Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kitchen, lately

My January had some high points, but it was generally gross, uninspiring and annoying.

I should probably be more positive about it, the first month of 2013 and all, but I prefer to be real when I blog. Reality: January was a punk. Looking forward to turning the calendar tomorrow.

One place where January didn't completely suck was in the kitchen. Something about this time of year makes it a damn good time to break out the mixer and hang out with the oven. Maybe because it's warm. I don't know. Whatever the reason, it results in a lot of damn fine food.

I'm always good with that.

I don't really have any good reason for sharing except that, in years past, I've made resolutions to cook more and so I guess I'm just in the habit of sharing recipes and really bad pictures. Sorry about that.


I was at Mom and Dad's house on a Sunday in late December when I threw together a really simple baked Brie using leftover cranberry sauce from Christmas and almonds and inspiration from this recipe. The cranberry sauce gave it a tart kick that my baked brie -- which I usually make with dried cranberries and toasted pecans on the top -- doesn't usually have. Winner.


I made the world's largest caprese salad for Baby A's first birthday party. It needed more balsamic vinegar. I tossed the leftovers with a bit of pasta and it made a rather fabulous lunch.


I was at Mom and Dad's house one weekend and my mom kept trying to get me to take home a bunch of fresh spinach. I never buy fresh spinach without a recipe in mind. I did a quick search on Pinterest, found a recipe for crustless quiche that, miraculously, I had all of the ingredients for and decided to give it a try. It actually turned out to be quite tasty.


A few days after I conquered the crustless quiche, I had to run to Mom and Dad's house for one reason or another. My mom was still at the gym, putting my father in charge of making them dinner for the night. My dad always tries hard but -- um -- yikes. Baked potato, frozen vegetables, pale gross chicken breast. Every time. To save my mother (and myself) from the suffering, I volunteered my services. He had picked up a rotisserie chicken from Costco on his way home. There was still a heavy supply of spinach in the house. Another Pinterest search brought me to this recipe, and it was delicious. I substituted in whole wheat shells for the egg noodles and I used panko on the top instead of regular bread crumbs.

Whenever I cook for my parents, I can usually come up with a dish that my mom likes but my dad hates, but this was the rare gem that they both enjoyed. I was proud of myself for days.


One of my resolutions for 2013 was to make 12 recipes that I found in a cookbook. This
chocolate-pistachio biscotti recipe was from Martha Stewart's Cookies and SO DELICIOUS. I neglected to take a picture because I was too busy devouring it. It earned high praise from Lucy, Chet and Liz, too. Sorry for stealing your picture, Martha. And thanks for the recipe.
 
 
Then I was on a roll and made another recipe from a cookbook (that's right, 2 of 12), this time Cooking With All Things Trader Joe's. Marvelously easy chicken tortilla soup. I don't know how a sane person could ever complain about a meal that is designed to be sprinkled with tortilla chips.


So then I was feeling really great about myself and made Martha Stewart's icebox cookies just because. Also from her Cookies cookbook. That's 3 recipes out of the 12 I hoped to cook from a cookbook this year, for those of you keeping track at home. Also: cute, no?

And, finally, there was the food that I made for today. The food that I brought to Coworker B's last day celebration extravaganza. Coworker B is a bit of a health nut, so I knew bringing in a few dozen cupcakes wasn't going to do it.


I went with a few old favorites that I thought most everyone would enjoy. Pictured above (in the right, middle) the five-layer Greek dip that I made last year. You've probably seen it all over Pinterest. It's really easy, it's really pretty and it's a pretty safe choice. It was completely demolished, so I felt pretty good about that selection.


In the bottom left of the picture above, you'll see the Moroccan carrot dip that I've also previously blogged about making. I still love it. It's almost entirely carrots, so it's quite healthy but also sweet and full of good flavor. A little bit of a risky choice for a work event, but people seemed to like it.

Finally, in the top left of that picture is a new recipe. A new favorite recipe. These bar nuts are unreal. First of all, they're terribly easy to make. Secondly, they're addictive. The perfect sweet to salty ratio. If you're going to a Super Bowl party this weekend, bake up a batch. You'll be a hero.

I made a batch on Monday night to take over to Lucy and Chet's on Tuesday (we had a date to finish up the first season of The Killing) and then I made a double batch on Wednesday morning to bring to work today. I've basically spent my entire paycheck on a walnuts, almonds and cashews and I don't even care.

