Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TWD: chewy chunky blondies

I LOVE blondies!  When I was a kid I didn't really like chocolate (shocking!) but was thrilled at bake sales & lunch time when the school would have blondies for dessert.  yum!

I went to make these last night and was asking hubs if he likes blondies so I would know whether to adapt the recipe to his (picky) tastes or just leave it as is.  Well...silly boy just pouted and asked why I couldn't make brownies or cookies instead.  No blondies for him!

I must say that I was excited to make this recipe as written because I adore walnuts & coconut, and also had some butterscotch chips that needed to be used up.  I used some toasted coconut that I had left over, and though I thought that it didn't impart much coconut flavor, the chewiness that it added was lovely!  The only change I made was to halve the recipe and bake it in a 8x8 pan.

The recipe came together very quickly, but I don't think mine were quite done at the recommended baking time of 40 minutes--the toothpick still came out wet.  However, since I love gooey cookies & brownies, I decided to go ahead and take them out anyway (a little underdone blondie never hurt me!). 

These are amazing!  I love the chewiness from all the mix-ins, the caramelly flavor, and the richness (one is definitely enough!).  I think that some of these will also be individually wrapped and frozen for treats later :).  Thanks so much to Nicole of Cookies on Friday for this pick (found on p. 108-109 of Baking From My Home to Yours) and check out the leave-your-link post from the TWD website to see who baked along this week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book review: Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster

Almost a year ago I used some of my Zoompanel points to get a memoir that immediately caught my eye based on the title and cover art (yes, I judged a book by it's cover...so sue me).  This lovely and hilarious book is Such a Pretty Fat by my new favorite author--Jen Lancaster.  And of course, it's another memoir, b/c that is what I'm all about these days, and I figured that it would be a perfect airplane/beach read on my vacation.

I love the "alternate" title: "Why Pie Is Not the Answer"--Hilarious!  Should be my motto!

One thing that I hate is reading books with characters who are obsessed with their weight and always complaining about being fat when they aren't even in the "normal" BMI range.  I just want to punch skinny girls who fuss about needing to lose weight--especially around those of us who are honestly struggling to get healthy and feel good about ourselves.  But it's also no fun to read sob stories about how depressed overweight girls are--yes, it's a hard struggle, and definitely something that I relate to, but sometimes people are just so down on themselves that it brings you down to hear about it.  

Well, this is not the case at all with Such a Pretty Fat.  Mrs. Lancaster is admittedly overweight, but actually has very high self esteem which I find extremely refreshing.  The title is a play on the two-faced compliment "you have such a pretty face" which of course is never said about overall pretty or friendly people...there is always a but, even if it's unspoken (which is hilariously discussed on pp. 145-147).  This memoir details her realization that her weight was becoming a problem for her health, the decision to write about it, and her experiences with some of the popular weight-loss corporations.

I absolutely adored this book! I read all but about the last 50 pages on the planes & in the airport--a super fast and enjoyable read (even at almost 400 pages).  I had to put it down a few times b/c I was laughing so hard the I was afraid I would disturb the person next to me on the plane! (see p. 54-55 "Two Fat People Admit Defeat": an actual ad that she placed in the wanted ads in order to sell their exercise bike).  I love her writing style, I love her honesty, I love her health success, I lover her pop-culture references, and I love that she wears pink crocs ;).  Seriously, I have now ordered all her other books, and am subscribing to her blog & twitter.  I know, I'm a dork; but she's hilarious!  I definitely recommend this to anyone who has ever struggled with weight loss and self esteem--it is nice to read about it in a light-hearted manner.  (disclaimer, she uses *colorful* language, if that kind of thing offends you).

And if you like the Twilight series you absolutely must read her hilarious blog posts where she acts out/parodies New Moon & Eclipse with dolls.  Love it!

