Monday, December 31, 2012

-confession time 2012: better late than never-

What better time for a soul-cleansing confession than mere hours from the biggest fresh start of the year??

(Well, that and the fact that we're laying low this NYE, and since we're getting old, I'm trying to do something to stay awake til midnight).

So, here we go---it's time to, er, come clean.

I am a closet slob.

Well, I have become a closeted slob.

Ok, so really, it only happens like every 3 months or when I'm under extreme duress. Which has been a lot lately.

It starts with a deadly combination of a consistently unmade bed (another sign of distress for me), a set of clothing that doesn't quuuuite need to be thrown in the laundry, and at least one change of shoes within a day. Before you know it, your bed looks like this:

And the it starts breeding.
And before you know it, it's spread to the other room.

The mounting piles of clothes, the disarray of shoes, the unfolded clean laundry from three weeks ago, the dirty laundry rearing its ugly head out of the hamper...

I suppose this is much more horrifying if you know that I come from a long line of pathological organizers and fritzers (i.e. superfluously tinkering with the arrangement of things). You know, one of those families that makes their kids make their beds before coming downstairs for Christmas morning?

Anyways, I feel better about this confession already. Sometimes you gotta give yourself a break and accept all facets---even the dirty sock kind---about yourself.

Geez, is that my age speaking? Let's call it wisdom. Or perspective.

One of my New Year's resolutions will be to work to manage the situations that encourage this swift and ugly downfall (you know when your husband is concerned about your newly acquired slovenly habits, it's bad. very bad).

Here's hoping you all have the New Year's resolutions of your dreams and an amazing 2013!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

-happy birthday, Wolfie baby!-

One year ago today, the world was made a little fluffier when Wolfgang Fluffadeus Oakeson was born.

He was known as Mr. Green for the first couple of months of his little life, and now officially weighs in at the 55lb. mark (although he easily looks to outweigh his buddy Chief, a 95lb. Bernie).

He's worth every extra lint roller and bag of paper towels. Wolfie's having the ultimate birthday party today---four days at the luxurious Uberdog Playcare and Hotel.

Happy Birthday, Wolfie baby! Here's to many more, xoxo!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

-bimbo bark, a new holiday tradition-

Contrary to what you might think, I neither named, nor was named after, this recipe.

I was doing a wine tasting for an account's wine club the other Friday night, and a customer brought in a little treat for everyone.

"Wow, this is amazing---what is it?"
"Bimbo bark."
"I'm sorry?"
"Yeah, it's called bimbo bark because it's so easy, any bimbo can make it."
(This is considerably more funny if you know the customer is a sassy second generation Sicilian.)

Color me intrigued.

So I took the "recipe" and jazzed it up a little bit. This is the perfect solution for all of those little holiday gifty bags, and incredibly affordable too (Did I mention I had horrific food poisoning that same week, and therefore was the owner of a plethora of Saltines?).

Makes one full cookie sheet-worth. But let's be honest, you'll probably want to at least double it. This stuff is like crack.

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (12 Tbsp.)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 sleeves of Saltines
bag of semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup toasted almonds slices
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, then with a single layer of Saltines. They should fit perfectly :)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar, stir well.

Pour over the saltines. Spread evenly with a flexible spatula.

Cook in the oven for 3 minutes, or until just beginning to bubble.

Sprinkle the chocolate morsels over the saltines (surprisingly, less is more).

Let them sit a minute, then spread evenly with the spatula.

Sprinkle toasted almonds and sea salt (if desired). I had some tasty Hawaiian sea salt lying around and decided to get fancy with the spices!

Refrigerate until completely cooled and hardened, then break into pieces. Try not to eat the whole yourself, ok?

Here's hoping you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

-how to heal?-

Yesterday was an ugly, surreal blur.

I was in the car most of the day, glued to NPR, who I have to thank for being the only news outlet to stay above the fray of speculation as things unfolded. Even now, there's an incredible amount of bad information still floating around about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday.

But one thing we do know is that today, twenty-six families are waking up to unimaginable loss, and we, Connecticut, and the country are left grappling with unanswerable 'why's.

Was it mental illness? A domestic disturbance gone wrong? Selfish rage?