And that makes it official, you guys: all I did in January was prepare food and eat food.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My grandma is the cutest

Over the year and a half he and Meg were together, our whole family had met Drew. So now that they've broken up, our whole family knows that Meg and Drew are now longer.

(Secrets don't stay secrets in our family for very long.)

My grandma was especially bummed out for Meg.

We all were, but Grandma didn't have to spend an entire weekend feeling sorry (to the point of being a little bored of it all) for/with Meg.

But she helped Meg heal her broken heart in her own special way.

Grandma made Meg a voodoo doll.

Complete with a pin in his heart and another in his crotch.

Grandma wanted it to be portable, so she made the voodoo doll his own little box. And she tucked him in on his very own bed of nails.

The moral of the story is this: do not mess with me. Unless you want my grandma to mess with you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A book for always

I feel like such the slacking blogger!

Truthfully, there isn't much going on. Not much going on worth writing about. It just feels so incredibly January, you know? Gloomy and slushy.

I worked all weekend, which doesn't help things.

My cousin Danielle is having some mental health problems and I am worried sick, which doesn't help things.

Coworker B's replacement is going to be nobody (as in they're not going to fill his position), which doesn't help things.

The Coach still lives 2,000+ miles away, which doesn't help things.

And I know that I shouldn't care where The Coach lives or whether he's alive at all, and that doesn't help things either.

But I did recently fall in love.

With a book. I fell in love with a book.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. It's exquisite. I don't normally read that type of nonfiction -- it is a collection of letters from her Dear Sugar advice column -- but something about it has me mesmerized. Something about how she writes advice makes me hear it and feel it and understand it. From the time I open the book to the time I close it, I am holding my breath.

If you've read it, kindly let me know what you think. And if you read it in the future, you'll tell me if you like it, won't you? 

I'm interested to hear what other people think.

Because sometimes I am too easily moved. If that's something that you can be. Too easily moved. As though being stoic towards every book wins you an award. I'm not a literary critic. I'm just me. Stuck in another January. In love with a book and the love behind it.

I borrowed Tiny Beautiful Things from the library, but I will buy myself a copy. It is the kind of book that I need to keep close. It is the kind of book that I need to underline. Highlight. Fold down the corners. Fall asleep with in my bed. Carry with me for a long time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mall walking and other exciting things

I had an extra, glorious day off of work yesterday.

I have a very healthy list of things that I need to get done, but I only accomplished one: going to Tiffany to have the backs of my earrings tightened. And that's because I invited Lucy and Baby A along and we were content to spend a large stretch of the day wandering aimlessly around the mall.

We stopped to pick up a late lunch on the way home and then we collapsed in front of the television, watching The Killing while Baby A carefully inspected the basket of toys he dumped on the floor.

When I finally managed to haul my ass off of the couch, I went to the gym. I ran another quick errand. And then I stopped by Mom and Dad's house because I had something to pick up.

While I was there, I convinced my father to make me waffles.

It turned out to be a pretty good day.

I don't work today, either. It seems pretty awesome until I look ahead to the weekend. Working Saturday. Working Sunday.

I hate working on the weekends, when everyone else is off and doing fun things. But having random workdays off instead can actually be good for me. I'm much more likely to chill at home or, at the least, navigate the day at a normal pace.

I didn't even set my alarm today.

(That's embarrassingly rare for me.)

Maybe it's just the nature of January more than any major change in myself, but this month has been a quiet month and I've let it be so. I feel entirely unaccomplished and pretty lazy, but I'm not terribly worried about it. I'll go on longer runs in February. I'll read more books in February. I'll wear yoga pants less frequently and eat fewer cookies.

But today it is still January. And I am still in bed. And I plan to make the most of it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I really just need more coffee


I feel like I am going to combust.

I forgot what this feels like.

This feels like my old job. 

Which feels a lot like someone is standing on my chest.

Coworker B, as I have mentioned, took a new position elsewhere. He’s expressed interest in hiring me at his new job (a flattering offer for him to make, even if nothing ever comes from it) and, after the last couple of days, I am ready to hide in the trunk of his car and creepily pop out when he pulls into the parking lot on his first day of work.

My boss is reassigning his work.

To me. Entirely to me.

I am not exaggerating for the sake of an amusing story. Honestly. Every responsibility that she has shuffled has fallen onto my lap. Admittedly, one coworker already has far too much going on and another is generally bitchy and useless, which leaves only me but THAT LEAVES ONLY ME.