So yeah, definitely buy/borrow/check out this book, and I will be posting soon with reviews of her others.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

Hello everyone!  I have to say that this has been a refreshing, and in many ways uplifting week for me.  I am going through major transitions: next week will be my final week at my office, and this past week I worked 2 partial days of training my replacement, but it was odd to be at the office and not be working my normal routine.  I have also been confused each and every day about which day of the week it is...gonna have to do something about that if I'm going to be staying home!

Once again, I'm going to join in with Emily to post about 5 things that made my life fabulous this week:

1.  My bedroom.

Last week I had the good but also weird experience of taking a week-long vacation with my parents & sister.  We all stayed in a one-room suite with 2 beds & a pull-out couch and it was...interesting.  I really did enjoy the time with the family, but I must say that it is a bit odd to be 26 years old and married with my own home, and to spend a week away from my husband sharing a room with my family.  There was snoring. There was sleep-talking (but thankfully not sleep-walking).  There were different sleep schedules and habits.  And there were lights on when it was time to sleep.  Though I had a queen-sized bed to myself during that week, I cannot tell you how relieved and relaxed I was to come home to my own bed (even though I found--to my horror--a spider in the bed when I turned down the sheets--how did that happen?  hubs had been sleeping in that bed all week!  eep! we immediately stripped the bed and washed all the covers) and my own husband and my own bulldog ;)  And the room was almost pitch-black, and we had our fan on so I couldn't hear any other noises.  Ahhh...bliss!  The only negative (other than the spider) is that a week in a room with maid service will show you how messy your house is!

2.  White Noise App for Ipod touch and Iphone.

so many settings--and it's free!  I chose "airplane" and this is what got me to sleep in the above mentioned situation.  Thank you Apple!

3.  My DVR
We are friends.  It was super nice and recorded all my favorite shows while I was in Florida!  Sadly, a few were deleted b/c I used over 99% of the memory.  My name is Sarah and I am a TV junkie.

4.  Club Bing
My bestest sent me a link for this while I was away.  You know how much I love websites where you can earn points for free stuff (like zoom panel & swag bucks).  This is another one!  Only instead of surveys or searching, you win points for playing computer games!!!!  eep!!  This may become a problem for me.  When I was in college, I had a severe addiction to addictinggames.com.  Whenever it was time to write a paper or study I would have to win "just one more game" and would inevitably end up awake until 3 am b/c I wasted so much time.  So I'm excited about this, and have been playing ;)

5.  Facebook/blogs

Since announcing my decision to leave my job I have also had the freedom to blog about whatever I am feeling without worrying about co-workers finding out that I was leaving before time.  In that, I have touched on some things that have been hard on me including recent posts on parenthood & guilt.  For me, writing has always been cathartic and I am the kind of person who will really put almost anything out there (the only off-limit subjects are honestly personal things b/tw me & hubs which I don't write about out of respect of his privacy).  In writing about these issues, I have not only been able to really evaluate my own feelings (some have since shifted...more on that another day) but have also been overwhelmed by encouragement and support from online friends.  And I do mean friends.  There are several people who I have reconnected with from my past, and several who I have never met in person, but it has meant the world to me.  Today alone I was brought to tears by some of the messages I have received.  So thank you.  For listening even when I over-share, for offering perspective & encouragement, and just for caring enough to read my thoughts and let me know that you understand, that you feel the same, that you will be praying for me, or just that you are here.

So those are the things that made my week fabulous--what about you?


so...I have guilt.  I think every woman does.  You hear a lot about "mom guilt"--how mothers seem to feel guilty for everything that they do or don't do: if they stay home to be with their kids they have guilt over not providing financially, if they work outside the home they feel guilt over not being home with the kids, guilt over doing anything for themselves, etc...

