Monday, December 10, 2012

Salted Caramel Pie

The most indulgent thing I've done in ages is to eat this salted caramel pie. I actually meant to share it with you a year ago, when my sister and I first made it for Thanksgiving 2011. So I'm only a year late on this one. We never stopped talking about the pie, so I made it again for Thanksgiving 2012 and took it the family farm in Bertie County, NC. It was a hit.

And that trip, by the way? So peaceful.

But back to the pie. It's dangerous. My brother doesn't even like sweets and he had two pieces. It's easy to put together, just time-consuming. Have a slow day at home to yourself? Think about whipping this baby together. It's hands-down the best dessert I've ever made, and I'm prepared to make it for the rest of my life, if family requests are any indication.
Salted Caramel Pie
From Food & Wine
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 5 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light brown sugar
Two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
Fleur de sel
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor, pulse the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and light brown sugar until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into a 9-inch glass or metal pie plate. Bake for about 10 minutes, just until lightly browned. Let cool. Increase the oven temperature to 425°.
2. Scrape the condensed milk into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and sprinkle with a scant 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel. Cover the dish with foil and place it in a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the pan to reach one-third of the way up the side of the baking dish. Bake, lifting the foil to stir 2 or 3 times, until the condensed milk is golden and thickened, about 2 hours; add more water to the roasting pan as necessary. The consistency of the caramel should be like dulce de leche. Don't worry if it is lumpy; it will smooth out as it chills.
3. Scrape the caramel filling into the pie crust, smoothing the top. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with vegetable oil spray and cover the pie. Refrigerate until the filling is chilled and set, at least 4 hours.
4. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream with the confectioners' sugar until firm. Remove the plastic. Mound the whipped cream on top of the pie and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Cut into wedges and serve.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Right now there is a puppy asleep on my feet, a cat being spooned by the sleeping husband beside me, another cat on the windowsill pondering life's mysteries, and a wheezing computer trying its hardest not to die on me as I type. There's a body that doesn't feel at all like mine, but hasn't for months anyway, a brain that's crammed much too full of work to tell a proper story or be socially engaging, and deep fatigue. Eleanor just emitted one of those great deep puppy sighs, and girl, I am feeling you on that. Let's all sigh together.

I used to love the phrase "grace under pressure." I aspired to rise above whatever life threw at me in a series of triumphant Clairee Belcher moments featuring resplendent hair and heartwarming sass. My reality, however, is that I don't know how to properly blow out my own hair and I'm too tired for quick wit. My reality is that I'm working way too much in a high-pressure situation, that T and I will have one weekend alone in our house in two months' time, and that fertility medications continue to be someone's idea of a pretty crappy joke.

But. There is a Christmas tree! Our first tree together, believe it or not. It's twinkling downstairs amidst a messy living space, making stacks of mail and piles of shoes look almost charming in all its twinkly glory. A Christmas tree is like Instagram for your house, I swear. The tree's a good three feet shorter than my heart wants it to be and it happens to have many large holes that weren't quite apparent in the Eastern Market tree lot, but it's ours. What I'd love now is the time and quiet space inside my head to devote a night - or even an hour - to just looking at it and feeling peaceful. Is it possible to schedule feelings of peace and goodwill, or is that a stretch? I'm really looking for life Instagram, aren't I?

The list of things I wish I was better at right now is lengthy. Cooking. Housekeeping. Blogging. Seeing friends. Going to the movies. Reading. Making time for a haircut/facial/massage. Having energy. Any energy at all. Lately I'm good at working, medicating, and seeing family. Those are important things, but I miss the small stuff. I miss moments that don't need a filter. I know they're out there, somewhere. I'd just really like for them to make their way toward my Christmas stocking.*

*Not yet hung and currently in a pile on the mantel. But you get my drift.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Eleanor gets kissed... and ID'd

Did you know it was Eleanor Roosevelt's birthday yesterday? It was. [Please pause for a moment of silence to the late, great ER.]