My heart feels like it is going to explode.

I forgot what this was like. In the year and a half that I've been here, I've become accustomed to a very consistent level of stress. While there certainly is stress, it's expected stress and it's level stress. It does not get much higher or much lower than the median. It's nice, knowing what to expect.

Which wasn't the case at my old job, which was either very slow (no stress) or very hectic (high stress), based on what time it was in the athletic calendar year.

This spike in stress feels incredibly similar to how I felt at my old job. The pounding heart and the inability to prioritize anything because I'm trying to do everything. All at once.

It will all settle in around me. Assuming that I don't leave (Coworker B's offer is one that I will certainly look into, as I will a few other opportunities), I will acclimate. It's nothing that I can't handle. It's nothing that will leave me this breathless and overwhelmed in the long run.

It just seems like a lot. All at once. Piled upon a few very big (and very exciting) programs and projects that I'm already leading. Piled upon the increased responsibility to the public because, when one of us is gone, the rest of us have to cover.

And have I mentioned that I've cut down to one cup of coffee per day?

Now you know the real source of all of this angst and anxiety. A poorly-timed coffee cutback.

And the loss of my favorite coworker.

And a lot of extra work, I guess. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

I have so many feelings today

Energetic about the week ahead.
Inspired by the stack of cookbooks that are sitting on the floor in my bedroom.
Optimistic about Coworker B's suggestion that I come work for him in the future.
Infuriated at Meg's ex-boyfriend for hurting her so.
Fatigued by the mere sight of my to-do list for the upcoming few weeks at work.
Perplexed by The Coach.
Uncertain about my living situation.
Pained by the book that I am attempting to read for work.
Fascinated with the pomp and circumstance of President Obama's second inauguration.
Delighted by the silly text message exchange I had with my cousin Emma this afternoon.
Discouraged by the current state of my bank account.
Fortunate that I have an extra day off this week.
Pleased with the soup I made this morning.
Elated that my hockey team managed to win yesterday.
Indecisive about presents I need to buy and cookies I need to decorate.
Anxious about organizing my summer soccer team.
Uneasy about my future.
Resentful of that damn resolution I made to drink more water.
Preoccupied with what I'm always preoccupied with.
Excited for Friday night's dinner plans with Lucy and Chet and Baby A.
Relieved that The Coach's team recently cleared a big hurdle.
Fearful that my friendship with Ashley is on its last legs.
Determined to get in a few good, long runs this week.
Annoyed that I had to run out on my lunch hour to full up my very empty gas tank.
Intrigued by the first season of The Killing.
Thankful for so, so much.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Next stop: Breakupville

How kind of me to remark that last week was quietly uneventful! How wrong I was!

Meg and Drew broke up on Friday night. Or maybe, technically, they didn't actually break up on Friday. They just got on the express train to Breakupville and it is a bumpy ride.

(Drew is pulling that bullshit move where he's the one expressing his desire to end the relationship, but doesn't have the balls to actually pull the trigger. The same thing Fluff did to Liz a few months ago. What's with the dudes who can't man up?)

My poor baby sister is a genuine mess. I hate seeing her like this. Crying, won't get out of bed, won't eat, can't sleep. It is ugly. There's nothing that I can say or do to fix it, so I just sit in bed with her and watch hour after hour of horrible television. My brain is rotting and I'm a little bored and -- this makes me an awful, awful person but -- I'm really glad that it isn't me. I don't think I could do it. I don't think that I could survive being so sad.

I take the easy way out. I am the coward. It is easier to be single than it is to hand your heart over to someone knowing that -- at any time, in any number of ways -- he can break it.

Meg is brave and she is strong.

I am proud of her for trying, though I am having a hard time concentrating on all of the good that came from their relationship.

Mostly because I am busy plotting a thousand ways to make Drew's life miserable.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Quiet Week in Review

Third week in January, I don’t hate you.


This week has been entirely unremarkable in a very acceptable way. It’s just happening. No high highs. No low lows. I don’t mind a week like this every once and a while.

It’s been a very cold week but it has also been a relatively sunny week. In Michigan, we get very little sunshine during the wintertime. My cheerful demeanor can be attributed to the sun. I forget that it matters until it comes back and I’m legitimately giddy.

Maybe I should get a sun lamp.

Maybe I should tell you guys about all of the things that happened during this quiet, adequate week.

Sunday: my hockey team actually won a game, which is an embarrassingly uncommon event this season.

