Tuesday, February 17, 2015

So There's This Mid-February Phenomenon

I have a friend who works at Starbucks, and last week, she expressed it quite nicely:
"On Friday, we'll be super busy, because everyone will be trying, up until the very last minute, to meet someone in time for Valentine's Day. And on Saturday we'll be super busy because everyone else will be treating their Valentines."

Every year, around this time, I get a little touchy.  I try not to offend people, because I totally support people who are happily in love and want to take a special day to celebrate that fact, provided they continue to celebrate that fact, perhaps in less elaborate ways, throughout the rest of their lives...

But, y'all, this problem of people having a freak-out or getting super down in the dumps because they don't have a "Valentine" is so troublesome to me. Let's just pause and think through the idea of a "Valentine" - he's actually a person.  Did you know that? I don't know a ton about him, but I do think I remember hearing that he performed marriages for people in the Roman army, who were technically forbidden to marry, which is, you know, incredibly romantic and all.

BUT the holiday bearing his name was not romanticized until Chaucer got a hold of it and made it a generalized celebration of romantic love.

You know what else Chaucer helped to generalize?

Yep, the fart joke.

If that doesn't help you understand my opinion of Chaucer, you don't know me very well.

To be fair to both Chaucer and Valentine, I don't think either of them really meant for people to get so incredibly sad about their lives on this day, but it is an unfortunate side effect of our Disney-saturated, Chick-Flick-watching, Diamon-ring-advertising, First-kiss-idolizing culture.

Believe me, I'm just as subject to this culture as anyone else. In searching through my February archives, I found this gem, and I have a feeling that some of that emotional instability I was feeling may have stemmed from the surplus of romantic imagery and themes that inundates advertisements and every corner of our little world during this time of year.

It's just basically unavoidable, and really, who am I (or any of us single people who all feel a bit of "poor me" this time of year if we're honest with ourselves) to take this day away from the lovers? So what we really need to work on isn't changing, or even "boycotting" Valentine's Day (as much as I am tempted to, some years), but investing in the people that we love on this day and always.  Whether they're technically a "Valentine" or not, is really beside the point.

You know who I love?  Baby Sister. Poor thing.  She's gonna be Baby Sister even when she's old and gray...

So, I took her to a concert of her favorite musician this Valentine's weekend, and we stayed the night with an extremely motivated writer friend of mine, who inspired both of us to start writing more.

We drove up to Dallas together, and got turned around more than once, because that's the way I travel - some GPS, mostly I-know-better-than-that-machine... She may or may not have thought I was about to drive off a cliff at one point, and also may or may not have been pretty close to correct.

She made us a road-trip cd, which was missing 5 songs, mysteriously, and gave us a good chance to listen to other music we both love.

We got to the concert early, and had 45 minutes to waste running around the cutest downtown you ever did see in Wylie, TX. (So many places were open, even after 8!)

We made some new friends in this little combination Coffe Bar and Antique Shop.  And, wouldn't you know, they were camp people too, so we had lots to talk about.  Of course they were there for the concert too, so we stood together.

After getting to my friend's house way too late at night, we went to bed and woke up to a homemade breakfast and 20 acres of woods, just begging to be explored.

Do you see what I'm saying? I refused to be quietly down in the dumps, and also to loudly protest.  I simply made memories with someone I love on a Saturday that could have been any Saturday, but happened to be February 14th.

I think this may have been the first time I got Valentine's Day right.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What's in My Bag, aka I Want a Diaper Bag SO Bad Right Now

When I became a nanny, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find a bag that would suit my needs.

Frequently, I go straight from work to run errands, or to exercise class, or to Bible Study, depending on the day, so carrying everything I need, plus the things I need for the kiddos has become quite the challenge.  And it only gets harder in the summer when we head to the splash pad, etc...

I started off with backpacks, but, y'all, I may be willing to wear shorts, t-shirts, and ball caps all day for work, but carrying a backpack on top of all that?  I honestly felt like I was 12, and probably looked like it too, thanks to my great non-aging genes, which I'm sure I'll be grateful for when I'm 50 or something...

So it became necessary to carry something a little more mature.  Plus, I realize it may murder my back, but I've always loved over-the-shoulder bags more, simply because they can be accessed without ever taking them off - just pull out the sippy cup and voila, you never even had to stop walking - look at me being all practical!

I found this Fossil bag, which I can't complain about, because I know it will serve me well for many years, and I scored it at the outlet for only thirty-something bucks, but it's better for carrying around a lap-top and a few books than all the things I need with the kids.

