Sunday, January 31, 2010

Creole Coffee

I drink my coffee strong and dark. The black coffee-drinking contingent of my family begins with my grandma Jessie Mae, carries through to my dad, and happily sits with me. The three of us will almost never turn down a fresh cup of coffee, and tend to press it upon one another. Do we like flavored beans, you ask? No thank you. Quickest way to ruin a cup of coffee there is. Milk and cream? Denied. If I want dessert, I'll have pie. In fact, the rare moments I find myself at Starbucks, I'm almost always sneering at the six-word drinks people are ordering in front of me, slowing down the line. Black coffee please, the largest you have. So simple they don't even have to write my name on the cup and put in a line of other frilly drinks being made while people wait at the other end of the counter.

So you get it now. I'm a black coffee girl. I like O'hori's beans. And I make a good cup that is almost never messed with in any way. Except this morning, I was thinking about the Dark Molasses Gingerbread Cake from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. It's pungent and dark and haunts you with its full flavor. Guess who else loves it? My dad and my grandmother, also fans of molasses. The cake begs for a cup of coffee to go with it.

And so on this cold and quiet February morning, when half of my cooking supplies are already packed up and the rest are on borrowed time, making that gingerbread isn't an option. Here's the next best thing:

Creole Coffee

- 1 mugful of coffee
- 2 teaspoons (or more) of molasses
- Stir and enjoy

Yep, it's coffee that's been "messed with." But it tastes so good I don't even think my dad or grandma would mind. In fact, I might make it for them next time I'm home.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Weary Kind

As I said last week, Crazy Heart is my favorite movie of the year. It's a fantastic film and a truly amazing performance from Jeff Bridges. The music, though? It lives on. And on and on and on. The night we got home from seeing the film, I downloaded four songs* from the soundtrack and they've been playing on repeat ever since. (I'm not alone, either - I've suckered my pal Kate into the Crazy Heart obsession, too.)

I know Crazy Heart's just now opening in smaller markets, so really, go see it if you haven't already.

Ryan Bingham, singer/songwriter responsible for the gorgeous "Weary Kind," played the couldn't-be-sweeter musician in the film who saved the performance of a drunken Bad Blake in southern New Mexico. He's only 28, and wrote the song in a night. Those insanely talented, old soul types kill me. Here's a great interview where he talks about the process:

And finally... the song for those of you not already obsessed:

Oscar nominations are out Tuesday. "Weary Kind" for best original song... who's with me?

*My lineup: Hold On You, Fallin' & Flyin' (the live duet version), Brand New Angel, and The Weary Kind

Friday, January 29, 2010

Things I'll Miss: Central Market

I never thought I'd fall in love with a supermarket. I'm so small-scale, so know-your-food, so hit-as-many-small-markets-as-you-need-to, but... Central Market is complete foodie heaven, and I don't think I'll ever be so happy buying food all in one location again.

CM carries low-end, high-end, hard-to-find, rare, fresh, local, far-flung, made-there-that-morning, anything you could possibly need. Central Market has eight locations, all in Texas, and I am going to miss it like crazy.

No more absolute confidence that one-stop-shopping will produce every rare ingredient I need for my exotic recipe. No more gorgeous flowers by the armful at the same place I get local produce and fancy cheese and bulk grains/spices and cases upon cases of sustainable meat and seafood and a ridiculous selection of beer and wine. No more. No more?!?!

CM, make your way up to the mid-Atlantic! Please?

Friday I'm in Love

Somehow the last week has been both the longest and shortest of my life. And next Friday will be, gulp, my last day in Dallas. Crazy! My three quick hits for the week:

You Had Me At Health Insurance

Until the wonderful day when there is universal health care in this country, why not go ahead and flaunt the love and magic involved in using someone for their health insurance? Happy Valentine's Day to that! (And remember... not everyone in this country is afforded the right to marry someone just for their benefits. Read more at our wedding charity of choice, Freedom to Marry.) This brilliant Health Insurance Valentine is from owlyshadowpuppet, who also makes "I Still Know Which Records Are Mine."

