Archives for August 2012

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch

A few weeks ago D and I decided that we were going to try the Paleo eating plan. Next year we’re going on an adventure-ish trip, and we want to feel more fit and more healthy and more other qualities that are necessary in order to enjoy all the adventures. We figure we’ll get more out of our trip that way, as opposed to, you know, feeling sluggish and opting to just sit in the room and put the hurt on a bag of Hershey’s Miniatures. Not that I would ever do such a thing, of course.

So Saturday before last I went to the grocery store and bought a big ole shopping cart full of organic produce and grass-fed meat. I even bought grass-fed butter, a product that was NEWS TO ME when I first heard about it several weeks ago. I bought coconut oil (NOT CHEAP) and fresh fruit and free-range Omega 3 organic blah blah eggs, and when I finally got home after my grocery run, I honest to goodness looked in my refrigerator and thought, “Well. I don’t know what in the world I’m going to cook.”

That was probably my first sign that the Paleo plan might not be the best use of my cooking strengths. And that maybe I hadn’t put enough time into planning what we were going to eat.

Nonetheless, I found recipes on Pinterest, mapped out a menu plan for most of the week, and figured that breakfast would be a breeze since I could make a smoothie or cook bacon and eggs. OPTIMISM ABOUNDED.

Last Monday was our first official Paleo day, and after a lunch of some all-natural, gently plucked, nitrate-free turkey (or something like that) as well as approximately five cashews, I was fired up about cooking a big ole London Broil on the grill for our supper. I realized early in the afternoon that I couldn’t marinate the meat the way I normally would (soy sauce, sesame oil, a little brown sugar, lemon, etc.), so I had to improvise. I searched the web for marinades, but they all involved ingredients I didn’t have or required extensive use of a blender. Since I thought I might make a smoothie the next morning, I wanted to keep the blender clean (sidenote: I do not enjoy cleaning all the little pieces and parts of a blender), so I wound up making a marinade with red wine, black pepper, and garlic.

(Sidenote #2: I do not care for red wine even a little bit, but since someone had given us a couple of bottles and I was desperate to season the meat, it seemed like a good opportunity to put the wine to use.)

(Sidenote #3: I am, at best, iffy about garlic.)

(Sidenote #4: I have no idea how I came to the conclusion that it was wise to marinate my meat in these things so that the meat could absorb two flavors that I don’t really care for.)

(WHAT A GREAT IDEA!)

The London Broil wasn’t all that bad, and I served it with a mashed cauliflower and roasted garlic (AGAIN WITH THE GARLIC) dish that was actually pretty good if you closed your eyes and pretended it was mashed potatoes. Then I ate six almonds for dessert.

BOY WAS I EVER SATISFIED.

The next day was easier at breakfast and lunch, and for supper I made some zucchini boats with bacon and banana peppers that were actually really tasty. The only down side was that it took me about an hour to do all the prep work for the zucchini boats, and that’s a high-maintenance meal by my standards, especially if I only make half a recipe and there aren’t leftovers that we can eat the next night. For dessert we had some air and some water, and it was totally fine except that I wept inconsolably.

I didn’t really weep. At least not openly.

On Wednesday I had plans to meet a friend for lunch, and I was super-excited about ordering a really good salad. I did just that when lunch time finally rolled around, and after I had carefully explained that the chicken needed to be grilled, and I didn’t need any cheese or croutons or anything that hadn’t sprung forth from the earth under pesticide-free conditions, the waitress asked a question that caught me completely off-guard.

“What kind of dressing would you like?”

Dressing? DRESSING? I’d forgotten all about the dressing. And I’d forgotten that Ranch dressing was off-limits in Paleo because it contains dairy and store-bought mayonnaise. And I’d forgotten that unless I had a Mason jar full of some homemade fruity vinaigrette in my purse, my only salad dressing option at the restaurant was oil and vinegar. Or maybe just some fresh lemon juice.

For the record, I did not have a Mason jar full of some homemade fruity vinaigrette in my purse.

I would imagine that we’ve all encountered moments in our lives when we knew that we were at a turning point in our parenting, in a relationship, or in a career. We’ve all faced hard choices, and we’ve no doubt weighed the pros and the cons surrounding whatever issue was at hand. We’ve all felt the weight of knowing that I am at a crossroads, and I have to decide which way to go.

Well.

I want to tell you that last Wednesday, in a restaurant right here in Birmingham, Alabama, I stood at a crossroads. If I turned one way, I would stay on the straight Paleo path, the land of oil and vinegar and grass-fed everything. If I turned the other way, I would walk toward the Hidden Valley, the land where even a little bit of Ranch dressing makes everything better.