Well right now I'm dealing with a case of what I will call "childless and jobless guilt." I have two more days of training my replacement at my job before I start  my "semi-retirment." (that reminds me--i haven't yet really gone into what I will be doing after I quit other than the health stuff--will update that soon hopefully).  As I'm preparing for this transition I'm just really struggling with the things that I think I should be doing.  I guess my main reason for this guilt is that I feel that if I do not have children, I have no right to be staying at home.  In this time I could continue working (though it would probably negatively impact my health) and saving up more money so that if/when we have children we would not have so many financial strains.  I have plans for things to do--cleaning, organizing, making our house really a home, tackling the mountains of piles that are going on, catching up on my scrapbooks, knitting, crafting, reading, having dinner for my husband when he gets home at night--so many things, but I just don't feel like it's enough.  Do you ever feel like that?  Like there is always more that you should be doing?

I know that this is the right choice for us.  I know that it will help our future, and hubs is even starting to really enjoy it now that the house is cleaner and he gets a good meal when he gets home every night instead of waiting another hour for me to get off work, and then waiting for me to finish dinner (which all too often meant a cold-cut sandwich).  Butch is thrilled to have mommy at home w/her too.  I think everyone is ultimately happy with the decision (minus the little aspect of tighter purse-strings) but it is still gnawing at me.  I think every woman would love to have this opportunity, so why is it fair that I get it?  Yeah, it is ultimately due to my health issues, but I just don't feel like that is enough of a  reason. 

Plus, I have always worked outside the home.  Since I was 16 I was working (at the same office that I am leaving now!).  When other kids were on summer or winter breaks from school, I was picking up extra hours at the office.  I have never just had a break.  And honestly I didn't need to work that much, but I just did b/c I like to work hard.  I think that is where so much of this guilt comes from.  I always see things that need to be done and that I can do and I always have multiple things going on at once.  It wasn't enough just to manage an office.  I had to do that plus college ministry, plus taking care of the house, plus weekly baking for my co-workers, plus a few little direct-selling businesses.  But I don't think there are any women on earth who don't have some "plus" things.  Don't we all try to do it all? 

Then there is the pressure on hubs.  How is it fair for me to not be working while he is practially working 2 jobs?  He has a freelance videography business that is growing by leaps and bounds, as well as his 40 hour/week computer consulting job.  I can try to talk myself into believing that before I basically had the two full-time jobs of maintaining our home (I've always done pretty much everything housework-wise) and working at my office, so now I'm just going to have one "job"....but it doesn't seem to be validated when I am not earning a paycheck.  I don't think that anyone would argue against the fact that homemakers work extremely hard--and it's not like you can leave that work at the office and go home--there is always something to clean, someone to feed, things to get rid of...but our culture defines people so much by salaries that it is hard to get an adequate value for that kind of work.  I feel like it is unfair--at my age & without children--to have him solely responsible for our finances.  That is a lot of pressure on him-- though we have no debt and have honestly had a basically stress-free marriage when it comes to money, I'm just afraid that I'm throwing that away without enough cause. 

It's just a weird situation.  I almost feel like I have to have a baby just to justify this move in my mind! eep!  What about you?  Do you have guilt that you are struggling with?  Is this mostly a "woman-thing" or do men struggle with it constantly too?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TWD: another two-fer!

I was on vacation last week and was unable to make the Brrr-ownies chosen by Karen of Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life, but I wanted to try them b/c I knew that super-picky hubs loves brownies and York peppermint patties, so may love these as well.  I had planned to just bake that recipe for this week, but when I saw that Kimberly of Only Creative Opportunities chose the Lot's of Ways Banana Cake for this week I decided to make them both--I'm always looking for a reason to use up those bananas in my freezer!
After a week with my parents and sister (and without hubs) and then a kinda weird day at the office where I am only helping to train instead of doing "my job" (and i don't have a desk or computer anymore!) I was ready to get some baking therapy.