BookBook MacBook Cover

Now this is how you protect a laptop, folks. BookBook makes these one-of-a-kind hardback leather cases in black and red. Wouldn't one be a fantastic gift for your Valentine? Or, you know, a reason to buy a MacBook? Amazing! (Found via Oh Joy!)

Wooden Memory Stick

 I own about ten little memory sticks, and can never seem to keep track of them. They're so small and so easily lost in bags and folders. These little guys, though? I love their rustic vibe, and they're way too adorable to lose. Wooden Memory Sticks hold 2 GBs of info - not too shabby. The perfect February "stocking stuffer," methinks. (Found via The Bedlam of Beefy)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Things I'll Miss: The View

So we all know by now that Dallas isn't really the city for me, but that's not to say there aren't things here I'll miss when we leave for DC. Here's just one of them: the view from our front patio.

We'll have a view in DC, too (yay!), but the drama of the Texas sky isn't something that can be replicated on the east coast. And although my city slicker sky views here pale in comparison to the vistas in New Mexico I knew before them, they're still pretty amazing. From our front patio over the last two and a half years, I've captured the Dallas skyline in some everyday moments, as well as a few dramatic ones. See for yourself:

August 2007
This was taken just as we moved in to show our place to my family, but I like it because it's so classic August in Dallas. Looking at it you can almost feel the heat and haze in the air.

December 2007
Our nighttime sunset view. So many drinks on this patio watching the city twinkle in front of us.

June 2009
Summer storm coming in over Dallas

August 2009
Pre-storm... so spooky/beautiful

October 2009
Incredibly dramatic before those clouds opened up

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great excitement leads to great eloquence

Two dozen times over the course of the weekend in DC:

"Umm... I don't know if you've heard, but we're moving here."

and the always-eloquent:

"Holy crap, this is happening!"

(which is also the sentiment expressed in this photo, one of my favorites:)

So yeah. I don't know if you've heard, but holycrapthisishappening. We're leaving right after work on Friday, February 5. Which is in nine days. Nine days to try to sell my car (pipe dreams, I'm afraid), to pack up all our belongings (so. many. belongings.), to say our goodbyes (just for now until fun reunions, never fear!), and to get all the details in order. Nine days!

Ages ago, when we both still lived in Albuquerque and were deeply rooted in the "how in the world are we going to make this work?" phase, we imagined that if we didn't have it in us to go the long-distance relationship route, we might one day both end up in DC at the same time, and if so we could pick up where we left off. It was a city that attracted both of us, indepedent of one another, so it wasn't absolutely crazy to trust in the universe that way. And we lead charmed lives, after all, it could happen. But instead we forged ahead and slogged through the plane fares, and now here we are, moving to DC together. Full circle and all that.

There's something really special about waiting to do this now, though. Have I mentioned that one of my sisters-in-law lives in DC, too? She's just a little bit awesome:

Speaking of awesome... On Sunday night we saw Thievery Corporation, who sold out a five-night run at the 9:30 Club, where the two of us are going to be spending quite a bit of time soon. Seeing live music is our favorite activity. Made it into the vows, even.

So the show is awesome, and it's ridiculously crowded and we're sweating our asses off but not particularly caring, and through the music we grinned at each other multiple times and said, you guessed it:

"I don't know if you've heard, but this is our local music place now."

and then

"Holy crap, this is happening!"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday I'm in Love (abridged facial hair edition!)

I'm a wee bit distracted this week, as you might have gathered. We'll be in DC this weekend finding an apartment. You know, just that place we will live for the next year of our lives. Starting really, really soon. EEK! We return to Dallas Monday night, at which time we are presumably calm and collected and ready to pack up 5,000 pounds of belongings (the mover's estimate... seriously) and get our acts together.  

So on that note, I only have two picks for you this week. But I'm not apologizing, because they're thematic, okay? I get a tad bit more credit this way, even if I'm missing one.

