Archives for December 2014

A Wee Christmas Wrap-Up

Now that Christmas is over, I’ve been trying to shift my focus to the new year and yay, 2015 and all that. But before I can fully commit to some reflection and intention and planning, I really need to GET THESE DECORATIONS OUT OF HERE. Normally I wait until after New Year’s to take down everything, but not this time. In fact, when Sister and Barry were getting ready to head back to Nashville this morning, I was walking around with a giant trash bag and throwing away wrapping paper and Christmas cookies and Christmas card envelopes that I’d saved in case I needed addresses when I sent out Christmas cards (fun fact: I never got around to sending out Christmas cards this year). My plan was to continue with the takedown after church, but it was the middle of the afternoon by the time I got home, and at that point it seemed like the only appropriate thing to do was to take a nap.

But tomorrow? I am putting that Christmas tree ON NOTICE.

I feel like the last week has just flown by, and that may be because it’s been a whirlwind of family and cooking and general merriment. On Christmas Eve I made the hamburger and potato casserole that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, and then I made our little Mexican feast on Christmas Day. I liked having Mexican food because it was so easy to fix, but I don’t know if I’ll do it again or not. Plus, my parents aren’t Mexican food super fans like the rest of us are, so I kept wondering if they missed having sweet potatoes or a good green salad or something at least a little bit traditional. So next year I may go back to steaks or prime rib or some such identifiable meat. I will certainly keep you posted.

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But there was one new thing this Christmas that I think will be a lasting favorite: sitting down after supper during Advent and reading devotions from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. It was a really sweet time for us as a family, even on the nights when David had to leave the table and sit on the couch with Hazel so that she’d stop barking her head off when we lit the tealights on the Advent wreath.

Apparently those tealights were terribly menacing.

Anyway, I know this is all REAL boring, but honestly I’m so excited about watching TV and not cooking that I’m having a hard time concentrating on writing a blog post. And on top of that, tonight on Oprah’s Where Are They Now? there’s a feature about the first cast of The Real World, and if my initial experience with watching that cast (back when I was living in Starkville in the early 90s) is any indication, I will need to watch the update at least 46 times before I go to sleep tonight. That is roughly the same number of times that I watched TRW episode where Julie and Heather went roller skating.

So. I’ll be back in the next couple of days with thoughts and observations and lo, maybe even a story or three, but for now I think I’m gonna hunker down in front of the TV and see what in the world Heather B. has been up to for the last twenty years.

I hope y’all had a wonderful Christmas and got to spend lots of time with the people you love most!

Love,
Me

p.s. Though she still has her issues with the menacing tealights (and with wrapping paper, based on her Christmas morning reaction), Hazel has LOVED having company these last few days. She was so sad when Sister and Barry left this morning, and then she promptly decided that she was exhausted. Save a couple of walks, she has been asleep on the guest room bed for the better part of nine hours.

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Bless her.

The Big Boo Cast, Episode 41

Two things right off the bat:

1. We’re so happy that our good friend Travis Cottrell (aka FryDaddy) is with us on this episode of the podcast. It’s been way too long. I would love to tell you that we’ve been ironing out the details for months, but the fact of the matter is that we sort of pulled it all together about 9 o’clock Sunday night (please remember that this is nothing if not a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants operation). But oh my goodness – it is always the most fun to talk and laugh with Travis. Yay.

2. When I was editing I became aware of an issue we had the last time we recorded a three-person podcast – and that is that my microphone sounds way louder than everybody else. So please know that it was never my intention to scream at you.

Other than that, we cover all manner of topics: what we’re cooking this Christmas, the music of Bruno Mars (we were specifically talking about “Uptown Funk,” but I accidentally cut out the part where I said the name of the song), everything we adore about Jimmy Fallon, the wonder that is Amy Grant (seriously – this comes up in EVERY SINGLE PODCAST), our Christmas plans, the holiday music of Neil Diamond, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

You can click here to listen. Or here. You can even listen right here.