As for our little Eleanor, she finds it pretty exhausting trying to live up to her namesake's greatness. Sleeping like a champ, retrieving frisbees and balls to her heart's content, bonding with her dog-walker, gearing up for puppy classes - pretty tiring stuff. Not to mention making out with Switters the cat... now that is exhausting. And on video! Please enjoy my excited whispers to T regarding my sneaky videotaping and my quick interference when things started getting a little too physical, which they tend to do with these two. (I already know you're going to ignore the laundry pile, so I won't even bother asking about that.)

In other big canine news, guess what we received this week? Eleanor's DNA report! It made us laugh. Turns out our four month old 13-pounder has a pretty good chance of staying small-ish. And while my big dog-loving heart is slightly crushed by that news, my Eleanor-loving heart doesn't care one bit. Here's our possible runt-for-life who's nearly all legs trying to look taller upon hearing the news.

To recap, when we adopted Eleanor we were told she was a lab/poodle mix. We definitely doubted that rather designer mix of breeds given her rough-and-tumble upbringing, and threw out the poodle possibility pretty quickly. Her rescuer was fairly certain her mother was a lab because of a pregnant lab in the area and the fact that many of Eleanor's littermates looked just like labs. Our girl looks nothing like a lab, but it seemed possible. As for the rest of her, guesses included schnauzer, terrier, and German wire-haired pointer.

Drumroll please...

Eleanor Roosevelt the Scruffy Squirt is...

1/2 purebred Miniature Poodle
1/2 mixed breed consisting primarily of Terrier and Boxer

So that's our girl! I really should've taken bets on this mystery. She's not going to be the biggest gal on the block, but she just might be the cutest. And that's all right with me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Still kickin'

It's been pointed out that I'm a bad blogger, which is entirely accurate. Instagram is so much easier and fun to update lately than the blog, I have to admit (I'm "magmaeA" over there, by the way). In other words, I'm tired and lazy right now. And yet, our days have been peppered with liveliness, too. A little taste:

This girl.

Getting a dog was such a good idea. She's worth it in every way, even if she's turning out to be a little shrimp who'll be probably 1/3 of what I consider to be the ideal dog weight. She's our little shrimp, though, and she's perfect. DNA test results coming soon!

This weekend getaway.

We spent a recent weekend on the Delaware beaches with one of our favorite couple friends, J and A. The four of us see a lot of each other around DC, so when they invited us to hang at their parents' place in Delaware (whose beaches I'd never visited), we pounced. I think we can all agree that finding couple friends can be pretty tough, and when it works, you hang on tight. A and J were kind enough to invite Eleanor to spend the weekend with us, too. Watching her big grin and tiny body on those long legs running free on the beach warmed my heart more than I should admit. Our Delaware weekend also featured one of my all-time favorite meals: a lobster BLT served with lobster creamed corn. Yeah, I said it. NOM. This getaway happened just when we needed it most, so I'd like to raise a virtual bloody mary to the couple we like even more after a weekend away with them - no small thing. Next up: foursome scotch tour of Scotland! (Which admittedly might take a while to come to fruition. We can dream, right?)

This weekend at home.

My parents spent last weekend in DC and true to form, we kicked some major butt under their direction. They planned two weekends with us this fall. The first was to be the "yard planning" weekend, and the second was the implementation weekend. Although we were technically supposed to be just planning last weekend, we did a heck of a lot of implementing, too. My mom's grand vision for the yard is slowly taking shape - it's about halfway done. We put down 23 bags of mulch, ripped out multiple ancient and sickly plants, found all manner of glass and trash buried in the yard, put in lots of new plants, and developed a concrete plan for the weekend of October 20, when we'll finalize it all. Yard stuff is so funny - I never prioritized having one or really caring much about the fact that for Capitol Hill, we actually have a big yard. Now that Eleanor's with us, though, I love that we can play fetch right at home and she can actually run up and down that side yard - all the better now that it's no longer covered with ivy. We love our walkable neighborhood and big local parks, but seeing this yard finally becoming an amenity rather than an afterthought is pretty spectacular. And it's all due to my parents, who rock. Big time.

Oh yeah, one other thing...

It's on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A new chapter.

So. Life has been... full.

Puppy licks. Interspecies interaction. Neighborhood strolls. Showers hosted. Work events. So much support from my loved ones that I walk around in a constant state of humble gratitude. Because life has also been... weird.