The Brrr-ownies came first so I could let the ingredients for the banana cake come to room temp.  I had read lots about peppermint patty craters in the tops and brownies sticking to the foil, so to remedy those issues, I popped the peppermint patties in the freezer for about 15 minutes before chopping and adding them to the mix so they wouldn't become overly melty, and I was extra careful to super-grease my foil.  I really think these came out perfectly!  Super fudgy and rich but with a lovely cool sensation.  joy in my heart!  Hubs isn't home yet, but I think he will love these :)

Then came the banana cake.  I had some toasted coconut in the freezer as well as some dried cherries, so I used those, and I was out of light brown sugar (gasp!) so I subbed white sugar and substituted 1/4 cup of it with dark brown sugar.  Other than that, I made the recipe as is--from the first ingredients listed.
first picture--once again full of fog!  stupid southern humidity

I really think that banana cake/bread is one of the best smells you can have in your home!  I decided to make it easy and bake it as a bundt, which would also make it easier to transport to my mom's house (I'm gonna share it w/her and my sister--I think they will be happy (:  )  I pulled it out of the oven, let it cool for a bit, and then scraped some of the bits that had stuck to the pan to try a taste.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Seriously, my eyes rolled back in my head.  This is heavenly!  I am so glad that I made it and I think my family will love it!  I'm gonna take them at least half the cake (sliced up on a platter) and will wrap & freeze some pieces for myself for those days when only banana cake can make the world right again ; ).

I hope you all enjoyed these recipes as much as I did!  Thanks so much to Karen & Kimberly for these wonderful picks, and visit their respective blogs for the recipes, as well as the TWD leave-you-link post to see who else baked along this week.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fab Five Friday, moments edition

This has been a wonderful and interesting week for me.  It's my first full week on my amended July schedule, meaning that I'm only working 2 days, and have started my water aerobics class.  It's kinda weird to get used to the changes, but I've had a lot of great moments!

1. Watching kiddie shows w/hubs.  We are a silly pair.  I have a strange aversion to all drama, horror, or suspense movies...(I like to watch happy things with lots of color...so we have sitcoms, reality trash TV, rom-coms, old musicals, or things that were intended to be watched by children.)  Well, in the past few weeks, hubs and I have been indulging our inner children.  It started with repeat viewings of Disney's Enchanted (which he would dance around to.  heehee), then a date to go see Toy Story 3 (and I sobbed and sobbed) then this week we have been watching my dvd of Sesame Street's 40 Years of Sunny Days--it has all our favorites from childhood and we sing along and it's perfect!!  I'm so happy that I married someone goofy like me :).

2.  I'm famous!  Not really, but I sure felt special on Monday... I recently did a book review of Sascha Rothchild's new-ish book,  How to Get Divorced by 30:My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage.  I loved the book and you can read my review here, but even more important than my review, head down and read the comments...comment #2 is from Sascha Rothchild--the author!  So cool!!  It really made my day :)

3. Grocery shopping on a week day.  True, in my old schedule, I could officially have done this on Fridays, but I like to go shopping towards the beginning of a new week to stock up for our foodie needs.  To me, this is the ultimate luxury :).  I don't have to go to Walmart on Saturday or Sunday when the lines are a mile long, the aisles are crammed, and it makes me so cranky that I want to scream and cry.  It is fairly calm.  And my beloved Kroger is even better!  And they aren't out of rotissery chickens!  woohoo!  LOVE IT. 

4.  Old lady water aerobics.  I keep calling it that, and hope that I don't offend anyone by it!  But seriously, most of the women in my new water aerobics class are old enough to be my great-grandma!  I'm taking water aerobics on Tuesdays & Thursdays now and am excited to finally be doing regular exercise that my body doesn't rebel against!  My mother in law and a former co-worker are in the class as well.  It's fun and I get a workout and enjoy the company :).

5.  The sweetest blog post a friend can write.  My dear friend and coworker Holly wrote this post about me yesterday.  To me, a blog post about someone is like sending them a very special card, but loving them so much that you want to put it out there for the whole world to see.  It brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes.  I love her dearly and am sad to no longer see her on a weekly basis at the office.  But her words of encouragement mean the world to me.  Thank you Holly--I love you!!