Or, as always, you can subscribe on iTunes if you’re feeling particularly fancy.

Hope y’all enjoy it – and Merry Christmas, everybody!

Up Next: More Pajamas

We started Christmas vacation on Friday, and I have basically been hanging out in my pajamas like it’s my job. I did put on regular clothes before we went to church this morning – I felt like it was the least I could do – but after I got home this afternoon, I immediately made the switch back to loungewear. There’s just no good reason to stay confined in things that button and zip.

Our weekend wasn’t eventful at all – which means it was my very favorite kind. Plus, Thursday night I remembered something that made Friday even better.

I know that’s sort of a strange memory, but I thought about those McRae’s gift wrappers all day Friday. Alex was playing with friends most of the afternoon, so I just cut and taped and tagged and had the best time (I also started listening to Serial, but that is probably another discussion for another day since I am still trying to process it all).

Saturday I wrapped the last few things while David and Alex made a Costco run, and then I did a whole lot of nothing in particular for the rest of the day. I cooked some stuff, watched some stuff, washed some stuff – but it was all so low-key that there was a point late in the afternoon when I thought, AM I BORED? IS THIS WHAT BORED FEELS LIKE? But then I decided that was crazy talk and started to work on my grocery list.

Clearly this is exactly the level of wild and crazy activity that inspired Ricky Martin’s incomparable “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”

And then today, after we got home from Chuy’s, I decided that I would brave the crowds and go to the grocery store. This was a COMPLETELY AMATEUR MOVE on my part – I should have known better – but I wanted to get all my canned goods and breakfast stuff squared away. And while I guess it’s nice to know that I have almost everything I need for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals, I won’t soon forget the chaos of the grocery store. I’ve never seen more people hovering over a meat case full of hams in my life.

And the paper goods aisle? ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.

By the way, I decided that I’m going with a little bit of a Mexican food theme on Christmas Day. I’m keeping it pretty mild since Mama doesn’t like spicy food, but I think it’ll be a fun change – and I’ll get back to the more traditional fare on New Year’s. Right now I’m planning to make creamy chicken enchiladas, a beef and rice dish that looks like it’s going to be so good, salsa and guacamole (of course), and a Mexican twist on Brussels sprouts because the recipe intrigues me. Tres leches cake is dessert – and then we’ll need some real strong coffee to counteract the sugar crash. As you do.

So that’s the latest from our house. And while I don’t have any idea how often I’ll post these next couple of weeks, I do think that there’s a better-than-average chance that there will be a new podcast Tuesday morning (with a special guest, no less).

Hope y’all had a wonderful weekend – and Merry Christmas, everybody!

An Oldie But Still Such A Goodie

We are normally such homebodies, but the last few nights have been more activity-driven than usual. Maybe that’s why I woke up this morning and immediately thought about how we had nothing going on tonight and could quite possibly be in our pajamas by 4:30 or 5 this afternoon.

Listen. Late afternoon pajama time? BEST THING EVER.

So I went to work this morning and then ran some errands before Alex got out of school, and off and on I’d wonder what in the world I was going to cook for supper. This is that time of year when I am so tired of everything in my regular rotation, so I was trying to think of something new or different or fun that would not involve spaghetti sauce (of all the dishes in all the land, spaghetti with meat sauce is perhaps my least favorite, though ironically it is one of my fellas’ most beloved). The catch, though, was that I really wanted to use ground chuck since ground chuck is only $2.99 a pound at Fresh Market on (most) Tuesdays.

(If there is a Fresh Market in your area, you need to know that $2.99 Tuesdays will change your whole life.)

(Because ground chuck and boneless skinless chicken breasts are only $2.99 a pound. And there’s no limit. And the kind Fresh Market butchers will wrap each pound individually if you so desire – that way freezing is a breeze.)