Monday: I watched the first episode of the newest season of Girls in my pajamas while drinking coffee. I highly recommend starting your week in this fashion. (In the summertime, I started most weeks watching The Newsroom. HBO, let’s be best friends.)

Tuesday: I hit the treadmill for the first run in a long, long time where I did not feel as though I was being slowly tortured to death.

Wednesday: I met Lucy and Baby A for coffee and bagels. They are my favorite.

Thursday: I made chocolate biscotti. I watched The Coach do his job via webcam. MY FAVORITE COWORKER, B, QUIT AND THUS BROKE MY HEART (I am very happy for him and very sad for me). I painted my nails, which I have been doing a lot lately because it brings me substantial joy.

Friday: I was going to go to dinner with Lucy, but she’s feeling a little crappy, so we’re postponing until tomorrow. Instead, I will go to Trader Joe’s and I will also watch many episodes of Catfish with Liz and maybe eat more chocolate biscotti.

Additionally, there will be sweatpants.

Because I know how to do things right.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2012 In Books

I was a very busy reader in 2012. I read 37 books, far more than I have read in any other year of my adulthood. I like looking back at the list, remembering what I read during certain points of the year, seeing what still stands out as a good book and what doesn't.

I could babble on about books for days, but I won't subject you to that. Here is my 2012 reading list, in the order that I read the books: 
  • Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
  • Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
  • Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
  • Charlotte Au Chocolat: Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood by Charlotte Silver
  • Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  • The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Le Road Trip: A Traveler's Journal of Love and France by Vivian Swift
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  • The Might Have Been by Joe Schuster
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Singles by Meredith Goldstein
  • Spin by Catherine Mckenzie
  • The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today's Families by Mark Hyman
  • The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
  • This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
  • Say Nice Things about Detroit by Scott Lasser
  • 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She's 30 by Pamela Redmond Satran
  • Dare Me by Megan Abbott
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • The Atlas of Love by Laurie Frankel
  • Gold by Chris Cleave
  • Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  • Love's Winning Plays by Inman Majors
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • In One Person by John Irving
  • Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
  • The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Favorite: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett and The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Made me laugh the hardest: Love's Winning Plays by Inman Majors
Made me think the hardest: The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
Took me longest to get through: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Book that I hesitate to admit that I read: Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein
Theme of my 2012 reading list: Fluff and tough. It seems like everything I read was either very intellectually challenging or it was just fun and fluffy. There wasn't much the fell in the middle. Truthfully, the books in the middle are the ones that I enjoy the most but are also the books that I have the hardest time getting around to reading, as I often only have a few days to spare before I need to start on another book for work and what is good for just a few days? Fluff. Nothin' wrong with it. No shame.

Where there will be shame is in January, 2014 if I don't come close to reading another 37 books. It's January 16 and I've only finished one. The pressure!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Debating housing. Again.

Meg wants me to move in with her.

Ever since Meg starting thinking about buying a house, she's asked me if I would consider living with her. Meg likes having a roommate and likes having people around her and, obviously, living with me would be about the easiest thing ever because we grew up in the same house and therefore do the same strange things because they're the same strange things our mom did.

(Have you ever noticed that? When I lived with my cousin Anna, I realized that she has the exact same bad habits that her mom had -- leaving out food and not folding her laundry. I assume Meg and I share quirky habits we picked up from our mom.)

We also get along fabulously.

And I'm awesome. I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to live with me.

This has been in the works for a while, but I've been avoiding making a decision or otherwise thinking about the situation. At first, I just didn't want to alarm my cousin Liz by telling her that I would probably move out if and when Meg bought a house. Because maybe it would be months until Meg bought a house or maybe she wouldn't buy a house. Or maybe I would get a new job and moving in with Meg wouldn't make any sense. But now that Meg has the house and a closing date, I simply don't want to commit to moving out or moving in or to anything, really.

I hate moving.

This decision would be a lot easier if Liz was still with her ex-boyfriend Fluff. Living in Liz's house when Fluff was around was significantly less pleasant than it is now that they've broken up. When Fluff and Liz were together, I constantly felt like I was interrupting their time together. I hardly spent any time with Liz. It felt very much like I was living in Liz's house, not that we were sharing a house (if that makes any sense), and it was fine but not ideal.  

It's better now. But Liz is going to have another serious boyfriend. Soon. She's a relationship person. She'll get a boyfriend and I will feel like an interloper. It will happen.