It was my very own Sophie’s Choice, and I knew way down deep in my soul which path I would choose.

So I took a deep breath, looked the waitress straight in the eye, and smiled as I said, “Ranch, please. And THANK YOU SO MUCH OH MY WORD THANK YOU.”

I’m not gonna lie. Pouring that dressing on my salad was a sacred moment. Not that the meat I’d soaked in red wine hadn’t been perfectly wonderful and all.

When D got home from work, I told him about the recent Ranch developments. I explained that while I was perfectly willing to continue avoiding white flour, pasta, sweets, bread, etc., I was more certain than ever than Ranch dressing is the lynchpin that holds any healthy-ish eating plan together for me. Yes, I will embrace those grass-fed meats and the organic everything and even the grass-fed butter. But if I can have the option of occasionally making a salad out of some of that organic produce and then pouring a few tablespoons of Ranch over the top, then that, THAT WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

D strongly supported my Ranch dressing concession. He supported it so strongly, in fact, that we drove straight to Jason’s Deli and lined up at the salad bar. And after I dressed my salad and put the ladle back in the container, I’m pretty sure that the Ranch dressing winked at me. Or maybe I was just giddy with knowing that I didn’t have to face a Ranch-less future. Regardless, I would’ve held the Ranch dressing’s hand and skipped off into the sunset if I could’ve.

Or skipped to the Hidden Valley, as it were.

Because It’s Good To Share

I’m slap-dab in the middle of a week-o-craziness, and I imagine that I’m going to be a sporadic blogger at best for the next several days. I have a tendency to bunch deadlines and major life events into an uncomfortably jam-packed stretch of time, and the next two weeks are evidence of that. I tried to be really proactive and productive and other pro- words by making myself a schedule on my Google calendar, but do you know what that calendar did after I typed the various appointments and activities and obligations?

It laughed at me.

And then it mocked me.

So I had no choice but to nap and then watch several episodes of Say Yes To The Dress in order to recover from the calendar’s unnecessarily harsh tone.

Anyway, here are some links I’ve been meaning to share.

– Annie Downs (whose book is out soon!) wrote a great post last week that addresses why moms should think about seeing Katy Perry’s movie with their daughters.

– Sweet Ann Voskamp reminds us How to Really Live – and then tells the rest of the story in Part 2. So beautiful – and so true.

– My friend Shellie shared a link on Facebook this morning that absolutely cracked me up: The 21 Absolute Worst Things in the World. Oh, it tickled me.

– Nester used some duct tape to put the finishing touches on her bedroom – and the results are gorgeous.

dotMOM is just a little over a month away. We would love to have you there with us! I’m already thinking about what pen I want to use to write down every single word that Esther Burroughs says. And I’m only half-kidding about that because SWEET MERCY at the wisdom.

Hope y’all are having a great week!

Swiss Cheese? Good. Cream Cheese? Good. Almonds? GOOOOD.

This time of year is normally when I’m ready for summer to just STOP IT, ALREADY, but I have to say that right now I am feeling unusually patient with August. We have had a whole bunch of rain in the last month, so everything is still so green and pretty – nothing has that dried up, peaked look that typically shows up around the end of July. This weekend we even had a little bit of a break in the heat, and Saturday was downright pleasant. I could even be so bold as to say that I felt the slightest hint of fall in the air, but I think we all know that saying anything along those lines in mid-August means that I’d be inviting in six weeks of 95-plus degree temperatures with nary a breeze on the horizon.

So let’s just say that the cooler weather was enjoyable and refreshing. And we’ll leave it at that.

Fall seems to be on my mind a lot lately – I’ve been trying to get our calendar squared away and whathaveyou – and I am just as tickled as I can be that football season is right around the corner. I haven’t hit the point of obsession yet, but it does make me a smidge giddy to think about Saturday mornings with ESPN Gameday and a big ole pot of coffee and the SEC Game of the Week kicking off at 11:30. Other people seem to be feeling the same way. Saturday night we went to a cook-out at our next door neighbors’ house, and it cracked me up that everybody (including me) was already talking about football and tailgating and what food they might fix for the games. Neveryoumind that it’ll be 106 the first weekend of the season and everybody will be doing their level best to fight off a heat stroke. The point is that FOOTBALL, IT IS A-COMIN’, and in this part of the country, we can hardly wait.