Sometime after I found this bag, I discovered Lily Jade, and immediately began jonesing over their beautiful and practical Caroline.  I mean, goodness gracious, the thing is red, not to mention exactly my style.

You can imagine when Lily Jade announced that I could make a blog post and be entered in a giveaway, I was all for it, so here you go - What's in my bag:

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Notebooks of all kinds (planner, meal-tracker, sketchbook, you get the idea), and usually a few letters to reply to or a knitting project to catch up on in case I get the chance during nap or something. (Doesn't really ever happen, in case you were wondering, but a girl can hope, right?)

Tissues and Lotion for me, wipes for the kids in case of ice cream stickiness and what-not.

Honestly, there are usually way more kid's meal toys floating around in my bag than just those three, but most of them are in the back seat of my car right now along with last week's potato chip crumbs and fruit roll-up wrappers...

Anybody who knows me much at all, knows that I always have more pens than any one person has good use for, and it seems that I either have zero lip balm/gloss, or a ton.

I've learned that it's best to keep a smaller bag in my big one, packed with "purse essentials," (phone, keys, wallet, glasses, more pens and lip balm) so if I'm going straight somewhere after work, I can just throw the big bag in back of my car and carry my valuables around with me.

I also usually have a sippy cup or two, a water bottle if the big boy is with us, a special blanket, a diaper, and the toy of the moment (the size of which I heavily regulate). But I leave those things at work for obvious reasons, and this photo was taken at home.

Imagine adding all of those things, plus my water bottle, to this:

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Yeah, I need a diaper bag.
Never thought I'd say that at this point in my life, but I guess you never know where you'll be...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Recipe: Candied Grapefruit Peels

So, a little while back, I was eating a grapefruit for breakfast, because I'm healthy like that...
Suddenly, I thought to myself that I should candy the peels.  I have no idea why this idea came to me, but it did, and it was stuck once it got into my head.
So, of course I googled "Candied Grapefruit Peels" and came up with three legitimate looking recipes.  I combined those, and came up with this:

Basically all you need is plenty of fresh cold water, and 3/4 c of sugar for each grapefruit you're using.

All the recipes I read gave very specific guidelines for how to peel the grapefruit to make your peels uniform in size and shape, but since my main goal in peeling a grapefruit is to keep it edible, I just peeled it like I normally do, and sliced the peels up into approximately 1/2 inch wide strips.  I thought they were perfectly presentable.  As long as they're fairly close to bite-size, you should be good

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Place all of your grapefruit peels in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by about an inch, and bring it to a rolling boil.

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Drain all the water off.  It is very important that you get rid of all the water, because it absorbs a lot of the bitterness from the peels.

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Repeat this process three more times.  You should have boiled and drained the peels four times by this point, and they will look something like this:

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Finally put them back in your pan, with half a cup of sugar and, again, enough water to cover them by about an inch.  This time, simmer for about 2 hours.  After the simmering, your syrup will be thick, about the consistency of the syrup you find in canned fruits.  Let the peels cool in the syrup.*

If, for some reason, you're stopped in the middle of the process, like I was when I was taking these pictures, you can store your peels in an air-tight container with that syrup for up to 2 or 3 weeks.

When you're ready to serve your grapefruit peels, whether right after cooking, or after storing for a few days, take them out of the syrup (if you hate having sticky hands as much as I do, you can use a fork for this step) and let them dry for a few hours on a wire rack with a cookie sheet under it to catch the syrup that will drip off.

Make sure you put them on the rack peel side up, since the pith will hold a lot of syrup, which won't drain off if you leave it facing up - I didn't learn this from experience or anything...

After they've drained for a few hours, put about a 1/4 c of sugar in a soup bowl and roll the peels around in it about 4 or 5 at a time.

You can store them in an air-tight container for about a week, but if you're anything like me, they certainly won't last that long!  Eating these things is kinda like eating grapes or potato chips - eating one just makes you want another.
In the interest of full disclosure, they're not necessarily sweet like candy.  they do still taste like grapefruit, but kinda like when you eat grapefruit with sugar sprinkled on top.

The good news?  This is a treat that you'll most likely enjoy, but your kids most likely won't, so no guilt about not sharing.

*I think I made a mistake the first time I made these, and let them simmer too high.  The syrup boiled completely away before 2 hours was up, so I didn't really need to drain them much, and they were actually easier to coat in sugar, and much less messy that way...