T's unemployment beard

I haven't yet entered the bittersweet stage of saying goodbye to our current zip code (even though MM has, and she is a darling for it), but I'll get there once my head clears. In the meantime, the only truly bittersweet goodbye I've really fully developed is for T's out-of-work facial hair. There's certainly lots to be said for smooth skin and dress pants and great shirts and the like - and they're coming with his new job, which of course I'm incredibly thankful for - but I've so enjoyed my scruffy House Husband this winter. This is a man who still fairly consistenly jokes that he's too clean cut for me (my previous partners were, let's say, a tad hairier than my preppy Nutmeg Stater), so you know I'm hanging on to my beard memories while they're fresh.

The true highlight of this week, though, which also involves fabulous facial hair?

"Crazy Heart"

This film is brilliant and beautiful, and absolutely my favorite thing I've seen this year. Jeff Bridges is tremendous. Just incredible. I mean, he was and is and always will be The Dude, but he is without question Bad Blake, too. The songs he performs in this film are so downright gorgeous and bare that I simply can't hear them enough; they've been on constant replay in our place ever since we saw the film. Seriously, go see this. Just do it. And while I'm at it, Jeff Bridges' website? Kind of unfairly cool.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Globes o' Cuteness: How-To!

Several of you asked how I made the marble magnets that we gave as Christmas gifts. This one's for you:

Supplies: You can find the supplies to make 50 magnets at your local craft store for less than $10. You’ll need glass floral beads and basic magnets (I chose 3/4 inch for the size of my magnets/beads, but other sizes are available), Glass & Bead glue, and a circle punch (the punch is completely optional - if you’re more precise and less lazy than I am when it comes to cutting out tiny circles, skip it!)

Step 1: Cut out a circle of the image you want in your magnet. We used our wedding logo, initials, designs, photos, you name it. The circle punch makes this step a breeze. I printed my images onto cardstock so they’d be stiffer against the glue, but anything will work - even pages torn out of magazines.

Step 2: Put a small dot of glue onto the magnet and spread with a paper clip or toothpick.

Step 3: Place your paper circle onto the magnet and press. You’ll notice that I sized our logos smaller than the magnet; that’s because I wanted to see all the text even with the marble’s magnification. With more graphic images, I sized them right at 3/4 inch.

Step 4: Apply a second layer of glue to the magnet and spread, just as you did in Step 2.

Step 5: Place the glass bead on top of the glue and move it around until you’re happy with the placement (you’ll have about 30 seconds to do this before the glue starts dying). When you like the way it looks, apply pressure to the entire magnet for a few seconds to help it stick together.

Step 6: Voila! Affix to your fridge and ooh and ahh at its DIY cuteness!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Our Next Big Step!

We're circling right back to where we began, it turns out... with politics. It goes a little something like this:



That's right, folks! In one month's time, we'll be the newest citizens of our nation's capital, and we couldn't be more thrilled. It's a new chapter for us both, and I'm excited and humbled and EXCITED and just plain grinning at the opportunity. To begin an adventure side-by-side with my favorite person in a fantastic city... I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

Let the packing and finding an apartment and figuring out our lives holy crap adventures begin!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

Three little videos to carry us through to the weekend ... Have a fantastic one, everybody!

Suits the Musical

I'm a huge "How I Met Your Mother" fan, and this song for their 100th Episode should make you smile even if you don't follow the show, or know all about Barney and his penchant for expensive suits and many, many, many women. I've been crushing on Neil Patrick Harris for ages now... from the days of Doogie, to selling him coffee in a great local store in Albuquerque (he grew up there! ABQ shout-out!!), to hearing that he was kicking ass on Broadway, to loving every minute of Barney and the other characters on HIMYM, to applauding his decision to come out with as much grace as he did, to following him on Twitter and constantly snorting at his sense of humor. A good one, this guy. Who can also SING!