I should just move in with Meg.

Even though I am perfectly comfortable where I am and hate moving.

Reasons to stay at Liz's house: closer to work (15 minute commute vs. 30 minute commute), closer to Lucy's house (Lucy and Chet are likely selling their house, however, and moving to a different community), I don't have to move my shit, I already know what living there is all about and that it works out perfectly well for me.

Reasons to move to Meg's house: potentially more fun and like Three's Company (I think our mutual friend Ryan, who went with us to Columbus last fall, will also be moving in), won't have to deal with Liz's future boyfriend, can quit my gym membership and use the gym at my dad's country club for $0, also I can use the pool at the country club, won't have to put up with Liz's irritating dog, will likely feel a little bit more empowered/less like a roommate because it's my sister I'm living with and she's been putting up with my good/bad/ugly for 26.5 years so there will be no surprises.

Reasons not to move to Meg's house: longer drive to work, she's messier than Liz, bringing boys around might be more awkward.

I keep putting this off because I keep thinking that something is going to happen that is going to make up my mind for me. I'll get a job that is significantly closer to one place than to the other, basically. That's the only way my life is going to dramatically change right now. My résumé is out there, yes, but nothing is happening and that's probably a sign that I need to make a choice. I need to make something happen for myself.

Meg closes on her house at the end of February, so I kind of need to make a decision so that I can be decent and give Liz a bit of notice. (This weekend my mom said to me "remember how pissed you were at Anna for not giving you any notice? Don't do that to Liz." Point taken.) If I move, I would like to be all moved by the beginning of May so that I don't have to spend precious summer days hauling around my shit.

This is so lame. I cannot believe I am 30 and still doing this. Still moving every couple of years and feeling so generally unsettled. I'm really looking forward to the time in my life when I no longer feel like a nomad. And when I can stop moving.

I hate moving.

Monday, January 14, 2013

His Favorite Dog

After all of the drama was over, after Meg and I confronted him, after Mom found out, after he moved out for a while, after a lot of therapy and after he moved back in, the hardest part about interacting with my father after he cheated on my mother was watching him adore her all over again.

It was infuriating. The gifts and the flowers and the sappy text messages that I would accidentally see. Where was that before, Dad? Why did it take such a big mistake for you to see what you have?

His displays of affection eventually died down to what seemed reasonable. And less annoying.

But it still gets to me. Two years later and there are occasions when my father is so sweet to my mom that I want to strangle him.

I know. It doesn't make sense. I know.

At Christmastime, I was helping around the house one day when my mom was taking a nap. From the room I was in, I could hear her snoring. I snickered about it to my dad, who remarked "I think it's cute," while wearing a shit-eating grin on his face. "Your mom is so cute when she snores."

I told my mother about it later. She rolled her eyes (though I think she secretly likes it) and said "I think I am your father's favorite dog."

He does kind of adore her in the same boisterous, certain way he adores his dogs. While behaving like a puppy himself, trotting after Mom with stars in his eyes.

Foolish, isn't it? Babbling on about how my dad loves my mom too much.

I realize that it is a good problem to have. That it actually isn't a problem at all.

It's just residue. A bit of mess left behind.

Eventually, there will be a day that I will see that behavior as endearing and not as a reminder that my dad cheated on my mom.

Just not quite yet.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Classic

If our friendship could be characterized by one thing, our friendship would be characterized by our really big plans.

Lucy and I have big ideas and we turn them into big plans.

When we were in high school and college, our big ideas were multi-city road trips to see the Dave Matthews Band. After college, we planned Thanksgiving dinners with friends and big nights out at the bar with enough pre- and post-bar snacks to feed an army and grand birthday celebrations. Now that Lucy's a mom, we plan afternoons of decorating sugar cookies or making soup or, as we did on Friday, taking Baby A to the art museum.

Our Friday at the art museum was epic Lucy and Alyson.

Lucy wanted to see a special exhibit. We got to the museum a little early. We walked around for a while, looking at the permanent collections. We stopped for a while in Rivera Court, where Baby A enjoyed a bottle and the art.

Our time in the special exhibit wasn't exactly ideal. Baby A wasn't too keen on staying in the stroller; we took turns holding him and that worked out okay. One woman walked up to me while I was holding Baby A and breathlessly exclaimed "it is just WONDERFUL that you brought him here." It was easier to smile and thank her than to explain that his mom was the redhead in the corner checking out the Loving Cup.