Hospital visits. Anesthesia. So.many.injections. Ultrasounds. Side effects galore. Crazy-science-magic. The weight of my own body on itself only barely equalling the emotions of it all.

Right. I haven't mentioned it here yet.

We started IVF.

And because the best place to begin is probably the most surreal place, I'll offer the following:

This is what $3,743 worth of medication looks like.

That's a lot to put in your body over the course of a month. And when the docs later realize they forgot something and tell you it'll be another $380, you don't even bat an eye, because that's actually cheap compared to the stuff piled on that table.

IVF is a lot like IUI, actually... on steroids. And we should know, after three IUI failures. The promise of IVF is bigger, though. There's more certainty, more knowledge, and yep, more money. Lots more.

A dear friend of mine asked me what I felt like the worst part of IVF was. Did it represent a failure, a scary next step, the feeling of wasting time, the amount of medication, or was it the money that got to me most? And without skipping a beat, I said money. Our health insurance is fantastic for everything except this. We are 100% out of pocket for IVF, which is how we ended up spending $4k in meds. Add on the actual cost of treatment, monitoring, procedures, and high-tech lab work? We basically bought a car at our fertility clinic.

The bottom line, though, is what we'd rather have in our lives more than a child. The answer, of course, is nothing. Not a new deck, a landscaped yard, less student loan debt, or more savings. Not any of that. Yet still, it burns. I wonder why our cost to conceive is so high, when other people's is, say, the cost of a wine cooler. In my worst moments I whine about the inequities. Especially since even now, after doctors have watched T's sperm successfully fertilize my eggs in a lab, we don't have any more answers than we did before. "Unexplained Infertility," still.

So these days we're laying low. We're eating at home, playing with the puppy, watching baseball, and reading books. Outside of the side effects, it's not a bad place to be, really. Our days are quieter than before, but in a nesting way rather than an empty way. We're full of hope, because our chances are better than ever.

Is hope worth the cost of my beloved old Subaru Forester? I doubt it. But is a child? Absolutely.

To be continued.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Labor Day lemonade

Lots of ladies in my life lately, which I adore. They're helping to take my mind off some less-than-awesome medical developments in my world. Great ladies will do that for a girl.

My pals from graduate school spent the weekend here, walking the monuments with me and remembering all about that thing we have here on the East Coast called humidity. It was a sweaty, wonderful weekend. We planned Marjorie's side business, planned Mikaela's forthcoming son's middle name, planned the trashy fictional series I will write to make my millions. We do know how to plan, the three of us. I love those two with all I have, and Albuquerque is a lucky city to have them.

The girls approved of Eleanor, of course. She continues to amuse us with her scruffy self and charming antics.

She's such a little squirt right now. I keep wondering aloud to T if she's ever actually going to grow (a weekend parasite certainly didn't help matters). She's sort of a miniature old lady right now with that beard of hers. I can't get enough of that funny face.

See that collar of hers? Girl is decked out for election season. She's feeling it, too - I'm pretty sure after Tuesday night she was angling for a name change to Michelle. I get it - my love for the First Lady knows no bounds. 

How are the cats hanging in there, you might be wondering? Differently. Switters is more eager to be pals, and Fanny is occasionally bitchy for no reason whatsoever. In other words, they're being themselves. But ten days in, we're feeling pretty good about interspecies cooperation over here.

Puppy kisses, kitten purrs, good politics on tv, good friends visiting me from too far away... this is me making the best of this month. Bring it, September.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Introducing Eleanor

(Updates in red)

After months of trying to bring a dog home, we finally struck gold. Months of local rescue applications gone unanswered, months of being told we weren't good candidates for a dog because we didn't have a fenced 2-acre yard and I dare have a job outside the home (helloooooo 1950s), months of getting thisclose with certain dogs but it just not working out because they either didn't like cats or their current owners changed their minds, we made it happen.

This is Eleanor. She's twelvenine (long story) weeks old, a scruffy lab/poodle/schnauzer?/terrier?/German Shorthaired Pointer? mix of rough-and-tumble heritage.

Mystery solved: DNA test reveals all....

