Friday, January 28, 2011

Hilary's Sandwhiches

Whenever someone gives me a great recipe, their name gets etched into my recipe book, I don't really care if the recipe originated with Martha Stewart or Ina Garten. All my recipes are labeled with friends names. Family names. People that cooked for me. It makes me happy.

And so I present you with Hilary's Sandwiches. She'll protest the credit. She'll exclaim that it's a Southern Living recipe. But not in my cookbook. In my cookbook Hilary gets all the glory.

P.S. These are awesome.

Hot Roast Beef Party Sandwiches

1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
2 (9.25 oz) packages dinner rolls
2/3 cup peach preserves
1/2 cup mustard-mayo blend(I use dijon mustard & lowfat mayo)
3/4 lb. thinly sliced deli roast beef, chopped
1/2 lb. thinly sliced Havarti cheese
Salt & Pepper (optional)

1. Heat walnuts in a small nonstick skillet over med-low heat, stirring often, 5-6 mins. or until lightly toasted & fragrant

2. Remove rolls from packages, place on baking sheet & cut rolls in half. Spread preserves on cut side of top rolls and sprinkle with walnuts.

3. Spread mustard-mayo blend on cut side of bottom rolls and top with roast beef. Stack cheese (I use a quarter of a slice of cheese for each sandwich) on top of roast beef. Sprinkle salt & pepper on top of cheese if desired.

4. Close tops of sandwiches & lightly cover with foil.

5. Bake @ 325 degrees until cheese is melted . Usually 15-20 mins.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

There's Going To Be A Kid In This House

I've had a few emails asking how I'm feeling. You ladies are very sweet. And Becca (in China) likes to keep tabs on my growing girth. So here you go.

So far, as I'm wading (waddling) into the third trimester, I'm finding that I have a very different take on the way I look.

I think most women can agree we spend a fair amount of time concerned with our appearances. And as a pregnant woman watches her weight climb, her hips grow, and her heels warp from fashion accessories to torture devices sent straight from the devil... things change.

Basically, for the first time in my life, I don't really care about the scale.

Or my shoes.
Or the signature purple Elton John sunglasses of my youth.

One woman at the grocery store said I was "luscious." I'll be honest, it made me a little uncomfortable.

Luscious as in pretty?

Luscious as in large?

Luscious as in "nice to meet you, my name is Bertha Lecter and this is my brother Hannibal"?

But I know she meant well. Bless her sweet heart. She must know that big penguin shaped women need all the encouragement they can get.

But the bottom line is when you have to ask for help putting on a pair of boots (or tying your shoes or picking up towels from the bathroom floor), your appearance is no longer a top priority. It's freeing actually. It's nice not to care.

The third trimester is also kicking my energy level in the head. Sometimes I press the imaginary accelerator that gets me going in the morning and my entire body laughs and says, "Um. No. Not so fast there Chuckles." But I'm not complaining. Really. Anything is better than the first trimester, or as I like to fondly remember it, "The Walking Death."

Last weekend Noah came over with his parents for dinner. He's one of those children that everyone wants to clone. He sat quietly and watched Sesame Street while the adults had dinner. He shares my affinity for Welch's Fruit Snacks. At the end of the night he shook his mom's pant leg and said, "I go to bed now." Basically, his parents won the cosmic genetic lottery.

As I watched Noah make himself at home in the living room chair and play with his toys on the kitchen counters, I got a little misty eyed. Maybe I'm just packed full of crazy hormones, but it dawned on me that a kid will be living in our house soon. An honest to goodness, diaper wearing, toy toting, teething-ring chewing little girl. After almost ten years of marriage (and most of those years spent in a we're-never-having-children state), this concept blows my mind.

But as you can see, Matt is totally mentally prepared for kid-dom.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meme's Mandarin Orange Cake

Every woman needs a go-to dessert, and this one is mine. It's fluffy. It's fruity. It contains two of my favorite things on earth: yellow cake mix and pudding. Um. Yes please.

But like everything else in my life, sentimentality plays heavily in my love for this cake. My grandmother, Meme, has been fixing this dessert since I can remember, and it brings back memories of eating in her dining room in Dallas. It was pristine, with shiny dark furniture, and white sheers over the window. When a breeze blew threw the room crystals on the buffet candelabras clinked together like music. It was a magical place.