Having been at the museum for a few hours once we made it through the special exhibit, we decided to head back to the car. It was our good fortune to stumble upon a puppet show being held in the lobby. We plopped Baby A on the floor with us and that child was mesmerized. It was perfect.

He was asleep the second he was in his car seat.

Feeling brave, we went out for sushi. Baby A slept the entire time.

And, with the baby still sleeping, Lucy got this idea in her head that we should go to a bakery for baklava. We were in an area with a huge Arab population and, therefore, the best baklava. It was a 45 minute ordeal, finding the best bakery with the best baklava. That's the part of the trip that was so vintage Lucy and Alyson. Getting an idea in our head. Refusing to relent until we've succeeded.

Friday was the perfect snapshot of our friendship. Making a big idea a reality. Squeezing in a little too much. Slightly spontaneous. And a little random.

Are Lucy and I strange in our predictability or do you guys have an ongoing thing with your close friends, too? I would be curious to know if we're the rule or the (very odd) exception.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My gift to her was not equivalent

If Meg knew that I kept a secret blog, she would be so mad that it is already January 10 and I am just getting around to bragging about the Christmas present she gave me. 

She was a little bitchy on the phone yesterday.

Maybe she knows.

Maybe she reads.

Maybe she's mad!

Yikes.

Let's get to it.

This is what I opened on Christmas morning:



A toy airplane. A toy airplane that now sits on my desk at work.

Meg had it wrapped up weeks in advance. As she tends to do, she tried to give it to me early. The weekend before Christmas. On Christmas Eve. At 6:15 am on Christmas morning, she texted me from her bed. "Do you want your present now?" She's very persistent. Especially when she's excited about the gift that she's giving.

I opened her present to me first, as is tradition.

"What do you think that it means?" Meg asked me as I peered into the box. There sat a toy airplane sitting on a toy runway. Meg has the biggest blue eyes and I could feel her looking at me. I could feel her smiling. I could feel her leaning a little closer to me.

"That...we're..." I hesitated. "...going somewhere?"

"We're going to Brazil," Meg said. "I'm buying your plane ticket."

Brazil is where the World Cup will be held in 2014.

I had basically written off being able to make the trip unless I took a new job or won the lottery or sold a kidney or married a rich man.

Meg must really want me to go.

Or she really wants me to meticulously plan every detail of our trip so that she doesn't have to.

Either way: BRAZIL. Now 75% more likely.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Not my friend

Most of you probably don’t even remember my friend April. We went to high school together. She was in Lucy’s wedding and, during year or so after Lucy’s wedding when all of us bridesmaids hung out together, we were quite close friends.

She completely lost her shit on Lucy’s birthday the following year. And, after we patched things up, she lost her mind again at Thanksgiving and I was completely over it.

She quit our circle of friends, as she has done with so many other groups of friends over the years. That’s the benefit of knowing someone from high school. You see the patterns. I could name a dozen of April’s former friends who she no longer speaks to.

We were just another in a long line of friendships she couldn’t maintain.

Lucy made tiny steps to repair her friendship with April over the next several years because that’s just the kind of person Lucy is. She gradually let April back in and, while they’re not terribly close friends these days, they are friends.

It feels a little weird that Lucy is friends with April again because I can so vividly remember the poor behavior that April exhibited in breaking up our friendships, but that’s Lucy’s choice. I don’t have a problem with it.

Last January, after Baby A was born, April showed up at his brit. When I first saw her walk in – she brought a friend (who Lucy had never met) with because that’s how insecure she is – I wanted to be all Mean Girls but I quickly decided to take the high road. I sat with her at the luncheon that followed. I told her it was nice to see her.

Because it was.

I don’t trust April. I don’t want to be her friend. But I can be in the same place as her. I can talk to her. I don’t care. I don’t mind.

Which is surprising because one of my worst traits is my ability to hold a grudge.

In October, I saw April at Lacey’s wedding/engagement party/hippie lovefest and it was much the same. I felt like it should have been awkward and I should have felt uncomfortable, but it wasn’t. It just was what it was.

She was at Baby A’s birthday party last Saturday and it was much the same.

The highlight may have been my mother’s face when she saw April and her boyfriend (who seems quite nice) sitting on the couch. I somehow failed to mention to my mother that Lucy and April had reconciled.