(You would not believe the people who get 20 or 25 chicken breasts wrapped individually on $2.99 Tuesdays.)

(I am in awe of the butchers’ stamina and patience.)

Anyway, before I went to Fresh Market I had an appointment with my ankle doctor. I realize that he’s not technically called an ankle doctor, but calling him my “orthopedist” seems a little pretentious considering that the only reason I’m having to go to an ankle doctor is because I slipped in my dog’s tee-tee and it just seems to me that you go to an orthopedist if you tear your ACL on an alley-oop pass or you fall and separate your shoulder during a penalty kick.

But if you slip in your dog’s tee-tee?

ANKLE DOCTOR.

This is all very subjective reasoning, of course.

Anyway, I went to the doctor to see if I’d made enough progress to start to live outside of my big ole comfortable orthopedic boot. The doctor said that my X-rays didn’t really look much different than my last visit a few weeks ago – but since the pain is almost completely gone and it doesn’t hurt to stand on the ankle any more, then yes, I can start to walk around without the boot when I’m in a flat, confined environment like our house or my office.

Needless to say, I was delighted by this news.

And then the doctor said the most interesting thing. He said, “You know, sometimes after a break you start to feel better – and everything starts to look better on the outside – but it’s still healing on the inside. And what we’ll usually see is that as you feel better and the pain fades and you start to use and trust whatever was broken, the gaps in that broken area will fill over time.”

He was talking about my ankle, of course. But I looked at him and said, “Well, that pretty much sounds like a sermon to me.”

He laughed and nodded his head. And then I spent a big chunk of the afternoon thinking about all the times and places in my life when I tried to stand (and walk) on something that was broken and painful. And while I certainly could chase this metaphor for the next four hours because ENGLISH MAJORS LOVE SYMBOLISM, I’ll just say that this broken ankle has taught me the value of resting and waiting. It’s so much easier to move after there’s been some healing.

And thus concludes tonight’s Ankle Doctor Sermonette.

After I picked up Alex we went to Fresh Market to secure the $2.99 ground chuck, and I decided on the way that I was going to make a hamburger and potato casserole like Mama used to make ALL THE TIME. I haven’t eaten it in years – and I don’t think I’ve ever made it before – but it sounded so good and comforting and winter-y that I decided to give it a try. I’m sure that lots of y’all make it or had grandmothers who made it, and what I realized tonight is that there’s a reason why this recipe has been around for a few generations. David loved it more than anything I’ve made in a long time; it’s so simple and easy and hearty and good.

So. Just in case you’ve never tried this recipe, here you have it. Some of y’all have probably made this 30 times in the last year, and if that’s the case, let me just say that I’m tickled to pieces┬áto be in your hamburger casserole club.

Hamburger & Potato Casserole

2 lbs. ground chuck, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Worcestershire – then browned and drained
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
5 or 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thin
1 can cream of mushroom (if you’re not in a hurry, you could make your own white sauce, but I was in a hurry)
1 cup milk
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (any cheese will do)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brown and drain meat. Once the skillet that you used to cook the meat is back on the stove and hot again, add 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (or butter) and saute’ the onion until tender. Once the onion is done, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix soup with milk and set aside. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.

Cut off ends of potatoes and then slice about 1/8″ thick (give or take – and I left the skin on our potatoes because WHY NOT). Place potato slices on the bottom of the casserole dish, lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper, then pour 1/2 of soup mixture over potatoes. Add 1/2 of ground beef, then all the onion, then potatoes, salt and pepper, remainder of soup mixture, remainder of ground beef, and grated cheese (however, if you don’t want your cheese to get a little crispy in places, wait and add it towards the end of the baking time).

By the time you layer everything, it’ll almost look like a lovely little potato lasagna.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Make sure potatoes are fork tender before serving (if they’re sliced thin, they should be fine). Serve with your favorite vegetable and prepare to receive all manner of praise and adoration from your people. It’s not a fancy dish, but it’s a good ‘un.