In what turned out to be an official highlight of the weekend, one of our neighbors brought a dip to the cook-out that I immediately recognized as one I had never tried. I believe that my affinity for dips has been well-established and well-documented, so it took me every bit of four seconds to ask what the dip was called, what was in it, etc. And when I tasted it – OH MY WORD AT THE DELICIOUSNESS. No kidding: it was the best dip I’ve had since Melanie introduced me to Southwestern Tossed Salad. In fact, it was so good that I had a bite or two of it instead of dessert. FANTASTIC.

This afternoon I was about to go to the grocery store when I decided that I’d add the ingredients for the dip to my grocery list. I haven’t gotten the exact recipe from my neighbor yet, but I think that the Google helped me find a pretty close approximation to what we had Saturday night. I couldn’t wait to share it with y’all because, well, college football starts in a little less than three weeks, and it’s important for all of us to have time to plan for our dip-related needs, amen.

Swiss Almond Dip

(I was going to copy and paste the dip recipe here.)

(But then I was afeared that I’d be in violation of all sorts of copyright shenanigans.)

(So I figured the link would do.)

Anyway, I just wanted to keep y’all posted about the exciting dip developments in our neck of the woods.

And now I guess I’ll just go sit in front of the TV and stare since the Olympics are over. Or maybe I can consult the Google again and find me one of those sassy leotards that Jessie J wore in the closing ceremonies. It was so funny to see her wearing that one with all the appliqu├ęs because I totally almost wore the exact same thing to Publix this afternoon.

But I wore my hot pink leotard instead.

Temporary Triumph

It was about three weeks ago, I think, when Melanie texted to tell me about a new game called SongPop. Normally I’m slow to warm up to new games (I like to stay a solid six to twelve months behind the trends), but since I was unloading the dishwasher at the time, I was totally in the mood for a diversion. I found the app, downloaded it – and almost immediately began playing rounds of a 21st century Name That Tune-type game with Melanie (who almost always wins), Travis (who almost always wins), and my husband (who almost always wins). Every so often I squeak out a victory, but for the most part I lose by thousands of points. My only sliver of SongPop-related pride is that one time I beat a certain worship leader in the Christian / Gospel music category, and I’m sure you understand that my victory left me no choice but to engage in some lively post-game trash talking and no small degree of gloating.

It just seemed like the right thing to do.

I even considered making myself some sort of commemorative plaque.

By and large, though, I’m terrible at the game. Mainly I just enjoy playing against my friends, and I recognize that our obsession will probably be a short-term deal. Last week, in fact, Melanie hit the nail on the head when she predicted that we’ll all play the game with great intensity for a little while and then never play it again, but that is okay. Even short-term obsessions can bear some fruit. After all, I’ll never forget how Melanie used her gift at Pathwords for the Lord’s great glory back in late-2008 and early-2009.

Some of you probably have similar gifts at Words with Friends or Typing Maniac. Maybe even Angry Birds or Where’s My Water.

Don’t hide your game-playing light in a bushel, y’all.

The world needs to see you shine.

Yesterday I found out that a younger relative of mine is also playing SongPop, so I immediately texted him my username and made some promises to challenge him in 80s music since HE WASN’T EVEN ALIVE THEN AND CLEARLY I AM ANCIENT. He promised that he, in turn, would challenge me in Modern Rap, and we had a good laugh because I don’t think I’ve ever listened to more than a 30-second snippet of a rap song (other than something by the Sugar Hill Gang, of course). It’s a generational thing as much as anything else; I was out of college when rap went mainstream, so I’ve never paid much attention to it. Plus, the language makes me a little (lot) uncomfortable and blah blah blah blah blah.

So last night B and I played a few rounds, and most of our games were utterly predictable. I’d win 80s, 90s, and Love Songs; he’d win Modern Rap, Modern Country, and Today’s Hits. This morning I saw that he’d started another game, but it was early in the afternoon before I had a chance to sit down and play. When I saw that he’d challenged me AGAIN in Modern Rap, I grinned, because I knew that I was toast. No way I would win. What with never really listening to rap music and all.

But.

Lo and behold.

Listen. I have no idea what happened. I don’t know if I’ve committed SongPop clips to memory during other rounds. I don’t know if I was just unusually accurate in my guesses. Either way, there’s no question that the win is a fluke. And sort of hilarious. And mildly perplexing considering my age, not to mention my general ignorance regarding rap music.

But we’ll just pretend that I’m very hip and with it and now. Totally in touch with what the kids are listening to.