According to Lucy and Chet, April tries so hard when she’s around me. I have no idea if that’s true or not. I don’t really see it. April just comes across as cordial and friendly. Every time I have seen her, it’s been in a situation where she doesn’t know a ton of people. Of course she talks to me. This is a girl who is so insecure she had to bring a friend to a brit. I mean, really.

(I should mention that she has a falling out with the friend she brought with her to Baby A’s brit. They are no longer friends. Obviously. Girl can't keep friends.)

When Lucy and I were discussing it over coffee today, I told her the truth – which was a little weird because I would normally sugarcoat my opinion in a situation like this. It’s a little delicate. Lucy is friends with her, after all.

But Lucy is also friends with me and the truth isn’t anything I should be ashamed of. I think that it is nice to see April. I do not hate her. I think that she is a fine person. I have absolutely no problem with her.

And I have no desire to be her friend.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

This is gross. You've been warned.

The worst part about wintertime is its tendency to deplete all of the moisture from my skin.

Winter skin. Itchy winter skin. My nemesis.

Last winter was terribly mild. I didn't have this problem. I forgot how bad winter skin can get. And how insane it can drive me.

It's bad. I am insane. My skin hates the winter. I am suffering.

It could be worse. My face miraculously doesn't dry out. I will take itchy legs to a chapped face that looks like I got a chemical peel any damn day.

It could be much, much worse. Like if I had to be outside for any duration of my commute. I should probably be thankful for living and working in the suburbs.

(Okay, no. Being thankful for the 'burbs is going too far.)

It was especially cold last week. The really low temperatures, those are the ones that do you in. I could have spent every hour of the day slathering lotion on my legs and 5 minutes outside would have left me in the danger zone.

Instead, I was sick last week and doing nothing to keep the winter's furious winds from sucking me dry because I was too busy trying not to die.

The theme of this week is lotion. Generously applied lotion.

The Body Shop should sponsor this blog. If you really try, I bet you can smell the grapefruit body butter through your monitor. That's how much I am wearing. That's how bad this situation is.

I just wanted you guys to know.

In case you have any miracle solutions to this itchy situation.

Also so that you're properly informed in the event that you never hear from me again because I have overdosed on moisturizers.

Monday, January 07, 2013

My 2013 starts today

Happy New Year!

I was wrecked by the plague all of last week, so I am getting a late start to 2013. As far as I am concerned, today is the first day of my new year and I do believe that it is starting out swimmingly.

Yay, 2013! I am so glad that you’re here and, by the way, you will be my bitch.

I am ready for a defining year. 2012 was fine, I guess. But I think it was one of those years that I will largely forget amongst the larger landscape of my life. I witnessed a lot of big things – Baby A was born and Meg finished her doctorate – but 2012 didn’t see a lot of progression, evolution or change in my own life. 2012 was a year that happened. I don’t know that there is much more than I can say in reflection. It happened. It was okay. I’m ready for more.

Yesterday, on what was my New Year’s Eve that wasn’t really New Year’s Eve, I stopped by Mom and Dad’s house yesterday and announced my 2013 resolutions to my family.

1. Drink more water: I totally half-assed my attempt at this last year. Trying again!

2. Say the f-word less: I love it but it rolls off of my tongue a little too freely. It's used with a frequency that is getting to the point where it's a little trashy. And with all of the babies who came into my life over the last year or so, I need to cut back.

3. Make 12 recipes from 12 different cookbooks: just because. I'm in a library all day -- I purchase the library's cookbooks, actually -- so it isn't like I don't have a wealth of options at my fingertips. I get every single recipe I use from the internet, so this resolution will encourage me to continue to give new recipes a try while getting them via an alternate format.

4. Read at least two classics: there are too many classics that I am ashamed to have never read. Reading books for the book discussion group that I moderate is not helping me make process knocking books off of my own personal reading list. Hopefully a resolution will.

5. Take a vitamin. I’ve tried to be a good adult and take vitamins before but I get bored with the routine and never finish out the bottle. I thought that would be a good resolution, getting into the routine of popping a vitamin in the morning. So I announced this, proudly, to my mother yesterday and she was like “except you don’t need it.” Apparently, at her last appointment to her general practitioner (who she really respects and who is consistently up on the latest and greatest in medicine), he told her that research is showing that you don’t need to take a daily vitamin. All this time I thought I was a slacker but apparently I was just ahead of the curve. 