Well, that's my fab five for this week.  Head over to Emily's blog to see who joined in this little blog carnival for the week, and in the meantime, let me know what made your week fab!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Prayer request for a critically ill baby

I just wanted to pass along this prayer request from my bloggy friend Erin of The Sweet Life.  Some of her friends recently gave birth to a precious little boy who was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  He has already undergone some surgeries and the doctors have told them that their only hope for his survival is a miracle.  I personally am a "miracle baby" born with a perforated intestine that couldn't be fixed after multiple surgeries but was healed by what I truly believe is God's answer to prayer.  We all know that sometimes God doesn't answer our prayersin the way we may want, but I just wanted to pass this story along so you can all be praying and encouraging others to pray as well.  The family has a blog where they are regularly updating with progress.  Go visit it to read the whole story and see precious pictures of little Luke at The Sexton 3.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

didn't get to it...

in case you are curiously searching for the Tart Noir chosen by Dharmagirl of bliss: towards a delicious life for this week's TWD assignment...

Well.  I didn't do it. 

Because until this afternoon we had NO FOOD.

No bread.

No meat.

No cheese.

No eggs.


Horror of Horrors!!


Seriously.  How could I have possibly run out of butter?  Well, it is mostly b/c I left 3 (or more?) boxes in my best friend's refrigerator in Nashville.  (you can see here why it was there) But also b/c I hadn't been to the grocery in a long time.

So I didn't get to bake along.  And I probably won't get to next week either b/c I will be out of the state :(. 

I miss baking w/Dorie, but I bet my waistline will be glad for a break!

Instead I spent my day in my water aerobics class w/the elderly ladies and then shopping at 4 different stores: 2 for clothes, 2 for groceries.  And now my feetsies are tired (but less tired than normal b/c I had to get the dreaded cortisone injections again last week.  at least it helps in the long run!)

So that is the news for today.  I will update soon w/more things and hopefully a recap of my wonderful weekend w/my friend which has now been too long ago!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

a book review

So why is the title of this post so generic rather than the actual book title?  Well...the book title in my opinion is a bit awkward for a 20-something, happily married woman to be seen reading in public (or to post as a blog title that her parents will see).  This review is of the wonderful memoir by Sascha Rothchild:
How to Get Divoreced by 30:
My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage
Yeah, it takes some explanation when your husband sees that book arrive in the mail! 
I saw the review of this memoir on one of the blogs that I read (can't remember which one though...) and was immediately intrigued.  You know what a memoir/biography kick I've been on lately, and after flipping throught the book at B&N I decided to use one of my Swag Bucks gift card prizes on it.  

This is not at all a how-to manual, but a hilariously poignant perspective by Rothchild on the decision that she made to enter a marriage that was set up from the beginning to fail.  Each chapter's title is a "step" that she believes lead to the inevitable imploding of her marriage: "Don't Give Yourself a Minute to Reflect", "Don't Mention the Word 'Forever' at the Wedding", "Get Married for a Down Payment", "Call Your First Love", and so on.  In these chapters, she details the events or mindset that made her feel like she was making the right decision, but how each one was either a rationalization or just plain stupid!  In the process, you get a peak into her rather unorthodox upbringing and how childhood baggage & experiences inherently shape your worldview and adult choices.  

At only 210 pages, this book is a breeze to get through and had me laughing out loud at many moments...as well as examining my own marriage and the apathy & complacency that we are all-to-eager to call "comfort" & "stability." Though my worldview is basically opposite hers, and some of the jabs at Christianity & organized religion were a little off-putting; I was refreshed by Rothchild's honest perspective on her choices, her hilarious anecdotes, and her altogether positive attitude towards love and marriage--despite the baggage that her experience could leave her with.  I would definitely recommend this one!  You just may want to make a temporary book jacket so your husband and family don't freak out ;).