Sure thing.

You betcha.

These Are Uncertain Lip Care Times, My Friends

Some of y’all may have been around for The Mentholatum Crisis of 2010, an absolutely harrowing time when our Walgreens and our Walmart stopped carrying my beloved Mentholatum, a product that I’ve depended on to soothe chapped lips and treat various other ailments since I was a child. Mentholatum is a tradition on my mama’s side of the family, and by my best estimation it has been used WITH ENTHUSIASM by at least four generations of Davises. In fact, the last time I saw my cousin Paige – who is Mama’s sister’s daughter – there was a jar of Mentholatum on her nightstand. Sister adheres to the same code. IT’S THE DAVIS WOMEN’S WAY.

And just in case you’re reading this and thinking, Yeah, right. No way is she that attached to some Vicks VapoRub-type product, let me just assure you that oh yes I most certainly am. Last year I was at .MOM, I think, when a bloggy friend saw me dig a jar of Mentholatum out of my purse, and she responded by saying, “Oh my goodness – you really do use it!” It made me laugh, because listen: if I were going to make up some details about my life, I’d come up with a mighty tall tale about how I’d actually gotten used to wearing size 4 blue jeans but now they’re all just entirely too big. I don’t really think that “borderline addiction to an over-the-counter vaporized ointment favored by nursing home residents” would necessarily be the story I would choose to invent.

(And also, just to be clear, MENTHOLATUM IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM VICKS. I’ll refrain from boring you with all the subtle nuances of Mentholatum, but if Vicks is a menthol train that barrels down the tracks, then Mentholatum is more of a lightly vapor-scented Volkswagen Bug that rarely speeds but honks occasionally just to say hey. It’s much milder. And friendlier.)

Fortunately, I guess, the 2010 Mentholatum shortage occurred a few weeks before my birthday, and as a result some of my friends and family members visited their various drugstores in their various towns and wrapped up boxes of Mentholatum as birthday presents. I don’t know when I’ve been more delighted, and by the middle of that October I had an impressive Mentholatum stockpile. I felt a little bit like those people who are fully prepared to go totally off the grid at any given moment, only instead of having hundreds of cases of water or a lifetime supply of canned goods, I was equipped to handle any lip care (or chest cold!) emergency that might come my way.

It’s not necessarily a recognized strategy for dealing with unexpected civil unrest, but I feel that it’s an important one.

That stockpile of Mentholatum lasted almost two years, and a couple of months ago, when I was at the Walgreens looking for something or other, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were carrying Mentholatum again. I bought a box of it, mainly just to celebrate its reappearance, and for most of the summer I’ve held unswervingly to the promise of a fall and winter with a full-to-the-brim inventory of Mentholatum at our Walgreens.

But.

Today I ran in Walgeens to look for some mascara, and as I made my way over to the cashew / pistachio / smoked almonds portion of the store, I saw this sale tag. I was not even a little bit happy. I may have even trembled in my flip-flops.

WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES AMERICA’S COLD CARE INDUSTRY HAVE AGAINST ME?

WHAT IF I AM NOT EMOTIONALLY EQUIPPED TO HANDLE MY “LAST CHANCE” WITH THE MENTHOLATUM?

There were only three boxes on the shelf (not counting that one over to the right, which, just between us, was BROKE DOWN), so I had no choice but to start another stockpile.

I’m not normally so excessive with my sale purchases, but desperate times, etc. I just don’t have any way of knowing if they’ll ever start carrying the Mentholatum again, and when it comes to maintaining your lip care standards, there’s no such thing as being too prepared.

Amen.

And amen.

Never Underestimate The Power Of A Woodwind

We were at the beach from last Friday until Thursday, so for the last couple of days I’ve been trying to work my way through the post-beach haze. Today I woke up with a to-do list on my brain – there are details-a-plenty that I need to tend to over the next couple of weeks – and in the midst of trying to play catch-up this morning and going to two grocery stores this afternoon and cooking supper tonight, I’ve been missing this view a little bit.

I know. Seriously.

Tonight, though, I clicked over to Facebook in between some heated rounds of SongPop, and I saw that my friend Joanna had posted a video. I was tempted to jump back to my SongPop game, but I clicked on the video instead, and I laughed until I cried.

When D heard me laughing, he wanted to know what was so funny, so I played it for him.

And then we both laughed until we cried. We laughed until we were quiet, in fact. Laughed so hard that we couldn’t make a sound.

So of course we had to watch it again.

Happy Weekend, y’all.