Hitler finds out about Conan

You've surely heard about the Conan/Leno drama this week... here it is a nutshell, if not. Proud member of Team Conan over here, by the way. (His letter, seriously? So stand-up of him. HA!) I wasn't the only one who took the news badly. Hitler, who was planning a nice Southern California vacation to see the show live, was quite upset to hear that Conan had been supplanted. This video might not be your style of humor, but me? Peels of laughter every time I watch this. Which is a few times. Several, maybe. Okay: I can't stop watching it. There, you have me.

Light Writing Proposal

I saw this over on White Thread and was completely blown away. First, this proposal took place in Raleigh (Raleigh shout-out!!). Second, it involves "light writing," which the groom describes in fantastic nerdy detail with explanatory photos here. Third, the footage leading up to the proposal in this video is a soft montage set against an alt soundtrack that makes my heart sing. (Related, almost any soft montage set to an alt soundtrack will make my heart sing.) Light writing: the coolest thing I never even knew existed until this week. Congrats Derick and Emily!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lemony goodness (can't help but smile)

Some nights you've just gotta eat your optimism, you know? Last night called for a brightening of spirits, and so our dear friend the lemon came to the rescue, in the form of Caesar Salad and Chicken Piccata.


I've been craving a Caesar salad lately, in part because there's nothing like that crisp, green, tangy crunch, but also because of this recent Savour post on the "controversial classic." There, Kate defends the humble anchovy as a must-do. I'm fine with anchovies (you might remember that I wrote about them here), but as my partner in crime isn't a huge fan, we compromise: we use them in dressings, but not as components of the dish. And I'll remind you what I said about them regarding Green Goddess Dressing: anchovies add so much depth of flavor to any dressing that I consider them to be irreplaceable. Give them a try before you judge. But onto Caesar, yes?

Compromise Caesar Salad
Adapted from Tyler Florence

(Why just a photo of the Caesar dressing, you ask? Because it's so good I wanted to stop there and eat it as dip with croutons, that's why. Also, my leafy green photos came out terribly blurry.)

This recipe makes enough for a dinner party, so I suggest cutting it in half if you don't want to have lots of leftovers.

1 clove garlic, smashed with a pinch of salt and a little olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 lemons, juiced (I used two gourgeous Meyer lemons - I like the subtlety that variety imparts to dressings. Whatever type of lemon you use, make sure they are small-ish ones, otherwise your dressing will be too acidic.)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce
A few handfuls of freshly-made croutons (If you're not making your own, check out your local bakery for some - Central Market's are delicious if you're in Texas)

Make the dressing: Smear the garlic paste over the inside of the salad bowl. Put the anchovies, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and water into a blender/food processor and process for 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth. With the blender running, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify. Stir in the Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper; set aside. (Refrigerate the dressing if you will not be using it right away.)

Assemble the salad: Tear the lettuce into a large bowl. Add enough dressing to coat the salad to your liking. Add some extra Parmesan and the croutons and toss the salad well. Serve immediately.


And now our main dish:

The combination of chicken, lemon, and capers is one of my favorite flavors. Chicken piccata is such a homey dish to me, and absolutely one of our household favorites. Sometimes I use artichokes or white wine in this dish, but last night I made it as it's written, although I upped the recipe a tad to use six chicken breasts instead of four (I've warned you I cook for an army; leftovers are our friends). This is a Giada recipe, and I know she bugs a lot of people (what with the heaving cleavage and forthcoming Target line and all), but you know what? I like Giada's recipes. Her "Everyday Italian" is a great source for simple Italian dishes, perfect for weeknight cooking. You can always adapt the recipes to dress them up a bit, or seek out other cooks for more authentic or complex dishes, but I'm telling ya: Giada's chicken piccata is simply delicious... and it's absolutely simple to prepare. On harried weeknights, I love that kind of dinnertime ease.

