived in Durban, I found my colleague who was scheduled to pick me up. She was close to a Zulu family who lived in the Kwa-Zulu Natal region of South Africa and they had graciously offered to let me stay with them. After an hour-long drive, we finally arrived to this beautiful home in the middle of nowhere. And guess what they had waiting for me?

Go on, guess...

Thanksgiving dinner.

Oh. My. Word. There are no words to describe the smell when I walked into their kitchen. There are no words to describe how tired I was or how disoriented I had become since it was now nighttime and we had driven on the wrong side of the road for the last hour. And there are no words to describe just how good turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh bread and green beans can taste to a very weary traveler. Especially in a country that doesn't even celebrate Thanksgiving.

I will always remember that meal. And I will always remember that trip as being one of the best, ever. And I am pretty sure it all has to do with such a comforting welcome.

Okay, peeps, let's hear your favorite jet lagged meal!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Sound of Music

Noah loves music.

 In fact, he is pretty much a one-man band. He has a keyboard, drums, a guitar, a microphone, a dad who loves music and plays back up, and uber cool software that records their musical efforts.

Noah also has a harmonica. It is his prized possession. He takes it everywhere and is happy to play it for you anytime. Even in the car. In the middle of the night. In the middle of Kansas.

So, when we were in Oklahoma over the 4th, that beloved spit magnet came along. And Noah got it into his head that he wanted to play his harmonica for the cows that live at the end of the street.

I figured this could be a fairly memorable adventure so he and I took off down the road, harmonica in hand.

When we arrived, it was evident that the cows had indeed found greener pastures elsewhere.

But that didn't stop him. He just figured the louder he played, the better chance the cows would have of hearing him.

He did have a point.

So he played...

And played...

And played.

But yet, no cows.

Apparently they don't like harmonicas.


So then he just started walking around, sometimes playing, sometimes singing.

He even tried it hands-free.

At this point it really didn't matter because all of it sounded exactly the same.

After a while, the Oklahoma sun got to him and he needed to sit down and play, still hoping that those snobby cows would come back from their snobby little pasture.

And eventually, he stopped playing altogether, completely disgusted with cows in general.

Finally, he got up and said, "I don't care about cows anymore. Let's go back and swim."

I told him it sounded like a great idea.

Until he asked me to carry him the rest of the way home.  Apparently serenading snobby cows takes it out of you.

And so I did. I carried him all the way home because that's what aunts do. Aunts who are also known as big suckers.

But at some point, he got his second wind and began playing again.

Right in my ear.

And that's when I realized that the cows knew exactly what they were doing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When In Doubt, Make A List

I am running smack dab into writer's block so I have decided to make a list of all the things I have loved about this summer. And here you go, in no particular order:

1.The sunsets. Is it just me or have they been especially beautiful this summer?

2. Homemade ice cream. Holy canoli, people. My mom made some tonight and it pretty much blew my socks off.

3. Seeing God answer prayers that I have been praying for two years.

4. The moment I leave Kansas on my way to Oklahoma. Oh, such bliss. And we even cap it off with a roaring rendition of "Oklahoma." You should travel with me just so you can hear it.

5. My cousins, each and every one of them.

6. Growing my own basil. It is a minor miracle, my friends.

7. Eating my weight in blueberries.

8. The anticipation of being set up on a date. (More to come on this one!)

9. Riding bikes with Noah, training wheels and all.

10. Uninterrupted evenings to catch up on Hulu. I am particularly loving White Collar and Psych.

11. Diet cokes. With straws. And pretzel M&Ms.

12. Good hair days. Hey, never underestimate the power of a good hair day, they are pure magic.

13. Waiting and waiting for Rachel's baby. Any minute now...

14. Trying to tan. It was glorious for 45 minutes and I have the freckles to prove it.

15. My fabulous friend Sara for giving me the inspiration to make this list.

16. Never needing a jacket...except for that one really cold weekend in June.

17. Watching Noah take pictures of himself. And then looking at the pictures and being completely and utterly surprised.

18. Family June birthdays. There is no such thing as too much cake.

19. Colby, Kansas. Hey, it's like an oasis, people. You need it to survive.

20. Knowing that Lizz is still alive in Liberia and has thus far had no encounters with deadly pit vipers.

21. Melanie's ravioli lasagna. It's heaven in marinara sauce.


23. Hanging with my grandpa and knowing there isn't a cooler 92 year-old on the planet.

24. New shoes. Enough said.

25. Knowing that there are still six more weeks before September.

Long live summer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pretzel Bliss

Today I went over to my darling friend Melissa's house for a diet coke and chat and she introduced me to something that could very well revolutionize my snacking habits from here on out. Are you ready for this:

Pretzel M&M's.