Hope y’all are having a great week!

Love,
Mamaw

I’m Not Here Because I’m There

A few years ago I started putting together a little gift guide for $20-ish gifts for teenage girls. I did this because one of the perks of my job is that I listen to teenage girls ALL DAY LONG, and it made sense to translate that knowledge into something other than an encyclopedic knowledge of Taylor Swift lyrics.

I also have a borderline encyclopedic knowledge of Adele lyrics, but that’s really neither here nor there.

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ANYWAY, this year my gift guide is over at Ree’s blog. I had so much fun putting it together, and I hope it’ll help a few people who have found themselves standing in Bath & Body Works with some strawberry liquid soap and wondering, “Maybe she’ll like this? Maybe? Do teenagers even like soap anymore?”

:-)

Merry Christmas, y’all!

It’s Beginning To Look A Little Like Christmas-ish

Well, we have a Christmas tree.

THIS IS PROGRESS.

We actually have a live tree this year – our first one in about 12 years – and I am a little fascinated by it. The trunk is very straight, but one section of it is just flat-out unwieldly: branches going in all directions, one wayward branch that’s about a foot and a half longer than anything else on the tree – and I love it. It’s a quirky little tree, full of personality, and I hope that I find it half as charming in about ten days when it will no doubt be dry as a bone.

David put lights on the tree last night, so tonight we focused on the ornaments. Alex helped me get all the boxes out of the closet and unpack everything, and he even jumped in and helped me put the ornaments on the tree because I’m not super confident on my tiptoes and/or step ladders right now. I felt good about what I was able to do on the bottom two-thirds of the tree, though, and our productivity tempered a little of the resentment I’m feeling right now about this big ole boot. I really am grateful for the boot because NO CAST, but I am so sick of the shoe that I’ve been wearing on my healthy foot that it’s almost comical.

All I know is that whenever my ankle is completely healed, I don’t ever want to see the healthy foot shoe again. I may have to set it on fire. Or maybe I’ll run over it. Or maybe I’ll just go drop it in the center of the intersection about 1/2 mile from our house because last year there was a gray tennis shoe that stayed in the middle of that intersection for AT LEAST four months, and every morning Alex and I would look to see if it was still there. I don’t even know why I just told you that, but the bottom line is that healthy foot shoe may have to find another purpose outside of our home after I’m out of the boot. I am grateful for its service, but I don’t ever need to see it again.

My, my, my. I am FULL of Christmas cheer, aren’t I?

Anyway.

Other than the tree and my resentment towards healthy foot shoe, we’re good. I had a phone call this afternoon with Tyndale because the new book comes out in less than two months (the official date is February 2nd, I think), and I can’t even believe it’s almost time. I thought maybe I wouldn’t be as nervous the second time around but NOPE. JUST AS NERVOUS. Maybe even more nervous since this book is more personal. But I keep reminding myself of a couple of months ago when a friend of mine pretty much stuck her finger in my face and said, “You trust Him with it. YOU TRUST HIM WITH IT.” So I am trying to trust Him with it and not get a weird and introspective about the whole thing.

See? LOOK HOW BREEZY I AM.

Finally comma I am starting to think about my menu for Christmas day. We don’t normally have turkey or ham on Christmas because, I don’t know, we just don’t, so I usually like to do a pork tenderloin or steaks or some similar form of identifiable meat, as David calls it. Today, however, I had a salad for lunch that made me re-think all of my typical salad goals for a holiday meal, so now I’m thinking about changing my salad and my sides. Just for kicks and fun, you understand. Do any of you have some new (or new-to-me) salad or side ideas that you’d be willing to share? I’m trying to think of things that are a little different from my usual sweet potato casserole / squash casserole / seven layer salad / baby lima beans (well, I have to have baby lima beans or my people will revolt – but I’m all ears for other suggestions).

Hope y’all are having a great week!