Chicken Piccata
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis


2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes*. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

(I like an additional squirt of fresh lemon juice on the finished platter as well)

*If you have large pans like I do, ignore the "only two at a time" rule and you're done quite a bit faster than if you used this method. You also end up using less butter and olive oil, although your chicken won't be quite as browned.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Every morning while I get ready for work, our cat Fanny sits next to a painting of my old dog Jack on the edge of the bathtub and watches me. I love that she does this; I like to think that she and Jack would've been thick as thieves, had they known each other. (Small fuzzy black cat and 140-lb gentle giant as best friends? It's practically a Lifetime movie.) She waits there until I'm ready, then trots out to her food bowl for breakfast. A kitten of patterns, this one.*

Everyone's striking the Fanny pose this week, made to wait patiently (or not so patiently) to hear some news or direction regarding Ye Olde Job Search. I'm not sure that I look as cute as Fanny does while waiting for the next move (and my nervous habits certainly give her the upper hand in elegance), but at least I cause less trouble around our place than she does. (Broken hurricane globe and thrown-up Christmas ribbon and general mishief OMG.)

So before I start leaping over decorative items and smirking as they shatter into a million pieces, let's get some news already, k? (I also notice that Fanny doesn't depend on wine and cheese to soothe her frayed, impatient nerves. Interesting.)

*Meanwhile, our other cat Switters yawns and wonders why we don't just luxuriously lounge around until we hear something. Kind of a good question, actually.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Blog Crushin' Monday

We're back from a weekend of "what ifs" and "just maybes," but more on that later. For now, I'm just in the mood to spread the love a bit. Karma and all. Please allow me to present five crush-worthy blogs, each helmed by some pretty amazing women (go ahead and cheer after each list item; they deserve their own round of applause):

The Four Dog Fig Farm. Sasha's a friend of mine from New Mexico, and her blog from the South Valley takes me right back there with every read. She also consistently reminds me why I'd want to be friends with her, even I wasn't already. Her takes on gardening, cooking, decor, and more remind me with every post why she's one of the coolest kids out there.

Spice and Sass. Samma makes me grin like a fool and tickles me to no end. We have grand plans to do a driving and eating tour of various Southern hot spots one day, and I'd be lying if I denied that doing so is one of my big goals for 2010. We don't even need the road trip, though, really... I'd take front porch sittin' and sippin' with this gal in a heartbeat.

The Sweetest Occasion. Cyd's eye for event design is incredible, and this blog of hers gives me that "oh wow look at THAT detail, no THAT detail, no THAT detail!" feeling that I've missed since wedding planning. And since Cyd features all sorts of soirees, there's no post-wedding guilt associated with ogling her pretty pictures! Thank you, Cyd, for my daily dose of eye candy and inspiration.

Playing House. Amy has an infectious enthusiasm that is among my favorite qualities in people, online or off. She tackles culinary projects big and small in her kitchen, always with the sort of positive can-do-ness that I find absolutely irresistible, and always without any hint of airs or judgment. Amy's on my "fantasy next door neighbor" list hall of fame, and for more reasons than I can count.

A Lovely Morning. I've been crushing on Kristina for ages now... before her pregnancy, before the new business venture, before her wedding (and mine). She's just that kind of crush-worthy powerhouse. Reading Kristina is endlessly calming for me, and reminds me of the kind of life I most want to live. That's no small thing.

Heart letterpress cards by wrapstardesign.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday I'm in Love

Greetings from our nation's capital, via the power of scheduled posting! My three picks for the week:

New Wave Victorian

I have pages of bookmarks on etsy of art printed onto newsprint, collages using newsprint, you name it - it's kind of my thing. My latest discovery producing such yumminess is thespottedsparrow, who makes these fantastic images using digital newsprint collage and printed images. In her New Wave Victorian series, she combines Victorian images with lines from some of my favorite New Wave songs, all set against newsprint. Is there a more brilliant combination, really? I mean, "She Blinded Me With Science," featuring a corseted Marie Curie lookalike? "You Spin Me Right Round" on a high wheel bicycle? "Rock Me Amadeus," with a dapper gentleman leaning against a piano? So, so good.