Meme's Mandarin Orange Cake

1 box of yellow cake mix
3/4 cup oil
3 eggs
1 (11 ounce) can of mandarin oranges (including juice)

1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapples (including juice)
8 ounces of instant vanilla pudding mix
1 regular container of whipped topping

*Mix all cake ingredients together and bake in large square glass Pyrex dish at 350 for 30 minutes (or until done). Let it cool. Mix all icing ingredients together, top onto cooled cake. Refrigerate.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Flying Fish

The Flying Fish.

It's downtown.

They play really loud blues music.

There are no waiters.

You fend for yourself.

The tilapia tacos are my favorite.

They make Jane kick extra hard.

She must love them too.

So cold outside.

So warm inside.

I love the south.

Happy eating.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snowed Out, With a Side of Oranges & Rosemary

I usually love a good snow day. I really do. But not when it messes with important plans. Like eating cake. Or hanging out with friends.

Yesterday was my turn to host a supper club with the gals. And we had to cancel. My house was clean. The homemade chicken soup was stewing and the whole place smelled like Meme's mandarin orange cake.

I also discovered the best smelling table arrangement in the whole wide world. Fresh rosemary with orange slices in the water. Between these smells and the cake, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I even caught a nap in front of the TV while the snow came down and Genevieve redesigned kitchens.

So our plans were snowed out. But that's OK. All is not lost. We'll eat it tonight with friends. And I find it's pretty much impossible to be too bummed when your house smells like oranges and rosemary.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Giving Her Away

There once was a time in my life where I would have happily given away my little sisters to a pack of roaming gypsies. If Arkansas had a population of roaming gypsies. Or traveling circuses. I really wasn't picky.

Once, after Rebecca tore an entire chapter out of my Ramona the Pest book, I told her that we got her at the pound when she was a baby. In a cage with the mutts. She didn't take it very well. I'm pretty sure I got bitten. Which really, if you think about it, proved my point.

I wonder if my Dad was thinking about these things before Rachel's wedding. I wonder if he was remembering all the drama. The yelling. The "she took my Barbie and ripped it's head off" moments. But I bet he wasn't. I bet he was thinking about the fact that he has three daughters and he was about to give a second one away.

This picture takes some explaining. Rachel and her sweet bridesmaids were trying their best to come up with a strategy so she could go to the bathroom without actually taking her dress off. She unzipped it and realized she could not fit it over her head. Thus my censored sign over her purple tights. Yep. You read that right. Bright purple tights.

I didn't help matters. I simply offered her my empty cup and said, "Here, pee in this."

Obviously, she didn't find my suggestion very helpful.

But I redeemed myself. I fixed her hair.

And as I worked on it, placing and replacing a billion bobby pins, I thought about all the moments in childhood when I would have happily given her away. To anyone.

And it made me sad. And glad. Because I really like her now. And I really didn't want Dad to give her away.

I thought about Becca in China. I thought about what a beautiful woman Rachel has become. And that's when I started crying. But I didn't let anyone see, because when pregnant women start crying it tends to create a panic. So instead I hid in the bathroom stalls until I got hold of myself.

It wasn't an easy day. But it wasn't a sad one either. And when the time came for Rachel to be given away, I had a complete change of heart. I think I'll keep her forever.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dear Jane

You and I have been a team for a while now. From the first few months where I was sick, to the first little flutters that turned out to be your feet kicking. And now you are an ever present part of my day, only you don't flutter anymore. It's more like you're moving furniture in there, especially during the song service at church. Just so you know, no one really dances during services. But if you want to in a couple of years that's OK with me.
Your dad, however, has been a little bit out of the loop. You don't kick him. Or get the hiccups while he's trying to go to sleep. He doesn't get to go to the doctor and hear your heartbeat all the time. But I think you should know... he's every excited about you. And when you get older and think everything we say is the dumbest drivel in the world, I hope you'll reread this, if only to remember how lucky you are to have your Dad. And how excited he was about you, even before he knew you.