Here's to 2013. Here's to a definining year. Here's to coming out of it well-fed, well-read, hydrated and a little less foul-mouthed.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Operation: Birthday

Lucy and I spent the second half of last week busy, busy preparing for Baby A's first birthday party.

The fun thing about helping Lucy with whatever project she thinks up is that I generally get to help with the fun, creative stuff and go home while she does the lame, necessary tasks like cleaning and grocery shopping.

We were altogether too enamored with the sugar cookies that we made for favors. The cookies were Lucy's brainchild. I was doubting the feasibility of such complicated decorating, but I was proven quite wrong.


The smash cake was my brainchild. Lucy wasn't so sure. She was proven quite wrong.


I bought Baby A this amazing inflatable Rody because I am a sucker for weird European toys. Rody liked riding around in my car, but he likes living with Baby A even more.


It was a really nice party. My mom came and gave us her seal of approval, which felt a little like Martha Stewart herself complimenting us on our party planning.


I simply cannot fathom how my sweet baby is already one. At the same time, I can't remember what life was like before that Thursday night I rushed over to the hospital after work to wait for that little dude to make his appearance. And to change a lot of lives -- mine most certainly included -- for the better.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Houses and homes

Exciting news: Meg bought a house.

A few months ago, she decided that a house was the next item to check off of her list. As Meg does with everything, she jumped in with both feet. That (26 year old) child is a force of nature and when she sets her mind on something, it is full speed ahead. Get out of the way or get run over.

Things usually work out for Meg and this house was no exception. Her realtor had sold an older couple two houses about a year ago, the first house is a beautiful old Victorian that they've spent a year renovating and a second house -- the house that Meg is buying -- which they've lived in while renovating the first house. Her real estate agent knew that they were going to be selling the house sometime soon, asked if he could bring Meg to see it despite it not yet being listed and all of a sudden there was a bid on the house and Meg was well on her way to being a homeowner.

At Christmas, Meg broke out her iPad and showed off pictures of the house. Everyone was excited for her. And rightfully so.

When my mom talked to my grandma the next day, my grandma said to her "oh, I hope you weren't too upset that I wasn't fawning over pictures of Meg's house."

My mom actually hadn't noticed.

"It's very nice," my grandma said, "but I just didn't want Alyson to feel bad. I want Alyson to have a house of her own if she wants it, too."  

I wish my mom hadn't told me about that conversation. Because I have thought about it every day since. And every day since I've come to the conclusion that my grandmother -- and probably everyone else in my family -- realizes that I am an enormous failure in comparison to my sister.

It's not the best feeling in the world.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Not the good kind of sick

The best part about starting this year sick is that, really, 2013 can't go anywhere but up.

It's been a long time since I have been this sick. I'm either exceptionally ill or I'm just out of practice at feeling crappy, because I am a wreck. I am a hazy, sloppy mess. My brain feels a little like someone is standing on the right side of my head. My nose is a faucet yet somehow I can still smell but it's only disgusting smells like the garbage disposal of the sink in the lunchroom that almost made me puke. Everything feels very labor intensive bordering on impossible. And I have no appetite.

Absolutely no appetite.

This is no way to live.

But I will not and cannot continue to feel this awful. May this be my only illness of 2013! Clear skies over frozen lakes and meticulously manicured hockey rinks and healthier days ahead!


(This picture is of Mom and Dad's backyard/lake on New Year's Day. I was too sick to strap on my skates but I wasn't too sick to appreciate the view. What a lucky kid I was, growing up with my very own lake to swim in and to skate on.)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year from my sickbed

The tickle in my throat that I woke up with on Friday morning has developed into a full blown, disgusting, snotty mess and this was not how I envisioned starting off the new year.

Nor did I plan on starting the new year watching my Michigan Wolverines lose in the Outback Bowl.

Nor did I expect to spend nearly the entire day at Grandma and Grandpa's, rotten sick and unable to do much more than sit on the couch, blowing my nose and draining my iPhone battery.

I want to write about a few resolutions. I want to review 2012.

I can't. Not now. Not today. I need to sleep off this cold so that I wake up magically refreshed, healthy and excited to tackle a new workweek. And not looking like shit, either.

I want to stay up and write something with substance but, no. Not tonight.

Be patient and get healthy, self.

Maybe this is just a preview of what 2013 will be all about: being patient with myself.

That doesn't sound half bad, does it?

Credit in full should be attributed to the cold medication.

Any other fine suggestions for resolutions? You don't even have to be under the influence of Sudafed to submit an idea!
 
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