Bertie County Sea Salt and Black Pepper Peanuts

Oh man, these things are good. And addictive. Full disclosure: Bertie County is where my grandparents are from. Pretty much no one is from Bertie County. And my grandparents grew peanuts, among other things. Not these peanuts, though - no financial incentive on my part to urge you to buy them. They're just damn good peanuts. And they're produced by real folks instead of factories. And if you can't justify buying regular 'ol peanuts from a weird county in northeastern NC just because, consider the new experience of Sea Salt and Black Pepper peanuts, which I'll bet is a flavor you've never tried. It might be the first time, but I bet you it won't be the last. If sea salt and black pepper isn't your style, there's always the standard-bearer for decadent and unstoppable nomming.

Cottage Industrialist Seasonal Calendar

I do love calendars. Lots of them, in fact. Some I gaze at, some I scribble on, some I assign to particular projects alone. You can imagine my delight, then, when I read over at the kitchn about a free calendar download from the Cottage Industrialist themed around seasonal produce. Each month uses bright colors and adorable graphics to describe what's in season and can be printed onto 8.5x11 paper. Starting 2010 by exclaiming "now featuring 100% more collards" is my kinda calendar. Go download a calendar of your own and thank CI for giving us such cuteness to kick off the year (only the first six months are available so far). Mine's on cardstock and tied with ribbon ... I need to start filling this baby in!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Moving my Money in 2010

One of my goals for 2010 - once we figure out Project: Next Big Step and settle down in a new place, of course - is to move my money. I'm talking big banks v. small banks, and wanting to be on the side of the good guys. I currently belong to a mega-bank, and I'm tired of it. Tired of feeling like one among one million, tired of feeling like I'm supporting the wrong people, tired of feeling like I'm part of the problem.

Enter Move Your Money, a new effort to help folks realize the power of moving their money to a small community bank. Moving my small account to a Main Street bank won't change the world, but if enough of us take a stand, we just might make a collective difference.

View a list of community banks in your area here, and if you have four minutes to spare, consider watching this video. It's a testament to the power of doing public service videos well - and using classic movie clips to make your point. Consider moving your money in 2010, too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

You'll thank me later: Blue Corn Muffins with Chile and Cheese

The most-searched thing that brings readers to this little blog (besides "naked freckled girls," obviously) is green chile stew. I blame the siren song of green chile. Once you're hooked, you are hooked. I hope those folks got the fix they needed with my Missing New Mexico Green Chile Stew. Last night on Twitter, I heard about another person answering the call of the hot green stuff via my recipe. In return, I promised Suzie a recipe today to accompany her pot of stew, and since I'm a woman of my word, here it is: Blue Corn Muffins with Chile and Cheese.

I've made these countless times, and they're always a hit. They're from The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook, a really fantastic book (the fall vegetable stew on page 56 is a regular in my rotation). We actually just made these over the weekend, along with a pot of Four Chile Chili (another recipe I highly recommend, by the way), and took dinner over to our friends with a newborn. The chili was well-received, but these muffins were what they couldn't stop talking about.

Blue Corn Muffins with Chile and Cheese
from The Sante Fe School of Cooking Cookbook

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (milk may be substituted)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup blue cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking power
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
3/4 cup roasted, peeled, diced green chile

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins well or insert paper liners.*
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
3. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Slowly mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
5. Stir in the corn, cheese, chiles and mix well. Spoon the batter into muffin tins. Bake about 25 minutes, until just firm. Serve warm with butter.

(Make ahead of time if it helps - these reheat wonderfully. Yields 6 extra-large muffins, 12 large muffins, or 18 small muffins)

*I'm addicted to my extra-large red silicone muffin "pan," so I skip greasing/lining, and then rejoice when my jumbo-size hot muffins pop right out of the mold when they're done.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bigger brainpower begins here

As you'll remember from my resolutions, I want to write more, better, and smarter in 2010. My sanity depends on it.

One little housekeeping item here related to that bigger resolution: I'm revitalizing my delicious account as a way to organize the amount of brain food I collect. By doing so, I hope that I'll once again want to take on issues near and far, big and small with my own words, instead of just momentarily pondering them.