Your crib came on a Saturday right in the middle of a very important football game. It wasn't important to me, but your Dad was totally immersed in it. But that didn't stop him. He went right to work setting things up for you.

And as much as he loves football, he eventually forgot about the game all together. Instead he got totally immersed spelling out your name in a retro Lite Brite he wanted especially for your nursery.

So no matter how much we annoy you one day (when you're 12 and you know everything), remember that your Dad was crazy about you even before you were born.

You're very lucky to have him. And so am I.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hot Wings, Chicken Mabel

How do you keep a pregnant woman happy in the dead of winter?

Just ask Matt. His solution? Home made chicken wings with hot sauce.

And yes. They were every bit as delicious as they look in this picture.

No. I don't know how he made it because all I could think about was eating them. Fast.

I did mumble a couple of "thank you's" mid-chew though. I was very grateful.

Mabel's phobias keep developing as the years pass.

Her new one?

Hiding under the table because she's petrified at the sound of frying grease.

I'm not sure whether she suspected we were going to dip her in hot oil, or that she might lose a patch of fur if she got popped by a rogue grease splatter.

Either way, she's a giant chicken.

And she could not be convinced to come out from under the table.

I was so serious about the task at hand (eating ferociously and doing my best imitation of the Cookie Monster), that I put on an apron to protect my clothing.

I dump everything on the belly these days.

Afterward I tried to thank the chef by taking his portrait.

He wasn't buying it.

So I gave him a big kiss instead.

Hot wings, Chicken Mabel.

It was a very good afternoon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hell Froze Over

Well not really.

But we did have a snowstorm that lasted almost nine hours.

In Arkansas.

We got two whole snow days. Count them. TWO. I kept pinching myself.

Mabel, on the other hand, doesn't cotton to all this frigid weather.

She enjoys playing outside for a little while. In fact she runs around like a maniacal lawn mower, hind end high in the air, mouth chomping the snow. But afterward, when she's wet and frigid, she's pretty gosh darn pathetic. There is much shaking and whimpering and all around mental-breakdowning.

But two snow days gave me a chance to get a lot of work done.

And time to get over a serious cold.

Mabel managed to abscond with part of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the first day, which was a real fete for her, and then happily settled in front of the space heater.

All in all it was a blissful two days. Except when Mabel shivered from the cold and clawed my leg like a demented, angry little crab. And when she stole half my sandwich.

I'm really loving this winter. I'm loving the cold quiet and the smell of this lavender candle. For once Matt isn't accusing lavender of smelling like a urinal cake. So it's win/win for everybody.
This winter has been good to me, snow and ice included.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Calories, Dispatch From China

Did you know there's only 30 calories in one of these little Clementines?

I made a vow to start tracking my calories a few weeks ago and eat healthier. Not because I'm obsessed, just to you know, see how much I was eating.

For reference, a healthy non-pregnant woman should be eating between 1500 and 1800 calories a day (which I think is kind of depressing).

A pregnant woman should add only about 300 extra calories to that.

I found out I was eating, oh, around 3,000 a day.

Yikes is right.

So it's good to count. It's good to know. And it's also good to cut out my 9:00 nightly bowl of ice cream. Apparently that whole "eating for two" thing is a myth.

But don't worry. I'm not giving up my Clementines. Or strawberries. Or any of the other healthy stuff. But I will be nixing the lovely spoonfuls of icing I was indulging in.

Seriously. It was getting out of hand.

In other news, Rebecca is doing fabulously in China. Not only that, she's also met a special someone named Jon. He's teaching English in a neighboring city. Turns out, he's also from Arkansas. Talk about a tiny, tiny world.

Don't they look cute? And happy? I couldn't help but share.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nose? Meet Grindstone.

Amid all the kerfuffle of the last few weeks, I've made far less writing headway than originally intended. There's a deadline looming and it's time to put nose to grindstone.

This quiet post-Christmas season seems so well suited for writing. None of the lovely rose colored distractions of spring with chirping birds and green yards. None of the swimming/picnicking/road-tripping distractions of summer. No Christmas parties or decorating table settings. No shopping. Just still, cold, quiet weather and a still, cold, quiet house. And a cup of tea.