That's right, you heard me. They are phenomenal. You should try them immediately. And you should also get a very cool friend named Melissa because they introduce you to things that rock your world and make you re-think food combinations.

Speaking of food combinations, I picked fresh basil tonight from my very own basil plant and combined it with olive oil, fresh parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and whole wheat linguine. I need you to understand the significance of this because I cannot keep anything alive, let alone a plant that is actually edible. I'm practically a farmer now.

On another note, I don't like those Allstate commercials with the guy who symbolizes "mayhem." They disturb me and I think they should be banished forever.

Now I need another M&M. They are my therapy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Valiant Attempt

I made a valiant attempt to tan this weekend.

I failed miserably.

Now, not only am I fluorescent white, I am also freckled.

I look like a Dalmatian.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Self Portraits

On our eternally long drive back from Oklahoma last week, I had the privilege of sitting next to Noah in his car seat. Between being wedged nicely into the door frame and him needing approximately 17,000 things from the floor and the back, it was a thrill of a ride home.

However, nothing is as important in this world as keeping a 5 year-old happy on a 9 hour car trip.

So, when he asked to take pictures of his stuffed animals with my camera, I figured what the heck. Besides, since there was no earthly way any of us could physically move from our spots in the car, the likelihood of him destroying my prized possession was minimal.

That bet completely payed off because at some point he got bored of taking pictures of his toys and turned the camera on himself.

And I am so glad he did...

I am convinced more than ever that he is gifted and talented. I should probably have him autograph his work right now before the fame goes to his head.

I love that kid.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Any Minute Now

This is Rachel. She is like my other sister. Claire and I both call her that.

In case you can't tell, Rachel is pregnant.

So pregnant, in fact, that she could deliver AT ANY MOMENT.

And I cannot wait until this little one arrives.


Her hubby, on the other hand, may need another moment or two.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


To all of those who live in Colorado or to all of those who wish they did, you must visit Westcliffe.  It is stunningly beautiful yet untouched by tourist traps. The people are warm and friendly, the food is fantastic and the scenery, well, God did a pretty darn great job.

I started off my weekend by driving southwest for approximately three hours. There were moments that I almost turned around because most of the time I had no idea where I was and at one point I drove right past the Canon City maximum security prison and I got scared. Granted, there were seven rows of razor wire between them and me, but still my mind kept wandering to those horror movies about girls who are driving by themselves in the middle of nowhere in hopes of hearing some bluegrass music and are hijacked by escaped convicts and are never heard from again. Of course all of this would be a mute point if the escaped convicts happened to be the boys from "Prison Break" because I find some of them quite dreamy. But I knew that was a bit unrealistic. So I stepped on the gas and sped by the prison and then laughed at myself. And then I locked the doors.

When I rolled into Westcliffe, the beautiful Sangre de Cristos awaited me. I had NO STINKIN' CLUE that this part of the state looked like this! Seriously, I would have risked life and limb way before this if I had known.

Nadine and her husband Dan have an adorable house in the middle of town and we immediately hopped in the back of Dan's pickup truck to drive to the big tent full of banjos, fiddles, guitars and a couple of hippie girls who apparently show up every year at this festival.

And guess what else I found:

Oh yes I did. And my life is now more complete.

There were some amazing bands playing this weekend. I particularly liked the "Bluegrass Patriots," "Lou Reid and Carolina," and the "Gary Waldrop Band." The "Ebony Hillbillies" did live up to their name and were highly entertaining. Most of the time you had no clue what the dude in the big hat was singing, but I imagine it was pretty funny.

In between a few of the shows I decided to walk around main street. Low and behold, I turned around and caught this shot:

There are a couple things noteworthy about this picture. First, I can't get enough of those mountains. Second, I would love to buy my groceries here every week. And third, is it just me or do those two people look COMPLETELY out of place on their mechanized two-wheelers?

There was also this cool movie theater that is still playing "Iron Man 2." And apparently you have to be psychic to know the rest of the phone number in order to get tickets.

I love small towns.


You would almost think I was in Oklahoma with a picture like this:

And then you turn around and realize, nope, I'm sure not.

However, the highlight of my weekend was meeting all the guys from "Sons and Brothers." Nadine and Dan have followed this band for ten years. They are a local band comprised of three brothers, an uncle, a brother-in-law and a fiddle player who they claim to be family. They are amazing! I pretty much followed them around and mooched off of their fame and homemade food. I had dinner at their mom's house and later a big brunch on Sunday and no one had a clue who I was. I was like some wannabe groupie who tried to sound intelligent on all things musical but usually just said things like, "Wow, that was a great set," and "I never knew fingers could move that fast." You know, deep stuff.