It doesn't matter. It only matters if we can use it to profile and prevent in the future.

I know that many of my friends in Connecticut are having an incredibly hard time with this tragedy---the horrific combination of the randomness, the timing, the closeness to home, the fact that these children were just babies a few years ago...I couldn't hold back tears after hearing President Obama's emotional speech and having the facts confirmed after Governor Malloy's statement. It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. It's not supposed to happen to innocents.

It's enough pain and devastation to drown you.

How to heal? I think I have found one way---

Do what you need to do: cry, call your family, hold a vigil, rage against failed systems, hug your children, pray, watch the news...but then---dry your tears, turn off the TV, and live your life.

Because I have to imagine that if those poor families had a choice, they would take one more normal, blessed day. They would make their families breakfast, walk their dog, hug their children, go to a Christmas party, enjoy this beautiful sunshiney Connecticut Saturday.

And that's what we should do. For me, after the vigils and prayers and tears have cleared, there is no better way to honor their memories than to continue to live LIFE, and to appreciate every precious second.

Monday, November 5, 2012

-big settle-ism #2-

I have NO idea why this is only #2 in the Big Settle-ism category, but I'll keep it short and sweet:

Do you remember what the pleasures of weekend retail therapy used to mean?

Probably some brunch, a stroll down Newbury Street, followed by spending some time gaping at Louboutins in Nieman Marcus or meandering through Barney's---but usually you end up settling on some jeans at Ann Taylor Loft or a pair of flats from Cole Haan. Ah, the good life.

These days it's a liiiiiittle different.

Yesterday, I've discovered that same thrill and fat-cat satisfaction can be found in the bulk aisle of your grocery store.

Oh yes. You heard me.

I spent an hour in the grocery store yesterday, probably half of it in the bulk aisle, luxuriating in not being rushed, not clutching a toddler, and meandering down every. single. aisle. Oh, sure, I had a mission---to restock the pantry (probably inspired by Sandy), but really? The grocery store??

I'm not sure if I'm really impressed with myself or really in denial.

But as of today, we are fully stocked for any impending storms or nights of lazy meal-planning. And depending on how the election goes tomorrow, I may want to drown myself in lentils and quinoa and walnuts.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

-hollywood cemetery-

Welp, I'd give 2012's Halloween a report card rating of C.

A+ - Cinema selections
C-  - Number of Trick or Treaters (only 5!? I thought this was suburbia!)
F    - No time to carve a pumpkin
A+ - Dinner of roasted sausages, butternut squash and brussels
D   - No occasion to wear a costume

But does anyone else feel a big change the day AFTER Halloween??

All of a sudden, the creepy decorations look out of place, over the top. The sun's brighter, the air has a bitter chill to it, and you find yourself wanting warmth, inviting smells, candles in the windows...and THEN you realize there are 3 weeks until Thanksgiving!

Holy crap, I'm already behind.

Only once, in 2008, when the Handyman fiancĂ© and I were living in Richmond, was I able to ignore the post-Halloween pounding "IT'S ALMOST THE HOLIDAYS" mantra beating in my brain.

As Richmond was the former capital of the Confederacy, there's plenty of historic sites to go around, and there's a famous graveyard called the Hollywood Cemetery (the double entendre being that it's named after the many holly trees in the area, and that there are several famous people buried at this picturesque spot).

I was obsessed with incorporating a tour of the Hollywood Cemetery into my Halloween traditions when I realized that a more poignant day would be All Souls Day on November 2nd. Unfortunately, the walking tours end in October, but that year I managed to snag the last tour on November 1st, All-Saints Day (aka All Hallows Day hence All Hallows Eve the night before)!

Fall in Richmond, VA is a truly beautiful time---come November, many of the trees are still in full color, and the weather can be mild.

The graveyard dates back to 1849, and there are several 'celebrities' in the cemetery including Presidents John Tyler and James Monroe, as well as Confederate heroes J.E.B. Stuart and "President" Jefferson Davis.

I remember this grave being poignant, as George T. West was my age (at the time) when he passed, and our birthdays were just a few days apart. Maybe the morbidity of Halloween does pass on into November...

Anyways, I'll stop yakking. I've always wanted to share these photos, and if you're ever in Richmond, or are a resident who hasn't been, definitely put the HC on your list! 