I've had an intermittent relationship with delicious. I used it ages ago fairly routinely, when it was easy to tag articles for friends of mine and there was a great Firefox extension to help me bookmark links. For whatever reason, my Firefox extension crapped out on me and I could never fix it. Then delicious changed their tools a bit. And now my corporate IT department has clamped down on all things user-friendly, and I'm stuck with Internet Explorer during the daytime. Eventually, delicious came to be used here mostly just to collect my cooking links, which you see at the top of the right sidebar. But I was even slacking off with that.

New Year, new rule. I will be a better delicious user. And you can keep me accountable on the right sidebar, where a feed will show the five most recent articles I've bookmarked (right underneath my Goodreads bookshelf). Maybe some of my nerdy interests will interest you. Maybe this time I'll keep it up. My dormant writing instincts certainly hope so.

Globes o' Cuteness

And you thought our Crafty Christmas was relegated to hooch! Nope. Waaaay classier than that over here.

Please admire our glass marble magnets. These were so easy and fun to make that we actually ended up gifting them to about a dozen people. Seriously... I couldn't stop making them.

Although they photograph terribly, these little magnified globes are super-adorable in person. They're not only a snap to make, but really economical, too - all the supplies for twice as many magnets as I needed cost $10, and that included the circle punch that I bought to avoid cutting tiny circles for days on end. So if you're less lazy and more precise than I am, you're looking at a cool $7. Anyone out there looking for a DIY wedding favor? These could definitely fit the bill.

It amused me to personalize everyone's selection. Each person on our gift list received one of our campaign logos (no, they never get old, in case you were wondering), an initial, and one or two other fun things (for my siblings, their kids' faces; for my hometown bff, Louboutins and martinis; for my aunt, a UNC logo... you get the idea). I also made a yellow and gray set for my sister-in-law, in honor of her yellow and gray wedding in May. Cute little circles. Cute little glass marbles. Lots o' cuteness.

And thus continues my low-skill Crafty Christmas report.

Monday, January 4, 2010

When all else fails, get your siblings drunk

You remember the extreme limitations imposed upon my family gift-giving this year, don't you? After trying and failing at a few different ideas for my siblings and their SOs, our highly scientific thought process went something like this:

Without further ado, our Crafty Christmas:

To set the theme, I made booklets for each couple that were printed on cardstock, hole-punched, and tied with holiday ribbon. I forgot to take a photo of the finished products, but here are the jpgs. Read them vertically, and click for a larger version.

Vanilla-infused vodka and homemade vanilla sugar

Jalapeno-infused vodka and a mini Zing Zang bloody mary mix

The spread at my sister's house the next night, where the goodies were liberally sampled:

Being the Photoshop wannabe that I am, I had a blast making the cute labels (thank you DIY blogs with your endless inspiration and templates!). Admittedly, we went over the $20 limit (even before I shipped everything to NC... trying to get past security with four bottles of homemade booze in my purse wasn't my idea of a good time on Christmas morning), but I think it's the effort that counts, don't you? With more advance planning, I know I could've found cheaper vodka bottles and vanilla beans, which were the big expenditures (thanks cheap booze that tastes great when flavored!). Here's the breakdown:

Sugar and Spice Gift Box
Sugar jar: $1.25
Sugar: free from my pantry
Vanilla bean for sugar: $4.99
Two glass bottles for vodka: $9.00
Vodka for both flavors: $7.50
Vanilla bean for vodka: $4.99
Jalapeno for vodka: $.50
Mini Zing Zangs: free (we had these on hand, but they retail for about $5 each)
Printing/cardstock/labels: free

Final cost: $28.23
Crafty Christmas with boozy sibs: Priceless

PS: My sister promptly entered the One-Upsmanship Hall of Fame by opening up her booze box from us and then gifting a painting of our niece on canvas to my brother. I made labels and added things to stuff. Lisa painted Taylor in a beach scene, walking down to the ocean's edge. Food for thought.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Are you there, Best Self? It's me, Margaret.