Friday, July 2, 2010


i'm thinking a lot about children/parenthood lately.  but not in the way that one might expect a happily married-for-four-years 20-something to think. at least not someone in that position in this part of the country ;).

kids scare me.  a. lot.  while so many young women have images of smiling faces, pudgy cheeks, and tiny clothes, i have visions of toddlers throwing tantrums, kids talking back, annoying pre-teens, and obnoxiously terrifying teenagers.  a husband stressed out from working two jobs to support our family so i can stay home b/c the doctor has said that i can't work and have kids.  my house more of a mess than it already is b/c i don't have the energy or desire to do anything other than collapse after the kids are in bed.  marital tension b/c we both feel that we are pulling more than our share of the weight in our respective areas--him financially and me around the house and with the kids.  i picture fights over how to raise the kids, arguments with the kids over boundaries we set, trying to figure out how to balance my husband's tech-savvy with my desire to keep the kids from having cell phones and laptops and tvs in their rooms.  how to shelter the kids from the big bad world enough but not too much.  how to discipline? how to do school?  how to afford college?  what about dating?  what about driving?  i see it as work.  work that does not end.  ever.  because once that baby comes out, you are responsible for a little person who has thoughts and feelings and needs and desires and wants and a sinful nature that is automatically going to drive this little one to do the wrong thing.  and all this is the norm in a happy healthy family!  my head hurts just thinking about it.

i know that those things are not all that parenthood is about--if they were people would have stopped a long time ago!  i know that there is love and joy and fun times and happy memories and pride in seeing your child grow and accomplish, but right now i can't escape the fear.  and i just don't understand why.  it's not like i'm a career-driven woman.  i mean, i'm practically retiring at the age of 26 due to health problems!  i know that a huge part of it is because of those health problems.  will i ever be able to be the mom that i imagined with limitations that i may have now?  how will i possibly have enough energy to care for my children and husband when i currently end up stuck in bed after too much work or too little sleep?  and i did imagine myself as a mother--that is honestly the only thing that i ever wanted in life since childhood.  my mom stayed home with us and i wanted to do the exact same thing since i was a little girl.  i loved playing house and with baby dolls and in the kitchen.  i spent a huge part of my youth babysitting and working childcare and of course my "grown up" job is in a pediatric office.  it just makes sense for me. and i always take on a mothering roll with people that i love.  whether it be carrying my giant "mom purse" to be sure i am prepared for any situation, to stocking medicine and snacks in my desk to take care of my coworkers.  though i have no children i am a mother at heart

so i don't get why i don't want kids.  i am surrounded by friends who already have kids or who are currently pregnant and even several who are starting the adoption process or becoming foster parents--they all want this so much, even the ones who never seemed that maternal, but i am absolutely terrified!  i don't get it.  i feel like there is something wrong with me.  i even went so far as to google "why don't i want children?" just to try to make sense of it...and some good reasons came up.  things like being worried about passing on genetic/health conditions (yep, that's one); concern over not being ready/husband not being ready (that is true too...i think hubs will be a great father but i do anticipate future struggles--his picky eating habits rubbing off on the kids, me ending up overwhelmed by motherhood + housework while he works so hard...); being afraid (duh--that's what we're talking about here!) but other things like being career driven & not liking kids just don't fit me at all.  but obviously i should be looking to the Lord for answers here rather than Google.  it's just confusing to me and i want some reason why i am at such a different place than i expected to be.

i know i'm still young and have plenty of time to make these decisions, and thankfully hubs feels the same about it so it isn't an issue of pressure from either of us.  but i do feel pressure.  people think "it's time."  we've been married for 4 years, together for 8, why would we need any more time for just the two of us?  especially when we're done with school and settled down with a house and all that.  i don't feel like i have any friends in this situation b/c it seems like the couples that i know who don't have kids are trying to get pregnant/adopt/foster parent...  and i'm just running screaming away from children.  and i like our life.  i like the freedom that we have to pursue our passions.  i like that my time is my own.  and maybe that sounds (or is) selfish, but that is the life we have now.  but it gets lonely being in this position.  people don't understand why we would choose this, even if it is just a choice for now.

but i guess that is all it has to be.  our choice for now.  i'll let you know if it changes.