Ok, I gotta go pack up the creepies and get the fake gourds out of the attic...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

-wolfie's first halloween!

Halloween has always been in a close race with Christmas as my favorite holiday (usually edged out by the smell of a fresh fir tree and a plethora of Christmas music)...the darkness, the costume, the fear, the roleplay, the candy...Freud, take THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

But this year, as we are short on friends (less than 15 people at a Halloween party is just depressing), and short on friends who want to throw Halloween parties, there is no costuming this year, much to my dismay.

However, I DO get to dress up my dog and finally hand out candy to adorable trick-or-treaters! That is, if our house isn't too scary. Let's just say I don't need to put up extra cobwebs...

Now for Wolfie---I was leaning towards a pair of bat wings, but Kev had this inspiration of play-on-words.

So here he is---THE GREAT WHITE!
I imagine this is Wolfie's "Moooooooom! Geeeeez, this is so embarrassing" look.

Ok, so maybe he has too much fur to handle even the L-sized doggie costumes (note to self for next year), but we made it work.

The Great White is on the move!

Baring his pearly whites---good boy!

For Wolfie's efforts this morning, he got a little Halloween surprise: canned pumpkin in his breakfast! Found that little tidbit here (plus, who doesn't want to see a chihuahua in a hotdog suit?).

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Monday, October 29, 2012

-film fiend: rosemary's baby-

Just in time for Halloween (or if Sandy continues to act up like Irene, another lack thereof), I've been indulging in scary movies. Well, as scary as I can take. For example, today I braved the classics---The Invisible Man, The Mummy---heck, I even squeezed in Halloween: Resurrection.

But none of these can compare to the incredibly disturbing film Rosemary's Baby we watched last night.

Like TOP 5 kind of disturbing. EVER.

Ok, so maybe I'm a huuuuuge weenie when it comes to horror, but hear me out:  Rosemary's Baby is not disturbing in the way you would think. I had envisioned a blend of The Exorcist and The Omen. You know, basic Spawn of Satan type stuff. But this was so much more.

The film really could have been just been called Rosemary---the radiant, fragile Mia Farrow sucks you into her world as she journeys from naive housewife to manipulated mom while the, um, baby doesn't really make an appearance until the very end.

And seriously, producers missed out on a HUGE opportunity to do a remake with Gwyneth Paltrow, like 15 years ago. it's uncanny...

You basically sit through a couple of hours with an increasing, unabating sense of dread---an oppressive husband, mysterious deaths, creepy neighbors. By the last half hour, you want to scream at the TV, "Rosemary, you dumbass! Don't let yourself get isolated!! Listen to your gut! Nonono, don't confide in HIM!! WHY haven't you developed an escape plan by now??"

And a warning, ladies: if you're remotely considering becoming pregnant, do yourself a favor and just hold off on this one. There are enough squeamish aspects of pregnancy to make the average girl cringe, but couple that with (SPOILER ALERT) a widespread conspiracy and systematic isolation and abuse, and well, you downright feel like becoming a nun (for a number of reasons).

This was a timeless, thrilling, disturbing film. More Hitchcock than horror. More Twilight zone than terror (need I go on?).

But in the end, the truly disturbing part came in the form of a DVD Special Feature titled 'Mia and Roman'. It focused on the star of the movie, and of course, her director, Roman Polanski, in his first major film. It included clips of interviews and videos of them around the time the movie was shot, including a clip of Sharon Tate, Roman's wife who was murdered less than a year later by Charles Manson's followers.

Seeing Mia and Roman in their prime of life, unaware of how hard and dark their personal lives would become? Now that was truly disturbing.

Maybe I'll just stick with Nightmare Before Christmas...

Monday, October 8, 2012

-the next generation-

How does this happen?

One minute you're just a kid, lamenting a long, drawn-out family Christmas party---

Why is it so hot in here?? How come the adults are having fun? Why did my mom make me wear this velvet pinafore---the other cousins don't have to! Ugh, HOW many family pictures do we have to line up for??

---and the next you realize that YOU are the adult, alcohol makes the party go round, you can wear whatever you want, and those family pictures were worth every sweaty minute because you've gotten to know your family. And guess what---you like them!