Eleanor was born in Georgia and dumped in a lot to die with her brothers and sisters. She found her way to us via a rescue partnership that sends dogs from the Deep South up north, which lets them escape the brutal shelter system down there and get matched with adopters like us, who outnumber available dogs in this area. We met her in Annapolis last night during a driving rainstorm, and even though we went in thinking one of her littermates would be our pick, this little lady stole our hearts.

She's a little squirt with big paws now, and they think she'll be 50 pounds or so when fully grown. She has serious eyes and a quirky sense of humor. We named her after one of my favorite ladies ever... a First Lady at that, also known for big thoughts and wry humor.

The cats are hanging in there. The first night is behind us. Our hearts are more full than they were yesterday, and our dog-in-the-District adventures are just beginning.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday I'm in Love

Thanks for your interesting comments on de-stressing this week, everyone - I loved reading how you turn off your brains and unwind. As a big first step, I did something crazy and new on Wednesday and Thursday of this week: I took a real lunch break! It turns out that eating anywhere but my office desk does great things for my brain, especially if that anywhere is a park bench next to a water feature. This is rocket science, I know. At any rate, we might be up to something fun and exciting this weekend - I'll 'fess up next week. In the meantime, some little tidbits from my world on the Web (outside of near-constant Todd Akin outrage, of course)... Have a wonderful weekend!

Time-Travel Photography

I'm obsessed with this photography project by Sergey Larenkov. Superimposing historical scenes (wartime action... wow) over today's images produces something eery and wondrous, all at once.

Hal Grades Your Bike-Locking

I just love this guy. Via Streetfilms comes this 2003 classic, Hal Grades Your Bike Locking. Hal rocks. There are sequels, too.

21 Jump Street

I love a good foreign film or depressing melodrama as much as the next film snob. You know what I also love, though? Well-cast comedy that's a lot smarter than you expect it to be. Enter 21 Jump Street, the couch with my guy, a big bowl of homemade popcorn, and the most enjoyable Friday night in recent history. Nope, not even kidding - this movie made me giggle. A lot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Soothe me.

I'm under (several) doctors' orders to decrease my stress level. Nothing decreases stress like being told you must decrease your stress level, right?

This summer I've made a concerted effort to unclutter my calendar and eliminate travel, which I know has historically been one of my biggest stress-inducers, one that I bring completely onto myself. ("yes I would looooove to come and visit you! yes let's please go out twice next week! yes I will do that huge thing for you! yesyesyesyes!") In other words, I'm trying to get better about saying no.

So far this August, I've only spent one night outside of DC. That's improvement. I cancelled my annual trip to New Mexico, and my lovely girlfriends out there decided they'll come visit me over Labor Day instead. More improvement. I've never tried harder to do as little as possible. It doesn't feel like me, though, all this saying no. (I am my mother's daughter in this respect... hi Mom!)

There are overarching stress factors in my life, I know. There's time: not feeling like I have enough of it, even as I try desperately to empty my calendar. There's work: working too much for my own good, and dealing with work drama that requires more of my involvement than I'd like. There's also money: ummmm, yeah. But isn't it funny how the same things that can de-stress us can also backfire in our heads? For example:
  • Animals. I love animals and instantly feel better when I'm around them. We've been trying to adopt a dog for ages (long story). But wait, when is the exact right time to adopt a dog and how should that be coordinated with life-planning and what about the costs of dog-walking and doggie daycare etc? I'd like to volunteer at the Washington Animal Rescue League, too, but wait, what about the time and can I really take on a new commitment?
  • Reading. Books soothe me. (Read this and this, by the way, not this.) You know what I hate lately, though? Magazines. Unread magazines are piled up all over my home and do nothing but advertise to me the fact that I don't have enough leisure time to flip through their pages. Oh great, the third issue of Coastal Living to add to the pile of magazines still wrapped in plastic? Yet another Food & Wine? Awesome.
  • Food. I love cooking. But not when I don't have time to care about it. See unread issues of Food & Wine, above.
  • Friends and Family. My loved ones make me happy, but I'm less happy about my travel lockdown that hampers my ability to visit them. This is a biggie for me, a constant guilt cycle.
  • Facials/Massages/etc. Traditionally my favorite indulgence has been a Triple Oxygen Facial at Bliss. T keeps trying to book me massages to relax. But no on both counts. I imagine myself lying there doing nothing but counting the dollars that could've been spent on, say, embryo freezing, and getting even more worked up than I was when I arrived. Sigh.
  • Exercise. Like many of you, I love the high of exercise once I'm in the zone, and let's be honest - I could use the endorphins. Getting in the zone, though, is like pulling teeth. And only being allowed to engage in high-impact activities one week of the month? Not helpful. Not enough time to get in the zone.
  • Water. Specifically, the ocean. My perennial happy place and the best way to clear my head. But there is no ocean in DC, and fertility clinic scheduling means I can't travel anyway. So.
  • Writing. If only I had the time/energy to do it right.
Here's my question: how do you relax? Can we lose our ability to relax over time? Should I just be buying lottery tickets to try to eliminate my work/financial concerns and shut up already? Without said lottery winnings, do I even have a shot?