Thankfully, I had made Nutter Butter balls and when someone looked at me weird, Nadine just gave them one and ten seconds later we were all BFF's.

I love bribing people with food so they will be my friends.

Here are Nadine and Joe, the youngest of the three brothers. He and I became friends, which is good because otherwise they would still be talking about some weird stalker girl who hung around all weekend feeding people.

The cool thing is that "Sons and Brothers" are coming to Denver a couple times in July and I plan on being there. You should come with me! I am pretty tight with the band, you know, as tight as you can be for a moocher.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Just a Taste

Word up, peeps. I am back from an unbelievably fun weekend and I can't wait to share every detail with you. But first, here is just a taste of what the weekend was all about:

And this is where he worked:

Can I hear an "amen?"

Friday, July 9, 2010


I almost is my half birthday. And so far, 30 is pretty fabulous.

But please, no gifts.

High Mountain Hay Fever

This afternoon I am headed to the High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival that is guaranteed to be both awe-inspiring and blog worthy. Don't you doubt for a second that I won't share with you every last detail, including my first-hand review of the "Ebony Hillbillies," an all-black bluegrass band from Brooklyn. Words cannot describe how much I am looking forward to this experience.

I am also hoping for some kettle corn. My life would be more complete if I could have some this weekend.

However, I do need to back up a second. As you all know my family and I hauled ourselves to Oklahoma and back for our epic 4th of July celebration, where we not only let off copious amounts of explosives, but where I also played prairie golf, which is what I call golfing in northwest Oklahoma, and spent time showing my younger cousins how to smash pennies on a railroad track, all the while hoping that a mere eight cents wouldn't derail the train and kill everyone in town. I am all about living dangerously.

I have also shared meals with dear friends, spent way too much money at TJMaxx, and even managed to catch up on Hulu, which isn't saying much for the summer TV season.

Since my week has been so exhausting, I have not cooked a single meal, unless you count chocolate chip cookies as a meal, in which I ate a few or nine, then packed up the rest for my friends who are all heading out today for various parts of the world to love on orphans and widows. Therefore, I do not have any recipes for you but I am sure I will have one or two next week.

Hey, it's summer people and I cannot be tied down to schedules and deadlines! Oh wait. Don't tell my boss that.

Anywhoo, speaking of far off places and friends who boldly go where no man has gone before, my dear friend Lizz headed off to Liberia today for three weeks. And I had the privilege of taking her to the airport this morning at 3:30 am.  Did you get that? 3:30 AM! Thankfully, there was a fabulous sliver of a moon hanging just over downtown Denver and even though we only said a handful of words to each other, it was fun to be able to send her off on her grand adventure! And by the time I got back home at 5:00, the sky had turned a fabulous shade of blue and I paused for two seconds to breathe it in before I fell back into bed and slept through my alarm clock.

So, without functioning on all cerebral cylinders, I will leave Denver this afternoon for the booming metropolis of Westcliff, Colorado, where my office chum Nadine and her husband have a wonderful little place and are waiting for me to join them for this infamous hoe-down. And in an effort to snag my long-awaited cowboy, I plan on making a batch of Nutter Butter balls to share.

But, let's not hold our breath people, we all know that I have a hard time parting with anything that contains peanut butter.

Happy Friday, y'all.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Something Magical

There is something so magical about fireworks. Perhaps it is the variety of colors and shapes or the ear-piercing sounds they make. Or maybe it is because the average American has the opportunity to play with pyrotechnics. Either way you look at it, they are pretty spectacular.

This past 4th of July could perhaps be one of the best. Yes, there was homemade ice cream by the gallons and enough smoked pork butt to feed an army, but this year my family put on a fireworks show that could have rivaled Gettysburg. Shoot, some of the explosives may have even been illegal. But do I care? Nope. Just as long as I didn't have to post bail for anyone.

And the best part about the whole show was that parking was free and everyone had a front row seat.

Even the kids loved it.

Remember this guy? Yeah, he's still happy.

And this dude? Well he could have cared less that he had drool on his chin. What's a little drool when you have atom bombs exploding in your driveway?

And this fella tried his best to multi-task: playing with sparklers while having one hand ready for the next loud one. Ingenious.

There were small explosives...

Large explosives...

Portable explosives...

Beautiful explosives...

Near-death experiences with explosives...

Large amounts of explosives...

And ones that made you stop and pause. I especially like that this all happened right next to a church. We like to invite God to all of our pyrotechnic parties.

And when you top off this night with my aunt Marge's homemade hot fudge sauce, well, there are no words really. It doesn't get any better, especially since everyone still has all of their digits.