I rearranged the library a little bit. I faced the desk toward the window. The room feels better. I really needed the afternoon sunlight shining across the desk. It clears my mind. It makes me take a deep sigh and keep writing instead of taking a nap or doing the laundry. It's good motivation.

I think most bloggers, once they have a few years behind them and a regular posting schedule, harbor the same fear.

"What if I get too busy to post every day and people stop reading?"

It's bad motivation, in my opinion, but still remains a legitimate fear for most of us. And as I gaze into the future, calculating the demands of this deadline, the pregnancy, work, and realize that I may have to cut back on my daily posts.

Whenever I don't post regurally (like this holiday season), there are always a few sweethearts that say, "Liz? Are you ok? I noticed you weren't posting on your blog lately."

And that's when fear and panic grips me. I think to myself, "Agh! I'm slipping! I don't have any pictures! I don't have anything to write! And it's only Monday!"

I hope you'll understand that my nose is pressed to a very serious grindstone. I'll make every effort to show up here as often as possible. Some weeks more, some weeks a little less. But I've got lots of writing to do. Lots of time spent at this desk, in the sunlight, pounding away on the keyboard. And very soon, when the weather turns balmy and the big coral roses start to bloom along our fence line, Jane will be here. And then I'll be glad I've slowed down the blogging schedule a bit. Glad for the change in my life that smells like baby lotion, wears a diaper, sports the name Jane Margaret, and turns our entire life upside down in a fantastic way.

But for now I'm writing. I'm still here. I'll be back.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Presto Chango

Do you ever have little things in your house that irritate you on a daily basis, yet you do nothing about them? You just live with them? You walk by them every single day on your way out the door and think, "I should change that. I really loathe it." And yet, due to a lethal combination of tight-wadness and sloth, you don't?

Welcome to Liz World.

For the last year I've passed by these black bookshelves and those recovered lampshades and thought, "Eh. I really hate those. Why did I do that?"

The black bookshelves remind me of a dorm room. Plain and simple. I see them work in other people's houses. They look chic and pulled together. But not in my living room. In my living room they looked like a dormitory circa 1995 with The Cranberries playing softly in the background while someone tucks their shirt into highwater pants. Because let's face it. In 1995 we all had highwater pants.

The lampshades are vintage and I recovered them in burlap. It was my attempt at being crafty. But when I flick the switch they illuminate this awful, orange glow reminiscent of a dorm room circa 1978 with Tammy Wynette singing softly in the background while someone sprays their giant bangs with Aquanet and makes plans to meet their boyfriend at the local pool hall. Obviously at a southern university.

And over the break I began to realize, "You are about to be a mother. A mother with doctors bills and daycare fees and cute outfits to buy. Soon there will be very little money or time or energy to change things. You'll have to live with those shelves and lampshades FOREVER." OK. Perhaps that's a little melodramatic, but you get the idea.

So we got new shelves and new lampshades.Consider it my last superfluous decorating hurrah. It was a cheap change, and one that I could kick myself for not having done sooner. The white bookshelves were cheap ($26 a piece from Target). The accessories are exactly the same. The shades were also from Target ($15 a piece).

What happened to those vintage spray painted turquoise lamps? Let's just say in the midst of all this there was in incident with lamp harps and pliers, which resulted in a lot of glass and dead lamps. It's a long and exhausting story not worth my telling or your reading. I buried them in the backyard and Matt played Taps. Kidding.

So the new white shades got new white lamps. They are also from Target and not on sale ($29.99 each). Every now and then you have to splurge, especially after you've said goodbye to beautiful, vintage, turquoise lamp bases that you loved with all your heart.

I'm so glad for this presto chango, especially since the long shadows of winter come so much earlier in the afternoon. It's like someone turned on the sun in our living room. Even if it came at the expense of my aqua lamps. Bright lamps, no more dark book shelves. Just what the doctor ordered. Those Swedes with their white floors and white walls and white slip covered furniture might be onto something genius.

*The pillows are also from Target. And I have no idea why Mabel feels such a pressing need to be in every single house photo I take, but she does. So annoying, yet so endearing all at the same time.