And let's agree that I'll never again write a post as whiny as this one, okay? Pinkie swear.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lady-blogging, DC edition.

You know what my goal is for today? To cook dinner. Not cook a great dinner, not try out a new recipe, but to cook anything at all. These days I'm only cooking on the weekends and maybe one night a week. The rest of those nights I come home later than I'd like and try to recover from the day, when my mind does nothing but reel with tomorrow's To Do list. It's not a sustainable way of being, but until I figure out how to un-busy myself from "8 to 5" (oh, those quotations), my goals will remain simple: cooking edible food tonight.

When my life gets cluttered like this, I find so much inspiration in the women who are managing to charm and amuse on their blogs. Bloggers rocking it when I'm unable to do the same are so humbling, in the best way possible. So allow me to raise my glass to three bloggers who are inspiring me online lately. It doesn't hurt that they also happen to be women I admire in real life, gals with whom I've clinked glasses and shared laughs and great food. DC is bursting with fantastic women, truly. As you'll soon see:


I've been reading Mary's blog The Arugula Files since before we moved to DC - that's how much I like her writing. I think I once even posted a stalker-y "I live in Dallas but hate it here and want to move there and when I do we can be friends" sort of comment. Embarrassing. But how I could I not stalk Mary? She cooks brilliant food that's photographed beautifully, and she writes about it really, really well. Her asides on Arugula Files leave me in stiches (cheesecloth and Beyonce and gracefully acerbic barbs at all things "foodie"). In person, Mary is even more fantastic - and we have a slew of professional interests in common. Too good to be true, right? H Street happy hours have never been more fun.


Mandy is one of those adorable pixie girls who is so damn cute you spend the first few minutes you're with her not even hearing what she's saying because your inner monologue is reeling from all the adorable. And then your brain wakes up and you hear the spunky hilarity coming out of her Nashville-accented mouth, and you're smitten. And then you visit her blog Fabric Paper Glue and are blown away by the DIY wonder that is her online hangout, and you realize that this girl has major.crafting.skillz. And although Mandy's idea of a throw-away project might involve a lot more know-how than you possess (ahem), you love seeing her projects in action anyway. Also: "A Fabric & a Font?" Forever yes.


Oh, Bettina Dear indeed. Bettina lives in my neighborhood and is fast-becoming one of my favorite things about it. Things we have in common: cats, oysters, drinking, cute dresses, dubious love of many academic degrees, politics. Things we don't have in common: just enough to make our conversations interesting, always. Bettina just started blogging and I adore where she's going with it: food, eye candy, politics... a little bit of everything. Sound familiar? Like I said... we have lots in common. So I really think you'll like her. Also, Bettina is not allowed to move to the suburbs... no matter what she says.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Needles (and what's inside them)

I occasionally write about my struggle with infertility. It's good for me, and maybe good for some of you out there, too. Feel free to skip if you're not interested. If you are, you can read more from me here and find resources to help you or your loved ones here.

"How bad are the needles?"

That's what everyone wants to know about my infertility injections. How large they are, how painful they are, how weird it is to stab yourself as if it's no big deal.

Answer: it's pretty weird.

