Monday, February 28, 2011

Surfer Dude

Somebody cue the Beach Boys.

Summer's still on in Australia. But not for long.
We're doing our best to soak up 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Mom is Better than Your Mom

(picture taken at my wedding, courtesy of my aunt cecily)

It's my mom's birthday.  I won't say which birthday. I prefer the approach of Houston socialite, Lynn Wyatt: "I don't count my birthdays, but I sure as heck celebrate them."

I'm down.

So. In celebration of my mom's birthday, I have compiled a list of the top 10 reasons my mom is better than your mom. (No offense. I know your mom is lovely, too.) (But mine is lovelier.)

Drum roll, please...

10- My mom has insane spatial-temporal reasoning abilities. Insane. Like, you should NEVER try to pack a box or organize a closet or fill a moving truck or even arrange your furniture without her.

9- She makes the best pies known to man. Seriously. If you've never had her cherry pie, you've never HAD cherry pie. For real.

8- My mom is 100% devoted to her family. She has been known to drive...alone...all over the country to help with moves or participate in major projects or simply to provide moral support.

7- She'll listen and listen and listen to anyone who needs to talk. And she has.

6- She is an extremely talented artist. She painted this. And somehow my little brother got his hot little hands on it before I even knew it existed, which I might be slightly bitter about still.

5- She can make anything line up perfectly. Lasagna noodles. Pictures she hangs on the wall. Doctrinal concepts. Stars...if necessary.

4- My mom is, hands down, THE best prayeras in "one who prays." Her prayers have located lost diamonds, made important missing files appear out of thin air, and produced international visas nine days before they're needed to enter countries that don't even consider applications for visas within two weeks of the trip. Ever.

3- She taught me to read before I'd even started kindergarten because I wanted so badly to learn.  She took me through a lesson every day (two, if I was being particularly demanding) so I could read like my brothers.

2- She has always been an example of being true and faithful, and that example has been the most consistent guiding light of my life.

1- She's my best friend and has been since the day I was born. She's my favorite person to shop with, cook with, clean with, work with, and just plain hang out with. I value her opinion more than anyone else's and usually can't proceed with anything until I've obtained it. Which I'm sure she gets tired of, but if she does, she never lets on.

See? Best. Mom. Ever.

Happy birthday, Mom! Don't count it. Just celebrate it. Wish I could be there to celebrate with you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine Cookie Stacks

For those of you who are not so lucky as to have previously had cookie stacks play a role in your Valentine's Day celebrations, allow me to introduce you. Valentine Cookie Stacks are crispy chocolate wafer cookies layered with whipped cream and topped with a cherry. Pop 'em in the fridge and after a few hours the cookies get soft and cake-like and delicious. (Chopped pecans are optional. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. I always do. But that's just me.)

Every Valentine's Day, my mom would whip up a batch of these,
furtively place a tray of them on the front door step, ring the bell, and quickly run back inside to be standing innocently in the kitchen when all of us kids emerged from the back of the house, racing each other to the front door. Every year we were determined to catch the cookie-leaving culprit. Every year we failed. It never even occurred to us that the reason we never saw any trace of the co-conspirator was because there was none. Mom worked alone.

Last year, before the Hubs was the Hubs, we spent Valentine's Day apart. I was in DC, he was in Sydney. In true "I have a crush on you" fashion, I sent J-dub a package filled with all sorts of Valentine cuteness, including a box of chocolate wafer cookies and a jar of maraschino cherries. I told him that when I came to visit the following month I would show him what they were for. But, alas. The boy ate every last one of those chocolate wafers long before I even arrived. And the cherries, he put in the fridge where they have been ever since.

So. This year was the year for the cookie stacks to make their debut.

But, wait...Nabisco chocolate wafers aren't available in Australia. (No big
surprise there. Just add it to the list of things I can't get over here.) And since I've been learning to make so many things from scratch lately, for the first time ever it occurred to me that I might be able to make homemade chocolate wafers. Could it be?

According to Smitten Kitchen, it could be. So, I tied my apron strings tight an
d got to it. And behold...homemade chocolate wafers!

Okay, so maybe they're not as thin as the folks at Nabisco make 'em. And not as uniformly shaped. Gimme a break, it was my first attempt! And anyway, they're just as crispy, and just as tasty. I may never go back to the store-bought variety.
And the misshapen-ness is actually kind of fun, if you ask me. That's the dead giveaway that they're the real deal. can make some pretty phenomenal ice cream sandwiches with the remaining cookies. We only had vanilla ice cream on hand, but I'm already dreaming of trying them with mint chocolate chip and peppermint next go 'round.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Study in Climatic Extremes

I hate packing for trips. Hate. But. Truth be told. There is one thing I hate even more than the pre-trip pack. And that is...the post-trip unpack.

Oh, how I hate it. Words cannot describe.

I mean, really. Is there anything more tedious and, frankly,
more depressing than unloading suitcases stuffed to the gills with clothes, now dirtied from all your adventures? Reminding you that all the fun you were looking forward to during the pre-trip pack (the anticipation of which is the only thing that got you through the miserable chore) is now lost and gone forever and all you have to show for it is a mountain of laundry. (Okay, you might have a tan and some fun stuff you bought with your birthday money, 'cause, as it turns out, fun stuff is obscenely cheap in the States, which makes birthday money loads more fun there than you'll find it to be in Australia.

But, oh the post-trip unpack. What a downer!

And two weeks worth of post-trip unpack just adds insult to injury. Especially two weeks spent back and forth between seasonal opposites. Forget packing light when you'll need everything from sweaters and winter coats to sunscreen and flip flops.

But what a two weeks it was! (Two weeks it was? What a two weeks they were...? Hum.)

As soon as we arrived back in the motherland, the Hubs had to go straight to DC for work, but I got to dawdle my way across the country starting with a blessed morning in LA where a friend treated me to brunch in Santa Monica. (I don't think I'll ever be able to quit Santa Monica. It's just too...Santa Monica.)

Then it was several days in Dallas. Just in time for the ice storm that shut the entire city down a few days before the Super Bowl, maybe you heard about it. And seriously? I get three days in Dallas, not to return again for who knows how long, and this is what I get? I mean, it's not like I had plans or anything.... Nope. No big plans. No plans involving Mexican food and a decent Target, and most likely a Banana Repub. Work with me! The withdrawals are killing me.
(I know, I know. It looks like nothing. But this is ice, people. Not snow. Totally different things. And temps didn't get above freezing for days. I probably don't need to tell you about how ice has this way of hanging around when temps don't rise above freezing....)

On to DC. DC was different this time. (Probably 'cause I was staying in a hotel. With a man.) But DC
was also the same. In all the right ways. My girls. Georgetown Cupcake. Cheesetique. And how.

(I meant to take a picture of my three little perfect G-town cupcakes, and then forgot and ate them instead. So, all I have is this picture of G-town itself in all its wintery-ness, from across the river. Which, depending on your point of view...and possibly on how much you like not nearly so pretty as the Chocolate3, Red Velvet, and Birthday cupcakes cozying up to each other in their little pink box. And that, my friends, is why my blog will never win any awards.)

And finally a little weekend in the Dominican Repub to wrap it all up. It was the J-dubhub's work team retreat. I'm here to tell you, there are worse places to be than the Dominican Republic in February.