In the waning hours of New Year's Day, I'm avoiding going to bed because I don't want to finish my novel. It has completely captivated me this week, and is taunting me in the next room, daring me to enter its clutches so it can leave me alone and desperate for more in the end. Since I know I'm hooked, I'm delaying the inevitable heartbreak. Instead, a little reflection tonight.

That's a T-family New Year's good luck tradition you see above, by the way: shots of vodka out of cored cucumbers. We realized that we didn't do the traditional cucumber vodka shots last New Year's, which is obviously the reason behind 2009 unemployment. Easier to blame those forgotten vodka shots than getting all riled up about our crappy economy, after all. No forgetting our cucumber vodka this year, though. We were on those babies like a freshman year bender, and with good reason.

Speaking of courting luck, the sheer number of people bidding good riddance to 2009 this year is fairly astounding. It's been a rough one for so many of us, and I say that as a person with good enough fortune to get married in 2009. So many people we love need a turnaround and injection of hope in 2010, and I've got to believe we're all going to get it. There's a gravity to hoping for positive change that can help put life into perspective, for me anyway. It's been freeing these last few months, editing away what's unimportant and frivolous and focusing on the real stuff of life. That said, here's my take on 2010... no big deal, just being my best me and all. Gulp.

  • Appreciate the small stuff. I think I do this fairly well already. In 2010, though, it's going to be crucially important that I keep enough levity in my outlook that I don't get too weighed down by what's ahead of us. We have some huge changes and decisions coming that are sometimes going to feel overwhelming, but I hope that I'm not so overcome by the big picture that I forget to smile and giggle and laugh so hard it hurts about what's great about our lives. Because to be honest, I feel extraordinarily lucky. I know how blessed I am. When things are getting stressful, I want to think smaller, look around me, feel that hand in mine, see the photos of our loved ones around us, hear that song I love playing in the background, smell that yummy dish on the stove, and snuggle in close. That's the good stuff.
  • Move. Given what I just wrote above about the small stuff, here's the kicker: we've got to get out of here. I'm desperate for a place to really call home, which this city has never been, and just never can be. I miss being in a place that breathes with me, a place that I feel connected to, a place where I'm truly invested. My work is about creating community and prioritizing a sense of place, after all... this is the stuff that I live for. It's not good for me to roll my eyes at people around me and lash out about their out-of-whack priorities. I don't feel better about myself because I think others are misguided; I feel better about myself when I'm surrounded by like-minded people. We have some wonderful friends in this town, but... but... I don't belong here. (I mean seriously, I have fantasies about the Northpark mall exploding into flames and an entire city's credit limit drying up and forcing them to realize their lives are devoid of meaning... these are not happy or healthy thoughts!) I want a place where I can grow roots, be proud, and be my best self. That place is not this city for me, and I don't want to make concessions about the kind of place I want to call home.

  • Patience. Going to need it to bridge bullet point A and B, as you can see. Keep me away from the bomb-making manuals and back to the small moments! Snuggles and good songs and laughter!
  • Write more, and better. I miss writing the way I used to, the way that feeds me, and has for my entire life. Somehow in my brain I've gotten hinged on the notion that our next city will be where I rediscover my writing chops and where my brain recharges and I'm full of the fire I had through college and grad school and over at m-pyre. I hope this is true. I know that when I'm typing with fury I feel the most like myself. I know that when I'm in the writing zone, I catch T smiling at me with a look he never gets when I'm doing anything else. It's who I am, and I need to stop blaming my current zip code for the fact that my fingers haven't been properly worked out in longer than I care to admit. Being my best self can start with this keyboard.

  • Feel the love, and give it. I want to soak in more goodness than I can stand in 2010. I want to give that goodness back, too. I want to vocalize all the positive feelings I have for the amazing people in my life that I too often internalize. I want to be the best partner I can be, and daughter, and sister, and friend. I want to be better at replenishing my connections and exploring new ones. I want to be a sponge, and if the people I love could use some of what I've got, I want to squeeze out whatever they need, then soak more back in. My best self: sponge. Who knew? 
C'mon, 2010: bring it. (I'll take more shots if necessary.)
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