The lovely Mia Wallace demonstrating a fair but frowned-upon reaction to a syringe

The thing is, though - you get used to it. Like anything else.

For my first IUI, I couldn't get over the hilarity of the presentation. Imagine this: a large cooler arrives at your house filled with high-tech ice packs and boxes of syringe "pens." Sketchiness meets high-tech, right on your doorstop. Accoutrements include dozens of alcohol wipes and just what you've always dreamed of owning: your very own Sharps container. This is going to be fun!

The syringe pens go a long way in making this is as easy as possible. Old-school versions of this protocol included a lot more know-how on the part of the patient. But in 2012, I simply dial up my prescribed dose, grab a handful of tummy (not that I have a handful), and go for it.

Inserting the needle never hurts as much as you think it will. Sometimes there's a tiny drop of blood, but not often. Bruises are common, but as I said, you get used to them. If the worst part of this treatment were the actual injections, I'd be a happy girl. Here's what's not the worst part: not the needles, not the near-daily trips to the infertility clinic for "transvaginal" ultrasounds (if those sound familiar you're probably recalling these right-wing idiots), not the insemination itself, and not even the waiting for the positive or negative pregnancy test. The worst part (for me) is what's inside those needles, and how it makes me feel. That's what makes me dread the next injection. The prick and the ensuing bruise are manageable, but the 24-hour rollercoaster each one prompts inside my body is no joke.

Looking at my needle one night, full of dread

Here's the basic schedule: Every night for a week or so, I inject what in (very) layman's terms are basically steroids for my ovaries. This is why I have to have such frequent ultrasounds; the doctors are closely monitoring follicle growth and how the dosage is impacting number and size. Too many follices that are too large, and it's dangerous for me; too few and too small, and they'll increase my dosage. They're looking for way more and way bigger follicles than most of you reading this have in a regular cycle, but not so many that I'm in the hospital or auditioning for a reprisal of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight."

Looking back at my first IUI in January, I can now tell it was going to be a bust because I didn't hurt enough. My dosage was really low; the docs needed a baseline to see how my ovaries would react to the medication. I felt a little tired and crampy, but nothing terrible. By the time my dosage was doubled for my next two IUIs, I'd be flat on my back as much as possible. I become a swollen, aching, sore-to-the-touch patient with zero energy and zero clothes that fit. I try to keep a bra on at all times, because taking it off hurts so badly that it's not worth sleeping like a normal person. The fatigue is so strong I can barely keep my head up after 4 p.m. Concerts, dinners out, meetups with friends, all cancelled. I can barely get to work on the worst days. My sister asked me for a physical equivalent of the pain, and I told her it was like a heated metal corset being slowly cranked tighter... and tighter... and tighter... for a week.

Being weightless in a cold swimming pool over the 4th of July was the best feeling I'd had on the meds since January. I read nearly an entire novel floating in that pool. The minute I stepped out, though, the weight of my own body on itself was crushing. Also crushing: having to grimace and recover when your nephew jumps onto you for a hug; looking pregnant while trying desperately to be pregnant only not being pregnant; overhearing breastfeeding discussions and knowing that, no offense ladies, my boobs hurt about 100 times worse than yours do, only I'm not allowed to talk about them. (Thank goodness for forgiving dresses.) 

But there is an end to it. The "steroid" regimen is never more than ten days. When the doctors think the time is right, I take the "trigger shot" that also arrived in my high-tech yet sketchy cooler to force ovulation in 24-48 hours. The day after the shot, we do the insemination. And then we wait. And my body ever so slowly tries to recover.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Champagne and Diarrhea, Take II

More of my people from the best-named family portrait session ever. My mom just purchased a large canvas print for each of us, and I think I'm selecting the champagne photo for my print. It's just too good, and makes me grin every time I see it. But really... there are so many other great ones, too! Which would you choose?

(You're welcome for including the diaper explosion here. That photo is just plain awesome.)