The generation that started it all!

At some point, deep down, you know that your generation will need to carry on and continue the traditions, but it's a hard reality to face as the torch passes hands. You want to believe nothing will change, and that all the people who have been there for the important things in your life will continue to be...

My grandmother (Mom-mom), me, and Aunt Shorty at my bridal shower.
(I mean, LOOK at these fabulous women! Something to strive for.)

The other night, my Aunt Shorty (my grandmother's sister-in-law), passed away in her bed, after a long, lovely life. Her children and grandchildren, and the rest of my family, celebrated her memory today back home on the Eastern Shore.

Another great pic from a few years ago!

I will always think of her in cashmere and pearls, the life of the party.

Aunt Shorty, with her son Craig and DIL, Nancie at my cousin's wedding.

Every year Aunt Shorty held a big soiree at her house the day after Christmas. We would all crowd into her maze of a house---ham and biscuits, spinach dip on the buffet; the fireplace would be roaring even when it was 90 degrees; the crowded "bar" on the porch (not sure if that was the most popular space because of the cool air or hard stuff), and family. Lots and lots of family.

I'll admit, it took me a few years to get comfortable in my own skin, to remember everyone's name (did I mention my mom's family was BIG?), and to realize that my cousins were people I wanted to grow old with.

I have to thank Aunt Shorty, because without those parties, I never would have known what an amazing family I have. For this, I owe her everything.

This is her legacy:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

-o's! say can you see?-

Something incredible happened last night.

The Baltimore Orioles beat out the Texas Rangers to nail down the AL East Wild Card.

Let me repeat---the O's are in the playoffs!

That fact that you're reading this statement is amazing in a number of ways:

1) The O's play in the AL East, which is like being Mississippi State University in the SEC. You're up against the Big Boys (Yanks, Sox, Rays/Alabama, Florida, South Carolina). Basically, on any given day you have to play twice as hard to stay afloat in your conference.

2) The last time the O's were in the playoffs was in 1997. Do you remember what happened that year? Let's put that in perspective:
          -Tiger Woods became the youngest to win the Masters at age 21.
          -Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident.
          -Europe was not on the Euro yet.

3) Just two years ago, the O's opened the 2010 season against the Tampa Bay Rays with the lowest paid home game attendance in history---and proceeded to lose 2-16. Ouch.

4) The last time the O's won the World Series was in 1983. So what happened that year?
          -Microsoft Word was released.
          -Return of the Jedi premieres.
          -I was born.

I mean, that's topping at out almost THIRTY years ago! Needless to say, there's a buzz about Baltimore.

Orioles' magic.

And this is just scratching the surface. I didn't mention the crazy new regulation one-game wild card playoff, or the fact that the O's seem to pull these wins out of their asses in the last few innings.

Now, I know what you're thinking----honey, PLEASE, you are NOT a real sports fan. That's probably half true. But pledging allegiance to the Baltimore Orioles was never something to write home about.

Until now.

So yeah, I'll take a moment in the sun. Here's hoping the O's do the same.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

-in remembrance-

Today is a day of remembrance, large and small, national and personal.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
As the years pass by, it's easy to forget the shock and tragedy of 9/11. Although we as a nation felt a collective ripple of horror and grief during that time, it's easy to forget that all 2,997 people who fell victim to the attack (including those who have died from resulting illnesses from the collapsing towers) had families and friends who loved them and were personally touched by their lives.

So here's to them.

My second remembrance is of a close, personal nature: on Sunday, my cousins buried their father. 

W. Booth Grier was only 61 when he passed away unexpectedly last week, and it was a shock for my whole family. It's a challenge to describe to outsiders how my mom's side of the family can be so large, but so close. Booth, his sister, my mom, my aunt---they all grew up together as cousins. Then, my generation did the same---one big Salisbury clan.

This clan came together for a truly moving memorial---plenty of heartbreak, tears, even laughter. A wonderful tribute to a man who was many things:

A father-in-law:

An incorrigible photo bomber:

A grandfather:

A goofball:

Booth Grier was a lot of things in life, but he was first and foremost a family man, and that is an incredible legacy that both touches me and challenges me to live my life, and love my family, to the fullest.