Real words next week, promise. We're off for a quick night in New York with T's family and back on Saturday to work on a fun project. Happy, happy weekending!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday I'm in Love

Oh, Olympic fatigue. For two weeks, you ruin us with your late nights and your heart-stopping moments and your tears. Yet I wouldn't have it any other way. (GABBBBBBBBBY!!!!!!!) So while I'm bidding adieu to swimming and waving hello to track this weekend, I hope to also recharge my energy tank and maintain a happy-sleepy vibe all weekend long. No big plans, no big projects, just my guy and my cats, on the couch and in our neighborhood. Sounds perfectly mellow right about now. On to my picks for the week!

Dieter Braun Olympic Print

So much yes on this beauty. And wouldn't you know it'd look perfect in my upstairs hallway?

Sombrilla Sun Shade

Having just returned from a beach weekend myself, I'm loving the idea of these Sombrilla Sun Shades (hat tip to Remodelista), especially for families with kiddos in tow. Beach umbrellas are so bulky, and beach tents are such a pain to set up on a windy beach (my sister and I embarked on that comedy of errors last year, only to have poor Liam scraped by a blowing pole). These lovely sun shades, though, are simple, gorgeous, portable, and practical... what more do you need?

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art

I recently enjoyed the hell out of this book, and if you like abusdist comedic premises, you might, too. Christopher Moore has a bit of Tom Robbins to him, for those of you looking for a comparable author. He brings art legends (Renoir, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, so many more) to life and ties them together in the most improbable of ways. Part mystery, part thriller, part romance, part science fiction, part historical fiction... this book has everything except for a satisfying ending. (Although I think I might be alone on that note? Read it so we can discuss the ending. And cast the fantasy movie.) Ready yourself for awkward laughing-out-loud moments on trains and such. (Or from underneath your Sombrilla sun shade?) Note to DCers - this one's available in the library.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My people.

I love this crew. Here's an outtake from our family photo session with Genie Leigh Photography, the same one my dad termed "Champagne and Diarrhea." It makes me smile, big.

(click for bigger version)

Evidence of champagne: obvious. Evidence of diarrhea explosion taking place on my mom's lap, unbeknownst to her: less obvious. Roll with the punches and keep laughing: it's what we do.

I can hardly wait to get my CD chock full of images. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek of more. And I can't say this enough: if you're in the Wilmington, NC area and looking for a photographer, look no further than Genie Leigh.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Home, full of love.

Remember this North Carolina, my home state of kindness and acceptance and love? That's the North Carolina I visited this weekend. I love my Outer Banks family, the way we laugh and cry together, the way we join forces for celebrations and for sorrow. This weekend, we celebrated. My Aunt Penny and her partner Allison - who fell in love as teenagers and reconnected twenty years later - had a commitment ceremony in their Outer Banks church, alongside their children. I was proud to be there, and prouder yet to call this family my own. But mostly I was thrilled to see my aunt with such a big smile on her face.

Have I mentioned that my dad is quietly the best toastmaster of all time? He is. I should write about his haiku at our wedding; it's legendary. And there was his Forrest Gump toast at my sister's wedding, and his bridge metaphor at my brother's. In honor of my Aunt Penny, he began with farm tales and ended up with my late Aunt Jill, and how her life and her loss shows us how important it is to be happy while we're here. Somehow this was tied together by my Aunt Penny's childhood schemes for ice cream. My dad's toasts should not work, but they do, every time.

I've been missing my Aunt Jill so much lately. I know she's in each one of us, every single day, but some days the loss is still too tender to bear. T and I stayed at her house with my cousins over the weekend, and I found a book I loaned her when she was sick, my note to her still inside as a bookmark. We were both bookworms, both writers, both full of infertility issues, too - but that's a story for another day. She would've loved Penny's ceremony, whose "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" flash mob equaled her own church band rockin' out at her funeral in every possible way. Music unites those sisters, still. Speaking of sisters, my late aunt's daughters amaze me at every turn. (They also crack me up, as demonstrated below.)

I spent a lot of time this weekend thinking how hard family can be sometimes. It's also wonderful and worth it, but family can be tough. In those tough times, I want to do nothing more than to sit in a room with them all and just be. I think that's a good thing.

In our happy moments? I like to give hugs. Liam likes to give high fives. Take your pick.

Photos by Melissa Habit - isn't she awesome?
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